The Prayer of Understanding: The Message of Christian Science
John W. Doorly, C.S.B., of Leeds, England
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Progress is recognized to be the law of God in all things, and Christian Science has come in obedience to this law, not to reveal a new God but to bring to humanity a fuller sense of that one and only God "whom to know aright is Life eternal." (Science and Health, Pref., p. vii). The message of Christian Science is always loving, compassionate, and tolerant, and recognizes clearly the right of every man to decide what is best for his own health and happiness, both in the matter of medicine and also of religion. The teachings of Christian Science are simple and direct, and are easily understood by any unbiased thinker; even children perceive and use them with the utmost ease. Being essentially Christlike they are universal and are the message of Truth knocking at the door of every human consciousness.
Christian Science neither strives nor argues with those who do not accept its teachings, but gently reasons, as did Abraham of old, "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, * * * for we be brethren." Christian Science, however, does declare in no uncertain way that there is but one God and one Christ. and that a correct, scientific, and demonstrable understanding of the one and only God and of the divine Christ is essential to the permanent health, happiness, and salvation of every individual. Christian Science also points out definitely that it profits little merely to believe on God, for human belief is subject to change, while spiritual understanding abideth forever.
The Prayer of Certainty
Christian Science therefore demands from those who would accept its ministrations that they should so understand God and His relationship to His creation, and His laws governing this relationship, that they should be able under all circumstances, through this knowledge, to prove His presence and power, and His infinite ability to preserve them intact from every form of evil. This result Christian Science teaches, and all Christian religions should readily concede, can only be accomplished through prayer; but as to what constitutes true prayer there are many human opinions.
From time immemorial mankind has believed in some kind of God and has offered some prayer or offering to such a God, but the motives for these prayers and the results expected and obtained from them have differed according to a man's belief as to the nature of his God. It has, however, always been acceded, and quite rightly, that the individual who obtained the most definite answer to his prayer was that one who understood most certainly and correctly the nature of the one and only God. The Scriptures are a record of how God was progressively revealed "with signs following" to those men of all ages who understood Him and obeyed His laws.
Such men, it is recorded, were not only able to save themselves through their prayers, from evil of every kind, including disease and even death, but were consistently able also to help others; and this ability to prove God's presence and power has always been accepted, at least in theory, as a proof of the correctness or otherwise of all religious teaching. Indeed this necessity for praying aright and unfailingly receiving an answer to such prayer was made the standard of Jesus' teaching. He spent a great part of his short personal ministry proving beyond doubt that his prayer was with power to cast out evil of every kind; and for those who accept his life and teachings as their standard. this should also be the standard of prayer.
Judged upon this basis, Christian Science can speak and does speak with certainty upon the subject of prayer, for the followers of Christian Science have received innumerable and direct answers to their prayers. Through the correct understanding of prayer which they have gained from the teachings of Christian Science, a vast and ever increasing multitude have been enabled to free themselves from many phases of sin and disease, and in addition have been enabled to break these bonds for their friends and fellow men. This fact has been established so certainly, and in so many cases, that discussion of the question as to whether Christian Science heals or not has become quite unnecessary and superfluous, certainly among a large proportion of the public.
The question therefore arises, What is the nature of the prayer of Christian Science, and wherein does it differ from the ordinary religious acceptation of prayer; and primarily, does it agree with prayer as understood and practiced by those men of old whose perception of true prayer has based all religious teaching? Also, does it agree with the prayer of Christ Jesus the Way-shower? Unfortunately for mankind, popular religious thought has frequently considered such prayer and its results to be a special dispensation, although admitting that God, to whom all prayer is addressed, and by whom all prayer is answered is "the same. yesterday, and today, and forever." The result of this belief has been that the world has failed to realize fully that true prayer and its effects not only were in no way a breach of law or a special intervention, but were in fact the simple, natural and inevitable results of understanding God and His unchangeable laws, revealing the true nature of that prayer which is always answered. It was of such prayer that Jesus spoke when he declared, "Father, * * * I knew that thou hearest me always."
To Understand God Essential
To pray aright it is evident that we must first know God right, for it would be useless to pray to something that we did not understand. To know God aright and therefore intelligently one must, at least temporarily, be willing to set aside preconceived notions as to what God is and to face this question from a thoroughly unbiased position, accepting no evidence but that of reason and scriptural revelation. It was undoubtedly the correct understanding and definition of God by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, which gave such power and success to the Christian Science movement, and which has enabled Christian Scientists intelligently to make use of God's laws for the destruction of evil, even as they were used 1900 years ago.
