The Eternal, Ever Present Christ Revealed
Paul A. Harsch, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Paul A. Harsch, C.S.B., of Toledo, Ohio, a Member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, delivered a lecture entitled "Christian Science: The Eternal, Ever Present Christ Revealed," last evening, under the auspices of The Mother Church. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, in the church edifice, Falmouth, Norway and St. Paul Streets.
The lecturer was introduced by Lucia C. Coulson, C.S.B., Second Reader of The Mother Church, who said:
On behalf of The Mother Church I welcome you to this lecture on Christian Science, which bears for its title, "Christian Science: The Eternal, Ever Present Christ Revealed."
When the Master addressed the eleven disciples on that mountain where he had instructed them to meet with him, his very last words before he disappeared from their sight in the ascension were, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." It is evident that this could not have been said of the human Jesus, who was departing, but must refer to the Christ he manifested, the Christ that is available today.
In the Christian Science textbook (p. 583), Mary Baker Eddy defines Christ as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." To the flesh! That is a comforting assurance, is it not, for it means that just where the suffering seems to be, the sickness or the sin, just there the touch of the healing, saving Christ will be felt, and as of old that touch makes whole. The lecture we are about to listen to will tell you how to apply this Christ, Truth, to your own particular problem, how to gain that Mind which was also in Christ Jesus, so that the very spirit of the Christ may enter your consciousness to redeem it.
"No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin.
Where meekness will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in."
(Christian Science Hymnal, 222.)
It now gives me great pleasure to
introduce the lecturer, Paul A. Harsch of
Mr. Harsch spoke substantially as follows:
So long as the human sense of time
shall endure, so long will the eternal Christ appear and reappear to human
consciousness. By reason of His eternal and unchanging nature, God, good, must
ever thus manifest Himself to men. This is the expression of divine law. When,
Perhaps the most intimate and dependable glimpses we have of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of this Christ-teaching, Christian Science, are to be found in her work "Retrospection and Introspection." This book may be described as, in a measure, her autobiography. In a chapter entitled "Emergence into Light," Mrs. Eddy describes the great moment of her life, the moment of her spiritual rebirth. In words that quicken the heart-beats and challenge the thinker with the insistence of great waves beating on a rocky shore, she tells the story of that hour.
The Redeeming Christ Discovered
It is the story of the penetration of her long expectant consciousness by a divine light, the revealing Christ-light, which dissipated the gloomy clouds that so overshadowed her human experience, that at the moment there seemed in it not even a tinge of hope or light. In this utterly frank and self-revealing life-story Mrs. Eddy says (p. 23): "When the door opened, I was waiting and watching; and lo the bridegroom came! The character of the Christ was illuminated by the torches of Spirit. My heart knew its Redeemer. . . . I had touched the hem of Christian Science." Thus Mrs. Eddy describes what she terms the very moment of her "heart's bridal to more spiritual existence."
So Mrs. Eddy found "her Redeemer," the Christ. It had come to her, this redeeming Christ, to use her own language again, as "the true idea, voicing good, the divine message from God to man speaking to the human consciousness" (Science and Health, p. 332). Then followed "The Great Discovery," as she called it. It is of this redemptive message of good, the "divine manifestation," or Christ, as she described it elsewhere, that we would speak today.
Method of the Christ-Appearing
That which is divine must always belong to and come from God. It must possess the qualities of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. A divine idea, then, must always have existed, and be infinite in its expression, even as that from which it sprang. Therefore, the Christ, God's idea, was and is ever present, and to speak of that Christ as advancing is, in a literal sense, perhaps incorrect; yet figuratively, no word more correctly describes the operation of the Christ-understanding in human experience. This was notably so in the case of Mrs. Eddy during and after that life-renewing hour in 1866. Joyously, though often confronted with many difficulties, she followed the vision of the Christ as that vision advanced and expanded in her consciousness. As the Christ came thus to Mrs. Eddy so it comes to all. Constantly advancing and ever leading to divine heights when mental doors are open to its perfection and desirability, and seemingly receding when those doors are closed, be the closing conscious or unconscious, ignorant or willful.
