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

EPISODE THIRTY-ONE: Where God explains the what, why, and wherefore of past and future lives

June 09, 2021 Jerry L. Martin Season 2 Episode 16
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
EPISODE THIRTY-ONE: Where God explains the what, why, and wherefore of past and future lives
Show Notes Transcript

"Every action has consequences, and these play out over more than a single lifetime."

 GOD: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - The Podcast Ep31 

 CHARACTERS

 

JLM (NARRATOR)              ----  Jerry Martin

JERRY                       ----  Jerry, a human

GOD                         ----  A mystery


JLM

Early in my adventure with God, Abigail and I were vacationing in Maine, staying in a cottage by the bay, a quiet place for reading and reflection. I felt that God wanted to tell me something, so I got very still. But nothing came. However, after a time, I was guided to look at the first page of the book I had brought, Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Describing how a dream, at first clearly remembered, fades into incoherence, Proust comments, "Then it would begin to seem unintelligible, as the thoughts of a previous existence must be after reincarnation."

This should be explored, I thought. I always like to trace an idea to its source. The first mention of reincarnation I could find was in the Upanishads. The seer Yajnavalkya (the same guy who won all the cows) explains, "As a caterpillar, having come to the end of one blade of grass, draws itself together and reaches out for the next, so the Self, having come to the end of one life and dispelled all ignorance, gathers in his faculties and reaches out from the old body to a new."

I had never been attracted to the idea of coming back as somebody else. What could that person possibly be to me? But my disliking an idea didn't prevent it from being true, so I asked, 

JERRY

Lord, is reincarnation true?

GOD

Yes. And it was part of My revelation to the people of Israel, not just India. 

I say this to reassure you. Reincarnation is not incompatible with anything in the Bible. 

JERRY

But, Lord, why is there reincarnation?  What is its point?

GOD

Be still a minute.

JLM

I quieted myself.

JERRY

Lord, I get an image of cleansing.

GOD

Yes, that's right. It's like dipping something into a cleaning fluid, rinsing, and repeating. Or like dipping a wick in tallow over and over to make a candle. Or firing steel several times.

JERRY

So it is a way to improve the soul, maybe to purify it?

GOD

Each life meets a new kind of test, and that is a reason for many lives.

Each life needs to be purified, sanctified, made more a part of Me. Each life is faced with a struggle to do this. The struggle is carried on through successive lives.

JERRY

And our personal selves, are they carried on too?

GOD

Yes, though they differ from one time to the next.

JERRY

Is the series of lives cumulative or sequential or progressive?

GOD

Cumulative--in the sense that the previous "dips" add up--but not sequential in the sense of first base before second base.

JERRY

Therefore, not progressive?

GOD

Progressive in the sense of cumulative, not in the sense of moving up a ladder of success.

JERRY

Well, what I'm getting at is whether you move from a low-life, even subhuman, to a higher life, a Brahmin or king or something like that?

GOD

No, you don't. So it is not right to say that, if you are poor or sickly or low-born, it is a punishment for a past life.

JERRY

So the doctrine of karma is wrong?

GOD

Not entirely. Whether you succeeded in a previous life determines both how purified you have been and whether you have "punched that particular ticket."

JERRY

If you are getting purer, how could you could be a saint in one life and come back as a pirate?

GOD

Your soul is purer even if you are now a pirate or hot-tempered or weak-willed. In other words, you will not be able to tell in this life, at least from those traits, how purified you have become.

JERRY

Now I am also puzzled whether there is one Atman or many.

GOD

Many, so it might be better to talk about your Soul in caps -- the Soul with a capital S behind the soul with a small S.

JLM

So Jill's Atman or Soul is not the same as Jack's. We each have our own Soul.

GOD

Ask about karma.

JERRY

Now I understand karma as less a matter of making up for past wrongs and more a matter of which challenges a person needs next.

GOD

No, that is not right! Karma is a matter of "righting the balance" after the imbalances of your previous life. Remember I have told you: Don't feel guilt, just note the consequences.

Every action has consequences, and these play out over more than a single lifetime.

JERRY

And they result in unpaid balances on wrongs that have to be righted in the next life?

GOD

Yes, but the correct concept is less a matter of good and evil, right and wrong, less moralistic, and more like, "these are the consequences."

JERRY

Like the Newtonian law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?

GOD

Yes.

JERRY

How does this relate to dharma?

