Christian Science: How It Works
Archibald Carey, C.S.B., of Detroit, Michigan
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Many years ago, near a busy city of the Orient, a blind beggar sat at the roadside begging. Not only was he blind to the light of the sun, but he could see nothing before him but endless days of sitting in the heat and dust, a beggar.
One day as he sat by the roadside he heard the noise of many feet coming toward him along the way. Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. As the sound came nearer, he heard eager voices talking of the wonderful works that were done by this new teacher. They said that he had healed leprosy and blindness, that nothing seemed impossible to him. Blind Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus. People said he was like David, and that the power of God was with him. They said that he used this power of God to heal those who came to him for help. With a great surge of hope the blind man cried out, "Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me." Those who were near by tried to keep him from interrupting Jesus, but he continued to cry, "Thou son of David, have mercy on me."
Jesus heard him. He stood still and told his followers to bring the blind man to him. Without a moment's hesitation, Bartimaeus cast away the garment that was the mark of a beggar and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" The blind man answered, "Lord that I might receive my sight."
How that prayer wells up from the heart of humanity! "That I might receive my sight" — that we may see what to do, what course to take, how to meet the problems that confront us! How men are searching for the answer!
Jesus knew the answer. Realizing the presence and power of divine Love to meet every human need, he said, "Receive thy sight." Immediately Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus in the way. Not only was the physical blindness healed, but the mental blindness of indecision and unperceived opportunity was gone. Without hesitation he followed Jesus in the way — the way of loving service to mankind, of understanding, grateful obedience to God (Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43).
Let us look at this incident frankly and objectively, first to see just what took place, and secondly, to see what laws were utilized which could be practically useful to us. But before going into the methods used, let us get a complete picture of what Jesus did to Bartimaeus. He not only healed his eyesight; he also lifted him out of what we have called mental blindness. Bartimaeus saw nothing to do but sit by the roadside and beg. He was blind to any other possibility. Many blind people have seen opportunities for useful occupation and progress, in spite of the physical handicap of blindness. This man was not only physically blind, but was also mentally blind, unable to see the possibilities of activity that could bring happiness to himself and others.
Then notice what a transformation took place. Not only was his physical blindness healed, but his mental blindness, his inability to recognize opportunities and make decisions, was also gone. He threw away the cloak of a beggar, abandoned his place at the roadside, and leaving behind him his previous associations, followed Jesus in the way.
It would be hard to overestimate the importance of this second healing, this healing of mental blindness. At first glance, it may not seem as spectacular as the healing of his eyes. But think what a difference it made to him! Not even the healing of his physical vision could have had more far-reaching effects.
Is not this release from mental blindness one of the greatest needs of humanity today? How often we say, or hear others say "I can't see what to do next;" "I can't see how to get what I need;" "I can't see where to turn." Whether the need is for health or money, or a home, or for opportunities for progress and freedom, we hear the same plaintive, baffled cry, "I can't see." Is this not blindness, as tragic as the lack of physical sight? And as we see the problems before us, do we not all re-echo the cry of blind Bartimaeus, "Lord, that I might receive my sight"?
What is the mental or spiritual vision that can overcome mental blindness? You hear it said that we see only with the physical eyes and that they control our vision. But suppose two men are looking at a printed page in a book. Both have equally normal physical vision, but one is able to read and the other is not. Both can see equally well the black letters on the white page. But the one who can read sees not only the letters on the page, he also sees the ideas conveyed by the words in the book. They are both looking at the same thing, but one sees only the black and white outline of letters, while the other sees the Lord's Prayer! The man who cannot read is blind to the ideas that the other man can see.
How can the man who cannot read be released from this mental blindness? By learning to read. His blindness is not dependent upon his eyes, could not be remedied by magnifying glasses. Only as he learns to read, to see ideas in this manner, can such blindness be overcome. As his understanding increases, his blindness disappears. The greater his understanding, the more he can see in each page of the book. What he is able to see depends upon his understanding.
