"The Indian relates to Me through an aspect of the Self that relates to, or is identical with, Me in my total form." 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.
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Season Two - Episode Twenty Nine
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
The key theme of these ancient Hindu scriptures is the unity of all things. Their central insight is that “the Atman is the Brahman.” There is a deeper Self or Soul behind the self or personality as we ordinarily experience it, and this deeper Self is identical with the One Reality that transcends all categories.
The Indian relates to Me through an aspect of the Self
that relates to, or is identical with, Me in My total form.
It is, or at least feels, quite impersonal.
In the summer after these prayers began, long before I had read the Upanishads, Abigail and I were spending a quiet week on the Maine coast. In their later years, her parents had owned a house on the bay, and she still has good friends there. The view can be seen in Abigail's paintings on our living room wall.
I was relaxing in our bayside cottage, when the voice spoke. I was told to suspend external perception and dwell on the inner flow of consciousness. I had studied phenomenology, which teaches a method for doing just that, so this was not an unfamiliar assignment.
Dwelling just on my sensory experience, I could feel the weight of my body on the chair, the air on the surface of my skin, my breathing, and, more vaguely, my internal organs.
The next instruction went beyond anything I had been taught. I was now to step behind even the flow of internal experiences. I did not know how to do that, but I was told to try.
I found myself in a still center "behind" my inner and outer feelings, even "behind" my thoughts. It was as if I could "look out" and see that those thoughts and feelings were taking place, but at this tier of consciousness, I was not "myself" feeling and thinking them.
I did not understand why I had been led to this experience until I started praying about India, and was told,
I gave those people a very different side of Myself—
not more profound or real, just different.
This fit their culture and their capacity.
The people of India received more truly and clearly than anyone that the way to reach Me is through the inside, and
that I am the Ur-consciousness of each individual's consciousness.
And the way to reach inside is by quietly stepping behind the flow of thoughts and feelings?
Yes, the denial of the world, the shutting out of the world,
the withdrawal to inner peace.
Theirs is not the whole of the story, but it is an essential—
in some ways, the essential--part of the story,
the heart of the story.
So the inner Self, the Atman, is identical with You?
At that point, it gets tricky.
In one respect, I am everything.
And yet you are a center of subjectivity opposite Mine.
And, in still another way, you know that I am inside you,
and you are--or can be--inside Me.
I was moved deeply into the inner relationship to God.
Lord, my self feels like an articulation of God.
But it doesn't feel as if it is via the Atman.
It feels like my normally experienced self.
If that's true, then the Atman seems like a fifth wheel.
And I always feel that there are two distinct actions--sometimes God enters me, sometimes I enter God.
Later I recorded a different experience.
This Self behind the self, the Soul or witness Self, seems much closer to God than my ordinary or empirical self--not just close but something in the direction of identity. This Self behind the self relates to my desires, worries, and the various states of my personal self, much as God relates to me.
My inner Self sees my personal self with a loving tolerance and concern, sees the desires as weaknesses but also as just facts to be lived with, sees the worries in perspective, much like a loving parent.
That's right. Your inner Self is My vicar on earth.
The inner connection to God was okay, but the statement "Atman is Brahman" implied more--that the individual person is less real than the indescribable One. In fact, that it isn't real at all.
Personally, I had no desire to give up my separate self, and in any case, it did not seem logical to say that different people were all identical with one impersonal unity. But my protest was rejected.
This is a very important insight and it is basically true.
Again, you need to relax
your substance and identity categories here.
Spiritual reality does not work by those rules.
You all have elements of the Divine, of Me, in you.
The Atman language is a bit off target, a bit misleading.
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.
With people in India, I sought and achieved
an intimate personal relationship—by meditation,
Atman awareness, and sense of unity with the Divine.
Then the Indian seers got it right?
There were ups and downs, glitches and failures
in that tradition as there were in Israel.
At times, they have drawn themselves too inward,
and some of the metaphysical edifice is mistaken.
I mentioned already the misinterpretation of maya –
regarding the world as not much more than an illusion.
Some of the mistakes have led to untold suffering.
I regret that but it seems to be one of the hazards of revelation.
But still, Lord, I gather that the physical world, the world of our desires, is not as important as it seems to be.
Yes, that is central.
That is more about us than about You. How is that Your story?
Don't worry about what is and is not My story.
It is about people's relation to Me.
What is the chief draw of unbelief?
It is the conviction that physical objects are the end of the story. And Desire is the chief excuse for not following My will.
The issue of the metaphysics of real versus unreal
is not important.
It is a rather silly question actually,
since the fundamental structures of reality
are so far from what this framework imagines.
What is important
is that people live on more than a physical plane,
and that the fulfilled life befitting a human being
is a life in concert with God, and a high-minded life,
not unduly attached to physical things and desires.
Unduly attached? Some attachment is okay?
There is nothing wrong with desire.
I put beauty in the world and of course people desire to look at it. The world is full of potential sensory delights.