It is also wise when one has gained the standpoint from which one is willing to think intelligently, and therefore progressively, to take a look backward and see how and from what source his previous convictions about God were gained, for as Mrs. Eddy has written, "We cannot fill vessels already full" (Science and Health, p. 201); and if we would appreciate the clear and demonstrable sense of God which she has given to us, we most first be willing to discern the falsities which we have believed about God and then to cast them out of our thought. Had the world been in the habit of thus considering carefully the false beliefs about God which were presented to it, many of the popular views now existing about Him would long since have been forsaken.
It is true that most of us have accepted without question some popular doctrinal theory about God, probably because our parents had previously accepted that particular form of religions belief, or for some other equally simple reason; but are we as willing to accept as infallible everything else that our parents and forefathers thought, and do we regard their wisdom in other and less important matters as absolutely final and complete? Again, is it not true in the history of the world that religious thought as a whole has been only too ready to accept orthodox religious teaching and to trust to find salvation through such teaching rather than by understanding God? Indeed, is it not often declared that it is not wise to inquire too closely into the things of God; and yet it must be evident to every one that we cannot know too much about God, and the Scriptures even enjoin upon us that we must know Him, and know Him aright, and that such knowledge is essential to life itself and all that it includes.
Those who have understood God clearly enough to demonstrate His presence and power have been few and far between, and have been as lights in the world; but Christian Science is demanding and making it possible that every man should know, and know intelligently, what God is. In fact, Christian Science is insisting and proving that all health, holiness, and happiness, and indeed one's very existence, is wholly dependent on his understanding of God.
Progressive Revelation of God
Until the coming of Christ Jesus mankind had derived its beliefs about God from the Jewish theology which in part was based on the wonderful revelations of inspired men who knew God aright, and partly on the beliefs about God prevalent throughout the East as recorded in the Scriptures; and certainly the Jewish theology was largely influenced by the beliefs of the nations among whom the Israelites dwelt.
Into this school of Israelitish theology, occupied more and more by ceremonial rites and less and less by the practical religion typified in the careers of such men as Elijah and Isaiah, came the lowly Nazarene declaring that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." As history relates, the Jewish theology of that period could not accept his teachings, although that theology had been built up in a great measure on the revelation of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph, of Moses, and of the prophets, who had indeed declared the coming of this very Christ.
Jesus, however, established his right to the Messiahship by his convincing works, in which he overcame every material law, making men free from the bondage of material sense. Above all he taught so clearly the true and exact nature of God that eventually John was enabled to see and declare the mighty fact that "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." This declaration the centuries have yet to appreciate fully, for had they done so the marvellous works of the Christian era would have been performed during those centuries even as they were in the days of primitive Christianity.
It is related of St. John that during his old age and after his wonderful revelation on the island of Patmos, when his followers would come to ask him about God, his only reply would be, "Little children love one another, for this is what Jesus taught." Clearly he did not consider either formulated petitions or arbitrary doctrines necessary to salvation, but recognized the supreme importance of godlikeness, that is, of being loving in thought and action. John knew that to dwell constantly in Love was to reflect the very nature of God, who is Love, and was truly to know Him, "who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases."
This new and higher sense of God which Christ Jesus gave to the world was accepted and demonstrated by spiritually minded men and women for nearly three hundred years in the same way that our Master demonstrated it — that is, by healing the sick and the sinning, and even raising the dead, and this is a matter of historical record. His followers understood his teaching, and his revelation of the true nature of God sufficiently to demonstrate them, in a degree, even as he did, and this demonstration alone is true prayer.
As Mrs. Eddy has declared in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 20): "Jesus established no ritualistic worship. He knew that men can be baptized, partake of the Eucharist, * * * observe the Sabbath, make long prayers, and yet be sensual and sinful."
As the ages progressed and mankind's thought of God was further removed from the convincing demonstrations of Christ Jesus and the early Christians, that understanding of God which had accomplished the healing of sin and sickness again became obscured by creeds and religious ceremonies to which the human mind is ever turning, and as healing the sick on a scientific and infallible basis without a correct understanding of God was impossible, this part of the "seamless dress" became more and more relegated to material healing systems, and prayer became more a matter of words and ceremony than of consciousness or spiritual understanding. Religion again needed the cry of Isaiah to purge it of its rites and ceremonies and to reinstate true monotheism. It again needed the selflessness and humility of the mighty Nazarene to declare God with power and to cause the blind to see and the lepers to be cleansed. It again needed the fearlessness of a Paul to preach Christ to all men "with signs following." The fact is, that it has always been an easy matter for the human mind to believe in some creed with its outward forms and to depend on this belief for eternal salvation in some inscrutable way, but it has always been a much more difficult matter for humanity to seek and understand pure Christianity in a wholly spiritual way and to live and demonstrate this understanding unceasingly in daily life.
