An insightful conversation between Jerry and Scott about their personal spiritual experiences while recapping points from the most recent series, including dialogues, and responses from readers and listeners.
Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Begin the dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher
Related Episodes: [Two Philosophers Wrestle With God] Jerry’s Story [Part 1] [Part 2]; [What's On Your Mind] Spiritual Nudges
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 60.
Scott Langdon [00:01:04] Hello and welcome to Episode 60. I'm your host, Scott Langdon. Here in episode 60, Jerry Martin and I begin a monthly episode offering we're calling What's On Our Minds. Last week we shared listener comments and questions and Jerry's responses. This week, Jerry and I engage in questions and comments of our own, spurred on by the previous three episodes, particularly last week's, when we asked what's on your mind and found many who are intrigued by encounters with God. If you have a question, comment or story of your own about an encounter with God or a spiritual experience, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Scott Langdon [00:01:59] Jerry, welcome to episode 60. Can you believe it?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:02] Yeah, it's just wonderful, we're moving right along here, and many questions- that interesting thing last time looking at the mailbox, you might say. And so what people out there had to say, that was fascinating.
Scott Langdon [00:02:16] Yeah, I thought so, too. You know, when we started this out, we were doing just the audio adaptation of your book, which listeners, if you have not heard it yet, go back to episode one, listen to episodes one through 44. That is the dramatic adaptation of Jerry's book, God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. And, you know, when we started out, we didn't necessarily know we were going to be going this far. The book took 44 episodes, and here we are, you know, we're talking about it, and people are asking questions. And the more I listen to the episodes with Richard Oxenberg and then listening to last week's episode again with the comments that we talked about, I had some questions pop up in my own mind and I thought maybe we could take some time to talk about those, if that would sound good to you.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:08] Sounds good, Scott.
Scott Langdon [00:03:10] So in the first episode that we had with Richard Oxenberg, you and he talk about your experience when God first talks to you and speaks to you, and His first word is listen. And further down the line, when he appears in a way that is visual, it kind of takes it to a different level. And you talk about that story as you do in the book, as we describe in the podcast, in the dramatic adaptation, you talk about that with Richard and you say that the voice was real and it was undeniable that it was something that it was it was not just you talking to yourself, as we often do talk to ourselves, you know, but this was something that was very real and it was undeniable. And as a philosopher who is trained to doubt and is skeptical, as an agnostic to begin with, what was it that was real and undeniable about the voice?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:05] Well, that's an awfully good question, and it's the question everything hangs on, right? I mean, there's no point to the whole book and my whole experience and my whole current belief in God if this voice is real. I remember Hayden will ask of the last episode, wrote in to us and said, is this for real? And so is this voice real or is it just Jerry's musing? And some readers of the book thought, oh, this is a guy using a dramatic vehicle, you know, a narrative form for just expounding his own ideas. Well, that's completely wrong. The one thing I can vouch for is the honesty and truthfulness of the book, that this is what actually happened. And I had no views. I was a lifelong agnostic with no particular interest in religion, so I had no views to expound. But the voice came and it was very striking to me precisely as a philosopher, as a philosopher, I never believed in certainty. Some philosophers think certain things are certain, like mathematics or something. And I never believed that because you can make mistakes in mathematics, too, and you could even have revolutions in mathematics. I never believed in certainty. So it's very striking to find this one experience of all experiences. You can doubt every experience this experience carried its own certification of truth, and I found it and as a philosopher I could step outside myself and look- Jerry you're crazy. Obviously, anybody can be deluded by a voice. In fact, it's the most natural thing to be deluded by the people carrying signs- the world is going to end tomorrow down on the street corner. I think God's talking to them. So how do I know this is the real voice of God? And the fact is that from within the experience, it's not only a feels, has all the earmarks, you might say, of total reality, it's not even strange. It's like talking to my wife on the telephone. It's not as though- whoa, what's happening here? There's martians with beep, beep, beep shuttle sounds or something. No, it's God just is saying to Jerry this, that and the other thing. No. And I had not studied, of course, any of this at all before, but subsequently reading about peoples having similar experiences, they tend to also-- Mystical experiences and other experiences of divine encounter also tend to carry a kind of self certifying reality with them and be impossible to doubt. So I can step outside my skin and doubt it from within the experience. I can't doubt it any more than I doubt that you are a human being or you know that my wife is not a robot or you know, these things get in a sci fi movie or something, you know, put into question in real life. I can't I can't doubt that my wife is not a robot. So it's pretty much like that in real life. This is not something doubtable.
Scott Langdon [00:07:30] Mm hmm. I think it's, well, just think about what we're doing right here. We're recording this over Zoom. And in reality, I'm looking at a computer screen, but I have no doubt that you are there. And otherwise, why would I be doing this nonsense? Right? I'm just talking to myself. Yeah. So, yeah, it's a very– I feel that way too in experiences that I've had. Many people have experiences that they can't explain, and so they leave it aside. Maybe there's a self-certification, as you mentioned there, but they don't recognize it as self-certification. I know I was in that situation still am often, but I think I'm a little more attuned to it now than I was.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:14] People often intentionally dismiss these kind of mystical moments because it doesn't fit a kind of naturalistic worldview. It doesn't seem like a 21st century up to date point of view. And so they just kind of push them aside and think, that was strange and go on.
