Scott and Jerry discuss the most recent series threaded with themes of paying attention and spiritual discernment- themes essential to spiritual life. Each episode shares a God who wants to communicate and interact with the hearts of each individual. Pay attention, not just to signs and communications, but to presence- the divine presence. Discover how intimate our relationship with God actually is.
You have God's attention. Does God have yours?
An Inconvenient God brings God to light, not as a wish granter, but as a God who is in the battle and suffering in partnership with us. The Life Wisdom Project, with special guest Dr. Jeffery Long, explores reincarnation and life after death. What's On Your Mind shares the stories of people interacting with God through signs and intuition.
LISTEN TO RELEVANT EPISODES- [Dramatic Adaptation] I Ask God About Life After Death [The Life Wisdom Project] The Afterlife And Reincarnation | Special Guest: Dr. Jeffery D. Long [From God To Jerry To You] An Inconvenient God [What's On Your Mind] Finding God And Spiritual Openness
-Share your story or experience with God-
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:
READ- It Is Good, Just Let It Happen
#whatsonourmind #godanautobiography, #experiencegod
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 126.
Scott Langdon [00:01:10] Welcome to episode 126 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm Scott Langdon. And today Jerry and I get together again for our latest edition of What's On Our Mind. In this episode, Jerry and I reference the last four episodes of our podcast as we discuss the essential nature of our being and our relationship to and with God. Many different religious traditions try to articulate this relationship, and Jerry and I share our stories here about how God seems to be constantly reminding us of His desire for us to understand how intimate our relationship with God actually is. Thank you again for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Scott Langdon [00:02:02] Welcome back, my friends. This is another edition of What's On Our Minds. I'm back with Jerry Martin. Jerry, great to see you once again.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:10] Well, great to see you, Scott. And I think we have some interesting, interesting things to talk about today.
Scott Langdon [00:02:15] Yeah, we had some really great episodes lately, I thought. When I'm here in my workspace putting these episodes together, it's really-- I really have the most fun, I have the most maybe benefit even of them because I get to spend so much time with them, I break them down and really listen to them again and again and again. And these last few have been really intriguing to me. You spoke about An Inconvenient God. That was a type of episode we haven't really done before, where you speak directly to, you know, the listeners to the audience. And you spoke about a God who is not necessarily a wish granter, but rather one who's right there in the suffering with us, indistinguishable really, in so many ways in which we talk about distinguishing one thing from another. There's not really a way to separate God from us. Then we had a great Life Wisdom episode, I thought, where you and Dr. Jeffery Long talked about episode number six, where there's reincarnation talked about, you and God talk about life after death. And in that Life Wisdom episode, Jeffery talks about his father's tragic accident and what an encounter with the Bhagavad Gita did to his life. And that was fascinating to me. And we also, in our last episode, here, the What's On Your Mind episode, talked about some emails with some folks who have shared their stories about signs that they felt like God was giving them in a direction in which they should go. And every one of these episodes really kind of talks about a God who's not, you know, a wish granter, a wish fulfilled, but definitely a God who wants to communicate, desires to communicate and get to the heart of us with God's will and direction for our lives. There are these what we call divine nudges that every one of these episodes really talks about.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:20] Yes, that's right. The challenge of life, and we keep coming back to these themes because they're so central to the spiritual life, of number one, pay attention. And number two, the challenge of spiritual discernment that you have to pay attention. Otherwise you'll miss the divine, nudges, signs, communications, just presence, the divine presence. You'll just miss it if you're not paying attention, or even if it comes to you and strikes you, you put it out of mind, because we live in so secular an age. So pay attention, keep it in mind, and then you have to exercise the discernment to figure out what's really divine and what is just the flotsam and jetsam of my own stream of consciousness. And not every task put in your path is divinely assigned. But you have to, what I always do, is pause over it. Pay attention. Hey, is this telling me something? Maybe, maybe not. I try to pray, try to get oriented to the divine in a quiet way where I'm not distracted by the daily business and the buzzing, booming confusion around us. But just try to pay careful attention and see- is this telling me something? Is this telling me something?
