Do You Know Who You Really Are?
Lenore D. Hanks, C.S.B., of Portland, Oregon
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The human personality does not give a complete or
accurate picture of what man is - "It's our spiritual identity that
counts" - said a Christian Science lecturer in Boston, Monday night,
The ways in which people identify themselves is crucially important to everything else in life, Lenore D. Hanks noted.
“There is something more to each of us than appears on the surface," she said. "Our five senses don't begin to tell us who or what we really are." Human personality "only hints a reality that is far better."
Mrs. Hanks spoke to a large
audience in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in
The following is a partial text of the lecture.
There can be no more important question for us to think about than the one we're going to discuss this evening: Do you know who you really are?
We don't have to talk to many individuals or read very far today to realize there's considerable discontent among people. This often stems from a thwarted feeling - a feeling that they have never had the opportunity or don't know how to express what they really are. Their high hopes haven't been realized. And they don't quite know why. . . .
This all indicates a need, doesn't it? A great need. It also indicates that a discussion on identity can have very practical value. . . .
But, first of all, what do we mean by identity?
Well, how do we identify anything? By its characteristics don't we? For example, why do we call this a table? Because it has legs and a flat surface upon which we can place things - my books for instance. Of course these simple identifying characteristics are easy to recognize or determine.
But what about man? Now what are the identifying characteristics of man? Most of us carry something we can use as identification - our driver's license perhaps.
Just how does your driver's license identify you? It tells the color of your hair and eyes. It gives your height, weight, and age.
But does this really identify you? Think of a friend or an acquaintance - what is it that makes you love or admire that person? Isn't it the qualities the individual expresses?
Now it's true our first impression may come through the physical senses, how a person looks or talks, but these reactions may be modified or replaced as we learn to know what that individual is really like.
What makes a man or a woman successful? Certain characteristics, isn't it? Education, experience, training - all may be involved - but these without honesty, dependability, initiative, consideration for others, and so forth don't mean much.
Expression of God
In other words, we are known by the qualities we express. If they are good, this is how we're identified. And it is these good qualities, along with those that aren't so good, that make up the human personality.
But to accept this personality as our true individuality isn't accurate, isn't enough. It's our spiritual identity that counts.
We have just seen what we mean by physical identity. But what is this spiritual identity I'm referring to?
For generations theologians have talked about a soul. Some people have accepted it is something nebulous which is supposed to enter the body at birth and leave at death - and would seem to be our link with immortality. I'm not talking about that. I'm not talking about an unknown soul of which we have no proof.
What I am talking about is the nature of man as the expression of the one God who is Soul.
Christian Science reveals God as Spirit, Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Principle, Soul - all names for God found or implied in the Bible. It is God as Soul who is the source of man's identity. And it is God as Soul which imparts the spiritual insight to recognize and understand our true identity.
It is this identity which stems from Soul that is our immortality right now - our only real selfhood. It is always tangible to spiritual sense.
There is much to be learned about this true nature of ours, and how to apply this knowledge to our daily living.
Our individual expression of the qualities of God is what we call our spiritual identity. You have it and I have it. But we need to become more aware of it. We need to realize that it's only as we live these qualities in our present experience that the knowledge of our spiritual identity can be of any real help to us.
There can be nothing of greater importance to the solving of mankind's problems, because this spiritual selfhood is the true nature of everyone, everywhere. It is the blueprint for our living.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, emphasizes this over and over again.
For example, she says, in her book "Miscellaneous Writings" (pp. 60 and 61):
"Every material belief hints the existence of spiritual reality." Then she continues, "and if mortals are instructed in spiritual things, it will be seen that material belief, in all its manifestations, reversed, will be found the type and representative of verities priceless, eternal, and just at hand."
This is what we need to see about the human personality - that it only hints a reality that is far better and just at hand. This reality is our spiritual identity. . . .
An individual in a testimony in one of the Christian Science periodicals put it this way, "All the trouble anyone ever has comes from thinking about the physical nobody which he is not, instead of appreciating the spiritual somebody which he really is."