Scott Langdon [00:08:31] Right. Right. And I think when we were working on this project and I was going through the book with you and we were adapting the script, the different scripts for the different episodes, there was an interest for me in other people's experiences, reading about other people having experiences like this and saying, you know, this happened to me and I can't explain it, but it's undeniable. It's self-certified, as you mentioned, and they talked about it, and so there was sort of this strength in numbers, sort of feeling when things started to happen to me in a stranger way- and say, am I just- is this weird? And, you know, I had you to talk to and then I would read about some other people who had those experiences. And I think sharing experiences of this kind, it's so important to us. Would you agree?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:23] Yes. Yes. And, you know, you think a number one, you know, what's the first thing that God says to me?
Scott Langdon [00:09:29] Listen, listen, listen.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:31] And I take that to generalize. Pay attention. Pay attention. So there's a divine prompt somewhere it can just feeling in your gut, pay attention to that. Or it can be something a friend says, and maybe there's a divine hint there. Pay attention so that you don't miss these moments and the value of sharing, and it's part of why we do that third week program on the mailbox is that there are people are sharing and this is an empowerment of everybody. You know, they're examples, if somebody else can do it, I can, too. They present issues and problems that we all deal with who have any kind of spiritual life, and it's helpful to try to sort those things out, think them through to find ways around the problems and hurdles and how to handle doubt and so forth. And so it's very important that sharing is a very important thing to do. It's, as I say, an empowerment of other people to live their own spiritual lives more fully.
Scott Langdon [00:11:16] One of the other things that you talk about in the book and we explore in the podcast and then Richard and you talk about as well, is that the voice was not only real and undeniable, but it also had these qualities of being benign and authoritative. You describe those two particular words. You used them specifically. Could you talk a little bit about what benign and authoritative, why those two words went together in your thought process?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:46] Well, they seem to be the qualities of the voice. But one of the things that I've thought about since again as a philosopher with a somewhat skeptical question in mind is: how can you know from a voice that this person at the other end of the voice is benign, much less authoritative? And I've thought of the human phenomenon of empathy that we're very good, in fact, at reading one another. And the great novelists are amazing at that. The novel that's given is amazing, you know, through the voice of a female character enormously empathetic reading of what the feminine sensibility is vis-a-vis a particular situation or, or problem or life issue. And the-- it was the voice was benign. And so I think much in terms of empathy. Some people you talk to, you know, you can just tell. Are they- you can-- one of the things we can tell evolutionary biologists say this is an important human survival skill, is to be able to tell a friend from foe, you know. Do I need to put my defenses up or not? Put out the quills or whatever I've got available to me or not? But it goes beyond that's part of why we can discover these things. And some people, you just talk to them and you can say, I wouldn't trust this guy to walk me around the block.
Scott Langdon [00:13:27] Right, yes.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:28] And there are other people you talk to them and it comes through that well, whatever else they are, they may be smart, or dumb, or capable, or incapable, or whatever, they mean well. They're sort of on your side. I find dealing with store clerks sometimes they say, well, it's not possible to do much about your problem. And sometimes they say it as if they're slamming the door in your face- go away now. And others it makes a huge difference. They talk to you as if, gee, I'd like to solve this. You know, you're in mind. I'd like to find a way to be helpful. I've looked into it, I can't be helpful. Well, these traits come through in a voice. And you might know someone only by telephone. These traits would come through. And the authoritative is more dramatic still. But again and in regular life I've known people encountered them where they say, this is something you need to do. Then you think, whoa, this is probably something I need to do.
Scott Langdon [00:14:36] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:37] They have a kind of authority there. They have an insight into this situation. They have insight into you, and they see that you match the situation in a certain way. And so they say, you know, do this now, and otherwise you'll miss your chance, or otherwise something will go bad. So the voice seemed authoritative to have that kind of sense right from the beginning.