Scott Langdon [00:05:43] There is something to be said, I think, for the buzzing and the confusion of everyday life and the things that are going around in our heads, that at least for me, I think distracts me from listening and paying attention. I think when I realize that I am paying attention, I realize that when I'm not paying attention, it's because of the thoughts going on in my mind that seemed to be, you know, my thoughts about either the past or the future, or I could have done this differently or what can I-- what am I going to do tonight, or this, that or the other thing? And these thoughts that aren't concerned with the present moment at hand, but when I do realize that I'm paying attention, I realize that those distractive, those distracting things are what I need to pause from in order to listen and pay attention. As you just said, you know, sometimes you need to pause over a thing. Well, pause what? Well, for me, it's pausing these different distracting thoughts in my head.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:50] Yeah. So often events in one's past life replay themselves over and over as either, you know, sad moments, painful moments, guilty moments, you know, where we feel, oh, we did something wrong. And of course, about the last, I'm told explicitly in God: An Autobiography of don't dwell in the-- don't dwell on your mistakes. Learn from them. Pay attention and learn from them, and then move on to apply the lesson you learn by reflecting on them. But to dwell on all of the events, and they're of course important to one's life, and it's understandable. We live longitudinally, we know. And we have memories and a past and a biography, and we need that to be a coherent biography, you might say, but to dwell on the items and obsess over them is a terrible distraction and yet something we all spend way too much time doing.
Scott Langdon [00:07:51] You and Jeffery, in your discussion, you talked about the body as the machine, the instrument, and also that we are not the body. And to me, this kind of language in this kind of talk makes me think that there are two things that are going on at the same time. The first is that there is in you know, last time we did a What's On Our Mind, we talked about what is real, You know, what it means to be real in the world. And here we are in this body. And so the one thing that's going on is that we need things to maintain this machine, this body. So we need to have food and sleep well and get exercise. And, you know, the knowledge that we have from, you know, reading or however we take in knowledge and things about taking care of the physical nature of our existence. But then there's this other part, this-- the other part that is learning, that is the one that is experiencing the experience that we're having. And you and Jeffrey, in your discussion, you were talking about this that which is beyond us, that is having this experience and that sort of duality that exists inside of the non duality. I don't think I'm really explaining this well, but--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:31] That's a good way to put it. The duality that exists inside the non duality is just about the right way to frame it, that fundamentally God is everything, but in order for us to live a dramatic life that we need to live and to be in sync with God and have the capacity even to rebel against God, all of that requires an element of difference. And so, of course, I'm told that it's not that the non duality is real and the difference is unreal. They're both quite real and both quite necessary. It's necessary that God is everything, including God, is us, and it's also necessary that we differentiate everything into its great multiplicity. That's one of the things Richard Oxenberg and I talk about a good deal because it's a bit hard to keep the two thoughts alive side by side. Thinkers tend to want to dissolve them all one direction or the other direction, but to keep-- but that's less accurate to reality. And reality includes both our oneness with the divine. The expression I'm given in prayer is our goal is to be at one with God. And Jeffery Long and I discussed that expression, and I was surprised to find that he is a Hindu, is sensitive to this need for a kind of independent diversity at the same time that everything is divine.
