New Spiritual Podcast Series | The Life Wisdom Project- Tuning Your Radio To God
Learn of the prayers of gratitude and offers of help and service from a non-believer that ignited the conversation between God and man.
The Life Wisdom Project explores lessons and insight from each chapter of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. From Jerry's conversations with God, the Life Wisdom Project will look at the takeaways from God and the book for everyday living. How can we live better, healthier, happier, and wiser lives?
Meet Dr. Jeanine Diller, professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Toledo. Dr. Diller and Dr. Martin have been friends since working on theModels of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities, a volume by Dr. Diller presenting the various conceptions of ultimate reality that have been advanced over the centuries and present in the world's religions today.
Jeanine asks Jerry what the conditions were for him to communicate with God. The two indulge in a beautiful conversation about paying attention and the history of prayer throughout cultures.
We revisit I Pray To A God I Don't Believe In, the first episode of the dramatic adaptation of the book, where Creative Director and Host Scott Langdon brings the story to life with his dramatic and vocal talents as Dr. Jerry L. Martin and Dr. Martin reenacts the voice of God as he heard it.
This philosophical and spiritual conversation between friends will provide an inspirational answer that may surprise you and motivate your spiritual journey!
Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Begin the dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher
Related Episodes: [Dramatic Adaptation] I Pray To A God I Don't Believe In
Related Content: [Video] Does God Still Speak To Us?
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 94.
Scott Langdon [00:01:01] Hello and welcome to Episode 94 of God: Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm Scott Langdon, your host. In this, the first episode of our new series, The Life Wisdom Project, Dr. Jerry Martin talks with Dr. Jeanine Diller, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Toledo, about her thoughts and reflections on episode one of our podcast. Jeanine wonders what it was Jerry was doing or how he was being so that he was able to tune his radio dial to pick up the frequency of God and the two ponder the implications of what being prepared or tuning in might look like. Partway through the episode, I will, as I sometimes do, interject with a clip from episode one, which I hope will serve as an illustration or a place of reference for the discussion. 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. We begin with Jerry speaking first.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:06] The purpose of the Life Wisdom Series is to explore what these conversations with God imply about how we can live our lives better. What clues does that suggest about how to live healthier, happier, wiser lives? We will look at the takeaways for everyday lives with family, friends, loves, neighbors, coworkers, and also how we understand ourselves and our relation to whatever we find to be ultimate. I call that God, but for you, a different word might be better. That's up to you. We start the series by returning to episode one, which roughly covers chapter one of the book God: An Autobiography As Told To A Philosopher. To join me in this discussion, I'm happy to have Jeanine Diller. I first met Jeanine when I wrote an essay for an amazing book she was editing called Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities. The volume presents the various conceptions of ultimate reality that have been advanced over the centuries and are present in the world's religions today. We've been friends ever since. The first episode is the one in which, to my surprise, God first speaks to me. Jeanine, what do you make of something like that happening to a person who is not a believer out of the blue?
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:03:32] Yes. So what you were saying just makes me think of that analogy of the radio waves and a radio. Where the radio waves are like God, and the radio is like us. And if we just God is constantly sort of sending the signals of the radio waves, and if we can tune our dial, then we can actually hear them. And so on that analogy, when I think about the first time you heard from God, I guess my question is, well what did Jerry do to tune his dial?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:03] I wasn't trying to hear God. It wasn't that I was trying to tune in to a particular station, you might say.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:04:10] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:10] But I must have done something.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:04:13] Right, that's the question. So, when I was reading at this, I mean, I've read it a lot of times, but this last couple of times I was like, what is he doing exactly to open up this entire conversation that prompts the entire book and the entire revelations that you seem to have received or, you know, take yourself to have received. And so it's sort of really, that's the moment where it's like the first prayer is your prayer of gratitude, which I think is really interesting that that spirit of thankfulness for the amazing love that you found, which is still so amazing and such a gift in your life, you know that that spirit of gratefulness for what there is in front of you or with you helped to begin the conversation. And I guess what I'm-- I'm not thinking this is like a formula that everyone needs to follow, but it's just interesting to see the sort of, as we would say in philosophy, sufficient condition in your case, in your circumstance, that allowed it to occur. Not that these things are necessary necessarily, I don't really know. But they work in your case to kind of start to tune the dial, it seems like.
Scott Langdon [00:05:38] Hey there. It's Scott again. I thought this would be a great place for that clip I mentioned earlier. As Jeanine and Jerry mention, a great love was at the root of Jerry's feeling of gratitude, and he wanted to express thanks to whomever. In this clip from Episode one of our podcast. I speak the voice of Jerry.