Scott Langdon [00:15:03] Images play such a powerful role in doing what we were just talking about, you know, friend or foe, you know, discerning, you know, what does it look like to us? What does fear look like? You know, somebody coming in and robbing me or something. I can see that as something that would be difficult. What would love look like? You know, for me, you know, my mother hugging me, but somebody else might not have a mother that's very friendly, so that image might not be pleasant for them. I know a lot of people growing up, you know, God, the father. Father was a difficult image for them to deal with because maybe they had a bad father image or something. So everyone has a different situation. Can you talk about images and how important they are?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:46] Well, it's interesting, I took Oxenbergs's question, well, first, to be visual about my childhood and so forth, and I can think now of more images, and they were generally off putting ones. Some were sort of simply praying hands on velvet or something that seem kind of simpy, others scary and those are off putting. But if we broaden it, I think it's more, well, they're probably images, they're beautiful paintings. When I think of the Sistine Chapel, that picture of God, the father, almost touching fingers, sort of touching fingers with the man, you know, generic human being. To me, that's a benign image I suppose some might find, and for me it's a comfortable and natural image. If you want to look at a figure that seems benign and authoritative. Okay, that would be--that would fit. I didn't have that on the mind at the time of this voice. I didn't visualize anything ever that I recall, though you could probably find some visual images kind of implicit at various places. But if you think again more broadly of images, as you know, God is called sometimes a judge. Well, that's that that term doesn't scare me, but, whoa, that sounds like you're on the dock. And in many religious traditions, you are on the dock, and if you don't pass muster, your fate is going to be terrible, maybe for all eternity. They're various images I've never liked. Oh, Christ, the king, these monarchical images, just to me, they never seemed at any age, just they seemed to lack spirituality. And I think you're right, Scott, the others that were praying to me were like God the father, God the mother, the feminine aspect of God, which of course, many religions have goddesses. And that would depend an awful lot on the particular warmth and care and nurturing capacity of your father and of your mother. And that's what those would be. But there are also images in the Eastern traditions, a lot of Hindus, God is something like the ocean and you're a drop. Part of reincarnation is kind of reuniting the drop flows down and reunites with the ocean and there is a naturalistic form of that. I was at a Unitarian funeral and the speaker talked about, you know, Jim goes on as a drop. These elementary particles I guess are eternal, they were there at the Big Bang and they'll be there at the final end. So he is reunited with the mass of the atomic structure of the world. And that's another image that people have. And one of the ways that was explained, when God said, "you see Me everywhere." This was very puzzling.
Scott Langdon [00:19:06] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:06] And I looked around and things just kind of looked like things. I look out the window, don't see God anywhere, God's speaking to me, but not from a location. You know, there's no-- I don't look out for turn sideways. I quote the voice I tend to look up. That just seems kind of natural for the divine. But it's not that I think God's on a cloud or something. That's like another of our images.
Scott Langdon [00:19:32] Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:33] Divine figures sitting on clouds. But there is, I mean, you could speak to this better, Scott, than I can, because I'm not very aesthetic and I do talk about my experience with Andrew Wyeth which spills over to other experience that I felt he portrayed God as a kind of this shimmering surface of things or just prickling underneath the surface or something, as in the texture of reality. But you, I gather as a child, we're surrounded by great art in the form of music and paintings and these great sacred images that our culture has produced and other cultures have their own that are also impressive. But I assume those have the capacity to draw your thoughts and feelings toward the divine.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:31] They did, very much so. One of my earliest memories, you know, I was christened as a baby in the Lutheran tradition and was in that tradition until about 12 or 13 when we went into a more Evangelical tradition. And but my earliest memories of the Lutheran tradition and my images of God, was this painting above the altar in the church in which I was growing up. It was Jesus in the garden praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the light coming down on his head. And as I mentioned before in an interview with you a couple of episodes ago, I knew that that wasn't Jesus sitting for a painting. You know, I knew it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:14] Right. Right
Scott Langdon [00:21:15] I think that's what's inextricably connected to an image, whether it's something that you have seen, like a painting or one that comes into your memory, a visualization, is that it produces a feeling.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:30] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:21:31] So if you have an image of God in some way as a terrifying figure, that's going to be off putting because the feeling is off putting.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:42] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:21:43] An image is somebody who is is more attuned to an image of God as a comforter or a--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:52] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:21:52] We talked about the Old Testament God. You know, you talk about that in the book, where God talks to you about that Old Testament God. You ask him, you say- listen, you sound terrifying. And He said, yeah, that was me, I got to say, I was evolving.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:11] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:22:14] And for some people, that was hard to reconcile for me, was this loving, benign image of God and the Old Testament God who was, you know, seemed to be destructive and seemed to be you know, there was a lot of war and a lot of hard, difficult things that happened, and it was hard to reconcile those two images.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:33] Yes. But when we get to the prophets, who at first I dreaded, when I felt the guidance to read the prophets, go to the prophets. I thought, oh no, because they just are full of denunciation.
Scott Langdon [00:22:45] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:45] The people of Israel for going wrong. But as I read through it and pray about it, what God reveals to me is- oh, this is a love letter. And it's true if you pause and focus, He says, "Yeah, you poured after strange gods, but then how could you expect to come back to me after that, but well, I'll take you back. I'll take you in." And He says to the people of Israel, "Here I am," which is the classic, that's what Abraham said to God at the beginning. That's the language of a soldier reporting for duty. And God is reporting to duty to people in that moment of love. So it's a love letter, God says.
Scott Langdon [00:24:03] So as we go forward with the podcast and if you have any questions, if you have any comments you want to share your experiences, please feel free to email us at email@example.com. And Jerry, we've been talking about images today and the kind of images that you and I have both had that we, you know, kind of grew up with, and maybe they've changed. I know the images I have of God.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:26] Everyone has images. Everyone has images.
Scott Langdon [00:24:30] Yeah. So we'd love to invite you to share those images with us too. Do you have a story or a comment or a question about your images of God? Are they a barrier to your relationship maybe? Or are they something that has drawn you towards a search for God for a greater meaning? Images are so, so powerful, and we'd love to hear about yours.
Scott Langdon [00:25:06] 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.