For example: One sits in a moving train and fancies he sees the landscape speeding by. Notwithstanding the seeming, however, it is the passenger who moves and the countryside which remains stationary. Likewise, the Christ is forever a fixed and permanent idea, though to the Christ-awakened traveler, before whose gaze an ever new and absorbing vision of goodness is unfolding, it seems the Christ who is progressing. This is merely the individual sense of good opening more largely to the sunlight of Truth, which, because of its brilliance, enlarges his vision. Approaching our discussion of Christian Science then from this standpoint let us observe first the operation of the ever-present Christ Principle throughout the millenniums that constitute the past, as we call it, and next its triumphal march today.
Christian Science was first to reveal to mankind the real nature of this seemingly advancing and yet ever-present Christ, and to explain why Jesus, the great Way-shower, manifested the Christ more than any other man. It is the divinely established mission of Christian Science to continue to broadcast this explanation, until all men everywhere shall recognize their at-one-ment with the Christ Mind sufficiently to demonstrate their unity with their creator, their Father-Mother Life, as did the Master Christian. Christian Science does not demand that its adherents demonstrate at once such complete unity with good as did Jesus. It does insist, however, that this is the ultimate goal. To reach it Christian Science points out that persistent and unflagging effort is required. The textbook of Christian Science states this point succinctly in the following words (Science and Health, p. 254): "When we wait patiently on God and seek Truth righteously, He directs our path. Imperfect mortals grasp the ultimate of spiritual perfection slowly; but to begin aright and to continue the strife of demonstrating the great problem of being, is doing much." A step in the direction of this goal of perfection set up by Jesus and reaffirmed by Christian Science is illustrated by the following incident.
An Angel Vision
A powerful king had died; the heir, at last securely established upon his father's throne, makes a notable pilgrimage. Proceeding to the nation's principal place of worship, "the great high place'' as it was called, he renders grateful acknowledgment to God for peace and unity in the realm. A thousand sacrifices are made. Ritual, form, externals, all are observed. The throngs applaud. A people in whose consciousness a knowledge of the presence of the eternal Christ is just beginning to stir is satisfied. But, to the more awakened thought of the new king something is still lacking. He does not fully share the contentment of the crowd. Deeply moved by the day’s events he sleeps lightly and dreams. An angel vision appears. In his dream he hears a divine voice saying, "Ask what I shall give thee.'' Only one inspired by a profound desire for spiritual good, even in a dream, could have responded to that demand of Principle as did Solomon: "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad." "An understanding heart!"
Consider the circumstances at
The Door of Consciousness Opening
All may follow his example. All may win his reward; but to gain that blessing, that is, the assurance of good just at hand and of even greater good to follow, the door of consciousness must be opened. There must be an invitation for the Christ to enter. The seeker for divine good must be able to say with the Psalmist, "O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill." If today this be our attitude, our prayer, we too are opening the door of consciousness to good, and the entrance of the eternal, ever-present Christ is assured.
This essential quality, this desire for spiritual advancement, belongs to men by divine right. All men, Christian Science teaches, are sons of God, and all sooner or later, do, because they must, respond to the demand of their inner consciousness, their real selfhood, and open their mental doors, even though slightly at first, to the ever-present Christ. The simple fact is, of course, that millions of these doors are already open, more widely perhaps than is realized. All may measure the degree to which their mental doors are open by the following almost unbelievably simple test: do I agree with the basic position of Christian Science that God is good and good alone, neither knowing nor being capable of knowing evil or sending aught but good to His children? So very simple is this requirement that perhaps someone is prompted to say: is this the only qualification requisite to insure membership in the group of seekers just described? Yes! but perhaps the full significance of the statement is not realized. A God who is wholly good and incapable of knowing, and consequently incapable of producing, evil in any form or at any time is a radically different God from the one generally acknowledged. If there be but one God, as most of us were taught to believe, and if that God is sole and only creator, we are now facing a situation that demands careful consideration.
A good God, conscious only of good, could not conceivably create anything of which He was not conscious; therefore, it follows that, all which He creates must be good. If there be no creator other than this good God, then no evil ever was or ever can be created. Evil simply does not and cannot exist. That it seems to exist as discord, disease, and sin is another matter with which we shall deal later. Such a creator as we are considering could not be material, physical, limited, restricted in any way. Upon this point, surely, all are in accord. Then this good God must be Spirit, as Jesus declared at Sychar, and again capable only of creating that which is an expression of Himself, that which is spiritual. Perhaps all have not analyzed their thought about God thus fully, yet all that has been just said is a part of the declaration presented as a testing measure a moment ago. The statement was, you will recall, that God is good and good alone. Agreement with this position carries with it the inescapable conclusions just drawn.