Jesus referred to this mental blindness when he said, "Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16:3) The Psalmist yearns for the mental and spiritual vision that will heal this blindness when he prays, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Ps. 119:18).
Since what one understands controls what he is able to see, our environment is evidently largely controlled by our capacity to see. A man who could not read might be in the midst of a library of interesting and stimulating books and yet might consider his environment held nothing of interest. Let him learn to read, and he would find himself in an entirely different environment, satisfying and inspiring. His environment would change as his ability to see increased. So his environment might be said to be dependent upon what he is able to see.
When we stop to think of it, how practically useful we find this ability to see things that cannot be seen by the physical eye. If you are planning to build a house, your ideas take shape in thought, and you begin to see in your mind's eye the home that you would like to build. You talk it over with a builder. He begins to see what you have in mind, and the ideas become more concrete. Plans and specifications are drawn, and the carpenters and masons and those who will furnish the materials see the project more clearly. The materials are prepared in accordance with this mental picture. The hardness of stone must yield to the impact of this mental concept, until the stone is molded and shaped to fit the plans. The strength of steel, the resistance of wood, yield to the substance and power of ideas until the materials are assembled, the building is built, and the mental concepts of the builder stand forth in visible and tangible expression. You move into a home which you had seen before it was built. Your mental vision has controlled and established your environment.
This power of ideas to control our tangible environment has a far-reaching effect. Fifty years ago a quiet, comfortable, reliable automobile was unknown. Today we are surrounded by automobiles. What made them appear? Years ago a few men in different parts of the world were entertaining the idea that it was possible to produce a self-propelled vehicle to take the place of the horse. Most people were blind to that idea. The men who saw this idea succeeded in getting others to see it. The idea began to find tangible and visible expression — usually very noisy expression — and vehicles that could actually move themselves along the road began to appear. More people saw the vision. They were willing to buy and use cars and furnish the money to build more cars. As the mental concept of freer transportation developed, automobiles were improved, better fuels were provided, roads were prepared. Our tangible, visible environment was transformed by the mental vision of the automotive pioneers who saw something beyond the mental blindness of their day and succeeded in sharing their vision with us. Whether you drive your own car, or whether you use taxicabs or buses, this vision of the early automobile builders has brought to you an environment of greater freedom and opportunity. Because of the vision of these men, and because you now can see today what they saw before it was physically visible, it is possible for you to drive an automobile or ride in a bus. Their vision has produced tangible results for you individually.
How Jesus Healed
As we realize how powerful is the ability to see mentally, it is not surprising to find this explanation of Jesus' method of healing in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy (pp. 476, 477): "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick."
Jesus beheld the perfect man. He saw something to which Bartimaeus and those around him were blind. Bartimaeus was reaching out for true vision. As he began to see himself as Jesus saw him, as he accepted this correct view of man, his blindness disappeared, both physical blindness and that which might be considered as mental. The ability to see clearly spiritual wholeness which Jesus shared with him brought healing and regeneration. His body was healed, and his outlook was transformed.
Can we learn to use this same method that Jesus utilized and get similar results? Yes. Christian Science gives a scientific explanation of the Christianity which was taught and demonstrated by Jesus and his apostles. The discovery of this Science is an interesting story. The Discoverer of Christian Science was Mary Baker Eddy, a woman of brilliant intellect. Her parents were devout Christians, and her intellectual attainments were balanced by a deep appreciation of spiritual Truth. As she grew up and her breadth of vision increased, she could see beyond the narrow limitations of dogma and creed which would describe God as limited, changeable, and supernatural. She also rose above the scientific and intellectual bigotry which would describe the world as wholly material, ignoring the existence of such an essential characteristic of God as love. She could see no reason for the conflict that seemed to exist between science and religion. A scientific approach which was based upon an honest search for truth would find its goal in a Christianity founded upon an understandable Principle, a Principle which maintains and controls every fact and law in the universe.
