The Value of a Spiritual Outlook (2)
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
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
Naturalists 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 in
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
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
Now we all realize, of course, that height in reference to spirituality is merely a metaphor, a symbol. Spirituality isn't really 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, and 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. As the pace of human development and material accomplishment accelerates from year to year, men everywhere are looking for the answers which will liberate them from shackles of every kind. We can expect to find them. We have the right to learn the way to be free from fear, sickness, ignorance, lack, frustration, and oppression in whatever guise. We also want to measure up to the mighty challenges of today, and to take full advantage of the great new opportunities which are ahead. A spiritually scientific understanding of God, man, and the universe will alone provide the answers.
Over 1500 years ago, St. Augustine
made this thoughtful observation: "Two verbs have built two empires, the
verbs 'to have' and 'to be.' The first is an empire of things - material
possessions and power. The second is an empire of spirit - the things that
last." In our own day, Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner, a
science advisor to the President of the
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 progressively demonstrate health, happiness, and true success in every aspect of our experience.
The Need for Purity of Thought
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 the word "blessed," in the Semitic language of that day, 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 that 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).
Purity of heart means a willingness to acknowledge the complete power and presence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God, infinite Spirit, forever governing his spiritual creation, man and the universe. It 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.
In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy asks the question, "What is God?" Then she offers this answer: "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love" (p. 465). These seven 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 a 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 He made was good, like Himself (Gen. 1:1,26,31). Therefore, it logically follows that man, 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. 5:48.) He didn't say, "Get perfect," "Become perfect," or "Ask God to make you perfect." Nor did he promise future perfection at the experience of death. He said, "BE - perfect!" When? Right now!
As the reflection of Mind, we can and do in reality express only Mind's perfect 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 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 mountain of spiritual vision.
The Spiritual Outlook Permits No Double Standard
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.
I'm reminded of a little girl who came in from the flower garden one day with soiled hands, dress, and shoes, and made this refreshing statement: "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 stretch our thought to the altitude of spiritual reality. 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 wholly spiritual. We must refuse to be double-minded, to come down to a double standard of creation, the spiritual and 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 recorded failure to maintain purity of thought in the Bible is found in the allegory of creation in the second chapter of Genesis. Adam and Eve, refusing to discipline thought spiritually, looked down to earth beliefs instead of up to divine reality. They listened to the suggestion of a talking, lying serpent and so accepted a double standard of both good and evil. From this false basis, they fell into the pit of matter, of a material outlook on creation with its ultimate consequences of sin, disease, and death.
Just as in this allegory, the suggestion of impurity may come to each one of us. It may come in many ways, under the guise of a "talking serpent," a subtle suggestion that we accept a knowledge of both good and evil, that we believe in and rely on matter as well as on Spirit. You may recall that the narrative recorded in this account had its inception in a mist; and it's this mist of material limitation, the mixture of good and evil, that would obscure man's spiritual outlook today.
We can't work from two standpoints, combining matter with Spirit. Whatever power is placed 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, a standard of good and evil, of Spirit and matter. Whatever our activity, a double standard assures us of failure at the outset. It's just like a city or house divided against itself. It cannot stand!
Here's 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-minded-ness. For their only claim to authority, origin, activity, and life is in this allegorical account of a suppositional material creation. The requirement then is to see any false suggestion, whether detected in our own thought or in that of another, for what it is - nothing but impersonal evil. Jesus referred to it as the devil or as a liar. Therefore, it has in reality no cause nor effect, no object nor agent - no person. We shall be comforted and healed, we shall achieve our right goals, when these false suggestions of material ignorance are replaced with the divine ideas of spiritual understanding. And this comes with an uplifted and wholly spiritual outlook. This alone attains the summit of spiritual vision.
Paul told the Christians at
To attain the mount of spiritual vision, we must accept the demand to discipline thought spiritually. We must reject a double standard and recognize solely the single standard of the eternal and divine qualities of spiritual creation. Only as we seek to apprehend the indestructibility of Spirit, the integrity of Truth, the continuity of Life, the intelligence of Mind, the beauty of Soul, and the purity of Love, all emanating from a changeless ever-present Principle, can we ever hope to "see God." And only as we see God, do we gain the spiritual outlook, so necessary for meeting today's challenges, however small or great, in our home, in our world.
The Single Spiritual Standard Heals
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 on her eyelid.
For some time these parents prayed daily to look higher than 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. The grandparents were not Christian Scientists and they felt that nothing was being done for the child, that 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. He also said that, since becoming a student of Christian Science, he had 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 healing and harmony, 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 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; the growth could return, unless permanently healed by spiritual means. He added that it needed to be removed in thought, for herein alone was its source, identity, and activity. The grandparents lovingly were 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 only parent, the one 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, 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.
