The Consciousness of the Healing Christ
John A. Grant, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
In a lecture given in
Mr. Grant, a member of The
Christian Science Board of Lectureship, was born in
This lecture was sponsored by the members of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston. Mr. Grant was introduced by Veronica Ragatz, a local member of The Mother Church.
An abridged text of the lecture follows:
We hear a lot today about the rapid development of computer technology. We also hear and read much about consciousness - human consciousness - and the need to expand consciousness, or raise consciousness so as to improve the quality of human life.
In that contrast between computer and consciousness there's a great deal to think about. Of course, a computer is never a conscious being. But the earliest computers were known as mechanical brains, and some knowledge of them can give us some insight into the workings of the human brain. It can illustrate the widely held belief that mind is in matter - and therefore that consciousness can be merely material. That assumption is open to challenge. And it is challenged even by some physical scientists.
Today we're exploring the nature of spiritual consciousness, which has the power to heal - in other words, the consciousness of the healing Christ.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was acutely aware of the negative, mechanical nature of much that passes for human thought - as opposed to real consciousness. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," in a chapter entitled "Physiology," she makes this revealing statement: "When the mechanism of the human mind gives place to the divine Mind, selfishness and sin, disease and death, will lose their foothold" (p. 176).
What is one way we might describe this "mechanism of the human mind"? Well, it could be easily illustrated by such examples as that TV commercial, a line from a popular song, the snatch of a haunting melody that keeps running through your head even when you don't want to think it. And you can't seem to stop it. You're like a computer repeating itself - or on mechanism, so to speak. Later we'll explore how this mechanism is to be brought under control - God's control.
First, let's define real Mind - the Mind to which the mechanism is to give place. This Mind is God. Because there is only one God, there can be only one Mind, One infinite Mind is the only source of real consciousness or intelligence - the intelligence of every one of us here today. The supposed opposite of this one infinite Mind is the world's belief in many minds - the belief that each one of us has a separate little personal mind of our own residing in a human brain and nervous system.
Seeing the oneness of God is liberating
This belief of mind in matter, or
the mind of mortals, Christian Science very logically terms mortal mind.
The term is synonymous with
Just think of it! One infinite Mind has to be absolutely unlimited - all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present.
Christian Science is the Science of healing through divine Mind, God. The Scriptures tell us that God is Spirit, one God, with none else beside Him, and that man is His image and likeness. Individual spiritual man, then, is the manifestation, or showing forth, of this one infinite Spirit, which is infinite Mind. Man is not an entity apart from Mind expressing Mind, but Mind's own outpouring of Himself, as pure individual spiritual idea.
This perfect, individual, spiritual man is the real God-expressing selfhood of each and every one of us. As the Bible puts it in First John: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be" (I John 3:2). No matter what we appear to be, this is the present spiritual fact, that "now are we the sons of God."
This great spiritual fact of man's sonship with God was perfectly understood and taught and radically lived by Christ Jesus.
The Gospel of John is full of Jesus' statements about his intimate relationship to his heavenly Father, the divine Mind. On one occasion he said, "I and my Father are one" (John ). And another time: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. . . . I can of mine own self do nothing: . . . the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me" (John , 30, 37).
Jesus is our beloved Way-shower, our Saviour, the Founder of Christianity. His ongoing sense of his eternal spiritual identity as the Son of God, the Christ, was so clear, so pure, and hence so strong, it enabled him to heal instantaneously every kind of physical disability. It enabled him to raise the dead; feed the multitudes; walk over the waves; and still the storm. And yet he said that his followers should do the works that he did. After all, as it said in First John, '' now are we the sons of God," too! So this same God-expressing selfhood is ours to claim - and we have every right and reason to claim it.
The redemptive mission of the Christ
As we strive to follow our great Way-shower, it is not surprising that we run into the same old problems of sin, disease, and death that Jesus encountered, problems that he solved so perfectly. These problems present themselves to us - and this is very important - in the disguise of our own thought, suggesting to us, sometimes very persuasively, that we are really mortals dealing with other mortals; that our identity is in matter; that we are not expressing the healing Christ — or sometimes even that we can't express the healing Christ.
What is this Christ? Science and Health in one place defines the "Christ" as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (p. 583). This definition highlights the healing, redemptive mission of the Christ coming right to the flesh - to what we seem to be - to destroy, not the flesh, but the errors of sin, disease, and death embodied in the flesh; in other words, the "incarnate error."
Christian Science comes to assure us with great compassion that we really never were mortals. That we aren't now, and we never will be. It shows us there's only one real Mind, which is God. And His expression is individual spiritual man.
