The Value of a Spiritual Outlook (1)
Paul A. Erickson, C.S.B., of Chicago, Illinois
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
What is a spiritual outlook, and what practical value has it? asked Paul A. Erickson, C.S.B., in a lecture.
Mr. Erickson is a member of The
Christian Science Board of Lectureship. He addressed an audience
In the human realm, altitude often is allied to freedom and safety, Mr. Erickson said. The eagle flies high, and the aviator is warned against descending below a certain ceiling.
Many Bible passages show an interesting correlation, he said. Moses was on mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments. And Jesus also was on a mount when he uttered the Beatitudes.
We, too, can reach the "mount of spiritual revelation," Mr. Erickson promised. But to do so, we have to accept the spiritual discipline implied in the sixth Beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
"There are no chair lifts to this mount," he warned, "but the reward is a spiritually scientific outlook by which we're able to demonstrate the ability to discern what we need to know and to have, and to be what we need to be."
The lecturer was introduced to his audience by Mrs. Rose M. Henniker-Heaton, Second Reader of The Mother Church.
A partial text of his lecture follows:
Students of natural science tell of an invisible line - definite, unchangeably fixed, at a given altitude above sea level. It's known as the snake line. In certain mountainous areas a prospective purchaser of a farm is likely to ask the question, "Is this farm above the snake line?" Below this line there are supposed to be reptiles, dangerous to man and beast. Above this line no snake can live, and man and beast are safe.
The freedom, safety, and security offered by high altitudes is not something uncommon in human experience. We're all familiar with the example of the eagle. Well aware of the perils of the lowlands, it builds its nest in the high cliffs beyond the reach of invasion. Yes, purposely "above the snake line." And we're aware of the warning given to aviators, against the perils of low flying. But did you know that fruit growers often struggle day and night in the valley to save their crops from an unseasonable frost, knowing that the same freeze will usually leave the blossoms in the uplands untouched? Doesn't this suggest that security is a matter of altitude? Pitch camp, as it were, below the snake line and invite possible disaster. Pitch camp above it and dwell in safety.
The Bible offers many instances of inspiration gained from high altitudes and records many experiences of direction and security coming to mankind individually and collectively as a result of such inspiration. You may recall that Moses went up into mount Sinai, and there received the Ten Commandments. Christ Jesus, the master Christian, liked to go up into the hills alone or with a few close friends. He's frequently depicted as lifting his eyes heavenward, and his best-known discourse is called the "Sermon on the Mount."
Don't these Biblical examples suggest an obvious relationship between altitudes and attitudes? Don't they hint the importance of an uplifted spiritual outlook? The apostle Paul wrote to his Christian friends at Colosse: "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2).
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, also recognized the importance of lifting one's thought upward in a spiritual sense. She writes in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good. God has made man capable of this, and nothing can vitiate the ability and power divinely bestowed on man" (Page 393).
Now we all realize, of course, that height in reference to spirituality is merely a metaphor, a symbol. Spirituality isn't actually a matter of being physically at a high altitude. So, what does it really mean to "look up," to "set your affection on things above," to "rise in the strength of Spirit"? Or, putting it simply, what does it mean to have a spiritual outlook? Why is it so important to have it? And, is it practical?
We're seeking as never before a practical and sure solution to the many unsolved problems confronting mankind in every phase of human experience, and a spiritually scientific understanding of God, man, and the universe alone will provide the answers.
Over 1500 years ago,
With a spiritually scientific outlook we're able to demonstrate the ability to discern what we need to know and to have, and to be what we need to be. We can develop those human values which will enable us under God's direction to make the right kind of a world. With this outlook we discover the spiritual facts underlying each and every situation. Then by faithful application of these spiritual facts we're able to progessively demonstrate health, happiness, and true success in every aspect of our experience.
Christ Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount," you may recall, opens with the well-known and much-loved Beatitudes. And each Beatitude begins with the word "blessed," as the qualities which bless and bring blessing are enumerated. It's interesting to learn that in the Semitic languages of that day, the word "blessed" means "happy." And while blessedness may seem to be something remote, or far off, happiness is something we can all understand, and certainly what everybody wants.
