Christian Science: The Law Governing True Self-expression
Ralph Castle, C.S., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
How many persons can describe their own facial expression? It is pretty safe to say that the Apostle James was right in his simile of a man beholding himself in a glass, going on his way, and straightway forgetting what he looks like. The word "expression" is, of course, subject to various meanings. Mankind has always sought expression in one form or another, but this expression, which is generally rooted in materiality, is bound, therefore, by material limitations. A limited vocabulary tends to restrict oral expression; a limited possession of facts will result in an erroneous expression of opinion.
Not long ago, and it may still prevail, there was a movement in the schools for young children to be encouraged in what was termed "freedom of expression." It is not within the province of the speaker to discuss the merits or demerits of this program. However, as we shall be dealing with true self-expression, it may serve a purpose to use that system from which to draw a brief comparison.
Freedom of expression should not, of course, mean license, unless license is thought of in its highest meaning, namely, licensed by divine authority. As a general thing it is not so considered. None will deny that self-expression among children, and adults for that matter, should be encouraged when it is based upon instruction and understanding as to what constitutes true selfhood. What is the "self" to be expressed? Is it a human personality which demands a pandering to materiality, thus cultivating willfulness, selfishness, and not infrequently a disregard for the feelings and happiness of others? Or is it an expression of intelligence, courage, love - in other words, a conscious confinement to the development of the finer characteristics and, as we shall see during this talk, reflecting Godlike qualities?
Students of Christian Science realize that, to an extent, a lecture on this subject is designed for the newcomer. As you know, these lectures are free and are open to the general public. They were established by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, in order that those who wish may obtain some idea of the spiritual truths regarding true selfhood which are revealed through her discovery and which she made available for us all to use in overcoming sin, disease, and death. At the same time, many students of long standing receive spiritual refreshment and inspiration through lectures, and I should like to tell you about an experience of one such Christian Scientist.
This friend while serving as First Reader in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, was stricken with a severe attack of pneumonia. He and his wife wished to attend a Christian Science lecture which was to be given in a city about one hundred and thirty miles distant. The lecture was to be held on the following Tuesday, and the physical condition seemed so aggressive that the possibility of attending appeared rather remote. On the Monday he felt very ill and was in great pain. Our friend's wife felt that he should not take the journey, but he had such a desire to go that he was compelled to make the effort. On the way he called to see one who needed help and spent about an hour declaring the truths of Christian Science. When he returned to his car his wife was very much disturbed over his appearance and suggested that they then return home. They still had one hundred miles to travel if they should proceed to the lecture. In relating the incident, our friend said it was as though someone spoke to him in paraphrase of the Bible passage, "He that putteth his hand to the plough and turneth back, is not fit for a Christian Science healing." That was enough. He was more than confident that this was a message from God, for he realized that his desire to attend the lecture in the first place was to learn more about God and His creation, including his own true selfhood as God's likeness. So they pressed on, eventually arriving at a friend's home, where he was able to retire. When the time came to leave for the hall, efforts were made to have him stay in the house, with a promise that notes would be taken for him of what was said. But he saw these arguments as attempts of material sense to deprive him of the good he was anticipating, and which demanded fidelity; so he persisted in going along with them.
The hall in which the lecture was held was directly over a noisy bowling alley and was filled with tobacco smoke. There was a great deal of coughing and, to our friend, the place seemed in a turmoil. He sat through the lecture listening with keen interest, for he felt sure that if he were "faithful unto death" - that is, the death of the error - he would receive "the crown of life" which the Lord "hath promised to them that love him." The lecturer finished his discourse and was leaving the platform and, as our friend said, his heart almost sank into the floor, for he felt no better. Then an unusual happening occurred. In a moment the lecturer returned and, holding up his hand, said, in substance, "Friends, for the last hour we have been talking about the omnipresence and omnipotence of God - good. If that is true - and it is - then right where all this disturbance is claiming to be, God is." Our friend was instantaneously healed. Pain, fever, and all symptoms of illness dropped from him, and he arose completely free. The next day he drove the lecturer all the way on his return journey, for it happened that their paths coincided.
