Christian Science Faces Reality
Ralph W. Cessna, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
To face the spiritual facts of
divine Life makes great demands on humanity - but "only in this way can we
actually find and face reality," said Ralph W. Cessna, C.S.B., in
Mr. Cessna spoke in John Hancock
Hall on the subject, "Christian Science Faces Reality." The
lecture was sponsored by The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ,
To face spiritual reality, the lecturer noted, also involves "recognizing the challenge" of evil - rejecting and correcting its claims by realizing the presence of God.
To do this "makes demands on our honesty, obedience, and humility," he said.
"It makes demands on our capacity to use our God-given power of reasoning, on our readiness to love, and on our willingness to give up our old cherished beliefs."
The result is a great release of healing power, he emphasized.
"This power to face reality - and thus to heal now whatever needs to be healed now - is available to each one of us."
Mr. Cessna is a practitioner and
teacher of Christian Science in
The following is a complete text of the lecture:
Haven't you often heard it said: "Now we've got to be realistic about this. After all, you've got to face reality." This insistence on being realistic of course is simply a desire to be practical, to do something that will bring a useful, tangible result. And that's perfectly natural. But it is also sometimes said or assumed - perhaps you've heard this too - that in Christian Science we're not practical, that we don't face reality. Well, nothing could be more wrong. I should like to show you that it is only through understanding and applying this Science that we can really be practical at all. Only in this way can we actually find and face reality.
Now let's not conclude that this means being reconciled to error. No. It doesn't mean - as you hear it said a lot these days - learning how to live with discord, pain, sickness. It does not mean learning to live with our fears. For these things have nothing to do with reality. No, it means learning something more of the only reality, and that is what God has made.
But let's reason this out from the beginning.
And let's agree first now that the term God could not refer to something that looks and acts like material man - finite, limited, destructible. Remember, God made man in His image and likeness; man did not make God in man's likeness - though that's what mankind seems often to be trying to do. No, let's learn about God and His idea, man, not from what appears to this limited, material sense, but from revelation and reason.
Let's turn to the Bible. From this Christian Science concludes that God is Spirit, not matter; it reveals that God is indestructible Life; that He is eternal, infinite Truth; that He is divine Principle, the only cause or creator; that He is the only Mind, the only intelligence; that He is of course the only power, the only Soul or being; and what is so important, it shows God as all-encompassing Love.
Then the question arises: What about this seeming creation that is destructible, limited, certainly not altogether good? You'll say that it certainly seems real - why, you can feel it, and hear it, and taste it, and see it! We find the answer to this in a statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. She writes in "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany" (p. 109): "Matter is but the subjective state of mortal mind. Matter has no more substance and reality in our day-dreams than it has in our night-dreams."
What is all this that seems so real? The answer is that it is a kind of waking dream. It's nothing more than human thought or belief being mistakenly seen as reality apart from thought. It is a counterfeit of the real. You see, neither mortal man nor the seeming disease he complains of is real, for neither is God-made. For example, the material figure miscalled man is itself only a false concept or counterfeit of the real, spiritual man. What is the disease? It's an aggravated wrong thought being seen or felt as something real. But here you may ask: "What is it that believes all this?" And the answer to this is that it is mortal mind, the counterfeit of divine Mind, itself false and unreal.
An illustration here would be
helpful, I think. Let's turn to physical science. Forty years or so ago the
fundamental building blocks of the universe appeared to the physical scientists
to be microscopic particles of matter called atoms. Further study brought the
conclusion that matter is really made up of nothing more than light or sound
waves. One of these students even went so far as to say that matter was just
"music." Anyway we now find this one, an eminent professor of
Now note that neither physical scientists nor philosophers actually tell us why the physically unreal appears to the senses to be physically real. And they fail also to tell us what reality actually is. Why is this? It is because of the mode of operation. You see the physicists are still assuming the existence of matter as some kind of entity entirely apart from thought. The philosophers assume the existence of a mind apart from God. They are both reasoning up from effect to cause - when that very effect is itself an illusion. They leave out of the reasoning process the one essential, the only correct premise, which is God, Spirit, the one Principle or cause.
But now there's another area of
human thinking that helps to fill in a gap in the development of our point here
- why the physically unreal appears to the senses to be real. Experiments at
He was led to a wooden cabinet containing three peepholes. Through each peephole in turn he saw what appeared to be a tiny chair. He pronounced these three chairs identical. Then he was asked to inspect the interior of the cabinet and he found behind the peepholes three quite different objects, each made of fragments of cloth and wire. The first object he had looked at through the hole did appear like a chair. The other two had no resemblance to a chair at all.
