Just as God adjusted communication to each culture's needs, capacities, and talents, God interacts on a personal level, expressing different aspects through each individual, pushing development, driving reality.
What do prehistoric cave paintings, Chinese aesthetics, The Upanishads, and Jesus have in common? They are all examples of divine interaction within different cultures.
At this point in history, a time of globalized communication, a new familiarity with diverse religions, revelations, and enlightenments across tradition and culture has inspired a renewed spiritual wisdom that God communicates in many ways. Explore this dramatic change in understanding of Divine reality and the relationship between God and humans and discover the rich spiritual meaning of life.
What's On Our Mind- Show host Scott Langdon and Dr. Jerry L. Martin discuss how God develops and learns in partnership with humans through a meaningful relationship.
Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Begin the dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher
Related Episodes: [Two Philosophers Wrestle With God] World Religions [Part 1] [Part 2]; [What's On Your Mind] A Relationship With God
Related Content: [Video]
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 90.
Scott Langdon [00:01:11] This is episode 90 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast and the eighth edition of our series What's On Our Minds. I'm Scott Langdon, and in today's episode, Jerry and I focus our attention on Episodes 87, 88 and last week's Episode 89. We talk about how God develops and learns in partnership with human beings and how that relationship means everything to God. In episodes 87 and 88, the eighth dialogue between Drs Jerry Martin and Richard Oxenberg, Richard quotes from page 139 of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. The adaptation of which is found in episode 22 of our podcast. Jerry and I begin our discussion today with that quote, and so I thought it would be a good idea to play that portion of episode 22 containing the quote. I'll also pop in again a time or two during the conversation to play some additional clips for reference and some additional context. So we begin today with a clip from episode 22 of our podcast, in which I voiced the role of Jerry, and Jerry Martin, who heard the voice, speaks the voice of God. Thanks for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Dramatic Adaptation: Episode 22
Jerry Martin - voiced by Scott Langdon
The Voice of God - voiced by Jerry L. Martin, who heard the voice
Voice Of God [00:02:40] One reason I am 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 religions and other sources of insight, and to piece them together into something more adequate.
Scott Langdon [00:03:08] Welcome back, my friends. This is episode 90, already. Jerry, we're back for What's On Our Minds. This is the eighth time we're doing this, and it's episode 90. It feels like just yesterday we started.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:19] This went by, it went by in a flash, Scott.
Scott Langdon [00:03:22] Ah, this is great. I tell you, this is one of my favorite things that we do. Getting a chance to talk, you and me. And when we do these, What's On Our Minds episodes, we go back and try to keep the framework of the last three episodes that we've done. And so for the last eight times we've done this, it's been, you know, the two part Oxenberg dialogue that we're on, so this time was the eighth one. And then an episode of What's On Your Minds, where we get emails from folks writing in with their questions and comments and we talk about them. And then this episode is looking back on those three, and boy, so much comes to my mind and to my heart, and I want to talk to you about it. So I'm really glad that we have a chance to do that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:08] Yeah, yeah, that's exactly right, because we're not just recording these and putting them out there and then listening to them, but of course, they're an ongoing part of our spiritual lives. And you know what we're thinking about, our thinking lives, and so this is our chance to think further about what we've all just heard recently in these episodes.
Scott Langdon [00:04:34] Well, what we just played was a clip from episode 22. And episode 22, the reason I put that clip in there is that in the eighth dialogue that we just listened to, so that would be episode 87 and 88 with you and Richard Oxenberg, Richard quotes the book to you, and it's God talking to you about why this revelation and why now. And God says it's time to take all of the pieces that have been developing over time, it now is the time where we're to put those pieces together. And it's the time, it's right here, it's right now. And you answer Richard in that dialogue and you say, you know, I don't know that there could be another time, that it could be done. You know, it's--here it is, at its moment.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:31] It could never have happened in human history before now, basically, because, you know, we talk about the shrinking globe and we're all in communication with each other around the world. We know much more about other religions than we did when everybody grew up in their own village or neighborhood, and every one of their neighbors, you know, went to the same church or ashram, whatever their tradition was. And now we live in a cosmopolitan world, and that has many afflictions, you might say, and challenges, but one of the benefits is the kind of richness that you get. The enormous deep diversity that you get from taking in so much from the different cultures and their traditions and their spiritual wisdom, what their adventure with the divine has been. And that couldn't have happened, I think, even 100 years ago. But it can happen now in the post World World War two world that we can look at them all and think, okay, now, you know, what do we make of all of these religions, revelations, enlightenments.
