Christian Science: The Perfect Law of
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
The following lecture by Paul A. Harsch, C.S.B., of Toledo, Ohio, entitled "Christian Science: The Perfect Law of Liberty," was delivered Sept. 16 at First Church of Christ, Scientist, New York Ave. and Dean St., Brooklyn.
The lecturer, a member of the
Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ,
During or about the year 30, according to our calendar, and perhaps in the early summer, an extraordinary incident was taking place. A great religious festival was in progress. Adherents had come by thousands from all parts of the civilized world. The scene was a city ancient even then, its crowning glory a temple fair and massive. In the courts of that great structure pomp, ceremony, ritualism reached its flood tide. Not far distant, on the night of the last day of that great festival, a strangely different scene was being enacted. A small group of sober, earnest, anxious men were gathered in a "large upper chamber" to observe the feast. One, to whom they listened with deepest attention, was saying, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Falling on the eager ears of those whose prayer by night and day was for deliverance from the burdensome bondage imposed by a conquering nation these words were welcome indeed. Once before, under different circumstances, the same beloved voice, calm, confident, and speaking always "as one having authority" had said:
"If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." And again, as in the other instance, there followed a promise, amazing and glorious if possible of realization. For then, the voice declared, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." What did such words portend? Could they be taken literally? Or was this perhaps merely some cryptic utterance whose full meaning was intentionally hidden save to the little group of immediate listeners, and perchance not correctly interpreted even by them?
Time and again, throughout the
Though nineteen hundred speeding years have passed since Jesus gave the world that simple recipe for freedom, the age-long struggle of humanity to reach the desired goal goes on. The cry of many today for release from the bondage of an oppressive religious, social, and economic regime, which, in some of its phases, has become utterly intolerable, has risen louder than before. Has the remedy proposed by the Master logician and statesman, the great emancipator, been tried and found wanting? Is it not rather that the true freedom which Jesus had in mind has not been understood? Truly it is the latter.
Then let us set up as our premise today the very obvious fact upon which Jesus based his whole ministry, namely, that man has, in reality, never been deprived of his God-endowed freedom; that he has possessed the privilege of exercising that birthright from the beginning, and that the statements of Jesus, just quoted, not only set forth this fact, but contain the simple and complete method whereby the seeming enslavement of man to the myriad tyrannies of mortal experience may be quickly and completely cast off.
A New Lightbearer
This premise, which may seem to contain conclusions both novel and revolutionary in the opinion of some, will present no difficulty if all will turn with me for a moment to consider a new light and a new lightbearer. In 1866, this new yet old Christ-light reached the consciousness of one of whom I shall tell you something more in a moment. By 1875, this new light, shining through the pages of a book written by the one to whom the light had first come, was illuminating the pathway of others. Today its emancipating rays are shining in all quarters of the earth through that very book. From that book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," I wish to quote two or three brief passages that clarify and support the premise from which we are starting today.
First and basically, our beloved Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, the author of this book, says on page 468: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all." Note here, without further comment at this time, that it is God, Mind, and the creation of that Mind which constitutes "All." Then listen closely to these words quoted from page 114 of the same book: "Christian Science explains all cause and effect as mental, not physical. It lifts the veil of mystery from Soul and body. It shows the scientific relation of man to God, disentangles the interlaced ambiguities of being, and sets free the imprisoned thought. In divine Science, the universe, including man, is spiritual, harmonious, and eternal." Here note especially that it is the "imprisoned thought" that is set free. Thus our premise becomes quite clear, does it not? Mind, God is All, and His creation, man, must express, reflect, and forever manifest the freedom, perfection, and completeness of the Father, God.
