Christian Science: The Science of Perfection
Frank Bell, C.S.B., of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The Bible avers that all things were made by God, that without Him was not anything made that was made. The Bible avers that God saw, comprehended, all that He had made, creation in its entirety, and behold, it was very good. It was right.
The Bible avers that everything that was made, all reality, not only was in the beginning perfect and complete, but is now and everlastingly will be perfect and complete. In the words of Ecclesiastes (3:14), "whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it."
These declarations are true, not only because they appear in the Bible. They are true because they could not possibly be untrue. Reason and logic affirm the sublimely simple proposition that the intelligence and ability to create a universe imply the intelligence and ability to create it aright.
But while revelation and reason agree as to the unanswerable fact, human sense argues through a thousand daily experiences, that discord, fear, sin, and disease, myriad forms and phases of evil, do exist, are a part of actuality; that creation, if it ever was good and right, was not sufficiently good and right to remain forever good and right.
There is conflict, in other words, between pure reason and human experience. This conflict apparently is so one-sided that the propositions of scholastic theology seem sometimes to be reduced almost to a basis of mere blind hope of better things in another world; while materialism is tempted to continue the quest for contentment in things seen and felt, and animality is glad for an excuse to wallow in forgetfulness. These expedients of course do not suffice. Fear and doubt walk hand in hand with blind hope. There is no real satisfaction in material things. Pangs of suffering disturb the dream of sensualism. Human history testifies that the way of the believer in imperfection is hard.
Fortunately in all ages there have been prophets and seers who were not wholly deceived by the apparently overwhelming weight of material sense testimony on the wrong side. A discussion of Christian Science involves consideration of the fact that in the nineteenth century a woman saw the incongruity between the truth of being and the experiences of human life. She saw the perfect God and imperfect man could not both be true. Imperfection could not be real unless God, the creator of all, is its author. Imperfect creation could be the product only of imperfect creator. To her the question was clear-cut and unescapable. Her answer was such as would be inevitable from one who loved God whole-heartedly and pure-mindedly as did Mary Baker Eddy. In her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 113, she writes: "According to the Scripture I find that God is true, 'but every (mortal) man a liar.'" The sense of things that denies the perfection of God and His creation is false.
This fundamental proposition of Christian Science is indeed "according to the Scripture." Writes St. Paul to Timothy: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect." The purpose of the Bible is to reprove, correct, instruct in rightness, until naught remains that denies the perfection of God's man. According to the Scripture, God is true, and aught that argues to the contrary is false.
When Mrs. Eddy learned that it is the physical senses which presume to take issue with God's perfection, she saw that it is the impressions of these senses which constitute what the Bible terms the carnal mind, that is enmity against God. If God's man is all right, the mind or sense which says that he is partly wrong is a lying mind, a false sense; and it is the business of spiritual Christianity to reprove, correct, and instruct thought until the false sense disappears, that "the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
Mrs. Eddy calls this false sense of things mortal mind, to distinguish it from immortal Mind, which latter is properly spelled with a capital M, for it is a complete synonym for God. When Paul declared that salvation should be found in taking on the mind that was in Christ Jesus, he of course knew that Jesus had distinctly repudiated the so-called mind or sense of things that accepted any evidence of reality in aught unlike the nature of God.
The Medicine of Christianity
Spiritual healing is recorded throughout the Scriptures. It appears to have been practiced by nearly all of the great figures in the Bible. It especially distinguished the ministry of Jesus. Among various theories in explanation of this healing, the one generally entertained by creedal religionists is that it was miraculous in the sense of involving a suspension or suppression of natural law. Certain psychologists profess to believe that it was the effect of mental suggestion or hypnotism.
Jesus repudiated both these theories. He said he came to fulfill the law, not to destroy or to annul it; not a jot or tittle of the law should pass till all be fulfilled. The works that he did, he said his followers should do in proportion to their understanding. And the record is that his followers proved this, not only during his time, but for three centuries thereafter, or until creeds usurped the authority of the Christ. His followers are again proving this today, in proportion to their understanding.
