GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast

87. World Religions | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 8 [Part 1]

August 11, 2022 Jerry L. Martin, Scott Langdon, Richard Oxenberg
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
87. World Religions | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 8 [Part 1]
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join host Scott Langdon as he connects Dr. Jerry L. Martin and Dr. Richard Oxenberg for a dialogue on World Religions, discussing God's presence and revelations throughout history and cultures. At the heart of every religion is not the same repeated message but a unique representation and aspect of God's Self communicating with diverse and distinctive cultures throughout time, each revealing a puzzle piece to the bigger picture. Time to put these pieces together and discover the Ultimate Truth.  

Explore religions of the Western world like Paganism, Polytheism, and the unique revelation from Zoroastrianism- a distinctive divulgence of God's two sides and an unexplored understanding of evil. Learn more about Theology Without Walls, a project aiming to understand each religious tradition as evidence and insight from multiple traditions, leading to the ultimate truth. With insight from philosophers Wilfred Cantwell Smith, John Hick, and Aldous Huxley, examine religion in the context of perennialism philosophy. Stay tuned for part two of World Religions, released next week, to continue this vibrant conversation of God's co-evolutionary process and integration with humans, and remarkable communications with humans throughout history, culture, and religion.

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.

Read- God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher

Listen- Dramatic Adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher

____

Related Episodes: [Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God] The Nature of Human Beings: Part 1, 2; The Problem of Evil: Part 1, 2

Related Content: [Video] Theology Without Walls- Challenge of Spiritual Discernment

|God: An Autobiography | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

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 87. 

Scott Langdon Hello and welcome to Episode 87 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm Scott Langdon. With Episode 87, we return to our series, Where Two Philosophers Wrestle With God and give you part one of the eighth dialog between doctors Jerry Martin and Richard Oxenberg in dialogue number eight. The discussion pivots to the topic of world religions, and Jerry explains God's revelation of how God was at the heart of each religion, revealing to different groups of people, different aspects or pieces of God's self, and that now is the time to put those pieces together. Remember, you can hear the complete audio adaptation of the book any time by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through episode 44. Here now is part one of dialogue number eight. I hope you enjoy the episode. We begin with Jerry speaking first. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:00] What is our topic today, Richard? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:02] Yes, well, I thought, you know, so one of the major aspects of the book-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:06] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:06] Is a review of the world religions. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:11] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:12] Right? And the God of the book says that He underlies all the world religions. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg So, we're accustomed, I guess, at least it's been for a long time-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg To seeing the religions as in some conflict with one another-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And as saying different things. And it seems to me, one of the more interesting aspects of the book is the way in which this God said- that's not the case, that's not the way to look at religion. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right

Dr. Richard Oxenberg All the different religions are different aspects of one fundamental truth–

