The Way to Hope and Freedom
Paul A. Erickson, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecture was given in the Des Moines Theater,
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
Some of you may have heard of the
famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. But you may not know that one of his
outstanding pieces of sculpture is a figure of Christ Jesus which stands in a
A little boy playing in the garden noticed this, and asked, "What's the matter, Mister, don't you like it?" The American said that he didn't. To this the lad confidently replied, "Well, you see, Sir, you're not looking at it the right way. You must draw near, kneel down and then look up."
The American willingly followed each step. He drew near to the figure, knelt down and looked up. It was then he saw the glory of the face depicted by the artist. He was now looking at it from the right perspective.
Never has there been a time in the history of civilization when the need for mankind to gain the right perspective of reality was more urgent. There never was a time when the faces of men have displayed more fear, anxiety, discouragement, and frustration. To some, even the continuing existence of mankind and the world seems to be in doubt. But scientific Christianity leads the way to hope and freedom through the right perspective - a correct view of God, man, and the universe. It enables us to know God and man's relationship to Him through scientific spiritual understanding. The yielding steps our American friend had to take before he could get the right perspective of the figure of Jesus, point the way for us. It's the receptive thought that sees the truth about anything.
Receptivity the Way
What do we mean by receptivity? For the purpose of our discussion, it's the willingness to turn thought to prayerful consideration of the divine nature and power of God as infinite good. And it's the willingness to give up the belief in evil as real and desirable. It's easy to see this quality of receptivity is most important in our quest for a spiritual understanding of God. It's vital! In fact, it's self-evident that the way to the understanding of any science is through a set of provable facts or rules. Once we understand these facts and rules through careful examination and proof, we accept them as demonstrable. Of course, along the way, any false preconceived ideas have to go, too. Both steps are important and go hand in hand.
Just so it is in gaining an understanding of the Christ, Truth. Once we have glimpsed the true nature of God - gained the right perspective of Him - we must be receptive and willing to yield to the demands of His laws, to accept them and to surrender any misconceptions. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes (p. 24): "Acquaintance with the original texts, and willingness to give up human beliefs (established by hierarchies, and instigated sometimes by the worst passions of men), open the way for Christian Science to be understood, and make the Bible the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out." So we see that Mrs. Eddy considered receptivity a basic step to spiritual understanding - the willingness to yield to good, to accept it as the only reality, and the willingness to yield up any and every belief of evil, to surrender it as unreal. It's only then we are able to look up and discern divine reality. The result progressively is encouragement and liberation for mankind individually and collectively
In considering receptivity it's necessary for us to see what we must yield to, what we must accept. Of course, in accepting the true we surrender the false and vice versa. There are three underlying scientific truths relative to God and His creation that are fundamental and necessary to gain this spiritual understanding. We find them in the Bible, in the first chapter of Genesis, where the account of the true or spiritual creation is given. They are: (1), "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1); (2), "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen 1:26); (3), "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, It was very good" (Gen. 1:31). These three facts - first that "God created the heaven and the earth," second, that He made man in His "image" and "likeness," and third, that this creation is "very good" - we must be willing to accept if we would know the hope and freedom born of spiritual understanding.
Understanding Creator Important
Now in order to understand the universe of God's creating it's important that we yield our thought to the nature of the creator. What's significant about the nature of the creator? It's the fact that God is infinite Spirit. This is one of the first things we must be willing to accept. In doing so, of course, we surrender the misconception that He is a magnified human being. Many believe this false theory, but it's impossible if God is God to everyone, everywhere, and He is! The Bible gives us a clear picture of Him through terms which describe His totally unmaterial nature. For example, God is referred to as Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. Why even the thought of God as Principle, Mind, and Soul is implied. In Ecclesiastes it is emphasized, "whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever:
nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it" (). When we accept God as the ever-present Principle of the universe we learn to humbly trust Him to sustain and maintain that which He creates. Mrs. Eddy recognized these terms were stated or implied in the Scriptures and designated them with a capital letter throughout her writings in defining and referring to God. They are called the seven synonyms for God, and are used to describe His nature, essence and wholeness. So we can begin to understand right now, how God as Mind, can be Mind to everyone, everywhere, all the time. And a God who is Love, can be Love to everyone, everywhere all the time.
