Letís Choose Heaven Here
Grace Bemis Curtis of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Insights into the nature of heaven were explored in a Christian Science lecture in Boston Sunday.
Miss Grace Bemis Curtis, C.S.B., of Pittsburgh spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. The title of her lecture was "Let's Choose Heaven Here."
A former concert pianist, Miss Curtis is a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship and is currently serving as Chairman of the Board of Lectureship.
Miss Curtis was introduced by Robert Hall Collins of Wellesley Hills, Mass. An abridged text of the lecture follows:
I wonder if any of you ever felt like a man who referred to a statement I'd made about the "ultimate meaning of life." He said, "Now that's what I'm looking for, meaning in life. To me, life doesn't have any meaning at all. It's just eat, drink, grab all you can and die. But," he went on, "if I could find that there is a basic meaning in life, a real reason for living, I'd be the happiest man in the world. Why," he said, "that would be heaven."
Well, he raised a pretty fundamental question, didn't he? It's a question we've all asked ourselves. What's it all about? Are we just accidental entities occupying a moment of time on the way to extinction? Or are we beings capable of spiritual awareness, fulfillment, and satisfaction? We all want the answer to that question, don't we?
But instead, the development of technology at the expense of the development of spirituality has brought to this age great material ease and equally great mental malaise, a conviction that something's wrong and must be corrected. This neglect of spiritual values has engendered the mental climate that causes this period to be named "The Age of Anxiety."
But there is a way out of our dark bewilderment, a way each one of us can find and choose to follow. The prophet Isaiah said, "An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness" (Isa. 36:8). The way of wholeness, completeness, meaning.
But this is a way that has to be chosen, individually and specifically. Then the question arises, "How can we be sure the spiritual path is the one to choose?" When I was in my teens, I used to ask myself that question. I thought about this a good deal, until one day the answer came to me in this simple fantasy.
I imagined: What If I were lost in a vast forest? I'd wandered hopelessly about until at last I came on a faint trail. Of course, I hurried along it, until the trail forked and became two paths going in opposite directions. As I stood there hesitating, wondering which one to follow, I looked down one of the paths. There almost hidden in the bushes I saw a battered old sign with the words DEAD END written on it.
Suppose you were there right now, which path would you choose? The one marked DEAD END or the other one? You'd take the other one, wouldn't you, even if you didn't know exactly where it went? I thought, matter, material living, has DEAD END written all over it. I'll take the spiritual highway that promises to go somewhere.
We all have to make that choice. One way or another, each one of us chooses between matter and Spirit. If we don't actively choose the spiritual way, then we have passively chosen the material. So a choice we all make, whether we think we do or not. We make that choice over and over every day.
Look down the path of material existence. Through the ages mankind struggles for four things, for wealth, power, popularity, and family ties. But with all the struggle they still have poverty, conflict, injustice, and frustration. Now look down the spiritual path. There we see individuals who find spiritual abundance meeting all their daily needs. And in addition they gain a lasting sense of justice, peace, and satisfaction.
This spiritual path is the one presented by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 492). She writes: "For right reasoning there should be but one fact before the thought, namely, spiritual existence."
Four spiritually minded people in history seem to me to show most clearly how to choose this path. Their experiences point us to four basic requirements that speed us along the spiritual way - mental flexibility, moral courage, selflessness, and universal love. Their lives show us how by following the way of Spirit we can begin to have heaven instead of hell right here.
First, consider a very wealthy and important man who knew how to change his mind. That is, he had an open receptive thought, mental flexibility. You'd think his wealth and business success would have satisfied him, but they didn't. So this man, Abraham, left his comfortable way of life in the city of Ur to seek the spiritual path. The book of Hebrews says,' 'He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10).
Abraham had a choice to make. He could follow his old ways of thinking or he could think through to an entirely new purpose in life. And he made his choice. He willingly left the security of his customary habits of thought and went into a mental and physical wilderness to search for spiritual truth. He had depended on material wealth and believed in many gods and in human sacrifice as the way to worship them. But in his mental struggle he recognized that there's one almighty God, the source of life - to be worshipped by living, not dying.