Acceptance of this premise, for at
least the duration of this lecture, will aid greatly in following the reasoning
to be submitted, and in at last establishing that freedom from sin, sickness,
discord, and lack which all desire. Thus, too, we will be brought quickly
though not without gentleness to the inevitable conclusion reached by
While the declarations of these early thinkers and workers in the great cause of true freedom clearly require a looking "into the perfect law of liberty" and an abiding "where the Spirit of the Lord is," there can be no doubt of the fact that they visualize a condition of full and complete liberty here and now. For we now know, beyond question, through the clear light thrown upon the Scriptures by Christian Science, that the words of these inspired thinkers are not mere figures of speech, but are to be taken at their face value; that they are intended to, and do mean exactly what they say. Therefore, the pursuit of genuine freedom is not a hopeless quest, nor shall liberty forever elude our grasp like some tantalizing will-o'-the-wisp.
Thus, true liberty involves the right to exercise the highest sense of good without restraint. Perhaps you question this assertion and say: "But suppose some individual's highest sense of good should be, as it has been, only too frequently in the past, to deprive his brother of some seeming good in the mistaken belief that he, himself, might profit thereby?" This could not occur, for such a high sense of good as we are here setting up can never harm another. It implies, on the contrary, a constant desire to help and heal, and in addition always demands obedience of the highest sort; obedience to a power so complete, so intelligent, so loving, so unswervingly just and fair, so good of itself that there never can be even a desire to resist its demands or to appeal from its decisions.
It is, of course, conceivable that someone might object to this concept of liberty and observe that "such freedom is not freedom at all, for unless" - he may exclaim - "I can do exactly as I please at all times and under all circumstances, without consulting any person, power, or authority, I do not see how I can consider myself as having attained complete and absolute freedom!" Yet does anyone know of another in whose experience such independence of his fellows and of all human conditions prevails? The answer is emphatically "No," and therefore, the ultimate finding must be, that liberty in such - shall we say - an exaggerated sense does not exist; it is, thus considered, only a dream, a vagary of the human mind - a mirage of physical sense.
And now we have arrived at the crux of the whole matter. True freedom is a spiritual condition, knowing neither limitation nor restraint. Recognition of this great spiritual truth breaks the chains of physical limitation of every sort, including the beliefs of disease, discord, and lack. "But how does it do this?" someone quickly asks. "I have earnestly prayed for freedom from disease, lack, and limitation, and I still seem to be in bondage to them all. I seem unable to express joy, vigor, or activity; all seems hopeless darkness to me. I seem to be in a veritable dungeon of despair." My outspoken friend, you are the very one to whom this message or emancipation is addressed. Your prayer, that is, your honestly entertained desire for salvation, has been heard. The day of your release is nearer at hand than you realize. There is but one more step you must take. It is by no means a difficult one, yet it may require courage. You must take a definite stand for Truth, the truth about yourself, the truth that you are free, no matter what the seeming may be. There must always be this first stand and you are no exception.
To illustrate what is meant by taking so positive a stand for this spiritual condition, regardless of what the seeming may be, glance once more at that city where the Master voiced his promise of freedom. Again, as often before, the city was in an uproar. Bitterness, bigotry, and hatred were in full cry. One suspected of a breach of temple ritual was barely rescued by the Roman guard from a tragic end. About to be scourged, and wishing to be spared that needless suffering and indignity, the prisoner disclosed his Roman citizenship. In response to the amazed declaration of the chief captain that only "with a great sum" had he obtained his freedom - his Roman citizenship - the one in irons replied, "But I was free born." In chains, but free! Ah, that was it! No matter what the seeming, St. Paul knew the unalterable fact, and knew it so completely that time and again prison doors were opened and fetters fell from limbs that could not thus be shackled. Thus for all time and for all people he declared that undying truth which is affirmed and reaffirmed by Christian Science in such words as these: "God made man free" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 227). This must be our position at all times.