Discovery of the Spirit of Truth
It is evident from many of Jesus' sayings that he knew that the truth which he taught about God would be hidden from the world for a time but would again appear as "the Spirit of truth" guiding men into all righteousness. This "Spirit of truth," which was discovered by Mrs. Eddy in the year 1866, revealed to her the truth about God and His relationship to His creation, and also showed to her what the understanding of this truth would do here and now for humanity. After receiving this revelation she searched the Scriptures for many years, and as she searched, the exact and scientific knowledge of God came more clearly and more concisely to her waiting thought, and she knew God through spiritual sense and in spite of the evidence of material sense, relying for her conclusions wholly on reason and revelation, not at all on human wisdom or prevalent theological views. Mrs. Eddy has given to us in her text-book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," a complete and final statement of her revelation for all to understand and to practice. This book is read at all Christian Science services in conjunction with the Bible, and is also studied daily by Christian Scientists, in many cases with the result that while studying this book they have been healed of lifelong diseases and sinful habits. Through the study of this book Christian Scientists have also been enabled to heal others in proportion to their understanding of its teachings about God. As a result of this revelation, Mrs. Eddy undoubtedly discovered the true Science, the Science of spiritual being; the true theology, the word of God, the same yesterday, today and forever; and the true medicine, the consciousness of Love's ever-presence, delivering men from sins and sicknesses.
The key-note of Christian Science teaching truly is its demonstrable explanations about God, since all that can ever be accomplished for the good of mankind must be as a result of knowing the one infinite God, good.
God Not Perceived by Physical Sense
To understand God aright in Christian Science, one must be prepared to judge "not according to the appearance" and not by the testimony of physical sense, but to judge "righteous judgment"; and one must also be prepared to "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen." The necessity for this must be quite apparent to any one who will consider for one moment that he cannot hear, see, touch, smell, or taste Spirit, God; in fact, that he can never know God through the material senses. Is it not therefore through spiritual sense alone and in spite of material sense-testimony that Deity can be known? Have you ever realized that Jesus of Nazareth became Jesus the Christ because he refused to accept the testimony of the very senses through which the ordinary man hopes to understand God? Therefore, as long as we are prepared to regard the testimony of material sense as absolute and final we can hardly hope to know God aright or to have the Mind of Christ.
God as Known in Christian Science
Christian Science declares that because man and the universe exist there must necessarily be a cause for that existence, and this cause to be eternal must be wholly good, for if this cause contained any element of evil it would contain something that was destructive and therefore not eternal; consequently there would be a time when some part of God must be destroyed, which is of course unthinkable. It is evident that most people either consciously or unconsciously admit the fact that God is infinite good, since practically all religions teach that life eternal can be attained only when mankind has attained to infinite good and every phase of evil has been eliminated from consciousness. Mankind claims to believe in God as the creator, but if popular beliefs about God were true, He would not only be the creator but the great destroyer, sending pestilence and calamity on His creation. Christian Science, however, recognizes that God is infinite good, and that He is without a destructive element of any kind.
An important revelation of Christian Science is that God is Mind, or as Jesus declared, Spirit, and when an inquirer begins to perceive this vital fact even in the slightest degree, he at that moment begins to understand somewhat of Christian Science.
To be intelligent, God must be Mind, for if He were not Mind he would be non-intelligent or mindless, and since there is but one God, there can be in reality but one Mind. Such a statement may not agree with human theories, yet the important question is not whether such a statement agrees with these theories but whether it is true and what this statement will do for humanity if understood and practiced in daily life.
As there is but one God or cause, this cause must necessarily be omnipresence, that is all presence; omnipotence, that is all power; and omniscience, that is all Science or true knowledge, for if the one and only cause were not omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience, then there would be a time when being would be without presence, power, or knowledge, and would be non-existent. The fact, however, that existence is and continues to be, disproves such a belief, and indeed to any one who will think for a moment of the myriad manifestations of creation, even to our finite human sense of being, it will be quite patent that the only cause or creator must be infinite, therefore always infinite presence, power, and knowledge, or Science.