Scott Langdon [00:06:50] And we can know them very quickly in the sense with the technology, the way it is and what's available to us. You know, we could call up somebody on my iPhone right now from Japan and have them come in on the conversation. You know, it's so available in a way that it hasn't ever been available before. And where Richard is quoting from is the beginning of Chapter 27. And at this point, you have-- you're asking God the question, you know, I've got these cultures, I'm studying them, but I don't see how they all go together. And God says, look at the broad sweep and what do you see? And you go back to prehistoric times and God is giving you this-- you're back and forth in this dialogue of- I'm seeing how you're developing, how you're coming through all of these different ways.
Scott Langdon [00:07:49] Hello, friends. It's Scott again. Dropping in like I mentioned, I would. I figured this would be a great time to play another clip from Episode 22. This episode begins with the very start of Chapter 27 in the book. In this clip I'm about to play for you, as is the case throughout the entire audio adaptation of the book, I speak the voice of Jerry Martin, and Jerry speaks the voice of God.
Dramatic Adaptation: Episode 22
Jerry Martin [00:08:24] Lord, I have prayed about various cultures, and I don't see how they fit together.
The Voice of God [00:08:29] Look at the broad sweep for a moment. What do you see?
Jerry Martin [00:08:34] From prehistoric times, You are dealing with people through nature and their own intuitions, aesthetic appreciation, emerging moral sense…
The Voice of God [00:08:51] Yes.
Jerry Martin ...and perhaps through each person's own development, and self-awareness and awareness of the other.
The Voice of God Yes.
Jerry Martin [00:08:52] That starts getting articulated as the Way by the Chinese and as the cosmic order in Mesopotamia and perhaps in India in the idea of Rta - the primeval Indian term for right order.
The Voice of God [00:09:06] Yes.
Jerry Martin [00:09:09] And You are seen in natural phenomena--in particular plants and animals, in geographical structures such as rivers and mountains, and in larger forces such as life and death and fate and famine. I gather these are all ways in which You are manifesting Yourself.
The Voice of God [00:09:29] Not just manifesting Myself, but communicating through them.
Scott Langdon [00:09:43] That was a clip from episode 22 called I Learn How God Communicates. Where I speak the voice of Jerry Martin and Jerry speaks the voice of God. Now back to our conversation and what's on our minds.
Scott Langdon [00:10:07] That must have been an amazing thing to experience with God, seeing that and having him confirmed that, yeah, this is happening this way.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:16] Yes. It keeps having me step back, step back, you know, because my nose is a bit to the store window. You know, like the kid looking at the candy and what is all this? And step back and take it all- in the big picture. And then what do you see developmentally, if you start? You know, the earliest time that I'm aware of, which is roughly cave paintings and all that kind of thing from prehistoric days, what do you see happening there between human beings and the divine reality? And, so I just describe it as best, you know, it's not what I see exactly, it's in light of what God has told me about the divine interaction with the different cultures, how now I'm beginning to see them as a story. Although we sometimes use the term puzzle pieces occurs in the book, you know, each religion or tradition is a piece of the puzzle, God said, well, it's actually not for the kind of static puzzle together. It's a story. And it's to see how they relate to one another, not affixing them into some static pattern or theory or something like that, kind of world theology. But understand God's story, which is also our story with God. And not always called God because not every tradition experience the personal side of God. Some went deeply into other aspects of the divine reality.
Scott Langdon [00:11:51] One of the things that God says to you is that it would be too much for one particular culture to bear the whole story. You know, you ask him a couple of times, and you and Richard talk about this, why don't you just give everything to all of us? You know, it's just it's too much to bear. I want to ask you what that means, but also want to wonder about- that's part, it seems to me that that is part of what makes it what it is to be in the world, which is to not be able to see other parts. You know, that has to be that way. You can only be parts in order to see that there are parts. To interact with parts, you have to know that, you have to feel like you are separate, and not necessarily less than, but you have to feel that at least or at least pretend be in the world where you're separate from an other.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:50] Yeah. In a way to be is to be particular. And certainly, to notice things is to notice them as particulars. And you can't see the whole until you see the particulars. And there was some tendency when people started being sympathetic to other traditions to want to say, well, they all say the same thing.