As Mrs. Eddy sought to understand the right relationship that must exist between true science and true religion, an incident occurred which brought a practical answer to her questions. She met with an accident which was expected to prove fatal. She took her Bible and opened it at the account of the healing by Jesus of a palsied man. As she studied this, she was instantaneously healed.
Here she gained an intuitive indication of the method of healing used by Jesus, and as she devoted herself to a study of his teachings and works, by approaching this study from a scientific point of view and looking for facts and laws rather than for miracles and supernatural occurrences, she discovered the laws that Jesus had used and the methods of making practical use of them. This was the Science of Christianity, and she called her discovery "Christian Science."
She wrote a textbook on the subject, called "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." As growing numbers became interested in this Science, with their co-operation she founded the Christian Science movement. Anyone who knows what she accomplished is compelled to admire her ability and intelligence. Those who have received the benefits which come through using her teachings add to this a deep sense of gratitude and love toward the one who has done so much for them. So Christian Scientists recognize Mary Baker Eddy as the Discoverer of Christian Science, as the Founder of the movement through which this healing truth is reaching mankind, and as the great Leader whose clear vision has led them out of ignorance and bondage into freedom and health, harmony and success.
How does Christian Science explain the miracles of Jesus and give us the vision that will enable us to make use of the same laws which he used? As we begin to study the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, we find that the first chapter is on the subject of prayer, because prayer is absolutely essential in gaining an understanding of this Science. As we study this chapter, we realize that prayer, as understood in Christian Science, is very different from the popular thought about prayer. Since God must be infinite Mind, knowing all, there can be nothing accomplished by attempting to tell God in prayer something that He does not already know. Since "God is love" (I John 4:16), unchanging Love, having infinite intelligence, there can be no point in attempting through prayer to change His good purposes or to dissuade Him from carrying out His will. There would be no advantage, even if it were possible, to persuading God to be less than loving and wise.
But if we see prayer as a means by which, through communion with God as Mind, we can gain the ability to see and use right ideas, we realize how important this true prayer can be in bringing to us the ability to see as Jesus did when he brought the light that lifted Bartimaeus out of blindness.
True prayer, then, is communion with God. In order to commune with God, we must know what God is. Believing that God is changeable and can make mistakes, or that He is sometimes unjust or unkind, or that He is limited by time or space, would hinder our communion with God. Attempting to commune with such a God, a God that does not exist, would not be prayer in the true sense. It would tend to blind us to the facts; it could not bring the clear vision of intelligent understanding.
So the effectiveness of prayer is safeguarded by an understanding of what God is. Christian Science teaches that God is unchanging Principle, governing the universe in perfect harmony. It refers to God as ultimate Truth, upon which all the facts of the universe are based. It explains that God is unlimited Mind, completely intelligent, infinitely wise, knowing everything that can be known. It shows that God, being infinitely intelligent, must fully discern and appreciate the goodness and harmony of His creation, that His very being must be Love. As He is necessarily the foundation of everything that expresses life, God is Life itself, resisting and overcoming anything that would harm or destroy the eternal identity and perfection of His creation. And Christian Science teaches that God is Spirit. As Spirit, God is everywhere, always. No distance can separate us from Him; no space is too small or inaccessible for the operation of His irresistible power.
This is the God with whom we can commune in constant prayer. As we gain through prayer a clearer vision of what God is, we find that this brings faith. This is not the mystical faith of blind belief that may temporarily appear to produce remarkable results but will eventually lead to disappointment and disillusionment. This is a sound faith that is founded upon facts. When you understand the multiplication table, you have full faith in it. A faith that is based upon an understanding of Truth is very different from mysticism or, fanaticism. A faith that is founded on facts can never be shaken. It grows stronger with use. As we commune with God in true prayer, as we learn to see His nature as it is, our growing understanding brings this unshakable powerful faith. The Bible says, "The prayer of faith shall save the sick" (James 5:15). Thus true prayer brings the ability to behold as Jesus did the perfect man of God's own likeness and with this correct view of man to heal the sick.
