Join host Scott Langdon as he connects Dr. Jerry L. Martin and Dr. Richard Oxenberg for part 2 of the dialogue on the Nature of Human Beings. Explore reincarnation and the meaning of karma through God's revelation to Jerry about the nature of human beings and humans' intimate connection with God as a co-partner in a shared world of creation.
Part 2 looks at the wholes within the whole- living harmoniously as an orchestra- but even Beethoven had more love and loss in his life than his perfectly balanced symphonies. Are you answering the many callings and lessons of this life?
The first part of this dialogue focused on God's geocentric and anthropocentric qualities and visited concepts of Darwinian evolution (with a teleological dimension), consciousness, identity, infinite worlds, Leibniz, and Sri Aurobindo.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin is a philosopher and author of the true story, God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, and is the founding chairman of the Theology Without Walls group at the American Academy of Religion.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg is a professor at Endicott College and has published numerous articles on ethics and theology, including his book: On the Meaning of Human Being: Heidegger and the Bible in Dialogue.
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Episode: 84. The Nature of Human Beings | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 7 [Part 2]
Scott Langdon [00:00:17] This is God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. A dramatic adaptation and continuing discussion of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin. He was a lifelong agnostic, but one day he had an occasion to pray. To his vast surprise, God answered- in words. Being a philosopher, he had a lot of questions, and God had a lot to tell him. Episode 84. Hello and welcome to Episode 84 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm your host, Scott Langdon. This week is part two of dialogue number seven between Drs. Jerry L. Martin and Richard Oxenberg. With the topic of conversation having shifted from the nature of God to the nature of human beings, Jerry and Richard dove more deeply into what the Hindus’ called the Atman, or the Self behind the Self, and attempt to uncover the meaning of karma and why and how we reincarnate. There's a lot to unpack here, so I hope you're ready for something really special. Here, now, is part two of dialogue number seven of Where Two Philosophers Wrestle with God. I hope you enjoy the episode. We begin with Richard speaking first.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:02] Well, you know, it's interesting and I wonder whether we could think of it as the Atman, the individual Atman being kind of the conduit between the individual person as a human being (right) and God. So that- you know, in other worlds-- What's that?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:25] It's one conduit.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:27] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:29] And God makes quite clear in the course of my dialogues with God, that that's not the only way of connecting with God. The Hindus tend to think it is, or it's the primary way, but there are a number of ways, each of which has its own virtues and dimensions. And, but, this would be a very extremely intimate self to self connection to the divine.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:59] Right. I guess I'm not so much thinking of a way of connecting with God, because I know you can do that through all sorts of, you know, prayer and-- But I'm thinking more ontologically, that the Atman would be the bridge, the ontological bridge between the individual and the divine. Because the Atman, I mean, maybe this is the time to go into this next level of discussion about it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:25] Yes. There's certainly something to that.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:28] The Atman is- as a matter of fact, there's even a kind of interesting dialogue, a diagram on page 309, right? Where it shows God and then the human Atman, and then the person, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Ahuh.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg As if God- with arrows in connection to the person is through the Atman of the person. That at least seems to be the implication of that diagram.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? So you've got God on the far left. I'm just-- God on the far left hand side of the diagram, then arrow, then the Atman of man next to that arrow, then another arrow and then man. So it sounds as if the Atman of man is somehow the bridge between God and the individual person.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:18] And since there are many bridges, I hesitate to draw that ontological conclusion that you're drawing.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:26] Okay. Okay.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:28] I don't have anything against it, if that's how it works, that's fine with me. And it does come, very, I mean, it would be a beautiful explanation.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:39] Well, let's talk a little bit about what the Atman of man is. Because I think that unlike the Hindu conception, if I'm correct about this--.