Scott Langdon [00:13:13] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:14] What the people would do is kind of pull out some themes that you could then trace through each, maybe somewhat distorting each one. You know, and leaving aside all of the actual particulars of those spiritual lives. And one of the striking things about God: An Autobiography is God saying, no, that's not true. I told the cultures different things. That's why they're different. I related to them in different ways. And one reason was that it would be too much to try to give all to one. And the example that I always remember is where God says, you know, I gave the covenant and the set of laws to the people of Israel. I told the people of India relate to me, you know, through the inner dimension, the Atman and OM and so forth, meditation. And it would barely make sense to say, okay, people of India, you're doing OM and meditation, now go have a covenant and a bunch of rules and be my partner in history. And it would have made much more sense to tell the ancient Jews, you know, okay, give me a covenant, the law, and we've got some things we need to do together, but meanwhile, go quietly, you know, relate to this other thing. The other aspect is not just it would be too much, but each culture has different needs capabilities, a different cultural development, different concepts available, different almost like different talents when we get to the Chinese. And one never wants to generalize, you know, about ethnic groups or anything like that, but they did have a flair for, you might say the aesthetics. Any book you read on Chinese thought emphasizes the concept of harmony. They had a talent for that. And so, God worked with that, and in part, God's own development-- God starts seeing Himself, God's Self, as a principle of harmony. In a more dramatic and vivid way than God had been aware of that aspect of God's Self before. So, it now allows these different aspects of the divine reality to come to the fore and to become self-conscious on the part of God.
Scott Langdon [00:15:40] You use the analogy with Richard about the watercolors. So, this group, this group is great at watercolors, and God says, oh yeah, they work in watercolors, I'll work in watercolors. Let's do--.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:53] Yes, exactly.
Scott Langdon [00:15:54] Interesting. You know, this other group works in oils or clay, and is like, okay, wow, look at the beautiful statues. It doesn't make the watercolor paintings less than, it just makes it an expression in a different way with clay and pottery. Okay, so these folks are doing the pottery over here, I'll work through the pottery. In a sense, and so, that makes me, in my mind, think about what mode am I working through?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:24] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:16:24] What mode is God working through for me? And I talk a lot, my language is the theater and acting, so, as an actor. So, I might talk about this as the role God is playing within a culture or so forth, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:39] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:16:39] And I know that when, and this is the reason that I know much better now in my later life what I do and how I do it as an actor, because I know that with each role they play, I learn something about Scott Langdon.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:56] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:16:56] I, you know, when I played Luther Billis in South Pacific, let's say, oh, it's a comedic role. But I really dug into like, what would be the world that he would have really lived in that time and what would have motivated him to want to do these things? And when I think about that and I play that role, I know it's not me, Scott Langdon. And yet I get to really get deep-dug into that. And then I learn about myself, like I get to experience that, so it does affect me, and it shapes me and it shapes my personality. I learn from it. So, I feel like in the same way as I live my life and as you live your life, that God is learning in that sense by being those things as I am being a character.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:39] Yeah, yeah, God-- and that's part of the key. It's a mystery because it's so alien to a lot of our ways of thinking about God. But that God is sort of learning the life of Scott Langdon through Scott Langdon.
Scott Langdon [00:17:56] Right. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:57] And there was no prior Scott Langdon. That's part of the amazing thing. In one sense, we're all part of the divine reality and God is everything. On the other hand, we're each unique. And Scott Langdon is unique and has a totally different life, a different story, a different set of challenges, strengths, weaknesses, talents, aspirations, pains. You know, we each have our own story, and God lives through our stories as well. Our stories are, and you tend to put it in acting terms, and that would be perfectly apt as an analogy. God is as enacting Scott Langdon. You know, who is Scott Langdon? But you don't play Scott Langdon without doing what you did with the character in South Pacific without coming into a deep, deep knowledge, and more even here, since Scott Langdon is more than a character in a play. You have a 24/7 life, for example. You can probably well imagine the character in South Pacific what he might do at home that evening. You know, because you went through that much. But here, you really do something at home in the evening and God participates in that with you. And so God is learning that about each individual. I always take, and I don't know quite if God said this in the book, but just as God came to each culture differently in terms of that culture's needs, capacities, talents, etc., it just seemed the natural implication of that was down to the personal level. That God is going to come to us each in terms of our needs, capacities, etc., and just as God expressed different aspects of the divine self through different cultures, and that that moved the divine reality and the whole of reality forward, God expresses different aspects of God's Self through Scott, and Jerry, and Mary, and Josephine, and so on down the line. That's part of the, you might say, the adventure of God's life is living all of these lives. I think I am told that somewhere that in one sense, you know, what is God's story? Well, in one sense, that is God's story. It's God interacting with the cultures with each individual and living the cultures lives the historical lives and our each individual life. And, so God's going through us with our sufferings, triumphs, defeats, and the whole works.
Scott Langdon [00:20:41] The quote that we played at the beginning of the episode was from page 139 of the book. And when I was preparing for this episode today, I went back to the book and was looking at that quote, and I started reading a lot more in that whole chapter. It's actually from chapter 27, which starts on page 137 and goes through page 141 if you want to read it at home. But I wanted to read a little bit of a passage from there and get your input from it.
