Do We Really Care?
William Henry Alton, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"How many of us really care
enough about our brother to do something to help him?" a Christian Science
lecturer asked a large audience Tuesday
at John Hancock Hall in
William Henry Alton, C.S.B., of
The basis for such love lies in the familiar Golden Rule, Mr. Alton said. But "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" is much more than a hackneyed saying, he observed. It is a command based on law. When obeyed it has "tremendous spiritual power."
Mr. Alton's lecture was entitled
"Do We Really Care?" He is a member of the Board of Lectureship of
The Mother Church, The First Church of
Christ, Scientist, in
The lecturer spoke of a primitive tribe in which brotherhood extends only to blood relatives or members of the tribe. "How many of us are tribal in our love?" he asked.
"The Golden Rule requires that we love," Mr. Alton said. It requires that we look through the mist and "latch onto the spiritual nature of every individual."
"It's this spiritual selfhood of each one of us that the Golden Rule is talking about - not about a perishable material selfhood with ugly or distasteful characteristics," Mr. Alton explained. "Let me ask: If someone insisted on seeing only perfection as true about you, and refused to accept your faults as any part of your true nature, wouldn't you feel loved? Especially if this kind of thinking helped to free you from your shortcomings, even healed you physically? This is really love!"
A partial text of the lecture follows:
Conflicts grow from within
Have you ever participated in a freedom demonstration, or a civil-rights march? Now, I'm not advocating marches or demonstrations - that's up to the individual. What I am getting at is: How many of us really care enough about our brother to do something to help him? And do we know what to do to be helpful?
Today we find ourselves in a very troubled world. It's a world in which there have been hot and cold wars for nearly thirty years. And the effect? Countless human tragedies and hardships. And the siphoning off of vast resources that might have been used to lift millions of people out of poverty and ignorance. Then there's crime and disregard for law. Racial strife threatens our cities and is pitting brother against brother in many countries of the world. Finally, everywhere there are individuals in conflict with themselves.
All this conflict is just like having termites in a wooden house. It undermines and destroys wherever it's found. But where does it come from? Doesn't it begin within the heart of each one of us with individual conflicts? Hundreds and thousands and millions of them pile up one on another into nationwide or worldwide smoldering, even violence.
The big question is: What can we do about removing conflict? And what's the most effective way to go about it?
Today I'd like to propose the answer in two words - brotherly love. Hackneyed - yes, I know; but actually deeply scientific. Think for a moment what would happen if everyone in the world would eliminate his own conflict - his anger, his dislike, his mortal struggle - and replace it with love for himself and for everyone else.
But isn't truth always simple? The important thing is,
we need to care enough about our brother's well-being to be willing to do
something about it. And then find out how to practice brotherly love, how to
utilize it thoroughly, scientifically. Actually this scientific brotherly love
we're talking about is included in the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you
would have them do unto you." Or as it is stated in the
Bible, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself" (
The power of the Golden Rule
Now I know a lot of people question the practicality of the Golden Rule. In fact, you may remember George Bernard Shaw's statement, "The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." Well, I propose quite the opposite point of view that the Golden Rule has behind it tremendous spiritual power - laws, unchanging, absolutely reliable, scientific laws. And that these laws, when invoked, bring about great change in human affairs, both individually and collectively.
So today, we'll talk about the Golden Rule, scientifically understood. First, how this Rule becomes meaningful and practical when we realize just what sort of man it requires us to love. Second, what this Rule means when it says we must love ourselves. Third, we'll discuss how we can go about loving our brothers - friends or enemies alike - scientifically. Finally, we'll take up the practical importance of the Golden Rule - what happens to conflict in ourselves and in our world when we really learn how to love.
Every major religion in the world teaches the equivalent of the Golden Rule - not only Christianity, but Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Islam. Jesus, the master Christian, certainly taught that the supreme power of the universe is good, is Love. And yet why is there so little love among men one for another? The answer is evident - people have lost sight of spiritual truths; religions in general have forgotten what some of their founders must have glimpsed. Christians specifically have overlooked what Jesus taught about man, that man is lovable, because his true identity, though unseen by the physical senses, is spiritual and perfect.