So to accomplish the goal of true happiness, we can look to the Beatitudes. They offer mankind the greatest set of spiritual values ever known. Through thoughtful and prayerful consideration of these values - and living according to them - healing, freedom, and true happiness can and will be demonstrated for each of us.
So in answering the question, "What is a spiritual outlook?" let's reason together. And as we do, let's take one of the Beatitudes which I feel goes right to the heart of the matter - the sixth Beatitude. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). This demand for singleness of purpose, for complete integrity, is met through the spiritual discipline of scientific thought. It brings to everyone the opportunity to "see God." And it's really the first essential in gaining a spiritual outlook. The book of Proverbs affirms of a man: "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (23:7).
Now purity of heart means a willingness to accept and acknowledge the complete power and presence of God as infinite Spirit, forever governing his spiritual creation, man and the universe. It also means accepting Jesus' declaration that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John ). From this standpoint we can reject a material concept of God, and can define him more clearly.
Science and Health emphasizes the spiritual concept of God in this definition: "God is incorporeal," - you know, that means without a physical body. God is "divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love" (Page 465). These synonyms, Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, and Love, are all Scripturally supported, either specifically or by implication. The understanding gained from this definition frees us from the material concept of God as limited and localized. It gives us the correct spiritual apprehension of Him.
Next, it's important for us to recognize that that which God creates must of necessity be like him. This is the natural sequence of cause and effect. The first Chapter of Genesis records that God made man in His image and likeness, and saw everything that He had made was good, like Himself. Therefore, it logically follows that you and I and our brother must in our real identity be spiritual and Godlike, the perfect effect of the one and only cause and creator God.
Keeping our thought pure in this way, we begin to glimpse man's wholly spiritual identity. We realize that, in our true nature as children of God, we're already divinely endowed to reflect and express our Father's perfection and divinity. Remember Jesus' words to his disciples in the "Sermon on the Mount"? "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. ). Now I think it's interesting to note that He didn't say, "Get perfect," "Become perfect," or "Ask God to make you perfect." Nor did he promise future perfection at the experience called death. He said, "BE PERFECT!" When? Right here, and right now!
Then as the perfect reflection of Mind, we can and do in reality express only Mind's unerring wisdom and intelligence. As the expression of Spirit, we embody only Spirit's pure and indestructible substance. In the conscious awareness of Soul, our harmony and abundance are ever-present. As Life's manifestation, we individualize immortal and eternal identity. As we bear witness to Truth and Love, integrity and honesty underlie our every activity; and the tender, compassionate nature of Love expresses in us only the motive to bless. Then we see these qualities are forever sustained and maintained by the strength and permanency of their divine Principle.
To understand this will not only secure our steps on a solid foundation of spiritual reality; it will make our load lighter as we ascend the mount of spiritual vision.
Now mountain climbing in the mental realm, as in the physical, demands patience and perseverance; it demands honesty of purpose and determination. As we discipline thought spiritually, we develop the thought-forces needed for overcoming the earthward influence and gravitational pull of material beliefs.
This important point is simply illustrated in the story of a little girl who came in from the flower garden one day with soiled hands, dress, and shoes, and made this refreshing statement to her mother: "Mother, I know why flowers grow; they want to get up out of the dirt!" We grow spiritually tall, "get up out of the dirt," as we lift our thought to the altitude of spiritual purity.
Now our outlook is spiritual only according to the purity of our ideal, and our ideal is pure only in proportion as our thoughts and affections are purely spiritual. So, we must refuse to be double-minded - to come down to a double standard of creation, the spiritual and the material, the good and the evil. We must cultivate the ability to accept and acknowledge only the spiritual reality of all things - the perfection of God and His perfect spiritual universe.
The first Biblical record of failure to maintain purity of thought is found in the allegorical account of creation as set forth in the second chapter of Genesis. Adam and Eve, refusing to discipline thought spiritually, looked down to earth's beliefs, instead of up to divine reality. They listened to the subtle suggestion of a talking, lying serpent and so accepted a double standard, a standard of both good and evil.
