Christian Science: Religion of the Present and the Future

 

Mary Wellington Gale, C.S.B., of San Francisco, California

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:

The religion of the present must meet the challenge of the discoveries of modern science. The religion of the future will have to cope with the effects of these discoveries. Already they cast their shadow before them, and call for something more than faith in a personal God responsible for a world of matter, such as characterized the religion of the past.

When the physicist found that a hydrogen bomb could destroy a city of a million inhabitants, another concept of Deity was obviously required. A theology was called for which attributes such effects to some other cause than the one we call "Our Father which art in heaven." Who could pray the prayer which has comforted and sustained the Christian for nearly twenty centuries if he thought that God had any part in such a holocaust! The religion of the present must reassess the Scriptures in the light of the discoveries of modern science.

 

The Teaching of the Bible

Such a re-evaluation of the teachings of the Bible was made three quarters of a century ago by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. After years of invalidism, Mrs. Eddy was healed of the effects of a supposedly fatal accident by reading the account of Jesus' healing of the palsied man in the ninth chapter of Matthew (verses 2-8). With her healing a new conception of Deity dawned upon her thought. In her "Miscellaneous Writings" she is quoted as saying of her experience (p. 169): "Early training, through the misinterpretation of the Word, had been the underlying cause of the long years of invalidism she endured before Truth dawned upon her understanding, through right interpretation."

It took three years of intensive study of the Bible in the light of her healing to unfold to Mrs. Eddy the scientific meaning of the Scriptures. This she later stated in her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Her discovery is summarized in a brief statement which she termed "the scientific statement of being." I shall read "the scientific statement of being" from Science and Health (p. 468): "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual."

Let us examine Mrs. Eddy's statement regarding matter in relation to the discoveries of modern science. Mrs. Eddy writes, "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter." The splitting of the atom proved that matter is destructible. Can life, which must be regarded as an expression of God, be found in that which is destructible? Can we conceive of truth as subject to extinction as the result of an atomic blast? Does intelligence reside in an irresponsible force capable of destroying civilization? Is there any substance in that which can be dissipated in a single detonation?

The definite answer of Christian Science to these questions is "No!" This Science, we rejoice to say, shows that "there is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter." We are assured further that God never made matter, therefore that we need not fear it. The discoveries of modern science are forcing this conclusion on the consciousness of mankind, and the religion of the present must embrace its implications.

One need not diverge from the writings of the Old Testament to accept this view. In spite of the frequent allusion to God as the creator of matter and evil, there are numerous instances of a departure from this concept and a clear revelation of God's infinite goodness. The vision of Elijah rose so far above the concepts of his time that he could see the absurdity of holding God accountable for the forces of destruction. In I Kings we read of his standing on the mount and watching a parade of these forces. Deeply despondent over the evil surrounding him, and despairing of his life, he found refuge in a cave. Here he sought communion with God, and in this state of prayer a spiritual drama was enacted in his exalted consciousness. He heard the call (I Kings 19:11, 12): "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."

 

God Has No Part in the Atomic Bomb

God was not in the wind. God was not in the earthquake. God was not in the fire. God has no part in the atomic bomb. But God is in the "still small voice" which is calling on humanity today to turn from warfare and establish genuine peace.

As God is not in the earthquake, God is not in the fire, so Mrs. Eddy's spiritual healing showed her that God is not in the destructive process of disease. Let us read the passage from the Bible which illumined Mrs. Eddy's thought and led to the new concept of Deity which raised her from what was thought to be her deathbed (Matt. 9:2-7): "And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves. This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house." It is clear that Jesus associated the man's ailment with his thinking and behavior. When his sins were forgiven he was well.

However, sin is not the only cause for sickness. Our Leader's healing illustrates this fact. Mrs. Eddy was a pure, spiritually-minded woman, and a devout worshiper of God from childhood. Her mother had taught her to turn to God in prayer when ill, and she was healed of a fever by this means when a child of twelve. As we have quoted from "Miscellaneous Writings," "misinterpretation of the Word, had been the underlying cause of the long years of invalidism she endured." She is further quoted as saying (p. 169): "With the understanding of Scripture-meanings, had come physical rejuvenation. The uplifting of spirit was the upbuilding of the body."