Our physical senses don't begin to tell us who or what we really are. Only God, Spirit, can do this.
When you come to think about it, do these senses tell us anything really important about a person? Do they discern love, sincerity, gratitude, for example?
No. Yet these and many other fine qualities exist and we recognize them. Soul sense, which God imparts, gives us this awareness.
If we accept only what our physical senses tell us, we're making a big mistake. For these senses never see anything exactly as it is. . . .
We need to understand that there is something more to us than our physical senses reveal. Our need is to cultivate our spiritual sense in order to see this - in order to see through the limitations of material thought.
Actually there isn't anyone here who doesn't have spiritual awareness. If we didn't we couldn't recognize love, truthfulness, kindness, integrity, and countless other qualities which-belong to man's identity, yet find their expression in varying degrees in human consciousness.
Your eyes don't see these qualities. They are no part of the physical make-up at all. . . . They are the spiritual characteristics of our true selfhood. As we express them we lift our consciousness above the purely material.
You know how good it makes you feel when you've done something you know is right. This is spiritual energy working in the human consciousness bringing to light your Godlike nature. . . .
How do we develop this type of energy?
Whenever we go out of our way to be loving, refuse to criticize, tell the truth when it would be easier to lie, refuse to admit discouragement, sickness, when the temptation would be just to go down under it, we are using spiritual energy.
You see, every effort we make to express the spiritual qualities which belong to our true identity sets certain spiritual forces into motion. These forces work in our behalf to overcome the false suggestions of material sense. This spiritual activity or energy brings the power of divine Mind to bear upon the particular condition. It evokes the law of God which corrects and heals.
So, it's important for us to remember that every right motive and act brings spiritual energy, power, and law into our experience. This is the way of salvation. For God's law is a law of deliverance and restoration.
Here is the reason it is so valuable to identify ourselves by spiritual qualities in order that we may utilize this power and law. Jesus' life was the perfect example of this - of what can be accomplished when spiritual identity is understood and spiritual energy used.
The Christ, or Truth, was Jesus' true selfhood. He so clearly identified himself with the qualities of the Christ, its authority, purity, humility, love, its practical truth and deathlessness, that he won the title of Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus. He never allowed his human selfhood to be identified with anything less, but was constantly about his Father's business - the business of expressing true manhood.
The author of Hebrews refers to him as being "the brightness of his [God's] glory, and the express image of his person" (1:3).
Jesus' premise was spiritual perfection. His mission was to teach others to identify themselves with the Christ-spirit through living the qualities of Truth and Love. He never forgot that his true nature was one with God, his source. Nor did he lower his standard when contemplating his fellow men.
The premise of perfection was the basis of Jesus' marvelous achievements. He refused to believe what the material senses present. Instead he held to the perfect man he knew God had created and endowed with spiritual qualities.
Refusing to believe false material views helps to deliver us from them. We're able to do this because the Christ is a power not limited to Jesus' day only, but the Truth that animated his living. This Christ, Truth, can do the same for us.
It was the Christ with Jesus, and it is the Christ with us revealing the perfect man right where there seems to be this sham we call a mortal. Right where there seems to be a physical nobody. . . .
A father came into a practitioner's office asking help for his young daughter. Several physicians had declared the child fatally ill with a disease which affected her sight, hearing, reflexes, and brain. Because of its rarity, no way had been found for them to treat it. The mother wasn't a Christian Scientist, but she consented to have help for her daughter at the father's request.
Since there was to be no medical treatment or medication, the practitioner agreed to help the child. Because the little girl was no longer able to keep up with her class, she was taken out of school and taught at home.
The basic error here, as in every problem that faces any of us, was the undestroyed material belief that man is mortal.
What the practitioner did was to firmly challenge this false belief in human consciousness with the application of the truth of man's spirituality. She turned away from material sense and focused her thought on what she knew to be real and true.
She declared and pondered God's allness and goodness, His perfection, and the perfection of the man He had created. She prayed to see that God's likeness was the only identity the child could have.
And then she knew these truths were present right now to correct the false beliefs.
