“Death and the Hope of Immortality . . .”

“The next phase is what I wonder about.  It looks to me as if You communicate some sense of moral order and hierarchy, reverence for life and death, a sense of the meaning of life … I am feeling that this is Your voice, not mine, Lord.”

Yes, it is.  They were understanding Me well enough to understand that life has meaning—a beginning and an end and the sense of a meaningful movement from one to the other, summarized (judged, reckoned) at the end.  Death and the hope of immortality, which isn’t merely the fear of death but the understanding that there is a vertical  dimension to life and (that) its meaning does not stop with death, that there is a larger story the individual is part of, and his (and her) spiritual development is not limited to just one life.

“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.

Read Chapter 114

A Proper Appreciation of Yourself Opens Your Heart.

An ego rush always broke my connection with God.  So I tried to keep a cold watch on this ego of mine.

When I was still in Washington, D.C., a matter came up about which I needed the assistance of an eminent intellectual with whom I had a limited acquaintance.  He was completely forthcoming, and I felt flattered by his response.

“Lord, how should I take this?  Is it wrong for me to feel flattered?”

No, it is not.  This is joy, the joy of being yourself, which is proper to (appropriate for) human beings.  I want you to be happy, to feel the fullness of your own being, its bounty.  I blessed you with certain gifts.  Of course, you recognize them as gifts, as benefits, as talents.  That is okay.  It is not the same as ego.

Ego is destructive, separatist, defiant of My will, self-satisfied and self-lustful.  A proper appreciation of yourself opens your heart, binds you to Me, to those you love.

 

“Pray and I will tell you”

I started making a list of great spiritual leaders to pray about.  I thought the question would be, for example, What was God communicating to Martin Luther?  But, when I asked, I got a different answer.

Suppose you brought a guy in – say, Luther – and cut him up (dissected him, looked at the elements that make him up).  What would you find?

“Not just the single solitary individual, I suppose, but someone immersed in a tradition, institutions, and a culture.”

I act over the centuries in reference to individuals, but also movements, cultures, and the like.

“But only individuals receive communications.”

Just listen for the moment.  I interact with mankind, with the universe, in many different ways.  Do not assume that the only interaction is the same form of the interaction I have with you.  With some it is conversational, but with others it is by inspiration, by My spirit moving through them, infusing institutions and life-forms, cultures, cultural forms, art, music, dance, symbolism, ideational systems, thought forms …

So, looking at each cultural form, I should be able to figure out how it reflects You?”

The starting point is not the cultural forms and asking “What kind of God or transcendent order does that imply or suggest?” but start with Me and ask “What am I doing with that culture, individual, art, art form, or whatever.  What is it to Me?”  Pray and I will tell you.

“You are both other and same as Me.”

“Lord, are we all part of You?”

You are both other and same (as Me). I need you to be other so that I may encounter another self. I am a Person and, like other persons, define Myself by responding to other persons, and being responded to (by them).

But I also need union, not distance—just as other persons do. You and Abigail are both other and same. You need to be different people—love is a bridge between differences. You also merge spirits at certain moments, though not totally. That is also a kind of completion or fulfillment. Life, including My life, is the dialectic, as you might call it, of same and other, confrontation and union.

We are both other than God and yet the same as God? But same and other are opposites. This did not go down easy for a former logic professor, but I went on. “Lord, are those moments of union with God the goal or are they just nice accompaniments?”

Neither. You shouldn’t strive for moments of union per se, for peak experiences. That is self-indulgence, and a mistake of some who seek mystical experience. It is like orgasms—you should not seek them for their own sake. That is an abuse, a kind of idolatry. They happen naturally as the outcome and expression of love. But the experience of union is not just the accidental accompaniment of loving God. It is the essential expression.

Then, late at night, I felt the boundary between me and the world becoming thinner and less distinct. Slowly, subject and object were blending, becoming intimately bound, not standing apart from one another. I was noting this intellectually, but it was not an intellectual experience. It was an ontological experience, an experience of my whole being. Finally, for a few moments, it approached total one-ness, the complete loss of awareness of self. At that point, I pulled back.