Just as in this allegory, the suggestion of impurity may come to each one of us. It may come in many ways, a subtle suggestion that we accept a knowledge of both good and evil, or that we believe in and rely on matter as well as on Spirit.
We can't work from two standpoints, combining matter with Spirit. Whatever power we place upon the side of matter, we, in our belief, take away from the power of Spirit. Then achievement of healing or of any other right purpose is delayed and obstructed due to our impure, double standard. Whatever our activity, a double standard assures us of failure at the outset. You see, it's just like a city or house divided against itself. It cannot stand!
Here then, is the imperative demand: cultivate an understanding of the purely spiritual nature of God and man and all creation. Be willing to recognize and reject the false suggestions of the serpent, carnal or material-mindedness. Their only claim to authority, origin, activity, and life is in this allegorical account of a suppositional material creation.
Paul told the Christians at
not seen are eternal" (II Cor. ). Wasn't he referring to the immutable qualities of spiritual creation? Yes, because the true test of reality is eternality.
To attain the mount of spiritual vision then, we must accept the demand to discipline thought spiritually. We must reject a double standard and recognize solely the single standard of the eternal, divine, and immutable qualities of spiritual creation. Then we "see God" and gain the spiritual understanding so necessary for meeting today's challenges, however small or great, in our home, in our world.
Two Christian Scientists, a husband and wife, had strong demands for spiritual purity placed upon them at the time their nine-year-old daughter experienced a large growth under her eyelid. For some time these parents prayed daily to look above the false picture presented to them by the material senses, but with no apparent success.
One day the husband was asked by his father, the grandparent of the child, to take the child to a local hospital and have the growth removed. You see, the grandparents weren't Christian Scientists and they felt that nothing was being done for the child, and the parents were permitting her to be disfigured for life.
The son thanked his father for their loving and thoughtful concern. However, he assured him something very effective was being done through prayer. And he also said that, since becoming a student of Christian Science, he'd learned and witnessed in his experience that in reality there was but one operation and that was the operation of divine law. That it was also a law of harmony and healing, available to all mankind and capable of meeting any and every demand placed upon it. He said he was confident that it would prove effective in this experience, too.
He also pointed out that to resort to material means for removing what he had come to understand, through his study of this Science, was purely a mental condition, wouldn't get at the source or cause; that the growth could return, unless permanently healed by spiritual means. And he added, because of this fact, it needed to be removed in thought, for herein alone was its seeming source, identity, and activity. The grandparents were lovingly asked as sincere Christians to support this stand for spiritual healing and patiently await its inevitable success. This was agreed to.
However, the healing didn't come quickly, and the parents had to take many steps of spiritual purification exceeding any demands so far in their experience. It was necessary for them to gain a clearer view of God as Father-Mother, the one parent, the only cause and creator, and to give up their false sense of responsibility as human parents.
It was important to gain a clearer understanding of spiritual substance, and the unreality of any material substance called matter, that could accumulate or grow. It demanded a stronger faith in God as Spirit, as infinite good; a greater understanding of Him as the only power, presence, and action, and therefore the consequent nothingness of matter and evil. Finally, it became clear to the parents that love and humility needed to be expressed more in their daily lives.
Through faithful adherence to these demands, they were able to look above the mist of material sense, and subsequently the growth disappeared. The healing was complete, and has remained permanent. The child is now an attractive young college student.
This family certainly proved the practical value of steadfastly remaining on the summit of spiritual thought and maintaining a spiritual outlook.
In seeking to understand and develop this outlook for ourselves, we can't do better than take a closer look at the one who preached the "Sermon on the Mount."
Prior to giving this sermon, Christ Jesus, you may recall, had gone about the countryside, teaching and preaching and healing all manner of disease. In other words, he proved what he taught by demonstration. Or, as John's Gospel puts it, "the Word was made flesh" (John ).