Thus Christian Science declares that God, or cause, is omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience, and is also infinite Mind; hence we arrive at the conclusion that infinite Mind is omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience. Now what is infinite Mind? Is not Mind that which thinks, or expresses itself? And as there is but one Mind, all true thought must be the expression or creation of this Mind; and what is equally vital is the fact that all true thought must express the quality or essence of this Mind, so all true thought must express presence, power, and Science and must express it infinitely. Hence, right thinking, or godlike thinking, is always with presence, power, and Science, or knowledge.
At this point, however, it must be clearly remembered that this Mind or cause which we call God is also infinite good. Therefore we see that Mind is that which thinks good alone, and that only true thinking or good thinking is of God; consequently only thoughts which are infinitely good are creations of God or Mind and are real, and evil thoughts are not of God and are not real. Thus only good thoughts express Mind and have presence, power, or knowledge.
Let us look clearly for one moment at our Scriptural and logical premises, — that God is infinite cause, is omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience; that He is infinite good and is also intelligence or Mind. These are naturally premises which all Christians should admit, and which are based not only upon Scriptural revelation but also, as we have seen, upon reason. Now, have these definitions of God made Him any less near and dear to us, or have they made Him any more difficult to understand? Not at all. The necessary rejection of the theory of an anthropomorphic or corporeal God has only given us a clearer and more practical sense of Deity which will be found to be invaluable to those who will accept this new and higher sense of Him and will use it in their daily lives.
Indeed, it is not until we perceive that God is Mind, and that every good thought is an expression of God and is His very presence, or is Mind with us, that we really arrive at the inevitable conclusion of the nearness and dearness of infinite divine Love. This conclusion at once opens our eyes to the possibility and practical ability of seeing God, or Mind, "face to face," here and now, through right thinking — through having that Mind "which was also in Christ Jesus."
The Creation of Infinite Mind or God
Having understood God the creator aright, we are naturally in a position to declare what His creation must necessarily be, for since God is infinite cause there can be no other creator and all creation must be the effect or expression of this one and only cause. Now, what kind of creation is it likely that such a cause as infinite good or infinite Mind either would or could create? It must be quite plain to every one that infinite good could only create an infinitely good creation, and as God in also infinite Mind, that creation must also be wholly mental. Therefore Christian Science, in spite of the evidence of material sense, accepts unreservedly the fact that God's creation is in reality wholly good, is now and forever has been mental or spiritual, and always expresses the presence, power, and knowledge of its creator.
This creation, however, must be perceived mentally or spiritually, and is never discerned by the erroneous human senses. The creations of infinite Mind, Christian Science declares, are not material things but the likeness of Mind, and are therefore spiritual ideas. Christian Science declares that God's only creations are spiritual ideas forever expressing the perfection, beauty, and holiness of the divine Mind. It consequently teaches that the truth about God's man is that he is not a material organism born of a material father and mother, but that he is, forever was, and forever will be, a complete idea of God expressing the eternal harmony and intelligence of the divine Mind, and that he is forever governed by divine law alone; and Christian Science declares this in direct opposition to mortal sense, which for its part would suppose man to be utterly unlike Spirit and forever subject to material sense and law.
Christian Science begins by declaring God aright, and then certainly but with true humility declares that man and the universe are and forever have been the likeness of perfect and eternal Mind, or God. It explains that human thought has supposed God to be manlike, whereas the true man is godlike, or like infinite Mind. In fact, the reasoning and also the conclusions of Christian Science about God and His creation are diametrically opposed to the inferences of material sense, since Christian Science reasons deductively and from a spiritual basis, while material sense thinks inductively and draws its conclusions from the fleeting and changing phenomena of mortal existence.
For instance, human reason declares that man is the image and likeness of God, and then forms its concept of God from what it knows of material man, thus supposing God to be a glorified man; whereas Christian Science declares that God is infinite good and is also infinite Mind or intelligence, and therefore concludes logically that man must in reality be like infinite good, or infinite Mind, and thus the material man is not man at all, but is only the human or false sense of man. Christian Science proves that this is true by using this knowledge of the true God and of the true man to deliver the mortal man from his self-imposed wrong thinking, the results of which are sin, disease, and death.
