The Practical Idealism of Christian Science

 

Lucia C. Coulson, C.S.B., of London, England

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

Lucia C. Coulson, C.S.B., of London, England, a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship, delivered a lecture entitled "The Practical Idealism of Christian Science," last evening under the auspices of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston; Massachusetts, in the church edifice.

The lecturer was introduced by George Channing, C.S.B., First Reader in The Mother Church, who said:

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."

That compassionate promise of the master Christian, recorded in the Bible, in the fifth chapter of Matthew, is meant as surely for you and me and all mankind as it was for those to whom Christ Jesus personally enunciated it.

Our presence here tonight is, in some measure at least, an indication of our own hungering and thirsting, and in that measure, we can be sure that our need will be supplied.

The lecture this evening will present pure Christianity, its practical application to the unfoldment of thought, and therefore of experience, in precise conformity with the Science of Christianity, or Christian Science, as revealed in our age to that spiritually minded messenger of God, Mary Baker Eddy.

Hosts of men and women, among whom I am grateful to be numbered, have proved and are proving that this Science reveals to the individual, who correctly applies it, the divinely intelligent procedure for solving all problems of human life.

 

The Lecture

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows;

During the last decade physical science has been advancing at a remarkable pace. Its discoveries have been startling, changing the former concepts of matter and this material earth in what might be termed a revolutionary manner and gradually coming nearer to what might perhaps be described as a union of science and religion. That is to say, scientific concepts of the universe now find more accord with the spiritual concept of one infinite creator and His infinite creation.

One notable instance of this was given in a paper read by Dr. E. A. Milne of Oxford University, a brilliant mathematician and astronomical authority, in May, 1939, at Fort Davis, Texas. In it he says that "present-day investigations of atoms, stars, and motions disclose possibilities which are more satisfying religiously." "I am not dabbling in theology," he continues, "I merely invite you to consider the more attractive alternative that all the differing possibilities are but different descriptions which originate from the adoption of different scales of time; that there is one universe, but many possible descriptions of it; that there is actually no diversity of possibility in the universe itself, but only a diversity of description." What Dr. Milne, calls a "diversity of description" is, metaphysically stated, is a diversity of concept. Then he adds that the classical scale of time forced one "to think in terms of a universe created at some definite era in the past, while the second modern idea of time necessitates the view that the universe, is without beginning and without end, both in time and space." This interesting theory of his gives much food for thought. We know that the first two chapters of Genesis give diametrically opposite descriptions of creation, and in the Christian Science textbook these differing accounts are explained and reconciled. The first is the truth about the "one universe," when Elohim, or the great First Cause, speaks and it is done. The second is an account of the so-called material creation and its consequences. In the first it is the Word which makes all things and makes all good. In the second everything is made out of the ground, from dust and not from Deity. Now, the interesting part is this, that over fifty years ago, a woman discovered, through spiritual intuition and inspiration alone, the fact of the one universe, without beginning and without end, and declared that these two accounts in Genesis represented differing views of that universe. In her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she states that the second chapter of Genesis sets forth "a material view of creation" (p. 521) and then goes on to explain and elaborate this statement. That book was published in 1875, and now today some natural scientists through their investigations have come to the conclusion that there is but one universe with many different descriptions or aspects of it. This involves an important point, even the explanation and analysis of the world of the senses, and indicates why Christian Science is so emphatic in requiring that we should deny sense testimony. That we all see things differently is an accepted fact. There is Wordsworth's ploughboy, of whom he writes that

 

A primrose by the river's brim

A yellow primrose was to him,

And it was nothing more."

 

At the same time, there can be only one truth about any given fact. There may be many lies about it, but only one truth. Here we find the office of the Christ in human experience as stated by the Master; "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth."

 

Christian Science Treatment

Referring again to the two aspects of creation given in the first and second accounts in Genesis, it will be found that the second is the reversal of the first the lie about the fact. The reason for this is that the false sense, termed by Mrs. Eddy mortal mind, is not a creator. It cannot originate anything. It can only present a distorted view of the true. It is the erroneous mental concept or the suppositional opposite. Instead of man being the image and likeness of God, as stated in the first chapter, he is represented in the second as fallen, sinful, and suffering. To sum up, the one is fact and the other fiction. It is not always recognized that this obtains not only in the world at large, so to speak, but also in each individual experience. Indeed, the distinction between the false and the true may be said to characterize treatment in Christian Science. Whatever the problem or situation that confronts us may seem to be, the remedy is to find the fact and cling to it. And the way to find the fact is always to remember that the error is the suppositional opposite of the fact. Faithfully to pursue this method will result in the gradual replacing for us of the world of the senses with the true concept of the spiritual universe. It has to be recognized that the difference is one of aspect or concept.