That Jesus was not a mesmerist or hypnotist is shown by the rule he repeatedly expounded for himself and his followers — "Not my will, but thine, be done." The effort of mental suggestion is to impose one human will upon another. Jesus denounced human will and proclaimed the will of God to be the only real will-power. That rule brought heading to the sick nineteen centuries ago and it brings healing to the sick to-day.
The rule, "Not my will, but thine, be done," is, of course, the rule of perfection. God's will is perfect. Thought that is open to the fundamental rightness of being catches something of the spiritual import of Jesus' teaching, and that this improved state of mind manifests itself, after its kind, in outward conditions and affairs. Jesus must have meant this when he said regarding one of his healings, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." His affirmation of God's will that man is perfect had encountered a measure of acceptance, and that improved state of mind which he named faith, expressed itself in a corresponding state of body, as states of mind never fail to do. Where there was impenetrable unbelief, where the windows of thought were not open to the affirmations of the will of God, it is recorded that he did not many mighty works. In such cases was the prophecy of Esaias fulfilled: "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." The scientific relationship between state of mind and state of health is affirmed and reaffirmed in the Scriptures.
What did these unhealed ones need to understand with their hearts that they might experience health? Was it drugs, or serums, or germs, or antitoxins, or diet, or exercise, or calories, or health laws that they needed to learn more about? Must they await the verdict of chemist, bacteriologist, vivisector? Surely it could not have been for lack of any such knowledge that Jesus in certain instances did not his mighty works.
The explanation is clear. Their minds were closed to the truth he understood and offered, the truth which he declared would make free, and which did make free wherever and to the extent that it was accepted, as it does today. If they should understand and be converted they should be healed. The rule of Christian healing has not altered. Heaven and earth shall pass away but the word of the Great Physician shall not.
Nor shall the requirement change. The mental eyes must be opened, the mental ears must be unstopped, so that there may be understanding and conversion and healing. You who are sick, weary, afraid, how much of willingness is there in your heart to listen to the "Be ye therefore perfect" of the Christ? You think thousands of thoughts every day. What proportion of these thoughts are of such a nature as to have any tendency in the direction of converting or transforming your sense of things into realization that both God and God's man are perfect? To what extent are you listening to the suggestion that the weight of evidence of imperfection is so overwhelming that there is no use trying to contradict it? I know how pride of intellect, fear of being thought ridiculous, self-sufficiency, doubt, indifference, every phase of human will, would shut the eyes and the ears of the heart against the Christly message of the essential perfection of God's creation, including man. But I know that somewhere in the apparently impenetrable barrier of material sense is a crevice open, through which, if you are in earnest, you may catch a glimpse of at least a tiny ray of spiritual light. There is no heart so gross, no intellectuality so hard, no selfishness so dense that diligent search will not reveal a spark of an impulse to repudiate the mental suggestions that constitute the sum total of human belief in evil. The floods of discouragement are not sufficient utterly to destroy that saving instinct to believe in the ultimate rightness of things, regardless of appearances. You will find this germ of truth if you search for it with all your heart. Nurture it. Feed it with the love of which you are capable. Mentally tend and water this precious flower of thought. Diligently pull away the weed of materialism that would choke it back. You will find other lovely realizations hidden but not killed under the rank accumulation of your neglected mental garden.
Then shall be fulfilled in your twentieth-century experience another prophecy of Esaias: "The eyes of the blind shall be opened; the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; in the wilderness shall waters break forth; and a highway shall be there; and the ransomed shall return; and shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
This is good medicine, this doctrine of perfection, this Christian Science. Countless thousands of your fellow-men have found it so. It is God's healing gift to you, yours for the taking and the using.
Accusation Against God
The Christian Scientist combats disease on the basis that it is a manifestation of imperfection. It is an impudent assertion of the existence of a power apart from the omnipotent God. The conditions of disease would affirm that man, to whom God gave dominion, is in subjection to evil; that man, whom God made in His image and likeness, the likeness of perfection, is a poor helpless thing, crippled, hampered, ultimately killed by non-intelligent, inanimate matter.