Gratitude is an important feature of prayer. It would be impossible to realize the nature of God, what He is doing for man, what He stands ready to do for each one of us, without being grateful. A lack of gratitude would mean a failure to realize what God is. One who felt no gratitude could not be conscious of the presence of God; how could he pray to God? But in the atmosphere of gratitude we can know God as He is, can realize our oneness with Him. We are conscious of His presence everywhere. "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
As we experience this true vision, as we see the manifestation of God everywhere, we love the beauty, harmony, and perfection that appear. It would not be possible to see the perfect man, who is Godlike, without loving this likeness of God. Through prayer we learn to understand and see the perfection of God and man and to love them. This correct view, that necessarily includes both understanding and love, exercises the power of truth over error, the power of a fact to destroy a mistake, and thus it heals sickness. In the Christian Science textbook we read, "The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, perfect God and perfect man, as the basis of thought and demonstration" (Science and Health, p. 259).
But someone may say, "I agree that these things we have been considering are true; that one's ability to see ideas can control one's environment, that through communion with an intelligent, loving, ever-present God one can develop the ability to see ideas, but how can all this be made practically useful to me?"
Christian Science, as Science, shows us how to make an effective application of what we know, as Jesus did in healing sickness. We are not dealing with abstractions, but with concrete facts. Only one who sees intelligently can really comprehend facts. The only guarantee of being truly objective is to exercise an intelligent, discriminating. subjective, or knowing consciousness. This intelligent, knowing consciousness recognizes spiritual or divinely mental facts, and with such facts it can destroy mistakes. This power of divine Truth over error is used in Christian Science to produce practical, tangible effects.
Christian Science Treatment
How is this done? The use of this power of Truth over error to heal disease and solve everyday problems is Christian Science treatment. Being scientific, it is definite and effective. It can be compared to the use of the power of a fact to destroy an error in mathematics.
Until it is corrected, a mathematical mistake can make a great deal of trouble. The whole production line of an automobile factory might be shut down by a mathematical mistake which resulted in the ordering of an insufficient quantity of certain parts. And yet the mistake in mathematics can always be corrected, and when it is corrected it no longer makes trouble. The process of correcting such a mistake is very much like a Christian Science treatment. Suppose you multiply one number by another. In order to verify your answer you divide it by the multiplier. If that does not give you the other number, you know that your answer is not in accordance with the principle of mathematics and therefore is not correct, is not real.
But you know that you can correct this mistake. This is a very significant thing. Even though the original calculation, with the wrong answer, is in your own handwriting, you know that if it is wrong it does not really represent your thinking. In spite of what appears to be your thinking, and its product in figures on the paper, you repudiate it because you know that it is not true and accurate. You reject that false consciousness which seems to accept the mistake as real, and stand by your intelligent ability to recognize the truth. You know that the false consciousness that seems to believe the mistake is as false and unreal as the mistake it believes. Then you proceed to go over the problem to see that particular calculation needs correction. In each step you accurately apply the truth. Presently you come to a place where three is to be multiplied by two, but instead of six, the figure on the paper is nine. The truth has uncovered the mistake.
Instantaneously, the truth destroys the mistake and its seeming power to make trouble. Not only is the mistake gone, but the false consciousness that seemed temporarily to believe the mistake is also gone. If you test your answer by dividing it by the multiplier, you find that it is in accordance with the principle of mathematics, and you know it is correct. The power of truth has destroyed the mistake. It can no longer do any harm.
Let us take an example of Christian Science treatment and see how similar it is. A man who was seriously ill with general inactivity of the digestive tract, accompanied by inaction of certain glands, requested Christian Science treatment. In silent prayer the practitioner turned to infinite Mind for the truths that were needed to correct this condition.
Because God is Spirit, always active, expressing the perfect activity of Life, and because this perfect activity is as omnipresent as Principle, it was apparent that inactivity must be like a mistake in mathematics, incorrect. untrue, unreal.
