"One is genuinely compromised by the necessities of action in an imperfect world, but that does not lessen its necessity."
GOD: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - The Podcast Ep41
Adapted for audio by
Scott Langdon & Jerry L. Martin
JLM (NARRATOR) ---- Jerry Martin
JERRY ---- A Human
GOD ---- A Mystery
Our every moment.
Scene 1 Somewhere. Now
I needed to pause and pull together what I had been told. I told the story in the first person, as if it were God speaking.
I started with Creation.
Out of a yawning silence, I wake up amidst an outward explosion, shake My head, as it were, to wake up. It's like throwing My arms and legs out millions of light-years in all directions, and I try to put order and calm into all this exploding stuff. And it seems I have the power to do so, and things get calmer.
I don't yet quite know that I am an I. Nothing is present to raise that question. I have a relation to the particles, but then life emerges, and I feel Myself growing, as if I have gone from being a machine, an ordered set of moving physical parts, to being an organism, a living, breathing, pulsating thing. I relate to the atoms, but much more to living things, nurturing them, enjoying them, "playing" with them, infusing them with a sense of purpose.
I become aware of teleology, something beyond just keeping everything running and in order. There is a drift to things, a sense of direction, in a sense inherent, but in another way outside, larger than any one thing, larger than all things combined.
I lead evolutionary life upward, so that creatures become more and more interesting, and interact with Me more substantially and intimately, and this is a delight to Me. At some point, I begin to discover in a self-conscious way that I am an I, a center of subjectivity, confronting things that, while in one way part of Me, in another way are not. They have an independence, and desires and purposes of their own.
Then human beings emerge, first protohumans, borderline humans--even they are fascinating and delightful and a huge step forward--and then humans as we know them. We look at each other eyeball-to-eyeball. I discover they are persons, and I am a Person.
The interaction is limited, first by a lack of language and of conceptual understanding. Yet they have a primitive sense of right and wrong, they have a spiritual side, they (some of them) listen to Me, they see Me in nature around them, and I draw them forward.
The story of Adam and Eve captures much of My early feelings about them--My envy--well, that was present even if it is not in the story--and My wanting playmates. I discovered that I cannot relate to human beings in that way.
First, they are not just my playthings--as a child first thinks of a pet--they are persons on their own and must live their lives themselves. Second, I am too powerful and too different for simple friendship to be possible. Moreover, while the discovery that I am a Person and what that entails is dramatic and important, I have a much larger task as orchestrator of the universe.
My experience as a source of cosmic order began at the beginning but was not a fully self-conscious role until human beings started noticing it--the Indian Rta, the Chinese Tao, the Greek Dike, the Egyptian Maat.
How does polytheism come in here? In a sense, it is a throwback to ways in which early humans responded to My presence in nature and in natural forces. That is appropriate, but it misses the whole. If that were the only way people responded to Me, I never would have developed into the kind of God I am. The Babylonians added a sense of hierarchy.
I grew in a different way through interacting with the Chinese, for whom the sense of cosmic order was so fine-tuned that it implied a right human attitude and action proper to each situation in natural and social reality.
I first taught this to the seers who cast the oracle bones. Everyone wanted to know things like "Will it rain?" but I taught them to ask a different question,
"What is the situation?" and "What is the action that befits a person like me in a situation like this?"
They were not focused on God as a Person, but on the natural order and what is fitting to it. Lao-Tzu saw that the proper inner attitude is the key. That allowed Me to rest inside a person with that attitude. We could relate to one another quite harmoniously, quietly, gently, undramatically. "Be still, and know that I am the Tao."
Confucius brought the same spirit to the understanding of social relationships. And so, I was able to actualize My nature as the social harmony within a group, as a kind of harmonic key or the center of gravity in a painting, a kind of action by inaction.
Buddha put a further addition on it: compassion. That is very central. Love is what holds the world together. I came to see that more and more. I am not just a source of cosmic order and of moral sensitivity. The heart, even of those, is love. They would be nothing without love and they are everything with it. Later Buddhist theologians added theoretical conundrums and dilemmas, but Buddha's message was simple and resonated with people.
At some point during the last paragraph or two, I felt it was no longer me doing the talking. It was the voice who was speaking. And I had a question.
Lord, I have been presenting this summary on Your behalf, speaking in the first person, but except for mythological figures, You have not interacted with people as God in the story so far.
That started with Abraham. It happened with others as well, but Abraham not only responded to Me as a Person but was also obedient. I had always urged people to do one thing or not do another, but Abraham was the first to take My urging to be an order, and to be an order that must be obeyed. Before that, the divine order had been a natural balance or harmony, a hierarchy or the like, or a mythological force for good or for punishment in a hazardous world. Now I was the source of imperative commands, and I knew that this was right. When I tell someone to do something, if he or she does not do it, he or she is not "right with God," and that entails that he or she is not right with the universe, with the cosmic order, or with himself or herself.
Moses was the same way, and understood that I am One God, and not just the God of his people, but of all peoples. Monotheism was a great step forward, not because polytheism is bad, but because monotheism expresses another aspect of Me, and people relating to Me in those terms – as the One God of the whole world – brought it out in Me as well. I could be their God and protect them to ensure the survival of this truth or insight, and so I gave them commandments, to a fault as they say, and made a covenant with them.