Soon the child began to improve. Christian Science treatment was continued. There was such progress by fall the child returned to school. And in the spring she was pronounced well by the same physicians who had declared the condition incurable. She has continued to lead a happy, normal life.
What occurred here is illustrated in a statement from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy (p. 210):
"Knowing that Soul and its attributes were forever manifested through man, the Master healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, feet to the lame, thus bringing to light the scientific action of the divine Mind on human minds and bodies and giving a better understanding of Soul and salvation."
Jesus knew that health is a spiritual attribute forever reflected by man. Therefore it can never be removed from man's identity. In the measure that we, too, understand this, we keep ourselves identified with health and express it. This breaks the belief and fear of ill health.
By the same token, Jesus could give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, because the spiritual faculties of seeing and hearing are attributes belonging to God, and reflected by man.
We can identify ourselves with these faculties, understand that we are never separated from them, that they can't weaken, wear out, or change in any way. This helps us to maintain normal sight and hearing.
Divinity reaches humanity
Jesus gave feet to the lame. He saw man as constantly identified by perfection. Healing and being were synonymous to Jesus.
They can be so for us, too.
There is a magnificence in the achievement of Jesus, and perhaps it is something of this magnificence humanity yearns for today. In proportion as we let the Christ qualities into our consciousness, this yearning will be satisfied.
You see, in the measure that the Christ, Truth, is understood, it is a present power working in the human consciousness overcoming false traits of personality through a higher and better evaluation of man's spiritual identity.
This is brought out in the definition of the Christ in Science and Health (p. 583), "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error."
It is the means by which divinity reaches humanity. It is the means by which we work out our salvation. And as we live them, we triumph over the limitations materiality would claim to impose.
A few of these spiritual qualities which give us a sure means of triumph as we express them are humility, intelligence, purity, and mercy.
One definition of humility is submission to divine will. That is exactly what we mean by it here. It comes from daily recognizing no power but that of God, divine Mind, and seeing ourselves subject only to that power.
Here we can find triumph over the belief of a diseased body. When we can humbly see the body of itself cannot act: that it can't create or develop anything; but that growth, action, and function are spiritually mental; and that divine Mind alone governs all - when we can see this, we are bringing the flesh into submission to Spirit, and this is our triumph over it. . . .
This is shown in the case of a little girl who had been ill for some time with a high fever; and, while she was having help through prayer in Christian Science, there had been no improvement.
The mother was spending most of her time with her daughter. She would sleep for a few hours at night, then slip back into the child's room to see how she was before the rest of the family arose.
One morning she questioned her motives. What was she going in there to see? She knew she had declared God's power and allness. Where was her trust? Illness wasn't His will.
So, instead of satisfying human will by checking up on her daughter, she stayed in bed and pondered these great truths. She continued to hold to these spiritual facts while dressing.
It took much silencing of human will to walk quietly past the child's door and proceed to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. But she did so affirming God's will to be present now.
The first of the household to appear was her little daughter, happy and free. No period of recuperation was necessary.
We need to be humble enough to see God's will expressed as power in the physical realm always recognizing His ability to meet the present need. This requires silencing the human will which would oppose Him and hide our real identity.
It is important to see this. The qualities of God can't appear unless there is an identity to express them. They need man in order to find expression. They can't even appear in our human lives unless we live them.
We have joy, for example, only as we express it.
But we can know that in our true identity all these qualities are forever established because divine Love has given them to us. We can utilize this knowledge to bring them into our present experience by holding to them in our thoughts.
Take intelligence, for instance.
Intelligence is of no value unexpressed. Just to say, "It's going to take a lot of intelligence to work out this problem" isn't enough. But to maintain that as the reflection of divine Mind, we express intelligence, and keep claiming this fact until the solution is reached - this is constructive.
To consistently utilize intelligence, we must remember that it doesn't originate in a brain, and isn't possessed in varying degrees by different individuals. It is a spiritual attribute of God always expressed by real identity. We must claim it as ours now and use it constantly.
A young man I know was facing his college entrance examinations. He needed to make a good showing in order to enter the school of his choice. So he talked with a practitioner.