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:55]They do- they do in fact, they do say different things. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:57]  They say different things. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:59] They're just different aspects of the divine.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right. Right.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:01] That are revealed in those traditions. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Yes. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:07] What I thought we would do today is, well, let me put it into a bigger framework. What I thought we might do for the next three sessions--. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg For this one and following two, is to focus on the Western religions today. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Focus on the Eastern religions maybe in the next section, and then have a session in which we talk about the way in which the two might be correlated with one another. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:37] Right. The big, big picture. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:39] That would be an interesting thing to do. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:41] Yes. Good. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:43] So- so let's begin. So, God speaks. Now, of course, we've talked about how out of God emerges this-- God creates human beings, and then tries to establish a relationship with them. And out of that relationship, really, emerges the different religions. Right? I mean, in some sense, the religions are the-- reflect the human experience of being in some relationship with the divine.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:11] Yes. Exactly.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:12] And we, of course, have that experience expressing itself in a wide variety of ways is all throughout human culture, and there doesn't seem to be a culture (except perhaps in the very recent period, you know) that doesn't have some sense of being in connection with the divine. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg  Right? I mean, for about as far back as we can go. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And I just thought we'd start maybe by looking at one quote on page 139, and this is God speaking to you, saying, "One reason I'm telling my story now. Is that today it is time for mankind to begin to sort out what is true and not so true in the various religion and other sources of insight and to piece them together into something more adequate. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:13] Yes. Yes. This is a project that I think could not have been done much before our own time, because now the religions are all so very much more aware of one another and in fact, have a lot of communications that aren't hostile these days, inter-religious dialogue, and so forth. Scholars from multiple cultures studying one another's traditions, coming to appreciate them. So at first, I wondered why God: An Autobiography right now? Because I had not paid attention to what was going on in religion. But as soon as I looked around the world, I saw, oh, you know, this is the revelation for our time for the 21st century, you might say, that couldn't have been done earlier, wouldn't have made sense. So, God could have said it, but it wouldn't have made sense to anybody. Now it does make sense. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:06] Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I think it does make a lot of sense. The basic idea being that there is a truth to the idea of God, there is a truth to the idea of the divine, and rather than see all the different religions as in conflict with one another, in terms of expressing that truth, we sort of need to see, and should see, is that they're all somehow plugged in to different dimensions of that truth. But we sort of need to see and should see that they're all somehow plugged into different dimensions of that truth. And the truth is a very large. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:56] On page 90, we have God saying, "I came to all people. But arrived in different guises. I came to the American Indians as the great spirit, to the Muslims as Allah and so on. I came to the Hindus in many forms, and hence there are many stories." It's interesting, at one point you ask, right, look, why not just give everyone the whole truth? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:20] Right. Exactly. Dribble it out Great Spirit to the Plains Indians and, you know, different forms to these other people, and Krishna to people in India, and so forth. You know, why not just give the whole shebang to people, one big story.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:39]Right. Right. Yes, and do you remember what God's answer to that was? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:44] Yes, I often quote it in talks because I think it's a very important passage. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:51] Yeah, well, here is the quote. So, God says, "Your question has presupposition that I am given different incompatible stories to different cultures. Yeah, this is only apparently true if you think them through. They are different pieces of the same puzzle."

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? So, you know, and that's an interesting way of beginning to look at the different religions, right? In other words, there's a grand puzzle--. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? And the puzzle has many different pieces to them, and if only we could begin to figure out how to fit the pieces properly together, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Exactly. Then-- Yeah--. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg We would get that big picture. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:34] Yes. Yes, exactly. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:36] And I think you began, the context of this, you began a whole project called Theology Without Walls. Why don't you just, this might be a good time to just say a little bit about that. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:47] Well, I really it's late in the book, toward the very end of the book, I was given this assignment of starting a project that would start to put the pieces together. Theology without walls, and theology has always been done in a very narrow way. They call it confessional theology, where each person does the theology of his or her own religion, or maybe her own denomination of the Lutherans do Lutheran theology, and so on. But if theology is to be the understanding of the divine reality, then that's way too narrow. It's not the understanding of the Lutheran divine reality, its understanding of the divine reality that we all, all of us on the planet Earth live under the dome of heaven. You know, we live under the same divine reality. So let's start studying that. It was a challenging task for me because I first of all, I was a philosopher, not a theologian, only recently having an interest in religion and knew nobody in the world of which is the American Association of Religion, where all of the theologians and religious studies, scholars and so forth, very big organization. But I just started attending and getting to know people, and then finally I was told- now is the time to launch the project. And it's been very well received, in fact. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:19] Yes. And it was in the context of that that you and I met. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:22] Yeah. You were at that very first meeting, was at San Diego, and I had a planning meeting and people showed up whom I had not met before, for the most part, and you were one of those. So you were at the original planning meeting after we'd done one panel at AAR. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:41] Yeah. Yeah. It was something that always struck me as an interesting idea to begin with. I was also thinking along those lines. I guess one question comes up and you ask God about this, well, why-- and I think that's an interesting question to consider, you know, why was it necessary to give different pieces of the puzzle to different people rather than just give everybody the whole puzzle? Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:12] Yes. Yes  

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:13] And we get an answer to that question on page 139, and so I thought I'd read this. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:19] Yes, please do. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:22] God says, “the total revelation would be more than any single individual or culture could bear or will act on.”

