Dr. Ray Silverman and Dr. Jerry L. Martin discuss the life wisdom found within the Ten Commandments and how ultimate truth works in real life. An episode filled with wisdom, spiritual discernment, and intention explores the deep meaning of our story. Go with the flow alongside God down the beautifully unscripted stream of life.
MEET THE GUESTS- Dr. Ray Silverman
FIND THE SITES- Theology Without Walls | What is God: An Autobiography
BUY THE BOOKS- God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher | Rise Above It: Spiritual Development for College Students | A Good Look At Evil
LISTEN TO RELEVANT EPISODES- [Dramatic Adaptation] I Learn How To Tell When A Message Is From God [The Life Wisdom Project] A Lesson In Obedience | The Encounter With Novelty And Living Truthfully
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God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, is written by Dr. Jerry L. Martin, an agnostic philosopher who heard the voice of God and recorded their conversations.
The podcast began with the Dramatic Adaptation of the book and now has several series:
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 113.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:03] It was one of those wonderful providential moments when Dr. Ray Silverman and I met each other at a conference. I gave him my book. He gave me his. I learned he was a professor at Bryn Athyn University right here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This is a major Swedenborgian center of higher learning. Dr. Silverman is the author of Rise Above It, which has the subtitle, College Students Talk About Their Spiritual Development. The book is based on a course he teaches. It's itself a terrific guide to life wisdom. Dr. Silverman is also an insightful interpreter of biblical text and their symbolic meanings. I was very pleased when he agreed to discuss episode four with me.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:55] Well, hello, Ray Silverman. On a personal note, I've known Ray for some years now because we first met at a meeting, a regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion, where the religious scholars and religious studies scholars, theologians get together. I was probably talking about Theology Without Walls, which is the theological project I was told in prayer to begin. And I remember Ray asked a question. I don't remember the question, but it was an interesting one such that we continued talking after the session ended. I had a copy of God: An Autobiography with me. Ray, you had a copy of Rise Above It, which is your book that you can get on Amazon. We'll put links where we post this, and is, I think, an outstanding project and so worth everybody going and looking at. Well, we then met and I remember we traded books. He gave me his book, I gave him my book and then we met and we had each read each other's books and sort of highlighted things to talk about. And our friendship blossomed from that point on. Ray is a professor at the Swedenborgian University right here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. And I had not realized quite before that a major center of Swedenborgian thought and activity of life is right here in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, and the environs. And it's all quite impressive if anyone has a chance ever to visit. There are things there to see that are quite remarkable- a splendid church, a kind of beautiful house that's almost a castle and a museum and all kinds of stuff, as well as the university and school. So anyway, Ray has been teaching there, and part of why I thought he'd would be good for this topic is his approach in the Rise Above It book.Talk about life wisdom and what we're looking at is not just Jerry Martin's problem of spiritual discernment. Okay, I've heard a voice. How do you tell if the voices are divine voice? That's a rather narrow problem that not everyone has, but the broader question of discernment in life. Many things have to be discerned all the way down to practical judgments, and often these balances have to be struck. And what, Ray, I think you do so marvelously with the Rise Above It is you take off from the Ten Commandments, but you don't hammer them in in a kind of narrow, sectarian or even textual sense. You open the text up and let the students or other people you're dealing with think about what does this mean in my life? What does honor your mother and father mean in my life? Even what is of idolatry? You know, don't put other gods in front of me. What does idolatry mean in your life. The students, I have read many of those, because you have them turn in things where they reflect on these things. Well, here we're kind of opening up this episode to that kind of exploration. And the other thing I was going to mention is, that kind of connects us in a very, to my mind, special way, is that Swedenborg also had latter-day revelations. If we call these revelations, divine disclosures. And he was very different from me. He was enormously accomplished in multiple fields and learned in the relevant areas. I scrambled to learn about the religious traditions and so forth, but he had this all in place, you might say, at the time you started receiving these divine disclosures. But I've also noticed with these traditions, people then tend to close the book again, as if that were the last one. Because there are several like this that I've encountered that have a latter-day revelation. So the concept of post biblical revelation, they're all vaguely, at least in the Christian tradition, is not alien to them. That's an accepted possibility. But, you know, how many revelations can one take in? You've got to live by something after all. And so I'm not critical of that tendency. It just creates a little bit of a challenge from where I am. Okay. And I'm not trying to start a religion, that helps, so not competitive. And I was not in any way, shape or form told to do that. As a friend said to me, "Well, it's a revelation about revelations." It's not a new text or entry into that competition, but it's a 21st century divine take, comment on what's going on in the world. So all of that, does that all that makes sense to you, Ray?