GOD

Dharma is the balance within a life.

JERRY

Relative to one's social roles?

GOD

That part was overdone because of Hindu social structure. It is balance in all respects, including the emotional harmonies within the individual, the relation between one's past conduct and one's present attitudes, one's relations to others . . .

JERRY

And to nature?

GOD

Yes.

JERRY

And to You?

GOD

Of course.

JERRY

Are You striving for balance too?

GOD

Yes. My job is to orchestrate the whole. You - people - can help or hinder that effort.

JLM

About this time, I was stricken with a serious pneumonia which, with repeated relapses, lasted for the greater part of a year. When I returned to prayer, I had lost the thread.

JERRY

Lord, I don't recall where we left off. There seem to be several ideas, related to one another, all a bit unclear to me: First, the Atman is the Brahman . . .

GOD

Stop there. I have told you before that these human notions of identity and nonidentity, sameness and difference, are inadequate. That is why I always say, "I am you and you are Me, in a sense." We have not paused to explicate that sense, and it would not be productive to do so.

JERRY

Lord, it is still not clear what is reincarnated. I could say the soul or self or 'essence of who you are,' but these are just labels for the mystery. 

The problem begins with the fact that, in the ordinary sense of person, the reincarnated person, Jerry 2, is a different person from the source-person, Jerry 1. They lived at different times, spoke different languages, had different occupations, personalities, and tastes, and they share no memories. So if I am Jerry 1, what is Jerry 2 to me and vice versa?

GOD

You know the answer already. The Atman or Soul of Jerry 1 and Jerry 2 are the same. And I have told you that the Atman, while it lacks many of your personal characteristics, is not just a generic self. It is distinctively you and has a history as you and a concern for you. Think of an actor going from role to role.

JERRY

So the Self is to each reincarnated self as an actor is to each role he or she might play.

GOD

Yes.  

JERRY

Does my Atman or Soul have a continuous awareness, as the actress does, and remember the various roles or reincarnations?

GOD

Well, remember that time is not what you think it is, and so "memory" is not exactly apt, but awareness is. And the answer is yes, it does.

JERRY

Thinking about things that You've said, it sounds as if time may be like a long novel such as a family saga. The story is clearly chronological--the grandmother comes before the granddaughter. But the reader stands outside the chronology internal to the book and can open it in the middle or toward the end.

GOD

Yes, that is apt if you don't try to build anything too literal from the analogy.

JERRY

In a movie, a woman steps into a mirror and finds herself in a different period of history. Theoretically, she could step into or observe any time.

GOD

That’s an okay analogy.

JERRY

One might call it “the simultaneity of times."

GOD

Okay.

GOD

The key to karma is dharma. Dharma is your duty in your situation.

JERRY

Lord, is this You talking or me?

GOD

It's Me. Your duty in your situation is your assignment in this life.

JERRY

So your duty follows from your assignment?

GOD

Yes.

JERRY

What if you fail?

GOD

You come back again.

JERRY

You mean otherwise you don't?

GOD

No, that’s not the point. The point is that your task is unfulfilled. It still has to be done in the next life, though it may take a new form.

JERRY

Do You mean if you fail in courage in this life, courage will be a key part of your assignment in the next life?

GOD

Something like that.

JERRY

How long do you keep reincarnating?

GOD

Forever. I know that’s disturbing to your beginning-to-end mentality, but that mentality is a very narrow view of reality. When you understand time better, it won't be so disturbing.

JERRY

And between lives you review how you did?

GOD

As I explained before, that view of time is inadequate. There is no "between" lives. You--your Atman--is viewing your life all along.

JERRY

Surely there must be some way of gaining lessons.

GOD

The lessons are through the living itself, and they are not a means to an end. The living, the fighting, the doing of your duty, your work with Me, is (you might say) an end in itself--though the means-ends dichotomies are not very helpful.

JERRY

So you learn the lessons of life simultaneously with living that life. Is this related to the simultaneity of times, like a book you can step into at any point in the plot?

GOD

Yes, that's fine. It is all in a sense "seen" "at once," but that does not mean that time in the sense of one thing happening first and then another thing is "unreal." It is perfectly real and adequate as an understanding, but it is not the whole picture.

JERRY

And I gather that outside this world or plane of existence, it is not applicable.

GOD

That's right.

JERRY

And that means that the lives would not really be in a sequence?