Jesus was always aware of his own and his brother's spiritual identity and relationship to the Father, as sons of God, and never came down from this standpoint of inspiration and understanding. This enabled him to say with divine authority, "I and my Father are one" (John ). Now by this statement he didn't mean, nor did he imply, that he and God were one and the same. But he did know that in his true spiritual nature as the divine image or ideal of God, he was inseparable from Him, as cause is from its effect.
His cultivated spiritual understanding and acknowledgment of this fact enabled him to surmount every form of material limitation, and to bring health, happiness, and harmony to himself and his brother. His method of healing is explained in these words in Science and Health: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (Pages 476-477).
When a cripple stretched forth his withered hand, Jesus knew then and there the real man of God's creating expressed only the unchanging, uninterrupted activity of his only creator or source. Jesus' purity of outlook restored the hand to normalcy. When confronted with conditions of blindness and deafness, he realized then and there the presence of the indestructible faculties of spiritual discernment and understanding. This realization brought spiritual illumination and restored sight and hearing. When he met a young man being carried out for burial, he acknowledged then and there the continuing activity of Life, which is God, untouched by fear, disease, or death. His perception of eternal Life restored the young man to his mother.
Always, Jesus met the human need by glorifying God - by looking heavenward and knowing that God's idea, man, was whole, unchanged, and harmonious. This is what enabled him to do the healing works and make his teachings practical.
Jesus once said, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Then he followed this declaration with these commands to his followers: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:7, 8). These commands or demands are just as vital, just as imperative for his followers today. That they are possible of fulfillment, the world owes to Mary Baker Eddy. It was she who discovered the Christ Science that determined the spiritual outlook of Jesus and underlay his mighty works.
Mrs. Eddy had a sincere yearning and intense spiritual longing to understand the mysteries of God and His universe; and she was deeply sensitive to the things of the Spirit. From early childhood she loved the Bible, and through her steadfastness of purpose and deep spirituality, she was prepared of God for the discovery and revelation of the Science of the Christ.
Then a century ago, in the year 1866, she was healed by spiritual means alone of the effects of a serious accident. This lifted her thought to the mount of spiritual vision, and she caught her first glimpse of the tremendous revelation that was to unfold to her in the months and years ahead.
After her healing, Mrs. Eddy didn't stop there. She recognized, as did Jesus, that revelation requires demonstration to prove the truth of the revelation. So, she performed outstanding works of spiritual healing. She wrote the Christian Science textbook; founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, its periodicals, its daily newspaper, and its many other activities. Mrs. Eddy literally went to the summit of spiritual vision to accomplish these great works.
In later years, in founding Christian Science, she "turned the other cheek" in the midst of scorn and hatred for her divine system of Mind-healing. But it was destined of God to grow and prosper. Why? Because it became evident that the so-called miracles of Jesus didn't belong to his time alone. The healing power of the Christ is for all time, including today. It demonstrates an ever-present, ever-available, all-powerful, divinely natural Principle, as seen from the summit of spiritual vision.
We have considered the nature of the spiritual outlook and the importance of the quality of purity, set forth in the "Sermon on the Mount" for attaining and maintaining this outlook. We've also seen how those two great exponents of Christianity, Christ Jesus and Mrs. Eddy, proved this outlook practical. Is there anything more necessary if we're going to make this outlook the determining guide for our daily lives, and use it to cope with all challenges? Yes, it's the demand for and utilization of prayer - the prayer of absolute faith that "with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19:26).
Science and Health opens with a chapter on prayer which confirms this statement. It reads: "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, - a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love" (Page 1). And here let me tell you a true story that illustrates how very practical this statement really is. This brief but significant incident was told to me by a librarian in a Christian Science Reading Room.
One day a woman came into the Reading Room and said, "You know, Christian Science has transformed my life!" Then she proceeded to tell the librarian how she purchased a copy of Science and Health at a rummage sale one day, for only a dime. She took it home and began to read it. She said that prior to reading this book, she was in the habit of praying to God by telling Him what she wanted and what He should do about it. In fact, she said her husband was so mean to her that she actually told God to put him in the Army!
