Maintenance of Civilization

While biologic evolution has proceeded ever upward, much of cultural evolution went out from the Euphrates valley in waves, which successively weakened as time passed until finally the whole of the pure-line Adamic posterity had gone forth to enrich the civilizations of Asia and Europe. The races did not fully blend, but their civilizations did to a considerable extent mix. Culture did slowly spread throughout the world. And this civilization must be maintained and fostered, for there exist today no new sources of culture, no Andites to invigorate and stimulate the slow progress of the evolution of civilization.

The civilization which is now evolving on Urantia grew out of, and is predicated on, the following factors:

1. Natural circumstances. The nature and extent of a material civilization is in large measure determined by the natural resources available. Climate, weather, and numerous physical conditions are factors in the evolution of culture.

At the opening of the Andite era there were only two extensive and fertile open hunting areas in all the world. One was in North America and was overspread by the Amerinds; the other was to the north of Turkestan and was partly occupied by an Andonic-yellow race. The decisive factors in the evolution of a superior culture in southwestern Asia were race and climate. The Andites were a great people, but the crucial factor in determining the course of their civilization was the increasing aridity of Iran, Turkestan, and Sinkiang, which forced them to invent and adopt new and advanced methods of wresting a livelihood from their decreasingly fertile lands.

The configuration of continents and other land-arrangement situations are very influential in determining peace or war. Very few Urantians have ever had such a favorable opportunity for continuous and unmolested development as has been enjoyed by the peoples of North America — protected on practically all sides by vast oceans.

2. Capital goods. Culture is never developed under conditions of poverty; leisure is essential to the progress of civilization. Individual character of moral and spiritual value may be acquired in the absence of material wealth, but a cultural civilization is only derived from those conditions of material prosperity which foster leisure combined with ambition.

During primitive times life on Urantia was a serious and sober business. And it was to escape this incessant struggle and interminable toil that mankind constantly tended to drift toward the salubrious climate of the tropics. While these warmer zones of habitation afforded some remission from the intense struggle for existence, the races and tribes who thus sought ease seldom utilized their unearned leisure for the advancement of civilization. Social progress has invariably come from the thoughts and plans of those races that have, by their intelligent toil, learned how to wrest a living from the land with lessened effort and shortened days of labor and thus have been able to enjoy a well-earned and profitable margin of leisure.

3. Scientific knowledge. The material aspects of civilization must always await the accumulation of scientific data. It was a long time after the discovery of the bow and arrow and the utilization of animals for power purposes before man learned how to harness wind and water, to be followed by the employment of steam and electricity. But slowly the tools of civilization improved. Weaving, pottery, the domestication of animals, and metalworking were followed by an age of writing and printing.

Knowledge is power. Invention always precedes the acceleration of cultural development on a world-wide scale. Science and invention benefited most of all from the printing press, and the interaction of all these cultural and inventive activities has enormously accelerated the rate of cultural advancement.

Science teaches man to speak the new language of mathematics and trains his thoughts along lines of exacting precision. And science also stabilizes philosophy through the elimination of error, while it purifies religion by the destruction of superstition.

4. Human resources. Man power is indispensable to the spread of civilization. All things equal, a numerous people will dominate the civilization of a smaller race. Hence failure to increase in numbers up to a certain point prevents the full realization of national destiny, but there comes a point in population increase where further growth is suicidal. Multiplication of numbers beyond the optimum of the normal man-land ratio means either a lowering of the standards of living or an immediate expansion of territorial boundaries by peaceful penetration or by military conquest, forcible occupation.

You are sometimes shocked at the ravages of war, but you should recognize the necessity for producing large numbers of mortals so as to afford ample opportunity for social and moral development; with such planetary fertility there soon occurs the serious problem of overpopulation. Most of the inhabited worlds are small. Urantia is average, perhaps a trifle undersized. The optimum stabilization of national population enhances culture and prevents war. And it is a wise nation which knows when to cease growing.

But the continent richest in natural deposits and the most advanced mechanical equipment will make little progress if the intelligence of its people is on the decline. Knowledge can be had by education, but wisdom, which is indispensable to true culture, can be secured only through experience and by men and women who are innately intelligent. Such a people are able to learn from experience; they may become truly wise.

5. Effectiveness of material resources. Much depends on the wisdom displayed in the utilization of natural resources, scientific knowledge, capital goods, and human potentials. The chief factor in early civilization was the force exerted by wise social masters; primitive man had civilization literally thrust upon him by his superior contemporaries. Well-organized and superior minorities have largely ruled this world.