Scott Langdon [00:11:40] As an actor, when I play a character, there's a very specific relationship between me and the character. Right now I'm in a musical called Man of La Mancha at the Delaware Theater Company in Wilmington, and I'm playing the role of Cervantes, Don Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote the novel Don Quixote. And this is a musical about a time he was in prison. And it's fiction, but it's this idea of the prisoners basically make him tell the story of what's in his novel and tell it convincingly enough that they won't burn the only copy of that manuscript that he has with him. So he tells the story to them and hopes that they'll be entertained enough to, you know, keep it alive. Well, playing this character is really interesting because he, Cervantes, in this prison situation at the forcing of the other prisoners in a trial of sorts tells a story. So there's a play within a play where Cervantes becomes first Alonso Quijano, an old man, who himself, Alonso Quijano, becomes Don Quixote, this idealized knight errant, this pursuer of lofty undertakings and great ideals. So Cervantes has to become this other character. So I have to become Cervantes, who becomes this other character. And so there's this play within this play within the story. And it's really interesting to dissect it in that way. So what's happening recently with me is that when I'm on stage in this character, I recognize that there are places I have to go to stand where there's lights. I realize there's an audience of people that are looking at me and but what they're really doing, if I'm doing it right, is they're looking at Cervantes. Playing a character, they're not looking at Scott Langdon. And yet Scott Langdon is aware that it's all going on and there is no Cervantes without me in that moment and I'm so connected to Cervantes that you can't separate us. And yet I am fully, as Scott Langdon, aware of everything that's going on at the same time. And so this week I've been thinking about that and how it might be a similar thing to what God is going through, where God sees the world through the limited version of me and sees otherness through this sort of limited perspective of me, in the same way God is doing that with you, and with Abigail, and with Jeffrey Long, and with my wife, this sort of limited version. So every night that I do, Man of La Mancha, it's a completely different experience and in a similar way that seems to be what's happening with God.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:49] Well, that's an interesting analogy, Scott, although I would not emphasize the limitedness of it that this is the enabling of it. There's no play at all if you don't have all these characters and there's no world at all if there isn't Jerry and Scott and Richard Oxenberg and my wife Abigail, and so on and so on and so on, even your dog Watson. You referred to a dog of great wisdom, it sounds.
Scott Langdon [00:15:20] Indeed.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:22] So, there's no world of all without these things. And they enable God in part , you know, we're God's eyes and ears. This is how God experiences the world, I'm told language like that very explicitly at some point. We're God's eyes and ears and our suffering is how God suffers. How does God know about suffering? It's not by eternal omniscience, it's by suffering with us that God knows what it is to be in pain. It's by our doing a wrong things that God knows what wrong thing doing is, what wrongdoing is. That is how all of this world comes to life, is by our being real. If we were less than real, as your character in the play is not quite real enough for a real world, we have to be people who can actually hit each other and kill each other. And your characters can do that in the play, but they don't actually do it on the stage even if there is a killing. They're not- you don't actually have to drag the body out afterwards. But the analogy is a very interesting one because we are, you know, at one with God. And so it's not as if God is way off somewhere. A lot of the language of transcendence is rather misleading in this way because the transcendence always makes it sound as if we're down here. God is up there, wherever up there might be.
Scott Langdon [00:16:57] Right, Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:58] We're one kind of thing, and God is a totally different kind of thing. I wouldn't even use that language of machines. Our bodies are not machines. We're organisms moving in the real world as full flesh organisms. Some of our scientific language that came out of the 17th century started talking about bodies as if they had wires and pulleys in them. But organic life is very different from machine life, and we are organic entities moving in a real world, but entirely at one with God. God is right there inhabiting us, you know, these are all metaphors and analogies. But however, one puts it, God is right there with us and God is living through these events with us in the sense even that that's God's way of living through them.