Naming Author of Textbook
In lectures on Christian Science as well as in the Sunday services and Wednesday meetings in Christian Science churches, when citations are given from the Christian Science textbook, "Science arid Health with Key to the Scriptures," before commencing to read this book for the first time, the name of the author, Mary Baker Eddy, is announced in full. This performs a threefold purpose in addition to complying with a By-Law contained in the Manual of The Mother Church. It acquaints the stranger with the full title and authorship of a book with which he may or may not be familiar. It establishes the book's authenticity, because the student of Christian Science is aware that Mary Baker Eddy was the Discoverer of Christian Science, that she founded and organized the Christian Science church, and that she was the only Leader of this religion. Thirdly, it is a grateful recognition which serves to perpetuate the unity which exists between the textbook itself, its author, our Leader, and with those who are seeking a better understanding of God through her writings.
In the light of recent events in the realm of natural science, so called, Mrs. Eddy's discovery and elucidation of Christian Science provide an arresting comparison. Through divine revelation and consecrated labor, devoting practically all her research to a study of the Holy Bible, she became convinced, and later proved by demonstration, that the bestowal of the healing power of God was not confined to Biblical characters or early Christians, and a very few others who were spiritually endowed. She found that the reason that physical healing by spiritual means was not being effected more generally and that so few records of such healing could be found through the centuries was, that mankind had forgotten the true God. To be sure, there were always various concepts of God, but the God of Abraham, Elijah, and Elisha, the God of Jesus, of Paul and the apostles, had become obscured. Increasing creeds and dogmas, ritualism and ceremony had beclouded the people's vision of God, Spirit, and of His omnipotence and omnipresence. And yet, while vitalizing these forgotten or disregarded spiritual truths, Mrs. Eddy proved herself to be almost one hundred years ahead of her time in her mentally scientific devitalization of matter, thereby proving its nothingness, or non-existence in the scientific meaning of the word.
As Christian Science has its foundation in the same truth that is recorded in the Holy Bible and its purpose is to reinstate primitive Christianity, we may with profit review certain facets of the life of our great Master and Teacher, Jesus the Christ. Furthermore, it should be apparent that unless Mrs. Eddy had made a consecrated study of Jesus' words and works in the light of Biblical prophecy and fulfillment, and had possessed the spiritual capacity to grasp the significance and ever-availability of the power of God which Jesus exemplified, she could not have set forth her revelation in such clear and unmistakable terms. And, of course, we could not be profiting from the fruits of her labor today in this clearer perception of God, of His healing Christ, and our own true selfhood.
Jesus and the Christ
In Christian Science the distinction is made between Jesus as the name of the human person, and Christ as the divine title. It is significant that a modern dictionary, in the definition of "Christ," includes the following passage from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy: "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (p. 583). Originally the Master was referred to as Jesus the Christ, but gradually the article was dropped until he became commonly referred to as Jesus Christ.
There has been a tendency, especially in dogmatic ecclesiasticism, to confine the word "Christ" solely to Jesus and frequently to use it as an alternative when speaking of the Master and his teachings. While Christian Scientists definitely recognize the rightness and propriety of referring to Jesus the Christ, or to Christ Jesus, we need mentally to differentiate between the human Jesus and Christ, the divine manifestation of God, which, so long as fleshly beliefs exist, has come and will come to destroy incarnate error. On page 333 of her textbook Mrs. Eddy points out that "Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets caught glorious glimpses of the Messiah, or Christ, which baptized these seers in the divine nature, the essence of Love." And on the same page we read, "The advent of Jesus of Nazareth marked the first century of the Christian era, but the Christ is without beginning of years or end of days."