Spiritual identification needed
It's this spiritual selfhood of each one of us that the Golden Rule is talking about - not about a perishable material selfhood with ugly or distasteful characteristics. So to obey the Golden Rule we need to at least glimpse one another's spiritual identity. Otherwise we're stuck with all the troublemaking, unlovable qualities which underlie individual and world strife.
How then can we go about better understanding this perfect spiritual man? Become more aware of him? A good place to start is with the Bible. Here the very first chapter of the very first book, Genesis, gives us a hint. It describes man as God-created, as made in God's, Spirit's, image and likeness. This infers that man is actually Spirit-like, not matter-like.
Later in the Gospels we find that Jesus claimed this spiritual selfhood to be his true selfhood. He said, "I am from above: . . . I am not of this world" (John ). He acknowledged Spirit to be primal cause, the source of his intelligence, his love, his being, to be his Father in the highest and fullest sense of that word. To Christian Scientists his title Christ, Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus, means that he exemplified consistently in his daily life this perfect spiritual idea of sonship - sonship with Spirit, God.
Jesus counseled his followers to do as he did, to take as their model his Christ identity and to dissociate themselves from material selfhood. He said: "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9), and "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. ). He surely was implying that a cause which is Spirit and perfect must result in an effect which is spiritual and perfect, too. Physical mortals are destructive and destructible. How far a cry from these is this ideal spiritual man - the true reality of creation.
Bridge of goodness and love
But how does the understanding of spiritual man remove conflict? Well, this understanding is the bridge by which goodness and love come into human experience.
This understanding enables us to look for and see someone's spiritual selfhood through the spiritual qualities he expresses, perhaps generosity or intelligence or joy. These qualities aren't physical. They're the divine nature or presence shining through the human.
But what if we meet someone who we think expresses no divine qualities - only bad ones? Then we can still focus our thoughts on what God's expression - spiritual man - is like, and know that these qualities are really present and true even though not apparent. The Golden Rule requires that we love - look through the mists of material selfhood and latch onto the spiritual nature of every individual. To the degree we do this we shall find God's spiritual qualities appearing in ourselves and in others. We are discovering spiritual man and reducing conflict.
Let me give you an example of how the Golden Rule goes to work scientifically when we begin to glimpse spiritual man - in this instance in a marriage problem. A friend stopped in my office one day very upset. He said with great feeling that he and his wife were finished! He'd put up with her pettiness and nagging for many years, but now that their daughter was old enough to support herself, he was leaving home. He'd had enough. I might mention that his wife would have had good reason to regard him as no bargain either - he was headstrong, opinionated, quick-tempered.
Well, I saw he was too wound up to hear me talk about his wife's divine nature and perfection. Yet I wanted to be of help, so after he left I mentally denied that all these objectionable traits he'd referred to had a place in the spiritual universe of ideas. I mentally and spiritually insisted that love, selflessness, goodness, gentleness, were the facts about this couple. I realized that each of divine Mind's ideas is one with this Mind, and therefore one with each other, untouched by friction or animosity. I continued this kind of thinking until I felt assured these facts were true. In other words, I applied the Golden Rule.
A few days later this man called. He simply couldn't believe the change that had taken place in his wife - what an effort she'd made to correct her faults, said he. And then he spoke of her tenderness and selflessness.
Had his wife changed? Not really - only his discordant concepts of her had lessened, revealing more of the true spiritual nature. The sunrise which chases away the darkness of night doesn't change a landscape - no, the light only permits the viewer to see its true character and beauty So, then, the Golden Rule insists we hold to spiritual man as our model. When we do this, we're being loving and conflict begins to disappear.
But the Golden Rule also insists that our loving, our holding to spiritual man must start with ourselves. Why is this important? Because as we look out on the world through our own eyes, doesn't our own thought color what we see? And affect our actions? And isn't a person who dislikes himself in constant turmoil? We need only think back to some of the less desirable historical characters and at once we realize how just one person's inner disturbance can turn brother against brother, race against race, nation against nation.