This experience of St. Paul has been brought to your attention, not only to point out the necessity of boldly declaring the truth at all times, even when the physical senses cry out loudly to the contrary, but also for another important reason. Though a prisoner and demanding his right as a Roman citizen, Paul was also voicing a great spiritual fact. That is, he was paving the way in a very real sense for a later reappearing of the Christ, Truth. And the Christ did appear again in such grand words as these: "Citizens of the world, accept the 'glorious liberty of the children of God,' and be free! This is your divine right. The illusion of material sense, not divine law, has bound you, entangled your free limbs, crippled your capacities, enfeebled your body, and defaced the tablet of your being" (Science and Health, p. 227). This, indeed, is a proclamation of the rights of man, and thus Christian Science declares the ever-presence of the emancipating Christ. What a stirring call this is, this call of Christian Science to take a definite stand for the truth of being regardless of the arguments of the physical senses!
Spiritual Growth Illustrated
This is perhaps a fitting place to
fulfill the promise made a few moments ago to tell you more about Mrs. Eddy.
What experiences she must have undergone to fit her to deliver such a message
to the world as the one you have just heard! May I present her to you first,
then, as a youthful bride, not much past twenty. Transplanted from the perhaps
somewhat austere environment of a
Perhaps the first thing to be
noted in this rousing proclamation of human rights is the definite naming of the
one thing which seems to prevent individual and universal recognition of the
great fact of spiritual freedom. Observe that that one thing is a false
claimant named accurately by Mrs. Eddy, and with fine descriptive ability, as
"the illusion of material sense." Note particularly just what it is
that enslaves. Get the name of the tyrant fixed in thought - "the illusion
of material sense," Mrs. Eddy labels it; in other words, the enslaver is
only an illusion, that to which the physical senses of seeing, hearing,
touching, tasting, smelling, falsely testify.
Spiritual Freedom Man's Birthright
In this grand warfare Christian Science insists first, as we have seen, that liberty is a spiritual quality springing from the source of all good, God; that in all of God's universe of good, throughout His entire creation, freedom of spiritual action is the birthright of God's children. For example: in designing a great bridge to span some broad stream, the engineer would constantly obey certain principles of engineering construction. He would thus exercise perfect freedom in carrying on his task. Were he to act in ignorance or defiance of these established principles, he would find himself restricted, limited, entangled, and perhaps a failure. Thus only that which is an expression of true freedom can ever appear among the ideas which populate the universe of Mind. Next, Christian Science demands a genuine and thorough examination of that astonishing thing which Mrs. Eddy describes as "the illusion of material sense." The audacity of this tyrant can only be explained by the fact that it is an "illusion." Just as a small child living in a world of fancy will tell its mother with the utmost sincerity and conviction the most impossible tales, so this illusory sense tells mortals constantly the most outrageous lies, and saddest of all, sometimes convinces them that these tales are true.
Finally, and next in importance to the great first position that freedom is man's God-given birthright, Christian Science brings the grand news that there is now a sure and dependable means of establishing this fact. This lies in uncovering the carefully hidden methods of the enslaving material senses; that is, exposing them to the sunlight of Truth as that Truth is revealed in Christian Science. By so doing Truth brings about their destruction. For exposure, it should be remembered, in this case means a large part of the destruction of evil. To illustrate: how comparatively easy it is to give up a mistake, when one sees it to be such, when through suffering, as sometimes is the case, one is convinced of the folly of his course.
Until the unspeakably important knowledge contained in this third and last point was given to the world through the revelation of Christian Science, the state of mankind seemed hopeless. The illusions of material sense seemed solid fact and man's great promised heritage of infinite, boundless, unconfined liberty, seemed a cruel jest. Therefore, to complete the summation at this point, it should be added that by gaining a correct sense of the words "Christian" and "Science" as used by Mrs. Eddy, when joined in the phrase which characterizes our movement, anyone may share the blessings which emancipation from the illusions of material sense brings. This emancipation includes the rooting out by the action of the Mind that is God - Life, Truth, and Love - of all that is included in the term "illusory." "Illusion," be it remembered, means only that which seems to be, that which is never true.