Abraham immediately turned away from his false theological beliefs and accepted this new view of life as wholly spiritual. He began to realize that spiritual ideas are true wealth and security.
Did this make him a poor man materially? No, his recognition of spiritual substance brought him wealth of every kind. Abraham was so abundantly blessed his name has stood through four millennia as a man who changed his basis of life and thought from matter to Spirit and who found enduring substance.
You might say he found the solution to that search for wealth!
Now consider a man who didn't change so quickly and easily, but who held firmly to spiritual light once he accepted it. Long after Abraham, this man lived in the most cultured and powerful civilization of his time. Historians tell us Moses was educated as a Pharaoh of Egypt, the highest position of power in that period. He was taught to believe that his exalted position gave him power and that he could use this power as he wished.
Emerging from mental wilderness
Moses knew that there was a nation enslaved in Egypt. He wanted to help them, but the only power he knew was physical force. So in a mistaken attempt to do good, he misused this power and was forced to flee into the desolate wilderness. It was there in lonely darkness and doubt that spiritual truths began to unfold to him.
But because he had much to unlearn, Moses was a long time in his mental wilderness, turning away from the material to the spiritual. At last he discerned that God Is the great I AM, one omnipotent Mind or Soul ó the only true source of power.
Moses didn't become weak after he became humble enough to acknowledge that God is the only power. In fact, his adherence to this true source of identity and power gave him spiritual strength such as he had never had before.
Now he had gained sufficient spiritual understanding to return to Egypt and to challenge Pharaoh - from a spiritual basis this time.
Pharaoh resisted. But through repeated demonstrations of spiritual power, Moses forced him to set free an entire nation.
After this tremendous accomplishment, even greater spiritual steadfastness was needed, because now Moses had an undisciplined mass of humanity on his hands. They were so steeped in materialism they didn't know how to govern themselves. But Moses had learned that real freedom is attained only through moral and spiritual self-discipline. So he guided them through the wilderness of their dense materialism until he had awakened them to a sufficient sense of moral and spiritual law to found a free and independent nation.
Now consider a man who gave up himself - who yielded every vestige of a material personality - for a life wholly spiritual in its meaning and intent.†††††††††††††††††††††††
Centuries after Moses, this man was born in humble surroundings. Yet he was endowed with great personal grace and attraction, great charisma. He knew this could bring him the adulation of the world. And he was tempted to consider the possibility of achieving such popularity. But notice this: like Abraham and Moses before him, Jesus went into the wilderness to make his choice between matter and Spirit, between himself as a physical personality and himself as an individual expression of divine Being.
Whereas Moses spent forty years in the wilderness, purging himself from a material and personal sense of existence, Jesus needed to spend only forty days. As the book of Hebrews states it, he "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
In the Bible (Matt. 4:8, 9), we read of Jesus' temptations: "The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" - material existence.
Jesus made his decision at once. He refused what lesser men cling to - their small-minded sense of good as a personal possession. Jesus refused to claim good as personal, separate from the good which is God. So he immediately replied to the evil suggestion, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:10).
That was the end of Jesus' temptation and the beginning of the greatest life and ministry the world has every known.
†Jesus fully exemplified man's spiritual substance and spiritual identity, which Abraham and Moses had earlier glimpsed. But it remained for Jesus to show the fulness of the Christ. He identified himself with divine Spirit so completely, he refused matter so finally, that he had total control over material conditions. Jesus taught that Spirit, God, is Truth and men must know Truth; he taught that God is Love and men must live love. His mighty example of selfless dominion, of the eternal Christ-power, is the spiritual way mapped out for us in a human life, the way we all can follow out of matter into Spirit, the way to heaven.
But Jesus' glorious example was soon misunderstood and misinterpreted by the world's materialists. Jesus knew the world didn't understand his spiritual example. So he promised that the truth he taught and the love he lived would be more fully explained at some future time.