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:08:15] Yeah, It all makes sense to me. And, you know, as you're speaking, all these ideas are flooding in.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:21] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:08:23] Which direction we might go in. One of the things I tell my students is that I would like them to practice the rule of only listening and not rehearsing what they want to say.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:36] Oh, that's good.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:08:37] So I've had to drop all of the good things that flooded into my mind that I might say.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:43] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:08:43] And see what the Lord gives me in the moment.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:45] Yes. Yes. That's a good principle.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:08:48] Many years ago, I read the book The Celestine Prophecy. James Redfield I think it was. It was very, very popular at the time. And one of the takeaways for me was that any time a group gets together, the Holy Spirit is working. It's a little bit like Quakerism, you know, and touching someone with exactly what they need to say at the moment.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:12] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:09:12] I think that's a beautiful thing if you trust in that. There's a kind of spiritual discernment in that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:19] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:09:20] And I think even deeper is that when something comes into your mind, you need to make another spiritual discernment. Is this something that needs to be said right now?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:30] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:09:32] Can I let this one go?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:34] Yes. One of the-- we face this in life all the time.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:09:38] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:39] When to speak and when to be silent. And just because you have something maybe valuable to say doesn't mean this is the time to say it or the person whom to say it.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:09:49] Yeah. One guideline I use when I teach the commandment I'm not murdering. You know, a lot of people will just brush past that and say, "Well, I haven't murdered anybody, so what's next commandment?" And we know that Jesus, deep into all the commandments, he said if you tell your friend or if you tell someone that they're worthless or a fool, you have murdered them in spirit. So I asked the students for one week to say nothing critical to or about anyone. Instead, that their words be encouraging and kind and supportive and the way they can do that is before they say anything to let their words pass through three gates. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it useful?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:36] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:10:37] And break down useful into another step. It might be useful at a different time. But not today. Or not right now.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:48] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:10:48] Those are really important ways of practicing spiritual discernment in terms of, okay, this is a message. I've got an inclination to say this. Should it be said, will this be something that will promote their welfare or something that will hurt them? And that's a way of bringing the very concrete commandment you shall not murder into life.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:14] Yeah, it's amazing to me how much we do sort of destroy each other socially, maybe advertently, but maybe with malice, you know, with a kind of edge to our intentions. I notice, I had a thing recently where it was supposed to be a debate with an atheist. I told them I don't really believe in debates. I can't talk anybody into anything. Nevertheless, I'll defend why I think it's right for me to believe my voice.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:11:46] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:47] So we had that, and I didn't know this was going to take place, but I found it profoundly distracting, along the side he's got these followers, a kind of atheist clack, and they come and do insulting comments. And I realized, and this affected me in the most negative way, and I'm someone who's completely tolerant of anybody disagreeing with me about anything.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:12:12] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:12] Why wouldn't they? We're different minds, have different life experiences, and stand in different places. Of course, we're going to disagree and you always hope to learn from a disagreement, even if it's in the form of an argument. But these were all just kind of insults. The first time I've ever publicly been insulted about my birthmark, for example, was this , okay, clack. Okay, don't listen to this guy and calling me Santa Claus and the Oldster, this kind of put down of age. And I realized why this bothered me. You make fun of people and it can sometimes be a bit innocent, just insensitive, but you are erasing them as people. If someone disagrees with me, they're respecting me as a person enough to disagree with me and say, "Why?"
