In this captivating episode, Scott Langdon and Dr. Jerry L. Martin delve deeper into the transformative themes of "God: An Autobiography." Discover the significance of epiphanic experiences, transcendent divine communication, and the interplay between individual perspectives and the divine center that grounds existence.
Scott shares his personal journey of giving up God for Lent and embracing the power of love as a consistent force in life. Explore his experiences as a photographer capturing moments that evoke divine guidance and contemplate the source behind these transformative nudges.
Drawing inspiration from T.S. Eliot's poetry and the profound connection to the still point within the turning world, Scott and Jerry explore the profound nature of epiphanic moments.
Gain insights into the importance of openness and attentiveness in perceiving divine messages and how these moments break through the ordinary, leading to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our connection with the divine.
This thought-provoking episode highlights the significance of maintaining an open heart and mind to perceive and respond to divine messages. Tune in to gain new insights and deepen your connection with the divine.
Keywords: epiphanic experiences, divine communication, individual perspectives, transformative moments, T.S. Eliot, still point, openness, attentiveness, divine messages, understanding, connection.
Hashtags: #whatsonourmind #godanautobiography
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 136.
Scott Langdon [00:01:08] Hello and welcome to episode 136 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm Scott Langdon and I serve as the creative director and host of this podcast on a team of four, and it's truly become one of the joys of my career and my life. One of the reasons that's true is that I have the opportunity to put together an episode like today's in a series that's become one of my most treasured things that we do here- What's On Our Mind. Today, Jerry and I sit down and dig a little more deeply into episode eight of our podcast. It's a conversation that was well worth putting together for me, and I hope it's one well worth listening to for you. Thank you again for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Scott Langdon [00:02:00] Hello, everybody, and welcome back to What's On Our Mind. These are among my favorite episodes to work on in the podcast. And probably the main reason for that is that I get to talk to you, Jerry.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:17] Yes! That's part of the fun, Scott.
Scott Langdon [00:02:18] I mean, I love these conversations. I mean, we have folks talking about the God book- everybody from, you know, Dr. Richard Oxenberg with whom you did a whole series of breaking the book down and then bringing on folks for the life wisdom episodes and having their take on, and their conversations with you on what the episodes are and what they mean. And it's so interesting for me to work on them and to break them down and edit them and talk about them. And then when we do the What's On Your Mind series and we have folks write into us and we hear their experiences with God and we talk about them, those are really exciting. But I kind of feel on these episodes a lot like I did when I was a real young kid and I was the first. I'm the first, the oldest of three boys, and when I was really young, we lived right across the street from my grandparents and I often, when I was really young, could spend time with my grandmother and grandfather like by myself. I just had like my own time with them. Do you know what I mean? Or I remember it, you know, certain teachers where it could have a little extra time with the teacher or a friend, you know, and it's sort of your time. And that's kind of how I feel almost about this. It's such a precious time for me to talk with my mentor and friend and boss and collaborator.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:40] All those things. You're my mentor and friend and in many ways my boss. So, it is our chance at the Scott and Jerry show, you might say, just one on one, two people talking to each other and with reference to God: An Autobiography, but in reference to that, to the book, and those experiences as recounted much of it in the podcast, retold in light of our own lives and thought, after all. Everybody is interacting with God in one way or another, and through this book is one way and through this podcast is one way. And it always is in terms of our own life and thought that we have these interactions.
Scott Langdon [00:04:33] In the Life Wisdom episodes, you have guests come on and talk about the early podcast episodes, which are the dramatic adaptation of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. And each guest comes on and takes just a little portion, and he listens to an episode and talks about it. And they have produced some really interesting conversations. And I'm really excited about some of the guests that we have coming forward, including your wife, Abigail, which is going to be really exciting. I'm very excited about that. I also have questions and thoughts that I want to bring to you about some of the episodes as we go along, because as I was working on them, you know, way back a year, a year and a half ago, things were changing in my life. I don't know if it was a result of the episodes or I was changing, and the episodes made me think of things differently. Who knows? It's all kind of wrapped in its own sort of beautiful wrapping. I don't know which came, comes, first, but things started to change around episode eight for me.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:41] You know, Scott, one of the first things I recall you're telling me when we were just getting to know each other and were just coming up with the idea of doing the dramatic adaptations and getting into that, but I don't know at exactly what part, maybe before we quite started on the adaptations, you told me, "I've given up God for Lent." And were instead of praying to God or whatever word, the God word would naturally come up, you were putting in the word love.