If the Christ is without beginning
of years or end of days, the Christ is with each one of us now - at this
moment. That is not tantamount to saying that Jesus is with us now - at this
moment. I make this statement, for it is of the utmost importance that we
realize the ever-presence of the Christ - the power of God, if you will - for
it is a scientific understanding of the Christ which enables us to prove by demonstration,
in the way Jesus taught, that God is ever with men and that we are His
children. The ever-present Christ cannot be absent. With evidence around us of
hatred, fear, ill will, and confusion, it may be necessary to remind ourselves
of this fact and in our daily lives and to pray for divine guidance. Yet should
we not always pray for divine guidance, irrespective of whether discord or
harmony is apparent in the shop, in the office, or in the home? When the
Unreality of Matter
To utilize an understanding of the Christ it is also necessary to have a clear concept of what constitutes true selfhood. A moment ago we referred to the nothingness of matter, per se. This is equivalent to saying that the material structure which we call the human body is nothingness. In reality - please note the distinction - in reality it is nothingness. To the material senses it appears to be real, and that is why we need a definition of terms to avoid talking at cross-purposes.
Matter, in whatever form conceived, can be dispersed to the vanishing point; so we designate it as unreal in the scientific meaning of the word - not in the generally accepted meaning, I grant you. Christian Science, which has its foundation in the Holy Bible, proves that Spirit, which is eternal, indestructible, is real. Spiritual consciousness is real. Spiritual identity is real. That which is spiritually perceived by you and by me at this moment, or at any time, is real, for individual spiritual consciousness is a reflection of God, divine consciousness. Spiritual consciousness is eternal, and eternity is synonymous with reality. It is of little concern what eventually becomes of this material body. Consciousness remains, and consciousness is Life. Therefore, Life is real, spiritual Life of course, because it is eternal. Spiritual qualities, which are inherent in consciousness, can never be dissipated or extinguished. Thus we begin to apprehend the eternality of life.
You remember it is recorded in the
eleventh chapter of John's Gospel that a messenger from Mary and Martha told
Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was sick. When Jesus heard it, he said,
"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son
of God might be glorified thereby." He knew that the son of God and the
real man are one and the same and that the Christ from which he was inseparable
and which he expressed would awaken Lazarus to his own glorified being as the
son of God, to appear in the form most convincing to the people of
So Jesus did not hurry to
It can readily be seen that when Jesus used the first person pronoun he was not referring to himself as the human Jesus, but had reference to himself as the representative of the Christ. Jesus was conscious - ever conscious - of that representation. This clear perception of oneness with the Father enabled Jesus to draw instantaneously on the Father's power and ability to know only that which is good, that which is Godlike. An illuminating passage in this connection is found on pages 476 and 477 of Science and Health: "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 was not misled by what the material senses would try to have him believe.
Paul spiritually perceived the meaning of true or real selfhood and what it meant to endeavor to express that real selfhood. For instance, in the second chapter of his epistle to the Galatians he says, "Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (verse 20).
After his conversion Paul did everything he could that was humanly and prayerfully possible to carry the gospel of the Christ to the world of his day. Yet, while preaching and ministering, he knew that none can reach the kingdom of heaven through another's vicarious effort. His words ring down the ages, ''Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. ). Work out your own salvation with reverence and a desire to do rightly.
Salvation, Mrs. Eddy tells us in the Glossary of Science and Health, (p. 593) is "Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness, and death destroyed." Salvation is the demonstrated fact that God is all and that every material belief in a power apart from God is proved to have been a lie, for it no longer seems to exist.
At this stage of progress we are continuously confronted with beliefs in a power apart from God, and we may find ourselves accepting these beliefs to the extent that we permit our daily affairs to be governed or directed by them. Sometimes it may seem there is not much we can do except to conform to their demands. Let us not be discouraged. Provided we recognize these false beliefs as such, mentally correcting each one and living up to our highest understanding of Principle, we are working out our salvation. "Emerge gently from matter into Spirit" our Leader cautions, and she adds, "Think not to thwart the spiritual ultimate of all things, but come naturally into Spirit through better health and morals and as the result of spiritual growth" (Science and Health, p, 485). These words mean exactly what they say. They do not imply putting off until tomorrow or being halfhearted in our efforts. Although gently, we are required to emerge, and this emergence should be a steady and continuous process.