It's reasonable then to assume that which God creates must necessarily partake of His qualities or attributes for it's impossible for a cause to produce an effect unlike itself. Even in the realm of the human it's understandable that before anything is ever created, it must first be mentally conceived or thought of. Then it follows that which is the effect takes on the exact nature or quality of its cause. In fact, the effect includes every quality or condition that a creator causes it to have or be. In can't assume of itself any other characteristics nor can it possibly change itself, deteriorate, or disappear. Then since God, the one and only cause made man, you and me and our brother, His effect, in His image and likeness, this can never be changed! That's the way we're made! We can't add one thing to ourselves, or take one thing away. This is the absolute truth of the real man and his spiritual relationship to God, now and always. Even though we may not fully understand this spiritual fact at this moment, we can accept it with childlike receptivity. We can prove our way to fuller understanding.
As children in our first arithmetic class, we were willing to accept the simple truths in the science of mathematics without understanding them. For example, when we accepted the mathematical law that 2 plus 2 equaled 4, we were able to prove it. Then we understood it as fact, and knew that it could never be altered in any way. We became convinced! It's helpful too, to see that we didn't do one thing to make it so. It just was, and is. All we could do and all we did do, was to accept it and use it. In other words, we yielded to the mathematical law.
This is also true of the Science of the Christ. We come into an understanding through humble and intelligent surrender to the divine law and the demonstration of the facts of Spirit just follows. It's a most rewarding experience to accept this spiritual discipline of thought. When faithfully applied, the law will result in demonstration. When regeneration accompanies this you know you understand it.
Now in order for us to yield wholeheartedly to the spiritually mental nature of the creator it's necessary for us to have an understanding of God as Mind and as Spirit. These two names for God are used in the Bible to refer to His nature and indicate our need to give up any belief in God as a materially circumscribed being. In the story of Job we read of God, "He is in one mind" (). And the Master Christ Jesus emphasized over 1900 years ago, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John ).
Then since God is Mind, and Spirit, it naturally follows that the origin of every idea which God creates is and must be from a spiritually mental basis. Everything Mind creates must be mental, and everything Spirit creates must be spiritual. Like always produces like! So, when we accept man as the creation of God who is Mind, and Spirit, it follow that in his origin and real identity man was, is, and ever will be spiritually mental. This makes him free from every form of material limitation. Because he's the image and likeness of Mind, Spirit, he isn't subject to another creator or belief of a second mind. Jesus acknowledged this spiritual unity when he said, "I and my Father are one" (John ). One in quality and not in quantity!
Many persons believe Jesus is God. Christian Science raises serious questions as to the validity of this doctrine, and Jesus specifically denied this belief. In the Bible, Matthew records that someone approached Jesus and asked (), "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" Jesus' reply established his individuality and identity as distinct from God when he said, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (verse 17). On another occasion be said, "My Father is greater than I" (John ).
The name Jesus, meaning Joshua, was a common Hebrew name for men of that day. While the word Christ, meaning the consecrated or anointed one, was his divine title. Jesus lived and proved the Christ-idea, the Son of God, in everything that he said and did. His divine origin and spiritual conception enabled him to demonstrate more fully than anyone else, the Science of the Christ. Through this Christliness he overcame evil in the form of lack, sin, sickness and even death. Because the Master was so completely convinced of man's spiritual origin, he was able to look with healing compassion upon the multitudes who came to him for help. He accepted only the facts of Spirit and healed everyone his thought reached.
To gain spiritual understanding then, we must discern the truth of our identity, the spiritual oneness and likeness which we enjoy with our Father. For as Paul said, "We are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. ,17). This oneness might be illustrated in the same manner in which we are at one with an idea.
For example, suppose you have a thought or an idea about something. Can your idea be unlike you or your thought about it? Can anything happen to your idea without your permitting it to happen? Doesn't your idea exist as long as you hold it in consciousness? Can anyone do anything to it, see it, hear it, or touch it? No! Your idea enjoys complete and absolute security in and of your consciousness. It's completely immune to, and unknown by anything or anyone else. Your idea is always the immediate object of your understanding. Of itself it can be nothing except what you permit it to be. Jesus confirmed this same line of scientific reasoning about man's relationship to his Father as the idea of Mind when he said, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John ).
