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The Creator’s Working Paper | April 14, 2024 Rev. Dr. Kathryn Benton


Any close examination of the world of nature reveals that everything is painstakingly structured. In its functioning, nature operates on the basis of a rather definite agenda. All animals and plants live intentional lives. We cannot dismiss this fact by saying that it is blind instinct or merely a pattern of conformity on the basis of which the continuity of the particular species is guaranteed. Here the activity of an innate order is at work. When I am able to read the specifications, then I can understand the behavior.


The opening words are from Dr. Howard Thurman. He wrote extensively about the search in living structures for a deeper understanding of the mysteries of life. Unlike so much of what was written at the time, Thurman had a much more wholistic view…even cosmic view of life. He saw the natural world…creation, as the foundation of life. Birthed from the stars, our planet contains the ‘original instructions’ for life…what Thurman calls an innate order. Thurman used this consideration of the natural world as a clue to what is happening in the human world and he saw us as relatives to everything on earth! He wrote:


Since we are not only living in the universe but the universe is living in us, it follows, then, that the human being is an organic part of the universe.


If we had only taken these words to heart, we would not have been able to foul our nest as we have. Of course, this is the view of most indigenous people…that we are deeply related to each other…the stars, the moon, the sun, the rocks, the water, the plants, the animals, everything!

But Thurman didn’t end his search there. He continues this consideration of the search for meaning. He recognized that…


The same thing is at work in me as elsewhere in the whole process.

This is why so much knowledge about our own bodies is secured

from the study of other forms of life. Such study is mandatory for all

who would acquire a working knowledge of the human organism.


Again, I want to pause and say that, if only we had listened to Thurman, we could have had a better understanding of medicine…of healing…and of our own human organism. But Thurman goes even deeper. He writes:


If I regard this understanding as a part of God’s – the Creator’s – working paper, then I relate to it not only with my mind but also with my feelings. I react to what I observe: this is the Hand of God fashioning creation. Such a mood of reverence has a transfer value for me also. It moves me directly into the experience of what Schweitzer calls “reverence for life.” But there is much in familiarity with technology that stifles any mood of reverence. So rapid and astounding have been our developments in this area that there is little time for the element of reverence to emerge. I doubt very seriously if a scientist who knew reverence as a part of her own response to what her investigation of nature revealed could ever bring herself to the fashioning of atomic or hydrogen bombs.



Again, Thurman is before his time. He points out that this working paper does not only exist in our mind, but we can also feel it. He speaks of the way that technology stifles reverence. Technology and this artificial separation from creation has resulted in the savage behavior of human beings…on the battlefield but, as Thurman points out, also in the lab. It may be exactly the right time to enhance our awareness of reverence…of honor and praise for creation and our creator. Thurman brings us full circle…


Now, the mood of reverence opens up the spirit to a receptivity of the greatness of God at work in the world of nature. It heightens one’s sensitivity to meaningful overtones of beauty that enliven the spirit and enrich the awareness of values. Here, then, is one important clue to the divine agenda or working paper.


This mood of reverence is only possible, I think, when we pause…when we take time out to contemplate life and the nature of existence…when we listen for the sound of the genuine in our everyday experience. It is at these times that we are able to heighten our sensitivity…our awareness of the Creator’s working paper. This sensitivity…this awareness must be the foundation of our understanding of life, for if we do not have reverence for life, then we can destroy it…we can abuse each other in relationships…we can shoot each other on the street without remorse...we can drop bombs on targets that we don’t even see…we can dump toxins in our streams, rivers and oceans without a thought for the sacredness of the life of the fish, the whales, the insects, the seaweed, of course, endangering our own lives (remember we are related…we are a universe). This chaotic violence and destruction is everywhere. Is there really a painstaking structure in the world of human beings? Is our world composed of merely death and destruction? Thurman grapples with these questions as he continues his exploration into God’s working paper:


…Further, I seek a clue to God’s working paper, [God’s] agenda in the world of human beings, in the whole stay of our collective or social life on this planet. At first look, human relations as experienced in human history, or in the immediate social environment in which we live, seem quite chaotic. The casual view discovers no valid intent; if there be an intent, it seems more evil than good, more diabolical than benevolent…It cannot be denied that a part of the fact of human society is the will to destroy, to lay waste, to spend. There is often so much that casts down and so little that uplifts and inspires…And yet always, against this, something struggles…Always there is some voice that rises up against what is destructive, calling attention to an alternative, another way.


Thurman is speaking of the intent of the creator. Thurman doesn’t profess to know for sure what this is…instead he says he is seeking a clue. He says that when we look at human history and our immediate social environment we will notice that it seems that this intent is more evil than good…he speaks of the will to destroy, to lay waste…so much that casts down…so little that uplifts.

Yes, this is how it seems…how can we think otherwise? We live in a time when we have separated ourselves from our source…our creator…and from our collective existence throughout history. What makes this even more distressing is our current reality. Yet, he says that if we listen deeply enough, we will hear the voice that says there is an alternative…another way. 

I want to believe this…I want to believe that there is another way…something to replace our current system that does not take into account the sacredness of life…the need to acknowledge the possibility of God’s working paper…the intent of the creator alive and well in life everywhere!

This alternative is in the hope of a young the new leaves and flowers emerging on the branches of the trees…in the people working for the restoration of peace at home, in the streets and between nations...calling attention to another way to solve conflicts. It is at work in the commitment of our ancestors and our contemporaries working for truth, peace and justice in our world. Commitment, Thurman says, is a discipline of the spirit…part of the intent of the creator for the human person. He writes:


The meaning of commitment as a discipline of the spirit must take into account that mind and spirit cannot be separated from the body in any absolute sense.

Commitment means that it is possible for a person to yield the nerve center of their consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to them than whether they live or die.

When the conditions are met, the energy of life is made available.


Again, this insight from Thurman is ahead of his time. He says that the mind and spirit cannot be separated from the body…indeed as trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk says, The Body Keeps the Score. The thoughts and feelings…yes, even the intent of the creator is also located in the body. It is here that we can cultivate an awareness of the present moment…an awareness of our place in the universe…an awareness of our responsibility as a part of life to heed the voice within, calling for a commitment to the nurturance…the protection…and the reverence for life. May we work toward honoring this commitment so that all conditions are met to make the energy of life available…available for the healing of our world.




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