Your Thinking Determines Your Experience
William Milford Correll, C.S.B.,
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Transformation of thought is basic
in spiritual healing, William Milford Correll,
C.S.B., told an audience in
"The only incurable situation," Mr. Correll declared, "is when a man won't change his thinking. But when the heart yields to Truth and Love and thought unites itself to the divine Mind, nothing can prevent the right adjustment of human affairs that they may conform to the laws of harmony, God's government."
A Christian Science teacher and
From April, 1965, to July, 1970, he served as Associate Editor of The Christian Science Journal, the Christian Science Sentinel, and The Herald of Christian Science.
Mr. Correll was introduced by Mrs. Elizabeth Glass Barlow, Second Reader of The Mother Church.
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
Recently an interesting experiment was conducted. A man was confined to a small room and put under conditions of extreme heat in order to make him perspire freely. The perspiration was then subjected to chemical analysis and found to be absolutely normal. Then the situation was repeated with the exception that this time the man was provoked into extreme anger. Again the perspiration was analyzed chemically and this time was found to contain enough poison to kill a small animal. What the man was thinking made the difference.
It isn't difficult to see how wrong mental states can cause disease and disorder in the human body, especially if such false thinking is chronically indulged. While we cannot catalog all disease as a result of moral fault, it is safe to say that wrong thought is the basis of all inharmonious experience.
Jesus knew this. Any number of times he emphasized the transformation of thought as the reason for the healing of those whom he helped. He said in several instances, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." Again, in referring to the better mental state of the individual, he said (Matt. ), "As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee." He frequently said to his followers, "Be not afraid." In one instance when he had healed the impotent man, he said (John ), "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." Jesus constantly referred to the thinking of the individual rather than to any so-called physical cause. He said (Matt. ), "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." And then he explained this statement by saying that it is the wrong thought of the individual that causes the trouble - the fear, ignorance, hatred, malice, lust, and dishonesty that come forth from the heart. This basic fact that our thought determines our experience is one of the fundamental teachings of Christian Science.
When an artist paints a picture, it is his mental concept that he portrays. His thought is the substance of his expression. Now we are all artists in some degree, expressing our mental concepts in our thinking and living. And it is our thought that is the substance of our expression. So we are responsible for our experience. It isn't always easy to face up to this, but the acknowledgment of this responsibility is one of the first steps in improving our thought and life. Now the significant point is this, that since our consciousness is the key to our experience, we can, through an understanding of scientific prayer, bring our thinking into accord with God's harmonious law and know His healing power in our daily living.
We know that Jesus, the master Christian, was the most practical man of all time. All through his experience as recorded in the Bible he met the daily needs, of those who turned to him for help. He healed the sick, regenerated the sinner, and helped those in need of daily supply. In all history there has never been anyone as eminently successful in meeting human needs.
The essence of Jesus' teachings is in the Sermon on the Mount. Here we find that he laid great stress on the individual's thinking. This was of paramount importance. He spoke of guarding against anger and hatred, of loving our enemies, forgiving those who trespass against us, of being faithful, trustworthy, honest, merciful, and pure. He taught us how to cleanse our thinking through prayer. All through the Scriptures this basic point stands out - that it is our thought that determines our experience.
Take, for example, the experience of Jacob from the Old Testament. Early in his life he practiced duplicity; he was dishonest and stole his brother's birthright. Later when he was working for his father-in-law, he experienced this same duplicity. His father-in-law was dishonest with him. Jacob was reaping the nature of his own thinking or consciousness. It was only when he went through some deep and drastic changes in his thinking and living that his experience began to reflect freedom and joy.
After stealing from his brother, Jacob was naturally afraid of him. When he heard that his brother was coming after him with a host of men, he was terrified at the prospect. It was then that the record shows that Jacob struggled all night with his false concept, his own false sense of man. He prayed long and earnestly. Finally the light of divine Truth began to dawn upon his thinking. He could see that the real man is the reflection of divine Principle, Love; that he is honest, forthright, generous, and kind. This new unfoldment changed his whole concept of man. In the morning when he met his brother, the entire situation had changed. He sought to restore to his brother what was rightfully his, and his brother in turn "ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Jacob said (Gen. 33:10), "I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me."