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:13:04] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:05] If they just-- it's a kind of erasure, they just ridicule somebody. Oh, here's Santa Claus again going, blah, blah, blah. That's a kind of murder. That's a kind of murder. And it's very important not to do that to each other. And it's very easy to slide from where we have different perspectives on something to where one person is just discounting the other.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:13:29] Yeah. Yeah, that's excellent. It reminds me of in the last Life Wisdom series with Jonathan.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:37] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:13:38] Jonathan spoke about someone who was quoting from one of his essays or maybe one of his books.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:45] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:13:46] And he totally disagreed. And Jonathan was thrilled.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:50] Yes exactly! The guy is writing a master's thesis, taking on Jonathan Weidenbaum- some of you care? You know, and giving all the arguments against Jonathan. And yeah, he's delighted because that's what in the life of the mind you do with each other, right? It's one of the services by following your rules, Ray, that we provide to one another. We are also correctives for each other and sort of reality tests, sounding boards, reality tests. And so you give somebody feedback, "Hey, aren't you going off the deep end here? Have you really thought that through? What do you do with the following problems in this view?" Well, then you're helping people, and that's a cooperative.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:14:35] That's right. That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:37] Between two people.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:14:38] Well it's not very much we can do about our external characteristics. It's just, that's what we got.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:44] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:14:45] To make fun of us for that was kind of lost. But, you know, if it's helpful advice about a theory that we have that might be mistaken or the way we're trying to fix a lawnmower that could be easier, all that stuff is helpful. But if we let our ego get in the way and say, "Hey, nobody can tell me what to do," then we're in trouble. We're in a lot of trouble, you know, So that's another kind of thing that floods in that really makes life not as happy and delightful as it could be. Can you imagine the joy of people wanting you to be the best you can be and therefore giving you advice along the way about how to do it?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:27] Yeah!
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:15:27] That's a true friend.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:29] That is a true friend and the one who's just flattering and so forth. I know I've been in work situations I saw earlier, where I just had a little part time job, cEO of the small up and coming company. I had a special project and was trying out ideas. Would this be a good idea? Well, everything that came out of his mouth, they would say, "Oh, yes CJ. Yes CJ. Great idea, CJ." And I could just see his futility and he can't get candid, truthful feedback here.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:16:02] Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:03] It's kind of because he's the boss and they're not. And I know when I've subsequently been in situations where I was reporting to somebody a superior, like at any age, staff were sometimes shocked at the memos I would send because I wanted the person in charge to be succeeding. And here was something I thought would be helpful for them to hear as feedback. And that worked out beautifully, in fact, which is a tribute to the person getting that feedback. It's a bad sign for somebody in any position, including professors, if their ego needs that catering to.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:16:48] That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:48] Just needs- oh right, oh right as just whatever comes out of their mouths. That's of poor service.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:16:54] As you know. I asked my students to call me coach.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:57] I had forgotten that. Yes!
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:16:59] I don't ask them to call me doctor or professor, or reverend, or any title. I ask them to call me coach because I see a coach as on your side.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:12] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:17:13] The coach is giving you helpful tips. If you're a baseball coach, you might say there's a hitch in your swing. You're a football coach, you may say put the football in your left arm when you're running around the left side so it doesn't get-- you know, different things. So if I give my students tips about how to write a better essay or how to have a better introduction, or they may want to think through that idea, I want them to take that as a coach coaching his players. One of the things I love to say to my students is you are very coachable.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:47] Okay!
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:17:49] Thank you. It is a beautiful thing to have that relationship with one another. Yeah. Yeah. And I think one of the chief characteristics in any workplace would be willing to take criticism constructively and to give constructive criticism, you know.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:08] Yeah. Yeah. And in an organization that was one of the good things when I was in the age they have a good what they call corporate culture. They have a good culture.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:18:16] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:17] It was a culture in which almost all criticism is constructive.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:18:20] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:21] It's amazing. University campus was not at all like that in my experience.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:18:27] This was the thing. And going back to when we first met at the it was either the American Academy of Religion or the Society for Biblical Literature presentation. But it was a meeting in Long Branch, New Jersey.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:41] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:18:41] And you were presenting on Theology Without Walls. I don't remember my question, but I remember your demeanor.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:49] Oh, really?