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:51] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:52] Even the Atman is undergoing a process of development the way that it's depicted in the book, I believe.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:02] I hadn't thought of that, Richard, but it did strike me as I learned more about Hinduism, that my concept of the Atman in these dialogues with God is that Jerry has an Atman, and Richard has an Atman. And both our Atmans are, you know, within the Hindu frame here, identical with the more fundamental reality, Brahman. But the Hindus might say they already find the Atman to be non-personal. In other words, it's already the pool of the divine that we're diving into.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:44] Right. And I think that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:48] And you're going on to the further thought about- does the Atman itself then develop not just ourselves in the personality sense, but the self behind the self, does it also undergo an evolution?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:05] Well, you would think that it would almost have to given that God stands beyond the Atman.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg And God is developing. Right? So, you know, the only thing that doesn't develop, and even this maybe isn't the right way to put it, would be the God beyond God. But the God beyond God, of course, is invested in this whole other development of everything else.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:27] That, you might say, is It's development.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:31] I guess it was actual reality developing, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:31] Yeah. That is the development.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:34] Right. But I guess where I'm coming from is specifically a passage on page 230. Where you are talking, you're trying to understand. Right? And you say to God, “So it’s not that Jerry Martin now knows more than his–” Oh, I guess we haven't yet mentioned the whole idea of reincarnation. So maybe we should be first.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes, yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right, so there's this notion that the individual human life does not does not terminate death. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right, right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg We are, we've been invested in this world since the beginning, in some sense.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg And we will continue to reincarnate- right? Yeah. And we will continue to reincarnate. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:29] Early in the book, I'm given three different visions of the afterlife that resemble something more like what I went into this thinking about- if there was an afterlife, it would be something like a heaven, some special state, better than life we're in now. And the three really fit that. With this further footnote that first I didn't explore, but I noted, which was after the time in heaven where I think I saw loved ones again and so forth, and had a loving view of the whole world. That came to an end, it was a vision in a dream. When that came to an end, I then, to my surprise, saw myself, what appeared to be myself being born in a basket, kind of like in a rice paddy in China or something. And I thought, huh, that's strange. So there had been a time in a heaven-like state and then a rebirth into the world. And I again, I did not like reincarnation, so I really didn't pray about it until a later point. And then I was told more.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:49] Right. So there are a kind of, I guess, there's stages in the afterlife, so there's a kind of--.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:57] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:58] Right? Something similar to a moving into a heaven experience. And then the reemergence into regular, corporal life.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:11] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:12] Yeah. So, there's a place here where God speaks of- that the Atman is going through, and this is what I was referring to before, so you're saying it's not that Jerry Martin now knows more than his earlier incarnation. Right, so what's happening, and then the question is, what is going on over the course of these different incarnations?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:39] Yes, good question.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:40] Are you now more complete because you went through all these incarnations, and you say, no, it's not the individual person that knows more--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:52] Richard, am I speaking here or is it God speaking?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:56] This is you speaking.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Me speaking, okay.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg But God is going to say yes, that is correct.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Okay. I'm getting it right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? This is you speaking and you say, it's page 230, “So it’s not that Jerry Martin now knows more than his earlier incarnation but less than a later one. It is that the Atman, which is continuous across lives (and perhaps even outside our time system), is learning.”
