Christian Science: The Science of Right Thinking
Frank Bell, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
When Frank Bell, C.S.B., a member of the Board of Lectureship of the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Mass., appeared on the rostrum of the Lyceum Theater, Thursday night, after he had been fittingly introduced by Mr. Charles Waddles, he found himself facing an audience which completely filled the structure, and which listened with rapt interest to all that he had to say, delivered in his convincing manner. In full Mr. Bell said:
Christian Science has been called the science of right thinking. Its practice is the activity by which wrong thoughts are compelled to give place to right thoughts, that the fruits of right thinking may appear instead of the fruits of wrong thinking. The method is scientific and the purpose Christian.
Nothing could be of greater importance to you and me than the science of right thinking, because all there is to living is thinking. The human body called living and the human body called dead differ only in this, that one appears to manifest the presence of mind, the other does not. There is no other difference. The body immediately after death is composed of exactly the same material as immediately before death. Whatever we may consider that the body has lost in the incident called losing its life, was not material, for all the material that was there is still there. All that even appears to have been lost is mental. These are simple facts, known to every one. They show how easy it is to understand that the reality of living is not physical but mental.
That which is mental consists of thought, and of nothing else. Therefore, to say existence is mental is to say living is thinking. Conditions, then, of living are conditions of thinking. Health or sickness, strength or weakness, beauty or ugliness, wealth or poverty, joy or sorrow, each has its basis in thought. This would not be pleasant to contemplate were it true that thinking is more or less beyond control. Christian Science shows the willing student not only how to distinguish right thought from wrong thought, but how to hold to the one and reject the other, and thus to have dominion over the shaping of his career.
Must Control Thought
If the builder of a house were to accept every material offered, without regard to its source, quality or adaptability, can you imagine the result? If a weaver failed to discriminate as to yarns and colors, would you look for a fabric of value? So the chemist in his laboratory, the farmer in his field, the mechanic at his bench, must know the right material from the wrong and select accordingly. How then can it be expected that man, whose life consists of the thoughts he thinks, whose very being is mental, can realize harmonious and desirable conditions without intelligently controlling the thoughts that shape and comprise his conditions. This might seem a hard task if one had to do it at once completely. To begin is not hard. Any one can distinguish the rightness or wrongness of at least some of the thoughts that offer themselves in the course of a day's thinking. We all know that thoughts of hate, lust, greed, fear and the like, are essentially evil, and that thoughts of sorrow, lack and discord are at least undesirable. On the other hand, all acknowledge the inherent goodness of thoughts of love, truth and helpfulness, while beauty, joy and hope make universal appeal. So then, each of us is ready to make a simple beginning in the important work of analyzing and classifying our thoughts, with a view to putting our mental house in order and keeping it so.
The Bible says if we resist evil it will flee from us. Every one is trying to some extent to resist evil. To do this effectively one must understand the nature of evil and its modes of operation. Christian Science shows that all evil is primarily mental. An evil deed is the fruit of evil thought. It is the same with the evil called misfortune. Was there ever a business failure but that some one's judgment somewhere was wrong? Physical disasters as a rule are traceable to some one who failed somewhere to be careful or wise, failed to think rightly. Even so-called unavoidable accidents often could have been avoided had some one known enough to walk on the other side of the street, or stop the train at a certain point, or steer the ship by another course.
How to Resist Evil
It follows that any physical manifestation of evil is evil in a secondary or resultant stage, and that if one would resist evil itself and not mere effects of evil, he must resist evil in thought. The process is, of course, entirely mental. It consists, as I have said, in displacing wrong thoughts with right thoughts. To do this, one must understand something of the nature of thought. It is not enough to know that right and wrong thoughts produce opposite results. One must understand that they are as far apart in their source or cause as they are in their effects. He who believes that good and evil thoughts are equally legitimate products of intelligence is not ready to resist evil nor to avoid its consequences. In the symbolic narrative of the Garden of Eden we may learn that human troubles begin with what is described figuratively as the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in other words, the taking in or accepting of the belief that evil and good are products of the same tree, have the same origin. Is the Adam of today wiser than his predecessor if he will not heed the voice of reason, that tells him that the law that like produces like is absolute, and that opposites cannot unite in origin or ultimate? It is as true mentally as it is physically that we do not gather figs of thistles nor grapes of thorns nor find a good tree bearing evil fruit.
This means that thoughts which by reason of their nature could not have had a good origin do not properly belong in the consciousness of man. All such thoughts that would try to assume the right to a place in our mentality may be treated as usurpers. They are illegitimate, abnormal, unnatural, unnecessary. We have a divine right to refuse to accept them for what they pretend to be. Our duty and privilege is to resist and dismiss them, and we shall not be entitled to have peace until we do. Living is thinking, and if we wish to manifest conditions of living that are the fruit of right thinking, we must cease to feed on an indigestible mixture of right and wrong thoughts. We must begin to pick and choose our mental food with more care than ever we have bestowed on a material menu.