Now if wrong thinking - fearful, ignorant, mistaken, or malicious thinking - causes the troubles of mankind, then right thinking is the antidote - right thinking based upon the spiritual understanding of the allness of God as the one divine Mind and of man as the expression of that Mind. As we have seen in the experience of Jacob, this right thinking is prayer. The basis of true prayer is the fact that God, infinite Spirit, is the one creative, governing intelligence that controls all reality. Man, in God's likeness, reflects the harmony and control of this divine Mind. Jesus' healing works disclosed this fundamental rule of harmony as God's will for man. He showed that this divine will was understandable and practical in our daily affairs.
When we understand the fact that consciousness is the key to experience, then we can proceed to apply to our thinking those spiritual elements that will purify and elevate thought. The real man has no mind of his own apart from the divine Mind. He has no life apart from divine Life; and he knows no will but God's will. He is completely and perfectly governed by divine Principle, Love.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 469), "The exterminator of error is the great truth that God, good, is the only Mind, and that the supposititious opposite of infinite Mind - called devil or evil - is not Mind, is not Truth, but error, without intelligence or reality." The great truth that God is the only Mind exterminates error because error claims to be mind and to come to you as your thought. Unless error can reach you as your own thought it can't touch you.
As we turn in our thinking from the worship of matter to the worship of Spirit, we begin to bring our lives under the control of the divine Mind. As we enthrone Truth in our consciousness, we find that by its very presence it destroys error. As we worship Spirit, we lose our respect for and fear of matter or mortal law. And as we surrender to the government of Soul, we gradually gain control over material sense. This is seeking to know God aright, and His presence becomes apparent as spirituality, integrity, gentleness, purity, wisdom, and love. These qualities, emanating from the divine Mind, are expressed in the real man as God's reflection. Then as this Christly nature dawns upon our thought as the truth of our being, we begin to individualize perfect man and to experience the harmony of the divine Mind. Divine control is made apparent in our experience through the exalting influence of spiritual understanding.
Often the wrong thought to be corrected is fear, caused by a lack of understanding of God's laws and of His perfect government of man. An individual I know had difficulty with his throat over a period of months. He wasn't a Christian Scientist, and at the urging of his friends at the office he submitted to a series of physical examinations. The condition was diagnosed as malignant and he was urged to have an immediate operation. Now this man's wife was a Christian Scientist and she persuaded him to apply for help from a Christian Science practitioner. It was explained that Christian Science doesn't mix material methods with the spiritual and that he would have to rely wholly upon God. He agreed to do this and with his wife's help applied himself to seeking an understanding of God and man in His image and likeness. He had much fear to eliminate from his thinking. It became plain to him that it is only through prayer, and through a proper understanding of God and of God's power and love for man, that he could really overcome fear. The practitioner continued to work for him. Two weeks later when the company officials requested him to have another physical examination there was no trace of the difficulty. This healing has remained permanent through the years. It proved that when fear is overcome, the physical condition changes completely.
The human mind, or human reasoning, may insist that the body is simply a physical organization, and that when something is wrong with it, some physical application or remedy is necessary. Now Christian Science teaches that the body, or human experience, is actually the projection of the thought or consciousness of the individual. Let me draw an analogy to this in the projection of moving pictures. Think of consciousness as the projector and the body as the screen upon which the picture is projected. When a change of picture is required it would be foolish to go to the screen and attempt to make the change there. We must go to the projector to effect any permanent change. It is important to realize that the change in thinking is the substance, the basis, of any healing, or change in experience.
