Jerry Martin’s Daybook

Having family roots in Tennessee and Texas, I have always felt the weight of what C. Vann Woodward called “the burden of Southern history” and what Katherine Anne Porter saw as “the never-ending wrong.”  I have on my wall a portrait of my great-great-grandfather, known as “Squire” Martin, the leading man of a county in Tennessee, west of Nashville, near the Kentucky border.  He died in the prime of life the first year of the Civil War, and left a sickly son, who went off to Vanderbilt medical school to find a cure.  Squire Martin has a handsome face suggestive of firm and benign character.  Yet he was a slave-owner, with a modest plantation, really just a farm with a small house made of bricks made from clay found on the property.  He is buried in a family plot there, overrun with weeds.  He was said to have been a kind master and, my father recalls seeing old “Doc” Martin reunited with a former slave, his playmate in childhood, the two hugging one another like long-lost buddies.

A kind master?  On a recent trip, I read Frederick Douglass’s early memoir, written when he was only in his late twenties, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself.  In the stark prose of a self-taught escaped slave, it is a gripping story steeped in an unmitigated hatred of slavery.  Young Douglass had bad masters and good.  The good ones punished – which means whipped – but they did not enjoy the cruelty.  His best master – or, in this case, mistress – was a young widow in Baltimore to whom he was given as a house servant.  She was new to the role of an owner and smiled at the boy with a benign glow.  This amazed him since he had never seen any white person look upon a black person that way.   But, as she learned to be a slave-master, she lost her gentleness, becoming mean and heavy-hearted.  Slavery had stolen not only his happiness but hers as well.

Young Douglass secretly taught himself to read and to write.  It was forbidden to teach a slave even the alphabet, but he invented a game to play with a white boy, over who could form letters better.  The white boy always won, of course, but, by imitating him, Douglass himself learned to write.

Finally, Douglass formed a daring escape plan, and got a few other slaves to join him.  He did not know anything about the nation’s geography except the idea that north was where freedom could be found.  But, when he got to Philadelphia, he discovered that an escaped slave was still not safe.  He could be turned in for a reward, perhaps as little as 25 cents, and sent back.  Douglass made his way to New England, where the strong anti-slavery sentiment gave him protection.  He worked for pay, and worked hard, and did not mind any form of work, however toilsome, because it was freely chosen and compensated.  He started attending abolitionist meetings and was invited to relate his experiences.  At first, he found it completely unnatural to speak his mind to white people but, as he got over this reticence that was protective in slavery, the words came to him, and they came and they came.  William Lloyd Garrison heard him and got him to write his story.  The book sold thousands of copies here and in England and provided a mighty force against slavery.

Looking back at Squire Martin, the “good” master, while I do not condemn him in personal terms — he probably was a man of integrity and decency, living well the role time and circumstance had given him – I notice that what kinds of goodness we can develop, just like what kind of intellectual tasks or interpersonal skills we can achieve, are empowered and shaped – and therefore limited by — by the conditions of life we find ourselves in.  This is not an excuse.   Some individuals rise heroically above their circumstances in spite all, and that is what we should all aspire to do.

Impoverished by the war, “Doc” Martin ended up a country doctor in West Texas, accepting as pay canned okra and hominy.  His children picked cotton and lived in a cleaned-out chicken coop.  All honest labor, without the moral stain of the South’s “peculiar institution.”  No longer masters, they were better off.


Read further Daybook entries – Click Here


Theology Without Walls – The Transreligious Imperative

God’s autobiography is mainly the story of divine interaction with people and with messages given over time to different cultures. Toward the end of God: An Autobiography, I am told that we stand on the “threshold of a new spiritual era, a new axial age, in which spiritually attuned individuals will draw their understanding of spiritual reality, not just from the scriptures of their own religious tradition, but from the plentitude of My communications with men and women.” Each religion got part of the story. It was now time to put the parts together.

I was told to start a new project, called Theology Without Walls. So I started attending the American Academy of Religion, and in 2014 held the first panel for the new TWW project. I did not mention to my new colleagues what I had been told in prayer. I presented the project on its own merits. The argument for it can be stated in a simple syllogism. If the aim of theology is to know all we can about the divine or ultimate reality, and if insights into that reality are found in more than one religion, then theology needs to take in all the evidence and not be confined to our own tradition. It should be Theology Without Walls. The project attracted considerable interest, including from leading theologians, and the result is a volume of twenty-one essays by outstanding thinkers that has just been published: Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative (Routledge, 2019). Since I am a philosopher, not a theologian, and since I did not even know any theologians or as a life-long agnostic, much about religion, it seems little short of miraculous that Theology Without Walls has succeeded to so sublime a degree. All I had to do was whatever God told me. That was all.



