What Are Our Values?
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
As a young boy, I used to collect June bugs each spring. Other boys did the same. There was a sort of rivalry among us who would collect most.
Then I had my first identity crisis. I noticed older boys, not to mention grown-ups, didn't think much of my collection. But I couldn't remain a ten-year-old forever. True, the state of being grown-up lay far ahead in the almost unimaginable future. But one day it would surely come - even if I expected, as a grown-up, to do everything entirely differently from what the present grown-ups did.
So my anxious question was: Would I then still want to collect June bugs? Reluctantly I had to answer, No. Then what would be left of me? I identified myself so exclusively with my industrious collecting activity that, without it, I'd practically disappear.
Would it be thinkable that I'd like to go dancing with girls as older boys did? That would mean a complete change in my values.
As I grew a little older, I underwent more changes in what I regarded as worthwhile. For instance, at one period I thought of a tent in the woods beside a lonely lake as my dream home. Later, I could see the advantages of an apartment with electric light and running water.
But it was Christian Science that really changed my outlook on life. And in particular it was a book - Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This book by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, showed me what really mattered - what was really important, if I was to lead a useful and happy life.
I'd always believed in God, even as a boy collecting June bugs. Then one day I overheard a conversation among a group of grown-ups. Grown-ups, of course, believe they know everything; so I was shocked to discover these grown-ups didn't believe in God.
That night I sent up a fervent prayer to heaven - or whatever heaven meant to me at that time - and I asked God to preserve my faith. When Christian Science came into my life, I felt it was a direct answer to that simple childlike prayer. It changed my values from a material to a spiritual basis - first in regard to myself, my identity; next in regard to the nature of substance, all we see around us; and third in regard to communication, the whole traffic and interchange of ideas.
I'm going to share with you what this change from the material to the spiritual viewpoint has meant to me in each of these areas and what it can mean to each of you.
Christian Science effected a change in how I thought of myself, when I accepted that man isn't a physical body with an independent personal mind of his own - but that instead he's wholly spiritual, an individual idea in the one Mind, God.
This led me to a clearer idea of God as divine Mind, as the source of all true ideas - as the creative power of the universe. Also as divine Love, always good, always constructive, not containing any evil or destructive elements. Surely the ancient Greek Anaxagoras caught a glimpse of this when he wrote, "God is self-moving infinite intelligence." And Kant when he spoke of “the life-giving principle of the Gemut.” Gemut is a German word that in its original meaning corresponds exactly with the English mind and is used as a translation for mind in Christian Science.
That man is indeed the expression or idea of this divine Mind, God, we find confirmed in the Bible. It says, "God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). So this became a key question for me: How do I value my life? As material or spiritual? As the expression of a personal self, having a private mind of its own, creating its own thoughts, or as the representation of my real identity in the likeness of God? Do I identify myself with a limited self-willed personality or with a selfhood that represents divine Mind and responds to God's will?
The Apostle Paul unmasked wrong identification when he said, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Gal. 6:3). Referring to man's real identity, he said, “he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Cor. 1:31).
Before I go any further, I want to make clear Christian Science isn't just an interesting theory or philosophy. I've found its teachings intensely practical in everyday living. But let me illustrate the practical effects of what we've been talking about in the experience of someone whose family learned to value them spiritually.
A young girl I know had a stepfather who was in the last stages of alcoholism. He was an attorney, and his law practice had gone down to nil. He'd gotten to the stage that, when he drank, he'd become violent.
This young girl attended a Christian Science Sunday School, and one Sunday morning her teacher said to her, "God is Love, and you can never be separated from Love, not even for a moment." The girl had a strong conviction that this was true. She glimpsed the fact that man's identity is always at one with God, divine Love.
When she arrived home, her thinking was completely imbued with this thought of God as ever-present Love and of man's real identity as at one with God. Her stepfather was in very bad condition. He was violent, threatening her mother.
As the girl walked into the room, he lunged angrily toward her. Let me read to you her own report of what happened next: "As I watched him coming toward me, he suddenly appeared beautiful and gentle, his eyes had a benign expression, and the whole room seemed flooded with light. I was conscious only of the presence of Love. When he reached me, he collapsed at my feet. He finally picked himself up and said to my mother, 'I shall never drink again.' We had heard this before, but this time God, Love was operating."
