GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast

EPISODE TWENTY-SEVEN: Where God teaches me how human effort completes creation

May 11, 2021 Jerry L. Martin Season 2 Episode 12
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
EPISODE TWENTY-SEVEN: Where God teaches me how human effort completes creation
Show Notes Transcript

"There is a deeper meaning here that relates to why there is suffering."

Season Two - Episode Twenty Seven

 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

   



JLM

"Episode Twenty-Seven

JLM

The Lord Wisdom knew what the outcome would be. The Hostile Spirit did not.

Nevertheless, the Lord Wisdom generously offered peace. "Evil Spirit! Aid my creatures, and give praise, so that in recompense for that you may be immortal." To which, the Hostile Spirit snarled, "I shall not aid your creatures and I shall not give praise, but shall destroy you and your creatures for ever and ever. And I shall persuade all your creatures to hate you and to love me.

The Lord Wisdom knew that a battle would have to be fought. Otherwise, the Hostile Spirit would make perpetual strife "and a state of mixture [of good and evil] for my creatures. And in the Mixture he will be able to lead my creatures astray and make them his own."

Once the Evil Spirit agreed to fight, the Lord Wisdom revealed the final outcome: "His own final victory, and the powerlessness of the Evil Spirit, and the destruction of the devils, and also the resurrection of the future body, and the freedom of creation from the Assault for ever and ever."

JERRY

Lord, it also led to the idea of a final judgment and hence of reward and punishment.

GOD

All inapt. Judgment occurs at every moment, and it is internal to the situation, not external. In other words, if one does wrong, one by that fact suffers wrongness--it does not have to be pronounced by a divine judge, then or later. And it has its reward intrinsic to it. It is crummy to be a bad person. No good person would want that.

The trick of evil is to convince the person, or for the person to convince himself or herself, that he or she can do this bad thing without becoming bad--like an alcoholic who thinks he or she can have just one drink, or that a little cheating is okay, or that since everybody takes bribes, that is just how business is done here.

JERRY

Were the Holy Immortals 'brought into existence for this one end, namely the utter defeat of evil,' as Boyce says?

GOD

No, that is incorrect, even on its face. Good Purpose is not just about battling evil, it is about telos, direction, fulfillment, development. There is more to life and to the universe than just battling evil. Victory over evil in particular circumstances is the precondition of other fulfillments, but they have their own telos and role in the scheme of things. Love, beauty, and so forth are positive goods and actualize creation. They would still need to be done, to be pursued, even if there were no evil.

JLM

The ancient Pahlavi version has a fascinating twist on the creation myth. First the Lord Wisdom brought all things into being in a disembodied state, called in Pahlavi "menog," that is, spiritual or immaterial. Then he gave it material or "getig" existence. This gives things substantial and sentient form. The second step, Boyce explains, sets the "field for the battle with evil" since the world is now "vulnerable to assault." The Evil Spirit immediately attacks.

GOD

This is an accurate communication. The idea of a thing must come before the thing. There is a sense in which, as Plato saw, the prototypes exist first and then come into three- or four-dimensional being. You can say they exist in the mind of God if you like, but you see that that way of speaking does not fit naturally with the "self-created" nature of God--that is, we all come into being together--and, before that, the God of this world, namely Me, was not sitting around with ideas in His mind. It is more accurate if it refers to the God beyond God, which of course is also Me, but not the Me existent in this world. What the God beyond God is, is not easy to describe, but we can come back to that at some point, since it involves a whole story.

But you might say that the idea or potential for all things resides in the God beyond God "beforehand" or in another dimension. It is true that, in that mode or dimension, evil cannot strike. There is no evil in the "world" of the God beyond God. But there is no fight with evil, no goodness, no beauty, no virtues either. It is quite a different enterprise.

The main point of the contrast is not to focus on how things existed before material creation but how they exist in this world and for what purpose. As you sense, there is a big story here--the sheer need for "friction," for grit, for traction, for obstacles for spirit to grow and develop, but also to fulfill goods that cannot be fulfilled only in the mind's eye. 

Why does the artist, who may have already envisioned the final result, have to make it in material? Why does the composer have to have an imperfect orchestra actually play the perfect symphony he hears in his head? Why does the mathematician want to write down his equations? There is a deep truth here about the nature of reality. 

Reality wants to be embodied. In this respect, philosophical traditions that derive from Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus get it wrong. The material object does not "fall beneath" the "perfect" form; it actualizes it. The form may be "perfect," but like Kant's (imaginary) one hundred thalers (dollars), it doesn't exist! 

Or, if you want to say it exists in some sense, it doesn't exist in the sense that counts. It is not in the world; it is not instantiated; it has no instances. So it should not be hard to understand that.

But there is a deeper meaning here that also relates to why there is suffering. To be fully real, a thing has to exist in material form. We are not talking about materialism versus spiritual reality in this context, but simply existence in this world. That material existence does subject it to limitations--hence the sense of a "fall from grace"--which includes erosion, destruction, and in more complex forms, disease, dysfunction, and in human beings, death, suffering, and evil.

This may or may not be the best of all possible worlds, as Leibniz thought, but any possible world--that is, any world that can be actual--must have death, suffering, and evil. Those are conditions of its being real. 

Do not get off into ideas like the omnipotence of God--those are inventions, logical devices that confuse rather than clarify. They are simply not apt. In other words it’s not helpful to say either that God is omnipotent or that his power is limited. Those contrasts do not apply meaningfully or aptly in this context.

JLM

According to the ancient scriptures, the creation of the world occurs during the course of a sacrifice that the Lord Wisdom is conducting. 

During the sacrifice he actually consults with human beings or, more precisely, their fravahrs, their inner selves or souls. First he gives them "the wisdom of all knowledge," and then he lets them decide. They can either stay in their ideal nonmaterial existence until the battle is over or go into the material world now, risking all in order to defeat evil. They choose to fight.