Let us return for a moment to our definition of salvation as "Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all," and review it in the light of Paul's admonishment. Through the centuries Christians must have been cognizant of Paul's words, at any event since his epistles became available in written form, and have accepted them as true. To what extent, may we ask, are Christians of today demonstrating as supreme over all their understanding of Life, Truth, and Love? Happily, healings of sickness and sin through the application of the teachings of Christian Science promise eventual fulfillment. What is it that hinders spiritual progress? Is it not the universal belief in a power apart from God, to which we have already referred? Jesus taught and demonstrated that God is omnipotent. Conversely, he proved the falsity of any belief in a power separate or apart from God. Sin and sickness he likened to the works of Satan, or the devil, evil, to whom he referred as a liar and a murderer.
In this connection there is an enlightening marginal note in the Christian Science textbook which says, "Evil thought depletes" (p. 416). Let us reflect on the meaning of these words and see what bearing they have on the subject of salvation. Surely they awaken human consciousness to the realization that as long as erroneous thinking is indulged, there is a corresponding depletion of true understanding. For purposes of discussion, when speaking of evil or error in any form, we will refer to it as a belief - a false belief. The reason for this designation is that we do not wish to accept any erroneous suggestion that it has power. We have already seen that God, good, is the only power; so anything unlike God, although claiming power of its own, is but a false belief to be destroyed mentally in human consciousness by the realization of true creation and true being. With this distinction observed, we see that the belief of sickness claims to deplete health; the belief of exhaustion claims to deplete strength; the belief of waste claims to deplete substance; the belief of age claims to deplete life, and so on. By invoking the law of God, however, we find the spiritual fact to be that health, strength, substance, life - in reality - cannot be depleted, for they emanate from God, the only power and presence. Although we speak of attaining salvation, let us be clear as to what is seeking the attainment. Actually, that is spiritually, man lives always at the point of salvation. The beliefs of the flesh, evil, or the carnal mind as Paul describes it, deny this spiritual fact, and in our human experience we are engaged in putting off these false beliefs in an endeavor to gain knowledge of perfect God and perfect man, the knowledge of true self-expression.
This putting off or mentally destroying false beliefs and the desire to avail ourselves of a practical knowledge of God by consciously expressing Godlike attributes and qualities, which, of course, include health and harmony, is the prayer of Christian Scientists. By this we see that prayer becomes more than mere petition. It is not asking God to do something for us. Rather is it an understanding that God's work in our behalf is already done and that it is possible here and now for us to realize and to demonstrate the Biblical truth that He made all that was "made, and, behold, it was very good."
Prayer in Christian Science, or as it is frequently termed, Christian Science treatment, thus resolves itself into a conscious affirmation of spiritual realities, a realization of the truth which Jesus said "shall make you free," free from false, material beliefs, which quite naturally are relegated to their native nothingness, as Mrs. Eddy has described it. At the same time, we need to destroy or mentally to discard all thoughts which we know to be ungodlike, the outcome of material beliefs in sin, sickness, and death: in other words, beliefs in a power apart from God.
In her discovery of Christian Science it was revealed to Mrs. Eddy that the nature of God could be signified by seven all-embracing terms. These terms, which are synonymous, present various aspects of Deity. They are Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. Meditating upon their meaning, pondering the qualities which they represent, we broaden our concept of God to an extent possible in no other way. At the same time our realization of true selfhood is enlarged, for the more we know about God the more we know about man, His image and likeness.
