(written and published many years ago for "The Urantia Book and Spiritual Renewal" column of "The Spiritual Fellowship Journal")
When I first considered the column heading "The Urantia Book and Spiritual Renewal", I felt like I couldn't respond to that directly because there must be a "newal" before there can be a "renewal." But as I thought more about it, I realized that there was indeed a "newal." When I was very young I actually did have some spiritual leanings. The problem was that my intellectual development overtook them very quickly. My fascination with both science and adventure, combined with a rapid realization of the fallacies of "Christianity," tended to undermine these leanings and relegate them to the bottom of my priority list. When I returned to college in 1960, after three years in the army, I was well on my way from "believer"--to agnostic--to atheist.
Two identifiable events occurred during the next two years which gradually turned this process around. In October of '60, shortly after arriving at Indiana Tech, I experienced a "full streamer" on a parachute jump. I had had several close calls during my previous two hundred odd jumps, but this was the first time I had feelings of remorse for the lack of meaning and significance in my life. As my main parachute streamed over my head, and as I went through the emergency procedures to get my reserve chute opened, I remember thinking to myself, "Well Herrick, you've been screwing around and screwing around and it finally caught up to you." Of course, those feelings quickly subsided after my reserve chute opened successfully and I lapsed into the familiar adrenaline high which nearly always follows an exciting brush with death.
The second event occurred in January of '62 when, during an elective course in philosophy, my professor (one Doctor Meredith Sprunger) assigned reading from an ominous looking tome called "The Urantia Book" (the WHAT?). Having been a reader all of my life, I instantly recognized that this book was different. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but it clearly was worth investigating further. I would go to Dr. Sprunger's office and pump him for information, but it was like pulling teeth to get anything out of him. He just sat there with that smile on his face, knowing full well that he had "hooked a big one."
I graduated that June and began my career as an aeronautical engineer. I didn't have a Urantia Book but it was lingering in the back of my mind. One day my new boss and I got into a bull session at the coke machine, and I casually mentioned it to him. He became very interested in what little I could tell him about it, and his interest rekindled my interest. We chipped in six bucks apiece and ordered the book. It came to my house on a Friday and I spent the weekend with my nose buried in it. I took it to work with me that Monday and said, "Here it is. You take it home for a few days and look it over. But either I'm going to buy you out or you're going to buy me out because I want one for myself." He brought it back a few days later and said, "I don't care who buys out who, but I want one for myself too." He was a world class spear fisherman and diver, and he died in 1991 while diving at 280 feet breathing helium and oxygen. He had planned to retire that summer and dive the Mediterranean looking for the first Garden of Eden. The Urantia Book had "hooked" him too.
I started reading it from page one during the summer of 1962, and finished it about three-and-a half years later. I knew it was hog wash, but it was wonderful science fiction. When I finished it, it occurred to me that it might not be hog wash. I started reading it again, and when I was about half way through it, I suddenly knew it was all true. I haven't wavered from that opinion for one second since then, and I've read it seven complete times to date, often spending hours on one paragraph.
My life of adventure has continued (I can't stop) and I've had many more near fatal experiences, but I am slowly realizing that my most thrilling adventures, portrayed in the pages of my beloved Urantia Book, are just getting underway.