Christian Science: The Awakening to Spiritual Reality
Cecil F. Denton, C.S., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
This lecture was delivered in
The Christian Science church on the Plaza, Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist, makes you very welcome this morning. As you listen to this lecture you will learn how to be happier, healthier, and more useful; because you will have become more conscious of the infinite God and your relationship to him.
I am very happy to present to you Cecil Denton:
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," its author Mary Baker Eddy, declares (p. 95), "Lulled by stupefying illusions, the world is asleep in the cradle of infancy, dreaming away the hours." And she adds, "Material sense does not unfold the facts of existence; but spiritual sense lifts human consciousness into
eternal Truth." It was the mission and life purpose of Christ Jesus to rouse human consciousness from its lethargic and limited concepts of life and being into the radiant realization of spiritual dominion as made manifest in health, success, and happiness. "I am come," he said, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John ). And today, through the teachings of Christian Science, the Christ, Truth, still calls to you and me, asking, in the Words of the Scriptures (Prov. 6:9), "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?" When, indeed! Shall not our answer be, "Now"? Shall we not awaken now to the illusory nature of all discord and adopt the spiritual sense, which lifts human consciousness into eternal Truth"? How pertinent, today as of old, is Paul's wise reminder to the Romans (), "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep."
Just as it was the mission and life purpose of Christ Jesus to rouse human consciousness into the realization that salvation is not something reserved for the hereafter, so it was the divine mission and life purpose of the Discoverer of Christian Science to reveal to humanity the Science of Christ's Christianity. True, spiritual healing as Jesus demonstrated it continued for some three hundred years after the Master's ascension, but it was then lost to the world until Mrs. Eddy, over eighty years ago, became cognizant of the naturalness of the operation of divine law in human affairs. This was indeed a discovery - a discovery which brought to her awakened thought health in place of pain and illness, supply in place of lack.
In his biography of Mrs. Eddy, Dr. Lyman P. Powell tells us of her early background, which was rich in educational reading and in religious experience. He also quotes from her autobiography, "Retrospection and Introspection," Mrs. Eddy's recollection of her spiritual yearnings. "From my very childhood," she writes (p. 31), "I was impelled, by a hunger and thirst after divine things, - a desire for something higher and better than matter, and apart from it, - to seek diligently for the knowledge of God as the one great and ever-present relief from human woe."
And seek diligently she did, by giving herself over for three years to a thorough study of the Scriptures so that she might understand the divine law which governed what the world had termed the miracles of Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles. In speaking of this experience, she has said (Science and Health, p. 109); "I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind-action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration."
Science and Health
This demonstration, of which Mrs. Eddy speaks, refers to the results of the application to human affairs of her discovery of the ever-presence of the Christ, Truth. As the Master and his disciples had done, so she healed all manner of disease, redeemed the sinner, and comforted the sorrowing. So that the world also might know this healing and redemptive truth, Mrs. Eddy recorded her discovery in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."
This textbook has been translated
into several of the major languages of the world and has become one of the most
widely read books of our day. I am sure that you will be interested, as I was,
to learn that the library of
Indeed, Mrs. Eddy did have a "keen understanding of the human mind," and it was for this reason that she worked patiently and lovingly to educate mortals out of their false, enslaving beliefs. She knew that the human mind is reluctant to surrender its preconceived concepts, but she knew also that, as Science and Health declares (p. 323), "When the sick or the sinning awake to realize their need of what they have not, they will be receptive of divine Science, which gravitates towards Soul and away from material sense, removes thought from the body, and elevates even mortal mind to the contemplation of something better than disease or sin." Mrs. Eddy knew, too, as you and I know today through the demonstrated truth of Christian Science, that everything the Master did and said was to awaken mortal thought out of its self-imposed bondage.
Jesus' Deeds Awakened Thought
When Jesus healed the centurion's servant of palsy (Matt. 8:5-13) he was not only demonstrating the unreality of disease, but he was also awakening thought to the realization that the law of God, good, is infinite and omnipresent. This fact enables the Christian Science practitioner today to heal those who are far distant through what is known as absent treatment. When the Master multiplied the seven loaves and few fishes (Matt. -21) so that the five thousand people who constituted his audience were fed, he was awakening thought to the spiritual fact that supply is not in matter and is inexhaustible. In raising Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus from the dead, as well as in his own resurrection and ascension, Christ Jesus was making clear to a skeptical world that life is immortal, without beginning or end.