The Real Man Revealed
Having now found how mental doors may be more fully opened to receive the revelation of Christian Science, let us proceed to examine the handiwork of this good God we have been considering. The Scriptural account of creation climaxes its record with the words, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," and concludes, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." Man made in the very likeness of Spirit and after the fashion of the one wholly good is a new sort of man to contemplate. Yet surely the good God whom we have agreed is the one and only creator could create no other man than a good one, a spiritual man, a man made after a model infinitely perfect. The logic of this reasoning is too obviously correct to need discussion. Yet one says. But what about the man I see, hear, feel, smell, taste, the man that sins, sickens, dies, and disappears?
That question is identical with the one whose answer we deferred, a moment ago, the one as to the non-existence of seeming evil. They are twin brothers; so let us put them side by side and come back to them a little later if necessary, answering first a more pertinent query, a query which when properly answered disposes of the other two. How may the seeming man, mortal man, become conscious of his true estate, his truly real being, and thereby manifest his God-given dominion of authority over the false claims of the matter man?
The answer is simple. Through recognition of and steadfast insistence upon the reality of good, and good alone; through sincere and spontaneous gratitude for benefits already enjoyed; through a constant, conscious desire for a larger understanding of God as infinite good. When this mental attitude is attained, the eternal Christ is consciously present. This is the very presence of God Himself, in a manner which the human consciousness recognizes and understands. Such consciousness of God's presence is the eternal Christ revealed. Moreover, this is the only method whereby man's oneness with his creator is established. This ever-present, though not always recognized Christ, it must be remembered, is "incorporeal, spiritual, - yea, the divine image and likeness, dispelling the illusions of the senses" (Science and Health, p. 332).
Now let us summarize briefly the position just established: first, that God is good and good alone, knowing only good and creating only that which is good; second, that His creation, man, is of necessity as perfect and eternal as that from which he sprang; third, that the eternal and ever-present Christ, or manifestation of God, comes to the human consciousness constantly to establish and maintain the true relationship of God and His idea and to destroy the false beliefs of and about man; and finally, it should be added, that the door of human consciousness once opened by an honest, earnest desire to know more of the Christ, Truth, cannot again be closed by the mesmerism of matter so long as the presence of this eternal Christ is recognized and insisted upon.
The Christ Presence Illustrated
We may now proceed with our argument. The story of the growth of the Christ-understanding in human experience is set forth in two groups of writings that to Christian Scientists are the most important in all literature - the Bible and the works of the Discoverer of Christian Science. From the Bible first, there are submitted to you three brief and familiar incidents in support of our position that the Christ, even though unrecognized as such, has been ever present and ever available.
Recall, to begin, the experience
of Abraham on
Next remember Jacob at the brook Jabbok, wrestling with a false sense of substance as real, tormented with a fear for himself, his family, and his possessions. Alone in the darkness of the night, he sought divine aid as never before, and the light of the Christ-presence came pouring into his consciousness, so completely transforming his thinking that his whole future experience was characterized by tolerance, brotherly consideration, and cooperation. Prosperity marked, in an outstanding way, the balance of his long and useful career.
A little later David faced the
What enabled these ancient ones to realize the presence of the Christ so effectively, you ask? Only their constant, conscious desire for a larger knowledge of God - that yearning desire for good mentioned in the beginning.
A New Quality
Keeping the experiences just mentioned clearly in thought as typical of the method whereby the Christ appeared to humanity in days long past, guiding and protecting them, now observe a new Christ-quality, that of heart, the quality coupled with understanding in the petition of the ancient King, beginning to manifest itself. Note how boldly it stands out in the first of three quotations about to be submitted, how it increases in depth and volume in the second, and reaches a full diapason in the third.
First, the words are those of Isaiah: "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." Next, the Master Christian speaks. In describing the reception accorded the Prodigal Son upon his return to the parental roof Jesus says, "But when he [the son] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." And finally, the words are those of Mrs. Eddy (Science and Health, p. 332): "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation." Gentleness, tenderness, compassion, are here expressed in fullest measure.
This is the new Christ-quality, the quality of "heart." It began to make itself articulate at about the period of Isaiah, assumed definite form and became a vital presence and power through the understanding of Jesus and today has reached its fuller expression in the insistent teaching of Christian Science that God is Love, ever present, eternal, divine, ever manifested through its loving idea, the Christ.