This was recently brought out by a retired physician, Lorain Swaim, in his book entitled "Arthritis, Medicine and the Spiritual Laws." His experience over many years pointed to the necessity of dealing with the mental states of his patients through what he termed spiritual means in order to arrive at any real change for the better. He came to realize that material medicine does not accomplish any permanent change; that it was the emotional states, caused often by discordant personal relations - the resentment, the jealousy, the fear - that were the essential causes of many physical difficulties in his patients. He particularly cited bitterness and chronic resentment as primary causes of disease, and listed such elements as worry, fear, insecurity, self-pity as damaging to one's well-being. He writes (p. 125), "The root of these emotions is the hurt feelings of unsatisfied selfish demand, and selfishness can only be cured by obeying spiritual laws."
"The hurt feelings of unsatisfied selfish demand" - this is the clue to much wrong thinking - the bitterness, the frustration, the resentment. And here, then, is the underlying cause of much disease, the disorders, mental and physical, that haunt mortal man. The basis of this wrong state is the belief that man is a limited mortal, dependent upon matter and persons for his happiness and well being. If we think of ourselves from this standpoint then we concede that we can be hurt, that we are vulnerable, that we are subject to fear, and open to all the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."
Dissatisfaction is inherent in mortal mind because it is a limited state of thought. Frustration is often just thwarted mortal will. Some people strike out against this state of affairs in anger and resentment; others become moody over it, and perhaps still others just silently simmer. It is said that if one broods over his troubles, he will have a perfect hatch. What is needed is a change of heart, of thought. Mrs. Eddy points the way in Science and Health (p. 242). She says, "Self-love is more opaque than a solid body. In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, - self-will, self-justification, and self-love, - which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death."
We must relinquish a false sense of self and wake up to the true idea of man as the image and likeness of God. We must be willing to adapt ourselves to a new path, the path illumined by Spirit, and not revert to the former erroneous ways. When we grasp the fact that matter and evil are unreal, our thought becomes more receptive to divine direction, more responsive to Love, more ready to improve. Self-will melts before the dawning recognition that God, Spirit, governs all. Self-justification is outmaneuvered when we see that there is no mind to argue in opposition to Truth. Self-love disappears when the love of God becomes the motivating force in our lives.
When selfishness gives place to kindness, when materiality yields to spirituality, or when pride is succeeded by humility, then the hard stone of error is rolled away from the portal of human thought. Forthwith the nature of God as divine Love shines in human consciousness, and the resistant thought yields to the understanding of spiritual being. Then the harmony of God's goodness becomes more apparent in our lives and God's perfect man appears in greater measure.
The feeling sometimes that one is caught in some untoward circumstance, situation, or condition is not an uncommon complaint. To one it is a dull job; to another it is a family situation; to another it may be what is thought to be an incurable disease. All these symptoms point to the belief that a person is a victim of conditions, and therefore give rise to the claims of frustration, defeat, self-pity, or else to willful rebellion and consequent wrong-doing. But there is an answer to these errors, and through consecrated prayer, Christ comes as the message of Truth which dispels the false beliefs about man and leads to the solution of the problem at hand.
The Christ is the divine manifestation of God that meets human needs. Christ is the way of solution, the healing and saving idea of God. Jesus demonstrated Christ; he proved under every untoward circumstance or trial that there is a way out, and that man, as God's likeness, is never a victim of evil.
The important step for us in finding the way of Christ is to understand that the trouble is not in things, people, or circumstances, but in thought. Actually a set of circumstances is a state of thought. With this fact well in mind, we won't waste time blaming others or believing that the solution is out of reach. The change that is necessary for healing is to take place in our own consciousness.
The experience of a man I know bears this out. He went to a practitioner with a business problem. He was near bankruptcy. He needed a new partner and also a new outlet for his product. The whole picture was very disheartening. But he was humble in his thought and willing to listen. The practitioner spoke to him about the relation of God and man and the laws of God's government. He pointed out the unfailing nature of God's love and supply and the fact that God's laws are continually in operation, and that we need to recognize and apply these laws in our present experience. A few weeks later the man returned to the practitioner and reported that he had found a new partner. Also a business outlet had opened up which provided him with as many orders as he could handle. Now the interesting thing about this was that nothing drastic had happened humanly, but his thought had changed and he began to recognize the presence of good all around him. The nature and presence of God was dawning in his thought and he found that this new understanding, or change in consciousness, supplied his every need.