New Video Series – “What’s Your Spiritual Autobiography?”

I am happy to announce a new series of videos.  As I have met readers of God: An Autobiography, I have found them to be fascinating people, each with his or her own spiritual story.  I have started to interview them online.  The series is called, “What’s Your Spiritual Autobiography?”  Our lives are more amazing than we realize!  I hope you find these stories as interesting and inspiring as I do.
My Reader Series continues with my interview with Jonathan Weidenbaum.  Jon is a brilliant philosopher and an engaging teacher of philosophy who also travels the world visiting it’s holy places both east and west. He wrote a penetrating review of God an Autobiography for the online academic journal – Reading Religion.


My Reader Series continues with my interview with Rosemarie Proctor. Rosemarie has lived a life of love, loss, of spiritual denial and of spiritual discovery.


My Reader Series continues with my interview with Joel Weiner.  Joel is a life long businessman who was called into the leadership of his local Jewish congregation and found himself not only responsible for finances but for giving some sense of direction for the spiritual quest of the congregation.


My Reader Series continues with my interview with Ray Silverman. Ray is a professor of Religion and English at Bryn Athyn College. He and his wife Star are the authors of an outstanding book of ethical reflections based on the Ten Commandments.


Readers of God An Autobiography are fascinating people. Take Matt Cardin for example . . . Matt is a writer of eerie fiction the kind that explores the twilight zones of life. He had never posted an interview on amazon until he read God an Autobiography. . .


My readers are amazing people. . . Mark Groleau is a theologian, community activist and honest seeker. To him, living more as Jesus did is more important than fixed doctrines. Shortly after God an Autobiography came out Mark interviewed me for his Wikigod podcast. Here the tables are turned. . . in this searching discussion I ask Mark where his life and spiritual journey are taking him today.


“Sparks” from God An Autobiography . . .

Enjoy flash insights (Sparks!) from God . . .

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New Video – How To Pray

Author Jerry L. Martin, whose prayers God often answers in words, explains how he prays and gives tips to newcomers to prayer.


God Centered Prayer



Jerry L. Martin discusses the importance of God centered vs. me centered prayer and guides you through steps to connect with God.

“Can You tell me about Your pain, Lord?”

It is not only we who suffer.  I sensed that God does too.

“Can You tell me about Your pain, Lord?”

It was as if I heard a deep moan of anguish, loneliness, despair, misery, hopelessness.

“Are those things you feel, Lord?”


“Are they caused by humankind?”


“Is it difficult to love us if we cause you such pain?”

No, not for Me.  Even when human beings most disappoint, they are infinitely love-worthy.

It will guide you to righteousness.


Step through the door love has opened?  The woman I loved was both very spiritual and very Jewish.  Does it mean that I should convert to Judaism—something I had zero interest in doing?  I asked, warily, “Lord, should I become Jewish?”

You already are Jewish.

Already Jewish?  I am not at all Jewish.  The little Texas town where I was born didn’t have any Jews.

“Lord, what do You mean?”

Think about it.

Even more warily, I asked, “Does it mean I have to be circumcised?”


“Does it mean that my religious orientation is more Jewish than Christian or any other faith?”  Certainly the God who spoke to me seemed a lot like the God of the Old Testament.


“Does it mean that I understand, using a phrase of Abigail’s, the Jewish essence?”

It means you are open to the Jewish spirit.  It lives in you, and you sometimes listen to it.  It is a source of great guidance, inspiration to you.  The center of your being is grounded in it.  It pleases me greatly that you honor the Hebrew scriptures.  They are My word—and they contain the record of many of My dealings with men (people).  Continue to study the Torah.

The Torah, the first five books of the Bible, is also called the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses.

It will guide you to righteousness.  Do not falter or be deterred or distracted.  My word is with you.  Make the most of it.

“I will try, Lord.”




The Edge of Infinity

I had read Martin Buber’s I and Thou when I was a college freshman and had not looked at it since then. But, when I fell in love and realized that she loved me back, the opening words of Part Three came back to me: “The extended lines of relations meet in the Eternal Thou.” Love between human beings has a trajectory toward the divine.

That recollection rekindled my interest in Buber. Returning from New York, where Abigail still taught, I started reading Maurice Friedman’s highly-praised biography. Buber’s philosophical awakening occurred during adolescence, prompted by “the fourteen-year-old’s terror before the infinity of the universe.” Buber wrote, “A necessity I could not understand swept over me: I had to try again and again to imagine the edge of space, or its edgelessness, time with a beginning and an end or a time without beginning or end, and both were equally impossible, equally hopeless … Under an irresistible compulsion I reeled from one to the other, at times so closely threatened with the danger of madness that I seriously thought of avoiding it by suicide.”

