I chanced upon a mention on Heilein’s Stranger in a Strange Land the other day. I realized I had not thought of this novel in a number of years, certainly not since undertaking the study of Buddhism, though it had had a profound effect on me.
I was a teenager when I read it, just finishing high school or thereabouts. I remember my joy when I first read the famous passage in which the main character, Michael Valentine Smith, asserts confidently to his mentor, Jubal “Though art god!” Jubal is taken aback and hastily attempts to re-explain the concept of God, but Mike is not deterred.
“You grok. Anne groks. I grok. The grasses under my feet grok in happy beauty ... Thou art God...that which groks. Anne is God, I am God. The happy grasses are God...Jill is god. All shaping and making and creating together.”
I typed up the entire passage, with both Mike and Jubal’s dialogue, framed it and hung it on the wall of my bedroom. I had at that time passed beyond my rebellious, antagonist atheism and steadied into a skeptical agnosticism. This was by far, in all my life, the best definition for God which I had yet found. (My mother, in her typical way, once raised an eyebrow upon seeing it, but said nothing. My father, having given me the book, never remarked up on nor even thought much about it, I would guess.)
However, I wonder that I have not chanced to think upon it again since my recent philosophical explorations have begun. As a novel, I found it amusing and interesting, but not overly entertaining. It did not make it to the hallowed shelves of our family library which contain the poor batter titles, frayed and falling apart due to the repetition of hands and eyes on pages created by almost annual rereading from my father, brother, and myself. Perhaps in the end it was a little too strange for me, as so many of the famous 1960’s science fiction novels seem to be. The end was an odd non-resolution, the vibe a little too cultish. It is no wonder it spawned The Church of All Worlds.
However much my Midwestern, conservative, Christian baggage causes me to look askance at such things, when I read the words for what they are, both in Heilein’s book and from reviews, fan sites, and the CAW, I cannot help but agree with and, indeed, be inspired by it.
All that groks is god.