The chief stones, then, in the foundation on which we are basing our argument today are these: that all true freedom is spiritual; that man made in the image and likeness of Spirit is always and forever enjoying that freedom! that only the illusion of the senses, that is, the false belief that man is material and a slave to the physical senses of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, prevents him from eternally expressing that natural and real state of being; and last, that all-intelligent Mind, revealed to us by Christian Science, and operating constantly in the human consciousness, does uproot and cast out the illusions of material sense, casts them out, to wither and fade away in the sunlight of Truth.
Spirit, God Ever Present
Unquestionably, then, Spirit is presence, an all-pervading presence, that of active good; ever-present good, leaving no place unfilled. And as Spirit is presence, so is it power;
power absolute, entire, all-compelling; power which knows no opposition. Spirit, too, is Mind; all-intelligent Mind, which is ever conscious of itself alone; intelligence, whose allness leaves no void to be tilled by non-intelligent beliefs, doubts, fears. This is to say, because all so-called evil is mindless, powerless, lawless, and loveless it can never in any assumed form or disguise be consciously present to all-intelligent Spirit, or even seem to be present. To Spirit, all phases of mortal belief are nonexistent, and therefore neither have had nor ever will have power to harm or enslave.
Thus to Spirit, Mind, Life, Truth, and Love, no form of mortal belief, whether it be classified as tyrannical, as beneficent, or as occupying what might perhaps be described as a transitional stage, is real. All really and only is, as Christian Science asserts, "infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation" (Science and Health, p. 468). It is this Mind, all-intelligent, divine Love, Spirit, which is the liberator.
And how, you now again ask, does this Mind liberate mortals, and from just exactly what does it liberate them? It liberates you and me – mortals - mankind - from the belief that a physical or fleshly man is God's idea. It liberates us from the age-long bondage of a belief that the carnal man is the real man. It liberates us from the illusion that man is endowed with a dual character, good and bad, that he is both spiritual and material. It liberates us from the bondage of ignorance by pouring in the light of its own intelligence. It liberates from the bondage of fear by flooding consciousness with the light of Love. It liberates from the bondage of superstition and age-old sophistries by pouring in the light of Truth.
Some Familiar Illusions Exposed
Perhaps the following illustration will help to clear up this point. One stands on a rock-bound coast and with fascination watches the endless procession of breakers dashing into impotent mist and spray against the unknowing and unyielding masses which unconsciously block their way. So impotent error, falsity of every sort, ever destroys itself. In one form, then another, it hurls itself against the Rock of Ages, omnipotent Truth, only to its own undoing. Yet in the mist thrown out by the persistent assaults of evil, as in the mist and fog of ocean spray, strange and alarming forms may seem to appear. Until aroused by Christian Science one standing in this mist may sometimes be confused. For them these illusions of material sense appear to be very real indeed.
Suppose the illusions take the
form of lack - lack of love, lack of health, lack of supply, or even lack of
opportunity. What gaunt and evil specters these are! Yet to see them disappear
one need only close his eyes to the seeming. Close them literally. Thus the
seeming appears less real; for, as on the rock-bound coast, when one closes his
eyes to the fog he more quickly realizes that his feet are still firmly
grounded. Then, too, he becomes conscious at once of the great parapet behind
him against which he now leans with a growing sense of security. Presently, his
alarm diminishing more and more, he realizes that his hands are firmly grasping
the strong cables provided for the traveler. Fear subsiding, he now rests
serene and confident. Once more he turns to watch the onslaughts of the waves,
but is conscious now that he is no part of the mist and cannot be terrified by
it. Just so the illusions of material sense disappear when one steadfastly insists
upon the reality; when he rejoices that his feet are grounded on immovable
Principle - God; when he insists that the eternal walls of Truth constitute his
forever background, and that the ever-present cords of divine Love are always
where he may grasp them. Thus rejoicing, he recalls the words of the Psalmist,
"As the mountains are round about
Another hoary and stupid superstition which has enslaved men for a seemingly endless period of time was exposed by Christian Science when it revealed the impossibility of Spirit's creating aught save that which is like itself. For example, that the author or authors of the earlier portion of the book of Genesis had a clear perception of the eternal fact that the first, great, and only cause was, is and ever will be Spirit, and that Spirit's creation must of necessity be of like kind and nature, wholly spiritual, seems clear. The language is definite and concise, the sequence of events orderly and the logic convincing. When, however, subsequent writers undertook to explain the presence of material man in a heretofore wholly spiritual universe, they found a more difficult task. Selecting the allegorical form as their vehicle, they gave us the story of Adam with all its details. Now Christian Science teaches (Science and Health, p. 547): "The Scriptures are very sacred. Our aim must be to have them understood spiritually, for only by this understanding can truth be gained." Seeking thus, and looking back for a moment at our earlier discussion today, we are led to the quick conclusion that the second account, that of Adam and his digression from the path of right thinking, is merely an effort to explain "the illusion of material sense" - illusion again and always that of a false or material sense. So again the fact that Spirit and its creation is alone real, substantial, and eternal stands out with even greater brilliance and certainty than before. Reading the Scriptures in this manner, and ever seeking the spiritual meaning of the message, we are led by ever-present Christ, Mind, of which we shall have more to say in a moment, to a new and interesting development.