Scott Langdon [00:17:50] Let me take this analogy of God playing the character a little bit further and ask you this other question. But let me frame it this way first. One of the things, staying with Man of La Mancha here, that's been interesting for me because I've noticed it, and so I've been paying attention to noticing it, and that is that I have learned a great deal about myself, about Scott Langdon, by playing many different characters that I've played in my career, but specifically this one. What Cervantes is trying to get across and what his writing, what he expresses in Don Quixote in the novel, and in this character of Don Quixote, what he's trying to give to the world, I identified with that, and I really learned about communication and about it, just a lot of things about who I want to be. And I'm wondering, do you think that in a similar way God learns by playing us, if you will?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:00] Well, I'm told in God: An Autobiography, this is almost a quote from God to Jerry, "The learning is not just learning from humankind, it's learning for God also. It's learning for God, also. As we go through these things, and the larger story of God: An Autobiography is when God has me read the scriptures of different cultures, the ancient text, and to pray about them. What were you up to? The larger story. That's why it is an autobiography. It's God's development through time. And the development occurs essentially through interacting with us, or as you would put it, through enacting us, you know, enacting these characters that we are in the world. That's how God learns. Sometimes it's explicit as an interaction like Abraham arguing with God about Sodom and Gomorrah, where Abraham reminds God- Hey, you're supposed to be just. It's as if God- Oh yeah, that is My divine job. But an awful lot of it is, as I was putting it before, is just God living through these tragedies with us. God then knows what it is to have, you know, a child shot down in a gunfight in the neighborhood, with drug dealers or whatever, that God knows what that's like by living through it with us, and then learns from that. Learns from that. One of the earliest things God learned and sort of part of the meaning of the story I was told by God, part of the meaning of the story of Adam and Eve is God just tries to go out and play with them, you might say. You know, we can all enjoy the Garden of Eden together, and learns right away- No, I can't relate to people that way. That won't work. Adam wants to play with Eve, you know, and God isn't really, you might say, that much fun all by Himself or Herself /Itself. So God learns these things through interacting with us and animals and then the rest of nature too, but much more with us because of our spiritual development. You know that we can do lots with God and God can do lots through us, you might say.
Scott Langdon [00:22:12] There's something really interesting to me about the multiplicity and diversity of us and our experiences. And at the same time, this ability to be empathetic, you know, what that is. So, in other words, you can tell me about an experience that you've had and I can say, "Oh, I've had that experience." Well, of course I haven't, because it's your experience. I would have had my version of that excuse, or whatever. But what is that, though, that makes me go, and all of us go, "Oh, I've had that experience." There is that other, I don't know if it's a layer, another level, I don't know what you wanna call it. but there is, yes, the very distinctness of my own particular experience. No one else can have it. And at the same time there is this shared- Yes, I get your experience.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:09] Yes. I think empathy is an underrated, understudied phenomenon. I think it's it's almost the key to the universe, you might say. In the book I'm now writing, I have a whole section on empathy because I think, the view I'm taking that I believe based on my experience, is that the key to theologizing in the sense of understanding the big picture of life, the key is not which religion is right and let's go find out the right one and then join up. And then you've got a whole set of doctrines and rituals and the whole shebang. But pay attention to your experience. And it's radically personal because you have to find what makes sense to you in your experience. And we often forget how rich experience is, and empathy is a wonderful example. There are others as well that we tend to forget. We often talk as if all you have are little sensations hitting a screen or something. But no, that's not at all experienced. Experience has depth as well as surface, and part of that depth is what one of the great theorists of empathy a guy named Kohut, calls "vicarious introspection." And it's a very strange phenomenon that we're quite capable of, which is actually entering one another. To an extent, not that we're confusing ourselves, you know, with each other, but we can and to an amazing extent, know what it is like to go through this experience we have not gone through or what it is to be like that person. That's what great novelists and playwrights tap. They tap that skill. Often what seems to be an extraordinary extent of the female author who can write about men and their internal lives, and the male authors who write about women, Anna Karenina, and how they're living out life. That's an amazing phenomenon. Yet there it is. You know, so we have that capacity of empathy. And but before we get too far beyond it, Scott, I think it would be interesting to hear how does this effect you? You're saying playing the role has affected you a lot. So, you know, there is Cervantes the character and so forth. And here's Scott playing the character and you'd think, okay, that's the end of the story that Scott's on stage playing Cervantes in the story. But you say, no, there's something else going on with the Scott Langdon who is enacting Cervantes in connection with that- can you say more about that?