The fact that our consciousness is the key to our experience presents great possibilities. It also includes inherent and inescapable demands upon the individual. Each one of us must face up to the responsibility for the content of his own thinking. When we're willing to do this, then we can apply the truths of divine Science to our thinking and make rapid strides toward overcoming the lie of belief in a power apart from God, good. We can proceed to scientifically purge our thinking of adverse beliefs and realize the spiritual facts which bring peace, poise, healing, and joy into our lives.
But, you know, it is a characteristic of mortal thinking to try to avoid this responsibility. This was illustrated in a well-known comic strip that I read recently. A little girl had a huge ice-cream cone which she was greatly enjoying. She was all alone - no one was within fifty yards of her. All of a sudden the ice cream slipped off the cone and went down into the mud. She stood and looked at it sadly. Then she ran around the house and down the street, looking everywhere and finally appeared tugging her little brother by the hand. He was barely able to walk. She brought him to where the ice cream lay melting in the dirt and said, "Look what you made me do!"
This tendency to dodge responsibility is typical. When in the throes of misfortune, mortal mind will look everywhere for something or someone to blame. Often we refuse to connect our misfortune with our own wrong thinking. Naturally this tendency delays solution. Nothing can get beyond the door of our consciousness without our consent. And therefore nothing can come into our experience without our consent - conscious or otherwise. It is only as we face this fact and accept the responsibility that we can proceed to make definite progress in overcoming the misfortunes, the sin and disease that seem so much a part of human life.
Of course there are other, more adult, ways of attempting to dodge responsibility. One may be tempted to blame his misfortune on luck, fate, evil destiny, the stars, or perhaps heredity. All these are so many myths and, without the individual's consent, have nothing actually to do with determining one's experience. There is another way of avoiding responsibility, which may be a little more subtle, and that is to accept the general opinion that matter is intelligent and that the body can form its own conditions independent of the thinking of the individual. Matter, or body, is simply thought expressed. Christian Science reveals that there is no intelligence or motive power in matter. All is a state of consciousness.
Mary Baker Eddy came to the conclusion that all causation is mental after many years of research in various medical and mental theories and systems of treating disease, and particularly through a spiritual grasp of the healing Christ so potent in Jesus' ministry. It was at a time of great need, when she was suffering from the effects of an accident considered fatal, that the light of the healing Truth dawned upon her waiting consciousness. A deep and abiding change took place in her thinking and she was immediately healed. The influx of spiritual light was the culmination of long and prayerful searching of the Scriptures for the answer to this question, "How did Jesus heal the sick and the sinning?" She pursued this unfolding inspiration until reason and demonstration combined with revelation disclosed the scientific understanding of Jesus' healing power. In order to bring this revealed Truth to humanity and to restore primitive Christian healing, Mrs. Eddy was divinely led to write the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."
She says in Science and Health (pp. 108, 109), "My discovery, that erring, mortal, misnamed mind produces all the organism and action of the mortal body, set my thoughts to work in new channels, and led up to my demonstration of the proposition that Mind is All and matter is naught as the leading factor in Mind-science." As this unfolded to her searching inquiry she was able to heal all types of disease with remarkable facility. The power of God was made available through the prayer of spiritual understanding.
Let me cite just one of many, many healings which Mrs. Eddy accomplished through the power of spiritual understanding. A woman had been suffering from an illness which, according to her physician, had destroyed the lining of her stomach. She was told that she had but a short time to live. It was then that she heard of Mrs. Eddy's ability to heal through Christian Science and applied to her for help. Mrs. Eddy had one interview with her and that same evening the diseased condition disappeared and the woman was entirely well. (Historical Sketches by Judge Clifford P. Smith, p. 83.) We read in the textbook (p. 425) “Consciousness constructs a better body when faith in matter has been conquered. Correct material belief by spiritual understanding, and Spirit will form you anew.”