You should enjoy them all.
But you should not become too attached to them,
as if they were the most important thing.
Given all the things of higher value
and of more transcendent reality,
they pale in importance, delightful as they are.
Don't all religions say that?
No. They all assert that
there are things more important than desire,
but they do not preach detachment per se.
But, since they do direct one's attention to higher things, why is detachment itself so important?
What detachment does
is to put you on My side of the great divide.
There is a physical reality and you can identify with that,
and there is a divine reality and you can identify with that –
if you detach from things first.
You cannot do your full work in conjunction with Me
One of the Upanishads, "The Forest of Wisdom," tells how all the seers of the kingdom were called together. King Janaka announced, "Venerable Brahmins, these thousand cows are for the wisest one among you."
Flaunting their humility, none of the seers dared to step forward. But Yajnavalkya, a seer who often appears in the Upanishads, did not hesitate. He stepped forward and claimed the prize.
The other seers were furious at his presumption. "Do you really think you are the wisest?"
We can see Yajnavalkya smiling as he replies simply, "I wanted the cows.”
Lord, this story...
This is much more on track.
There is nothing wrong with desires per se;
it is only excessive attachment to them
that deflects the soul from its journey.
He was right to win the contest because he was the wisest.
"None of the other Brahmins dared to speak."
This was not holiness.
It was concern for how they would appear to others.
Someone who is honestly aware of their desires
and of other factors in a situation,
and proceeds realistically and ingenuously,
is capable of meeting the real challenges in life,
of being My partner in human history.
Detachment came up in a completely different context. I was asking about the doctrine of maya as a rejection of beliefs about the physical world. The answer focused not so much on the reality of the world as on the nature of beliefs.
Beliefs are an attachment to the physical world, which is not ultimate . . .
Interesting, I thought, it is not only desires that form undue attachment to the world; beliefs do also.
. . . That makes beliefs a wall to the Atman,
which is a spirit beyond that world.
You have to get the furniture, the stuffed chairs, out of the way
so the spirit can enter and move about freely.
The Atman is not about having beliefs.
It sees, as it were, phenomena.
It does not worry whether the phenomena are
“real" or this or that, it just sees them for what they are.
Lord, I wonder if my obsession with the final goal is itself a desire I need to detach from . . .
. . . and I should just let things be -- and do my own job.
Our beliefs, whether religious or nonreligious, tend to be held with a high degree of attachment. They are not just understandings of the world, but passionate convictions that form our self-conceptions. Anything that challenges deeply held beliefs threatens a person's identity. People certainly need to have convictions and a sense of who they are, but I was told, these should not be held with excessive attachment. We have to find the right balance.
I wondered if the Upanishads weren't a bit over the top: "Nothing other than the Imperishable Brahman can see, hear, think, or know."
Lord, that can't be right.
This is basically on target.
While the "nothing else thinks" claim is too broad
and fails to represent
the empirical particularity of individual human beings,
it is also true that all are in a sense thinking through My mind—
or, put it the other way around, that it is My mind
that radiates through and energizes all minds.
Lord, according to the Upanishads, "the inner Self is beyond good and evil, beyond all the suffering of the human heart.'"
A wonderful example of truth gone wrong.
It is true, in a sense, that the Self beyond the self
is beyond good and evil and human suffering,
but that is not where good and evil count,
and where suffering both occurs and has a role.
The real action is with the personal self,
and its struggle with good and evil, and its sacrifice and suffering. To try to escape that, or to rise above it,
is to default on one's duty and on the meaning of life,
like a great actress who never played a part
in order to avoid good and bad reviews.
The stress is on oneness with the Divine: 'Where there is unity, one without a second, that is the world of Brahman. This is the supreme goal of life. . . .
So wrongheaded, almost the opposite.
It would be truer to say
that the goal is precisely to encounter another—
even for Me, as we have seen—
and to love or fight or whatever is called for.
The Upanishads had said that the inner Self is "beyond good and evil." Instead of a moral law based on God's commandments and judgment, there was no clear God, no commandments, no judgment, and not much of a code of right and wrong beyond one's social roles. Action is chained to the never-ending wheel of karma, and history is nothing more than endless cycles of renewal and decline, leaving a residue, it seemed to me, of amoralism, resignation, listlessness, and near-nihilism.
Lord, there is an absence of God and no idea of following divine will.
That is not right.
I am present in each tradition, to each, under different names. People relate to Me, take Me in, in different ways.
They feel My presence, and it affects their attitudes to life.
Do not look for the "God of Israel" in a different guise
in these religions.
Remember I am much more than a personal God.
Be open to the other aspects and learn from that.
Your point about moral relativism and nihilism is not quite right, but it does point up the fact that,
as people relate to Me differently,
they draw different lessons and lifestyles from that relating.
But don't think of that as error,
any more than the lack of Taoist insight is an Old Testament error.
They got a different part of the story.
Put them all together, and you have the whole story.