Jerry Martin [00:06:15] Being in love was not only a profound experience, it shook my worldview. My whole life took on a new meaning. No, that's not quite right. My life went from a collection of purposes to having a meaning. It went from black and white to Technicolor. No more radical than that. It went from a two dimensional to a three dimensional. Or, as it turned out, n- dimensional universe. I felt surprise and joy and gratitude. I did not know whom to thank, but an extraordinary gift had come into my life. One summer morning, I felt an urge to express my thanks, to pray to whomever. I did not see any reason not to express what I genuinely felt. So I fell to my knees as I had been taught as a child and thanked the Lord. I now believed in love, but not much else. I did not know if I was praying to the God of Israel, to Jesus of Nazareth, or for all I knew, to the Lord Krishna worshiped by Hindus, or simply to a benign universe. I didn't worry about that. I just poured out my heart in prayer.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:08:28] As we were talking before, you had told me, because I was curious, it seemed like there were a few different conversations, and I was curious whether they were happening like each day or--? You told me that these are kind of weeks apart. Which I also think is interesting that this is sort of like a slow stew on the back burner that's just kind of starting to percolate, you know what I mean? It's not happening quickly. There's just a sort of-- that this, the spirit is sort of between, or the spirit of conversation is starting to percolate slowly. And so a couple of weeks later you come, I think it was surprised to find yourself offering to serve?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:12] Yes. A month after the first prayer to God.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:09:17] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:18] About a month.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:09:19] And so-- I mean, and it didn't feel like the attitude of gratitude had gone away or anything. I felt like that was still very present, but that now there was this, like, "Oh, You've done so much for me, what can I do for You?" kind of a--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:33] Yeah, it was really, it started off another prayer of gratitude. I just had that same feeling that- wow, this is great. And I didn't do it, so I'm grateful to whomever or whatever.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:09:47] Right!
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:47] And I don't know why it would occur to me to offer to be of service.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:09:54] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:56] I mean, that is an appropriate response if someone does something for you.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:10:02] Exactly.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:03] Not just be grateful, but want to do them a good turn, also, you know.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:10:08] Exactly. So, there is.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:09] Reciprocity of gratitude and response.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:10:15] Right. Right, exactly. There's a mutuality there that I think is really interesting that you were so grateful that you wanted to do something great back.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:28] Right. Or at least good.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:10:30] Yeah, at least good.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:31] Who knows what a human being can do that's going to help? And I didn't know what kind of being I was dealing with. But you're right, the prayer of gratitude was entirely one way. The original prayer. I just felt welling up inside me, this gratefulness to whomever or whatever. But that second one, when I offered to be of service, that's a further step because it's more specifically addressing whoever or whatever. "Anyway I can help you Lord?" I did use the word Lord, which is language natural to my tradition.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:11:09] Right. I was thinking-- so after this offer of- can I be of service to You? Which, yeah, you're right, has this mutuality to it, because when you say that, then you have to hear how you can be of service, right? So there's sort of some response that you're expecting back, which is new.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:28] I guess.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:11:30] I guess it's about a month later that you're sitting at the river. Is that right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:33] And then that's about another month. Yeah. A month to six weeks between each one.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:11:39] And so maybe you didn't hear back about how to be of service yet, but now you're coming back and saying, "Hey, can you help me?" You know, "I need guidance--"
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:52] Funny because I still didn't have a belief in anything. And so I don't remember expecting a message back. You know, it's just I had said what was on my heart, you might say.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:12:05] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:06] And since I didn't have any belief in the recipient of this offer of service.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:12:12] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:13] It was just- oh, that's interesting. It was just a moment and really part of my biography, you know, just something I had done for my own reasons and did not imply anything about what's real in the universe or beyond the universe. But I must have at some level, I think, Jeanine, you must be right at some level. Some kind of belief must have been building. Otherwise, I'm clearly willing to do things that did not seem to me to make logical sense. To be grateful to a being, and I don't know what kind of being, and so on. I must have been having some feeling of--