Now why had these other two appeared to him to be chairs? Because he had approached these two peepholes expecting to see two more chairs; he was unconsciously entertaining a mental image or thought of chair, and hence he saw this image, his own thought. This helps illustrate that what we see is what we believe, something Mrs. Eddy perceived nearly a century ago entirely through a higher sense of the spiritual fact. The director of the Center told the visitor: "The world as we experience it is therefore the product of perception, not the cause of it." In other words we don't see things because they exist as realities, we don't see things because they are there, but rather, things seem to be there because we perceive them.
We're not used to thinking of it in this way are we? But this explains to some extent why the physically unreal appears to be real. Now if this is so about the sense called sight, it must be so about the other physical senses. Even in physical science, then, it is agreed that we not only see, but feel, hear, taste, smell, experience our own individual beliefs. Of course, it is important to see, in Christian Science we know this to be true because we have long since learned it through true perception, which is spiritual.
And now we leave the experimenters. And I might note that all we have done is to illustrate the fact that while human observation has brought recognition of some elements of truth already revealed in Christian Science, this human observation itself does not lead to reality. To find reality we must turn to Christian Science and reverse the whole mode of operation. We must reason from the only correct premise, the one creator, God. All material appearance or experience, you see, is some phase of the belief, conscious or unconscious, that God is not ever present, or that God is present but that somehow His creation can be unlike Him, finite, limited, destructible. It is the belief that pain and sickness, the opposite of good, are real. It is a phase of the belief that matter, the opposite of Spirit, is real. And here we are reminded by Mrs. Eddy: "Spirit and its formations are the only realities of being. Matter disappears under the microscope of Spirit" (Science and Health, p. 264).
That microscope of Spirit is a wonderful thing, isn't it? But now that we've reduced matter to nothing, what about intangible evil? What about sin? Is this real? The answer is that it is no more real than matter. Christian Science explains it this way: Matter is the counterfeit, the false mortal-mind concept of true, spiritual substance. Evil, sin, disease, death - these are aggravated phases of mortal belief; they are counterfeits, the false, mortal-mind concepts of life, of purity, of true happiness and well-being.
Is fear, or the thing we fear, ever real? Here is a story that answers that. The owner of a big motor yacht told me that once he was cruising with a friend in waters calling for some navigation skill, full of reefs and shoals. At one point he said to the friend, who, by the way, never had so much as been in such a craft before - he said to him: "I've got to go below to check the engine. Here, take the wheel. All you've got to do is look ahead - you'll see a black marker on one side, a white marker on the other. Just go between them. Then ahead a ways you'll see another set of markers. Just go between them. Never mind about what's way up ahead. Just follow the markers." He went below but very soon he heard a terrified shout from deck. Going up he found the friend pointing ahead, almost overcome with fear. He managed to say: "Look up there at that big rock. We're headed right for it, and there's no way around it." The owner reminded the friend that all he had to do was follow the markers and assured him that when they got to the rock there'd be a way around it. The friend calmed down and they went on, When they came to the rock, sure enough, there was a wide channel right around it. The owner said that friend looked up at him sheepishly and said: "You know, I’m never going to be afraid again.”
Reasoning from the one Principle, God, or as Mrs. Eddy puts it, using the microscope of Spirit we see that reality is what God creates. Let's face this reality. It is like Him, infinite, indestructible, complete. It is spiritual, forever reflecting God's perfect nature. It can't be changed, removed, swollen, broken, diseased, hidden, corrupted, or destroyed. The real man is God's idea, truly a wonderful thing. He is spiritual, eternal, healthy, complete, perfect; he is incapable of sin, incapable, of either having or believing in disease, incapable of death. This perfection, this spiritual fact as revealed in Christian Science, this is reality. And we certainly can face this reality, always, with joy!
Now to make it practical. You see we have hints of this reality in human experience before arriving at a full understanding and demonstration of it. These hints appear in some form and to some degree as good health, strength, harmony, joy, abundance, assurance, peace, love. And here let's go back to Mrs. Eddy's statement that the daydream is no more real than the night dream. This waking dream, manifesting the individual’s understanding, or lack of understanding, of God, does seem to become better in the proportion that the understanding becomes better. So, while there is in fact actually neither a sick mortal man, nor a well mortal man, there does appear to the individual in this illusive human experience a better sense of the presence of good. And this we see as we look through the microscope of Spirit and the glimpse of reality becomes more clear.
Now haven't you heard it said, as a kind of parallel to that statement about facing reality - haven't you heard it said that the Christian Scientist should at least do something about it if he is sick? Well, just because he doesn't rush down to the doctor's office, or over to the drugstore, or to the medicine cabinet, then put himself to bed and call all his friends and neighbors and tell them about his troubles - this doesn't mean he isn't doing something about it. He doesn't burden others with it, but he most certainly is doing something about it. He's recognizing the challenge, rejecting the troublesome claim as a lie, and correcting this with what he knows of reality from his understanding of God through Christian Science - doing this sometimes with the aid of a practitioner.