But the man said he felt sick. Just so a mistake in mathematics seems very real to the false consciousness that believes it. This false consciousness is spoken of in Christian Science as "mortal man." As in mathematics, this false consciousness that seems to believe a mistake can be reversed and destroyed when it is subjected to the truth, as we replace the mistake with the fact. Since only what is based on Principle can be true, and since real consciousness can know only these facts, both the false belief of inaction and the false consciousness that seems to experience it are unreal.
The patient said he felt that he hardly deserved healing, that he might be justly suffering for his own sins in the past. The practitioner called his attention to the Bible statement, "Now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2). A son of God, the image and likeness of God, cannot be a sinner and deserves no suffering. The only debt the real man owes to God is to express God, to live in obedience to God's laws. This obligation always exists and is always being fulfilled. As one accepts his true selfhood, which is governed by God, he not only is not compelled to undergo sickness as a punishment, but is forever rid of it. And the omnipotence of God is always ready to give him freedom and to maintain that freedom as sin is repudiated and abandoned.
Each phase and symptom of sickness or sin that appeared in this case was reversed through spiritual understanding of the specific truth that would correct it, following the directions of the Christian Science textbook (p. 233), "The counter fact relative to any disease is required to cure it." The man said that there was a lack of proper glandular secretions. This was corrected with the fact that there is no chemical or biological inaction or action independent of God that can interfere with the harmonious activity of Life, the Life which governs man and everything that belongs to him. The patient said that necessary muscular action appeared to be lacking. This was met with the truth that there can be no inert substance and that no physical inaction or action can prevent the irresistible activity of Spirit, which is always operative everywhere. He said he had no appetite and no desire for right action. Since God is Love and is expressed in right activity, how could man, His image and likeness, fail to desire and have right action? Only the false self, mortal man, which accepts mistakes as real, could say that man lacks right desire. Man under the government of God constantly desires and expresses right, orderly activity, the intelligent expression of Life and Love.
As the false, illogical delusions of mortal man were reversed and replaced with spiritual truth, as these truths were declared and affirmed, fear and despondency began to lift. The morbid mental attitude that he thought was the result of his physical condition began to disappear even before there was any physical change. The body, relieved of the stagnating effect of mistaken thinking, expressed free, orderly, harmless, and painless activity. The gentle, irresistible power of Love removed permanently the sense of material inaction that had seemed so powerful.
In this case, the healing came immediately. Other similar cases have required patience. Sometimes it has been necessary to apply the truth persistently, as we do in mathematics if we do not instantly find the correction. One phase of the false consciousness called mortal man is that it sometimes appears to continue after you know that you know better. When you watch a sunset, you know that the sun does not move, that it is the earth that does the moving. The false sense insists that it can continue to see the sun moving, even though you know better. When you learn to drive an automobile, you may learn from a book everything you need to know about driving your car. And yet, until you have used this knowledge to control your hands and feet in driving, your body may not properly respond to what you know. But if you continue to use what you know, and keep on driving, before long your body will become so responsive to your thought that you immediately go through all the motions required to stop or start your car without any deliberate effort.
So in Christian Science treatment, many healings through the work of a consecrated Christian Scientist are instantaneous. But if healings do not come instantly, you proceed just as you would if you were correcting a mistake in mathematics and did not get the right answer, or as you would if you were learning to drive an automobile. You use the truth you know and patiently and persistently apply it to the situation which is before you until the power which truth exercises over error produces its inevitable effect.
As we employ the counterfact to nullify the error which is presented, gratitude to God for the truths that we already know and have experienced helps to keep these facts before the thought. If we are dealing with inaction, a grateful realization of the many ways in which we see or have seen right activity expressed, in our experience or the experience of others, helps to keep the realization of the omnipresence of perfect action clearly before us. As we gratefully expand our appreciation of the counterfact we are using, it is helpful in every case.