Scott Langdon [00:21:19] Hey there. It's me again, one last time. I just thought you should hear how Jerry heard things, especially when it comes to this particular quote from God. So, this is Jerry speaking The Voice of God from the ending of episode 22 of our podcast.
Dramatic Adaptation: Episode 22
Voice of God [00:21:44] If I did not care about human beings, it would be nothing to Me that they do not listen. If I were the detached, "perfect," self-sufficient God many theologians write about, it would not matter to Me. But I am not such a God. I care about human beings, I care about each and every human being infinitely, in a direct and total way you can only begin to imagine. I care what human beings do. And I am sorrowful when they do wrong, when they do not meet their historical moment in the right way. I long to be close to human beings, for them to be in harmony and attunement with Me. It would be wrong of Me to be close to them on any other, more false terms. I am a suffering God. If you miss that, you miss everything. Suffering is at the heart of the universe. It is not incidental. An accident. Something preventable. It is at the core of what it is to relate to an Other in a loving way. Otherness requires separateness, distance, alienation, independence, freedom, a certain amount of friction.
Jerry Martin [00:23:03] So in part, at least you suffer from loving us. We often disappoint you. Is that the main problem, Lord?
Voice of God [00:23:13] It is not only creatures who are imperfect. I am too. I need this development in order to become more perfect, more fulfilled. I need it and human beings do as well. In all these different ways of communication, My experience is one of love, of reaching out, of trying to catch a person's attention, of satisfaction when heard--because I and the Cosmos are then moving forward--and of frustration, endless, unrelenting, bitter frustration when not heard, of acute pain when not heeded, of anger when double-crossed, and of tremendous suffering, like the suffering of a mother or father who watches a son or daughter go bad. There is no anguish like it.
Scott Langdon [00:24:17] I just love that quote. It's some absolutely beautiful words.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:21] Well, I found it so striking. You know, before I give any talk to anybody, I pray, you know, what's my-- what should my goal be here? Usually just a brief prayer, and usually I get like a one sentence, you know, bit of guidance about it. And I was going to talk to an interfaith church that is very spiritual and not very dogmatic. And I thought, well, this is going to be a piece of cake. You know, they're going very naturally to the message of God: An Autobiography. But I was surprised when I prayed, you know, well, what should I be doing with this group? And what I got was, "Tell them what they don't know, tell them what they don't know." And that led me to this very passage, because nobody asked the question, what is it like to be God? And I think very early in God: An Autobiography when I'm wondering what is this all about, you know, tell your story? That didn't-- why tell your story? But there is something called what it is like to be God and at that point, that didn't make any sense to me, but you learn it through the story. What's it like to be any of us? What's it like to be Anna Karenina? You'll learn it by reading the story, right?
Scott Langdon [00:25:44] Right. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:45] Or the biography of someone, we're getting to know them personally. And here, a lot of it finally comes to a head. You know what it is like to be God and what God's story is all about. And, so it starts, one of the early statements there is I am God who whispers. And whispering came up very early, "Listen to Me, even when I whisper.".
Scott Langdon [00:26:12] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:13] And the more I think about it, the key is in the word whisper. What is this whispering in? And we find, well, whispering isn't always just a soft voice. Sometimes it's not a voice at all. And we've talked about that before, that sometimes it's just a gentle nudge or even a stray thought that you feel, I didn't think this thought, it was sent to me. Or a comment by a friend or a task put in your path. It can be many, many things. And the key is to take it in because what He says in that shortly thereafter is "People's hearts are usually closed."
Scott Langdon [00:26:53] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:53] And so the key in a way, is to have an open heart and an open mind so that you're not dogmatic. Oh, that can't be true because it contradicts something I previously believed. But just take it in. Take it in, what the deliverances of experience and what its various modes are. And, so I guess that's what struck me at the beginning here. And then He says," If I did not care about human beings, it wouldn't matter to me.".