Jesus' Teachings Awakened Thought
Not only in what Jesus did, but in all that he taught, do we find the Master's devotion to the liberating of mankind through spiritual awakening. You will recall that early in Jesus' ministry his healing work brought him fame throughout all Syria. He left the multitudes that followed him and went by himself up into a mountain where his disciples came to him. In what has become known as the Sermon on the Mount, he then gave these first students the basic teaching of Christianity, which, through its teaching and practice, is destined to establish peace within individual hearts and in the affairs of the nations. In her volume, "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 25), Mrs. Eddy refers to the Sermon on the Mount "in its direct application to human needs" as confirming the conclusion "that there is but one God or Life, one cause and one effect." Think of it! Could anything in this world be more pertinent than this teaching which has such "direct application to human needs"?
It is significant that Jesus began his preaching with a series of Beatitudes. He knew that not only do certain righteous qualities of thought bring blessing into one's experience, but he knew also and proved that regardless of the seeming severity of any human experience, the law of divine Love is ever present to replace sorrow with joy, poverty with needful supply, and disease with normalcy. Therefore, every seeming adverse circumstance is not an affliction, but is a challenge to demonstrate the true man's God-given dominion, to awaken to the realization that the Christ, Truth, is adequate to meet every situation. Small wonder, therefore, that Jesus should introduce his memorable teaching with these Beatitudes.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit"
When the Master said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3), he was not saying that to be bankrupt of Christ is to possess the kingdom of heaven. One Bible translator renders the phrase "poor in spirit" as "the gentle in spirit" (Ferrar Fenton). Gentleness, therefore, is a spiritual quality, and those who express that trait are manifesting that which characterizes the kingdom of heaven within, within your consciousness and mine.
Job's stoicism had to give way to a gentler sense before he could see the need of praying for his friends. And whatever would bind you and me in terms of self-will or unrelenting human opinions must give way to that gentleness which is the very Christ within us, that effortlessness which makes demonstrations of divine might so natural and spontaneous. Gentleness, therefore, is not weakness or spinelessness. On the contrary, it is strength, because it is devoid of the debilitating effects of tension or friction. Paul recognized that "the fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness" (Gal. ), and in his letter to the Ephesians he wrote, "Be ye kind one to another" (). To make the kingdom of heaven manifest in our homes, our church, our practice, or our business, we need that quality of gentleness which inspired Mrs. Eddy to urge a pupil to have "a cell less in the brain and a fibre more in the heart . . ." (Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, by Irving C. Tomlinson, p. 133).
When Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," he must have meant also that blessed are they who feel the need of spiritual-mindedness, those who, conscious of their lack, "cried unto the Lord . . . and he delivered them out of their distresses" (Ps. 107:6). Such was the cry of a young mother and father whose little six-year-old daughter lay helpless before the dread disease named infantile paralysis. Two physicians who had been called on the case held consultation and declared that the child could not possibly live through the day. The parents, learning that a Christian Science practitioner was in their vicinity, having been called there on another case, asked her to come and help them.
The practitioner, upon entering the house and becoming aware of the tragic fear of the parents and the urgency of the child's need, asked them if they believed God could help them. Faced with their own spiritual barrenness and conscious of the fact that they did not even own a Bible, they said, "We do not know God and feel unworthy to ask His help, but could you help us find Him?" The practitioner then explained to them in simple words that God is man's very life and His love is unvarying, and that they had at that moment recourse to His law of divine justice, which is ever-present and ever-adequate. She assured them that even as God was their Father-Mother, so He mothered and fathered their little one at all times. She then asked the father to take her Bible and read the ninety-first Psalm, and gave the mother Science and Health, requesting that she read the Lord's Prayer with its spiritual interpretation, given on pages 16 and 17 of our textbook. In humble obedience these two put their precious child in the practitioner's care and eagerly sought the truth from the books.
Closing the door, the practitioner, alone with the child, sat quietly by the bedside. Shutting out all material evidence, she earnestly prayed for that spiritual light which would reveal the present perfection of the child, that kingdom of heaven within. Almost immediately the child's breathing, which had been heavy and labored, became quiet, and she dropped into a natural sleep. Her entire body became relaxed and normal, and when she awakened an hour later, she sat up in bed completely refreshed and well, using her arms and limbs in perfect freedom, whereas before they had been stiff and paralyzed. Calling the parents to the room, the practitioner rejoiced with them and their little daughter in the realization that God was not a God afar off, but a God at hand.
Because of the humility of these parents, who recognized their need of knowing God, they were receptive of the divine idea, which brought healing to their home. Truly, "blessed are those who feel poor in Spirit! the Realm of Heaven is theirs" (Moffatt's translation).