And here, for the benefit of the stranger or newcomer, let me say that Christian Science treatment is not a form of psychology. It is not what is sometimes termed faith cure. It is not just repeating words. And, it is not just sitting there and doing nothing. It is doing, as a matter of fact, what Jesus did during his brief ministry. It is facing reality; realizing the unreality of all that is unlike God, and the reality, the ever-presence of all that is like Him.
Our little granddaughter, with all the symptoms of a bad cold was sent home from school so her mother could do something about it. The child herself did something about it. Though she reads haltingly she asked for her Bible and Christian Science textbook. With her parents' help in rejecting the error and knowing the reality, she was back in school in a day. Something was done about it, you see. Christian Science treatment is not just a matter of reciting words. It is not just a sweet declaration that God is Love. It is a matter of knowing what this means, and applying it; of knowing that divine Love did not create a cold or any other disease; that disease must be unreal; and that there is present only what God did make, an eternal wholeness manifesting this love.
But you may ask: "What if healing doesn't come at once? Do you give Science a try, then turn to medicine?" Of course you never turn to medicine. You just keep on striving, keep on knowing Truth, knowing it better, knowing it with more faith, more expectation, more conviction. As a matter of fact discouragement never comes to one who keeps before him the fact of God's ever-presence. Satan, out with one of his helpers, spied a man walking along briskly with his head up, a sparkle in his eye, and whistling happily. "Go over there quickly," Satan said to his helper. "We can't have any of that. Tell that man he isn't happy at all, that actually things are pretty bad." The helper went over, perched on the man's shoulder, and assured him there was no reason for his happiness, that really he was very discouraged and dejected. Coming back to report the helper found Satan very dissatisfied, for there was the man still breezing along whistling for all he was worth. Satan sent the helper back with instructions to do a good job of discouraging this time. The helper now leaned close and recounted into the man's ear all of the error and trouble he could think of, why the man should utterly be in despair. As he came back his own head was low. Satan asked; "What's the matter? Can't you discourage him?" "No," said the helper, "but he certainly discouraged me.”
Mrs. Eddy found reality in her study of the Bible, the words and works of the prophets and of Christ Jesus and his followers. She wanted not just relief from chronic ill-health, but even more she wanted answers to some profound theological questions, and she spent many years trying to trace all physical effects to a mental cause. It was after her quick and seemingly miraculous recovery from the effects of an accident expected to be fatal, that she discovered what she later named Christian Science. What came to her was the revelation of divine law, divine reality. Jesus, the son of the Virgin-mother, taught and demonstrated Christ, Truth, the appearing of reality to human consciousness, but left it to later revelation to provide a full statement of its rule. It is this Christ which Mrs. Eddy perceived, and this rule which she set down and elucidated for this age in its full and final form.
To spread and perpetuate this
gospel of divine reality she established - and it is important to see that this
was part of the revelation - she established the Church of Christ, Scientist,
consisting of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in
I once asked one who was attending a Christian Science church why he hadn't joined. "Oh," he said, "I'm not ready. I haven't been healed of everything yet." It was explained that membership doesn't require perfection, but proof of earnest desire for understanding, and willing obedience to the teachings of Mrs. Eddy. Can one who is not a member be healed? Yes, but if he goes on asking for healing without gratitude, without a humble desire for understanding, or, what is more, a desire for a part in the spreading of this Science, such a mental and physical separation from church encourages a separation from good, from healing.
Mrs. Eddy saw very early that the reality behind healing, behind church, was not her human personality. She discouraged personal adulation. She invariably turned thought and attention away from the human selfhood to the one source of being, God. She saw that the healing agent is the Christ. And she saw that healing is not a matter of dealing with disease or trouble as a reality. Mrs. Eddy declares in the textbook (p. 169): "Science not only reveals the origin of all disease as mental, but it also declares that all disease is cured by divine Mind. There can be no healing except by this Mind, however much we trust a drug or any other means towards which human faith or endeavor is directed."
The Christian Scientist does not use medicine, you see, even a little bit, because he knows disease is not in matter but in thought, and he knows that drugs cannot change thought. He realizes as a matter of fact that using material means actually aggravates and perpetuates the trouble in some form because it supports and perpetuates the belief.
An inquirer once asked: "But didn't God give man the ability to make not only automobiles and television sets and space rockets, but also medicine, wonder drugs?" The answer was that of course God did not and could not create matter in any form, nor a man who could be given the power to create or form matter. Matter, remember, whether in the form of a refrigerator or a pill is but a false concept, an image of mortal thought, the contradiction of Spirit. Now this human concept, as we have seen, can be a relatively good one, involving progressively greater freedom from mortal limitations. But medicine does not bring freedom from material limitation. It perpetuates limitation. It imbeds thought more deeply in materiality.