What does this mean to you and me? It means that the real man is naturally and absolutely Godlike now. It means that you and I and our brothers everywhere in our primal origin and real identity as spiritual ideas of the one Father-Mother, God, live, move, and have our being in God forever. As the reflection of God who is Love, we necessarily express the loving compassionate nature of our source. As His expression of Truth we can express only honesty and integrity. In our awareness of God as Soul, we can only know that which is abundant, harmonious, and beautiful. We see that we exist eternally to express His strength and Godlikeness when we perceive God as Life. We realize that these qualities are never subject to change or diminution when we know them as the effect of Principle. Understanding God as All, we see His reflection everywhere.
Spiritual Understanding Heals
This recognition of man's spiritual identity and Christlike nature heals. A man living in the midwest had suffered many years from severe migraine headaches. These headaches seemed to become more aggressive as time went on. Occasionally he would be confined to his home for as long as twenty-four hours or more. This condition occurred nearly every week. After becoming a student of Christian Science he decided to rely upon it for healing. Sometimes he was healed instantaneously and at other times within a few hours, but the headaches continued to reoccur. He often wondered why his healing was never permanent.
One day he was hurt in an accident and was away from his home in another city while the healing took place. He spent many hours in consecrated study of the textbooks of Christian Science, the Bible and Science and Health, and particularly the weekly Lesson-Sermon from the Christian Science Quarterly. Just before returning to his home, he realized that in these past several weeks he hadn't experienced any headaches. This puzzled him since he felt the accident might have brought on such a condition. After he arrived home he became frustrated and irritated because he couldn't get around freely. It wasn't long until the recurring symptoms of a migraine headache began to appear.
At this point he began to conscientiously examine his thinking and prayed to have uncovered to him what he needed to know. You see, he had been learning to be receptive to the facts of spiritual creation, and his true spiritual identity, and to yield up or surrender any misconceptions. So, it wasn't long before he saw that the carnal mind's suggestions of impatience, self-will, irritation, and resentment were taking over his thinking. He saw instantly what he needed to do. It was a demand to surrender the false traits of character he was expressing for his true spiritual identity and Godlike nature - to yield up impatience for confident waiting on God, self-will for humility, irritation and resentment for love and gratitude. In less time than it takes me to relate this incident his healing took place. You see to be healed, it really never takes time, it only takes spiritualization of thought! His healing was concurrent with the spiritual transformation of his thought, the recognition of his true spiritual identity. This was over 15 years ago, and I've never had a migraine headache since.
Receptivity of Mrs. Eddy
You will remember that the second step our American friend was asked to take as he approached the statue of the Master was to kneel down, an attitude of further yielding or complete surrender. Mary Baker Eddy undoubtedly knelt down many times, both literally and figuratively, in her effort to see the Christ or Truth, and proclaim it to the world. No one since Jesus has been as receptive to the Christ, Truth, as Mrs. Eddy, nor as ready to yield in thought whatever would obstruct the Christ. Having been reared in a deeply religious home, where the Bible, prayer, and church played an important part of the family life, she learned early to surrender in great faith and trust to almighty God. She protested against false doctrines, yet she was always receptive to God's guidance and to the healing power of the Christ. And so she was spiritually prepared to meet many severe tests.
Mrs. Eddy's experience at the time of her discovery of Christian Science in 1866 is similar to the liberating experience of Peter as recorded in the 12th chapter of Acts. Peter had been cast into prison by King Herod for preaching and healing. The night before his scheduled execution, an angel of spiritual illumination which Peter believed to be a vision, came into the cell and told him to arise. As he did so, the chains tell from off his hands, and as he left the prison, the gate which led to the city opened by itself (verses 1-10). The 11th verse of this account states, "And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people."
Mrs. Eddy found herself imprisoned in the complexities of mortality. Delicate health during childhood, as well as disappointments in family and friends, and separation from her husband and child, bound her with the heavy chains of a material sense of existence. Near death after an accident, Mrs. Eddy asked for her Bible. As she re-read the beautiful healing of the palsied man from the 9th chapter of Matthew, she became receptive to the powerful light of the Christ.
Yielding up her false sense, dropping the chains of mortal selfhood, she rose from her bed, completely healed. Dressing herself she walked into an adjoining room where her anxious friends were gathered. As with Peter, the gate to the city of spiritual understanding leading the way to hope and freedom had opened by itself. Even without the understanding of the Science of the Christ, she came to herself, and knew "of a surety," that the Lord had sent His angel, and delivered her from out of the hand of material sense testimony, and even "from all the expectation of the people."
