“If this were our last conversation and you could only know one thing, what would it be?”
Welcome to 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.
Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
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GOD: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - THE PODCAST
JLM - Narrator (Jerry L. Martin) - voiced by Scott Langdon
Jerry - Jerry Martin - voiced by Scott Langdon
GOD - The Voice of God - voiced by Jerry L. Martin, who heard the voice
EPISODE SIX: Where I ask about life after death
I don't care whether there is life after death. That may seem odd, but I tend to be a contrarian with regard to my own feelings, a habit since childhood. I do not live a roller coaster of hopes and fears. My emotions are like the plains of Kansas, so flat water doesn't know which way to run. That includes the afterlife.
Still, as long as I had God on the line, it seemed like something I should ask about. When I asked, I was reprimanded. I was told that I didn't really want to know, I was asking merely because I thought I should, and I should figure out why I didn't want to know.
At first, I had no idea. Then it came to me. As I pictured the afterlife, it was boring and lonely. Like driving all night on one of those long western highways.
Then I was given a series of images--more accurate ways to picture the afterlife. The first image was of being immersed in wonders of nature of incomparable beauty. The second was of being an Einstein whose mind now grasped fully all the vast mysteries of the universe, having the ultimate "ah-ha!" experience over and over again. Another was of listening with full intensity to music more lovely than any the world has ever known. And finally, it was like being in love, but with a vaster compass, sustained over endless time, and receiving boundless love in return.
That night I had a dream.
I was a young man in the Navy. We were told we would ship out the next day, but were given a few hours' leave the evening before. My buddy had to go do something first--fix a ship or something. So I went to check out with the sergeant. You needed to turn in two forms. I had misplaced one and assumed they would give me another, but, no, they were teaching me a lesson in Navy discipline. I saw my friend's forms lying there, so I "borrowed" one of his, thinking that, savvy in the ways of the Navy he would know how to get around the problem. Later I felt I had done the wrong thing.
The scene changed. I was driving through Kentucky, heading home to my family (though, in real life, I have no family in Kentucky). Somehow I found myself in an institutional compound of stark concrete buildings enclosed by thick walls. The inhabitants--inmates?--seemed friendly. But some began to suffer mental decline and animal-like deformities. First there were just a few victims--we all had the condescendingly charitable attitude, "poor Joe"--but the condition kept spreading, and finally afflicted me. I looked grotesque, my head oversized and ape-like, and I began losing memory and focus.
It became evident that the people in charge meant us no good. That night, I escaped over the wall and was hunted. I came to a Hindu monastery run by women, perhaps nuns. I felt God guide my words, and to my surprise, I said, "I need help, but more importantly, I can help you." They were in financial trouble. I said I could get $10,000 for each "one."
About this time I woke up. It was the middle of the night, but I sat up for a few minutes. Abigail was asleep by my side. The dream continued even as I was awake. As people visited the monastery, I told them my story--I was still deformed--and they were moved by it. I began giving advice and helping people and then praying for their healing, successfully, I guess. My personal story was published, and more people came. Although I was still ugly, my face took on a look that was pleasant for people to look upon. The main nun and I became lovers or soul mates. Then I died.
I expected the dream to end there, but it continued. At some point, I had lain down and gone back to sleep.
I found myself in Heaven. There were glorious lights and an airy openness. From that vantage point, one could survey the whole universe, seeing everything through God's eyes, as it were, and with his understanding. I could see all the people on Earth, past and present, but I saw them, not as a crowd, but one by one and felt a God-like deep personal concern for each person.
The nun, along with a lover from a different life (a version of Abigail from the times of ancient Israel), were with me, very loving, but without a sexual dimension and without jealousy. And I thought the dream had come to a conclusion.
But, no. I found myself in the world again, in some faraway land, perhaps China, first as a baby in a basket in a field. A moment later the baby turned into a peasant working in the field. As the peasant, I forgot the previous experiences, but I had an attitude of kindness and benign understanding that seemed to carry over.
And then the dream ended.
It could probably be read as an allegory--my having done something wrong, suffered for it, offered service which was redemptive, and enjoyed an afterlife characterized by love. I did not think about it that way at the time, but two aspects did stay with me: first, looking at all of humanity from a God's-eye view and seeing and loving each person in his or her particularity; and second, the surprising rebirth in which I start all over again but with some kind of retention of life's lessons.
A few days later, I started praying about daily matters and was interrupted.
If this were our last conversation and you could only know one thing, what would it be?
I thought, what is it that affects me personally?
Lord, is there life after death, and if so, what is it like?
You flunk. You have asked me a question I have already told you the answer to.
But not what life after death is like.
The dream I sent you told you that. You got a glimpse of life after death. There is a second reason you flunk. Your motive is honest but wrong. You ask only what concerns you. You ask out of desire and fear of not getting what you desire. You should ask in terms of the good of life, of all life, and of what I want for you, not in terms of what you want for yourself. You should seek understanding.
How can I merge with you? I'm not sure if that's the best way to put it...Be at one with you, at rest with you, at one with your will?
The question is adequately formulated. The goal--one way to describe the goal--is to be at one with God, the God of All. At bottom, the soul's will IS the will of God. The soul is at one with God.
It is not that you and I are literally the same substance, the same particular. It is that we are "at one," in perfect harmony, and not accidentally so. It is in the nature of what the soul is, that it is at one with God. Remember that these philosophical categories are crude and inadequate in the first place.
Back to your question: How can you become at one with God? Of course, the answer is that you already are--your soul, that is. The task is to come to realize that this is so, to realize it not merely in theory, but in intuitive, felt understanding, in your emotions and feelings, and in practice.
That's the goal? It sounds simple. The oneness is already inside. All we have to do is to bring our conscious selves along.
That is right. It is the simplest thing in the world. And everyone, at some level and at some moments, knows it, at least glimpses it. But it is very difficult to actualize in practice. The empirical world--the world of desires and the senses--seems so real and is so powerful that it is extremely difficult to redirect one's energy.
And the empirical world IS real, in its own way. The world is not an illusion, a mirage. If it is a mirage, it is one from which you can drink water. No, you must respect the empirical world while at the same time emancipating yourself from it, not letting yourself be identical with your interests in the world.
So the world of our experience (and desire) is quite real--it is the arena in which we live our lives and loves, joys and sorrows. In spite of that, we should not let ourselves be ensnarled by it. How are we supposed to pull that off?