The Christian Scientist apprehends that it is a part of his Christian duty to disprove the affirmations of disease, to add to the accumulation of evidence that sin, disease, and death are neither created, sent, sanctioned nor tolerated by God. It is because the Christian Scientist is awakening to the essential ungodliness of evil that he regards the healing of disease by spiritual means as a distinctly religious activity. The primary motive in this activity is the demonstration of the perfection of man, and this not for the gratification of man, but for the glory of God.
When the people, at sight of the healings of Jesus, glorified God, it must have been because they caught the religious significance of what was taking place. Jesus, of course, understood this. He declared that it was the Father with him doing the works. He did always those things which pleased the Father. Of himself he could do nothing. He was about his Father's business, and that business, according to the record, had largely to do with healing.
Jesus distinctly commanded his disciples to go into all the world and to heal the sick, and they were to teach all men all things he had commanded them. Certain signs, he said, should follow them that believed, certifying to the genuineness of their discipleship. Among these signs he specifically named the healing of disease. Those who loved him would keep his commandments. Could the authority for healing as an indispensable part of Christianity be more complete? Surely it is the business of religion to meet and master everything unlike God. Surely nothing could be more unlike God than disease.
May not, then, the administration of drugs or material remedies be worthy to be classified with Christian healing? As to motive sometimes, yes; as to method, no. Love that seeks to bless and to comfort may not be denied its measure of goodness. Christian Scientists applaud every unselfish desire to relieve suffering, even while marveling at the zeal with which some professed followers of the Master seek to improve on his methods.
That which distinguishes truly Christian healing from drugs, hygiene or hypnotism is that Christian healing involves moral regeneration. The renewing of the mind is primary; the healing of the body an incidental effect. The purpose is to bring out the perfection of man in the likeness of God, Spirit; therefore complete physical health, so-called, without a corresponding illumination of spiritual sense, would lack a Christian essential. Mere physical health is possible in the lowest animals.
Jesus' recipe for health was (John 5:14): "Sin no more, lest a worst thing come unto thee." Those who are not ready to be better men and women are not ready for true Christian healing. But one need not too hastily assume that he is unready to be better. Often those who come with no other conscious desire than to be relieved of pain, find that without knowing it they are seeking release from sin. The leaven of righteousness is working unseen in many a heart.
The Nature of Sin
Christian Science has been accused of unduly emphasizing the healing of disease, whereas the prime purpose of religion is to save from sin. A sufficient answer, to a Christian, should be the gospel record of Jesus, who by both his example and his specific commands to his followers identified the healing of the sick with the religion of Christianity.
Promotion of mere physical ease would not of itself be worthy of religion. What the critic possibly has failed to see is that true Christian healing is identical with the destruction of sin. They cannot be separated.
What is sin? In the first place it is mental. Back of sinful act always is sinful thought. Mere restraint of sinful deed leaves sin untouched. Jesus has said that thinking adultery is committing adultery. Therefore the sin of adultery remains until every adulterous thought is destroyed.
In the second place, sin is not only a matter of thinking, but of imperfect thinking. If St. Paul's statement to Timothy is correct, that the inspiration of all Scripture is to the end "that the man of God may be perfect," then whatever would stand in the way of realization of perfection is sin. If it is true, as according to St. John, that ''now are we the sons of God," even though that fact "doth not yet appear," then everything that would prevent that appearing is sin.
In one of the very helpful hymns in the Christian Science Hymnal are these lines:
"Whatever dims thy sense of truth,
Or stains thy purity.
Though light as breath of summer air,
Count it as sin to thee."
Sin includes every thought or concept that helps to make up the sum total of a physical sense of existence in which imperfection reigns. The truth about man is that he now lives, moves, and has his being in God, as the Bible declares. Therefore, man now lives, moves, and has his being in Spirit, not in matter. If one says, My whole sense of things denies that, then the answer is that the more completely a sense of things denies the reality of being the more completely sinful is such sense of things.