How Jesus Taught the Spiritual Outlook
In seeking to understand and develop the spiritual outlook, the view from the mount of spiritual vision, 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, through 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 identity and relationship to the Father, as sons of God, and never came down from this spiritual outlook of understanding and inspiration. This enabled him to say with divine authority, "I and my Father are one" (John ). 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. This acknowledgment enabled him to affirm with complete humility, "I do always those things that please him" (John ). And he did those things which pleased God.
Jesus' cultivated spiritual understanding enabled him to surmount every form of material limitation, and to bring health, happiness, and harmony to himself and his neighbor. He was always mindful of the fact that man, as an idea of God, could express nothing unlike his divine source. 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" (pp. 476, 477).
When confronted with discord of any description, Jesus maintained his spiritual outlook. He knew at once there was nothing in the consciousness of himself or his brother, as the reflection or idea of God, that could say or believe, "I'm afraid, alone, unloved, unhappy, diseased, or dead." Why? Because he recognized no life, intelligence, substance, nor action apart from God, infinite Spirit. He knew that it was divinely natural for man to be the image and likeness of God. And so it was unnatural, actually impossible, for him to be otherwise.
When a cripple stretched forth his withered hand, he knew then and there the real man of God's creating expressed only the unchanging and 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 uninterrupted, ceaseless, and continuing activity of Life which is God, untouched by fear, disease, or death. And this perception of eternal Life restored the young man to his mother. Jesus never needed time to heal or a thought-process to accomplish that which he knew as already a present spiritual fact about man, the creation or idea of God. Through maintaining a spiritual outlook from the summit of spiritual perception he didn't descend to the double standard of human conditions. He kept busy proving spiritual facts by looking out from his perfect Principle.
He knew that every false belief of material creation presented to his consciousness was but a present lie about the man of God's creating. This lie was without evidence, history, course of action, period of time, or suggestion of a fatal end. Always Jesus met the human need by glorifying God - by looking heavenward and knowing that God's idea, man, was whole, unchanged, and harmonious, governed by his immutable Principle, Love. Jesus' spiritual understanding of his inseparable unity with his divine source endowed him with the divine power and conviction of the Christ. This is what made it possible for him to do the healing works and make his teaching practical.
Discovery of the Christ, Science
Jesus 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 Christ Jesus and underlay his mighty works.
Discovery means bringing to light something previously hidden. Try to think of how many apples fell to the ground before the law of gravitation was discovered. Yes, and how the north and south poles existed before they were discovered. So in spiritual matters, too, discovery means the recognition of that which already is, of what has already existed throughout time and eternity and must always continue to exist.
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 her 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. Through her mental alertness and spiritual vision she recognized, as did Jesus, that revelation requires demonstration, to prove the truth of the revelation. She saw too that fulfillment of this revelation must come through its practical application in human experience. She performed outstanding works of spiritual healing; she wrote the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures"; she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, with its periodicals, its daily newspaper, and its many other activities. Mrs. Eddy literally went direct to the summit of spiritual vision to accomplish these great works.
In reference to the "Sermon on the Mount" she says it is the "essence" of this Science, and in her book, "Miscellaneous Writings," she counsels: "The present is ours; the future, big with events. Every man and woman should be to-day a law to himself, herself, - a law of loyalty to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount" (p. 12).
Mrs. Eddy herself certainly lived her loyalty to this Sermon. Evidence of her deep humility and meekness was clearly set forth when she said to her followers: "Obey strictly the laws that be, and follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ" (Message to The Mother Church for 1901, p. 34). She was always deeply sensitive to the needs of others and felt deeply their distress and wished to help them. Her meekness and faith in God as Spirit enabled her to discover man's God-given dominion over every material limitation. Her longing to understand God and His universe, prepared her consciousness for this final revelation, and subsequent writing of Science and Health.
In later years, in founding Christian Science, she turned the other cheek even in the midst of scorn and hatred for her divine system of Mind-healing. But it was destined of God to grow and prosper. Speaking of her struggle, she says, "Millions may know that I am the Founder of Christian Science. I alone know what that means" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 249).