Following her discovery and
demonstration of Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy instituted various human
activities as aids to individual and to world-wide salvation. She organized a
church for the purpose of reinstating primitive Christianity and its lost
element of healing, and she named this church the Church of Christ, Scientist,
The Mother Church, in
The Church of Christ, Scientist, is governed by the Rules and By-Laws of its
Church Manual, written by Mrs. Eddy. Thus it has a spiritual, impersonal
government. Mrs. Eddy compiled the Church Manual as necessity arose, devoting
much time and prayer to each provision, that it might be dictated under divine
guidance. This little book has stood the test of time and of litigation
designed to annul its By-Laws. Our Leader once wrote, "Eternity awaits our
Church Manual . . ." (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and
Miscellany, p. 230), and the Supreme Court of the
In the definition of "Church" in her textbook, Mrs. Eddy says, in part, "The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility . . ." (Science and Health, p. 583), and a dictionary definition of "utility" reads, "Power to meet human needs." I am not suggesting that the editors of the dictionary had this thought, but is it not a definition which states exactly how a church should be described - an institution which affords proof of its power to meet human needs? And surely the greatest human need is to know more about God and man's relationship to Him. Is not humanity's prayer a perpetual pleading for release from the effects of sin, sickness, death, grief, and lack? Not always, though, has it been seen that the suffering of mankind is the outcome of an erroneous concept of God - or of no concept at all. Here, Christian Science, the law governing true self-expression, is brought to humanity's aid. For Christian Science is the promised Comforter, the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father and which testifies of the Christ. For confirmation one has only to read authenticated instances of healing in Christian Science which are published in our monthly and weekly periodicals, or to attend the Wednesday meetings, usually held in the evening, in Christian Science churches and societies, at which, in gratitude to God, testimonies of healings are related. Incidentally, loyal and earnest students of Christian Science are awake to the privilege of attending these meetings and will not be mesmerized into thinking that it does not matter very much if they are absent. Some persons will testify to having been tempted to stay away from the Wednesday evening meeting because of tiredness or some social engagement; but when they have met this false argument and attended the church, it has redounded to their ultimate joy and, not infrequently, relief from physical difficulties.
In Job 32:8 we read, "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." As you know, the word "inspire" comes from the Latin meaning to breathe into. One dictionary gives as a definition, "to animate or kindle as by a spiritual influence." So we see that in seeking to express true selfhood, which is, of course, another way of saying seeking salvation, we need constant inspiration. Inspiration is vital to the demonstration of Truth and to spiritual healing. It is a divine impulse which unfolds to man the understanding of spiritual selfhood. We need to cultivate the habit and the ability of recognizing this impulse which, in reality, cannot be hindered or obstructed but which flows perpetually from God to spiritual man. A student of Christian Science may sometimes lament that results of right reasoning which came easily when he was younger now seem to take longer and require more labor. If this temptation ever comes to us, we should immediately see it for what it is - the diabolical mesmerism of matter with its attendant beliefs of material substance, weight, years, lack of mobility, and so forth. There is not one particle of Truth in that kind of thinking, for no such condition can emanate from or be known to God. Therefore, it is unknown to man, and on that ground it must be destroyed.
On the other hand, true thoughts, which are clearly of God, do supply the spiritual impulse, the inspiration, which enables us to receive more of the Christ, Truth. Christian Scientists should never waste time lamenting either the past or the present, any more than they should dread the future. Demonstrating the truth of being is a conscious, present experience, and spasmodic efforts are overcome by consistent, joyous work. Work does not mean merely indulging in good intentions or in religious ecstasy, in human material platitudes or vain repetitions. Work means, for one thing, mental alertness to the claims of evil, destroying them in consciousness by scientific thinking. Work does not mean mere physical labor. On page 519 of her textbook Mrs. Eddy tells us, "God rests in action." So Christian Science work should be conducted with relaxation.
Inspiration to the Christian Scientist is a divinely natural experience, qualifying him to accept and express divine Truth. It flows more freely as the presence of the Christ is realized more fully. In John we read that when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he breathed on them; in other words, he inspired them by his presence. Then he said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." We need to cultivate the expectancy of feeling the breath of the Christ and to receive similar inspiration.