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:12:52] Right? Some expectation that something or something could reply in some way, whether that's, you know, a being or the universe that you say as kind to you or something. But yeah, there was spirit--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:06] It was not a premeditated thought for me. It was not. I didn't think, oh, well, I kind of-- I'm beginning to believe there is some greater thing. Why don't I ask for guidance? No, it wasn't that. It was just spontaneously. I didn't even feel it welling up the way prayers of gratitude can, but, it just seemed natural, for some reason, seemed natural to ask.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:13:34] Right. And that seems true of all three prayers. Right? There's a certain sincerity about the prayers, because you're not even sure there's anything there, but there's still on your end these really strong emotions and I guess it's both affective and cognitive. Right. There's also a will. And all of that is very genuine. And so it struck me, you know, not only-- so I don't know if you've ever read Anne Lamott. She has a book.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:09] Oh, she's wonderful.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:14:11] Yeah, I think it's book that's about prayer. Is it Help, Thanks, Wow.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:17] Right? Yeah, I've read maybe about three of her books.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:14:22] Yeah. She's so fun. And anyway, you know.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:26] Talk about authentic and genuine- that's Anne Lamott.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:14:30] Yeah, she totally is. Yeah. But you did a couple of those, you know, but you added. So, you did thanks at the beginning, and help on the third prayer, and one that she didn't mention, which is how can I help,. So it's like you're hitting a lot of the sort of, I guess, primal urges people have had across cultures when they want to pray. These are things that are often said. So, in some sense they're not unique, but they could, first of all, be door openers to anybody who says them, if God wants to say something -
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:09] If they're sincere.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:15:11] And then I think that's the thing. I kept thinking that it's this sincerity that is constant between all three, and maybe that's really the most important piece of sort of what you did to kick off the relationship or the conversation with God was really that. I just have to say, there's this really fundamental, very genuine, very sincere, very heartfelt desire to be in touch.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:46] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:15:49] But then, you know, as I was thinking about this and I thought, well, okay, so for Jerry, this was a sufficient condition because clearly God really wanted to talk to Jerry. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:57] But I think God clearly wants to talk to everybody.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:16:02] Well, you know--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:03] He had an assignment for me, that is a little different.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:16:06] There is that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:06] He's got an assignment for everybody, but writing a book is a different type of assignment.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:16:12] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:13] You know, being a good parent and things like that, that we--
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:16:19] Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:20] God wants us to do, and--
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:16:22] Right. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:24] You know, God may be urging me and you and any given listener to be doing some things like that- You have students, and there may be things God wants you to do with those students and so forth, you know?
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:16:42] Correct. Yeah, I totally agree. And I mean, so I guess my question, though, is- Divine hiddenness. You know? So, it's the case that everybody who sincerely wants God, at least I've had a couple of different people in my life report this to me. You know, I tried really hard to pray to God. I tried to see her as I could be, and I just got a flat line, I never heard it back. And I guess I don't doubt their sincerity and their desire. And so I guess I wondered what you think about that. Does that mean that it's not true that the radio waves are flying through the air for anyone to tune into?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:32] Oh, I think they are my interpretation of some of that kind of talk, I don't know if this applies to the people you're referring to, but some of that kind of talk- You often see it heavy in the religious literature that one is supposed to devote one's whole being to the desire to relate to God in this particular way that's celebrated in that tradition. And people write to me in my website, as in talking that way, and what I respond, and this is my sense from all of the conversations with God, is relax. Relax, let God come to you, however God comes to you. And make sure you're not missing it because you're wanting one particular thing. You want a mystical experience, or you want to hear the voice of God. No, relax and pay attention to your life. You may find it when you reflect on it and with a kind of prayerful attitude, let's say, or meditative attitude without clutter, I often say to simplify that, get the clutter out of the way and look down. You may find that you're walking right along the path that seems like just exactly the right one that God probably wants you to walk on, and that may be quite correct. So you don't have to go searching here and searching there and climbing the mountain.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:18:59] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:00] And there's not-- you're not looking for peak experiences and that kind of thing. And so some of that it's a problem with the feeling language is of course, this is our vocabulary.
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:19:14] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:14] Now, the feeling and cognitive. I think you said and this is how things have been divided up forever, more or less. But feelings are also cognitive. But like other cognitive functions, like memory and reasoning and perception and aesthetic appreciation, aesthetic judgment, you need to tune into the feelings at the deepest level. Not the froth, not the induced feelings. You know, I kind of feel this way, but what are your deepest feelings about your life, your situation, and what's right for you to do?
Dr. Jeanine Diller [00:19:58] Right. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:59] And your deepest feelings may just be the voice of God, you know? But it's hard to reach those deepest feelings. The deepest, most authentic, least cluttered, least ego ridden, because there's the spiritual yearning. Can have a lot of ego in it. No, just relax. Just relax and pay attention. I think the key thing is just pay attention.
Scott Langdon [00:20:50] 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.