Mrs. Eddy's singleness of purpose and her obedience to the spiritual disciplining of thought enabled her to "see God" through demonstration. As a result of her discovery and its proof of spiritual healing through present demonstration, it has become evident that the miracles of Jesus didn't belong to his time alone. The healing power of the Christ is for all time; it demonstrates an ever-present, ever-available, all-powerful divine Principle, as seen from the mount of spiritual vision. Mrs. Eddy recognized that the divine qualities or thought values set forth in the "Sermon on the Mount" were truly the way to that uplifted spiritual outlook, essential for doing the works of Christ-healing.
The Prayer of Truth Heals
We have considered the nature of the spiritual outlook and those two great exponents of its practicality, Christ Jesus and Mary Baker Eddy. We've also seen the importance of the spiritual values described in the "Sermon on the Mount" for attaining and maintaining the spiritual outlook. Is there anything more necessary if we're going to make this spiritual. outlook the determining guide for our daily lives, and use it to cope with all challenges? How can we apply it to our immediate needs? To do this we need the prayer of absolute faith that "with God all things are possible" (Matt. ).
Mrs. Eddy opens Science and Health with a chapter on prayer which begins: "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" (p. 1). And let me tell you a true story that illustrates how practical this statement really is. This brief but significant incident was recently told me by a librarian in a Christian Science Reading Room in a western city.
One day a woman from a southern state came into the Reading Room and said, "You know, Christian Science has transformed my life!" Then she went on to relate how she purchased a copy of Science and Health at a rummage sale for only a dime. She took it home and began to read it. She related that prior to her reading the book, she was in the habit of praying to God by telling Him what she wanted and what He should do about it. She went on to say that her husband was so mean to her that she even told God to put him in the army.
However, after reading particularly the first chapter on "Prayer," she said she began to change her method of praying. Instead of telling God what to do, or 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. And fear, hatred, and domination were replaced by 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 whatever I thought was wrong with him."
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. She changed the base of her thinking from a material outlook to the spiritual. In other words, she changed her point of view! Through this method, she literally put off the old man, spoken of by Paul, and put on the new.
Nature of the Prayer of Faith
But what is faith, and how do we pray the prayer of absolute faith? We know that the word "faith" is defined as belief, or the act of believing in something or someone. In other words, we might explain it as holding on to something firmly with conviction and confidence. 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. It establishes the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1), as referred to in the epistle to the Hebrews.
Now faith requires effort. It isn't just wishing that some great faith would come to us, something that would give meaning, color, and strength 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 the way to his destination. We must want faith enough to turn on 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 if this is being done in the letter or in the spirit. It's possible to cherish a pleasant theory that we're really leaving everything to 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. We set about demonstrating what we want or think we should have or see; in other words, we work to the end of having things 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 mount of spiritual vision and glimpse God's plan. Then what is spiritual and true begins to unfold and operates as a law of harmony in our individual human experience.
For another thing, we must expect to go forward, and never look down or look back. Mrs. Eddy writes: "The discoverer of Christian Science finds the path less difficult when she has the high goal always before her thoughts, than when she counts her footsteps in endeavoring to reach it. When the destination is desirable, expectation speeds our progress" (Science and Health, p. 426). Here let me add, there are no chair lifts to the mount of spiritual revelation.
It's important to see, too, that the only power of a past over ourselves or another is the power we give it in current thought. 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. ).
This "high calling" is that of looking out from the summit of the spiritual facts of God and man. They obliterate the false beliefs of materiality; they enable us with the eye of faith to see man as he really is and always has been, the perfect reflection of God. The Psalmist sang, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace" (37:37). And Matthew's Gospel records God's witness to this divine ideal: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 17:5). This divine commendation of spiritual perfection is our inheritance, too, given to us by our heavenly Father, but as with any inheritance the demand is to claim it! 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.
Maintaining our spiritual outlook, then, demands the detection and rejection of every phase of wrong material thinking, thinking based on the ignorant beliefs of a material creation. It demands the replacement of such beliefs with the divine and pure concepts of spiritual creation to the end that they may unfold harmonious results. We do this as we willingly and humbly accept the discipline of spiritual purity. Then we "see God" and begin to understand what Mrs. Eddy meant when she wrote: "Starting from a higher standpoint, one rises spontaneously, even as light emits light without effort" (Science and Health, p. 262).
"With wings as eagles"
Some boys climbing in the high
cliffs along the
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 grow in the understanding of 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 are able to recognize and accept our spiritual identity, inheritance, and dominion, and prove the practicality of this outlook.
Lifting our thoughts heavenward, we rise to the mountain of spiritual vision and divine revelation, and make practical the promise-filled words of the prophet Isaiah: "They that wait upon the Lord shall . . . mount up with wings as eagles" (40:31). Then we see God, and all His goodness.
©1965 Paul A. Erickson
All rights reserved