But, at once, it should be noted, this loving Christ-quality, "heart," as we are using the word, must ever fall short of meeting the needs of mankind unless coupled with the characteristic described as '"understanding"; that is, the realization that God is all-knowing Mind as well as infinite Love. Therefore, we may now conclude that the "understanding heart" of the Bible is the connecting link through which the divine reaches the human. This link is, of course, the eternal and divine Christ, so marvelously expressed by Jesus, ever appearing and reappearing in human consciousness, there to destroy the illusions of the flesh, "incarnate error" as the Christian Science textbook puts it at page 583.
But until Mrs. Eddy's experience, as related by her and quoted in the beginning, the ever presence of the eternal Christ was unsuspected, or at least not understood in a way which could be practically explained. Having caught the glorious vision, however, it was inevitable for Mrs. Eddy to conclude that the divine mission of the ever-present Christ was to reveal God to man, and forever explain and uphold the unchanging and unchangeable relationship of "Mind and its infinite manifestation" (Science and Health, p. 408). Having reached this conclusion, she became convinced she must share her vision of the Christ with the world. How could this be done? The minds of men were so confused and restricted by the false teaching of centuries, the tangled undergrowth of superstition, mistaken theology, sensualism, greed, ambition, sordidness, that the voice of one "crying in the wilderness" must be pitched in a new and arousing key to attract attention.
The eternal, ever-present Christ, Truth, had healed and delivered her. The presence of that Christ, Truth, must be universally proclaimed. There should be no delay. Of all this there was no question in Mrs. Eddy's thought. Even at this time the character of the task confronting her must have begun to formulate itself in her thought, and perhaps explains why she shrank from it with all the hesitancy of a refined and sensitive nature. It is certain she realized from the beginning that to no other hands could the work be entrusted. Boldly at last she struck out. The waters were strange, the course uncharted, but she had an unfailing and an undeviating compass, an "understanding heart." Listen to her own words if you think this an over-statement: "When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language, is always acceptable to those who have hearts" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 262). So wrote Mrs. Eddy early in her ministry.
The Language of Heart
The language of heart! What was this language! First, it must be a language that one sick unto death could understand, a language that would bring to such a one the truth of the healing Christ. It must necessarily be a language which the discouraged and disconsolate could understand, the ministering touch of a comprehending Christ. It must be a language one friendless and alone could understand and feel, a language that would convince him of the very presence of a compassionate and friendly Christ. Such would be the language of heart, such the way to reach men most quickly and effectively. In venturing upon such a pathway of Spirit, Mrs. Eddy was but following in the footsteps of the wisest and best of all men. In addition, she knew that thus she would be found obedient to the divine command, "Freely ye have received, freely give," for had she not herself, indeed, already received in overflowing measure?
But, mark you! in her plan there was something far more than merely "heart." It must be an "understanding heart." Human compassion and sympathy, however sincere, were insufficient; that must be made clear to all. No healing could be Christ-healing that was not based on understanding. Understanding, in her plan, was really the essence of Love itself, and must be so comprehended. Therefore, understanding, divine intelligence, Mind and heart, divine Love, must go hand in hand. She knew they could not even appear unless conjoined. They must be found and used in unison. "Get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding," thus declared the writer of Proverbs. Significant, indeed, are his words, and furnish us a key, as they did Mrs. Eddy; for understanding as she perceived it, and as we must, is very substance itself, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
The Evidence of Things Unseen
Unseen by the human senses, for example, is divine Life: unheard by the human ear the voice of divine Love, unfelt by a material body the touch of infinite Spirit. Nor can Principle, the one and only source of being, be cognized through the channels of physical smelling and tasting. Notwithstanding these accurate and indisputable declarations of Truth which are basic in Christian Science, it must be said, in passing, contradictory as it may sound, that it is not only admitted, but emphasized, that the human body is very definitely touched and healed by what seems to be the very presence of God as Life, Truth, Love, and Spirit; yet the fact is, and the point, to be remembered is, that healing of every sort is accomplished by the Christ-understanding, the Christ-manifestation of the power of Principle, the touching of the human consciousness by the Christ, which so transforms and regenerates it that the body responds with new vigor and health. This is understanding; this the evidence of things unseen.