However, after reading the chapter entitled "Prayer," she said she began to change her method of praying. Instead of telling God what to do, and asking him to change human conditions, she began to praise Him for His goodness and love. As she did this, and continued her studying, the real man of God's creating began to unfold in her consciousness. Fear, hatred, and domination gave way to confidence, love, and dominion. She then turned to the librarian and with a warm smile said, "See that man out there waiting for me? That's my husband, and now I wonder why I thought he was so mean to me."
In the experience of this woman the transforming power of the prayer of faith caused the false concepts of material creation to pass away, and all things became new and harmonious. You see, she changed the base of her thinking from a material outlook on creation to the spiritual. She literally changed her point of view, by putting off the "old man" spoken of by Paul, and putting on the "new."
But what is faith, and how do we pray the prayer of absolute faith? We all know that the word "faith" means belief, or the act of believing in something or someone. We might define it as holding on to something firmly with confidence and conviction. But it doesn't mean believing what we cannot prove, or a blind faith. In relation to prayer faith is confident reliance on God, based on a spiritual understanding of Him.
But faith requires effort. It isn't just wishing that some great faith would come to us, something that would give strength, meaning, and color to our lives. For example, no intelligent man would drive his car down the highway after dark, reasoning that if light is a reality it will leap out in front of him and illuminate the road. He will, of course, reach over and pull the switch. Then the light generated through his slight effort will show him the way to his destination.
We must want faith enough to pull the switch! When we do our part, it comes, bright, warm, and reassuring. But how do we do this? For one thing, we must stop all human outlining. We often hear the words, "I'm leaving it with God." But we need to search our thinking and ask ourselves: Is this being done in the letter or in the spirit?
You know, it's possible to cherish a pleasant theory that we're leaving everything with God, and yet hold with unyielding grasp, the plan, action, desire, and opinion we believe to be correct. We may even declare our plan or purpose is right and expect our prayers to bring about its establishment according to our desires. Yes, we set about demonstrating what we think we should have or see; in other words, we work to the end of having this come or go our way.
Here, however, is the demand for laying down the human will of our way for faith in God's way. This will enable us to rise to the summit of spiritual vision and glimpse His plan.
For another thing, we must expect to go forward, and never look down or look back. Paul wisely counsels us to forget "those things which are “behind,” and "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13, 14).
This "high calling" is that of looking out from the summit of the spiritual facts about God and His universe. It obliterates the false beliefs of materiality. It enables us with the eye of faith to see man, ourselves and our brother, as we really are, and always have been, the perfect reflection of God. So absolute faith in God's goodness and in the eternal perfection of His spiritual creation is the keynote of prayer, as understood in Christian Science, and it's a prayer of practical demonstration. Then we "see God," and begin to gain the spiritual inspiration of these words in Science and Health: "Starting from a higher standpoint, one rises spontaneously, even as light emits light without effort" (Page 262).
Some boys climbing in the high cliffs along the shore of Nova Scotia came upon an eagle's nest. In it were some tiny baby eagles. They took one of these home with them and placed it with a mother hen and her little chicks. Here the little pet grew, but becoming more unlike the chicks, it began to stand alone in the barnyard, looking up toward the heavens. In the course of time, it began to try its wings, flopping along the ground.
One day as it was standing in the sunlight as usual, another eagle flew over the barnyard. The pet eagle became strangely agitated. Standing on tiptoes, it looked up, and unfolded its wings, and with a strange cry, rose from the ground, higher and higher, and presently disappeared from sight.
It was a great day in the life of that eagle, when it discovered that it wasn't made to be an ordinary barnyard fowl, to spend its life "scratching in the dirt." Its place was up there in the heavenly blue. It's a great day for each of us as we discover our divine inheritance as children of God, and give up a life of "scratching in the dirt" of suppositional material existence. Through maintaining a spiritual outlook and praying the prayer of faith, we're able to recognize and accept our spiritual identity, inheritance, and dominion, and prove "The Value of a Spiritual Outlook."
©1965 Paul A. Erickson
All rights reserved
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 18, 1967.]