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:26] Aha.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:28] And then God says yes, that's correct. And, once again, you know, I guess the question becomes... So, the Atman itself, you know, it's an interesting thing, it's almost like God is learning through the human being and the God is learning through the Atman of the human being, and the Atman of the human being is learning through the individual lives of the human beings. The human being are not themselves progressing, necessarily. Although, they must be in some sense if they're an expression of the Atman, which itself is progressing. But the Atman is somehow--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:06 ]In general the progress is described, and this I pressed many times because I, well, we normally think of the Hindu conception, is you do well in this life, you come back at a higher status, you do badly, you come back at lower status way. That kind of makes sense, but the view of that, those multiple lives that reincarnation implies that I received in my dialogues with God, is that no, the point of each, you know, they're not going up and down, and it's the next life is not a reward or punishment for however you lived in this life. So you, if you live badly, that's, you might say, permanently on your record, but you come back to experience something new and to have a new set of challenges. And so it's often more like you've written a symphony, now write an opera. Or, you know, you've been a policeman now be a crook or something. You know, now have the challenges of someone born in a high crime environment, or whatever. Each life has its own challenges and the purpose is to meet those. And I suppose by implication, the Atman, the self behind the self, that is enduring, would be accruing these experiences and the insights one has, the spiritual development one has through having them. Just as much as we go through our lives now, and have multiple careers, multiple relationships, multiple interest. We try this, try that, like this kind of music now, that kind of music later. You know, we go through many different things, from each of which we learn something and we become richer, deeper, more complex selves as a result. And it's something like that.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:37] Hmm. Yeah. And, you know, you do have-- you do ask God about karma.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg And, once again, now, this is on page 226. Oh, well, God tells you to ask Him about karma. He says now, "Ask about karma."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:02] Right, right. Yes! Occasionally, God tells me what to ask. Or if I ask something, God said, that's the wrong question, ask about this other thing instead. But yeah, ask about karma, He says.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:15] And you say this, “Now I understand karma as less a matter of making up for past wrongs and more a matter of which challenges a person needs next.” Oh, God, responds, “No, that is not right!”
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:32] That's not right? Okay.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:34] With an exclamation point. “Karma is a matter of “righting the balance…”
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:42] Oh, yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:43] “After the imbalances of your previous life. Remember how I have told you: Don’t feel guilt, just note the consequences.” And then he goes on to say, “Life is for a purpose and the purpose is not just entertainment. It is to achieve a result.” And then you say, “To achieve balance?” God says, “That’s okay for now. When you achieve balance, there is no reason to be born again.” Although that seems a little inconsistent with some of the other stuff. And then you say, “Then spiritual liberation is the goal?” And God says, “No, balance is. “Liberation” – misnamed – is the result. It is a karmic consequence of life “balanced out.”” So maybe-- what did that mean?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:36] Right?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:38] What is the balance? What does balance mean here?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:41] Yeah. I don't remember going back to that and praying about it more. It's an intriguing question in light of the other things I was told about different challenges and so forth. It suggests that in one life you might say you went off the deep end in this way, the next life, it's not clear what balance would mean go off the other deep end. That could be, that you'd kind of need that sense of range. And for many of life's tasks within our lives, now, that would sometimes make sense. You've, you know, written a bunch of poems all using the standard definitions of sonnets and rhymes and meter patterns. Now, do free verse, and forget all of that. Now do something completely different and you'll expand your understanding. Or it could mean that you need to stop being so extreme. Or maybe you need at least some lives where you're not extreme, where you're kind of-- but not extreme doesn't necessarily mean balanced in some perfect sense, but at least living life modestly, moderately, something like that, common sense-ically. What did it suggest to you, Richard?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:59] Oh, you know, I'm thinking about it. I didn't have you know, I didn't have an immediate, an immediate awareness of it. It's interesting that He says that when you achieve balance, that's then liberation.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:13] That is it, yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:14] So there's an association being made between the idea of liberation and balance. And I guess where I would then start to connect that to the idea that life as a whole is an inter-relational system. And I think this then, you know, is said quite a lot. Right? The whole, if we try and look at the whole picture. Right? Every individual has to both be itself as an individual. Right? We don't want to lose the sense of being an individual. But also has to exist in harmonious relationship with the whole, right? To recognize that on the one hand, I'm not just going to lose myself in the hole, but on the other hand, I am not divorced from the rest of reality. Right? I exist, I mean, I guess that's the word balance, right? I exist in a kind of balanced relationship with everything else. I, you know, I mean, it just occurs to me that if you think of the image of Buddha, you know, sitting on the lotus meditating--. It's kind of a wonderful image of balance.