GOD

The lives are in a kind of sequence--though that's not the final frame of reference.

JERRY

If the lives are in a kind of sequence, then is there progress or retrogression or cumulative learning through successive lives?

GOD

No, no, and yes. You are not moving forward or backward, but you are learning, adding to your store of wisdom.

JERRY

So it is not that Jerry Martin now knows more than his earlier incarnation but less than a later one. It is that the Atman, which is continuous across lives (and perhaps even outside our time system), is learning.

GOD

Yes, that is correct.

JERRY

Are we adding to our sum of achievements as well as of wisdom? You have said that our tasks are not just tests. They are work that really needs to be done, that You need to have done.

GOD

This is a complicated subject, but yes, I have work for you to do and it has to be done, and I need help to do it and you can help Me. You enter the world to take on necessary tasks.

JERRY

It sounds like the first missions given to rookie soldiers, which need to be done but also provide valuable training. In fact, it reminds me of the quests mythical heroes are given.

GOD

Yes, the latter is especially apt.

JERRY

So life is a quest.

GOD

Let's not get overly literal. It's just a metaphor.

JERRY

But an apt one?

GOD

Yes.

JLM

Discussing reincarnation in his book, Philosophies of India, Heinrich Zimmer writes, "It is by doing things that one becomes transformed. . . . Actually living through, to the very limit, a particular role, one comes to realize the truth inherent in the role. Suffering its consequences, one fathoms and exhausts its contents. Knowledge is to be attained, in other words, not through inaction . . . but through a bold and advertent living of life."

Whether virtuous or criminal, human or animal, one is to live one's life fully, to its absolute limit, "until there is finally no space left within him for any darker, inauspicious karmic force."

GOD

That is right. Each life must be lived to the fullest. Each is an exploration, an experiment.

JERRY

Each life has a truth and has limits?

GOD

Yes, and they can be discovered only by living them out.

JERRY

For the individual or for humankind?

GOD

Both. The individual must test these through many lives; that also enriches and educates the total spiritual life of a culture and of humanity.

This is also the secret of the diversity of cultures, and the diversity of revelations. The multiplicity of cultures is not just a conditioning or limiting factor on revelations--it is itself a necessary diversity for human beings to experience the range of lives, the range of "truths."

JERRY

I assume this applies also to the varieties of spiritual guidance. Some advise the inactive or quiet life of withdrawal from the world, others active lives of various kinds.

GOD

Yes, the "inactive" life is one of the lives that must be explored and has truth--and limits.

JERRY

How does this relate to Your story, Lord?

GOD

My story is that I live in and through each of these stories, these individual lives. I am intimately connected with them, as a helper, as a vicarious partner. My own "fate" or "day" waxes or wanes with each individual setback or triumph. This is not just the drama of individuals' lives; it is the drama of My life as well. It is the big drama of it all.

JERRY

Zimmer speaks of the truth inherent in each role or life.

GOD

Yes, every role or life task or mission has a truth and has a falsity, in the sense of limitations. "Truth" here is elliptical for its own inner meaning or sense, its distinctive thrust, just as each work of music or poetry, or each athletic event, has its own mission, obstacles, keys to success, tendencies to failure, to overreaching or under-reaching, facing or failing to face the truth of that mission. Succeed or fail, one learns something, and the universe learns something. Another piece of the puzzle is put in place. Like marking off towns you have visited on a trip, another life possibility can be checked off, but more than that, it is added to the ontological quotient or quantum of the universe, of all Being.

JERRY

So each life explores a certain truth?

GOD

The word truth is appropriate here because there is a truth about the situation in each life. And part of the challenge, almost the whole challenge, is to recognize that truth for what it is, to face it, pleasant or unpleasant. It may be the truth of being the child of an alcoholic or of being retarded or disfigured or a weakling or of having this or that temperament, intelligence or set of aptitudes and physical features. One has to face it front on and deal with it. If you succeed, the world moves forward. I move forward.

JERRY 

So, Lord, in a sense, everything depends on us?

GOD

Individuals do not do this alone. I am with them whether they know it or not. I am deeply involved and deeply concerned. I help when called upon and, as best I can, when not called upon.

I live through each individual life--inspiring, guiding, being blocked, whispering, coaching, feeling joy, and suffering.

JERRY

So one dimension of Your story is the personal co-partnering.

GOD

Not just one dimension--the crucial dimension.