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:18:50] It wasn't the demeanor of a cocksure academic.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:54] Ahuh.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:18:55] It was more fatherly.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:00] Oh really? Good.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:19:00] This is what we have seen, this is what we believe. This is our understanding based on the research. And I thought, I like this guy. I wanted to talk to you. And it was more your attitude then, I don't mean this to be demeaning at all.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:21] I have said wonderful things, also.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:19:23] I wasn't focusing so much on the wisdom you were delivering, but the way you delivered it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:28] Well, that's an important insight for life situations, isn't it? Don't just concentrate on I've got this to say bap, bap, bap.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:19:37] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:38] How are you presenting yourself? Because we present ourselves to each other, and I don't mean like an actor.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:19:44] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:45] Am I being fatherly or bratty? Which is a bratty kid. I might be a mature adult where we're trying to think in terms of wisdom, is that what I'm communicating and a kind of caring about the other person? The paternal image suggests a caring.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:20:06] Yes.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:07] The fatherly person cares about--
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:20:11] Right that's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:13] whoever he's interacting with.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:20:15] So if you want to break down religion to its essentials, you know, it's right there in the Old Testament, repeated by Jesus and in every great religion, you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and your neighbor as yourself.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:30] Well, that caring.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:20:31] And that's the essence of it all. If you want to cut to the essence, that's where it is. The rest are details about how to put it into your life.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:42] Sure, and there are an enormous number of details.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:20:45] I'll give you an example. So COVID is starting in again, the flu is going around and students are beginning to miss class.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:55] Ahuh.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:20:56] And I have a very strict policy that you're allowed to miss two classes per term. After that, you lose three points on your overall grade plus if you miss a quiz that day you get a zero. So that's pretty, you know, a strict guideline rather than come when you feel like it. You know, I think for college students, that's important because they're torn in so many different directions, offering them structure. However, then also if they can present a medical note, if I excused that absence and I don't give them a zero on the test.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:35] Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:21:36] They had a documented medical emergency.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:39] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:21:40] But the other day I felt like I was starting to get sick and I thought, I'm going to stay in bed today. And I'm going to drink a lot of hot fluids and I'm going to get a lot of sleep. And the next day, I was fine. I didn't go to a doctor.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:53] Good. Good.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:21:54] But if I were a student at school and I had done that, I'd be stuck because I don't have a medical excuse.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:00] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:22:01] So I thought, I need to think. And my guideline was, I want to be wise as serpents and gentle as a dove.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:12] Okay.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:22:13] Now, that's a biblical guideline. Jesus said to his disciples, you know, as you go out, be wise as serpents. And, you know, serpents have eyes in the side of their head and that circumspection, you know, no one can put anything over on them, you know. It's that kind of earthly wisdom.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:31] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:22:31] They're low on the ground. But gentlest, doves, have that broader perspective. You know, doves fly.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:38] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:22:38] And I thought, okay, I am going to loosen up. A little bit. I'm still going to protect those students who may have stayed up all night playing video games and you just don't want to come to class.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:52] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:22:54] So I sent them all an email and I said that I'm going to relax the standard. If you miss class on that day, you can make up for it by submitting an essay. And I have all the ground rules for how many words and how to do it and subject matter for that day. And I think I was applying universal spiritual truths to a real life situation.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:27] Yes, yes, yes. You know, that's a splendid example. One of the things people need is discipline. And we're so much into the mode of everybody doing their own thing, and so forth. A kind of liberation, be yourself. Rules and discipline and expectations, norms help you do that. Talk about rise above it, help it rise above the self you start with. The goal just to be one's retrospective self, but is to achieve one's best version.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:24:40] Yeah. You know, there's so many things that are coming to my mind as we are speaking. But this one just freshly came to mind. Many years ago, I had a job as a title 20 foster parent trainer.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:52] Wow.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:24:53] And I was teaching in the community college. And the book that was required for the course was Dorothy Corckille Briggs' Your Child's Self-Esteem.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:05] Ahuh.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:25:06] And one of the first things in the book is a study by the psychologist Stanley Coopersmith, and his finding was that the children who were raised in homes with structure.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:19] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:25:20] Had higher self-esteem than kids who were raised in homes where you could do whatever you wanted to do. Because when there was a structure, there was something you could measure yourself against and you could feel good. Yes, I was told to take out the trash and I did it. I was told to clean up my room and I did it. I was told to respect my mother and father and I did it. These things actually enhanced self-esteem rather than just telling kids that you're great and you're good and you're wonderful.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:51] And they know they're not. So, you know, it's not very effective. Whereas something they earn, some people say, well, what we need is self-respect. You know, something I've earned and lived up to.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:26:04] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:04] I can respect myself.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:26:06] That's right. And I think, you know, as we get more and more into spirituality, we gain a kind of respect for ourselves when we live according to what we believe are God's teachings for us.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:20] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:26:21] They may not-- we may or may not have it all right, but at least we know in our heart that we're trying to do the best according to what we believe is true.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:31] Yeah. You know.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:26:33] Thinking about Abigail, when she was teaching and she decided to take a stand and vote against--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:38] This is my wife, Abigail, who's also a philosopher.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:26:41] Yeah. She decided to take a stand against another faculty member who, I guess was pretty influential. And by taking a stand against that faculty member we talked about earlier, the criticism was not received well and it didn't go well for Abigail. But she stood her ground.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:05] Yes. She was--
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:27:07] She lived her life according to what she believed was the path God had intended for her. She didn't spoil her story.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:15] Yes. Yes. That's her concept. We lose the real stories and you don't want to spoil yours.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:27:21] Yeah, and I think that's wonderful. That's wonderful.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:24] Yeah. But they all involve, you know, that, like all of these issues, include this crucial element of discernment, because you have to stand your ground. But you don't want to be pigheaded.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:27:37] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:38] So there's always a kind of a critical distance that you need to maintain. You always need to be kind of monitoring yourself in some way. At the same time that you think, "Well, I've reflected about it and yes, I'm right to be sending my ground."