Scott Langdon [00:26:14] There is-- there are multiple levels to it, I think. But to just stick with a few of them, I'll make an example, a couple of examples. First would be the other night. There is a point, there are a couple of points when this happens, but there is a specific point where my character, where I'm just there sitting on stage and other characters are talking about my character. And so as Scott Langdon, I'm sitting there, full view, full lights on me and everything, but I'm supposed to be, you know, catatonic essentially. And this goes on for the whole song. So it's a good three, four minutes maybe where I'm just sort of staring out into space. And Scott Langdon can find Scott Langdon's Self going, "I wonder what I'm going to do for dinner tonight? I wonder if Sarah's at home now or if she's out shopping." And I keep having to remind myself- Stay. Listen. It's very interesting because the thing that comes to my mind is that very word, and it's probably largely influenced by what we've done and what we're doing here. But that word very specifically -Listen- comes to my mind, and then I have to, boom, come back to the scene. I'm listening to the other actors and what they're singing and the tempos. And so I'm listening, listening, and I find my mind drifting again. And I'm, "Oh, got to get back. Listen." So I've noticed that that happens. And just the noticing of it happening. Then I ask myself, who is the one who's noticing that I'm having this issue? Who is the one who is saying, "Listen" to snap me out of that? And so I have, Scott Langdon, has turned inward even further to investigate the one who is- on behalf of whom am I being told to listen? And just that in and of itself has changed the way I see my relationship to God and to others. So having to play that character and really be concentrated. So, then I wonder- Well God, are You, do You-- You must fully be concentrating all the time with me in order... When I'm awake, we're awake together. So if the scene were over and I get distracted and I'm thinking, "What's for dinner?" And I missed my line because it's supposed to be my line and I don't say it, that whole world goes away.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:49] Yeah.
Scott Langdon [00:28:49] And the real world, quote unquote, happens and people go, "Oh, Scott messed up his line." So I have to stay in that world really concentrated. So that just makes me think a second thing, which is God is never away from me. God must always be fully concentrated on everything I do. There's no thing I can do to hide from God. There's no way Cervantes can hide from Scott Langdon. You can't do it. And it just makes my heart filled with joy when I realized that. So that's how I get there. I don't know if others can relate to it without having been an actor. I don't know, but maybe you can understand it by seeing a show and understanding that you're being transported into that world for a little while. You know, I don't know, reading a novel, you understand, you get into the mind of someone else. You know, I don't know how someone else might get to that understanding.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:38] Yeah, well, I gather this can be helpful. I know you said in another context, Scott, that in the kind of religion you grew up in, or at least grew up in the form so much of your religious sensibility at the time, there was always this implicit threat that God can leave. You misbehave, maybe even if you don't quite believe the right thing, you misbehave. I know one of the people coming up for Life Wisdom series, Mark Groleau, had described that there was a very narrow, particular kind of sect that was both fundamentalist but didn't believe in the Trinity. They thought the Trinity was unbiblical and you're going to go to hell if you believed in the Trinity. And so you had this terrible feeling. And of course, that's a lot of Jeffery Long's reflection. Catholic. Not-- a different tradition than you or Mark Groleau, but they believed hell is for all eternity. So you messed up in this life, there's disaster for the rest of eternity. And by this other version, God can even leave you in this life, can abandon you. But part of how he (Jeffery) came to reincarnation is, wait, that just doesn't seem fair. And it doesn't seem like what a loving God would do. His father, with the tragic story taking his life, which is probably we don't really know, but getting himself up onto the railroad tracks in the face of an oncoming train when he was completely paralyzed neck down, he just had a little device that can operate a wheelchair. There was nothing for him, his father, to do in life. And so he committed, I forget these categories, mortal sin or whatever, but something that would send him to hell for the rest of time. And that didn't make sense. Now, the Catholics also have this concept of purgatory, which, okay, you mess up in this life, but if you go spend 1000 years or something, you know, you can work your way through purgatory. And when Jeffery found the copy of Bhagavad Gita-- and, no, life, it's like changing clothes, when you die you're just like taking off one set of clothes. And that's not really you. Put on another set of clothes and have a new life and therefore purgatory, you might say, goes on through repeated lives. You always have a chance to become better, to redeem whatever you did before that was wrong and to improve your soul, improve your relationship to the divine. And. Well, I've strayed here, but back to your thoughts, Scott, that God is a real partner in that. And God is always paying attention. You know, we need to pay attention and our attention drifts. God's attention apparently does not drift.