As in the experience of Mrs. Eddy the attitude of complete surrender to God and the willingness to give up whatever might hide or obstruct the way to spiritual understanding are essential. Each one of us must take these steps for himself. Practitioners listed in The Christian Science Journal, as well as other experienced students, may be asked to give loving support through Christian Science treatment or prayer in order to help us, and this usually results in healing. However, the actual steps of regeneration, the redemption of thought, the complete surrendering, must be taken by each of us individually. In my healing of migraine headaches I certainly found this out. It wasn't until regeneration of my thought took place that the healing was permanent. Did you ever stop to realize that our beloved Master with all his Christly compassion and unselfed love, could not and did not actually work out your and my salvation? But he did say, "I am the way" (John 14:8). Receptivity includes the willingness to yield to that way. It's the way of hope and freedom.
"Change of base" Necessary
In the Christian Science textbook it is pointed out what takes place in human consciousness when we yield to this way. It reads: "The effect of this Science is to stir the human mind to a change of base, on which it may yield to the harmony of the divine Mind" (Science and Health, p. 162). What is this base which we must change? It's anything in our human experience which gains its support from the material senses. To state it Biblically, it's that which is explained in the second or material account of creation as related in the second chapter of Genesis. In the first chapter, as we have already seen, the power and perfection of Deity are established and everything is in accord with His divine plan. And man, your true spiritual selfhood and mine and that of our brother, is made in God's image and likeness. In the second chapter is another account in which the Lord God, during a mist, made man from the dust of the ground. This is an allegory which shows that the knowledge of both good and evil leads to sin and condemnation. It is this material or counterfeit picture which must be wiped out through a willingness to change our base, to yield to the spiritual and perfect relationship of man to his Maker. To follow the way of the material account, based as it is on a knowledge of both good and evil, is to experience confusion and ignorance, resulting in sin, disease, and death.
Now just because we don't accept evil or discord as having reality and power, doesn't mean that we ignore them. Far from it! Let me illustrate. We wouldn't ignore a mistaken mathematical calculation and expect to solve our problem. It would be necessary through scientific mathematical reasoning based on an acceptance of that which is true to detect the mistake and replace it with the truth. So in the Science of spiritual understanding, we're required to detect and to surrender the false belief of material sense, whenever and wherever it presents itself. Then we replace it with the understanding of the scientific facts of God's all-harmonious, spiritual law which covers every situation. Through our study of the Bible and Science and Health we become equipped to do this. The result is freedom and healing. We must be willing to change our basis of thought in order that we may yield. In other words, we must be willing to surrender the false testimony of material sense for the truth of spiritual sense. A friend of mine put it this way: "Keep busy proving spiritual facts. Stop trying to change human conditions!" This is the only way we're going to have freedom. The only way we're going to work out our salvation. The only way we can come to really know and love God! And be free!
Success Spiritually Understood
A man in
This man succeeded measurably well the first three years, and then was faced with a recession that left him operating at a loss. However, he prayed daily as he had learned to do, affirming his oneness with God as His expression, trying to be grateful for every bit of good. He didn't pray to God for orders, to do something for him or to change things. Instead he kept listening to be receptive to spiritual ideas.
One winter day while driving his
car on his way to call on a customer in
You may be sure this man went on to his next appointment determined to forget getting and rejoice in giving. From that moment on he had instant success. He soon attained his monthly quota of sales, and within a few months was exceeding this as much as five times on one order. He never suffered again from recessions or financial difficulties. He was top salesman for his company for the nine years of his employment and then entered another field of even greater service to his fellowmen - the Christian Science practice.
Unreality of Matter Concepts
Through this same method of spiritual discipline we too can give up the many false concepts which seem to confront us on every hand, concepts based on a material sense of things. Paul tells us how to do this in his letter to the Romans, where he said, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (12:2). As we change our base of thinking from a limited material sense of creation to the knowing of spiritual reality we are "transformed by the renewing" of our mind. This method of yielding, this changing our basis of thought, is accomplished through prayer or Christian Science treatment, as we understand it. It's the acknowledgment and affirmation, the yielding to the truth about God and His spiritual universe. It's the denial and yielding up of whatever is untrue and material, including every form of mortality - sin, disease, and even death. It's the purification of our affections, giving up the love of evil for a pure affection for Spirit. It's obedience to the demands of the first and second commandments emphasized by the Master to "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength . . . and . . . thy neighbour as thyself" (Mark 12:30,31).