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:30] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:31] Right. So there was a kind of division of labor. For example, I told the ancient people of Israel to act in history and to keep my covenant and abide by a set of religious and moral rules. Yes, that was task enough for them. I told the ancient people of India to develop the inner life and to get in touch with the transcendental Atman, the self beyond the self. Both were and remain valid tasks. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:03] That makes sense doesn't it? Can you imagine saying- oh, here are Ten Commandments, but also, I want you to meditate and, you know, go through this whole rather challenging thing that Hindus go through trying to contact, you know, the through the self, beyond the self, the ultimate Brahman, and so forth, i would have been a bit absurd. It was hard enough to give people Ten Commandments and get a covenant going and so forth. And you could say the same for these various other religions. Each one was a very full plate, you know, spiritually, in fact. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:40] Yes. And it fits well within, I think, the whole evolutionary notion of both human beings and God. And now we might say religion itself, in other words, because if what we're saying is now at the time just God piecing all these things together, the suggestion there is that we've arrived at a new evolutionary stage. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? We have a lot arrived, finally, after many difficult years. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg At a point at which we can begin to maybe look at the whole as a whole. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:26]  In the whole.  

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:27] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And maybe the idea is that there was a certain amount of development that needed to take place before we would be prepared for that. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:39] Yes, that makes sense, and that's what's happened. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Yeah. Yeah. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin People had religious orders up until about 300 years ago, and they felt this is no good. We're killing each other to save each other souls? This doesn't make sense, right? Does not make sense. It doesn't seem, you know, these are Christians killing each other, doesn't seem very Christian, in fact. Is this what Jesus taught? No. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:03] Right. Right. Right.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:05] So we had to go through those stages of development and different cultures have their own stories and evolutions, and we had to get to that point of developing an interest in one another, lower level of hostility, and greater levels of mutual understanding. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:21] Right. Having fierce, hateful arguments about which of us is the most loving. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:28] Right. Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:30] Right? But still, just recently and you know, this is an idea that, you know, gets revealed in your book. I guess we had some, a number of people, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, and John Hick who were sort of moving in this direction very much and developed philosophies around the idea that we have arrived at a time in history where the religions can begin to not only tolerate one another, and not only respect one another, but be fertilized by one another. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right, right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right. Yeah.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:12] Exactly right. So that, a lot of it is dated from, say, post-World War Two. Aldous Huxley wrote a book, The Perennial Philosophy, I think, in 1947, where-- because one avenue here is to say is to think, as he did, that all the religions say the same thing. Which at a certain level you might say, if you kind of abstract it a bit, they do, you know, none of them as materialistic and greedy, for example. You know, they all have a kind of, I might say, a mystical level. And He emphasized that as the level He preferred, but then others came out. Well, no, they don't quite say the same thing, but they can all be different stories of one thing. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:59] Right. They could all be pointing to the same thing. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:01] Pointing to the same thing. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Not saying the same thing. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:05] Right. Right. I think there was-- one of the Perennialist who I found interesting, Frithjof Schuon. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Are you-- Distinguished between what he called the esoteric and the exoteric level of religion? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? At the exoteric level, the religions are saying quite different things, but they're all somehow, all those exoteric differences are inspired by the same esoteric truth. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:38] Yeah. And the exoteric tends to be the popular religion. Which every religion often contains all kinds of little superstitions and all, you know, all kinds of overly concrete ideas about the divine. The esoteric was something like the more mystical, and we're considered sort of the, you know, might say, a kind of spiritual experts. People who develop the spiritual life to the highest level and therefore did not need these excessively concrete views of popular religion. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right