"Blessed are they that mourn"
In the chapter on Christian Science Practice in Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy admonishes (p. 377), "If grief causes suffering, convince the sufferer that affliction is often the source of joy, and that he should rejoice always in ever-present Love." It is because this is a fact that Jesus reminded his disciples, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). We find our comfort as we find our rest, our strength, and our joy in spiritualized consciousness; not only in thinking as God's man, but in being God's man. To grieve over the passing of a loved one is to lose sight of the comfort which comes of knowing not only the eternality of life, but also the immortality of those qualities which have endeared one to us.
No one will conclude, I am sure, that such an observation justifies coldness or lack of appreciation of what such an adjustment demands. "The fibre more in the heart" requires that we not fail to be loving and helpful to those whose sorrow is aggravated because they know not how, through the application of Christian Science, to break the mesmeric hold of grief. In helping such as mourn, let us do those deeds of kindness which will ease the sense of burden, but let us also keep our vision on the deathless Christ, for therein only lies the keynote to giving "beauty for ashes" and "the oil of joy for mourning" (Isa. 61:3).
"When the light of one friendship after another passes from earth to heaven," our Leader writes, "we kindle in place thereof the glow of some deathless reality" (Pulpit and Press, p. 5). This kindling of "the glow of some deathless reality" is the work of the Comforter, whose only office is to bless and, in the words of Job, "to set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety" (Job ).
"Blessed are the meek"
In speaking of the saving ministry of Christ Jesus, Science and Health declares (p. 30), "In meekness and might, he was found preaching the gospel to the poor." It is significant that our Leader couples meekness and might together, and it is readily seen that they are inseparable in true consciousness; for might without meekness is arrogance, and meekness without might in some cases becomes softness or even a sense of martyrdom. Meekness is not the Uriah Heep type of wringing one's hands in pseudo self-effacement, but it carries the meaning of kindness or humility, which finds joy in forgetting self and in serving one's fellowman.
When Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5), he was repeating the thought of the Psalmist, who said the same thing (Ps. 37:11). In fact, all the Beatitudes go back directly or indirectly to early Jewish teaching, but the old Judaic law was in terms of a wrathful God and not in terms of the New Testament conception of God as Love, nor in terms of the "Blessed are ye" benedictions which Jesus, through his understanding of the Christ, Truth, brought to the world. That is the reason he said that he had come to fulfill, or complete, the law.
"To inherit the earth" is to have dominion over all material beliefs. Meekness, or humility, brings success, for it acknowledges God as the source of all action, of law and order and their enforcement; and it acknowledges, too, as our hymn says, that
"His is the power by which we act,
His be the glory too."
(Christian Science Hymnal, No. 354)
The Hungering for Goodness
Not only are the meek blessed, but "blessed also," as Moffatt translates the fourth Beatitude, "are those who hunger and thirst for goodness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6). In reply to the question, "Are we benefited by praying?" Science and Health says (p. 2), "Yes, the desire which goes forth hungering after righteousness is blessed of our Father, and it does not return unto us void."
A Christian Science practitioner once found her work on a certain case bringing no perceptible results. Finally she was called to the bedside of the patient, who was said to be passing on. She sat there for a moment praying for the light that would banish that darkness.† Suddenly she found herself saying, "When you desire the Christ more than you desire to be well, you will be healed." Opening his eyes, the man asked her what she had said. She repeated, "When you desire the Christ more than you desire to be well, you will be healed." He replied, "That's right." He knew that all he had been seeking in Christian Science was physical healing. The practitioner's remark truly awoke him to the realization that physical healing was not his primary need, but, rather, an awakened sense of what constitutes Christly thinking and acting. With this change of attitude his healing followed naturally and quickly.
In the testimonies in our periodicals and at our Wednesday evening meetings we learn of persons who spontaneously release such habits as smoking; and yet there are other persons who seek healing in Christian Science of a physical problem, but who actually refuse to surrender indulgence in tobacco, saying that it must leave them, or that they do not want to use will power. The fact is, however, that any decision to do right is not human will, but is the operation of the divine will in human affairs.
You and I may not be guilty of the smoking habit, but can we honestly say that we are free of other negative habits? We need to break all habits of destructive thinking; for example, the habit of fearful contemplation of the future, the habit of self-depreciation, which is a false sense of humility, or the habit of indulging temperamental traits because we feel, in self-justification, that we were born with certain traits of character. And we need to watch, too, that we do not fall into a set routine of living that lacks the buoyancy which comes of living inspirationally. Scientifically speaking, even so-called good habits are not good if they are performed so mechanically, or unthinkingly, that they stultify inspiration or the expression of individuality.