The Coming of the Christ-light
Thus, we are brought to that point in history where this light of liberty broke through in a startling way. On a certain Sabbath day the devout worshipers of a small and comparatively obscure village had assembled for their devotional exercises. A young man of the village, "as was his custom," took part in the service. He read from the sacred rolls. But what he read, and his comments afterward, dated the beginning of the greatest reform the world has known. This is what he read: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Then said Jesus, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
Now again may I quote briefly from our textbook to make the position of Christian Science on the subject of Jesus and the Christ quite clear (Science and Health, p. 332): "Jesus was born of Mary. Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness. The Christ is incorporeal, spiritual, - yea, the divine image and likeness, dispelling the illusions of the senses." It is, always was, and ever will be this eternal and ever-present Christ, so marvelously demonstrated by Jesus, which destroys the "illusions of the senses." As the Christ antedated Abraham, and expressed itself so wonderfully through Jesus, so again today it is healing, restoring, and delivering mankind through its present-day mouthpiece, Christian Science.
So it was to preach deliverance to the captives that Jesus came. Yes, the captives "of sense," Mrs. Eddy adds. And this is the vital point. Here again an illustration may help. Suppose, to make the picture a vivid one, a rather extreme case, that of a man gross, coarse, hard, sensual, and self-willed. An unbiased observer would readily agree that he was a slave to appetite, sensuality, and the lowest forms of a debased mentality. Then suppose again that a tiny ray of light, the light of Christian Science, should penetrate this callous consciousness. Suppose this light, small as it is, reveals to him but one thing at first, namely, the desirability of cleanliness. Soon his unclean surroundings are discarded for those more wholesome, coarseness and brutality propagate less readily in such an atmosphere and soon lose much of their hold upon the man. Little by little the light becomes brighter, hardness yields to gentleness, and self-will begins to lose its lure. The man is now a changed being, a different person. Nor can he ever return to the point from which he started. His present state is heaven for him compared to the former. The law of good, ever present, ever operative, has become a conscious reality to him.
Now let us take a less extreme case. Consider one whom we may describe as an average man or woman; one, let us say, who is accustomed to what we speak of as the "finer things" of life; one, that is, who has had the advantage of some education, comfortable surroundings, a reasonable abundance of material supply. Somehow all this, without the Christ-light, however, does not seem to have lifted this "average" man very far, if at all, above the moral state of the other. He, too, still seems to be in bondage to the same mortal mind. He, too, seems to respond, only too frequently, to the suggestions of fear, anger, animosity, criticism, doubt, jealousy, and sordidness which seemed to control the other. But note what takes place in the consciousness of this everyday man, as in the case of the other, when the Christ-light brought by Christian Science comes silently and gently to him. For the first time he sees himself as God sees him; he begins to see that man is spiritual, not material; begins to think of himself as the perfect, eternal child of a loving God. Perhaps this first view is faint, but that glimpse steadies him through many experiences which follow. He has caught dimly the vision that carried Moses to Sinai's summit, that enabled Jesus to live and love so fearlessly. He knows now (sometimes he may lose the vision for a while but it returns) that man is not material, and that there is a future for him, real, true, and everlasting. Best of all, he is now assured that he may expect, yes, even demand, greater happiness, harmony, and abundance in all his human relationships here and now.