Might does not make right, but might does make what is and what has been in history. Only recently has Urantia reached that point where society is willing to debate the ethics of might and right.

6. Effectiveness of language. The spread of civilization must wait upon language. Live and growing languages insure the expansion of civilized thinking and planning. During the early ages important advances were made in language. Today, there is great need for further linguistic development to facilitate the expression of evolving thought.

Language evolved out of group associations, each local group developing its own system of word exchange. Language grew up through gestures, signs, cries, imitative sounds, intonation, and accent to the vocalization of subsequent alphabets. Language is man’s greatest and most serviceable thinking tool, but it never flourished until social groups acquired some leisure. The tendency to play with language develops new words — slang. If the majority adopt the slang, then usage constitutes it language. The origin of dialects is illustrated by the indulgence in “baby talk” in a family group.

Language differences have ever been the great barrier to the extension of peace. The conquest of dialects must precede the spread of a culture throughout a race, over a continent, or to a whole world. A universal language promotes peace, insures culture, and augments happiness. Even when the tongues of a world are reduced to a few, the mastery of these by the leading cultural peoples mightily influences the achievement of world-wide peace and prosperity.

While very little progress has been made on Urantia toward developing an international language, much has been accomplished by the establishment of international commercial exchange. And all these international relations should be fostered, whether they involve language, trade, art, science, competitive play, or religion.

7. Effectiveness of mechanical devices. The progress of civilization is directly related to the development and possession of tools, machines, and channels of distribution. Improved tools, ingenious and efficient machines, determine the survival of contending groups in the arena of advancing civilization.

In the early days the only energy applied to land cultivation was man power. It was a long struggle to substitute oxen for men since this threw men out of employment. Latterly, machines have begun to displace men, and every such advance is directly contributory to the progress of society because it liberates man power for the accomplishment of more valuable tasks.

Science, guided by wisdom, may become man’s great social liberator. A mechanical age can prove disastrous only to a nation whose intellectual level is too low to discover those wise methods and sound techniques for successfully adjusting to the transition difficulties arising from the sudden loss of employment by large numbers consequent upon the too rapid invention of new types of laborsaving machinery.

8. Character of torchbearers. Social inheritance enables man to stand on the shoulders of all who have preceded him, and who have contributed aught to the sum of culture and knowledge. In this work of passing on the cultural torch to the next generation, the home will ever be the basic institution. The play and social life comes next, with the school last but equally indispensable in a complex and highly organized society.

Insects are born fully educated and equipped for life — indeed, a very narrow and purely instinctive existence. The human baby is born without an education; therefore man possesses the power, by controlling the educational training of the younger generation, greatly to modify the evolutionary course of civilization.

The greatest twentieth-century influences contributing to the furtherance of civilization and the advancement of culture are the marked increase in world travel and the unparalleled improvements in methods of communication. But the improvement in education has not kept pace with the expanding social structure; neither has the modern appreciation of ethics developed in correspondence with growth along more purely intellectual and scientific lines. And modern civilization is at a standstill in spiritual development and the safeguarding of the home institution.

9. The racial ideals. The ideals of one generation carve out the channels of destiny for immediate posterity. The quality of the social torchbearers will determine whether civilization goes forward or backward. The homes, churches, and schools of one generation predetermine the character trend of the succeeding generation. The moral and spiritual momentum of a race or a nation largely determines the cultural velocity of that civilization.

Ideals elevate the source of the social stream. And no stream will rise any higher than its source no matter what technique of pressure or directional control may be employed. The driving power of even the most material aspects of a cultural civilization is resident in the least material of society’s achievements. Intelligence may control the mechanism of civilization, wisdom may direct it, but spiritual idealism is the energy which really uplifts and advances human culture from one level of attainment to another.

At first life was a struggle for existence; now, for a standard of living; next it will be for quality of thinking, the coming earthly goal of human existence.

10. Co-ordination of specialists. Civilization has been enormously advanced by the early division of labor and by its later corollary of specialization. Civilization is now dependent on the effective co-ordination of specialists. As society expands, some method of drawing together the various specialists must be found.

Social, artistic, technical, and industrial specialists will continue to multiply and increase in skill and dexterity. And this diversification of ability and dissimilarity of employment will eventually weaken and disintegrate human society if effective means of co-ordination and co-operation are not developed. But the intelligence which is capable of such inventiveness and such specialization should be wholly competent to devise adequate methods of control and adjustment for all problems resulting from the rapid growth of invention and the accelerated pace of cultural expansion.