Scott Langdon [00:06:15] That's right. Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:15] And because of a kind of, some kind of distance you felt evidently with the concept of God, you know, which has its own resonances in each person's life. Positive and negative. But anyway, I just recall that you are going through a serious spiritual moment right then when we came together.
Scott Langdon [00:06:42] Yeah. And I think I was looking for something outside of me to be the fulfilling, I don't know what, the fulfilling thing. And I think that my religious tradition, the way I took it in, made me feel like there was something I had to do, even though the message was always, you know, "Grace is free and there's nothing that you can do to win the love of God." You just, you know, and yet don't do these things because if you do them, then you'll be out of favor. There was always-- the duality of it was very, very clear and I really struggled with God is out there somewhere. But where? Like, if-- and here's the question that I struggled with: if I'm going to ask God to come into my heart, where is God coming into my heart from? Where are you, God, to come into my heart? And so my heart is empty, but what would I be without G--? What am I now without Jesus? I don't feel-- I mean, I feel sad and suffering and loss, but even Christians seem to feel that way, that are baptized and that are, well, you still seem to feel that way. So it doesn't seem like it's making a huge difference. I see these billboards now as I drive that say, you know, "Jesus is the answer." Well, what's the question? You know, what is the question? Where does the question come from? So these questions just really took me in so I couldn't grasp anything. And I know love is what I want to be around all of the time. And I can't articulate that or grasp it. And I want to share that with everyone- that seems like something oddly more present and real than the religious tradition. The thing I can't grasp, the things I-- What is the method? Well, it seems to be different for everyone, but love seems to be consistent. So I'll give up God, which has all of these confusing things about it, and just substitute love and see where that leads me.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:03] Yeah. So and against that background, then, in some way, episode eight became a bit of a turning point for you.
Scott Langdon [00:09:14] It did, because when we were working on it, it was the part of the book, and it's actually in chapter six, page 34 of the book, where you have just finished talking about this experience that you had, this epiphanic experience that you had, where you were a young adult, and we talked about this in another episode, I think, where the concentric circles seem to say something to you about time.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:43] In an inarticulate way, as happens with these experiences. The nature of time was revealed to me, you might say. I later wrote, you know, as a philosopher, wrote an article about time.
Scott Langdon [00:09:57] The reason that you bring it up again is that God asks you to think about epiphanic experiences, and you say, "Oh yeah, well, there were these two that we talked about," and God says, "Yes, those were very significant. And the reason that they were significant is what they revealed to you about Me, about God, about what I am."" And what captured my attention in working on the episode was that you were never really into poetry, but that this kind of idea really if you could articulate, could somebody articulate it well, maybe T.S. Eliot articulated it some in a way that you could relate to in the Four Quartets in these lines, and I'd like to read them again they're in the podcast, episode eight, it starts the episode, but I want to read them again now and talk about it a little bit more. So from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets: “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; / Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, / But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, / Where past and future are gathered. / Neither movement from nor towards, / Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, / There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” When I read that, it made me think that, what it seems to be, what he's saying is you can only have everything else that's going on from the perspective of the still plant. The storm isn't a storm unless there's a still point from which.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:59] In the center of the storm that struck.
Scott Langdon [00:12:01] You can see the storm. What is that center of the storm? It seems to me like happiness, a feeling of happiness that I get now from I don't know, when someone says hello to me, is the same feeling I got when I was five, when I was ten. When I was fifteen. That same-- the same feeling I get when I'm sad about someone dying, is the same feeling I had when I was ten, when I'm 54. It's- do you see? So that-- it's that still point that I always knew was there. What I didn't realize growing up in that other tradition was how to turn around and look inward for that still point.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:46] Well, that's right. That's right. This is so much, you know, it's poetry and therefore more pregnant with-- more pregnant with meaning than one's articulations of the meaning capture. But part of it is without the still point, there would be no dance. And there's only the dance. And I was just rereading my discussion with Richard Oxenberg on this very chapter as we were working through the book and it's hard to capture because the still point also kind of represents the unity. You know, the thing that's one thing.