GOD

Yes, this world, this plane of existence, is a battleground. That is not all it is. Do not make the mistake of reducing all human life to one long moral struggle. That is a feature of all existence, but it is not the totality of it.


JERRY

What is the rest?


GOD

Well, that is too long to recount. But start with love. The world is also pervaded by love, from the physical level on up. It is pervaded by beauty, by rational order, by purpose, by many other things. Evil attacks these things, but it is not going to win.

  

(Music)

 

CHAPTER 36

 

JERRY

Lord, I don't see how Your story develops.


GOD

Let Me tell you how it is from My side. All these things are happening simultaneously. The Chinese are casting oracle bones and I am communicating with them. At the same time I am instilling in those who are receptive the truth of Heaven, of their membership in a cosmos, an ordered natural reality.


JERRY

With which they must be in tune . . .


GOD

Yes. At the same time, I am presenting a very different vision to Zoroaster. I am revealing the two sides of My nature, presented as two forces contending. This is not as evil as it sounds. The negative side is mainly the side of incompleteness that motivates the whole story.

The Old Testament story is, in a sense, an answer to Zoroaster. It brings out the developmental side. The Old Testament narrative is the story of My development.


JERRY

So You are developing through all this?

 

GOD

Yes, good question: What is the impact of all this on My development? 

Isn't it clear? Relating to man harmoniously—in My presence to the Chinese—actualizes the harmonious in Me. I "satisfy" the recognized order--like being an aesthetic object that has to be seen by a sensitive observer to come into its own.

The revelation to Zoroaster is a self-disclosure that involves a self-discovery. I articulate much more clearly My own divided nature-- the orderly part and the disorderly part. And that clear separateness is the first step to overcoming it. It points the way to overcoming it.


(Music)

 

JLM

I had thought the idea of a divided or incomplete God was alien to the Judeo-Christian tradition until I read Jewish scholar Jon Levenson's Creation and the Persistence of Evil. It is an arresting account of a central theme in the Hebrew Testament that one does not readily notice: the ongoing struggle for order to triumph over chaos. Chaos is symbolized by images related to water--oceans, floods, and sea-monsters such as Leviathan. The opening of Genesis in which the waters are separated from the earth is an essential step in the creation of divine order.

Levenson explains that God's task is the "confinement" of chaos, not its elimination. Chaos, symbolized by unruly waters, remains a constant threat and "the survival of ordered reality hangs only upon God's vigilance in ensuring that those cosmic dikes do not fail." That vigilance is assured by God's covenant with humankind in Genesis 9 never to flood the world again. In fact, it was not so much God who decided to flood the world as it was evil that opened the dikes.


GOD

Yes!


JLM

The world, Levenson explains, "is inherently unsafe." "Creation endures because God has pledged in an eternal covenant that it shall endure and because he has, also in an eternal covenant, compelled the obeisance of the great adversary." Thus the world contains an "ancient and enduring opposition to the full realization of God's mastery," which is destined to be eliminated in the end. There is both an "optimistic element in this theology, which is the faith in God's ultimate triumph," and a "pessimistic element, which is the tacit acknowledgment that God is not yet God."

This was just what I had been told: God develops--comes into His fullness as God--only over time and only through interaction with human beings and other elements of creation.

"Our cup of salvation will indeed run over, but it is now only half full--and half empty," explains Levenson. "Life is a continual war against the Evil Impulse, a war that does not see a definitive victory in present reality, but in which battles can be won." The Evil Impulse--the unruly erotic, darker, aggressive side of our nature--is an "innate impediment to reality as God, the potentially omnipotent, wishes it to be." In one midrash, a Rabbinic elaboration on the Bible, "the projection [of the Evil Impulse] goes as far as the inner being of God himself."


GOD

Yes.


JLM

"This is a theology with absolute faith in God's ultimate goodness," Levenson says, "but a rather qualified faith in his proximate goodness." Nevertheless, that ultimate triumph of God's goodness is in some ways present today: "The partial present availability of eschatological [final] reality is . . ."


GOD

Yes.


JLM

". . . in various ways and degrees, a conviction characteristic of many communities in the spectrum of ancient Judaic culture--Qumranian, Rabbinic, early Christian, and perhaps others."

Specifically, Levenson says, it is "in moments of obedience to God's commandments, that the ultimately real becomes available in the present order."


GOD

Yes.


JLM

Levinson concludes:

"It is in those elusive but ever available moments that the deeply flawed present is forced to yield to the perfect future. And it is in this idea of a multileveled act of unification--unification in God, in creation, and in the human self--that we find the deep root of the profound theology of the mitzvah (good deed)as a theurgic (activation of the Divine) which flowers a millennium later in Spanish Qabbalah [Kabbalah]. It is the mitzvah that effects integrity throughout all tiers of reality and enables the life-enhancing divine energy to flow freely and without inhibitions."


JERRY

Then, Lord, human effort completes creation, understood as God's order and sovereignty?


GOD

Yes


JLM

I had come across a similar idea about mitzvot (the plural of mitzvah) in The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Adin Steinsaltz, the greatest living Kabbalist, and had been told, 


GOD

"Mitzvot are central. They construct the world."


JERRY

Lord, is it true that a mitzvah is a 'spiritual act, sacred in itself'?


GOD

Yes, they are sacred points of God shining through.

 

JLM

So the Old Testament can be seen as a response to Zoroaster's vision of "twin" gods, one good and one evil. Instead, it presents one God who is contending against evil, including His own incompleteness, and defeating it with our help, not only in the end-time but right now.

Zoroaster was just one offshoot of the Old Religion. The other was carried by invaders across the Khyber Pass into India.

 

(Music)