“Lord, what is the meaning of this kind of experience?”

There are many levels and kinds of experience with Me—including music. Do not make too much of it. It is good, just let it happen. It does not mean that you are about to become a mystic or anything unworldly. It is not unlike—it is on a continuum with—a wide range of spiritual experiences, in and out of religious practice and sensibility, that people have all the time. But it is definitely good. It will give you energy and peace and insight, so let it in.

Many times one “loses oneself” in an experience, but those moments are less threatening than merging with God. I pulled back, but felt a nagging sense I was not supposed to. “Lord, I feel you want me to do more of the mystical stuff, ‘entering’ You and so forth.”

Yes, and you can remove the scare quotes. There is nothing strange about it. That is how the universe is. The parts can communicate with the whole. It is no more mystical or mysterious than your ability to move your arm.

Actually, since Descartes introduced a sharp mind-body distinction, how the mind moves the body has been a philosophical mystery. But, in actual life, it is not. The parts can communicate with the whole and vice versa. I had never thought of the universe that way.

 

Is God a person?

When I asked, I was given a complex answer.

Yes and No. I come to you—but not to raindrops—as a Person, and therefore I am a Person. One cannot be a Person in some modes without being a Person.

But I am also much more than a Person. Just because I seem so familiar to you—we talk just as persons do—should not mislead you into thinking I am “just a guy.” It is true that I have many of the attributes of a person—desires and a history, for example. But again do not assume that desire and history mean just the same for Me as they do for human beings.

Ask Yourself What I Am Looking For

Looking for God:

One day I learned more about God’s story when I asked simply, “Where should I begin today, Lord?”

Ask yourself what I am looking for.

“Love?”

Well, yes, but what is that love?

“Interaction, communication, understanding?”

YesI long to be recognized, to be understood, and then to be taken in.

I wondered why a great being like God would need to be loved by mere mortals.  “Why does that matter to You, Lord?  You’ve got it all, just being God.”

That is silly.  This is what I am.  I am like a function looking for a variable…only half the equation.

I looked for a humbler analogy.  “Like cement looking for bricks to hold together?”

Okay.

“Is that connection only what You need or is it also what the world needs?”

Both, obviously.  In your analogy, the world is like the bricks that need to be held together.

“But, Lord, I sense that Your yearning is not just a factual incompleteness, like needing a pair of gloves.”

Yes, it is a deep internal dynamic that drives Me forward to do the things I do.  I unfurl the world and call forth life and send signals to people.  Listen, and feel.

“The feeling that comes to me is Your desire to call into being a corresponding being.  It seems a lot like the dialectic of self and other in Hegel.  Subjectivity desires to objectify itself, as it does in artifacts, and to subjectivize the surrounding world, as it does in interpretation, and, even higher, to encounter another subjectivity.”

I am a Person, searching for …

“That’s what I wonder, Lord.  I can’t quite imagine what You are searching for.  Just interaction?  That seems too limited and, in a sense, too easy.”

It is not just looking for company.  Perhaps speaking of loneliness is misleading.  Why does a human being look for love? 

It is not just for company.  That is companionship, not love.  You want to pour yourself, your concern, your destiny into another person.  And you want them to respond in kind, to understand and recognize and sympathize with and care about you, (and) to share your life story, so that I becomes we. 

And the result is not just good feelings or good times; it is ontological, it is virtually molecular.  You know that, because you have experienced it.  Imagine how puny your love is (not to belittle it, but just for comparison) compared to Mine. 

What is barely ontological or molecular in your case is fully so in Mine. 

The constitution of the universe is altered by My love and My being loved. 

You can’t just say “God so loved the world …”  Love is a two-way street.  Anything unilateral is merely an effort at love, not its fulfillment, not its achievement.

You could tell My story, one version of it at least, through the history of love. 

What has love meant and been over time?  From Abraham’s love for his wife and his son and his God, through the Ramayana and the compassionate Buddha and Jesus and Plato’s philosophy as eros toward wisdom, to Christian chivalry and Buber’s I-Thou—these are stages that reflect My development and My interaction with human beings. 

________

Looking for God?

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.