Scott Langdon [00:13:33] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:34] The point of the circle, which is, you know, virtually invisible if you think about it in pure geometry, it doesn't have dimensions of its own. It is simply the point in the middle of a circle, but the circle, and it goes back to my kind of sense I was given in that first epiphanic experience of multiplicity, change, rotating around, and around, and around. Around what? A still point. And Eliot, here, seems to capture both sides of that. Without the still point, there would be no dance. And at the same time, there is only the dance. The world is a world of multiplicity, and yet, that multiplicity is made possible by something in the center that it all revolves around, rotates around, takes place around.
Scott Langdon [00:15:02] I was in Southern California last year from my brother in law's wedding and was on top of this mountain hill. I don't know. I jogged up it and I had my phone when I got to the top and I realized I had this 360 degree view and I might as well capture it with my camera. And so I did. And so I just sort of did this slow spin around. And you can see the ocean, the Pacific Ocean there, and then the hills around the other side, you know, around. So I just did this whole circle and I put some music to it and it was fun. And I posted on social media. The thing about that is when you look at that video, you can see all of this beautiful stuff, all these beautiful sites, these people and everything is going around, but you never think about, I never think about, like the center. Like who is making the video? Like from who's perspective? Well, from my perspective. And so it's sort of like that, I think, maybe with God in the sense that the individuality of each one of us is the perspective, the unique perspective of everyone. Everyone who's ever lived, everything has ever been. That's a completely unique perspective that will never be duplicated, completely unique. And it goes on, and on, and on, and that is the experience of God.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:31] Yeah, that's a wonderful expression, Scott. And it captures both that unity, that still point sense because they're the I who was looking. That just, you know, pronoun I that's looking, is the still point, in that case. There is no vista without a point of view, without an I that is taking in the vista. And yet, you know, even the next moment, the I can stand over here and it's a different vista. But again, the vista is dependent on the standpoint of the I. But then the nature of the world is such that there's not only Scott and Scott's unique vista, you know, taking in of things and how things are from the still point of Scott's I, but there's also Jerry and the still point of Jerry's I, and Abigail's, and Judy Dornstreich’s, and so on. The world is that multiplicity, but nevertheless, all is part of one whole. And there is a further still point, which is divine. Around which you might say from a God side point of view, we all revolve around.
Scott Langdon [00:17:54] In episode eight, you say many experiences people gloss over and relegate to their mental attics are actually divine shafts of light breaking through the clouds. So, when you think of epiphanic experiences, what do you think it was that God was asking you to think about?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:18] Experiences that were arresting where I felt some divine or more fundamental reality breaking through the ordinary, humdrum of daily life, which I here restate as divine shafts of light. Because it often is like that. You're going along in your ordinary life. You're like in the middle of clouds, you might say, all the distractions, and tasks, and good and bad of daily life, and then suddenly, whoa, here's something different. And that's how that drop of water was. Here, I'm just attending to the lawn and a chore I did not enjoy in about seventh or eighth grade, and suddenly see a drop of water. The last drop of water forming on the faucet. Very odd thing to think of as the object of this kind of experience, but for some reason it grabbed my attention. I say it, but it and whatever was manifesting itself through that drop of water grabbed my attention. At that point, I wasn't thinking of something else through the drop. It was just the drop spoke. And it's like the drop said, "Pay attention to me." You know? That, "I'm here too. I'm part of the story. It's not just people." And you're mowing the lawn and the grass flies as you mow, and you water the lawn and the water sprays out. Well, wait a minute. Let's look at one drop of water and it has its own being and integrity and place in the scheme of things.