It was pointed out to him that all the mental qualities and capacities he needed were always present in his identity. He could see that and it took away his fear. Later he reported that the examination went fine. . . .
When questioned as to what he did, he said:
"I just kept holding to the fact that divine Mind is ever present, and that Mind is being expressed by me; therefore I couldn't forget. And because man expresses unlimited intelligence and ability from his divine source, everything I needed to know was right there."
Now this sounds simple and it is, but do you see what happened? This knowledge of his spiritual identity, held to, became a law to his human experience, and so it can for us. Then we are fulfilling our divine purpose.
In referring to God's purpose for man, Isaiah quotes God as saying, "I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him . . . therefore ye are my witnesses saith the Lord, that I am God" (43:7, 12).
So here is our purpose for being - to witness to God. When we're really doing this, when we're really expressing the qualities of God, we're somebody, a spiritual somebody. We're letting our spiritual identity shine through.
Now this not only sounds fine theoretically. It has tremendous potential for us right here.
I remember when I studied geometry, each lesson in the math book had a proposition at the top of the page. Then the problems given were to be solved by putting that proposition into practice.
This same kind of demand is made when we seek to express our spiritual identity. We take for our proposition the perfection of God as Truth and man as His exact image. Then we work from that standpoint.
As with Christ Jesus, our premise is threefold: that God is perfect Mind; that He has created man as the spiritual expression of all that He is; and that He is the sole creator.
Then there can't be two creations, can there? There can't be two of us, only one. And we have no choice but to conclude that our spiritual identity is real and this mortal selfhood is nothing more than a mistaken mental concept.
This false selfhood, the physical nobody, which appears to be us, is nothing more than the result of human thinking - a bundle of beliefs, usually wrong. These beliefs aren't you or me. They are beliefs about you and me that seem to form and govern the physical body.
The physical body is the outward expression of what we're thinking or have accepted into our thinking - the objectification of thought.
We've seen this proved many times. Take a simple example:
Say you come home after a very full day. Nothing is going to get you off that davenport all evening.
Then the phone rings, and you're invited out that night to do something you have always wanted to do. What happens? You jump up exhilarated, excited, enthusiastic.
Where did the tiredness go? Your muscles, nerves and bones haven't changed. The weariness was never in them. It was in your thinking, and you changed your thinking.
When we can see that the only real selfhood we have is constantly receiving its strength and health, supply, and joy from God, the unlimited source of all good, then we're not going to be tempted to accept weakness or lack or unhappiness. We need to realize because this physical body is formed mentally we have the ability to control it mentally.
The big thing to see is that our real life isn't in a physical body, but is reflected by our spiritual identity. The physical body is the belief, the physical nobody. And as we hold to our true identity, in our thinking, we will have a better sense of body. . . . This is a purifying process. . . .
One of the religious tenets of Christian Science reads, "And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure" (Science and Health p. 497).
To be pure is to be free from the materiality that would keep us in bondage. It is that Christlike quality which brings freedom from any sort of adulteration. Through purification of thought, self-will, self-justification, and self-love are dissolved.
This demands effort - real spiritual energy - and while we can never neglect the human footsteps leading to absolute purity, the way is easier if we don't forget that in our real identity we are pure now.
Knowing this enables us to prove it progressively. Each moment that we acknowledge our God-given purity, yield to it and live it, we are bringing truth to bear upon the circumstance whether it is disease, discord, or sin.
A woman was having Christian Science treatment for a painful condition in her breast. She was praying to see this as supposition and no part of her true identity.
But one morning she reported to the practitioner that the evidence had appeared externally. She was asked if she was giving any power to the claim that surgery was the only answer for certain conditions.
This awakened her thought. And she went to work to purify her consciousness of the fear that she might have something within her that needed to be removed. She realized that she wasn't a diseased mortal made of matter but a perfect spiritual being, and she knew it.
Annihilation of disease
Such prayer silenced the fear that was trying to contaminate the purity of her thought. In a short time all evidence of the disease disappeared.
We can't have purity and malignancy in the same place.