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:27:54] Yeah, Yeah. This reminds me of Scott what Scott Langdon said. You might tell the audience who Scott Langdon is.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:02] Scott Langdon is our host and the creative director of the whole God podcast project.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:28:09] Yeah. What a guy. And he says that he's come to the conclusion in his life and he's done a lot of searching and seeking that the most important thing is to step out, step out in faith according to what you believe is the right thing to do, and then God will guide you. But you have to take that first step.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:29] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:28:30] When I heard him say that, it reminded me of a passage from Swedenborg that I would like to read. The one I sent you, I said we might talk about it today?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:40] Because we mentioned Swedenborg. And here's an example of how he addressed an issue.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:28:46] This is in his book, Heaven and Hell. And it's paragraph number 533. He begins, "That it is not so difficult to live the life of heaven as some believe can now be seen from this, that when any thing presents itself to a man that he knows to be dishonest and unjust, but to which his mind is borne, it is simply necessary for him to think that it ought not to be done because it is opposed to the Divine precepts. If a man accustoms himself so to think, and from so doing establishes a habit of so thinking, he is gradually conjoined to heaven; and so far as he is conjoined to heaven the higher regions of his mind are opened; and so far as these are opened he sees whatever is dishonest and unjust, and so far as he sees these evils they can be dispersed, for no evil can be dispersed until it is seen. Into this state man is able to enter because of his freedom, for is not any one able from his freedom to so think? And when man has made a beginning the Lord quickens all that is good in him, and causes him not only to see evils to be evils, but also to refrain from willing them, and finally to turn away from them. This is meant by the Lord's words. My yoke is easy and my burden is light." When I sent this to you, I said, "The highlighted words could be another way of explaining what is meant by a divine nudge."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:40] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:30:40] And the words that were highlighted were, "when man has made a beginning the Lord quickens all that is good in him, and causes him not only to see evils to be evils, but also to refrain from willing them, and finally to turn away from them.” You know, in the process of our spiritual development where we're wanting this and intending it, but we say, okay, "The Lord told me not to do it, so I'm not going to do it."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:05] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:31:06] It's the last thing we want to do. We hate it. We have an aversion to it, and that's what makes it easy to turn away. So it's just a beautifully articulated way we grow. But Scott Langdon, reminded me of it when he talked about stepping out and in Christianity is called stepping out in faith. You might see that in any religion or the way you put it in today's reading that God said to you faith must supersede doubt; faith precedes doubt.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:38] Faith supersedes knowledge.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:31:40] Into the sea, and then it divides, but it didn't divide. And then he stepped into it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:46] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:31:48] It was just there's amazing, amazing stories for us to support this view of life.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:58] Yeah, That's a wonderful insight of you, and of Scott, and of Swedenborg, that as you put it, we have to take the first step. We've got to do something.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:32:09] That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:09] If we do something that will itself in one sense, be self-generating. As it's self generating, in the view of a theist like me, because of the divine light.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:32:21] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:22] And almost the divine whole. The philosopher Eric Voegelin has this expression, English was not his native language, though he's a wonderful writer, but it's "tension toward the divine." We don't possess the divine. It's not right here. You know the way you can possess butterflies as you can on a chart by species or something you do with chemicals where you pour them in your lab or have a table of chemical elements or anything like that. But without that, without knowledge in advance, without a big roadmap, you start in a direction, and the tension toward the divine is kind of inbuilt. It's in our nature, as God tells me in this episode, to believe in God.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:33:12] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:33:13] And to be drawn in that upward direction. But of course, it's also in our nature to resist that draw.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:33:19] That's right. That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:33:20] If we take that step we will be higher and then we can get higher still and higher still were more open to both the Holy Spirit, if you put it that way, or the noble impulses, if you put it in a kind of a broader frame, less spiritual frame, you develop upward and it does start with a bit of faith with the first step.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:33:49] Right. That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:33:50] You just do your best.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:34:29] Now, again, I was looking at Abigail's book, A Good Look at Evil.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:34] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:34:35] And because I thought maybe some of that would come up in our talk today. In fact, it's coming up right now because she talked about having "faith in God's providential care."