St. John writes in the second chapter of his first epistle: "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. . . . Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. . . . For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, . . . is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
The coming of him who was described as "without sin" was prophetically heralded thus: "He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: . . . and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth." The sinless Nazarene verified this prophecy. The record presents him as repudiating every evidence of physical sense, annulling every assertion of material law, denying and casting out every argument of material belief, smiting with the rod of his mouth the countless suggestions of the sight of the eyes and the hearing of the ears, such as to-day would tempt you and me to believe that "all that is in the world" is true and real, and therefore God-made.
"All that is in the world" is in truth "not of the Father," as St. John has said. The sinfulness of material belief is, manifestly, its enmity against God. If material things are real, God made them or He is not the only creator. If God made material things, He must have made the bad things as well as the good things. Would a God who made bad things be a good God? Is it any wonder that the beloved son of God should refuse to base his judgment on what the eyes saw and the ears heard?
The disciple of materialism may say, I cannot deny that which my eyes plainly see and my ears clearly hear. The answer is, Then you must accept responsibility for maintaining an impudent accusation against God. You may choose to try to ignore this responsibility, but you cannot avoid paying the price. The practice of Christian Science, now verified by the accumulated proof of half a century of active operation, demonstrates that the ills of the flesh are due to the beliefs of the flesh, to a false sense of life, in matter and apart from Spirit. In the proportion that the Christian of today learns to master the sinful sense of reality in aught that is not of the nature of God, is Christian healing achieved.
It is not true that one cannot deny the evidence of the material senses. He who says he cannot means only that, as yet, he will not. Whosoever will may come. There is a way out. It is the way of the great Way-shower, who was without sin because he was without belief in the reality of anything that would deny that man is now the complete son of God; the Way-shower, who from the standpoint of his utter repudiation of the sight of the eyes and the hearing of the ears, could say with absolute conviction to men and women of his time, men and women like you and me, "The kingdom of God is within you." "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
There need be no perplexity in regard to Mrs. Eddy's use of the term "animal magnetism" on the part of those who accept understandingly her statement, on page 103 of Science and Health, that "As named in Christian Science, animal magnetism or hypnotism is the specific term for error, or mortal mind." Mrs. Eddy has not undertaken to invent a new kind of evil, nor is the student of Christian Science invited to substitute a mental devil for a physical one. He is invited to use the term animal magnetism as "the specific term for error," because to do so will help him to adjust his thoughts intelligently to the problems of evil as they appear in his human experience.
Christianity teaches, according to St. Paul, that man lives, moves and has his being in God, in infinite Spirit. Christians presumably accept St. Paul's statement that "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Spiritual existence alone is in accord with the design of Deity.
Good men and women in all times have yearned for the realization of spiritual existence, but have found it difficult to resist the attraction of a sense of life not in God, Spirit, but in animal flesh, which according to the Scripture, "lusteth against the spirit." Like St. Paul they could say: "With the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Systems of teaching that have compromised with the sense of life apart from God, Spirit, endeavoring to account for the law of sin in the flesh as possibly a temporary phase of the divine plan, have failed to lift the clouds of doubt and fear from the human heart. Christian healing is the fruit of the understanding that real being is not animal or fleshly, but spiritual.
The specific term for anything is the term which reveals its exact or particular nature. Christian Scientists find that the use of the term animal magnetism as "the specific term for error" helps them to understand that the exact and particular nature of evil is a false and fraudulent attraction of the sense of life from Spirit to the flesh, and that outside of the mesmeric illusions of this false and fraudulent sense there is and can be no field of operation for evil mental influences or tendencies. Thus the student learns that evil is not a mysterious something to be either feared or ignored, but a common impulse of the mortal mind, or fleshly sense, to be overcome. Through meeting and mastering this fraudulent impulse, on the basis of the essential rightness of God and His creation, the scientific Christian makes himself a channel for divine Love, which is the specific term for the only spiritually real impulse, influence, attraction or law. Thus he becomes a Christian healer.
Disposing of a Negation
Having accepted the Scriptural assurance that the author of all reality is good, and the creator of that only which is good, the Christian Scientist does not shun the logical conclusion that evil is not an entity. The teaching of Christian Science, that evil is primarily a negation, may be illustrated by the negativeness of the evil called ignorance.