Dr. Jerry L. Martin And so that was one very sophisticated form of Perennialism of one way to say that they all say the same thing- and to fill out that story. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:25] And in a way, this is related to a basic theme that runs throughout the book, which is, I don't know if paradox is the right word, but it's the relationship between the one and the many. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? So there is one ultimate truth, right? But that ultimate truth, by its very nature, expresses itself in an almost infinite variety of ways. Right? And, so, therefore, human culture also, we find, expresses itself in all these different ways, and it would almost be impossible for human beings to all have the same exoteric religious practice, because the religious practices have to work in the context of this specific culture. Right? And the cultures are different. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:21] Yeah. There are really two reasons that the religions are different, one is the cultural difference. They're working-- it's like artists with different palettes. You've got a different set of colors and color instruments, I never know the difference between oils, and watercolors, and so forth, but, of course, then you're going to paint something different if you've got a different array of colors on your palette. So part of it is that cultural, the cultural frameworks people are working with. But the other part is God then coming into the culture and working with that. Oh, these people are very good at watercolor, so I'm going to do watercolors with them. And, in fact, in doing that, I actualize and manifest and develop an aspect of the divine reality.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Yes. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin  And it's fulfillment by being expressed in a certain tradition, in a certain way. So that's a quote you read before, Richard, about God gave the people of Israel, you know, Ten Commandments and covenant and so forth, and gave the people of India the task of connecting with the inner dimensions and to the divine via the Atman, the self and self beyond the self. Those are making use of the situation, and you might say, cultural talents and of the people of Israel, and of the people of India. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:59] Right. And part of this whole story, and complicating this whole story, is-- It is this sort of this aspect of the book that is weird, it still, it continues to be hard to wrap your mind around-- Which is that, well my mind around, anyway. And that is that God is developing God's own self-awareness.  

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:29] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:30] It's not as if God could have given them the whole picture. Right? Because in a sense, God is discovering himself through the human beings discovering God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg So there's a co-evolutionary process going on here. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:14] Yes. One sees in the Bible the development of God as lawgiver. One of God's basic jobs in the world was to establish norms. But as God points out, he does this in different ways with different cultures. Only one culture got the Ten Commandments, for example. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin So others can build on that. But God is discovering His capacity as a lawgiver. And in fact, in famous passages like Sodom and Gomorrah, when Abraham argues with God, part of the argument is, remember your role. Abraham is saying to God, you know, one of the implications of being the lawgiver is you have to abide by reasonable rules yourself. You have to provide justice, and just wiping out a whole city because of the sins of a few is not justice. And so we see that evolution of God, in that tradition, in that way. And you have similar developments in other traditions of God discovering aspects of the God's self, and those becoming developed in the back and forth with human beings. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:20] Right. That's a fascinating idea that, again, I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around, which is that, but I guess one way to think of it, or one way I think of it, is that, you know, as the human being is discovering the nature of the divine, the divine Itself is discovering Its own nature, so that it's not simply that there's a finished reality that each of the individual cultures are responding to separately. It's that the process of discovering God is part of what allows God to discover God. So it's a full co-evolutionary process here.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:14] And continues today, presumably. The continued--

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:17] And is today. Right. This revelation to you.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:21] Right, is a step. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:22]  Is another step in the process, right. You know, where human beings have now arrived at a place where they can begin to put all of this together, and, I guess, you know, once again, you know, we see-- again, it's an interesting, there's a whole question about how revelation itself works, maybe we'll bracket that for the time being. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:48] Yeah. But the divine reality will respond. As we respond, the divine reality will also actualize Itself more fully in our response. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:58] Right. There's a codependency, right? That is, we just don't tend to think about it. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:03]  I don't like that term because that's a -- 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:06] I  don't mean it in a pathological sense. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:10] Yeah, yeah, yeah. We worked with one another and can only work with one another. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:17] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:17] We actualize ourselves through that, you might call it, a relational model. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:22]  Right. I mean, there's an interesting passage once again, that just sort of jumps out at you- page 45. Right? God says, “The old religions are mostly based on insights, revelations I gave them, but they became rigidified.  

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:39] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:39] Partial insight were mistaken for the whole ritual. And creeds have been overemphasized. And I myself am partly to blame, since at one point those were the most important things to me.  