Mrs. Eddy thus states of God and of His creation that "all is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation" (Science and Health, p. 468), and as human thought grows in its understanding of God, it will eventually be seen what a scientific and comprehensive statement this is. It means perfect God and perfect man, the kingdom of heaven at hand; it means divine reality all, and human belief nothing. To Christian Scientists it is abundantly manifest that this revelation of God, and of what being really is, alone can free mankind from its superstitious fears and beliefs about God and His creation.
Unreliability and Origin of Physical Sense
Well, some one may say, "And how will this help me, and what about the creation we see all around us as material objects!" Here let me remind you again that Christian Science teaches, in complete accordance with the Scriptures, that a knowledge of what is true alone can help mankind permanently, and also that to arrive at a perception of what is true it is necessary to look not at the things which are seen by the physical senses, for the things which are seen by these senses are temporal; but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are not seen are eternal, that is, are spiritual and indestructible. and therefore all important. In fact Christian Science insists that to understand God and spiritual being one must rely wholly on right thinking or spiritual sense, and never on physical sense-testimony.
Even for the things which are seen, however, Christian Science has an explanation, and this the explanation given by Christ Jesus himself, in accordance with which Christian Science states, and proves through healing the sick and the sinning, that the material creation with all its woes and discord, is a false sense of creation, and is based on a misunderstanding of God and His creation; that this false sense of being has neither permanence nor reality; that it is the supposed activity of the so-called carnal mind opposed to the one infinite Mind, God, which is of course an impossibility, since infinite Mind can have no opposite. It explains that this spurious mind is, in the words of Jesus, "a murderer from the beginning," that he "abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him;" that "when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
Mankind in Bondage
Christian Science does not, however, in any way teach any such nonsense as that creation is non-existent, as is so often misstated, but it does teach that the mortal or mistaken sense of creation is false, and is the result of the testimony of that falsely educated consciousness termed the five physical senses, which senses we have just seen could not even perceive God, and therefore certainly could not perceive His creation or true being. It is to these five physical senses, or a false sense of being derived from a false sense of God, that the whole of mankind has been in bondage, although the evidence of these senses is wholly unreliable. When a mortal is born, he can hardly use these senses, so little are they developed but as he is educated along certain fixed lines, and is taught to use these senses in certain defined directions, then these so-called senses are developed according to his environment and education, and from their evidence or testimony mortals attempt to understand God and His creation.
Physical Senses Unreliable
Yet the unreliability of these physical senses is shown to us frequently even in every-day experience, for according to their testimony the earth stands still and the sun rises, whereas science and reason have taught us that the very opposite occurs; that the earth is forever revolving around the sun. Likewise these senses declare that parallel lines, such as the railroad tracks, meet in the distance and also that the sea and the sky meet on the horizon, whereas we know that they never meet. A short while ago I visited the home of a friend at the seaside, and while there what is commonly called a mirage occurred. During the time of this mirage a sailing vessel was seen as two vessels; one above the other, and some fairly low lying land opposite appeared to be high and distinct cliffs. Had the ten or twelve people who were present and witnessed this occurrence believed the evidence of their physical senses, they would have been wholly deceived.
These instances might be multiplied indefinitely, and it is on the evidence of such senses as these that we hope to perceive God and true being, when they cannot even tell us the truth about some of the simplest material things. How little the mere physical senses can perceive, and how little they have to do with true being, is clearly illustrated in such an incident as when several people look at a good painting. To the one who has the truest idea of art, which is of course wholly mental, the picture is essentially more real and beautiful, even although his physical sight may be less good than the sight of the others. And so with a good book, two people may read the same book, see the same words and letters, but because of their different mental attitudes, one will see in the book what the other has never dreamed of, and this is particularly clear with regard to either the Bible or the Christian Science text-book. One person will read statements in these books which will be so true and substantial to him that with them he will heal so-called incurable diseases, whereas another person less spiritually minded may read the same statements and see nothing in them.
So in many ways we can see how little the finite physical senses can tell us of the beautiful and good. which is always like God, that is mental or spiritual, and how the perception of these godlike things is entirely dependent on Mind. It is recorded of that great musician, Beethoven, that during the many years when he was composing some of his best music he was stone deaf, thus clearly indicating that music is in no way dependent on the material sense of hearing, but is purely mental.