One false concept to surrender is fear. But what is fear? Where does it come from? Fear is but a superstitious belief based on the acceptance of a second creation, a material creation. A belief in a power apart from God! A figment of the imagination! But you may maintain, "I can't help being afraid, afraid of someone, of something." Now if God made all things, and all that He made is "very good," what and where is anything called fear? In God's perfect spiritual universe there is nothing causing fear, or no one thinking fear. As we become receptive to the fact of our oneness with divine Love, our inseparability from it, we begin to experience fearless security and rejoice in our spiritual immunity from all that is unlike God, infinite good. In Isaiah we read, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee" (41:10).
Another material belief which we must be willing to yield up is a false sense of body. A perfect God who is infinite Spirit, the only cause and creator, can have only a perfect spiritual creation. This creation must be the embodiment of spiritual ideas. Therefore, in reality, body is spiritual identity, the harmonious effect of the divine Mind, created by it, maintained by it, and included in it. So there isn't anything to support a false material sense of body except false material thinking. As we understand this, thought yields to the facts of the spiritual creation and as a result the true idea of body begins to appear. Then we see that every idea that the real body includes expresses God's harmonious action. All there is to a diseased body, is but dis-eased mortal thought based on a false belief of life, substance, and intelligence in matter. When this is replaced with divine ideas, whose substance is Spirit, the result is spiritual understanding, harmony, and health.
The belief of an aging body is
another phase of material thinking which we must be willing to give up. Man as
the reflection or idea of God, who is his Life, can never be organic, subject
to birth, maturity, age, or decay. Even the medical profession emphasizes that
time is not the cause of so-called "old age" ills. Some years ago a
report of a group of medical specialists and surgeons stated in the New York
Herald Tribune: "Years alone have no effect in bringing about degenerative
disorders. . . . Every human tissue is endowed with potential immortality. Time
has no effect . . . on human tissues under any conditions" (
Discussing the subject of anatomy in the textbook Mrs. Eddy writes (p. 462): "Anatomy, when conceived of spiritually, is mental self-knowledge, and consists in the dissection of thoughts to discover their quality, quantity, and origin. Are thoughts divine or human? That is the important question." So, in order to give up false beliefs about the body, age, or anything else and yield to the facts of spiritual creation, we must ask ourselves, "Are thoughts divine or human?" As Mrs. Eddy says, "That is the important question." There should be no struggle in our acceptance of the divine for the human. We've seen it's natural for man as the idea of God to know and act only in accord with God's government. The power is not in man, the power is God's, and reflecting God's government man is a law unto himself.
It's helpful to see that every false belief of material creation knocking at the door of human consciousness is but a present lie. While the past may have played a part in our experience, we give it importance only to the degree that it has presence in our current thought. So we see that every moment provides us with the insistent and joyous opportunities to improve our experience through spiritualizing our thought. Mrs. Eddy demands of herself and her students, "Let us accept Science, relinquish all theories based on sense-testimony, give up imperfect models and illusive ideals; and so let us have one God, one Mind, and that one perfect, producing His own models of excellence" (ibid., p. 249).
In the Gospel of Mark is an account of a blind man by the name of Bartimaeus, who sat by the side of the highway begging for alms. Hearing of Jesus' approach, he began to cry out: "Thou Son of David, have mercy on me." The Master, perceiving his receptivity and willingness to yield to the healing power of the Christ, asked that those near Bartimaeus call to him, "Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee." Bartimaeus, casting away his garment," willing to yield up a blind, limited concept of himself for his true spiritual identity, "rose, and came to Jesus." The Master perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said to him, "Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight," saw his perfect selfhood, "and followed Jesus in the way" (-52). Like Bartimaeus, we too must draw near to the Christ, we must yield to the healing power of Truth. We must kneel down and surrender the garments of ignorant material thinking, accept our spiritual and perfect selfhood, and follow the Master in the way of hope and freedom. Then we can look up to the Christ and hear the words, "Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole."
©1963 Paul A. Erickson
All rights reserved
[From a Des Moines, Iowa (Thorpe) newspaper, May 20, 1965. An abridged version of this lecture was printed in The Christian Science Monitor on September 24, 1965, under the heading "Right perspective brings freedom and healing".]