What an uplifting of spirit must have come to Mrs. Eddy with the revelation that God never made sickness, therefore she need not fear it nor succumb to it; God never caused the accident for which she seemed to face the penalty of death! Can we wonder that she wished to share with others the new concept of God which had healed her!

The misinterpretation of Scripture which is responsible for much of the suffering of mankind is the concept which holds God responsible for human misery. Jesus' healing of the palsied man placed the responsibility for his condition squarely on the man's own thinking. Relieved of the sense of fatality attendant upon believing God to be the author of evil, the human mind is able to free itself from self-imposed bondage. The understanding of God as infinite good, taught by Christian Science, works powerfully to counteract the results of false interpretation of the Scripture.

 

The Key to the Freedom Promised in the Bible

Mrs. Eddy's unfoldment of the nature of God through seven synonymous terms has brought hope and healing to countless persons who have found the Christian Science textbook the key to the freedom promised in the Bible. These seven synonyms, as given in the chapter "Recapitulation" in Science and Health, are Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. Let us consider two of these synonyms Spirit and Mind. Mrs. Eddy's concept of God as Mind corresponds to that of Moses. As recorded in the book of Exodus, Moses discerned that Deity is a fundamental, divine intelligence, to which nothing is necessary except its own self-existence. His revelation is described in the following passage (Ex. 3:14): "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."

The infinite Mind declared itself to be absolutely self-determined and completely self-sustained. Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health (p. 336), "Allness is the measure of the infinite, and nothing less can express God." Her definition of God in the Glossary of Science and Health further unfolds this revelation (p. 587): "God. The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence."

In at least one respect, however, the revelation of Mrs. Eddy differs from that of Moses. Moses did not seem to comprehend God's all-loving nature. It has sometimes been thought that this attribute of Deity was included in Moses' revelation but was lost when he encountered the resistance of his people to the forward step he was initiating. Thus God seemed to him to be a God of anger and vengeance, expressing his own mortal feelings.

Christ Jesus and Mrs. Eddy never lost sight of God's infinite love. Consequently, the Master could say of his persecutors (Luke 23:34), "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And our Leader could include in her definition of God the words "all-loving" and "substance."

We need to understand her use of the term "substance" in order to comprehend the teaching of Christian Science with respect to God as infinite Mind. In answer to the question "What is substance?" she writes in Science and Health (p. 468), "Substance is that which is eternal and incapable of discord and decay."

Now, anger and vengeance are discordant conditions. They are evidence of warring elements, such as are found in mortal mind. In infinite Love there are no warring elements. In Christian Science, the all-loving divine Mind is found to be the true and eternal substance, incapable of discord and decay, incapable of producing any destructive effects.

 

A People's Concept of God Determines Its Civilization

The pages of history prove that a people's conception of God determines its civilization. So long as the Lord is thought to be in the wind, the fire, or the earthquake; so long as Deity is held responsible for the destructive elements in nature or in men, the world may continue to experience sickness, and famine, and war. The discoveries of modern science which have unleashed the power of the atom, for the benefit or the injury of mankind, call upon the religion of the present to relieve the human consciousness of this tragic misinterpretation.

The effect of such relief is seen in the healing of the mother of a friend of mine. This woman was in the last stages of dropsy, when a visitor in the town where she lived heard of her condition and thought of its possible consequences in a family of four small children. The story was told me by my friend some years ago. The visitor came to see her mother and asked if she would read the Christian Science textbook, which she offered to leave with her for a few days. From its pages the mother learned that no destructive elements belong to the infinite Mind, that God is all-loving and never made sickness. Therefore she need not fear it nor succumb to it.

For two days and two nights she pondered "the scientific statement of being" rejoicing to be told (Science and Health, p. 468): "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all.

As her thought was relieved of the misinterpretation of Scripture which had held God accountable for her illness, the dropsical condition disappeared from her body. It was a well woman who greeted the visitor when she returned on the fourth day. As Mrs. Eddy said of her own healing (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 169), "With the understanding of Scripture-meanings, had come physical rejuvenation."