Scott Langdon [00:19:59] I was thinking about an epiphanic type of experience that I have had recently. And by recently I mean within the last couple of years of working on this project. And it has to do with my photography. During the pandemic, I started to take my photography a lot more seriously, and just because we had so much time to be home, and so I ended up taking walks in my neighborhood in Pennsylvania, where I live in Bristol Borough, and just was out to see what I could see. And the reason it became epiphanic to me is that I really got this sense, this divine nudge we talk about, this feeling from time to time to look at something and put my camera up to my face and see it in a frame and really look at it. And then the compulsion to push the shutter button at just this time for a reason or another. And, I started looking at the photographs I was making, and remembering that this was a particular moment that a whole host of other moments would go by, but this one stood out. Why? And then I might look at the photograph and think, I didn't even see this little blue light that was on at the top window of this house when I was taking the photograph. But, boy, it really makes the photograph interesting. And this oh, I didn't even see this person was crossing the street over here. I didn't see that when I pushed the shutter. But when I look at it, I see so much more. But the moment that I was nudged to take that picture, felt like something is commanding me to do it. And so the question became, who is directing me to do that? And I want to invest-- I wanted to investigate that- on behalf of whom am I pushing the shutter? And on behalf of whom am I giving in to this nudge? Who is nudging me? That is interesting to me.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:11] Yeah. You know, I'm not a very aesthetic person. You are. We're very different in that way, and that's one of the reasons it's good for us to talk, because we bring things to the table, right? But I'm often given this aesthetic metaphors, or even images that God is showing through the beauty in nature. And I don't know if-- I can't remember a moment that addresses what you're talking about now, which is more like the drop of water. This moment in time is unique. This moment of this particular framing and picture that's not going to come again. Nobody else can produce this picture. They could set it up and have a replica, but it won't be this picture, right? The thisness is just fundamental to it. And I don't think-- I take that as, yeah, automatically, you're seeing, I guess I'm told, something where, when you look at things with the aesthetic eye, that is a bit, you might even say, reverential. It's kind of- that's what it is to apprehend the divine. And that's why nature works so well in inspiring you might say, high thoughts in us and feelings, because you go into nature-- Now, if a person in the lumber business goes into the forest, that person is going to be estimating how many tons of wood he can get out of this forest and whether he has the crew and blades necessary, but most of us, we go in, one of the things we're suspending is the utility of what we're seeing. We're taking it in as itself and with any aesthetic point of view, when you snapped that picture, you're just taking it in as itself, as it presents itself. And then you're asking now the interesting question, well, who sent it to me? And I guess I never asked that because the who is so-- is kind of like everything, you know. Yet, I have thought there are the facts that the divine is sort of everywhere and at every moment. It still leaves room for the fact that we have epiphanic moments. That not every moment is the divine shaft of light in this way. You can look at the world and see the kind of divine aspect of it if you prepare yourself a certain way, and as I say, the aesthetic approach somewhat does that. At the same time, there are specific moments, important moments in life often, where, whoa, now you're having an epiphanic experience. It's not just the way God is, as you might say, generically present, but God is present in a very particular way at a particular point in your life. But how did you reason about that, Scott? You went, okay, where is this coming from you're asking, right? After this experience, where is it coming from?
Scott Langdon [00:25:38] What is important to me about communication is not the mode or the method by which two separate individuals connect. It's the connection. So how you get from an intention from one, to the other making it mean what it means. So you have intention and then you have meaning from the other person. How do you get that connected? So if you're somebody who doesn't speak my language, you speak not English, you speak something I don't understand and you don't understand English, we're not going to-- that mode is not going to be helpful. So I might move to gestures with my hands, or my eyes, or I might lean into you with body language or not. And we eventually get to a place where we understand one another, this meaning. So the essential thing seems to be the communication part. So if there is otherness, there needs to be this communication to drawing us together in that way that the book sort of caps off, in that we are all sort of God is differentiating so that there is this pull back together into the one. So it always seems to be about communication. When we are in love with someone and we're happy and things are going well, It seems to be because we are communicating well. When there's struggle and strife in relationship, it seems to be that communication isn't going well. Seems to be the same with God and us.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:22] Yeah, that sounds right. You know, I hear from people, Oxenberg and I talked about this, it's in those dialogues, I hear from people saying, I pray, and pray, and pray, and God never talks to me and I'm a believer. And you weren't even a believer. And so they're kind of angry about it. You know, why is God talking to you and not me? And what I always tell them is, "Let God come to you however God comes to you." It doesn't have to be words. And I think you're exactly right, Scott, that the medium doesn't matter. It's the connection that matters. And so the job isn't to try to make God talk to you. The job is to keep your soul open so that whatever God wants to show you, you can take it in and and pay attention, as we often say, so if God does bring something to your attention, you actually notice it, and follow through in whatever way it's appropriate to follow through on.
Scott Langdon [00:28:43] 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.