Scott Langdon [00:32:52] Yeah. Yeah. And one of the other things that became very clear to me. Was the idea that every performance of this play, even though I do it, you know, night after night, seven times a week, each night, each performance is completely different. And is ephemeral in the sense that once it's over, that's it. And there's a very, very special particular thing that's happening between us as the players and the audience in the room. There's something very specific going on there. Very specific people are there at a very specific time to have this very specific moment. It's very clear. And it made me think about this idea, especially when I was thinking about Jeffrey's Life Wisdom episode and this idea that we are not the body, and that we would go on and be reincarnated in something else. And so you think, well, why wouldn't I just if my life is going poor, just commit suicide, I'll just be born again, you know, into something else? And well, that doesn't make sense either, really. Well, why? Why? Why doesn't that make sense? And what I've connected to is the very specific nature of every single human being. So Scott Langdon's story, while what animates me, will go on and come again some other way, the Scott Langdon and the Jerry, they are very specifically here, and Scott Langdon's story it starts you know you want to say February 4th, 1969, and when it's over, it's over. That's it. In a very real way. And yet it's also not it. So there's that separate and same thing happening at the same time. So while the play is over, that performance is over. It's still there in the sense that people can recall it. And we talk about it now and we, "Oh, that was wonderful," or "I felt this way," or "I cried" or "I laughed" or "Haha," but we can't ever grab on to it anymore. It's so ephemeral in that way.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:13] Well it's ephemeral and it isn't ephemeral. And this is one of the puzzlements of life. I mean, you're very right, Scott. It's a fundamental point to stress the specialness of this life. And I'm told in fact, I quoted at the beginning of my dialogue with Jeffery Long that talk of death in the afterlife is always about this life.
Scott Langdon [00:35:35] Yes.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:36] The meaning of this life and each life is unique, has its own ups and downs, its own drama, like a play on stage. And like a play on stage, it has a limited life span, you know, it comes to an end, but it still happened. And the fact that it's an event does not disappear. At least that's how I conceptualize it. That what happens, the bad deeds some caveman did to another caveman being cruel and beating them to a pulp, that's an indelible fact in the history of the world, and certainly God, of course, God remembers it. But even apart from God's observation, it's just a fact in the world. It's true that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. And that's not a truth that expired when Caesar died or, you know, expired the next year because we moved to a different calendar year. That's a permanent event in the world. And the whole meaning of Scott Langdon's life, of Cervantes, the real Cervantes life, is still present. You know, it's still there in the repository of truths about the world and has all the truths that it had at the time, including all the ones we don't know about and will never know about. Because these-- Knowledge is incomplete, but lives are not incomplete, and that's all in the great repository of truth for a fact and goes on. And each one is unique and important. And it's something I think Jeffery Long also stressed. Reincarnation can sound too trivial, as you were suggesting, Scott, and it's not meant to be. The Hindus use the concept of Karma, which Jeffery says roughly translates as work. Work is a good translation. There's new work to be done in the next life, and that's very much stressed in God: An Autobiography, that this world is arena of necessary tasks, things that need to be done, and we're called upon to do them. Many of them have to do with the fashioning of our character, but also our relationships, our role in the world. Who knows what? But there may be grand events or there may be something between you and your neighbor. You need to settle the fence boundaries. You know, all of it needs to be attended to. And that is real life. And it's the necessary work of life. And these successive lives are not just piled on each other, more or less meaninglessly, but each one has its own integrity and meaning that is important.
Scott Langdon [00:38:39] 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.