 

The True Concept of God as Spirit

Another misinterpretation of the Scriptures from which the world is suffering today has to do with the concept of God as Spirit. It is of the utmost importance for the religion of the present to clarify this misinterpretation which involves the question of control or mental influence. Supersalesmanship, based upon mass psychology, is subjecting people everywhere to influences which would foist upon them anything from a Communist regime to a desire for alcoholic beverages.

The belief that evil is known to God has led to the belief that evil can be communicated through the influence of evil spirits, or the spirit of evil, in mankind. Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health (p. 334), "Spirit being God, there is but one Spirit, for there can be but one infinite and therefore one God." She also writes (ibid., p. 466), "Soul or Spirit means only one Mind, and cannot be rendered in the plural."

Mass psychology is based on the belief of many minds, which can be led through mental influence to follow a suggested line of thought. The process by which the human consciousness is conditioned to accept suggestion has been termed "brain-washing," and the American public has been called the most "brain-washed" people in the world!

I heard this statement made over the radio in a review of a book by an eminent psychologist (Battle for the Mind, by William Sargant). The reviewer said that it had been found that persons in a state of anger or annoyance were open to suggestion, and pointed out how this tendency was exploited in advertising over the radio and television. The reviewer told me something which I had learned through Christian Science many years before, but with this difference: the teaching of Christian Science not only uncovered the belief of mental influence; it also showed me how to protect myself from this influence through filling my thought with truth and love.

Mrs. Eddy devotes an entire chapter to this subject Chapter V in Science and Health. This chapter contains the following paragraph which states a truth much-needed by mankind today (p. 102): "There is but one real attraction, that of Spirit. The pointing of the needle to the pole symbolizes this all-embracing power or the attraction of God, divine Mind."

I once witnessed a healing of alcoholism worked out through the understanding of the truth contained in this quotation. It was the case of a woman who had lost her husband and whose children had married, so that she was alone and lonely. She had been used to social drinking, and it was an easy step to more serious indulgence. One day, after a prolonged period of intoxication, she found herself married to a man whom she believed to have designs on her money, for she had considerable means. At this point, her family intervened. The marriage was annulled, and a member of the family who was a Christian Scientist took the woman into her home and engaged a Christian Science practitioner to help her.

The woman attended church services with her relative and studied the Lesson-Sermon which is published in the Christian Science Quarterly and read each Sunday at services of Churches of Christ, Scientist, throughout the world. Daily Christian Science treatment was given her for several months, during which the relative reported at intervals to the practitioner. The healing came naturally and easily as the truth of Mrs. Eddy's statement was demonstrated: "There is but one real attraction, that of Spirit. The pointing of the needle to the pole symbolizes this all-embracing power or the attraction of God, divine Mind." This healing took place over twenty years ago, and no relapse has ever occurred.

 

The Regenerative Action of Spiritual Healing

Mankind must learn, and Christian Science is teaching them, the self-determination which is the reflection of the self-existent nature of the infinite "I AM." Moses gave the world the Ten Commandments, which place a prohibition on the warring elements in human consciousness, but this prohibition has failed to rule out the evil tendencies it was designed to correct. It has been shown throughout the centuries that only the regenerative action of spiritual healing can destroy these tendencies for the human race.

Christ Jesus set the example for this healing. He also designated the place and function of the moral law when he said (Matt. 5:17, 18): "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

When the self-appointed custodians of the moral law brought a woman to him, taken in adultery, and said (John, Chapter 8), "Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" he answered, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Then, to the woman he said, "Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her. Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

Was not Jesus telling the woman that he knew that she would never commit this sin again? He said at the healing of the palsied man, "Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?" Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health (p. 210), "Jesus healed sickness and sin by one and the same metaphysical process."

This blessed ministration of spiritual healing is with us today through the revelation of Christian Science. It has been made available through the correction of a misinterpretation of Scripture concerning the relation of the Christ to the human Jesus. Mrs. Eddy's healing showed her that the power to heal which was exercised by Jesus lay in his conformity to the nature of God. She writes in Science and Health (p. 333): "Christ expresses God's spiritual, eternal nature. The name is synonymous with Messiah, and alludes to the spirituality which is taught, illustrated, and demonstrated in the life of which Christ Jesus was the embodiment."