Now we're ready to explore further what is meant by "the mechanism of the human mind," or, in other words, the computer, which is merely the material side of human consciousness. When you consider the contrast between even the most sophisticated of computers and a really intelligent human being, you can see a great difference. A computer is never truly conscious. But beyond that, the computer can never measure in terms of moral and spiritual values. This isn't a dismissal of computers per se. Not so by any means. Computers have enormously increased our capacity to catalog, process, and store all kinds of helpful information, and to make it rapidly available and operable. In this way they have broken down limitations for mankind. And for that we can be very grateful. But for the purposes of our discussion, the computer simply serves as a useful analogy to illustrate both the workings and the weaknesses of a merely matter-based mentality.
So let's see what's involved in having the mechanism of the human mind give place to the divine Mind. We'll find that it involves a vigorous and often rigorous discipline. I'm going to share with you an Army experience in World War II that illustrates this point.
When I entered basic training as a combat engineer, the attitude of most of the men in my group was one of great frustration. Many were having a terrible time adjusting to Army discipline. After a couple of weeks of training, my turn came to be "barracks orderly" for the day. This meant I'd be alone in the barracks cleaning, while the others were out training. I looked forward to a quiet, peaceful time; but more than that, to an opportunity to do some earnest praying to cope with the mental turmoil.
Spiritual discipline establishes order
As I set about cleaning I turned in thought to the Lord's Prayer (see Matt. 6:9-13). But before I had finished praying the first few words - "Our Father which art . . ." - my thoughts were scattered in every direction without my knowing it. It was at least half an hour before I realized what had happened. As soon as I did, I started again at the beginning. I got only a word or two farther before my thought again went off on a tangent. And I didn't know it for another 20 minutes.
The mental atmosphere of rebellion and frustration constantly intruded. But this made me more determined than ever to persist with the prayer. Each time I became conscious of having been distracted I went back to the beginning and started over. And this may surprise you, but I wasn't able to get clear to the end of the prayer - not in five or six hours of persistent effort.
And yet that effort wasn't in vain, because by the end of the day I really felt the presence of the healing Christ. The whole mental atmosphere in the barracks seemed to me to be greatly improved. And from then on the training went much more smoothly for everyone, all of this as a result of this day of prayer. This impressed me with the great value of spiritually disciplining thought.
My experience illustrates the unruliness of the mental mechanism, which can come to the surface when we make a disciplined effort to spiritualize thought.
Now let's take up a subtle aspect of unruly mechanism. Have you ever noticed yourself feeling that you were having a silent mental conversation with someone who wasn't present? First, these mental conversations perpetuate a sense of controversy. Beyond that, if our thought is tinged with pride or self-justification, they can become an obsession which weaves a dark mental curtain shutting out the light of the ever-present Christ. This interferes with our communion with God - with being truly conscious. It may take a disciplined, consecrated effort to stop the wrong mental action and return to spiritual realization.
'Make a joyful noise . . .'
Not all unruliness is that subtle. Sometimes mental distractions are blatant and aggressive - coming as sudden fears, surges of anger and resentment, or the nagging of doubt and discouragement. It may seem as though our silent declarations of truth and denials of error are inadequate - even our audible ones. Then is the time to utilize a great biblical weapon in our warfare with error. Do you know what it is? It's to sing. To sing hymns of praise and gratitude to God. The Bible has numerous instances of those who were faced with overwhelming odds and won their way to victory by singing praises to God. That's what the book of Psalms is all about! So sing - even if you think you can't carry a tune! The Psalmist says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord" (Ps. 100:1). It's the spirit of it that counts.
There's another distinction I need to make. And that is that what we've been talking about is very different from relying on mere positive thinking, which depends on the human mind and can be motivated by human will. In Christian Science we turn unreservedly to God in prayer. We reach out to our Father-Mother Mind to realize that right now each one of us in our real spiritual being is the beloved son and daughter of God. Ourselves, and not only ourselves, but everyone, everywhere. We can't leave anyone out. We try to be alert to detect and reject anything that denies the absolute allness of God's goodness and the wonderful goodness of God's allness. And we persist in that discipline until the mechanism of the human mind begins to give place to the divine Mind - and we feel again the presence, or the consciousness, of the healing Christ.
Many years ago my phone rang one morning and the voice of a complete stranger began to pour out a tale of woe. The caller said she had severely injured her foot hiking in the mountains with her two children. She had to hobble back to her car six or seven miles in considerable pain. She said the children had been unsympathetic and uncooperative, and this had filled her with resentment. When she finally reached home after a long drive, she went straight to bed and stayed there for several days, waiting for her foot to get better. But it didn't. It gradually got worse. Although she was a Christian Scientist, she was doing almost nothing to help herself through prayer. She seemed sunk in a sort of stupor of self-pity. She conveyed to me a quaintly comical voice.