About eighteen hundred years later this further explanation came. A woman left precious family ties and loving friends, and went into the wilderness to find the divine relationship.
She was rejected by her family and friends in her search for spiritual truth. Over many weary years one material support after another failed her. In the darkest hour, when the total meaninglessness of matter became apparent to her, her life-long search was rewarded. An understanding of the allness of spiritual good dawned on her thought.
The absolute allness of Spirit implies the utter nothingness of matter. A conviction of these two facts is cardinal to the spiritual Science Mrs. Eddy discovered. It differentiates Christian Science from all other ways of thinking. These premises set it apart from mental methods that rely on the human brain or personality as the source of intelligence instead of on the infinite Mind, God.††††††††††
But Mrs. Eddy didn't stop with her discovery. Out of her great love for humanity she devoted the rest of her long human life to sharing her discovery with all men. She named it Christian Science, and she showed how its divine Principle, Love, could be applied to meet all human needs with the unfailing universality of scientific law.
The wholly spiritual basis of this law of universal love is clearly set forth in Science and Health, in Mrs. Eddy's epitome of Christian Science known as "the scientific statement of being." It reads: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is Infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God Is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual" (p.468).
This statement is the complete expression of the spiritual way, the highway of Isaiah. Through mental flexibility Abraham glimpsed the divine way. He saw that Spirit is substance and life and this solved his personal problems. Through steadfast moral courage, Moses followed the spiritual way after he discerned that Spirit, God, is the one Ego, or Soul. This led a nation to freedom.
Though complete renunciation of personal good and his selfless demonstration of spiritual Truth and Love, Jesus made the way of the Christ available to all humanity. With universal love Mrs. Eddy explained the Science of the Christ, so that all the world can choose the spiritual way, understand it, and begin to prove the abundant blessings of heaven in their daily lives.
But is this spiritual way really practical in our modern world? Can we experience heaven here and now? We can, indeed.
I asked him, "If you knew there's a sure way out of existential futility, drugs, materialism, and suicide, would you take it? "
He sighed, "Yes, I would, but there's no way out."
I insisted, "But are you willing to try such a way, if you're assured it exists?"
We had a long talk about the spiritual way. When he left, he remarked doubtfully, "Well, maybe it's worth a gamble."
I asked him to drop all other reading and read Science and Health through. Then I turned my thought to the universal law of divine Love.
He returned at the end of the week, having read the book through, and remarked, "It's a nice theory."
Ten days later he was back again, after a second reading. This time he said, "You know, it's really a great idea. If I could only be sure it's true."
Two weeks more, a third reading, and he came again. This time he had a light in his eye. He said, "I want you to know, I'm trying it." I wasn't surprised when I received a letter from him.
Now he says, "Life is great. Christian Science has shown me what it's all about, where I'm headed and how to get there. There really is a spiritual way out of hell into heaven. I'm thankful I've found it."
Well, if this spiritual way and method is so readily available, why is there so much sorrow and suffering, so much hell, all around us?
The answer is pollution, mental pollution.
Now you all know what pollution is, because you hear about it all the time. The news media are full of air pollution, water pollution, food pollution, noise pollution. But they don't say much about mental pollution, and that's the most important to understand.
Pure water and pure air become polluted when waste products are poured into them. Just so, when the waste products of material thinking such as fear, resentment, greed, lust, lack, hate, violence, conflict, sin, disease and death, pour unchecked into our thinking and then into our lives, our thought becomes so clogged with this mental pollution we don't recognize clear true spiritual ideas. We don't even see the spiritual facts, so we don't think along spiritual lines. Then our inharmonious experience expresses the smog of our thinking.
Now none of us would intentionally eat contaminated food nor drink contaminated water, but most of us willingly think contaminated thoughts. The same fastidious people, who wouldn't let a drop of contaminated food touch their lips, open wide their thought to a steady diet of lurid mental muck.