The stepfather was instantaneously healed and he arose a changed man, free from his enslavement to alcohol. He enjoyed twenty-five more years of fruitful successful living as a lawyer, a husband and a father. (Christian Science Sentinel, Sept. 22, 1973, p. 1662)
In her book Unity of Good (pg. 8) Mrs. Eddy writes: "All that is beautiful and good in your individual consciousness is permanent. That which is not so is illusive and fading." Why, then, an identity crisis, if in giving up a sense of self all we really give up is a wrong, limited concept of self? Actually there need be no crisis, but rather the opening of the way to an enlargement of consciousness. We can begin to recognize the immortal identity of man as the individualized expression of God, the one infinite divine Mind.
With this recognition we see the action of God reflected in the action of man. All our activities acquire thereby a new value, even the child's activity, even dancing or the furnishing of a home, also our profession, family life, culture, in fact all aspects of living. All are given a new spiritual dimension. All come under the rule, the direction, of the Christ. This in some degree is what happened in the healing I've just related.
How does the Christ help us to value our selfhood rightly? The Christ, as understood in Christian Science, isn't a human person; it's the true idea of God and of man's relationship with God. Jesus of Nazareth fully expressed man's spiritual identity in the Christ, the idea of divine Mind. This is why he's still called "Jesus the Christ." He is the most complete human representation of the Christ, of spiritual selfhood.
This is why he could say, referring to his Christ-enlightened selfhood, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). When we're drawn up from the earth, raised above earthly material consciousness by the Christ, we recognize our real, purely spiritual identity as well as the true identities of our fellowmen.
To point out the loving relationship between God and man, Jesus used an object-lesson from the human scene. He spoke of the "sonship" of man as the child of God. This sonship illustrates man's unbreakable unity with his divine source - as effect is united with cause or idea with the consciousness conceiving it.
Jesus proved this unity with God by what he did. By healing the sick he showed the result of his absolute understanding of this spiritual fact. And he encouraged all people to follow his example. He said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). The Christ, Truth, showing us our true relationship to God, makes us free from the sufferings, limitations, and conflicts that result from a material instead of a spiritual view of selfhood.
Jesus' sense of values was unmistakably and exclusively governed by his expression of divine Love. He identified himself so completely with his source or Principle, divine Love, he designated it as his Father. That's why he could say, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus lived uninterruptedly the Christ, Truth, the true idea of God and of man as God's expression. The sick who accepted this Christ, Truth, in their consciousness, were healed and their lives changed.
There's an inspiring account in Matthew's gospel of the activity of the Christ, of the kind of thing that resulted from Jesus' valuing of men spiritually. It runs like this: "And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself. If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour" (Matt. 9:20-22).
Surely there's no importance placed here on the actual touching of the material of Jesus' garment. This woman may not have fully understood what she was doing or what it was that would change her, but somehow she was reaching out to Jesus' clear thought, his Christly perception of spiritual man as the expression of God, good, the divine I or Ego. And this freed her from the results of believing in a material, mortal selfhood, living in the body and being subject to its conditions.
The illness was a thought-picture, which was rectified when she touched, reached out to, the Christ, to the truth of man as the idea of God. That this reaching out was a purely mental and spiritual process is confirmed by Jesus' words to the woman, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." Faith is a mental attitude. Our experiences, and also our conditions of health, depend on mental attitudes, spiritually mental attitudes.
Jesus evaluated all things rightly. What we consider a weighty matter is often a weighty thought we're entertaining and it slows down our progress. On the other hand the acceptance of a single idea originating in the divine Mind carries us swiftly forward to unseen horizons.
Mrs. Eddy puts it like this: "All the real is eternal. Perfection underlies reality. Without perfection, nothing is wholly real. All things will continue to disappear, until perfection appears and reality is reached" (S&H p. 353).
Human thought too often finds itself in a kind of twilight where the outlines of everything are dimly seen or distorted. Christ, Truth, comes like the full light of day, revealing everything in its true condition of beauty and perfection.
This is how healing takes place. Salvation, the understanding of the ever-existent harmony and perfection of creation, is seen at a given point so clearly that the twilight disappears right there. Then the fuller light of the Christ brings to view what has always really existed.
The demand of primitive Christianity was always healing. This doesn't mean correction of the human mind by the human mind. It means the absolute spiritual presence of God, divine Mind, perceived humanly and so liberating men and women from all moral and physical ills.
Basically mankind's models of conduct and thinking are changed as a result of a change in what we value as true. Here self-renunciation and abandonment of self-will don't mean passivity nor ecstasy; they mean spiritual understanding of divine Mind as man's only Mind and man as the spiritual idea of this Mind. Through spiritual understanding we discover ourselves as the expression of the divine activity of divine Life, of divine Love. Each individual, then, is an individual variation of the one infinite theme, which expresses God, the All-in-all. In the cooperation of all ideas of the divine Mind there resounds the symphony of spiritual creation, the infinite divine Being in its inexhaustible variations.