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:37] Yes, yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:38] You know. I mean, it's this, you know, this perfect sort of being in balance. Being able to both be himself and experience everything around him. So maybe that's what it means. Maybe what we've got here, I mean, and this would then tie in with every-- with a lot of other things that we've been saying- that there's this chaotic element to the individuation process, the prospect of each thing becoming a distinct thing. Right? And then each of those individual things are in need of everything else. And they've got to find the right relationship with everything else so as to be okay as themselves.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:27] I'm sometimes given the musical analogy, I think it usually comes up when I'm-- I often want a grand finale at the end. And I'm told something like this, that look, the meaning of, you know, the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven's Fifth, is not the final notes, it's the whole thing. And of course, one thinks of the orchestra behind, you know, it's a complex score with many things happening and many different kinds of instruments doing their different kinds of jobs. And the meaning is in the whole thing. It's not the final moments. And the final moments, in fact, have to be congruent with the whole thing. You know, they can't somehow displace it or distort it. And our lives in the world are like- do have that element of complexity that we're bringing, you know, when you think of those opening scenes of the creation chapter, when the whole world is exploding in all directions and God has to put order, and thought, oh, I've got to put order, well, I seem to be able to do that. And so, I guess part of the picture is always a high degree of complexity and multiplicity, but a multiplicity that, the word harmony is often used, which you've just cited, Richard. They all need to be in harmony, which doesn't mean boil down to one thing, you know, as though you made them all into a thin soup by, you know, something by (what do they call it) reduction.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:11] I guess what--.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:14] Fit with one another.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:17] So the image that's coming to me now is of wholes within wholes.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:22] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:23] Right? Systems within systems. And if you continue with the musical analogy, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg So for any individual musician in the orchestra to play their particular instrument, they've got to make all the notes that they are personally playing work, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah.
Dr. Richard OxenbergThey've got to balance all those notes. So there's some, there's a particular role for them to play individually.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Then there's a role that all of them have to play together. And it's only to the extent that each of them plays their individual role right, that they'll all be playing their role, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes, exactly.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg And then that will allow for that particular movement of the symphony to be right, but that movement then has to exist in relationship with the other movements.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin That's right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? And so there's a whole beyond that that has to be fulfilled in order to have the whole symphony. And then I guess I would say that in order for the symphony itself to achieve its own telos, right, it is really part of something grander and greater than that. Right? So, it's a subtle analysis.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:39] It is just one symphony.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:42] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:42] In a whole world of music, and moreover, music is just one part of a culture. And one part of a given-- even Beethoven's life had parts other than music. You know?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:54] Right
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:55] They have other loves and losses, these great composers. That's holes within holes within holes all the way up. And you're right, that's wholes within wholes within wholes all the way up.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:04] All the way up. Right. And so maybe that's where the word balance finally comes in. For each whole to be balanced within itself, right, to hold all the elements together within itself in a balanced way, in a harmonious way, and then for each whole to exist in harmony with the greater wholes that they are part of, and for all those wholes to ultimately exist in harmony and some grand enjoyment, and then I think that what-- And then, I guess when you've achieved that, it's not like you say, well, now we've gotten there so we can go home. Right? We're, you know, we're done. That's when you first are able to experience the beauty of life and live it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg To the fullest. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg That seems to be what this is all a process of, and I guess the implication of what I'm getting here is that there's no point at which that process of growing more and becoming more creative and becoming and taking more in, there doesn't come a point at which that ends. We just get richer and richer.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:24] Right. Because there's always more to be done.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:26] And so the island itself is perhaps learning. To be more balanced as time goes on, which will allow for-- I guess I keep thinking of, you know, just more joyous. A more joyous kind of existence.