Yes, we all do it. Has social expediency ever caused you to go along with, or even participate in, dismal depressing conversations about disease, deformity and death?
Has idle habit ever kept you glued to television drug-oriented advertising and constant crude violence? Has sensationalism ever lured you into reading at length about horrendous crimes and abnormalities? Has morbid curiosity ever enticed you to fill your thought with the vilest filth commercialism can contrive? Then with thought thus heavily polluted, is it any wonder that life seems so bleak and grim and the world so hopeless.
We're told that when material waste ceases to be poured into water and air, its dire effects can be eliminated. Just so, when we cease to allow the waste products of material thinking to flood our mental homes our consciousness purges itself. We become aware of spiritual good, and our lives function normally and harmoniously.
Well, you may say, the problem is much more than just what I think. So it is. But your individual experience becomes one of heaven or hell according to your individual choice.
How can this be? Well, you see, heaven isn't a locality to be found in the future. It's a spiritually harmonious state of thought and experience, both here and hereafter. Just as hell isn't a locality either. It's completely polluted thinking and living, also here and hereafter. A lot of people are living in it right now. Where do you want to live?
The choice is ours to make right here and now. We can accept the pollution and the unhappiness resulting from materially based thinking, or we can enjoy the clear, pure, invigorating atmosphere of heaven. Then we can begin to share this heavenly atmosphere with all men.
Well, it's easy to see the problem and even to see the solution, but the process of putting the solution into practice is the important thing, isn't it? So how do we choose heaven? Let's let our four examples show us how.
You remember, Abraham was dissatisfied with his way of life. He felt there must be something better, so he willingly left his customary habits of thought to find it. As we've said, he teaches us mental flexibility.
When I was a little girl, I went with my father to visit a wealthy farmer, who had retired. All the time we were there, he complained about how unhappy he was.
My father said to him, "You've plenty of money, but you've never been anywhere. Why don't you travel and see the world?''
I've never forgotten his reply. He said, "Why, John, I've worked all my life to get this money. I'm not going to spend it." He needed to cultivate a little mental flexibility, didn't he? And so do we.
We're all slaves to our thought patterns. We identify ourselves with them until we believe that's the way we are, rather than the way we think.
Watch your thinking awhile. You'll see that you tend to think the same thoughts over and over. Because we think the same thoughts over and over, we express them; then that's the way we seem to be. But as we acquire new habits of thought, our experience changes. Abraham wasn't afraid to change his mind. When he perceived a spiritual idea he embraced it, and it blessed him beyond measure.
Let's not be afraid to change our thinking radically from matter to Spirit - let's accept spiritual ideas, entertain them in consciousness, follow where they lead, and enjoy the blessings they bring. That's our first step in choosing heaven - an opening of thought to spiritual possibilities.
Circumstances forced Moses to change his mind, but when he finally accepted the great fact that God is one omnipotent Mind or Soul, the source of all true identity and power, he had the moral courage to hold on to what he had seen. All the suggestions of material-mindedness and all the arguments of material mentalism failed to pollute his thinking. So he fulfilled his mission in spite of all efforts to dissuade him and led a nation to freedom.
That's our second step in choosing heaven, moral courage, spiritual steadfastness. It's holding fast to spiritual light and refusing the darkness of mental pollution.
Let's suppose you've just redecorated your living room, fresh paint, lovely draperies, new carpet, and beautiful new upholstered furniture. It was all just as you wanted it to be. Then one day you left your front door open and a dirty, muddy dog ran in and began putting his muddy paws on your beautiful new upholstered furniture. What would you do? Just stand there, wringing your hands, and saying, "Oh dear, why did you come in?
However long are you going to stay?" Of course, you wouldn't. You'd take him by the collar and put him out. Then you'd probably close the door tightly this time.
Well, that's exactly what we must do when material suggestions rush into our thought. Put them out quickly by bringing in more ideas of spiritual good, more ideas from God, divine Mind. This spiritual alertness will so harmonize our lives that we'll have frequent glimpses of heaven.
