Zoom Meeting Sermon April 23 2023

 Topic: Recommended Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land 

Today we are talking about the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, published 1961, and the statement contained within it, which also hangs on the wall here in the Temple of the Path: “All that groks is god.” 

This book is about Valentine Michael Smith, one of the Patron Saints of the Path. He was born on Mars, raised by Martians when his parents died, and brought to Earth at the age of twenty-five. He starts out as a rather naïve and trusting young man, but he learns and grows throughout the story as he is introduced to new people and new ideas. Eventually, he becomes an ordained minister, preaching a message of love and acceptance, of sharing yourself with others. Like most messiah characters, he dies at the end, but you do get to find out what happens to him afterwards. One of the things he teaches his followers is that “all that groks is god.” 

The word “grok” in the book literally translates to “drink,” but its connotations are both endless and seemingly contradictory: To grok could mean to love or to hate, both of which require one to assimilate the subject of love or hate into oneself, to fully know and understand, to drink, before one could be said to truly love or hate. What we call hate, from a Martian perspective, would be considered merely mild distaste.  

One character in the book, Jubal Harshaw, is a devout atheist and originally balks at Mike’s assertion that “thou art god.” But he grows to embrace the idea of a collective god that is both more personal and more relatable than the distant father figure of certain Christian mythos. As an atheist myself, I can relate to his journey, especially his eventual acceptance of a higher power that is just as much a part of all of us as the very air we breathe. 

When we say “all that groks is god,” we are saying that everything that drinks, from the simple grasshopper to the thirsty Earth herself, collectively makes up what we call “god.” The greeting between members of Mike’s church is “Thou art god” and those are actually his last words.  "Thou art god” means the same thing as “Namaste” or “The divinity within me recognizes the divinity within you.” We are all part of the greater Universe, therefore our consciousness is part of the collective cosmic consciousness. This is where I get my personal belief that what others choose to call “god” is actually one part of the collective consciousness of the Universe and everything within it. All that groks, in other words.  

Although the novel is not without a few problems, including its depiction of the women in the story and an antiquated view of non-binary individuals, it is worth reading. Heinlein was a master storyteller, and Stranger in a Strange Land includes descriptions of cultural phenomena that help to frame the story and give Mike’s development some context. It is a book written in the early sixties, but the world depicted has a real futuristic feel, with luxuries like a carpet of living grass and a kitchen that can be operated by remote control . 

Does the phrase “All that groks (or drinks) is god” and the associated concept resonate with you?  

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