"Blessed are the merciful"
The final tenet of The Mother Church reads, "And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure" (Science and Health, p. 497). Nowhere could there be found a more perfect epitome of the Sermon on the Mount than is found in these lines, and therefore it may be said that nowhere could there be found a clearer challenge to spiritual awakening. The Master said, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:7). Mercy begets justice. Surely mercy begets love and forgiveness and compassion. Mercy does not condone error, but because it is loving, it heals error.
How true it is that one cannot be proud and merciful at the same time - nor arrogant and merciful at the same time, nor condemnatory of persons and merciful at the same time. It is a Christian demand upon you and me, this day and every day, to be merciful, to be done forever with the inclination to balloon a brother's faults or indiscretions.
"Blessed are the pure in heart"
If it is true, as the Psalmist has said, that "righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10), it is also true that mercy and purity belong to the same family of Christlike qualities. It was Jesus' purity that enabled him not only to see God, but also to bless his fellowman. Therefore he could read mortal mind, and did, but only for the purpose of blessing and healing mankind. And our Leader has said, "Thought imbued with purity, Truth, and Love, instructed in the Science of metaphysical healing, is the most potent and desirable remedial agent on the earth" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 4). Naturally, therefore, the Christian Science practitioner will not weaken this "most potent and desirable remedial agent on the earth" by blemishing his own purity through any compromise with matter or materia medica.
Purity, therefore, means more than moral rectitude although, of course, morality is part and parcel of purity. When Daniel said to King Darius, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me" (Dan. 6:22), he must have meant that not only was his moral slate clean, but that he was also innocent of fear, of self-pity, of doubt, or of resentment. This purity of thought and purpose was his protection. This purity enabled him to see God.
A consciousness that is devoid of clinging to materiality, that is free from "vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself" (Macbeth, Act I, Sc. 7, line 16), one that is free from envy or strife, is a consciousness that is so pure that the Word of God finds ready admission therein to heal and to bless. Truly, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
To Make Peace in the World
At a time when the world is still talking of another war, there is a solemn obligation upon all Christian Scientists to make peace in the world. Indeed, the obligation is upon us at all times, for only the Christian Scientist realizes fully that war is just as mental as disease, and only the Christian Scientist knows how to combat that abnormality. "Blessed are the peacemakers," our Master said: "for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9).
For you and me to make peace in the world is to begin with ourselves and uproot all negative thinking. "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever" (Isa. 32:17). War is simply avarice, greed, revenge, and hate objectified and magnified.
You and I shall make our contribution to the world's peace by doing something about it. Mrs. Eddy declares: "Christian Science reinforces Christ's sayings and doings. The Principle of Christian Science demonstrates peace. . . . The First Commandment in the Hebrew Decalogue - 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me' - obeyed, is sufficient to still all strife. God is the divine Mind. Hence the sequence: Had all peoples one Mind, peace would reign" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 279).
Are you and I today striving to be of one Mind, to acknowledge God in all that we do and say? It is in that oneness of Mind that we may reconcile men at variance. Therein lies our highest service to our God and to our country, and therein lies our identification as the sons of God.
Persecution and Triumph
The final Beatitudes of Jesus pertain to persecution for righteousness' sake and for being a follower of the Master. Christ Jesus knew that any stand for divine Principle invokes the jealousy and resistance of the carnal mind. But Jesus never once implied that persecution - call it envy, jealousy, scorn, or what you will - should ever be cause for a heavy heart or a long face. He did say we would have tribulation in the world but that we should be of good cheer, for he had overcome the world. The Christ still overcomes the world's resistance to spiritual awakening. Christ, Truth, does make our burden light through the assurance that every problem which confronts us is as nothing before the power of the Christ. Oh, yes, our good may be evil spoken of, but the Christian Scientist is serene in the midst of opposition, for he knows that any attack of mortal mind is not upon person but is upon what that person expresses of the Christ in purity and in righteousness. Therefore that consciousness which, like Daniel, is innocent of fear or resentment will find no occasion to barb any sense of persecution. That is the reason the Apostle Paul could say, "None of these things move me" (Acts ); and it was out of deep experience that the Discoverer of Christian Science could write (Poems, p. 12):
"Then His unveiled, sweet mercies show
Life's burdens light.
I kiss the cross, and wake to know
A world more bright."
Upon the completion of the Beatitudes, Jesus told his disciples that they were "the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour," he asked them, "wherewith shall it be salted?" One Bible translator renders this passage, "But if salt becomes insipid, what can make it salt again?" (Moffatt)
We need "zeal," but we need rather its absolute or spiritual connotation, which Science and Health defines as "the reflected animation of Life, Truth, and Love" (p. 599). God's man, the man created, as the Bible says, in His image and likeness, does not grow old and tired. He does not say to himself, or to others, "I once had the inspiration to study, but now it is an effort for me to maintain a sense of freshness in my study." Man is at the focus of divine Love's perception; man knows only spontaneity and inspiration, which, like God's mercies, are "new every morning" (Lam ).