Scott Langdon [00:27:29] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:29] "That people don't listen. What would it be to Me?" And, so if I were the detached, perfect, in scare quotes, "self-sufficient God '' that theologians talk about, you know, who is so sufficient unto Himself, that what on earth could human beings be to such a God? We'd be extraneous. But, God says, "I'm not that kind of God. I'm a God who cares about people and cares infinitely about each person," and has high hopes for them and deep suffering. For their suffering and for their going wrong in one way or another, and that is sort of-- they mean, I think He says here, "They mean everything to me, they mean everything to me." And then He goes on with, "I care about what they do, sorrowful when they do wrong. I long to be close to human beings for them to be in harmony and attunement with me." So, He's longing. God is longing for those things. And part of that this means is, we matter so much that God's fate, you might say-- Somewhere I am told that God's day is better when we're in contact and goes bad when we're not, you know, they wax or wane depending on the human reaction. And then this very striking statement, "I am a suffering God." And of course, that follows from the first. A God who whispers, we usually have our ears plugged, aren't paying attention, maybe don't want to pay attention. Lot of that is vocal. We don't want to pay attention. And, so, God is a suffering God. And if you missed that, He says, you miss everything. And that He says, you know, why is God suffering? He says, that's what it is to relate to another, an other in a loving way. Otherness requires separateness and distance. This kind of paradox we have in the whole book that we're both same and other as God.
Scott Langdon [00:29:54] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:54] But God can't relate to us as particular people except through the mode of otherness and separateness. And we have our own autonomy. We make our own decisions. We can listen or not listen. We can do the right thing or the wrong thing or be intimate with God or go off on our own. And it even requires, He says, a certain amount of friction, a certain amount of friction. As if that's not a glitch, but a feature. And that's what we experience with each other. It's certainly part of a marriage, you know, because you're a different people in a loving relation. A loving love doesn't mean you always agree, or you have the same temperaments. You know, both want to go out to the party, and both want to stay home, you know, or both want to stay home. Sometimes one wants to go out and one wants to stay home. So anyway, you have these frictions that are part of the dynamism of relationship, right? That's part of the dynamism of a loving relationship. An awful lot of the world's work gets done through friction. And even when sometimes you have to tell a friend, hey, aren't you drinking too much? You know, you kind of--
Scott Langdon [00:31:10] Right. Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:12] Raise this question. Well, that's going to be friction, but that's a loving friendship to kind of point this out to a person. Or whatever it might be, you know, can you really afford that? You know, these kind of-- or, you know, why don't you marry her? Why don't you get serious about this relationship? Make a commitment. So anyway, those are a part of the complexities of the divine reality especially on Its personal side or expressed in terms of Its personal side.
Scott Langdon [00:31:47] And not only for us, but for-- God is saying to you, for Me as well.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:53] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:31:54] God is saying, yes, this is the same thing for Me. Right here in this passage, God said, it's not only creatures who are imperfect, I am too. That is a really difficult thing to wrap your mind around. You and Richard go back and forth about it in the dialogue. But He goes on to say, I need this development in order to become more perfect, more fulfilled. So, there is this telos, there is this direction that God is also heading in.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:23] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:32:23] And we're heading in that way together. So, in the way that God says early, you know, don't think that I'm just a guy because I relate to you as we do, but also at the same time, and here's, I guess this is dialectic, right? At the same time, I am also imperfect.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:42] Yeah. And the tasks, you know, you ask, what's the task of God? And what's our task? And the task of God is to move reality forward. And that's by moving peoples forward, cultures forward, institutions, also individuals in their lives forward. And as we all move forward, the whole cosmic reality improves, you know, the whole, you know, kind of ontological quantum of the world improves. And we are equal, you might say, partners in that. Not that we have the same scope and impact, but we are 100% fully partners in that. God cannot do it alone. And, you know, there's something invigorating about that concept of being partners with God, not just as, oh, people to set the table or something, but it's much more vital than that. But we have essential work to do, first of all, in just managing our own selves as well as we can. Which is never going to be perfectly, but we try to do it as well as we can. We can try to get better at it and then at relating to people around us as well as we can for their benefit, for their growth, and thereby for our growth and our communities and nations and the world, the globe. All of that is work to be done. And we're all part of it. We're all part of it. And therefore, not just passive partners. And it's as if we're always asking God for help. But it doesn't often occur to us to offer God our help, you know.
Scott Langdon [00:34:38] Right. Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:39] "God, is there something you need me to do?" And that's really crucial, and the world would be--people like the perfect God, but in some ways, it's a rather impoverished conception because God then ends up responsible for everything and God's perfect, we're only imperfect, which makes this dramatic contrast. We can only fail. But if God is just perfect and self-sufficient and infinite and blah, blah, blah, then what we do could hardly matter. It just would be less than the drops of rain on the windowsill. And, so, this is a dramatic change in how one thinks about the divine reality, about God, and about the human relationship to God and the divine relationship to human beings. It's dramatic and I think, although it's shocking, to set aside a quote, perfect God, it actually is spiritually very rich and in terms of living one's life and the meaning of one's life. It's very rich.
Scott Langdon [00:36:02] 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 email@example.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.