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right?  And this is kind of related to things that God says on a number of occasions- well, I was young then, which is, once again--. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes, so strange. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg You know, a strange thing. Yeah. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg But I guess it can be read in the context of this God is developing God's self-awareness through the awareness of God that the creatures have. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And the two things are mutually dependent upon one another. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:29] Yes, that's right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:30] It's not as if God could have come to an awareness without. That's how God comes to self-awareness. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:36] Yes. Like any two people.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Yeah.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin You know, the personal is interpersonal. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:43] Right. So, I just thought maybe we'd sort of walk through, I, you know, the way that the Western religion developed is we start out with, I guess, pantheism, not pantheism, but paganism. You know, polytheistic view, and then we move toward the dualistic view, the Zoroastrianism, right? And then finally to the notion that God is one, and all of these different ways of looking at God have validity. Right, that's one of the things--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:24] Yes. They also express genuine signs of the divine reality. Polytheism expresses something genuine about divine reality. It just wasn't the, you know, the final and complete story. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:33] Right. Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:35] And, so, the story moves on because of that. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:38] Yeah. So, God says on page 92, "Any religion." Well, He's asking Himself, I guess He is repeating your question in general, "did polytheism respond to a divine reality? Yes, it did. And any religion that does not allow for this aspect of my presence, my presence to nature, in objects, in places and in forces is missing something."

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:13] Yes. The point of polytheism, I should clarify, isn't the Greek pantheon that we think of, you know, Zeus, Hera, and all of this kind of thing, it's more of the way people regarded special places as sacred, forces of nature as sacred, the lightning or something, the storm was expressing the divine, and sacred mountains, rivers, and that sort of thing. And sacred moments, the moment of death, for example. These are all moments, and what God says, yes. That's totally-- you can't talk about it generically. Not every storm is a divine message, and so forth, but those are among the ways. They're like the ways God communicates as though God is, the world is like finger-- you can do finger painting, and this is like God's signature or finger painting, and one way of coming to us. And if you leave that out entirely, as you know, the purest kind of high-theology might tend to do, then you're missing something. You're missing something. Well, it's God's presence in the world.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:28:28] Right. And I suppose by understanding that, that gives some kind of sanction to the sort of, some of the Neo-Pagan movements that we see now in our culture. Where people are wanting to get back in touch with some sense of the sacredness of nature. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:47] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:28:49] Right? The feeling that, in some ways, and it's a criticism of Western religion, of the idea that God had become so transcendent in our minds that the sacred quality of nature had been removed from it. Nature had been desacralized. Right? And so that we've come to regard nature as merely a thing for our youth.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:15] Something to be exploited. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:29:17]  A repository of resources. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? Rather than as something we can have an I, thou relationship with. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:29] So, it's important to keep these dimensions in our conception of the divine, and not sort of overly purify the concept, or end up with some abstraction as our concept of the divine. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:29:44] Yeah. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:45] And that's our only way of relating. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:29:47] Yeah. So, then we move into Zoroastrianism. We talked about this a little bit a couple of sessions ago with respect to the question of evil, but maybe we can just look at it again. Right? So--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:03] These are powerful revelations, in my own view, Zoroastrianism was a major world religion. In my view it should be in textbooks that cover the nine major religions. But it was historically unlucky because Alexander the Great marched through, and then some centuries later, Islam marched through with its anti-iconic tendencies, and there were a few huddled. Huddled Zoroastrians went to India and became a very self-referential group in order to survive. But if you read the text, these original revelations, which we believe we have, although the documents were destroyed, the priest had memorized them. So we probably have something very close to the actual words of Zoroaster himself, and as he reports, his revelation, the revelatory experiences he had, and it's a dramatic picture.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:31:08] That's interesting, I've never personally read those myself. So that's--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:11] No, people don't, people don't. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:31:14] Yeah. But you know, I guess I've always thought of Zoroastrianism as a kind of steppingstone, although maybe that's not the right way to think of it, between the more polytheistic religions where nature is full of these different gods, toward monotheism. And in a way, you know, it's an interesting-- there's an interesting dialectic, you might say, between monotheism and Zoroastrianism. One of the problems with monotheism is if you start attributing everything to one God, then what do you do with evil? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:57] Yes! Everything that's bad in the world, if there is one powerful God, is at His doorstep, laid at that God's doorstep. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:06] But I guess one of the problems with Zoroastrianism, is if you envision reality as a battle between two equally, two hostile forces that are opposed to one another, such that there is no ontological unity, right, you do away with the idea of reality as an ultimate whole. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:35] Yeah, let's say a little bit-- let me say a little bit about Zoroaster's vision. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Okay. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah, what he came to see was that in the world was a second deity who appears sometimes to be the other half of God, of the major God, because that's the side described as his twin, as though this might just be the other side of God. But this twin, called the Hostile Spirit, is going to inevitably rise up and try to contest God's, you might say, dominion in the world. Contest the good and turn people against God, and the story of history from then on is the story of the struggle. And somehow, from the beginning, God knows He's going to win. But the Hostile Spirit doesn't know that, and maybe even if he knew he was going to lose, he would still fight because of his, you know, meanness, his wickedness. He can't help himself, you might say, that's who he is. Yeah, and so you have this contention that goes on, and at one point, the people who live in a kind of slightly unreal, ideal world are given the choice. Do you want to stay up here? Ideal in this ideal, but not quite real realm? Or do you want to come into the world and help Me fight the Hostile Spirit? And, well, they all volunteer to go to enter the world and join the fight. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:34:30] So what the God of the book tells you is that both of these spirits are dimensions of the one God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg I have a quote on 325,"I am not all good. Or as he put it, (he being Zoroaster, right?) There are two gods, one good and one evil contending with each other. I am not exactly contending against my evil side, but I am incomplete and I am running up against my limitations. And that sometimes leads to perverse consequences.”  