And now we come to our indispensable third step in choosing heaven, selflessness.
The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of heaven would come. He replied, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20, 21). It's the expression of a true sense of selfhood as the outcome of God. Christ Jesus' selfless demonstration of God's rule in men's daily lives opens the way for us to find heaven just as he did - by denying the material sense of self and acknowledging every man's Christly nature.
Jesus is the' supreme example of spiritual selfhood expressed humanly, of the Christ. He recognized only spiritual identity, the perfect expression of God.
We need to follow his example, as he said we could. We must put aside, step by step, the beliefs of a self apart from God, Spirit. We must refuse to let self-will, self-pity, self-love govern us. We must reject self-justification, self-condemnation, self-righteousness and the many other forms of material self, so often polluting our thinking.
As we do this step by step, then the constant smog of material self and physical personality becomes thin enough so that the power of God and the law of God is expressed in our lives - bringing the healing and blessing of the Christ to ourselves and others. And leading us inevitably to our fourth and last step in choosing heaven, universal love - this is love understood and demonstrated as expressing the Principle of all true being, divine Love.
Mrs. Eddy's constant desire to share divine Science with all men exemplifies for us this love and its scientific application. Universal love, spiritually understood and scientifically demonstrated, is the ultimate of the spiritual way. It's that for which everyone longs and with which everyone is satisfied. Why? Because in the divine Love is complete fulfillment and the healing of all the world's ills and anguish.
The affluence of Love eliminates poverty; the mercy of Love heals injustice; the peace of Love solves conflicts; the nature of Love destroys fear and hate. Divine Truth understood and demonstrated, divine Love learned and lived, result in the harmony called heaven. The Principle of life is divine Love; the meaning of life is to live love; the result of living love is heaven now and forever.
As we cultivate mental flexibility, turning easily from matter to Spirit; moral courage, holding fast to spiritual light and refusing the darkness of material pollution; total selflessness, acknowledging all good from God above; and universal love, fulfilling the heart's desire, we learn that life is spiritual, not material.
It's not just accidental physical existence, it's progressive spiritual unfoldment. Life isn't submission to fate; it's spiritual dominion over the belief in fate. Life doesn't end in decay and death, because it's eternal awareness of spiritual good. When we choose heaven, that's what life is to us - heaven. But we have to choose it, don't we? And we have it only as we do this moment by moment, day by day, for we live in heaven as heaven lives in us.
And so we learn that heaven isn't just a future state, a place we can go, carrying all our polluted mental baggage with us. It's a matter of continually rejecting the polluting material suggestions of fear, lack, hate, and conflict and constantly accepting the spiritual fact of ever-present divine Life, Truth, and Love. It's holding on to them and demonstrating them until our daily lives conform to the spiritual fact. It's selflessly sharing our spiritual riches and blessing with others. It's living love. This is heaven unfolding progressively in our experience.
It isn't just a never-never land of future comfort. It's what Christ Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven within. We can find it now in our human experience. It shows us our eternal being for spiritual life is the eternally progressive expression of heaven.
So heaven isn't a thing we wait for. It's a state we demonstrate according to the choices we make. Sometimes we're living in hell because we don't choose heaven, or because we're waiting for it in a future that never comes because we fail to choose it. But when we finally decide that we don't want to live in the hell of mental pollution and begin to choose heaven, we become progressively blessed with inner contentment and outer harmony. Our human needs are met. Strength and accomplishment go hand-in-hand. Human relationships become harmonious as the sense of material and personal self is conquered. And universal love brings the sweet blessings of earth to attest our heaven here.
And we find the answer to the question that man at the lecture raised. We're not just accidental physical entities staggering materially from crisis to crisis. We're spiritual beings progressing spiritually from glory to glory.
Mrs. Eddy says, "Of two things fate cannot rob us; namely, of choosing the best, and of helping others thus to choose" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 165). Let's choose the best. Let's choose heaven.