Now, here it may be asked, Of what practical help is all this to us in our troubles and perplexities, with the problems of lack and sickness and unrest which today surround us? And the Christ, Truth, the Comforter, makes answer: It will give you a practical solution of all these problems; for that which is scientifically true is demonstrable humanly. If you will take the trouble to test it, you will be able to prove for yourself that Christian Science is practical idealism, in other words, that Christian Science heals. How it heals may be said to be summed up in one short passage from Science and Health, namely (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." The "correct view!" That, as I have been endeavoring to show you, is the crux of the matter. Let us take a purely human illustration to prove the effect of a change of view in ordinary affairs. Probably all of us have had the experience of feeling at our best with some people and at our worst with others. There are those in whose company you always seem to do the wrong thing, to show your worst side, as it is called; and there are others in whose presence you feel at ease, gracious, loving and loved. The difference, of course, is one of concept. You are the same person, but their concept of you is different, and you respond to it in either direction. Never accept it as "their" concept (or "my") it is always mortal mind's suggestion belief of a mind apart from God. This shows the power of even human thought and gives a hint of what the power must be when the divine fact is discerned and held to as indicated in the sentences quoted above from the textbook.

 

Faith and Understanding

Many centuries ago, this correct view, this clinging to the divine fact, which involves the denial of sense testimony, was proved to be practical and healing in its result, in the Bible story of the Shunammite woman. We are told that she was a great woman and her faith and understanding were great indeed. Centuries ahead of her time, she evidently perceived the value of finding the true view and holding to it in the face of false evidence. You all know the story of how her only son, when in the field with his father, had sunstroke and was carried to his mother. A few hours later he passed away in her arms. Instantly she proceeded to journey to the man of God, that he might heal her child. The thought that it was too late never came to her, and when her husband inquired where she was going and why, she replied, "It shall be well." She did not tell the father what had happened. She did not let her household know, lest the sad news be spread abroad and her hope and faith be spurned. Oh, the wisdom of that Shunammite mother! It is love that teaches the highest intelligence. Before she had gone very far, the man of God saw her and sent his servant to ask how it was with her and with her child. And again she replied, "It is well." When at last she reached Elisha, then for a moment the sense of grief surged up, and she fell at his feet, but even then no word of fear or of despair passed her lips. She would not acknowledge the false aspect of the problem. She was faithful to her brave declaration, "It is well." So she brought Elisha to the house, to the upper room where she had laid the child, and left them there together. But in a short time she was called back to receive her child alive, that her whole being might cry out in joy and triumph, "It is well." This may be said to be a fairly good description of a Christian Science treatment. We declare the unseen truth and hold to it, despite sense testimony, until for us the unseen becomes the seen and we prove the truth of the Master's statement, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

Let us give you another instance, a modern illustration. I know a lady, a student of Christian Science, who, when traveling on board ship, was told that one of the passengers had missed articles of value and it was feared there was someone on board who was a thief. My friend did not pay much attention to what was said; but the next day she herself missed something. Then she realized how remiss she had been in not applying to the situation the truth as she had been taught in Christian Science. Fully awake now, she began to reason somewhat in this manner: that because God, Spirit, is the only creator, the creation of Spirit must be spiritual; therefore, man is spiritual. Man, made in God's image, is not a thief. God never created a dishonest man, therefore there is none; for the nature of man is honesty and purity indeed, it is perfection. She spent some time working and praying in this way, and the very next morning those missing articles were all found to have been replaced. Who had returned them, how and when, no one knew, but they were there. Moreover, there was no thief to punish, for the thief had been healed.