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:48] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:34:50] Talked about seeing those Jewish angels.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:52] Yes, yes, Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:34:54] Very sweet. It was very, very sweet.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:57] Yes. But she talked about God's providence or His providential care. And there's a secret stream that's flowing. And we don't even know where it's taking us. We don't. We can't see the end.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:12] That's right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:35:14] And so that brought two things to mind. One is a quote from one of Shakespeare's plays, I think it's Brutus in Julius Caesar says, "There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. On such a full sea we are now afloat and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:40] Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:35:40] I didn't quote it exactly. There's more in it, but it always stuck in my mind. It was back in college. The alumni magazine came out and that was the title. You know, there's the title.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:52] In the affairs of men.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:35:53] And we must take the current when it serves. I'm not a big fan of Brutus, but I do like the image. Swedenborg talks about the same thing, that there really is an invisible current. You know, it's called go with the flow. But that's not exactly what it means. I think a life according to God's commandments, as we understand them, puts us in the flow of the divine providence. And we get gentle nudges along the way like, this is the way to go. It's just something as simple as don't let this irritation overwhelm you. Or you try to be more patient in this moment or try to stop and listen to this person right now. I think this is life wisdom.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:36:48] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:36:50] And it's God guiding us so we don't take the credit. If this is God working through us He has created us in a certain way to receive what flows in in a certain way. And this is another one I want to thank Scott Langdon for, he told the story about being an actor in the play Oliver when he was a little boy, as Oliver. Then when he was older he was Fagin. He played two different people and to do his job well, he had to be Oliver. He couldn't be anyone else, and he couldn't escape his mind and ad lib or something. He couldn't do that. The same when he was Fagin, you know. He had to be Fagin.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:37:35] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:37:35] And from that, he abstracted each of us and is given a role to play. But this is a real role. This is not just, you know, a made up drama. This is Jerry Martin and this is Ray Silverman. So God created us in a certain way to receive Him in a certain way so that we can play our role. Play your role well, and the script well if you're Hindu, part of the script is read the Bhagavad Gita.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:38:07] Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:38:08] If you're Islamic, read the Koran, Jewish, you know, read the Old Testament and the associated writings, if you're Christian, you know, we read the word, especially the gospels, you know, because that's when Jesus is speaking to you. Make the script.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:38:25] Yes, yes, yes. But that looking for the current in life, which again, is both the spiritual current, the divine current, and is right here now and is also in a kind of broad sense, you know, includes all the practicalities of life. Is this the time to be making this investment or, at my age, should I just be putting things away for security? But these also require a kind of discernment and a stepping away from ego. And the advice in the Bhagavad Gita is wonderful, which is, do the right thing. Don't look at the results. The results take care of themselves. They're out of your hand.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:39:12] Oh, yeah, that's right. Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:39:14] You do the right thing in the right spirit.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:39:17] Yes.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:39:18] That's our only job. We don't have to make things happen because we don't have that power. But within-- I often think, you know, this is my instrument for living life. Just the way you were saying a moment ago, this is God created Jerry Martin, God created Ray Silverman. We have different tasks, different assignments. We have different features to our instruments, our human instruments.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:39:47] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:39:48] Whatever our talents are, particular challenges, upsides and the downsides. And that's what we have to balance and work with and then discern the path for us. I often find myself telling people who are writing and worried about how do I know what God wants me to do? I tend to say to them- look down, see what path you're walking. Maybe you're right now walking the path God wants you to walk. Start there and keep moving forward with the best intention possible and the best reflection. It's never just urge, intention in the sense of urge or goodwill, good intentions in that superficial sense, but of thoughtful, reflective good intentions. Again, that's what human, in a sense, our one and only obligation is in each situation, interpersonal or ethical, or for practical or spiritual, is to do our best.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:40:58] That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:41:00] Headed to keep our orientation Godward, or upward, if getting one to think of it more broadly to have enhanced ideals we can think of, keep that orientation before us.