Man's true structure
At the moment she called, my thought was filled with inspiration from pondering the beautiful definition of "Church" in Science and Health. The first part reads: "The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle" (p. 583). As I listened to this account of suffering, I saw at once that I was being presented with its exact opposite, or contradiction. Which was I going to take into my consciousness as true and real - the material-sense testimony of injury or the inspired spiritual-sense evidence of perfect spiritual structure?
I poured out the best sense I felt I could convey of spiritual structure as perfect and indestructible. That phrase "the structure of Truth and Love" may seem a little abstract. Really, it shouldn't. It's a statement of absolute truth, which has wide application to the solving of human problems. When you think about such things as the structure of the economy, the structure of government, or even such simple things as the structure of a sentence or a paragraph, it's easy to see that these structures are primarily mental concepts of an orderly framework. But beyond this, we can lift our thought of structure to a spiritually mental concept - a perfect and infinite spiritual idea, structure, conceived by divine Mind and held eternally perfect in that Mind.
This spiritual idea, structure, was filling my consciousness with joy and gratitude and love. I felt the presence of the healing Christ. I felt certain within myself that the caller's need was being met. After some time she called back and acknowledged that she was healed.
In recent years when she knew me better, she told me how she remembered this experience. She said she had called reluctantly in the first place, because her husband, not a Christian Scientist, had finally insisted that she do something about her condition - either get help in Christian Science or call a doctor. So she was confused, depressed, rebellious, and resentful. She said that when she'd told me her troubles I had spontaneously burst into laughter. And that made her very angry, and she said to herself, "What kind of nut have I called this time?" Then she said I talked to her about Church. But she'd obediently written down the reference about it and promised to study it. When she put down the receiver, she discovered to her amazement that she was completely healed. She couldn't believe it until she'd run up and down a flight of stairs four times to be quite sure.
Restoring right action
Perhaps it occurred to someone that it was rather heartless of a practitioner to laugh at an account of suffering, no matter how comically voiced. But look at what happened! It turned out to be what penetrated the darkened thought of a self-centered, negative mental mechanism. It was like snapping on the light switch in a darkened room. And when the light of the Christ dispelled the darkness, "the mechanism of the human mind" gave place to the divine Mind - and the suffering simply vanished into nothingness.
Mrs. Eddy spells out in clear terms the way regeneration and restoration can take place even in disturbed or anguished human thought. She writes: "A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 354).
Did you notice that phrase "restore the right action of the mental mechanism" - through the activity of the Christ?
Let's think about what might put us in need of restoration. Sometimes there is a traumatic experience in the midst of which we need immediate comfort and healing. But more often thought is distorted by habits that sneak up on us and gradually become entrenched. For instance, there's the bad habit of compulsive talking, the bad habit of gossip - far more common than we like to think; the bad habit of negative criticism - much more destructive than we usually realize. Then there are the bad habits of procrastination, self-depreciation, self-condemnation.
All of those distortions of thought are helpfully illustrated by going back to our computer analogy. When wrong information is fed into a computer it can go into what is called a "loop." That is, it goes on round and round, producing an endless series of wrong or meaningless answers. But, most significantly, it can't stop itself. Doesn't that illustrate how a bad habit keeps on going? When we're on mechanism we're not truly conscious.
What's going on to break us out of this "computer loop" of a bad habit? A stern, harsh discipline of the human mind? No. Look at the characteristics of thought that Mrs. Eddy indicated: more grace, a purified motive, a few truths tenderly told, a softened heart, a subdued character, a consecrated life. Doesn't this just breathe the gentle spirit of the Christ!
Turn in thought now to the healing work of Christ Jesus and see how he refused to react with "mechanism" to demanding situations, but rather maintained a calm, unhurried consciousness of the Christ.
Picture a scene that's described in three of the Gospels (see Mark 5:22-43; Matt. 9:18-25; Luke 8:41-56). Jesus is surrounded by a great crowd of people. He's approached by Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, who pleads with him to hurry to his home to heal his dying 12-year-old daughter. Jesus immediately consents to go with him. But he's slowed by the great throng of people. Out of the crowd comes a woman who reaches out for Jesus' help. The moment she touches the hem of his robe she feels sure she is healed. Instantly Jesus turns and asks, "Who touched my clothes?" His pure spiritual consciousness detects this unspoken mental call for help and he gives it his full attention. He doesn't say, "I'm in a hurry to rescue a dying child and I haven't time for this." He calmly compels the woman to acknowledge what she has done, which must have been very difficult for her. Then, with great compassion he explains that what has happened thus far is the result of her human faith. He says, "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole." But he doesn't leave it there. With the authority of the Christ he goes on to declare, "Go in peace, and be whole of thy plague" - thereby establishing the healing irreversibly on the basis of his understanding of the Christ.