Not a "bloodless," emotionless act. By then, we had a history together. They were not only My instrument, but I had an emotional investment in them. I loved them. I love everybody, but it is not a bland, generic love; it is particular, and I had particular feelings and protectiveness for this people. And they often loved and obeyed Me. The history of ancient Israel is the history of the ups and downs of that relationship, and they succeeded in bringing the truth of monotheism and that God is a Person to the world.
Well, Jesus was obviously the device for bringing that message to a larger world. The message came across in a more intimate form and did not depend on being a member of the covenant to partake of it. People found it easier to relate to Jesus than to Me, and the idea that Jesus was Me brought to flesh helped to create that intimacy.
But his message was not that he was God, but it was a message of love. He is the western Buddha, and Buddha is the eastern Jesus.
Zoroaster first understood the complexity of My nature. In fact, he overdid it a bit. But he helped Me to see it as well. I am not blandly all-good. I am incomplete and developing. He was not unique in seeing this: look at the Greek gods, look at Indra, look at the harsh moments of the Old Testament God. He had a very direct revelation and articulated the insight with an absolute sharpness.
The world is not all good. It has a lot of misfortune and evil in it. And I am not all-good--or, as he put it, there are two gods, one good and one evil, contending with each other. I am not exactly contending against My evil side, but I am incomplete, and I am running up against My limitations and that sometimes leads to perverse consequences.
There was a value to the way Zoroaster put it. In the world, good does contend against evil, and evil against good. The world, he understood, is a battleground. And I am a party to those battles, and I need people to help Me.
From India, I learned another side of Myself. Long before LaoTzu had written about the inner attitude to the Tao, the seers who wrote the Upanishads had made a major discovery. They had succeeded in contacting Me through their inner selves. They had discovered the Self behind the self, and they had discovered--and I discovered, when they connected with Me in this way--that the Self behind the self, which they called the Atman, is Me, which they called the Brahman. "The Atman is the Brahman."
This was a revolutionary step in the human understanding of the divine reality, and it was a critical evolutionary step in My self-understanding. I had always whispered in man's inner ear. I had put thoughts in his (or her) mind, so that sometimes there was no difference between what a person was thinking and what I was "thinking in his (or her) mind." And I knew that, in a sense, I am everything. But I am not everything in the same sense. I am Atman in a special sense. It is a very special point of identity between Me and a human being.
I think the following is still God speaking.
And I began to see the implications. Not only man has a Self behind the self, the Atman, so do I. There is an Atman of God. Man's Atman is, in a special sense, identical with Me. My Atman is, in a special sense, identical with a God beyond God. Notice that the Atman is the person--do not multiply entities here. But I am God incarnated in this world. And I realized that I am not only incarnated in this world, I am reincarnated in it. I--or the God beyond God who is incarnated in Me--has reincarnated in many worlds. I came to realize this and, in dialogue with Indian seers, I came to understand the full implications.
For some reason, the next paragraph talks about God in the third person, but it is still not me speaking.
The structure of life's purpose became clearer. It is not just following God's plan, as it had been to the ancient Israelites; it has a karmic structure. God's plan always sounded as if it might well be arbitrary, especially if God is assumed to have free will and to be omnipotent and the court of last resort.
In fact, I was told on another occasion...
(By the way, this stuff about God's *absolute* freedom is for the birds. I don't have any more freedom than anyone else.)
But God's plan has its own internal structure and logic. Actions have consequences. They have consequences not only in this life, but also in one's lives to come. Why should they not? We are talking essentially about moral consequences, and since the self is the incarnated version of the Self that carries on to another time and life, then that Self carries the karmic consequences into the next life.
But the aim of many lives is not to work off karmic debts from previous lives, but to meet the challenges of a variety of lives. That helps the individual grow. It helps the world develop. It helps God to grow.
One of the things you have to remember is that time is not what you think it is. The closest you have come to understanding it is the concept of the simultaneity of times. That is not really accurate--for one thing, it conceptually depends on the concept of time it is supposed to replace--but it is a good way to begin to shake up the linear thinking.
But life is lived on this empirical plane, where there is a struggle. This is where I engage in the struggle as well, as The Thirteen Petalled Rose [by Kabbalist Adin Steinsaltz] explains.
This was hard for the Indian seers to understand. They took a wrong turn at karma. They grew heady over the experience of meditation, of direct contact with Me through the Atman-Brahman identity, and they lost sight of the ground beneath their feet. They started to deny the reality of things, to view the sole purpose of life as being escape from it.
In the process, they developed many valuable doctrines, including nonattachment. But they needed to be brought down to earth. I kept sending this message to them but they had trouble accepting it. Enough heard that it is reflected in the Mahabharata. Pure saintliness gets Yudi in trouble. Portrayed there are the dilemmas of action. They apply to Me just as much as they did to Yudi. One is genuinely compromised by the necessities of action, but that does not lessen its necessity. Managing that is one of the tasks of human and divine life.
That's the basic story.