The schools are devoted to the overcoming of ignorance, yet they do not regard it as something. No time is wasted in the schools in trying to instruct any one as to the origin or elements of ignorance. If a pupil were to demand to know who made ignorance, where it came from and what it consists of, he would have to be told that nobody made ignorance, it does not come from anywhere, nor does it consist of anything. The educator knows that ignorance is not the presence of something but the absence of something, in other words a pure negation. Knowledge of the essential negativeness of ignorance does not tempt the educator to ignore the effects of the negation.
One who has gone to school could not consistently say that it is impossible to comprehend the idea of a purely negative evil, a mere nothing which yet needs to be positively and vigorously handled and overcome. Christian Scientists accept the definition of evil or devil as given by the Master, namely, that it is "a liar, and the father of it," and has "no truth" in it; in other words, a self-constituted lie, utterly devoid of truth.
Jesus' practice was consistent with his preaching as regards the nature of evil. The essential nothingness of evil need not be accepted as a mere theory; it can be proved in many ways by those who are willing to adjust their daily thinking to this rule as explained in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy.
Simple of Application
The prayer of perfection is universally available. There is no human problem that may not yield to its healing influence. Intellectual proficiency is not a requisite, else the simple fishermen of Galilee could not have caught its meaning and method. It is a matter of right thinking. You are master of your thoughts, if you so choose. Your affairs, of body, mind, surroundings, are the coincident expression of your thought.
If you will begin, as a systematic daily mental practice, to contemplate the essential nature of God, as best you can conceive of Him, and definitely and in an orderly fashion to affirm in your thought the reality of God's nature; if you will in like manner systematically and persistently deny the essential reality of all that is unlike the nature of God; if you will do this not as a matter of vain repetition but with an earnest striving to bring into this activity some degree of conscious realization of the actual presence and power of God, operating in and through you to bring into expression the essentials of His nature, you will find that, asking bread, you will not be given a stone.
You will find, if your experience does not differ from that of countless thousands of your fellow-men, that the setting into operation of these processes of Christianly scientific thinking will begin to be made manifest in most practical ways in your experience, in healing of sickness, overcoming of sin, mastery of lack, suppression of discord, elimination of fear. There is rich reward in taking your stand mentally on the side of the good God and His good creation.
You need not demand to enter into your full heritage of perfection by a mere profession of words. Centuries of mistaken affirmation of reality and power in evil may not be wholly overcome in a day. You need not be in a hurry to finish the work, but there is no excuse for not making haste to begin. The beauty of this Science is that it quickly verifies itself in the experience of the earnest student. It is like mathematics in that respect. A few simple applications of the very first rules will prove the Principle and inspire the confidence necessary to further progress. The rule of addition does not solve the problem of Euclid, but does assure it. In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mrs. Eddy, are set forth the simple rules by which the all-inclusive fact of being may be apprehended.
There is nothing the matter with God or His creation. The trouble is with our sense of things. We need to take on the Mind that was in Christ Jesus, which enabled him to say with absolute conviction, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." We need not merely to believe this theoretically, but to affirm it practically, to hurl it as a spiritual weapon against the arguments of imperfection, as did the Master. He was not propounding a philosophy. He was going about doing good; not theorizing, but accomplishing.
If we would be scientific Christians, our answer to the suggestion of evil must be, "Get thee behind me. Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." The medicine of the Great Physician was denial of error and affirmation of truth. By this purely spiritual process the sick were healed, the lame walked, the dumb spake, the blind saw, the dead were raised. And the method was always the same — the definite rule of imperfection denied, perfection affirmed. "He sent his word, and healed them." Here was such clear realization of the fact of perfection that mere belief in the supposition of imperfection faded out of consciousness.
Do you doubt that this was the method by which Jesus healed? Well, you do not need to doubt. You may prove the rule for yourself, modestly at first, perhaps, but assuredly. Or if the odds seem too heavy for you at the beginning, you may have the loving help of others, until your experience is sufficient to enable you to proceed with confidence and success.