May I give you one more example of what the correct view does this time from my own experience. I was at the time a very young student of Christian Science, and I was visiting a practitioner. I had risen to go, and he and I were standing talking by the window. As I looked out I saw a man violently beating his horse, and I called out: "Oh, the poor horse! We must stop that brute." "Let us be silent just for a few minutes," said the practitioner, and unwillingly I consented. Suddenly I saw the man lay down his whip and stand quietly beside the horse, with a different expression on his face. "What did you do?" I asked the practitioner. "Well," he replied, "I loved the man. He was the one that needed love; and I saw too that his true self was the expression of Love." I realized then that the man was saying brute to the horse and I was saying brute to the man, while what was needed was the exact opposite, the reversal of the false concept and the assertion of the divine fact the right idea of man and horse. The right idea is the Christ-idea. There is a Christ-idea for every problem.

 

Infinite Nature of Supply

Suppose, then, a man should find himself in debt and unable to pay his creditors. What would be the saving idea for that situation? It would be the divine fact of the infinite nature of supply. How did lack originate? The belief in matter is its origin. Mrs. Eddy has written (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 67), "The first iniquitous manifestation of sin was a finity." Directly the belief in finity presented itself the opportunity arose for the fear that there might not be enough to go round, that supply might come to an end, that someone might lack. That is the inevitable result of finity. In the realm of infinity, or God's universe, everything, and therefore supply, takes on the nature of infinity. Now let us apply this to the subject of debt. The Bible says, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another." Why does it say that? Because debt is unknown to God and so unknown to man as God's image. Why would it be impossible for God to have a debt? Because His supply is inexhaustible. The belief of debt is founded entirely on the belief that supply is material and finite. In the realm of infinity, and when thinking from the standpoint of infinity, debt would be impossible, absurd. If you knew your supply to be inexhaustible, why would you need anyone to pay you back what you had given them? To illustrate: the air is to us a type of that which approximates the inexhaustible. If your neighbor should find your office or your place of business stuffy and should say that he would like some air, you would not reply that you would give him more for a certain sum or that he should pay you back when you needed more. The air is free to all and costs nothing, because it is practically unlimited. Again, in England water is practically unlimited. The beggar or the street urchin can go to the drinking fountain and drink his fill; he does not have to leave pennies beside the cup, or go into debt for the drink of water that he needs. No one asks him to pay it back again. Why? Because there is water enough and to spare. God has enough and to spare for all His children, and every divine idea is as plentiful as air and water. Indeed, it is far more plentiful, for every divine idea is infinite. If, however, in this human experience you need more heat or food to eat, you must pay for that, and if you cannot afford to at the moment, must borrow from your neighbor and promise to pay him back, because you believe that the supply of money and food in the world is limited, and, being matter, might come to an end.

Christian Science "resolves things into thoughts" (Science and Health, p. 280). Directly we do this, we see how ridiculous and impossible it would be to owe people thoughts and ideas. How absurd it would be to say: "That idea of God as Mind is a very big one. How many thoughts must I give you in return for it? And how soon must I pay you back all these thoughts?" That which is mental is unlimited. Ideas have an inexhaustible source, the divine Mind. They belong to all equally. Now, what is the good of reasoning all this out? Because when we see clearly that debt is inadmissible and illegitimate, since, as infinite ideas dwelling in an infinite universe, all good is inexhaustible, and when we claim our unity with the creative and ever-producing Mind, there will come into our human experience a better manifestation. The right ideas which are daily supply will become ours consciously. Does all this, then, absolve us from the need of honestly and punctually paying our debts if we have them? Quite the reverse. Thinking and reasoning along these lines gives us such a larger, freer sense of things, that the cramping effect of finite and restricted thinking is lifted. That which seemed impossible becomes more possible, and a way of meeting and honestly discharging the debts we seem burdened with is found. With a change of thought comes always a change of manifestation.

 

Right Idea of Government

As we think of the world problem today, of the division, conflict, and distrust manifested among the nations, it is clear that the savior for this is the understanding of divine Principle, which, in turn, will be manifested in the right idea of government humanly. And just here one thought comes with exceeding comfort. It is this: Whatever the outward appearance may be, I am convinced that the peoples of the world today fervently desire peace, and, as Science and Health states (p. 1), "Desire is prayer," and prayer is answered. Humanly, we may not be able to see ahead, but in Romans it is written, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." May it not be that our spiritual desires and the longing of humanity for peace are making intercession for us today and making possible for us a divine solution?