Mental Nature of Disease
That the evil called disease is the outward expression or effect of a mental state is more and more generally acknowledged. The growing practice of Christian Science, in which all manner of disease is healed by treatment applied solely to mental conditions, is helping mankind to see that disease in all its aspects is the working out of wrong thinking. This does not mean that a person who has a particular disease must have been thinking persistently of that disease. It has been said truly that no man liveth unto himself. Since living is thinking, then no man thinketh unto himself. Some of the effects of mental environment are matters of common observation. For instance, it is considered natural for persons to manifest more or less markedly the mental states or temperaments of their families, communities or nationalities. Does the Chinaman have almond-shaped eyes because the material in his eyes differs chemically from the material in the eyes of people of other lands? Or is it because the almond-shaped eye has been for centuries the standard of what an eye ought to be, in the thought of the Chinese people?
Our common daily experiences may help us to understand how largely that which we call human life is the expression of mental influences of which we are not definitely conscious. Consider, if you will, the myriad thought processes that have entered into the simple matter of your being here at this lecture, that have made possible the printed notices, the clothes you wear, the house you came out of, the steam or electric car or automobile in which you rode, the streets you trod, the years and years of thinking that had to be done to make all these available to you within a few minutes and with the slightest mental effort on your part. Since the mental processes to which we are continually responding are largely outside of conscious thought, the mental causes of diseases are not necessarily confined to influences of which the victim of disease may be aware.
What Contagion Teaches
Periods of contagion or plague especially emphasize the mental nature of disease. There is always at such times a disturbed condition of public thought. A wave of fear keeps pace with the physical manifestations of the disease. The fear increases as the contagion approaches a climax, and the two go out as they came in, together.
When disease and fear are seen to be coincident, it is still much easier for the human mind to believe that fear is an incidental effect of the disease, rather than that disease is an incidental effect of fear. This is because the human mind is made up of mental impressions obtained through the five physical senses. The human mind thinks in terms of materiality.
It is easy for the human mind to believe that certain forms of contagion have been conquered by material means, but not so easy for it to catch the full significance of the tendency of the human body, when relieved by material means of one form of disease, to become increasingly susceptible to disease in some other form, old or new. Persons have been known to be so lost in contemplation of some of the marvelous and costly things that are being done to protect the public health that they have failed to notice that the more the public health is thus protected the more protection the public health appears to require.
I do not mean to imply that the situation is by any means hopeless. The human mind's tendency to cling to whatever is easiest for it to grasp, from the belief that the earth was flat, to the belief that man could not fly, has stood in the way of progress, but has not prevented progress. Intelligence, being of God, must inevitably assert its omnipotent and omnipresent dominion over ignorance. The vain search for health in material means and methods is based on the fundamental mistake, that bodily conditions are independent of mental conditions, or worse still, that the senseless body actually controls mind and dictates the thoughts mind may think. You cannot build a true system on a false foundation, and mankind will not forever try to do so. During the recent epidemic of influenza many medical men publicly protested against attempting to combat disease by increasing the fear of it.
The Right Textbook
The rule and method of the science of right thinking are set forth in the textbook of Christian Science, entitled "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy. This book contains the complete statement of Christian Science, what it is and how it can be learned and applied. Volumes have been written concerning this book and its teachings, but nowhere has it been described so well as in the eight words comprising its title. In certain courts of law those who would call a witness may be required to tell in advance what they expect to prove by the testimony of the witness. Every word of the testimony then may be considered in the light of its purpose. The title of the Christian Science textbook is a statement of what the book is intended to prove. The intelligent student of the book will never lose sight of its title. I have known persons to say they could not understand this book when in fact they had searched it only for confirmation of preconceived and mistaken notions of its purpose. Persons who expect Mrs, Eddy's writing to teach them to be successful hypnotists or mesmerists, to conquer pain with mental suggestion or will power, to heal disease by calling it names, to overcome evil by ignoring it, to evade the consequences of sin through a convenient closing of the eyes, to coin dollars and cents out of a mummery of words, or to do anything else that is absurd, grotesque, unnatural or illogical, are bound to be disappointed.