The testimonies of healing which you may read in the Christian Science textbook, or in the Christian Science Sentinel or Journal, as well as the testimonies you may hear any Wednesday evening in a Christian Science church, show how effective this method of healing has proved itself to be and that it is successful where other schools of healing have failed. The reason that it is more effective than psychotherapy, or psychosomatic medicine, or other systems that deal with what are called the mental aspects of disease, is that in Christian Science only fundamental Truth is used to heal. There is no effort to patch up one set of human beliefs with other beliefs through the power of suggestion or hypnotic control. Christian Science develops the individual's natural, intelligent response to Truth.
Not only does Christian Science give us this powerful method of dealing with disease or discordant conditions through Christian Science treatment, but it also enables us to protect our health and progress in a very definite way. Again we can compare it to mathematics. Every mathematical concept which presents itself at the door of your thought is either a fact or a mistake about a fact. There is nothing else. And a mistake can always be corrected by its specific counterfact, leaving you with the fact instead of the mistake. And there are no exceptions to this rule. There is no mistake which cannot be corrected by the appropriate fact. In Christian Science we learn to test every thought which appears at the door of consciousness, rejecting each one that is erroneous and replacing it with what is true.
Christian Science is practically useful in business. Through Christian Science we learn to develop responsiveness to right ideas from infinite Mind, so that our decisions may better express both intelligence and a loving helpfulness to others. A clearer realization of the nature of fundamental Truth, as shown in Christian Science, enables us to detect and reject methods and motives that would interfere with our progress. We learn to weigh and appreciate facts more accurately, to detect and reject false impressions that might do harm if accepted as true.
There are definite steps we can take through which we receive the ideas that will broaden our vision and heal both mental and physical blindness. We need to study the foundational truths that are given in the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. The spiritual truths that are given in the Bible have been so diluted and misrepresented by ignorance and misunderstanding that the Christian Science textbook is truly a key to the Scriptures as it enables us to recognize their truth meaning.
Christian Science makes a distinction between the Christ, defined in the Christian Science textbook as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (p. 583) and Jesus, defined as "the highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea" (p. 589). The eternal Christ was so fully exemplified by Jesus that he was known as Christ Jesus. Both the Bible and the Christian Science textbook speak of the Christ as the Way, and as we think of the Christ as the way of living, it helps us to understand the eternal presence of the Christ. As our lives approach more and more the divine manifestation of God, we find that oneness with God that is true salvation. Thus the acceptance of the Christ brings full salvation, not as a possible future experience, but as something to be experienced here and now, with a present release from sickness and poverty and sin. Christian Science fulfills the words of the Bible, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ." (Rev. 12:10).
How to Begin
How does one start to use Christian Science? You can buy or borrow a copy of the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, at any Christian Science Reading Room or secure it at any public library. Read the first chapter, on Prayer. It is like lifting the window shade on a sunny morning. Keep on reading, and see how it illumines the meaning of the Bible. You can attend Christian Science church services on Sunday, and on Wednesday evening when the meetings include testimonies of healing in Christian Science.
You can daily study the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, as well as give sufficient time for earnest, grateful prayer and communion with God.
Is not the prayer of blind Bartimaeus in our hearts today, "Lord, that I might receive my sight"? We yearn for the light of understanding, the illumination of love. And the same divine Love that Jesus reflected is here to answer our prayer, to heal us, and guide us, and provide for us. We too can fling aside the garment of heaviness, of sickness and sorrow and despair, and in the dawn of a new light follow Jesus in the way. Our loving, wise Father-Mother God stands ready to help us step by step, and with gratitude and joy we can go forward. In the words of the Christian Science Hymnal (No. 64):
From sense to Soul my pathway lies before me,
From mist and shadow into Truth's clear day;
The dawn of all things real is breaking o'er me,
My heart is singing: I have found the way.
[Delivered July 30, 1950, under the auspices of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Detroit, Michigan, and published in The Grosse Pointe News, Aug. 10, 1950.]