It is the language of heart, words inspired by the Christ-Love alone that conveys this understanding to human consciousness, and opens it to a still further entering of the healing, comforting, regenerating Truth. In exactly this way the wise and loving words and deeds of Christian Scientists are helping in that great work. Many doors are opening to such loving ministry. Perchance the openings are narrow, grudgingly so, yet through even such openings the Christ may enter. Light filters through the tiniest crevice. Once inside, the Christ may be depended upon to do its work. For then it is that the revealing light of the Christ, Truth, dissipates the dense clouds of misunderstanding, thick with misconception, prejudice, superstition, bigotry and fear. These are the mortal mind qualities which darken consciousness, until the way becomes painful and difficult, yet finally they too fade away and disappear in the sunlight of the Christ, Truth, as it penetrates the recesses of long-darkened thought. Through this process men are brought to realize that God is Life, Truth, Love: that man is mental, spiritual, not material, and that heaven is here and now.
The manner in which God manifests Himself to ever-increasing numbers of men, through those individuals whose prayer for an "understanding heart," sincere and genuine, has already brought to them some measure of the revealing Christ, may be thus illustrated: A traveler conducted to a simply furnished hotel room, which is to be home for a few days, quickly establishes for himself what, for lack of a better word, we call "atmosphere." From his personal equipment he produces a book, a picture; perhaps replaces a chair, and in a moment completely changes the character of his environment. A caller entering the room, even though he be a stranger, at once feels something of the mental qualities of the occupant. Almost immediately he gets at least a partial picture of the inner self, the mental self of the one occupying that room.
In a somewhat similar way the words and acts of spiritually enlightened men and women indicate the presence of God; make that presence actual, so real that it is seen and felt. It is felt as power, the power of the Christ-Love in every declaration and decision made by them; for their God-supported and God-inspired statements of Truth destroy and remove hatred, anger, revenge. It is seen as harmony, the harmony of the omniactive Christ-Spirit still manifested through men and women, but destroying apathy, stolidity, stagnation; destroying the belief that there can ever be an absence of activity. It is heard as the voice of good, the "still small voice," the voice of the Christ-Mind, speaking to the inner consciousness of men. God's presence may also be tasted - tasted as joy, the joy of things unseen, the joy of the Christ-Life; that understanding of divine Life which destroys the belief of disease and death. God's presence may even be smelled in the fragrance of good deeds, deeds of kindness, gentleness, compassion: all the result of the operation of the Christ-Principle in human consciousness.
Only this advancing understanding of the Christ, as that Christ is revealed by Christian Science, enables men to comprehend the statement of St. John that "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," and that "without him was not any thing made that was made." Christian Science explains the "Word" as being the very essence of creative Principle, source - that which brings forth, sustains, and perpetuates. Such a creation is alone substantial, for it is wholly mental, spiritual. To perceive this, and to become conscious that man is a part of this creation, means that the door of consciousness is opening, the seemingly advancing yet ever-present Christ is entering.
We have now followed the appearing and reappearing of the Christ down the centuries to the present day; we have seen how it regenerates the human consciousness and restores to man his birthright of spiritual perfection and dominion. The transition from the entirely physical concept of man swayed by appetite, often depraved, human fears and passions, up through a more elevated and moral status to that of spiritual understanding, has been seen as entirely natural and logical. This, moreover, is the road of spiritual achievement and endeavor all men must travel, and traveling this road, we have seen, brings health, happiness, and an abounding sense of good.
Those who have already entered the pathway, and those who are yet to enter, may ponder with profit those words of our Leader: "In hope and faith, where heart meets heart reciprocally blest, drink with me the living waters of the spirit of my life-purpose, - to impress humanity with the genuine recognition of practical, operative Christian Science" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 207).
And now as a parting message, I
wish to leave with you a fragrant memory, one redolent of qualities which have
ever marked those characters whose service to humanity has placed them highest
in the estimation of men. This is the memory of one of Mrs. Eddy's rarest days.
Some months subsequent to the dedication of the original
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah!
Pilgrim through this barren land:
I am weak, but, Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy pow'rful hand.
Bread of heaven! Feed me till I want no more.
Open is the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing waters flow:
And the fiery cloudy pillar
Leads me all my journey through
Strong Deliv'rer! Still Thou art my strength and shield.
(C. S. Hymnal, No. 134, old edition.)
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 1, 1935.]