Transitional Stage Illustrated
"Can you illustrate in a simple way just what took place in the consciousness of these two persons to produce such a change in their situation?" you ask. Yes, it is not difficult to illustrate just what occurs in the transition from the bondage of material sense to the heaven of spiritual harmony, just what changes the viewpoint, the thinking of the individual. First, it will, of course, be conceded by all that knowledge is freedom, while ignorance is bondage. Yet this well-known fact has no power in itself to liberate. When, therefore, the Christian Scientist seeks deliverance from the bondage of ignorance, for example, he begins by silently reassuring himself that God is Mind; that Mind is all-knowing, and always does and must express itself intelligently through its ideas. He then declares that man being the image and likeness of God, man must be an expression of the Mind that is God. Thus, an idea of Mind, he sees that he, himself, can never lack intelligence or the ability to do that which his divine source demands. Merely knowing this, liberates him from the bondage of ignorance, for it enables him to see that he is an inseparable part of the universe of all-intelligent Mind. He sees that intelligence is his birthright, and only the delusion of a limited material sense can blind him even momentarily to this great fact. Again, if the enslaving argument be one of disease, the method of the Christian Scientist is equally clear and straightforward. Realizing that God is Life, without beginning or end of days, he also realizes, and very clearly, that Life, like Mind, must ever find its expression through that which manifests itself. Divine Life, for example, must be indestructible; it must be incapable of stagnation, inaction, or destruction, and that which expresses it must ever be continuous, orderly, serene, buoyant, vigorous. Thus the ideas of God, who is Life, must ever express Him in the same way, never through the opposite qualities or conditions described as stoppage, shrinkage, decay, disorder, death itself. Seeing disease in this way, as merely a belief, not solid fact, each day man fears it less and approaches by degrees his heaven of harmonious being.
Suppose next, that freedom from some one of those enslaving qualities we describe as hatred, resentment, selfishness in any one of its myriad forms, be the goal. The mere knowing that God is Love, and all-powerful, destroys the fear that any of them have power. It destroys the belief that they can ever express themselves intelligently, or in any way delay or prevent the heavenward march of any individual. Then, too, God is not only Love, but Spirit as well; all-acting, motivating, vitalizing Spirit, whose ideas, children, must ever express that measure of harmonious, uninterrupted, joyous, free, untrammeled activity, which forever declares the presence of God as Spirit. Thus to facilitate the transition from the bondage of sense to the freedom of Spirit, the Christian Scientist steadfastly realizes that inactivity, interrupted or unproductive activity, apathy, stolidity, and stagnation, are none of them expressions of Spirit; therefore no part of man, made in the image and likeness of Spirit.
Other steps whereby mortal man passes through the transitional stages which appear so enslaving are numerous. The bondage of age-old fallacies, of stupid superstitions, of false dogma and doctrine, is mitigated when these vagaries of the mortal mind are viewed through the lens of Truth. The testimony of the corporeal senses on any subject seems weak and unconvincing when the searchlight of Soul is played upon it. Substance, too, takes on a new meaning when Principle is seen to be the only source, and the source only of all which is good, true, lasting, desirable. Taking these steps, one by one, brings man inevitably in the land where true freedom reigns and where his God-given dominion is no longer a dream but a living reality.
And now in leaving, may I ask that
you carry away with you one more picture of that one who, coming long after the
Master, restated his emancipating message, clarified it, and restored to the
world that which for long seemed hopelessly lost? Coming of
[Published in The Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle, Sept. 18, 1937.]