Accuracy Found Only in the Divine Mind
Some time ago an engineer explained to a Christian Scientist how impossible it was to get, even by the most minute measurements, an absolutely correct material condition. He related as an instance how he had given an order for steel bars some time previously, with the most minute specifications, and when delivered they were accepted as satisfactory and according to measurement, — and they certainly were so according to the ordinary standards; yet as a matter of fact when the micrometer was applied to them they were found to vary from the stipulated specifications in many details. The measurements given, however, as a mental proposition did not and could not vary, but were theoretically forever accurate; and in fact the engineer stated that the only absolutely accurate thing about the whole transaction was the order, which was purely mental. The measurements only varied when materialized. Thus it is seen that absolute exactness or accuracy, which is a quality of God, can only be found in the divine Mind; and so it is with beauty, health, holiness, etc., that to be real and invariable must be mental or spiritual, because in and of this Mind.
Even many physical scientists admit that matter or material existence is a thing of mortal thought, forever changing and therefore quite inexplicable, and quite unlike God, and as has recently been said by one great thinker, Mr. Balfour, "They have only explained matter by explaining it away."
Definition of Evil by Christ Jesus And Christian Science
To every one who has studied the teachings of Jesus it must be clear that he regarded matter, material laws, and material existence as simply a false sense of being having neither reality nor permanence, although seeming to be real, and that he unfailingly overcame the resistance of matter and its spurious laws, and dispelled its false testimony through his perception of true being, which true being he understood because he knew God, the cause of all being.
Jesus pertinently declared that the flesh, or the material sense of being, "profiteth nothing," for it is the spiritual or true sense which quickeneth, and this is exactly what Christian Science teaches. It teaches that material existence is a false sense of existence and is the only hell there is or can be, and that from this false sense arises all human woe. In fact, Mrs. Eddy sums up the whole subject when she tersely declares in her writings that "matter is mortal error" (Science and Health, p. 468). Christian Science is not engaged, however, in explaining this false sense of being, — for it is impossible to explain what is not true, — but is wholly engaged in dispelling it through the understanding of true or spiritual being, just as a mathematician dispels the belief that two plus two are five, by his understanding of the fact that two plus two are four, and does not waste his time trying to explain where the mistake that two plus two are five came from, or the nature of such a mistake.
Neither is Christian Science engaged in finding a remedy for disease, or wrong thinking of any kind, in material methods or in the action of the human mind, for it recognizes that there is no remedy for these woes but in the action of the divine Mind, or in right thinking.
The effort to find a remedy for the diseases of the carnal mind, in matter or in the action of this same carnal mind, has only increased the list of so-called incurable diseases, for it is evident that the more human thought knows about disease the more disease it will manifest, since as a man "thinketh in his heart, so it he." It would be well for the race if this were more clearly recognized at a time when certain material healing systems, not content with filling the minds of older people with thoughts of disease, are now bent on filling the minds of our children also with these same harmful theories. Jesus and his disciples healed disease in the only scientific and right way, not by knowing anything about disease but by knowing something about the antidote for disease, that is God's eternal and spiritual law of health and harmony.
Conclusions of Christian Science
The conclusions of Christian Science are therefore briefly summed up: that true being, or spiritual being, is in and of the divine Mind, and is in fact the kingdom of heaven here and now; while the false sense of being, or material existence, is wholly in and of the so-called carnal mind. St. Paul states this same fact when he says that "to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Christian Science explains that to be carnally minded is to believe in the carnal mind and its effect, material existence, as real, while to be spiritually minded is to understand God and spiritual being as the only reality. The fact that sin and disease are effects of the carnal mind, and can only be dealt with as such, was pointed out by Christ Jesus when he asked, "How can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods (that is, sin and disease), except he first bind the strong man (that is, the carnal mind)?"
If we would be free from the sins and sicknesses of the carnal mind, we must begin by losing or giving up our belief in such a so-called mind, that is, in what seems to be "the strong man," by understanding that there is and can be no mind opposed to infinite Mind. Christian Science utterly repudiates the action of this so-called carnal mind in any direction, either as material existence, or as mesmerism, hypnotism, theosophy, spiritualism, so-called mental science, suggestive therapeutics, or any other supposed healing power based on the action of this spurious mind. It shows that any seeming benefit derived from such action either through a material drug or as a so-called mental proposition is simply a change of human thought from a belief of sickness in matter to a belief of health in matter, and this is in no way associated with the healing and saving action of Truth, or the divine Mind, whose action obliterates forever the belief in either material health or material sickness, and replaces it with the divine fact that the only health is spiritual.
The Prayer of Realization
When we begin to understand that the truth of our being and of all being is God's idea, perfect and eternal, we begin to think as Jesus thought, or to let that Mind be in us "which was also in Christ Jesus," the Mind before which sin, disease, and death disappear into their native nothingness.