 

"There is an end to every deluge, Always

Some shore resists and holds the waters back,

Some hill drawn close enough to heaven's hallways

Raises its head above the flood's attack.

"The mount that wears a crown of stars is stranger

To darkling fears and tempest's swift alarms.

Turn to the hills, my heart, in time of danger

And Ararat will lift you in its arms."

 

"Turn to the hills!" "Was not that what the Master meant when he counseled men at such a time to look up and lift up their heads for their redemption drew nigh? Not their destruction, remember, but their redemption. Did not the command to look up imply the need to fix our gaze on divine reality, to go to the mountaintops of thought? "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above."

During the ages the human concept of God has been gradually changing and rising. We all know that the old heathen concept of Deity was that of a tyrant to be appeased by human sacrifices. Some savage tribes, even in recent years, have worshiped a God whom to placate they flung their helpless babes into the fire or the torrent. The Old Testament God was largely a man of war, Jehovah, who had human qualities, loving and hating; though even then Moses caught a glimpse of the right idea, for he saw the vision of God when he was on the top of the mount as "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." At the same time, until the coming of Jesus the Christ, God remained largely a God of vengeance. Jesus taught God as Father, and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, proclaimed the divine fact that God is Love. Still, however, the tenderest side of Love was not defined until Mary Baker Eddy gave us the title of Mother by which to know God. Christian Science has been called the Comforter, and perhaps one reason for this is that it has given us the idea of the motherhood of God. The little child that is in trouble runs to its mother to be comforted. As she gathers it in her arms, her very presence quiets and consoles it. So when we children of a larger growth turn, in our woe, to the divine motherhood, we find in that idea a tangible comfort, a warm assurance of sheltering Love which takes away our fear. The comfort of that presence is a healing balm.

Since, then, the concept of God has risen in such a degree, the concept of man in His image, man who is manifestation, must of necessity rise also. Just as there is one universe with many different aspects of it, so there is in reality one man, with many differing and distorted concepts of him. The one man is whole and holy, "having neither beginning of days, nor end of life;" he is intelligent, since his origin is Mind; he is loving and lovely, since he is the offspring of Love. That is the right idea of man, the savior of the false concept. Here we see that progress consists of the attaining of diviner concepts, each mounting thought bringing with it a correspondingly higher or more humane externalization in human affairs. Though this change may seem very gradual, yet it is seen in the reform and the more merciful character of some of our prison codes, in the abolishing of child labor, and in the giving of more rights and privileges to woman. As the concept of God and man has risen, so the concept of prayer has naturally risen also. The most primitive form of prayer was the imploring of Deity not to send disaster and destruction upon mankind. This ignorant attitude was put to an end by the Master, who told his followers to cease using vain repetitions, because, he said, "Your father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." In Christian Science the prayer of petition becomes the prayer of recognition. We do not implore God to be good, but we recognize the infinitude of His goodness, and the consequent goodness of His man. This change of attitude is simply the recognition of that which is.

 

Dominion Over False Evidence

Now, as I said before, the right idea of man is the savior of the false concept; and this right idea of man seems always to have been with Jesus. He was always announcing the fact and demonstrating its actuality. "The maid is not dead, but sleepeth," he said, and with what scorn and derision that denial of sense testimony was met! "Neither do I condemn thee," he said to the woman taken in adultery. "Thy brother, shall rise again," he told both Mary and Martha, and when there was a great multitude of hungry people and only two small fishes and a few loaves of bread available, he said to the disciples, "Give ye them to eat." Now in all these cases and in many others Jesus, paying no attention to the scornful laughter of sense testimony, made good his words. That is what we call demonstration. That was what made him the Christ his dominion over false evidence, his perception and knowing and proving of the divine facts. This practical idealism is what he practiced throughout his entire ministry; it is what the world needs today.