At this moment a messenger arrives to tell Jairus it's too late. But Jesus is ready for that one. He firmly assures Jairus, "Be not afraid, only believe."
'Become as little children,' the Master said
Then, taking with him three of his disciples and Jairus, he comes to the house where the customary weeping and wailing are already in progress. When Jesus challenges the cause of their grief, the mourners laugh him to scorn. So again, with total authority, he puts them all out. And that's very important. He shuts out the clamor of mortal thought that's not really concerned with the case, which is wonderfully reassuring to those individuals who are. Then, when he takes the child by the hand and commands, "Damsel, I say unto thee, arise," she does!
Nor is that all. Notice the aftercare. He senses the need to instruct the parents to feed her and to tell no one of the healing - thereby sheltering the case from the intrusion of antagonistic thought.
We may well ponder this beautiful example of our great Master's healing work - his gentle intuitiveness and his powerful decisiveness. And we can strive to grow spiritually to the point where we may become more intuitive and decisive in our healing work. Jesus said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3) - the consciousness of the Christ. As we strive to become truly childlike - innocent, pure, spontaneous - with an inner listening to make way for the Christ in our consciousness, we may sense that our thought is hurried, worried, pressured, fretful, or tense. Then we may know that we are "on mechanism," so to speak. So then it's helpful to say to ourselves, "All right now, it's time to shut off the motor." Then we can more easily - because we understand what we're doing - rededicate ourselves to inner listening.
I'm going to speak now of one who, from early childhood listened for God's voice, and obeyed what she heard, and thereby discovered the great truth underlying Christ Jesus' healing work. Her discovery opened the way for what she refers to as the reinstatement of "primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing" ("Manual of The Mother Church," p. 17). When the Church of Christ, Scientist, was founded just over 100 years ago, in 1879, this was its stated purpose: "To organize a church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing."
I'm referring, of course, to the, Discoverer of Christian Science and the Founder of its Church, Mary Baker Eddy. She was a woman of indomitable courage and extraordinary, rugged integrity. She had to have these qualities to survive the storms of criticism and persecution that swirled around her from time to time. She soon found that her discovery of the Science of the healing Christ aroused strong opposition in some quarters of both pulpit and press. And yet many who sharply disagreed with the teachings of Christian Science conceded that Mrs. Eddy was brilliant and farseeing in organizing her Church.
She was incredibly versatile. While she could be tremendously forceful in directing the activities of her new Church, never hesitating to persist in a course of action when she felt divinely guided, at the same time she was possessed of a motherly tenderness and compassion. She had a huge capacity for human affection, not only for her own followers, but for all mankind. And like the great Way-shower, whom she humbly followed, she had deep love for children and found special joy in healing them.
An interesting healing is recorded by the Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson in his book, "Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy" (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1966, pp. 60-62).
A young girl healed
One Fourth of July, Mrs. Eddy had
invited her followers to visit her home in
"When these two little ones . . . arrived in front of Mrs. Eddy," he says, "they stopped the whole procession and stood looking up into her face smiling joyously. Mrs. Eddy looked at them and then looked at the mother, and smiled back at the children, as someone told them to pass along. This is the mother's account of her illuminating experience:
" 'I wish I could make the world know what I saw when Mrs. Eddy looked at those children. It was a revelation to me. I saw for the first time the real Mother-Love, and I knew that I did not have it.' "
The little girl had had an inflamed and painful boil on the top of her head. The mother records: "When we got back to the hotel, there was no boil on my child's head. It was just as flat as the back of her hand.''
Isn't that a beautiful illustration of the consciousness of the healing Christ that Mrs. Eddy so spontaneously radiated - and what a touching example of her love of children.
In the past few years the press has made us aware of the great needs of children worldwide. Relating that universal need to our topic this afternoon, there's something each one of us can do to help the world's millions of children. We can care enough to embrace them in our consciousness of the healing Christ, through our prayers. We can affirm their indestructible spiritual relationship to their heavenly Father-Mother, God. We can strengthen our prayers by a conscious discipline, reaching out to realize the power of the Christ to come to the flesh to destroy the errors that would rob the world's children of their God-given heritage of health and holiness and happiness and freedom. What a great contribution each of us can make, not alone to the world's children, but really to all mankind, by embracing them in our consciousness of the healing Christ.
In the beautiful words of a hymn adapted from John Greenleaf Whittier's poem:
He stood of old, the holy Christ,
Amid the suffering throng,
With whom his lightest touch sufficed
To make the weakest strong.
That healing gift God gives to them
Who use it in His name;
The power that filled the garment's hem
Is evermore the same.
"The power that filled the garment's hem" is indeed the consciousness of the healing Christ.
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 7, 1981.]