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:15] Yes. And it's come to seem to me that mainly, I think this is said explicitly a certain prayer exchanges, that it's mainly God's lack of integration, as if it's almost like you think of an organic metaphor, you know, what's the problem with when we get sick, it's often one part of the body isn't cooperating with the other parts. It's producing too much of something or not enough of something. Or in the case of cancer cells, somebody once said, are they ugly under a microscope? And I heard the medical scientist say, "No, they're actually quite beautiful." They're not unhealthy, themselves, in fact, they're too robustly healthy, so they start taking over. So it's as if God's problem is in this long course of evolution, God has to go through and can't-- relies on our cooperation to make progress. God is slowly learning to integrate different aspects. The world is very complex, and the divine reality is very complex, and the task in sight are very complex. And so to get-- just as we can't command our bodies, you know, to stop doing that if our liver is malfunctioning or something, God cannot just instantly tell some aspect of God's self, stop doing that. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:36:48] Yeah. And I guess it's related to what I've often thought is at the core of evil in some sense. Which is the part trying to take over the whole. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:37:04] that fits the organic analogy perfectly, doesn't it? A medical analogy--

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:37:06] Yeah. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:37:07] Look medically at. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:37:08] Yeah. That part and you know, it's an interesting-- the part comes to see itself as ontologically threatened precisely because it's a part. Right? Therefore, it's not grounded in the ontological ultimate, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Therefore, it's not grounded in the ontological ultimate, right? Its response is to try and take over the whole that it feels in some sense threatened by, and that then becomes what we call evil, right? It becomes, you know, an attempt to dominate, to subvert, to destroy. We might think of envy and resentment as being rooted in that, and greed and concupiscence, and, you know, this need for the part to consume the whole. And out of that sense of being threatened, right, its response is to try and take over the whole that it feels in some sense threatened by, and that then becomes what we call evil, right? It becomes, you know, an attempt to dominate, to subvert, to destroy. We might think of envy and resentment as being rooted in that, and greed and concupiscence, and, you know, this need for the part to consume the whole. And I guess it's interesting to consider that, and this then becomes the way to respond to that,  and I think we see this in Christianity, really. Perhaps more fully developed in Christianity than in other places, is somehow the part has to be integrated into the whole, rather than, right? In other words, the way you respond to that is not by destroying the part. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right, right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg But by somehow bringing that-- making that part realize that it's true happiness and security is going to come from a communion with the whole, rather than from a conquest of it.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:39:10] Right. Right. Yeah. That's a good analysis. 

Scott Langdon [00:39:26]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 questions@godanautobiography.com 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.

Introduction
World Religions
Theology Without Walls
Revelation Throughout History And Culture
Philosophers And Perennialism On Religion
The Ultimate Truth: Different Religions And Cultures
God's Co-Evolutionary Process With Humans
Paganism, Polytheism, And Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism: Two Sides Of God
God's Integration: An Organic Analogy
Outro And Contact Information