This true valuing of man's selfhood is what healed the alcoholic stepfather and the woman who reached out to Jesus. It was this spiritual valuing of myself which began to change my life for the better when Christian Science first touched it.
When I began to study Science and Health, the consequent change of values didn't mean only a change in how I viewed myself. It also changed my concept of everything around me, my whole environment. Particularly my concept of substance.
I don't think any of us here would care to own all those whatnots my grandmother had. It took her almost two hours every day to dust them. But don't many of us still spend a good deal of time thinking of what we can acquire next, and then spend a good deal more time acquiring and looking after it?
The Greek philosopher Diogenes pondered over what he could discard in order to become less dependent on material things. He settled for living in a barrel. Present-day economy has long since "progressed" from meeting needs to creating them. Material concepts of what we own and what surrounds us can blind us to true values. Do the material things we possess really serve us, or do we make ourselves dependent on them?
It's good to see society has stopped judging progress simply by economic expansion and the gross national product. Instead it's beginning to evaluate life in terms of quality. Our problems won't be solved by a still greater acquisition of material things intended to make our life more comfortable; indeed, by their unwise use these things can often make life more uncomfortable.
Abundance isn't material. Abundance doesn't mean squandering, exploitation or thoughtlessness. Properly understood, it means fullness of experience, of joy, of possibilities for developing all the Christly fruits of the Spirit - love and peace, goodness, gentleness and temperance. Jesus said, "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). Abundance is spiritual and must be expressed spiritually.
Consciousness of abundance, as an expression of God, good, is certainly expressed in a way that meets all right human needs. But even so the things remain secondary. If in the expression of abundance things are considered of primary importance, we make ourselves dependent on them, we become their slaves. They govern us, instead of our governing them. The simple fact that an abundance of material things comes into our experience as a result of technology, does not in any way mean that - purely on account of that fact - abundance also comes into our hearts. To appreciate and possess what is really worth having, a spiritual viewpoint is needed.
A single right idea can change a man's life and also give him all those outward things which he believes he must possess; but for this he must see them in their relation to the substance of Spirit, the source of all good. Is this any different from what has already been said two thousand years ago, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"? (Matt. 6:33)
The kingdom of God is the inexhaustible abundance, or substance, of spiritual ideas.
Mrs. Eddy explains substance as follows, "Substance is that which is eternal and incapable of discord and decay." She also says, "Spirit, the synonym of Mind, Soul, or God, is the only real substance." (S&H p. 468)
The fleeting nature of matter is being admitted in an ever increasing degree by the physical sciences. But that Spirit is basic substance demands an ever more thorough turnabout in human thinking.
Mrs. Eddy by her readiness to completely abandon material concepts, was able to perceive the true nature of substance as wholly spiritual. She saw the loving activity of the divine Mind as the primal power of being. She saw that this divine Principle, Love, was able to correct all the limiting concepts of matter and their consequent diseases and inharmonies. And she saw the healings effected by Jesus were due to the activity of this divine Principle of all true being.
For many years, Mrs. Eddy carefully tested her revelation. To all her questions she received an answer from the divine Mind. Through her spiritual understanding and her consecration to divine Love, she effected impressive healings.
She began to teach pupils and she watched the result of their growing understanding of the divine Mind and their application of the divine Principle, Love. The healing results repeated again and again showed her that supposed material laws are but the consequences of wrong values, the belief in a mind apart from the divine Mind. This supposed mind she named mortal mind. She saw how evil consequences, including physical diseases, disappeared before the correct understanding of the divine Mind and of spiritual substance.
For example, one day a teamster was run over in front of her house by his heavily loaded wagon, he was carried indoors, believed to be dead. Mrs. Eddy went to him and prayed. After a short time he became conscious, declared that he wasn't hurt and walked back to his team. (Historical Sketches From the Life Of Mary Baker Eddy and the History of Christian Science, p. 80, Clifford P. Smith)
As we consider this healing, it becomes clear what happened. The sick condition, as an objectification of mortal material thoughts, yielded when Mrs. Eddy turned thought away from the evidence of a damaged material body to the realization of Spirit, divine Mind, as the only substance, eternal and indestructible.