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:41:14] Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, focusing on both actions and intentions or your actions and your attitude within it, because some people will, will have a legalistic, oh, this is the right thing to do and I will do it. And, but within it, their intentions are not that pure.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:41:35] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:41:35] So we need to be careful on both levels, you know. Like, why did I want to come on today to talk to you? You know that's an intention. Why did you want to talk to me today? What are our intentions? What are we waiting to accomplish? It is more important than the actual actions.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:41:58] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:41:59] It's a very interesting thing. I think you mentioned your dissertation which had to do with, we can't know what's in another person's mind.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:08] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:42:10] We can't know their intentions.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:13] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:42:13] We can see their actions and we can make assumptions about what their intentions might be, but we can't know it. And for some reason in God's providence, he had you doing that dissertation at that point in time.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:27] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:42:27] And here you are 50, 60 years later.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:31] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:42:33] Still thinking about that?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:35] That's right. Well, yeah. We don't know why. I know when Abigail reflects on her life, she's had some very, very rough lows. You might say wrong turns. Each one, when she thinks back to it, she learned something from it she would not have learned without that false turn.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:55] That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:57] And she, in that sense, doesn't regret any of it. It's a series of blessings.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:43:03] You see, this is another thing that comes up. And again, I guess I really want to say this now because some people have what I think is a false belief that everything happens for a reason.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:43:17] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:43:18] Say, oh, you know, well, my mom got cancer. I guess it happened for a reason. You know, my brother got run over by a truck. I guess it happened for a reason. Maybe God wanted that, you know. And I like to tell them, you know, I'm always reluctant to hurt a person's faith. You know, there's a passage in the Old Testament that says he will not hurt a bruised reed or quench the smoking flax. It's about you need to be careful with what people believe. If it's helping them be more loving and kind toward other human beings, you leave it alone. I think you've talked about that in other podcasts, but I believe that terrible, evil things happen.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:05] Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:44:08] And yet God can bring good out of it. You can learn valuable lessons from it. But it does not mean that God wanted it to happen, that is a very distorted idea of God.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:21] Yeah, well, of course, what I'm told throughout the book is God doesn't write the script. God is a free agent. We're free agents and there is surprises along the way. There is some sense in which a grand finale can be seen from a different perspective. But as time unfolds, we're shaping the script. And of course, part God: An Autobiography is God develops in interaction with human beings. In other words, we have a story together.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:44:54] Yeah, that's right. Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:56] We have a story together. And our story isn't just our story with God sitting there, you know, shining light down on us or something. But it's also God is so interested in us and hearing of us that this is also God's story. The way that parent and children, if the children go bad, the parents are miserable about it, and that's how God is. He's miserable when we do the wrong thing. And He's very sad, just like a good parent. When we, you know, have a motorcycle accident or something.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:45:29] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:30] And so that's an open ended drama of life.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:45:37] And I personally love that view. That's the anti-predestination view.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:43] Yes, yes, yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:45:45] It's not all predetermined from the beginning. No, no, it's unfolding. We are co-directors, co-actors, partners in the divine drama that's unfolding, which is a beautiful, exciting, thrilling way to look at it. This is, I think, Abigail, would call it writing your own story.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:46:10] You're writing your story. You're living your story. The story is a real thing.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:46:15] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:46:18] And everything depends on the story you live. Everything in terms of the meaning of your life and so forth.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:46:24] You could call this- this is your story, and you are the hero.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:46:29] Yes. Yes. To some extent, we all need to be the heroes of our own story.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:46:34] But we can't. You can't leave God out. Otherwise, it goes straight to our ego.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:46:39] Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:46:40] That's so important. So the other thing that happened the other day in class is one of the girls said she gave up on Catholicism because she was reading about the commandments and you shall not steal. And she found out that the punishment for stealing was being stoned to death. So she can't believe any of that stuff. And then she went on and talked about how, you know, little kids steal. You're not going to stoned them to death.