So right where the body would claim to manifest such a fear, or right in that corner of thinking that might have a horror of malignancy, right here we must see God's control. See Him in all His love embracing us. See His pure substance right here, indestructible and diseaseless. See His allness with no room for such an unlikeness. See His law acting as annihilation to all that would claim destruction. See ourselves as we really are, untainted by materiality in any form.
As we begin to prove the perfection of our real being for ourselves, we have a great desire to share this understanding. This is the spiritual quality of mercy finding human expression in compassion for others. It means thoughtfulness and loving-kindness.
But through the recognition of our true identity we are led a step further, to reach that depth of mercy which, until Mrs. Eddy's discovery, the world hasn't known since the time of Jesus:
It is the quality of divine mercy that refuses to believe the cruel suggestion that our fellow being is sick, sinful, or in poverty. It is divine mercy which turns from these lies mentally to seek true identity safe and intact, untouched by any such beliefs?
This quality of mercy found potent expression in the life of the Leader of the Christian Science movement. One of her early students said, "Mrs. Eddy presented two aspects to her pupils which were so perfectly blended that one gained, in her presence, the feeling of her perfect harmony with Life.
"One aspect was her clear and unfailing spiritual sense, her unswerving reliance on God; her consciousness of His ever presence, and of His nearness, as a friend is near.
"The other aspect was her great humanity" ("We Knew Mary Baker Eddy," First Series, p. 80).
Here was a woman who had so closely identified herself with this attribute of mercy she couldn't be content to accept this revelation of God's power for her own betterment and comfort alone.
Yearning to see the burdens lifted from all mankind, she gave up everything in the way of family, home, and comfortable living in order that she might give to the world what she had learned - that others might be blessed by what she had discovered.
Her biographies are filled with accounts of her tender thoughtfulness; of the many things she did for those in need. She was constantly reaching out to help more people with the truth she was proving.
So she published her writings, lectured, organized a church, founded several periodicals and finally established an international daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor.
This quality of mercy expressed in her great humanity exemplified her clear understanding of man's true spiritual identity. Like Christ Jesus, she knew the man of God's creating is spiritual and perfect no matter what the material appearance might be.
She also knew that for every discordant belief in the human consciousness there is a spiritual quality established in our true identity which will help to correct or overcome that particular belief.
Spiritual qualities then are the bridge, the link, we might say, between our present experience and the truth of being. As we live them we bring God and all His goodness into our experience.
Isn't this the answer to the discontent and feeling that life is useless and pointless? And doesn't this give us something practical to help solve the complexities which confront us?
Whatever the problem may be it has not and never will touch our true identity. It has never entered God's allness. It has no power to make us believe it. In this understanding we can face with confidence any false suggestion and overcome it.
What if it claims to pain? Soul will silence it.
What if it threatens and frightens? Love will still it.
What if it seems to be real? Truth denies it.
What if it boasts destruction? Life annihilates it.
What if it tries to create? Mind is the only Maker.
What if it seeks domination? Principle overwhelms it.
What if it calls itself you? Spirit alone identifies you.
So if we want to be spiritual somebodies instead of physical nobodies, if we want true purpose and meaning to be the reality of our experience, we must make the effort to live the qualities that bring us into the realm of reality. The qualities that identify the real man.
Do you begin to see the importance of understanding who you really are? Mrs. Eddy sums it up with great clarity: (Misc. p. 185):
"Self-renunciation of all that constitutes a so-called material man, and the acknowledgment and achievement of his spiritual identity as the child of God, is Science that opens the very flood-gates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being, cleansing mortals of all uncleanness, destroying all suffering, and demonstrating the true image and likeness."
She concludes pointedly: "There is no other way under heaven whereby we can be saved, and man be clothed with might, majesty, and immortality."
This is our real identity. It is a wonderful thing to learn that we possess it, that it is our true being - a being which evil can never find for it is beyond its reach. Mortality can never enter it; knows nothing about it. Disease is barred from it. This spiritual identity is safe from all false beliefs.
It is our present and eternal sonship with God.
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, May 18, 1965.]