Let's look more closely at how this correct view of substance restores health. As long as we value health as a purely bodily condition, we're constantly troubled about the body. If we value health as spiritual, it's our thoughts that we'll watch. Because causation is mental, not material. It's not the physical body that gives us strength, well-being and efficiency. The body was never the origin of such qualities.
Healing lies in the realization that strength and well-being are purely spiritual, that they originate in a spiritual source and are therefore permanent. These qualities are inexhaustible, because they exist in divine Mind and proceed from it. Healing follows when under the impulsion of the Christ, Truth, we realize and acknowledge the spiritual nature of our substance.
Christian Science healing is the scientific recognition of our relationship to the divine Mind, the realization that man draws power from this inexhaustible source. If we allow this spiritual fact to take possession of our thinking, the symptoms of sickness disappear, because these can all be traced to our having lost sight of our relationship to the divine Mind.
For instance, a woman I know had a skin disease which caused loss of hair, so much so that many ugly spots appeared all over her head. The symptoms became noticeably worse, and she suffered from constant irritation. But, as a Christian Scientist, she knew that this must be a mental phenomenon and therefore it was thought that needed correction. She had to change from a belief in mortal mind to the acceptance of divine Mind as her only consciousness.
One day when she was studying Science and Health, her attention was drawn to this sentence, "Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul." (S&H p. 269) Immediately she consulted a dictionary and her thoughts rose from such words as "cover" and "protect" upwards to the concept of "love."
Here was the answer to her prayer. She turned away from the evidence of the physical senses and endeavored to reach a better understanding of true substance - the ever-presence of divine Love, governing all.
The spiritual fact of God as the divine Principle, Love, soon filled her consciousness to the exclusion of all else. For the first time in three months she had an undisturbed night's rest.
The next day she continued to yield her thinking to the divine Mind, to the spiritual facts, and to “exchange the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul.” That very same evening she inadvertently touched her head and felt that hair had begun to grow over the bald spots. Soon afterwards she regained her full head of hair and a healthy skin. She'd learned to value substance as wholly spiritual and therefore not subject to loss and destruction.
Not only our identity and our substance are spiritual. God, divine Mind, contains the solutions to all the paradoxes of material thinking with its continuous shifts and contradictions. It shows us that all truly reliable communication is spiritual. Listening to divine Mind, we recognize and make our own this constant spiritual inflow.
Material thinking produces an excess of communication. Excess because what is communicated remains, so to speak, undigested on the surface of consciousness. The result is confusion rather than an enlarged faculty of independent thinking, of correct reasoning and correct use of what is communicated.
Communication, then, often becomes pure entertainment and distraction. In spite of, or perhaps just because of this excess of communication and its possibilities for entertainment, individuals often become poor in deep inner experiences. They become deaf to spiritual communication.
One result of too much or wrongly used communication is it produces a tendency to drop out, simply to discontinue to participate, to exclude oneself from what we need to know in order to be well-informed. Drug addiction, as well as alcoholism, is another form of dropping out, the flight from what the world is telling us without the compass to heaven.
The reason for such phenomena is lack of attention to spiritual communication from the divine Mind. It means we're evading our proper task in human existence, namely to grow spiritually. Mrs. Eddy writes, "The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man." (S&H p. 284) God is Spirit, revealing Himself in ideas to those ready to hear. The reception of this spiritual communication makes us mature. Through it we learn to think independently, without the influence of false suggestions.
It's by prayer we protect ourselves against the supposed power of false communication. Prayer means to bring our thoughts into harmony with the divine Mind, Spirit - to put off a personal sense of mind for the one divine Mind.
Through prayer we learn to value communications correctly - to distinguish between our own and others' opinions on the one side and on the other side inspiration coming from a higher source.
As we attune our thinking to the divine source of communication, interference from material thoughts is phased out. Prayer isn't a mysterious process. Rather it's the revealing of our natural relationship to the real source of thought, the divine Mind. No one is excluded from thinking the thoughts of this one Mind.
Mrs. Eddy designates as "mortal mind" all material thinking, that is, thinking bounded by personality and shaped by the false values of the physical sense.
In the complexity of this personal thinking, the experiences of each one of us are a mirrored reflection of our state of consciousness, of what we feel, what we desire in our heart, as well as what we fear or accept from the thinking of others.
Mortal mind is self-mesmerism. It's nothing claiming to be something by constant repetition. Senseless repetition is a characteristic of mortal mind.