11. Place-finding devices. The next age of social development will be embodied in a better and more effective co-operation and co-ordination of ever-increasing and expanding specialization. And as labor more and more diversifies, some technique for directing individuals to suitable employment must be devised. Machinery is not the only cause for unemployment among the civilized peoples of Urantia. Economic complexity and the steady increase of industrial and professional specialism add to the problems of labor placement.

It is not enough to train men for work; in a complex society there must also be provided efficient methods of place finding. Before training citizens in the highly specialized techniques of earning a living, they should be trained in one or more methods of commonplace labor, trades or callings which could be utilized when they were transiently unemployed in their specialized work. No civilization can survive the long-time harboring of large classes of unemployed. In time, even the best of citizens will become distorted and demoralized by accepting support from the public treasury. Even private charity becomes pernicious when long extended to able-bodied citizens.

Such a highly specialized society will not take kindly to the ancient communal and feudal practices of olden peoples. True, many common services can be acceptably and profitably socialized, but highly trained and ultraspecialized human beings can best be managed by some technique of intelligent co-operation. Modernized co-ordination and fraternal regulation will be productive of longer-lived co-operation than will the older and more primitive methods of communism or dictatorial regulative institutions based on force.

12. The willingness to co-operate. One of the great hindrances to the progress of human society is the conflict between the interests and welfare of the larger, more socialized human groups and of the smaller, contrary-minded asocial associations of mankind, not to mention antisocially-minded single individuals.

No national civilization long endures unless its educational methods and religious ideals inspire a high type of intelligent patriotism and national devotion. Without this sort of intelligent patriotism and cultural solidarity, all nations tend to disintegrate as a result of provincial jealousies and local self-interests.

The maintenance of world-wide civilization is dependent on human beings learning how to live together in peace and fraternity. Without effective co-ordination, industrial civilization is jeopardized by the dangers of ultraspecialization: monotony, narrowness, and the tendency to breed distrust and jealousy.

13. Effective and wise leadership. In civilization much, very much, depends on an enthusiastic and effective load-pulling spirit. Ten men are of little more value than one in lifting a great load unless they lift together — all at the same moment. And such teamwork — social co-operation — is dependent on leadership. The cultural civilizations of the past and the present have been based upon the intelligent co-operation of the citizenry with wise and progressive leaders; and until man evolves to higher levels, civilization will continue to be dependent on wise and vigorous leadership.

High civilizations are born of the sagacious correlation of material wealth, intellectual greatness, moral worth, social cleverness, and cosmic insight.

14. Social changes. Society is not a divine institution; it is a phenomenon of progressive evolution; and advancing civilization is always delayed when its leaders are slow in making those changes in the social organization which are essential to keeping pace with the scientific developments of the age. For all that, things must not be despised just because they are old, neither should an idea be unconditionally embraced just because it is novel and new.

Man should be unafraid to experiment with the mechanisms of society. But always should these adventures in cultural adjustment be controlled by those who are fully conversant with the history of social evolution; and always should these innovators be counseled by the wisdom of those who have had practical experience in the domains of contemplated social or economic experiment. No great social or economic change should be attempted suddenly. Time is essential to all types of human adjustment — physical, social, or economic. Only moral and spiritual adjustments can be made on the spur of the moment, and even these require the passing of time for the full outworking of their material and social repercussions. The ideals of the race are the chief support and assurance during the critical times when civilization is in transit from one level to another.

15. The prevention of transitional breakdown. Society is the offspring of age upon age of trial and error; it is what survived the selective adjustments and readjustments in the successive stages of mankind’s agelong rise from animal to human levels of planetary status. The great danger to any civilization — at any one moment — is the threat of breakdown during the time of transition from the established methods of the past to those new and better, but untried, procedures of the future.

Leadership is vital to progress. Wisdom, insight, and foresight are indispensable to the endurance of nations. Civilization is never really jeopardized until able leadership begins to vanish. And the quantity of such wise leadership has never exceeded one per cent of the population.

And it was by these rungs on the evolutionary ladder that civilization climbed to that place where those mighty influences could be initiated which have culminated in the rapidly expanding culture of the twentieth century. And only by adherence to these essentials can man hope to maintain his present-day civilizations while providing for their continued development and certain survival.

This is the gist of the long, long struggle of the peoples of earth to establish civilization since the age of Adam. Present-day culture is the net result of this strenuous evolution. Before the discovery of printing, progress was relatively slow since one generation could not so rapidly benefit from the achievements of its predecessors. But now human society is plunging forward under the force of the accumulated momentum of all the ages through which civilization has struggled.


Urantia Book. (1955). Maintenance of Civilization. Chicago, IL: Urantia Foundation.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matt 7:20).

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