Considering the title of the book as indicating its purpose, we observe the close association of the words "science" and "health." The book therefore is intended to establish relation between science or knowledge and health or well being, to prove that true health is to be found in the realm that is mental or spiritual, not physical. Associated with the words "science" and "health" are the words "key to the Scriptures." Thus the further intent of the book is to show that the knowledge that is synonymous with health is religious knowledge and is to be found in the Bible. The use of the word "key" is significant. A key is to open something. The Christian Science textbook opens the Bible by revealing its spiritual meaning to the student. If a key opens a door it is a good key. If it opens the door for some and not for others, those who fail to get results cannot blame the key. Were it at fault, none could open the door with it. The fault must be in the application. The result will be equally unsatisfactory whether the key be ignorantly or willfully misused. It must be not only the right key but rightly applied.
Health and Religion
It follows that those who would have Christian Science healing must have it in the Christian Science way. The fact that unnumbered thousands have found the way is evidence that there is a way and that it can be found. The Christian Science way to health and holiness is through the mental regeneration that follows a right application of the rule and method of scientific religion, as given in the Christian Science textbook. The nature of the rule and method, as indicated in the title of the book, is spiritual, scriptural. This point needs to be emphasized, for the human mind has been educated to regard health as something apart from religion.
Even some who believe they see that health is not primarily physical or mechanical, that a mental element is involved, may have no higher concept of mind than the mentality that is supposed to operate through the material human brain, the sort of mind that is utterly at the mercy of mindless matter, that can be made to stop even supposing it is mind, by a blow from an unthinkable club. From such a point of view, one might try to have the Christian Science textbook teach him to make the human mind heal disease. It will not teach that.
The title of the book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," gives notice that the purpose of the book is to prove not only that health is a matter of science or knowledge, that is to say mental, but that the mentality that truly heals is not the human mind but the infinite intelligence, God, and that the provable knowledge of that fact is to be obtained through the unlocking or unfolding of the Scriptures. The student is not required to accept anything simply because Mrs. Eddy says it. This needs to be stated, because humanity has been influenced to consider all things religious as more or less dogmatic, whereas true religion is the realization of man's individual and direct relationship with his Maker, with no self-constituted human authority set up between. One who would gain quickly the largest benefit from his study of this book will do well to remember that it is not a philosophical essay but a scientific textbook, and therefore offers not a theory to be argued but a method to be tried and judged by results. The keynote of Christian Science is demonstration.
Advice to the Seeker
One of the surest ways to postpone the day of your getting something helpful out of the Christian Science textbook is to refuse to try to put any of its teachings into practice until you have mastered all of them. I recall, in my own experience with the study of this book, how long it was before I awoke to the fact that I had been spending most of my time trying to get hold of things I did not understand, instead of trying to use the things that were perfectly clear to me. A simple illustration has helped me to correct this fault. Suppose I enter a large department store to make some purchases. On the shelves and counters all about me I see hundreds of articles that do not seem to meet any present need of mine, and many that I should be puzzled to regard as of value to any one. Shall I stop to consider all these things and try to figure out why they are there and what they could mean to the patrons of the place? Or shall I depart in anger or discouragement, declaring I will have nothing more to do with an establishment that deals in goods for which I can see no need? Of course I will do nothing of the sort. If I consider at all the things that mean nothing to me, it may be merely to recall that the management is meeting the needs of an entire community, and that everything offered may be of some use to someone. It may occur to me also that my own needs may change, and that when I come again I may greatly appreciate some of these very articles. For the present, however, I shall take the things I know I need and put them to the use for which I know they are intended. If you will go to the Christian Science textbook as you would go to the department store, bent on obtaining that which is manifestly good for you, and with no time to waste in puzzling over things whose value does not not at once appear, I am sure you will be surprised to find how much of Christian Science is immediately available.
Helps the Business Man
Right thinking is the business man's best asset, his surest guaranty of success. There is a scientific reason why the so-called success that is built on deceit, fraud and greed is not genuine success and brings to its possessor no real happiness. The scientific reason is that the product of evil cannot be good, no matter how good it may appear to be for a time. The right thinker in business knows how to resist the subtle suggestions of a false and unreal mentality that would justify a wrong act for the sake of a seemingly worthwhile purpose. He knows how to build success on wisdom and fair dealing. Business to him is not a system of fattening on the weakness or credulity of his neighbor, but a system of mutually helpful service.
The right thinking business man of today is catching a glimpse of the operation of divine law in business. He is beginning to realize that the presence of such qualities as justice, truth and love in a business transaction has a definite relation to ultimate success, and that the absence of such qualities will work eventual failure. The Christian Scientist in business not only knows that such results occur, but he has the advantage of knowing why they occur and how he may avail himself of the operation of divine law in business in constantly increasing degree. He is a trained observer of mental conditions. He knows that justice, truth and love, and like mental qualities, are certain signs of the presence of the true God, a presence necessarily active and good. Christian Science has taught him that a right result never is due to chance, that it always is the outcome of the operation of divine law. He knows that this law is everywhere present and is self-operative. Therefore he knows that he manages his business best when he manages to keep out of his business those qualities of thinking that would prevent divine law from managing it for him. That is scientific Christianity, the religion that proves itself. What has been said here concerning business is applicable to business in its broadest sense, to all the affairs of all men.