We also spontaneously start to know and utilize the truth, or God's law, and this knowing is forever one with divine power. As our understanding of true being grows clearer, through the clearer perception of what God is, then for the first time we begin to pray or to know truly, and such prayer is the holiest experience that can come to any human being. It was through such prayer that Christ Jesus performed his wonderful works when he refused to believe in the carnal mind's man, based on the evidence of material sense, but unswervingly recognized his true being and the truth of all being as spiritual and perfect because one with the Father and he prayed, "Father, * * * that they may be one, even as we are one," that is, one in essence, because in reality all true being is forever one with the Father.
As this true sense of being grew with Christ Jesus, the false or mortal sense was put off, and the truth was making him free: and this is true prayer and the only way of salvation for us. This recognition of the true nature of God, and hence of the true nature of man as His reflection, is prayer in the highest sense: it is indeed the truth, or true consciousness, which makes free, and is the very presence and power of divine Mind, which acts upon the human mind to make free from the mistaken sense that being is ever material or finite.
When this great fact is perceived, that right thinking about God and His creation is Mind with us, and is the forever activity of that which we call God and which Christian Science reveals as divine Mind, true prayer will be understood, and it will be seen that prayer in the highest and holiest sense is constant right thinking about God and about all that He has made. This is indeed knowing the truth! The infallible and scientific nature of Jesus' prayer and of the works resulting from his prayer will then be fully appreciated; also John's statement, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," will be fully understood and practically utilized, for it will be seen that the Word of God is Mind or God expressed, and is the truth about God and His creation.
Prayer the Christian's Watchword
In her text-book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 503), Mrs. Eddy speaks of "Divine Science, the Word of God," and humanity is beginning to appreciate that Divine Science is the Word of God as it has appeared to this age, revealing the truth of all being. The knowledge of true being which this Divine Science brings to us is indeed prayer, scientific yet infinitely tender and loving, forever declaring God aright: and this is abundantly manifest in its results, for, as Mrs. Eddy declares in the same book and on the same page, "Divine Science, the Word of God, saith to the darkness upon the face of error, 'God is All-in-all,' and the light of ever-present Love illumines the universe." This prayer is also beautifully described in a verse from the Christian Science Hymnal by James Montgomery:
Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air:
His watchword overcometh death —
He enters heaven with prayer.
Christian Science teaches us that heaven is the recognition of true being here and now, that it is within us; that it is not a locality or state that is going to be, but is the ever-present Word of God. or the perception of spiritual reality. Therefore through prayer or right thinking the Christian attains heaven, or true being, here and now, and realizes the practicality and availability of that which is true. This knowing is his watchword: it is not only his constant perception of true being but also his constant rejection of what is unlike God; and as the hymn so beautifully expresses it, this watchword "overcometh death."
The prayer of a Christian Scientist is not a special effort at a special time but is "without ceasing." It is his right thinking and acting every minute of his life, his unceasing recognition of one infinite creator, the divine Mind, and of one infinite creation, the perfect ideas or creations of that Mind.
On specific occasions when a Christian Scientist needs to pray specially, either for himself or for others, he then utilizes what he has consistently known and lived of God, and this lifting up of thought guides him into a still higher understanding of God, brings him into the very presence of God or into oneness with the divine Mind, where being is perfect and spiritual, and where all sense of discord or human limitations disappear.
Without consistently living this truth his prayer, or declaration of God's nature, would have no power in his thought, and indeed there would be no prayer of faith in the highest sense. It was this prayer which Jesus gave to his disciples when he instructed them, "As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." That is, the reign of true or spiritual being is here and now and is the only reality, and the perception of this fact is with power because it is the divine law. Therefore "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils," that is, cast out every inharmonious and material sense of existence through this understanding which you have of true being, for this understanding is Mind with us, is the Word of God and is with power.
I have tried in some small measure to give you an idea of what prayer is in Christian Science and to point out how the Christian Science idea of prayer, when understood, coincides with the teachings of Christ Jesus, and I feel sure that it will now be more apparent to some here that true prayer is the right understanding of God, through which we are able to discern all being aright; that prayer is in fact to rise in thought above the mortal sense of being and gain the divine. I know that this idea of prayer is born of God and will therefore help and heal all who are in any way reaching out to know more of Him.