The Discoverer of Christian Science may well be defined as a great practical idealist. The vision that came to her she applied to the human need. There have been dreamers and idealists in all ages; but is it not true that their idealism has not been made practical? Because of this, in the course of time the word "idealism" has come to signify the vague, the impossible, the unpractical. The function of the poet is largely that of the seer. All through the centuries the poets have touched in moments of exaltation the divine verities, the supersensible. They have had visions and translated them into words of fire, but they have done no more with them. Then came this woman and translated her visions into terms of human advancement and attainment. Always there have been isolated cases of healing achieved in moments of inspiration, but these healings were not based upon an understanding of the Science of healing, and therefore available to all. Their beneficiaries enjoyed them, and there it stopped. But Mary Baker Eddy, when she received her healing, never rested until through years of patient search she found the Science of that healing. She was intelligent enough and logical enough to realize that for every effect there is a cause, that law governs all phenomena, and that there must be a spiritual law governing the healing that came from moments of spiritual vision and exaltation. With the tremendous energy and the inquiring mentality that characterized her, she never paused until she made her spiritual discovery. Her every discovery and experience were in the realm of the ideal, but in each instance she insisted that the ideal could and must be made practical. In her book "Unity of Good" (p. 9) she writes that she has sometimes been accused of monopolizing because ideas akin to hers "have been held by a few spiritual thinkers in all ages." Then she continues: "So they have, but in a far different form. Healing has gone on continually; yet healing, as I teach it, has not been practised since the days of Christ." There is the crux of the whole matter. What have those before her done with metaphysical ideas? They have left them where they found them, as interesting and abstract speculations; but she took them and formed them into a system of practical rules capable of demonstration and the consequent transformation of experience. She taught the power of right thinking, and consequently realized that such thinking should be used not only to improve personal problems but to help national and international troubles. To help in such a way, men and women must be well informed, abreast of the times; and so, after much pondering, she conceived the idea of a daily newspaper which was to be free from sensationalism, giving reliable news. In three months finally she established The Christian Science Monitor, an international daily newspaper. Such practical idealism as that is unprecedented. It is no less than the application of every divinely revealed truth to human living and circumstance.

To touch the stars and soar above the earth mists and then to bring their light to bear upon each trivial incident of earth-life is an achievement that baffles definition. Yet she has defined it in a marvelous sentence in the textbook as follows (p. 254): "The spiritual . . . determines the outward and actual." So it is that in Christian Science, which concerns only the spiritual, we have a lofty idealism which yet helps us when we have a field to plough, a delicate situation to adjust, a trying domestic problem, or a business difficulty to overcome. As the result of this, words that have always been used in contradistinction to each other have been reconciled the real and the ideal. Indeed, it is not too much to say that in Christian Science the ideal is found to be the real and the real the ideal.

Is it not up to each one of us then to exalt his concept of himself, to exalt his concept of his brother man and of his universe? Here sense testimony will begin to talk; but Truth says, "God is no respecter of persons." All that is most aggressive, most offensive, and most unworthy in your neighbor or yourself is really your false concept, your material view. Thackeray wrote: "The world is a looking-glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face." This false view must be corrected by the right idea of man, the divine fact about man and the universe. To remember this would still the criticism and condemnation which come so easily. The effect of such criticism and condemnation is only to increase and to bind upon our brother that which we so much dislike. Those whom we regard as evil-doers, as the enemies of man, have all of them one supreme need enlightenment. For, as Mrs. Eddy has written (Science and Health, p. 186), "If mortal mind knew how to be better, it would be better." We can help in the enlightenment by correcting and exalting our concept of them, for thereby we bestow upon them, as it were, the chance to improve. Let us conceive them divinely, one and all, that we may be the children of our Father, who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

 

True Concept of Universe

In this way we approach the true concept of the universe of God's creating, the one "universe without beginning and without end, both in time and space," which He pronounced very good. This is the aim of every Christian Science treatment, to look from God's side upon the universe and see it as He sees it all good and always good. Then nature and God become one, as the textbook tells us. There is no blight, no pest, no destructive force in that world of Spirit. Man seen as image, the manifestation of God Himself, who is Love, could not know conflict. The one Mind whose nature is Love is not at war with itself, therefore its likeness cannot be.

Moreover, God and man are one and that infinite oneness includes no opposing or obstructing element, but abides forever at peace. To contemplate such a universe of harmony and beauty and to spend some time in so doing is not waste of time. It is not idle dreaming. It is the "correct view" which heals. It is the right idea of God and man which is the savior. It is the divine fact found and held to. It is indeed the highest form of prayer, for it is in line with that great prayer of Christ Jesus in the seventeenth chapter of John: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."

 

[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 4, 1941.]

 

 

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