How do we go about loving ourselves? By claiming the divine qualities which constitute man's true spiritual selfhood, talent of every kind, intuition, power - even though they're not humanly apparent. Also we reject any undesirable traits; we need to realize that they never were a part of the divine Mind, and therefore never a part of Mind's idea, man.
Let me tell you what happened to a friend when he learned what it meant to really love himself. In college he was an outstanding athlete. After graduation he went to work as an engineer. Before long he discovered he wasn't getting ahead. His athletic ability which had impressed people in college was apparently of no help in business - he was now in another world. Soon he became unhappy and frustrated, and turned to heavy drinking and late nights for satisfaction. Illnesses developed - ulcers and varicose veins. At this point a friend gave him some Christian Science literature and urged him to visit a Christian Science practitioner, which he did.
Reasoning from divine basis
The practitioner explained, among other things, that he needed to find his real identity in Spirit, and to love the perfection of this identity. He must recognize that his real selfhood was the expression of all the divine Mind's qualities - intelligence, satisfaction, health. He'd been identifying only with physical qualities and limited capacities, and he was reaping exactly what he'd sowed.
Gradually he learned to reason from a spiritual basis and to hold to spiritual conclusions. For example, he recognized that the expression of the divine Mind reflected inspiration to hear Mind's right answers; judgment to determine right from wrong solutions; and courage to trust Mind's answers to be right. With the practitioner's help, a healing of both the stomach trouble and varicose veins followed. Within a relatively few months a whole turnabout took place in his life. He began to move ahead in his company, and to be valued for his sound approach to solving problems.
But the law tells us we also need to love our neighbor as ourselves. How do we go about this scientific loving?
First, we'd better define a neighbor before we discuss how we can go about loving him. Not long ago I heard someone say that "our neighbor is everyone that needs help." And doesn't everyone need help in some way? Certainly in order to bring total peace, our neighbor has got to be everyone: those of different races; those of other ideologies; those who have insulted us, cheated us, even fought us.
But why should we love our neighbor? Because without brotherly love conflict is inevitable. The world is shrinking so fast these days that we're finding everyone's interests are inseparable from everyone else's.
To love our neighbor as ourselves really means we can't believe other people's weaknesses; for if we declare we're spiritual and perfect, mustn't we see our neighbor as spiritual and perfect, too? Because it is a spiritual fact - we are all brothers. The Bible asks, "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" (Mal. 2:10).
Is our love too tribal?
This need for a higher, broader view of our neighbor was illustrated by Albert Schweitzer, the famous theologian and humanitarian. In one of his books he told of primitive tribesmen to whom brotherhood meant only blood relations, and members of their own tribe. If one of these tribesmen were asked to perform some small service for another, nothing could persuade him to do it, unless the person were a member of his own family or tribe. He would refuse with wide-eyed innocence, "This man is not brother to me."
What effect does such a limited concept of brotherhood have? It means unsatisfactory human relations, limited happiness, limited rewards. And yet, how many of us are tribal in our love? Is our charity confined mainly to members of our immediate family, and to those with whom we closely identify? Are we selfish, unwilling to put ourselves out to help another? If so, we're contributing very little to world peace, and therefore to our own well-being.
How can we do a better job of loving our neighbors? Even in a human sense we can try to find points in common with others, rather than to magnify what divides us. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, stresses this when she suggests that all Christian churches can unite in the Lord's Prayer. Certainly Jews, Moslems, and Christians can come closer together because of their adherence to monotheism - to one God. This desire of Mrs. Eddy to see the oneness of man under the one God permeated her life and teachings. She saw that spiritual love is the only way out of strife and limitation. She writes, "I would that all the churches on earth could unite as brethren in one prayer: Father, teach us the life of Love" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 301). When she discovered the basic spiritual truths of God and of man in His likeness over a hundred years ago, she had fully expected other Christian denominations to include these healing truths in their own churches. When they didn't, she founded a church based on the Science of Love - the Science which would make man's lovable perfection known to all people.