I stopped reading for a moment and, as the train rumbled on, I pondered the “edge of infinity.” I was taken over by a powerful image, visual and visceral. I felt and saw space at its edges, rushing, expanding outward, unfurling itself with vast force and at almost instantaneous speed, without stop, neither a completed infinity nor merely finite. The vision had a tremendous feeling of life-force, of Being unfurled, bursting forth at reckless speed.

Buber was saved from the brink of suicide by reading Immanuel Kant. Unsolvable questions arise, Kant argues, from trying to reason about space and time as if they were characteristics of reality in itself. They are really just forms of our experience, he says, or, as a Kantian might put it today, features of our scientific paradigms or theoretical frames. This reassuring view gave Buber “philosophical peace.”

There now came to Buber “an intuition of eternity,” not as endless time, but as “Being as such.” I moved deeply into myself to get some sense of what this might mean. I felt a great rushing, gushing, like a geyser, welling up inside me and rising up through all tiers of reality, an energy or life-force, creative and growing, but more basic and undifferentiated than these terms suggest, as if it were the very Being of these forces, running through the whole of reality. It rushed, expanded, created, grew not just outwardly but in a vertical dimension as well, from the primordial base up to the creative spiritual edge. It was, in some sense, erotic energy from bottom to top, with no level, not even the most elemental, ever eclipsed. The vision ended. I slumped back, breathing hard.

I wondered what it could mean for Being as such to be a Person, a Thou, as surely, from my own experience, God is. Then it struck me that this rushing Stuff, this force of Being, is also the being of me. And I am a person. So why shouldn’t the rushing Stuff, the Being of—of what?—the World, of Being itself, be a Person writ large? I don’t mean the World merely in a physical sense, since my own being is not merely that of my body. Similarly, the Being that animates everything could be a Person.

Looking out the window at the passing trees, it struck me that their very leaves are full of Being as such, the Being that is also a Person, and that it made sense for them to be a Thou for me. And, more remarkably, for me to be a Thou for them. I felt that Being facing Being, not necessarily speaking but simply facing, is what personhood is.

I slumped back again and put the book aside. Later, I read on for several pages. I was struck by how many thoughts that I had received had also occurred to Buber. He entered a Nietzschean phase with an emphasis on “dynamism” and “a creative flow of life force.” Later Buber thought eternity “sends forth time out of itself” and “sets us in that relationship to it that we call existence.” To achieve wholeness as a person, he said, it is necessary to direct the creative force of the Evil Urge, the erotic energy that I had felt to be at the center of Being itself.

I reached Washington and returned to my apartment in Alexandria, then resumed reading. I had left off with Buber speaking of the quality of “fervor with direction, all the awesome power of the ‘evil urge’ taken up into the service of God, [seventeenth-century visionary theologian Jakob] Boehme’s ‘ternary of fire’ [symbolizing desire] spiraling upward into the ‘ternary of light’ [symbolizing love] without losing any of its power thereby.” This was “one of the truly decisive moments in Buber’s life”: “overpowered in an instant, I experienced the Hasidic soul,” he writes. “At the same time I became aware of the summons to proclaim it to the world.” I knew how he felt.

“I want you to enter My heart”

It all seemed intolerably bizarre. I thought I should talk it over with the wisest people I knew. One, a distinguished medical ethicist, responded, “First of all, this is not weird.” Nothing he could have said would have been a greater relief to me! Another, a well-known author, said, first, “That’s great—now you know there is a God,” and then added, “You have had a Kierkegaard moment,” recalling that philosopher’s question, “If you encountered Jesus on the streets of Copenhagen, would you follow him?” A prominent lay theologian said he was “touched” by my story and suggested some reading while I waited for my “big” assignment.

While there were also cautionary responses, no one seemed to think I was crazy or a fool to take the voice seriously.

Still, I was not prepared for the next experience.

I want you to enter My heart.

Enter God’s heart? This is weird, Lord, and scary, like out-of-body travel.”

I will protect you.

For moral support I asked, “Lord, first give me Your love.”

Let Abigail love you. You will feel My love through her.

“Then strengthen me, be with me, for this.”

I will.

He took my hand, as it were, and led me into the “heart of God.” I had expected it to be an overpowering, perhaps terrifying experience. But it was more like the eye of a hurricane. I was at the center of something vast and powerful, but here it was quiet, calm, and peaceful. I surveyed the things I feared—the end of my career, loss of reputation, financial insecurity, and a book that went nowhere. In that calm that is God, each concern disappeared.