If God made medicine or gave man the ability to make it, medicine has a place in God's plan. This would mean that disease also is a part of His plan, that God made disease. But, even if He could, why should God make such a thing, requiring Him then to make something else to heal it? Anyway, doesn't the Bible say that what He made was very good? Sickness isn't very good. It isn't good at all.
Then it is said that God sends disease to punish man. But again, why, even if He could - why should God make an imperfect man, then punish him for doing what he was created capable of doing? Also, think of this. If God sends disease to punish man, wasn't Jesus defying God when he healed disease, something he spent most of his short ministry doing? And, another thing! If medicine is God-made, why didn't Jesus ever use it or prescribe it? Now where does medicine fit into this picture? It doesn't! Medicine is but part of the false human concept which misjudges God and misjudges His creation.
I'd like to tell you of an experience of a friend of mine who joined a United States Marine Corps officer training program. The program soon revealed him as being physically less than adequate. What is more, he was unready to cope with the new demands of close association with boys who held opinions about many things very different from his. He was the object of regional, racial, religious, cultural, physical, and personal prejudices, or so it seemed. He became discouraged and depressed. He was reported unfit for combat command. He was on the verge of failing, or being "washed out" as they call it.
One bitterly cold, icy day in December on a forced cross-country march under full pack of 60 pounds he was especially low mentally. He was resenting the Marine Corps, his companions, and in particular the cold and the ice. He thought to himself: "How awful it would be if I should slip now with all this gear." Well, you know what happened! A moment later he did slip.
One leg shot out at an angle as he fell, completely out of control. An ambulance was called, but he insisted on going back to his barracks rather than to a hospital. There he phoned a Christian Science practitioner in a distant city and asked for Christian Science treatment.
The following day he had to report for sick call. At a hospital an X-ray picture revealed that one knee was badly dislocated, and that the cartilage was severely torn. He was told that an immediate operation was necessary. He was also told that the operation might not be successful, in which case a more serious condition would develop, and that even if it were successful he would be hospitalized for a year and then would be medically discharged. The operation proposed was so serious and uncertain that military personnel had the unusual privilege of refusing it. Our friend did decline. He now called upon a Christian Science practitioner close by for aid.
It was immediately clear that he must try to see not only the unreality of the physical condition, the report of pain, or displacement, but also the unreality of the claim of accident itself. Nothing of God's creation, he was helped to see, could fall, be out of place, or in pain. Beyond that he was shown the need to correct his thoughts about the seemingly unfriendly mental environment.
This is where real love had to be expressed. He saw to some degree the unreality of prejudice, ignorance, hatred, resentment, for God could not have made any of this nor a man who could feel or express it. He cleared out his own prejudices. He saw something more of the perfect man, not subject to hatred, criticism, discouragement, failure, pain, or impairment. In other words he faced reality. He realized better that the real man, the only man, is forever intact, whole, upright, loving, strong, well, effective, and happy, and that he was that man. Improvement began. But there remained only 12 days in the program and if he did not return at once he would be "washed out." He was told by medical officers, however, that return to duty was impossible, that in spite of the seeming improvement the knee would never heal, that he would limp the rest of his life. He went on crutches to see the highest medical officer. After much pleading he was permitted to return to his barracks. Here he was now received with sympathy and new respect, in an entirely changed atmosphere. With continued Christian Science treatment there was rapid improvement. One month from the day of the fall he was given a thorough physical examination and pronounced not only completely healed but ready for the especially rigorous training program necessary for completion of the course.
Of the 250 in the original class 150 failed along the way. Of the remaining 100 he finished 13th from the top, with high marks, recommendation for leadership, and selection for further officer training. This was the boy who a month before was about to fail, and who was condemned to permanent physical disability. He went on into many months of active front-line service, and came back without a scratch.
Now did he face reality? Did he do something about the trouble? He most certainly did do something about it. And he most certainly did face reality. He found, as we all can, that whatever the problem, good is real and ever-present; that what is not good is but a manifestation of wrong thinking. He found, as we can, that this thinking, and thus the trouble, can be corrected through facing reality, through understanding and applying the spiritual fact.
Let me admit here that this does involve some demands on us. It makes demands on our time and energy. It makes demands on our honesty, obedience, and humility. It makes demands on our capacity to use our God-given power of reasoning, on our readiness to love, and on our willingness to give up our old cherished beliefs. But isn't it encouraging to know that as we humbly turn our hearts toward this divine reality, God is right there to guide and support us. We can go home today with this assurance: that this healing power, this power to face reality - and thus to heal now whatever needs to be healed now - is available now to each one of us in Christian Science.