A Remarkable Church
A notable manifestation of right thinking is the Christian Science Church. This church includes a central organization, The Mother Church, and branch churches and societies in virtually every quarter of the globe. There are more than 1800 branches, and for a number of years new ones have been organized at an average rate of one per week.
There are more than 6000 registered practitioners of Christian Science, devoting all their time to the practice of Christian healing, besides many thousands not in the official lists because they are giving only a part of their time to the healing work. There were 2400 Christian Science lectures last year, with an attendance of 1,800,000, which was an increase of 300,000 over the year before.
The Christian Science Church is a self-sustaining church. It makes no demands on the community at large. It builds handsome church edifices without solicitation of money from outsiders and with little or no such solicitation among its own members. It dedicates its churches free from debt. When the extension to The Mother Church was built a few years ago a simple announcement was made of the amount of money needed, and before the edifice was ready for use it was necessary to request that no more money be sent in, as the building fund of two million dollars was complete.
I have cited these instances of the widespread development, rapid growth and substantial character of this movement, not in a spirit of boastfulness nor of unkindly comparison, but because of their practical value as evidence that Christian Science does heal the sick. A vast majority of its adherents turned to Christian Science for healing. If it had not healed them it could not have held them. Proposing to demonstrate the truth of the Scriptural assurance that salvation from sin and disease is a present fruit of righteousness or right thinking, Christian Science could not have survived on mere promises for the future. It could win only on its immediate and tangible merits. That is the impelling significance of its remarkable growth.
Thirty American legislatures have recognized the practice of Christian Science by providing that it shall not be subject to medical laws or regulations. I do not mean to imply that there is any lack of legal right to practice Christian Science in any of the other states. Chief Judge Bartlett, of the New York State Court of Appeals, when concurring in a decision of that sort, which protected the practice of Christian Science from medical interference, said: "I deny the power of the legislature to make it a crime to treat disease by prayer." The Supreme Court of the United States in a recent decision affirmed the right of a state to distinguish by law between the use of mental suggestion by certain drugless practitioners and the healing of the sick by prayer as practiced in Christian Science.
Evil as a Negation
The teaching of Christian Science as to the essential nothingness of evil is not perplexing when understood. Christian Science does not ignore evil, but holds it to be not an entity, but a negation; not the presence of something, but, in its final analysis, the absence of something.
This is illustrated by considering ignorance as an example of evil. The profession of the educator is honored among men, and the work of education is supported by untold wealth of public and private funds. All this vast expenditure of time and talent and treasure is directed against what? Against ignorance, nothingness.
Would the educator succeed if he were to regard that against which he contends as a positive thing, with a real source and an actual presence and power? Is there a school anywhere whose curriculum includes a course of instruction in the origin and elements of ignorance? Would any school tolerate for a moment a pupil who would declare, "I will not learn anything about intelligence until you explain to me where ignorance came from and who made it and what it consists of?" The only answer would be that ignorance did not come from anywhere, was not made by any one and does not consist of anything.
The educator knows the effect of ignorance on its victims. He knows it must be overcome. His whole effort is toward the overcoming of ignorance. Yet he knows it is not of itself anything, and he is aware that he could make no progress against it if he thought and acted as if it were a positive entity.
The Christian Scientist understands that all evil, including disease and sin, is the outgrowth or expression of conditions as truly negative as is the particular evil called ignorance. His experience convinces him that there is no permanent remedy in processes that overlook this essential fact. The Christian Scientist no more ignores evil than the educator ignores ignorance.
Question Easily Answered
What manner of woman was Mary Baker Eddy?
Those who undertake to follow Mrs. Eddy in the application of Christian Science to the needs of humanity find that they are successful in proportion as they are able to put into their work such God-like qualities as love, courage, diligence, patience, purity, humility, unselfishness. In what superlative degree then must these qualities have been required of one who could discover this Science. In like manner does the Christian Science Church bear testimony to the practical clearsightedness of the one who individually devised and established its every feature. There will be increasing appreciation of this as The Church of Christ, Scientist, continues to demonstrate its ability to protect pure Christianity from ever again being obscured by a materialistic and lifeless counterfeit.
[Delivered Nov. 4, 1920, at the Lyceum Theater and published in The St. Joseph Observer of St. Joseph, Missouri, Nov. 6, 1920, as the lead article on the front page. The title, which was not provided by the newspaper, seemed to be self-evident from the lecture's content and has been supplied by this website on that basis.]