According to the misleading concepts of mortal thinking, an individual registers his experiences electrochemically in his brain, and then reacts to impressions of the material senses according to the patterns of thought thus stored in his memory. But Science and Health says: (p. 14) "Entirely separate from the belief and dream of material living, is the Life divine, revealing spiritual understanding and the consciousness of man's dominion over the whole earth." The automatic running off of patterns of thought in our experience can be stopped. If we reject such repetitious patterns of thought and listen to the ever fresh communications of divine Mind, those patterns cease to have any effect on our experience.
For example, on the Finnish-Russian front in Russia, I had an experience, that illustrates this. I was on a reconnaissance trip to find out enemy positions. At a distance of several meters, we individually combed a primeval forest with thick underbrush. Suddenly a Russian infantryman stood before me. Both of us held cocked machine-pistols, in shooting position. We were both drilled to automatically use our weapons under such circumstances.
However, my thoughts were in accord with the divine Mind; they weren't with mortal mind's patterns of thought and their automatic reactions, nor on the processes of war. I was unable to see an enemy in this man standing before me.
There wasn't a moment of time to make a decision. For me a higher law annulled the supposed law of automatic reaction. Instead of shooting, each of us stepped to his right and in the dense underbrush we didn't see each other again. Our camps were not disturbed during the night.
As Science and Health tells us, (p. 176) "When the mechanism of the human mind gives place to the divine Mind, selfishness and sin, disease and death, will lose their foothold."
When we listen in prayer to the communications of divine Mind, we begin to gain a greatly expanded view of reality. Being, valued spiritually, is unlimited. Its divine Principle is indestructible, unchangeable. God as the All-in-all of limitless spiritual being is never outdated.
God is God. If this statement isn't too sound tautological - turned in on itself - it must mean that it's impossible to reduce God to something more elementary. That's correct. God is self-existent, the cause of all things, the one infinite Ego or I AM.
Man, experiencing joy, or love or health says: I'm happy, loving, whole. He refers to the selfhood that reflects qualities of the I AM which is God. This man is the expression of the great I AM that can't be reduced to something still more elementary. God was revealed to Moses as the great I AM. The German translation of this Bible passage says, "I shall be who I shall be." (Ex. 3:14, German Translation) As we, like Moses, open thought to this great I AM, God will be to us what our increasing recognition and understanding of Him reveals. But in actuality He is always the unchanging, self-existent Being that man reflects.
Considering the infinitude of the universe, a speaker in the book of Job was moved to say, "Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!" (Job 22:12) His statement is still valid today. The writer of "Job" probably had little idea of what the stars really were; but he did see beyond the vision of the naked eye - and what he saw was the order-causing Principle, the powerful governing divine Mind that the stars hinted at. His values were right values, spiritual values.
According to present concepts, the universe expands at immense and unimaginable speed; but what is any relative speed if the fastest speed is ever-presence? Boundaries always denote having no further knowledge. Physical space is the concept of a limited material universe. Time is the concept of its limiting material processes. The expansion of good is without boundaries.
As we give attention to the communications of divine Mind, we see glorious qualities expressing God all around us in ways that correspond to our present comprehension. We perceive symbols that increasingly have a spiritual dimension behind them. The limitations and the distorted outlines of these symbols disappear gradually through spiritual growth. Then, as the symbols fade, the unchanged original, which has always existed, appears in an ever clearer light and our values correspond to the perfect spiritual forms of the divine universe. In this way the shoutings of material thought are silenced and divine Mind conveys to us the fullness of reality - spiritual identity, spiritual substance, spiritual communication.
The same divine Mind that gave us spiritual impulses as children or at different times as grown-ups still speaks to us. Our valuing of its impulses may have been limited, also often wrong when we thought only of material or personal selfhood. But divine Mind hasn't changed with the passing of millions of years, nor has it grown older. As we read in the Bible, God is He who "was, and is, and is to come . . . who liveth for ever and ever." (Rev. 4:8,9)
Thinking based on the material sense of things presumes that each of us has a personal independent mind living in a material body, subject to its conditions. But if we turn completely from the supposition of a material origin to the recognition of Spirit, God, as All-in-all, then we begin to see the real man in ourselves and in our fellow-beings. We see true identity as an individualized expression of this one great divine Mind which is divine Love. We find unchanging and eternal substance. And the continuous shifting of our human theories yields to an invariable divine evaluation of what is real and true - the limitless spiritual universe and its unchanging divine Principle, Love, that was, is, and shall be.
And this unchanging reality isn't an ending. With it we've found the basis Mrs. Eddy tells us of in Science and Health, (p. 258) "God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis." It's from this spiritual basis we learn to value all things rightly.