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:47] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:47] You know?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:50]One of the very first vision I was given of the afterlife was one of, I was just told, because I always thought the afterlife sounded kind of boring. And I was told, no, let me give you another way of seeing the afterlife and was given, I'm told, imagine the most beautiful music, more beautiful than any actual music has ever been. Most beautiful scenes more beautiful. And you're more able you have a greater capacity to take them in. And the greatest love of and of being loved, and like the greatest intellectual aha moments where you just have these deep, fantastic insights. Well, all of that is certainly you can call it joy, you can call it many things, but it's very rich, very noble, a very rewarding and very fully actualized.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:21] Right. Right. And so I guess just in the last few minutes of our, of this session, I think, there are two things that I thought we might hit upon.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:30] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:32] And one is that, so each incarnation has something like a theme, right? As I think you say at some point that every life has a truth.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg That we need to find. This is on page 232. Let me see if I can find a quote, because it's just an interesting one. "Every role or life mission has a truth and has a falsity and the sense of limitation, just as each work of music or poetry or each athletic event has its own mission. Obstacles key to success. Tendency to failure to overreaching and underachieving, pacing or failing to face the truth of that mission. Succeed or fail. One learned something and the universe learned something." And so, and I think what's significant here is, so, there's a sense in which each individual person comes into the world with their own particular thing to do. Right? And being true to that Dharma, it reminds me of the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna says to Arjuna, you know, you must fulfill your Dharma in life.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:52] Duty in the ultimate sense.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:27:54] Right? Through that particular Dharmic project for that life. And so we each have, and I guess some would say, you know, it's kind of a calling where what some people experience as a calling. Right? And I guess the idea, if we put this together with the notion of the Atman is that need for fulfillment, to fulfill that thing is going to allow the Atman to grow more fully.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin I guess so.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:28:12] Right? Through that particular Dharmic project for that life. And so we each have, and I guess some would say, you know, it's kind of a calling where what some people experience as a calling.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. Exactly.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? I'm called to do this thing.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right. And we have an urge to satisfy that particular calling and maybe we can also be more-- helps us to be a little bit more accepting of the fact that there are many different callings. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. Yes. Indeed.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:46] And the calling need not be something that sounds like noble, like saving the world or becoming a great this or that. It can be the calling of coping with the miserable difficulties in your situation, coping with being handicapped or with having an alcoholic mother, or you know, it can be all kinds of things, but these are included in the truth of lives. This situation, I have these capacities. I don't have other capacities that I wish I had, I have just these. And so understanding that, taking in the truth, there isn't just one mission for each life, though, maybe it's correct to say there's a central mission. But every day has its own callings as well.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Mm hmm.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin And those are those are important to pay attention to, as well as these larger sense of life projects or missions.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:29:45] And finally, I thought we'd just say maybe a little bit about something that's mentioned toward the end of the book. It's also the title of one of the chapters, or maybe the last chapter of the book, which I think is that, how does it? The victory is now and the struggle is now.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:06] The victory is now and the struggle is now.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:08] Yeah, I think that actually the title of one of the chapters.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:14] Well, it's a very important line, you might say, and it's in that final part of the book is called Victory. And sometimes this is referred to, part of this is referred to as the victory level. We're in this world and we have to face its challenges, including coping with the evil outside us and inside us. And so we're engaged in that good fight all the time if we're, you know, doing our duty and. At the same time, even though we may be losing that day or even lose in some large way, the victory is now. We're fighting to achieve the victory, and with daily ups and downs. But there's another perspective from which the victory is already achieved. It's already happened. Part of that is connected with the fact that I'm often told time isn't what you think of it as being. And there are some analogies given at different places in the book. I never probed that very much, it always sounded a little too difficult and theoretical or something, but I'm given some analogies to sort of, you know, help me make sense of it. But there's a perspective from which you can see, you might say, all different times, and the victory is present in both sides. And it's actually not that the victory occurs at the end of time, but the victory is right now. But right now, in a kind of-- seen from a different point of view.