Man derives from God
Mrs. Eddy exemplified love in her life; and as Leader of the Christian Science movement she urges her followers to exemplify love in their lives. She writes, "A genuine Christian Scientist loves Protestant and Catholic, D.D. and M.D., - loves all who love God, good; and he loves his enemies" (ibid., p. 4).
To get back to finding common
interests - an amusing story about Albert Einstein illustrates what happens
when we find points in common with one another. A little girl named Jane lived
near him in
How important it is for each one of us to find that which unites us with others. But to go all the way in removing conflict, to really love our neighbor, we must see his spiritual selfhood as the image of divine Love. In other words, loving a neighbor isn't just one person trying to like another, although this is important. It's recognizing that the word "man" is really a term for Spirit's expression, the divine qualities which are true of both Mind and its idea. Some people would say this is simply closing our eyes to the facts. But aren't we really getting at the facts - the spiritual facts? The most important facts?
Just how is seeing my neighbor's spiritual identity loving him? Well, let me ask, If someone insisted on seeing only perfection as true about you, and refused to accept your faults as any part of your true nature, wouldn't you feel loved? Especially if this kind of thinking helped to free you from your shortcomings, even healed you physically? This is
really love! And incidentally, the one who does the loving is blessed, too, for the good he sees in another he automatically establishes as true about himself. Why? Because what we are - our lives, our capabilities - is the objectification of our thinking
A person who loves spiritually inevitably finds himself becoming more loving humanly. So unless we're humanly loving, something's wrong with the way we've been
I sometimes ask myself as I drive along a highway, what would I do if I saw a driver in difficulties? Would I just pray about the occupant, and drive on? Yes, I would pray, for there have been many wonderful cases of what prayer can do in such situations. But the love which prompted the prayer would also prompt me to stop and find out how I might be of help - or at least take steps to see that help reached him.
Here's the Golden Rule again - I must care for another as I would want him to care for me. We must think love, and act lovingly.
We've been talking about loving our neighbors - that is, neighborly neighbors. But what about the mean people and troublemaking nations in the world - our so-called enemies? How can we love an enemy? Here's where for many the Golden Rule becomes unrealistic.
This is like the Sunday School teacher who taught her class of ten-year-olds that they must love their enemies. She then gave practical examples of how to do it. For homework she asked each youngster to tell how he had succeeded in loving an enemy.
Our enemies are not people
The next Sunday one little boy explained how he had made a friend of the school bully. A little girl told how she had visited an ill classmate whom no one liked and they suddenly became good friends. Finally, the teacher got around to Johnnie and asked him what success he'd had. After considerable hemming and hawing, he said, "Well, there's some kids on my block who are bigger than me and awful mean. Every day this week I tried to like them and be nice to them, but every time I tried they acted meaner and tougher than before. After hearing all you tell how many friends you made, and I didn't make any, I just figured out that the trouble is you just don't know any kids as mean as the ones that live on my block!"
It's pretty tempting for most of us to agree with Johnnie, and believe our so-called enemies are unique and beyond anyone's ability to love. And yet take Jesus - no one could have had more violent or vindictive enemies than he! In spite of this he said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, . . . and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt. ).
Why should we love an enemy? Just what's at stake? Everything! Enemies are the cause of inner conflict, malignant diseases. They're behind all the conflict we first talked about today - the riots, wars, crime. So giving up enemies is all-important - in fact, we have no choice!
What is an enemy? Johnnie certainly thought of them as people - as boys and girls. We need to discover that enemies are not individuals, but are evil qualities which cause conflict and which individuals entertain. Our enemies are selfishness, pride, hate, fear, to mention just a few.
How then do we go about loving an enemy? By prayer. First, in our thinking we separate these evil characteristics from a seeming enemy, whether an individual, a nation, or a race. We see that divine Love never made these errors - that they are without cause or reality. Then we see that since the only real Cause is good, its effect, spiritual man, is good, too. This being true, we reverse, still in our thinking, every one of the evil qualities we would attach to our brother. We replace each with the divine quality which is its opposite, and always true of spiritual man. We acknowledge love instead of hate; goodness rather than evil; brotherliness and not animosity; kindness in place of cunning; honesty and not dishonesty. Finally, we must be consistent and hold to perfection no matter what the physical senses would tell us to the contrary.
