What’s Wrong With Ego?

 

 

 

Philosopher Jerry L. Martin is told in prayer about the tricky relationship

between a healthy ego, a destructive ego, and loving oneself.

 

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God: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher – is the true story of a philosopher’s conversations with God. Dr. Jerry L. Martin, a lifelong agnostic. Dr. Martin served as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Colorado philosophy department, is the founding chairman of the Theology Without Walls group at AAR, and editor of Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative. Dr. Martin’s work has prepared him to become a serious reporter of God’s narrative, experiences, evolution, and autobiography. In addition to scholarly publications, Dr. Martin has testified before Congress on educational policy. He has appeared on “World News Tonight,” and other television news programs.

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Listen to this on God: An Autobiography, The Podcast– the 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.

Putting Me First Rather Than Last

 

I had now accepted the assignment, but God wanted more.  He wanted me to “purify” myself.

You need purification.  Transformation is a good word.  It is obedience, which at its fullest is transformation.

“What does that involve, Lord?”

Putting Me first rather than last.  Living every moment, making every decision, in response to My call.

“How do I go about doing that?”

You know this—start every day with prayer and let prayer guide you through the day.

“The World is All Part of Me.”

“Is this connected with the idea of Nature as the Body of God?”

Yes, but it is a clumsy metaphysics.  What is valid is the respect in which the world is all part of Me.  But (it is) not correct to say, (in a) reductionist (way), that I am merely the physical world.  There are levels of mind and spirit not apparent in the (physical) world. 

“The Great Apes Are Wonderful Creatures . . . So Close But Yet So Far.”

 

“And so, Lord, You call forth the first human beings?”

Yes, the first inklings, forerunners, of man.  The great apes are wonderful creatures, full of intelligence, energy, and drive.  But it is frustrating to interact with them.  They are so close and yet so far from having full interactive personalities.  They have teleological urges but they are only effective, for the most part, at the biological level.  Their social life is rudimentary and their spiritual awareness is diffuse and inarticulate.  They lack a symbolic order.  They can’t project ideals beyond the sensual.  They can’t respond to Me either.

“But they evolved?”

The transition to early man is both slow and sudden.  Remember what the first two years of a child’s life is like, and (then) imagine each day to be a century.  In a sense, nothing is happening.  One day looks much like the last, and there is no single great leap forward.

So imagine My excitement when the first protohumans arrived.  At first, you couldn’t tell them from animals but I could see their potential.  They didn’t have language but their sounds and marks had representative purposes.  They could connect one thing to another, one thought to another.  They could remember their past and replay it in their minds.  They slowly developed a sense of the future.

Think in a different way.

“Lord, I have the feeling that you want me to read and think less, and to listen more and just write down your story.”

Don’t stop thinking, but think in a different way.  Don’t work so hard to figure everything out, to make it rational, to make it fit your categories.  Just listen and think through the implications of what I tell you.

“But, Lord, some of what I learn from You comes from worrying over what you say.”

Sometimes yes, but often no.  Sometimes your questioning just gets in the way.  The main point is to open your mind, to try to understand what I am saying on its own terms, and to see ways it might be true or understandable to you.

“A Step in the Right Direction”

Nilsson says, “Another step in the development of polytheism was thinking of the great forces of nature (such as sky and seasons) and of human life (such as love and death) as gods.”

Yes, and the same story applies there.  It is quite apt, and not incompatible with understanding a single divine reality behind them all.  In fact, seeing them as gods—as personal beings with desires, plans, loves, and so forth—is a step in the right direction, of acknowledging that God is a Person and one with whom one can interact.

“Lord, did the polytheistic response affect You in any way?”

Oh yes, in many ways.  When someone sensed My presence in a place and responded respectfully, it increased My awareness of My presence there, and of what it was about Me that evoked and deserved respect.

Then I was given an analogy.

Sometimes someone might be the pillar of a particular institution and not realize their distinctive role until a crisis.  And they notice that everyone rallies around them or sees them as their savior or seeks their advice or expects them to get them through it.  In a sense, they were the pillar all along, but it was almost latent and not fully actualized until the occasion arose and they saw it reflected in the eyes of others.

I gather that God’s experience was something like that.