Spiritual inspiration is not something which comes and goes, any more than health comes and goes with the spiritual man. Neither is it something difficult to acquire, something for which we must fight. Man does not have to fight to live. Man lives by divine authority. So man is inspired by divine authority. If and when there seems to be a stoppage in the flow of inspiration, do not sit down under it and merely wait for a change to occur in the mental attitude. Do something about it. Instantly become alert to what is trying to hinder spiritual growth, a would-be deterrent to the efficacy of Christian Science healing. When the error is thus uncovered it is ripe for destruction. Spiritual inspiration brings the impulse and the desire to heal.
Contributing to Peace
One of the most perplexing problems which the world faces today is how to establish permanent peace - peace not only between nations but within nations. It goes without saying that peace cannot be enjoyed so long as human beings entertain thoughts of war and strife, while they participate in heated arguments and bitter criticism. If we, as individuals, are to make any worth-while contribution to the attainment of peace we must express and be conscious of peace. Peacefulness is another God-bestowed quality; therefore, it is an element of true self-expression. The benediction of the Master, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," is for us today if we will accept it. Jesus qualified this peace. You remember his next words, "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." The peace of the Master is not ease in matter; it is not the kind of peace the world, or the carnal mind, understands.
As our understanding of God and of the ever-presence of the Christ unfolds, it will be seen that we can and may claim and enjoy, here and now, that inward spiritual peace which is ours by right of inheritance as the children of God. No one else can give it to us, for it is not theirs to give. No matter how much one who is near and dear might wish to bring peace to a loved one, while he might contribute to peace, he could not fully bestow it on others, for peace is a gift direct from God, divine Love, to each individual.
Peace of mind belongs to true being and is of such inestimable value that it is probably the first possession which error would try to steal. We do not have to fall among thieves. Again error is so subtle that it might even take on a reproachful attitude. It might say: How can you dare to be at peace when the rest of the world is engaged in strife? It is not Christian to be joyful when others are so miserable. It is not kind to be happy while so many persons, at home and abroad, are so unhappy. See how error would rob us if it could, if we would let it.
Thanks to the Bible and the teachings of' Christian Science, we know that error, under whatever name or guise, is but a belief. The unhappiness of mankind, its distresses and sicknesses, are all false beliefs. This does not mean we are unmindful of them. Quite the contrary, we deplore the misery which human beings are being called upon to undergo, and we seek to relieve their sufferings by every practical means in our power. But because tens of thousands, or one who is near and dear to us, entertain a false belief is no valid reason for us to accept it as true.
Christian Scientists, have a responsibility to contribute to the peace of the world by constant, conscientious metaphysical work, destroying through spiritual understanding the false beliefs of fear, hatred, suspicion, and other ungodlike thoughts which would obtrude themselves into the attempts of nations to live peaceably together. However, if we are to contribute to the peace of the world, the nation, the church, the community, or the family, the place to start is with ourselves, in our own consciousness. Until we learn to live peacefully with ourselves, working out our own salvation, knowing what peace of mind really means, we cannot impart it to others. But when we do, the light shines, the beatific presence is felt, and its influence will permeate the thought of those with whom we live and work, and the seed thus sown will bring forth fruit an hundredfold.
As Christian Scientists we have a responsibility in letting the light shine. The rules of procedure are given in the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, and they were exemplified by our Saviour, Christ Jesus.
It would seem that ever since the dawn of history mankind has sought peace along racial or nationalistic lines, yet war and conflict between peoples have been perpetuated. Surely this would indicate there is an error somewhere in the premise. The relationship between nations is such that understandings must be sought, more or less, by democratic processes. Nonetheless the solution lies mainly with each individual, for permanent peace of mind and peace in the world will be brought about only so fast as every man, woman, and child perceives the meaning of real selfhood, which raises thought above the currents of mortal mind or mere material existence to the great spiritual fact that true self-expression is divine, ever-present Mind, God, expressing Himself through man. Seeing this, we cannot fail to be obedient to the words of our Master in his Sermon on the Mount, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
[Published in The Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) News, Oct. 28, 1954.]