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:01] Yes, yes, yes. So there's one sense in which we are moving toward a kind of endpoint.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:10] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:12] But there's another sense, and perhaps even the more important sense here, that the purpose of the endpoint is to enrich our lives now.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? The purpose of the endpoint isn't so much to get to the endpoint as it is for us both to have a goal to enrich our lives now, but also to have in some sense, as we engage in the struggle of life, to have a sense of comfort that that endpoint is there. Right? To give us a kind of, I guess, what we might just call faith. Faith that in the final analysis, everything is going to be okay. I. Maybe I'll just read this one last quote from page 342, talking about the fulfillment of life.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg And God says, “The fulfillment just is the drawing upward.” Right? So the fulfillment isn't getting to the top. It's being aware of the top while you are in the presence of this world and this life and this moment. So every moment has within it, I guess, the potential for awareness of this victory level, and to be aware of that victory level as you engage in the struggle for victory is the fulfillment. That's I guess the way that I'm understanding it. Right? God says,”There is not some perfect moment hidden there that makes it all okay. The symphony of everything reaching up toward My glowing presence is the fulfillment, the triumph over evil, over negativity, over the void." So it's in a sense, every individual thing in its individuality, becoming aware of the whole. Right? While it is still an individual, that is the fulfillment of that individuality. What does that sound--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:29] Well, it's reaching for the divine, the whole is an interpretation of that. But it's, I mean, in a sense, it's simple. Our job at each day, at each moment is to live Godward. You know, to live our lives in the you might say in and for and from God to the extent we can. I mean, our lives are mainly full of practicalities after all, and setbacks, and we stub our toe or whatever. Okay. One understands that. But to live one's life where one is understanding it all in this, I don't think the word transcendent is used within the book, but with this upward attention toward the divine, and with that sense of purpose of working in harmony with the divine, that is victory. And, you know, that's a wonderful quote. I've forgotten that particular quote, that banishes negativity. You know, I mean, there is negativity and since I still stub my toe, but okay, that's part of material existence. Meanwhile, the meaning of my life isn't in the snub. It's in my Godward attention.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:35:56] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:57] And that's sometimes called the victory level.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:36:01]And as we were saying in the prior session, this negativity is inherent to the nature of being right? It's not-- it's something that we must struggle with, but we can overcome. And there's no sort of escaping that, there's no other place to be, you know, like, you know, saying, okay, I'm going to move to some other reality where it's--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:36:31] Let's find a world that doesn't have any--
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:36:33] Doesn't have all that negativity in it. Right? This is just the way it is. But the negativity cannot and does not supersede the positive. But we have to grow to realize that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:36:46] Yes, yes, that's right. The negativity does not define our lives unless we let it.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:36:52] And even if we let it, we're going to get to a place where we're going to realize it. Then we shouldn't let it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:36:59] Right. Right. There is a point from which it does not win.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:37:07] Right, right. Right. So. So I thought this was interesting. I thought maybe next time, yes, we would start to look at the individual religions, the discussions you have with God about the particular religions. I thought maybe we'd-- I envision this as having three different parts to it. So one, a discussion of the Western religions, then maybe we would do a session on the Eastern religion, then maybe we'd finally do a session in which we reflected on the relationship between them.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:37:43] Yes, that makes sense.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:37:45] And then I don't know where we go from there, but we could figure it out after that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:37:49] We may cover that. We'll see. We'll see. Well, thank you, Richard. Wonderful dialogue and wonderful to talk with you and wonderful to have your insightful, careful reading of God: An Autobiography.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:38:04] Well, thank you, Jerry. Very good talking to you always.
Scott Langdon [00:38:33] Thank you for listening. To God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. Subscribe for free today wherever you listen to your podcasts and hear a new episode every week. You can hear the complete dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin, by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through its conclusion with Episode 44. You can read the original true story in the book from which this podcast is adapted. God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, available now at Amazon.com, and always at godanautobiography.com. Pick up your own copy today. If you have any questions about this or any other episode, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and experience the world from God's perspective as it was told to a philosopher. This is Scott Langdon. I'll see you next time.