The Revelation Enters the 21st Century

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Mo Siegel

By Mo Siegel, Trustee, Urantia Foundation

You dose off to sleep at the end of the 20th century and awaken in the 21st century realizing many of the familiar ways of the world just moved on. As you glance in the rear view mirror you see our spiritual forefathers discovering and then planning for the 5th Epochal Revelation. Their dreams for The Urantia Book, birthed in a much simpler time, were barely influenced by the monumental technological progress looming just ahead. When the revelation first went to press, only a couple million homeowners in North America had televisions. Google was the sound babies made and apples were something grown on trees.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, globalization, world trade, affordable international air travel, the invention of cell phones and personal computers significantly changed the environment for the Revelation. And then the biggest change of all happened with the invention of the internet. In 1994 the American government released control of the internet and "www" was born. This inexpensive force for economic growth, innovation, creativity, distribution, communication, knowledge sharing, and globalization quickly reshaped our world. In Dec. 1995 only 12 million people worldwide used the internet. By Dec. 2007, this number increased to 1.3 billion people using the internet. On the back of a new digital age the Revelation entered the 21st century.

Upon this shifting world stage, Urantia Foundation finds itself facing opportunities and challenges that require fresh approaches to disseminating, protecting, and possibly defending the Revelation. When Doctor Sadler and his early team of believers physically looked at The Urantia Book they saw 2097 pages of text in a neatly bound book.

The book came only in the English language and Urantia Foundation owned the copyright. Keeping control of the book and its teachings meant controlling the channels of its physical distribution. If someone wanted to learn about The Urantia Book they either knew someone who read the book, attended a small study group, or they visited a book store. At best, the book could be found in a small number of libraries or specialty book stores.

Access to The Urantia Book has dramatically changed in the last 10 years. Today the book comes in multiple languages which you can buy as a hard or soft cover physical object. You can read, copy, and download any or all of it on your computer or cell phone whether you're living in Bolivia or Bulgaria. You can listen to it from CDs, DVDs, and MP3 players, or on your cell phone. You can even hear it sung in videos on YouTube. You can play it on your IPOD while ferrying across the Gulf of Finland or driving your car down Hollywood Boulevard.

When someone wants to learn about the book and its followers, the simple word Urantia typed into the Google's search engine provides hundreds of points of instant information, for or against the book's teachings. Supporters and detractors have easy access to global blogs where they can comment about the book. With Wikipedia, encyclopedic knowledge about the Revelation can be found, read, studied, and edited through cyber space and delivered at near instantaneous speeds into the laptop sitting in your kitchen.

If that's not enough change for one life time, how about study groups. Remember the olden days (about 15 years ago) when the only practical way to study the revelation was attending local study groups. If no one held a study group in your area you were out of luck. Today study groups come in multiple flavors and serve almost anyone's needs. You can attend a group at someone's home, login to classes at the international internet school, attend study groups a thousand miles away by participating via speaker phone, replay a study group session digitally stored on the web, or even watch a study group on YouTube. You can meet readers and join virtual study groups on social networking web sites such as My Space and Face book. And if that seems amazing, rumors in the tech industry predict that within the next two years new technology will massively expand the power and band width of the internet. That expanded bandwidth easily accommodates virtual study groups meeting in cyber space, in real time, using three-dimensional interactive HD technology.

As to book stores in the United States, the changes have come fast and furiously. The small special-interest book stores that initially sold the revelation have all but disappeared. Most specialty distributors have closed due to the impact of high volume mass market book distributors. In turn, these powerful distributors face economic woes as the largest book retailers buy directly from a handful of publishers, completely skipping the distributor network. In the United States, most independent book store volume has been replaced by chain book stores and discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco.

Slow selling specialty books and single title publishers now find their most viable channel of distribution through Amazon.com and other internet publishers. Throughout the world the book industry has undergone a dramatic transition as Amazon.com and other internet retailers conveniently offer shoppers a place to preview a book, read book reviews, and purchase new and used copies at highly discounted prices. Even better, this shopping experience happens in the comfort of your own home. For Urantia Foundation, a single title publisher whose book sales warrant shelf space at chain retailers like Barnes & Noble, the low prices on the internet require careful management of book distributors and retailers. To say that Urantia Foundation and the Revelation face an opportunistic yet challenging future would be a huge understatement.

I wrote this article hoping to contextualize many of the decisions being made at Urantia Foundation during the last few years. Our unseen friends, when launching the Revelation in 1955, knew the digital age was on its way. Maybe their timing was based on that knowledge. While the work of Urantia Foundation proceeds at a quiet and steady pace, you should feel confident that our dedicated team joyfully faces the challenges of providing The Urantia Book in this new digital age.

Foundation Info

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