"The reflected animation of Life, Truth, and Love" is seen in consistency of devotion to divine Principle, which is true consecration, or obedience. This zeal is the animation of the Christ, Truth - the irresistible propulsion of divine energy and inspiration. It finds no time for trafficking in gossip, for resorting to formulas for healing, or for putting off to a more convenient season the overcoming of negative trends of thinking. The promises of the Bible are always to him who overcometh; and he who has a zest for life, he whose life has not become apathetic and indifferent, will relish that overcoming. "Let your light so shine, before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
Prayer Brings Spiritual Awakening
Perhaps in no one instance did the Master do more to give his disciples and the world the key to awakening to spiritual dominion than when he gave what we gratefully know as the Lord's Prayer. In this prayer Christ Jesus replaced that sense of petition to God which classifies man as a miserable sinner with a sense of oneness with God which brings blessing and healing. Throughout her writings Mrs. Eddy has laid great stress upon the importance of the spiritual sense of the Lord's Prayer; and it is well known that the Lord's Prayer with its spiritual interpretation given in Science and Health plays a large part in the daily thought of the Christian Scientist. Science and Health speaks of ". . . the heaven-born aspiration and spiritual consciousness, which is indicated in the Lord's Prayer and which instantaneously heals the sick" (p. 16).
I should like to tell you of an experience of a friend who found these words true in her life. This friend's mother, who was not a Christian Scientist, had been given up by her attending physician. The family had been called to what was said to be the mother's deathbed. The physician had said that nothing further could be done medically for the mother; whereupon this friend, who, because of years of proving the truths of Christian Science both for herself and for others, could speak with conviction, replied, "My mother does not need to die." The physician then informed her that at that very moment her mother was already passing on. The friend took her mother in her arms, and with her sister repeated the Lordís Prayer over and over again, realizing all the time its spiritual significance as revealed in Christian Science. Very shortly, it was evident the mother was reviving, and soon thereafter she recovered completely.
The Spirit of Prayer
It is highly important that we remember that Jesus prefaced his instruction regarding prayer with this admonition, "After this manner therefore pray ye" (Matt. 6:9). It is never the words alone which bring healing, but rather the realization of the truth which the words convey. "After this manner therefore pray ye" means for one to adopt the spirit of true prayer, which is not petition to a far-distant God, but is conscious at-one-ment with God, wherein man discovers that as God's reflection he has all that God has. David declared, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. ).
Perfect God and Perfect Man
And so shall you and I be satisfied when we awake in the likeness of God. When shall that awakening be? Now, if we will. Christ Jesus never once implied that we must wait until some future time to find our true selfhood. "Be ye therefore perfect," he told his disciples, "even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. ). The man of God's creating simply cannot help being perfect. He must be perfect because God is perfect, and like produces like. The familiar saying, "Like father, like son," is literally true in our divine relationship.
One of the chief reasons for Christ Jesus' great success in demonstrating not only his own spiritual dominion but also in bringing healing and an awakened sense of true being to others was his consistent refusal to accept as true the evidence of the material senses. He was never deceived into believing that man is ever less than perfect. Jesus always saw the perfect man because that is the only man he knew. "According to Christian Science," Mrs. Eddy has said, "perfection is normal, - not miraculous" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 104). And so it was to Jesus, who claimed his perfection by reflection, the reflection which was the basis of his identification as the Son of God.
Before we leave our subject this evening, let us recall that the awakening to spiritual reality is the most practical thing that you and I can do in this atomic age, or any age. Job finally learned, you will remember, that his afflictions were not God-sent; and when he acknowledged God as infinite and supreme, he again knew health and abundance. In all that Christ Jesus taught and did, he aroused consciousness to the realization that the kingdom of heaven is already within man, within your consciousness and mine. Christian Science today shows us how to throw off the finite limitations that come with a material concept of life and to lay hold of the infinite good that is the natural unfoldment of spiritualized consciousness. How significantly Mrs. Eddy has written: "Many sleep who should keep themselves awake and waken the world. Earth's actors change earth's scenes; and the curtain of human life should be lifted on reality, on that which outweighs time; on duty done and life perfected, wherein joy is real and fadeless" (Message for 1902, p. 17).
April 5, 1951
[Published in The Johnson County Herald of Overland Park, Kansas.]