Mrs. Eddy penetrated disguises
To obey the Golden Rule is to be
practical. Consider health, for example. There's an organization in
If loving is up to us, then to help in bringing Love between individuals and groups we need to understand the nature of conflict; where it comes from; and how we can remove it. Mrs. Eddy points out that evil's nature is to disguise itself in ways that we will accept it as real - yes, even more real than peace and Love. This subtle activity of evil she calls animal magnetism - animal because it is rooted in the belief that man is animal, that his life and intelligence are wholly physical. And magnetic because it attracts and fastens our thought to evil. Animal magnetism is what makes us attribute evil motives and thoughts to one another; then misunderstand one another; and finally war with one another. Divine Love, on the other hand, attracts us to the truth, lifts us up; it shows Love's family, not as animal but as spiritual, as perfect lovable ideas of divine Mind, always at peace with one another.
Because divine Love is the supreme power of the universe, how can we apply it to the big conflicts of the world, such as the ideological struggle between East and West; racial problems; crime; industrial clashes? There's such a temptation to believe they're too overwhelming for us to be very effective individually in solving them. Well, we can do much. Here's an example of what just one person did to forestall conflict and insure agreement for many others.
Scientific facts established
A large corporation was engaged in negotiations with a number of labor unions simultaneously. The personnel director was appointed to help work out a contract. He happened to be a Christian Scientist. What would you have done under these circumstances? Well, this man got down to scientific prayer. He knew he needed to establish the spiritually scientific facts about the case, namely, that Love is universal, with its all-inclusive family of spiritual ideas dwelling together in unity. Also, that there is in truth only one source of intelligence, the divine Mind, and not many conflicting minds, such as company minds and labor minds. This Mind constantly expresses itself through the divine law of justice, which is impersonal, and assures fairness, goodness, unity, the brotherhood of Love; never greediness nor self-interest.
The negotiations proved to be a complete success for everyone. The union delegates couldn't possibly have been more just, nor the company representatives more understanding. An agreement was soon reached which answered everybody's need. As a result, thousands of lives had been touched and benefited.
That the world is in turmoil means only one thing - those who know how to apply Love's law must be more consistent and specific in doing so. And include all mankind - so-called enemies as well as allies - in their love and scientific prayer.
Mrs. Eddy clarified for humanity the deep meaning of God as Love, as the Father and Mother of all. She wrote the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," to enable its readers to understand better how to apply spiritual truth to remove conflict of every sort. Her Church Manual requires Christian Scientists to pray each day for themselves, and for all mankind. Also to pray daily that there be no more war.
Program for a better world
We can each make an enormous contribution to bring about a better world for ourselves as individuals, and for every neighbor. How can we go about it? Well, we can make a four-point program for ourselves.
1. We can start each day by acknowledging only Love's spiritual world of ideas, and pray until we see the real identity of everyone as spiritual, reflecting the one divine Mind. Then we can work at holding to this all through the day.
2. We can search our consciousness for so-called enemies. Then recognize that our only enemies are false qualities, such as thoughtlessness, and selfishness, and not individuals who seem to express these qualities. We can remove these enemy qualities from our consciousness with the divine qualities which alone have reality. Then we'll really be loving our enemy.
3. We can search for good qualities in everyone - enemies and friends alike, especially those of other ideologies and races.
4. We can live each day with the inspired Word of the Bible which will enlarge our understanding of love and true brotherliness. And, of course, when we begin the study of Christian Science, we'll also turn for inspiration to Mrs. Eddy's writings.
How important it is that we really understand the divine law underlying the Golden Rule, and obey it to the full. We are being called upon to put divine Love first in our lives, to love ourselves because we are part of Love's plan, and to accept, the true and lovable identity of everyone else. Then we'll not only find our own peace, but we'll help find peace for all mankind.
© 1968 William Henry Alton
All rights reserved
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 12, 1969.]