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:47:06] Right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:47:07] This was not a Ten Commandments class. This was an introduction to Christianity class. So I didn't take her more deeply into what stealing is. But stealing in the deeper sense is to attribute to yourself what belongs to God. And that's spiritual theft. So when you understand spirituality more deeply, you go back to the sacred scriptures and you see that they contain infinite depths of meaning. This is something where, you know, you say when you're talking to God, He says- well, yeah, I kind of had a temper back in those days. And I got angry and--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:47:48] Yes, right, right.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:47:50] But I've grown from that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:47:52] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:47:53] I have a different view.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:47:55] Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:47:56] And, you know, my view is that's the way people saw God in those days. And they made--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:48:02] Sure that's the natural rhythm.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:48:03] their own image. Nevertheless, that story has infinite depths of meaning and opened up. And this is what Swedenborg does, he opens up the inner meaning of the scriptures and shows you how everything in the letter sounds harsh and critical and condemning. But within the letter are beautiful truths but you have to go deeper. As Paul says, "The letter kills, the spirit giveth life."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:48:30] Yeah. And we have to apply something analogous to that in our daily lives, I think. We've got you know, it's just what we were talking-- there are all these wrong things, wrong things other people are doing. Oops, mistakes we think we made. We can carry guilt, which I'm told is something we should not do. But in addition to those negatives in life that are, you might say, right there on the surface staring us in the face, there are deeper meanings in each of them. And that's, part of that, is Abigail's experience of, well, I learned something from that. I couldn't have learned any other way.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:49:07] Right. That's right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:49:09] And early on, when we did our first sort of job interviews with each other when we were new, we spent one day talking about her life and then a subsequent Saturday visit, talking about my life. And my life started with a mother who was very difficult on me. And I was giving sort of a psychoanalytic reading of it. And she said, "Well, let me ask a different question. What did you learn from that you would not have learned otherwise?".
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:49:39] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:49:39] I immediately thought, well, I'll tell you what she said and then tell you what I immediately thought she said. "I think you're very sensitive to women." It's kind of like the child of an alcoholic gets to be very sensitive because you're always trying not to trigger the alcoholic.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:49:56] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:49:57] This was a different pattern than that. That was what she said, but what I thought immediately was to love Abigail. What I learned from that was somehow how to love and how to love a woman, and now, love Abigail as the only woman I was interested in loving at that moment. And so these lessons, you kind of have to look for them. That was an example where she was asking a leading question that provided an insight. Without asking that question, no insight. So you have to explore these things, take those steps, and then maybe your whole life has more of a meaning than you realize. It seemed like just one damn thing after another, as they sometimes say. But maybe it has a meaning. And I always think of G.K. Chesterton's image, it's that maybe we're looking at the tapestry from the wrong side, so we don't see the beautiful pattern. We see a bunch of blue strings hanging down.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:51:00] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:51:00] And there's something like that in how one then comes to a look at the meaning of one's life. And if you live it by always looking for what is the spirit telling me? What's my best intuition telling me, then that meaning is going to unfold more clearly for you.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:51:23] That was beautiful. That was really, really beautiful. Thanks for that. And you know, Jerry, for 40 years, I've been working on what I call a seamless garment. And that's the episodic connections in the four gospels that it seems. And you know why this story and not that story? And some it doesn't seem like a flow. And yet it's a perfectly connected, seamless garment. You know, when they crucified Jesus, they tore his outer robe in many different parts, but the inner robe, they didn't tear. And the inner robe is the inner consistency of the word of God. So it's just a beautiful thing. It flows from episode to episode when understood spiritually. And I think it's, also in terms of our relationship with one another, you know, the famous don't judge a book by the cover. Getting to know people from the inside out. And it's a whole different story, you know?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:52:24] Well, I think that's a good place to conclude. Ray, I really appreciate this. I found this fascinating. Since the pandemic, we never get to meet and talk anymore, but it's always wonderful to do that, and I very much appreciate your contributing, your life wisdom to this life wisdom project.
Dr. Ray Silverman [00:52:46] Well, thank you very much. It was a pleasure to be here today.
Scott Langdon [00:53:03] 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.