Straight, logical thinking based upon the allness of the divine Mind is spiritual and health-giving. It is assurance of the presence of the Christ in consciousness, correcting and destroying error. It unfolds the wholeness of man, his soundness of health and well-being, his flawlessness as the reflection of infinite Mind. Adherence to Truth in thought and life empowers us with the rightness of divine Principle. It shows forth the fabric of our true being in which Spirit is substance, health is normal, and harmony is the law.
Willingness to face the fact that experience is the outgrowth of thought is the first step toward realizing the control of divine Mind. All good is possible to those who will repent of, or change, their false beliefs and let in the light of Truth. However patient one needs to be with his own growth Spiritward, he can be sure that as Truth and Love permeate his thinking with higher and better concepts, these will inevitably show forth in his experience as more joy, harmony, health, abundance, and peace.
It is necessary for each
individual to be willing to yield to Truth without reservation and to welcome
that change of thought and life which gives evidence of the
Thought which welcomes the Christ progresses rapidly towards the recognition of the freedom of the sons of God. Such Christlike thinking thwarts the tenacity of error. Mrs. Eddy tells us (Science and Health, pp. 323, 324), "Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea."
Do you ever catch yourself clinging to the old by justifying an error in your experience? This tendency argues on the wrong side and would prevent healing. To find an excuse for error is to invite its repetition. Why should anyone cling to false beliefs and defend them? Why not welcome a clear recognition of the presence of Christ, Truth, which uncovers the error as error, and then proceed to destroy the lie? The Bible says (Ps. 51:17), "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
It is resistance to Truth that
causes suffering. In the experience of Pharaoh, who refused to let the children
Is this so unlike some of our present-day experiences? In times of suffering the human consciousness is often willing to promise faithfully to obey the truth, but when the discord is healed, there may be a temptation to revert to the former beliefs and practices and selfishness and materiality. Further trials may be necessary until the hardness of heart is transformed by the truth, and the individual actually begins to go forward, away from sense and toward Soul.
It is essential to eliminate from thought anything that would argue for the continuity of error, such as belief in heredity, bad habit, educated false desire, fear of evil, the belief of intelligence in matter. Not one of these lies has any place in the Science of being. The only incurable situation is when a man won't change his thinking. But when the heart yields to Truth and Love and thought unites itself to the divine Mind, nothing can prevent the right adjustment of human affairs that they may conform to the laws of harmony, God's government. How long does it take to realize a healing? Just as long as it takes to yield thoroughly to the scientific facts of being, that is, to recognize the presence of Christ, Truth. The still, small voice of Truth comes to the one who is willing to listen. The Christ is always speaking to the human consciousness, for it is the healing, saving activity of omnipresent Mind; and he who listens can hear and be healed.
When we recognize that consciousness is the key to experience, we start with perfect God and perfect spiritual man as the basis of our thought and action. We learn to spiritualize our consciousness by keeping God's creation ever before our thought as the only reality. We think honestly, clearly, and consistently, relying on divine Principle as the all-knowing Mind. We acknowledge our oneness with God as His reflection, and this results in God's government in our human affairs.
Human relations often call for a resilient grace to meet the present need. Trouble comes largely from misunderstanding. Oh! for more of that spirit of Christ that lifts thought above personal sense and knows the presence of one infinite Mind, one all-embracing Love! This spirit gives a new perspective on what is nearest right, a fresh beginning, a new birth of understanding. Little wonder that Jesus called peacemakers "children of God."
Divine Love reflected rules out fear and misunderstanding just as the sun melts frost out of the ground. Spiritual understanding comes as light to a darkened life, as rain to a parched earth, as calm to a troubled sea. All is well in God's kingdom, and the recognition of this fact brings peace to the human heart.
Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:8), "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Blessed are the pure in thought, in affections, motives, in unselfish feeling toward their fellow-men, for they will see God, see good everywhere, and experience the consciousness of unlimited Love.
Ó1963 William Milford Correll
All rights reserved
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 16, 1970, under the headline "Transformation of thought opens door to healing".]