To any one who doubts the reality of such prayer and its ability to heal and to save, I would only say. "Just try it." When you are overwhelmed by distress or sorrow, fear or sin, sickness or poverty, simply turn in thought constantly and unreservedly away from this mortal picture of what God has not made, and know persistently and faithfully the ever-presence and all-power of infinite good, and see if that knowing does not relieve you of your trouble. See if divine Love does not come nearer to you in response to such a prayer, delivering you from every evil. Through such prayer you will understand and fulfill one of Jesus' most scientific and enlightening declarations. "Ye shall know the truth," that is, the truth about God and necessarily the truth about being, "and the truth shall make you free."
Healing of Disease
It is claimed that Christian Scientists pay too much attention to the healing of disease, but this is only said by those who have not yet fully grasped the significance of this healing and have not realized that both sin and disease are effects of the one evil, the so-called carnal mind, and that all healing, whether of sin or of disease, is but the destruction of the belief in this supposed mind. Mrs. Eddy, foreseeing that the great importance placed on the healing of disease might be misunderstood, has stated in her text-book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 150), that "the mission of Christian Science now, as in the time of its earlier demonstration, is not primarily one of physical healing." To all Christian Scientists the healing of sin, that is of wrong thinking of any kind, is of primary importance for they realize that the healing of disease is but the sign following the destruction of wrong thinking. All true Christian Scientists are daily striving to cast out of themselves sin of every kind, and to have more of the Christ-mind, for this alone enables them to help the sick and the suffering.
Jesus in his ministry placed overwhelming importance on the healing of disease for this very reason, that it is the sign following true redemption, and is a proof of Immanuel, "God with us."
The Aim of the Christian Scientists
The prayer of Christian Science is wonderfully tender and compassionate, because it is the expression of infinite Love. It establishes true unity among men by revealing to them the fact that they are all in and of one infinite Mind. It teaches true charity by showing us how to think truly of each other as sons of God and not as mortals; and last but most important, it shows us how to dwell constantly "in the secret place of the most High."
It is this knowledge of divine law and of how to demonstrate this law that Christian Scientists are constantly seeking to bring to the notice of their fellow men in the hope that they too may be relieved of their burdens even as we have been. This loving desire to have all partake of this new-old truth and its wonderful blessings is the spirit that constantly impelled and actuated Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science
That this noble and revered woman should have had critics us not to be wondered at, especially when it is remembered that she brought to humanity a spiritual message whose teachings were directly counter to the materialistic systems of the age and thus fulfilled the saying of Christ Jesus, "I came not to send peace, but a sword," that to a sword to human material beliefs. Mrs. Eddy, however, regarded this criticism, which at times indeed assumed the form of acute persecution, with the same broad Christlike view with which she was wont to regard all things, and in return she labored incessantly to bless all mankind, including those who considered themselves her enemies. Her life has stood the flaring light of publicity and never has it been shown in a single instance that she was not impelled by the highest Christianity.
Naturally all Christian Scientists are devoutly grateful to Mrs. Eddy for her consecrated life, since it is through her life that Christ has come to them in a fuller and higher sense, and has healed and comforted them from their diseases and sins. But Mrs. Eddy, while appreciating the high regard she received from her followers, was forever striving to turn their every thought away from herself to God; indeed, her life was a constant effort to direct her own thought as well as the thoughts of others wholly toward the things of God.
It is not yet possible to measure in full the effect of Mrs. Eddy's teachings upon the systems of today, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that she revealed God to humanity in a fuller and more practical sense, and thus taught mankind to cease praying empty prayers and to pray "with signs following." Tomorrow humanity will render in a fuller measure than today its appreciation of the Christliness of this much beloved woman.
Unity of Christian Science Prayer
If anything that I have said has enabled any one here to perceive more clearly the affirmative and causative nature of true prayer, and his ability to draw nearer to God through such prayer, then indeed this address will have accomplished its mission. One effect of this lecture, I feel sure, must be to make us see more clearly eye to eye, to be more of "one Mind" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 270), and indeed humanity needs us to be of one Mind today. As the scientific and invariable nature of God appears to human thought, and we all perceive naturally one God and the divine Christ and begin to demonstrate this understanding through prayer, then will human thought arise from its dogmas and creeds, its beliefs of life in matter, and "go to the Father." It will discern the Life divine, and men will know themselves as ideas of one infinite Mind, the only God, loving, appreciating, and sustaining one another.
As Mrs. Eddy has well said in our text-book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 340): "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man: ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself; * * * equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed."
[Delivered May 29, 1916, at the Universalist Church, Cortland, New York, and published in The Cortland Standard, May 31, 1916.]