Mrs. Eddy saw that God's spiritual, eternal nature the nature of infinite Mind is expressed by all of Mind's ideas. Therefore, the Christ, as the truth of spiritual being, could be demonstrated by all mankind. Spiritual healing is a proof of the presence of the Christ. Spiritual healing is accomplished through prayer by which the Christ, Truth, is apprehended by the human consciousness.

 

Prayer

Science and Health opens with a chapter on prayer. I shall read from page 1 of Science and Health: "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." Further on we read, "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds."

"Desire is prayer." "Well," one of you may say, "I have desired to be healed for a long time, and look at me!" Does the desire to be healed express "an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love"? I am going to answer my question by telling you a story about a little boy I used to know. We will call his name Dick.

Dick attended the Christian Science Sunday School, although his parents were not Christian Scientists when he first enrolled. However, they cooperated in every way with Dick's Sunday School teacher, and when the boy said that he wanted Christian Science instead of the doctor when he had a cold, his mother asked for treatment from a Christian Science practitioner. I was the practitioner. The day after I gave him his first treatment, his mother called and said that Dick had had her reading Science and Health to him most of the night, and had just asked her a question she couldn't answer. This was the question; "How can I be so sick when I have been so close to God?"

I told her to send Dick to the telephone and I would answer it for her. So Dick came to the phone, and I repeated his question, "How can I be so sick when I have been so close to God?" Then I said, "The answer, Dick, is 'You can't be, and if you can't, you aren't.' You can't be so close to God and be sick, for God is Love, and God is All." Then I told him we would hold that position and know that he couldn't be sick because he was at one with his Father-Mother, God. Dick said, "Okay." And I heard no more from his mother until the next day when she made the following report. Dick had been no better when she put him to bed in a room with his father, so she could get a night's sleep. She slept until her husband wakened her, saying, "Dick and I are on our way to his school." She told me she answered, "But he can't go to school; he has a very bad cold." Her husband said, "Come and see." She found Dick perfectly well!

"The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God." How we need to defend that faith for our children! How we need to cultivate it for ourselves! How we and the world need to have added to that faith a spiritual understanding of God, an unselfed love!

 

The Consciousness of God's Nearness

Current magazines and newspapers today are expressing grave concern about the extent to which both men and women are resorting to tranquilizing drugs. Does not this point to humanity's need for mental peace in this age of speed and stress? A deadening drug is a pitiful substitute for the power of God to comfort and sustain! Christian Science brings to mankind the consciousness of God's nearness as ever-present Love.

The children in the Christian Science Sunday School learn to feel God's nearness. They learn to turn to God when they are fearful or tempted to do wrong. They learn that God is ever with them through the Christ, which Mrs. Eddy defines in their textbook in part as (p. 332): ". . . the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness." They learn to pray the prayer embodied in her poem, which they often sing in Sunday School (Poems, p. 14);

 

"Shepherd, show me how to go

O'er the hillside steep,

How to gather, how to sow,

How to feed Thy sheep;

I will listen for Thy voice,

Lest my footsteps stray;

I will follow and rejoice

All the rugged way.

 

We are all children in the great school of human experience. We need, perhaps more than the little ones, to feel the presence of God, to find our at-one-ment with His infinite love. Christian Science shows us how to find this at-one-ment, through cultivating the qualities of God.

The synonyms for God connote qualities which have their counterpart in human attributes such as entitled Jesus to be called "the Godlike" (see Science and Health, p. 333). God is expressed in intelligence and wisdom, in spirituality, in purity of thought and action. He is expressed in undeviating rectitude, in spontaneous activity, in the qualities which make one lovely, loving, and beloved!

These spiritual qualities, expressed by mankind, bring the atmosphere of heaven to earth. They cleanse and purify not only the immediate environment of those who manifest them, but the mental atmosphere of the whole human race. They serve to counteract what Mrs. Eddy terms in "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 199), "the qualities opposed to Spirit which mortals name matter." She writes: "We learn somewhat of the qualities of the divine Mind through the human Jesus. The power of his transcendent goodness is manifest in the control it gave him over the qualities opposed to Spirit which mortals name matter."

 

God's Provision for Saving the World from Sin

The power of Jesus' outstanding goodness found its final glorified expression in his resurrection and ascension. The religion of the past has interpreted this transcendent experience, in the course of which the Master took upon himself the ordeal of the cross, to be God's provision for saving the world from its sins. The atonement of the Master will "save" the world from sin when its scientific meaning is understood. The Christian Science textbook explains the atonement of Jesus as a manifestation of the law of divine Love, by which mortals are led to relinquish the belief of life in matter (see chapter entitled "Atonement and Eucharist," pp. 18-55).

Jesus' virgin birth, his healing ministry, his disappearance from the human scene through translation rather than destruction of the human body, showed the human state to be a misapprehension of existence. Sin and sickness were ruled out by him as aspects of a misinterpretation of existence. As we have quoted from Science and Health (p. 210), "Jesus healed sickness and sin by one and the same metaphysical process." This metaphysical process is based on the facts set forth in "the scientific statement of being," and is the method employed in the practice of Christian Science. The belief of sin is not ignored in Christian Science, any more than the belief of sickness is ignored. It is recognized as an aberration of the human mind, which must be corrected by the demonstration of the truth that (Science and Health, p. 468) "Man is not material, he is spiritual."

Early in my study of Christian Science I asked a practitioner who had been a member of Mrs. Eddy's household if she felt that she really understood that "there is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter." She replied: "No, I do not fully understand it. But early in my experience I found that as I accepted Mrs. Eddy's revelation of this truth, and used it, I got results. The scientific statement of being can be used, just as mathematics can be used, before we completely understand it. Its complete demonstration is the ascension."

This woman had been a practicing physician and surgeon before she took up the study of Christian Science in the latter part of the last century. The experience which led her to give up the practice of medicine and embrace the teaching of Christian Science is recounted in an article in The Christian Science Journal. She has told it to me herself, with additional details.

As a young woman she was deeply religious and never went out on a medical case without first praying to God for guidance. She was continually seeking to be shown a perfect method of treatment. Someone gave her a copy of Science and Health, and she had been reading it for about three weeks when she was called by an older physician to care for a woman supposed to be fatally ill.

After attending to the necessary details, she endeavored to put out of her thought the picture which the woman's condition presented. She mentally held to the truth which she had been reading in Science and Health and denied the evidence of disease which was before her. The patient rallied. She visited her again and continued her affirmation of the truth which she found in the Christian Science textbook. In a very short time the woman was perfectly recovered, to the amazement of the physician who had sent the young doctor to her. This practitioner told me that she never doubted that her being given a copy of Science and Health, and having the opportunity so soon to test its truth, was the answer to her prayer to find a perfect method of treatment.

 

The Operation of Divine Principle

When this practitioner showed me that the ascension of Christ Jesus was a demonstration of "the scientific statement of being," and that ascension above matter would be the ultimate experience of anyone who attained his degree of understanding, she opened the door to my acceptance of the whole glorious truth of Christian Science. I realized that the Master's life was an illustration of the operation of divine Principle and not a supernatural experience as misinterpretation of the Scriptures had led me to believe.

As I began to understand Jesus' life as a manifestation of divine law, I began to be able to discriminate with respect to what was presented to me in human experience. Mrs. Eddy's designation of the spiritual as the real or God-made, and the material as the unreal or man-made, became clear to me. I learned how to cultivate the ability to choose the real and reject the unreal, and thus began to work out my salvation from the beliefs of material existence. The Bible tells us (Phil. 2:13): "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Divine Principle is ever expressing itself to mankind through its eternal law of Love. Like the practitioner of my college days, I do not yet fully understand "the scientific statement of being," but with what I do understand of its infinite meaning, I have been able to heal myself and others.

"The scientific statement of being" is the most powerful instrument ever placed in the hands of man. The A-bomb and the H-bomb fade into insignificance before the spiritual truth which it sets forth. It has been undermining the foundations of materialism since the moment that it formed in Mrs. Eddy's thought, and it will continue to do so until God's Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

The discoveries of modern science have brought humanity to the crossroads, where it must accept the implications of "the scientific statement of being." Belief in the reality and power of matter can no longer be allowed to rule the world. All over the globe, thousands of prayerful people who have perceived the unreality of matter through the revelation of Christian Science continually unite in the joyous affirmation (Science and Health, p. 468): "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual."

 

[Published in The Las Vegas (Nevada) Sun, June 21, 1958.]

 

 

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