Christian Science and the Torch of Spiritual Understanding

 

Mary C. Holloway, C.S., of Shreveport, Louisiana

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

"Christian Science and the Torch of Spiritual Understanding" was the subject of the lecture given in Third Church of Christ, Scientist, North Sherman Boulevard, Tuesday evening, May 11th, to a capacity audience by Mrs. Mary C. Holloway, C.S. of Shreveport, Louisiana. Mrs. Holloway, who is a member of the Board of Lectureship of   The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, spoke substantially as follows:

 

The message which Christian Science has for you tonight, and always, is a ringing declaration of the allness and goodness of God and of the perfection, therefore, of His creation. According to the inspired words of the beloved disciple John (I John 1:5), "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."

God, Light, is Spirit, and the real universe, including God's man, is wholly spiritual. Christian Science proves that because God, Light, Spirit, is also divine Mind, man as His image and likeness illustrates, expresses, and sets forth the enlightenment and intelligence of this infinite Mind, in whom "is no darkness at all" - no sin, sickness, death, nor other shadows of darkness.

Our discussion this evening - and we hope it will be a simple one - deals with the effects produced upon human existence when the divine afflatus or spiritual inspiration begins to shine in our consciousness. Knowledge of God and His perfect man, according to the teachings of Christian Science, can light for you the torch of spiritual understanding during this hour, in whose light you find freedom from bondage. In Christian Science, the experience called healing results when spiritual enlightenment comes into consciousness, just as simply and surely as darkness disappears when light comes.

 

The Torch and the Exodus

Near the beginning of the Bible - that grand record of spiritual unfoldment, in which is depicted the struggle between the elements of good and evil, right and wrong, and the inspiring panorama of gradual but certain progress by humanity toward good—there is a book called "Exodus." Literally, as ancient history, it portrays the release and leading forth of the children of Israel from bondage or slavery in Egypt. But in its contemporary significance it tells the story of what happens in human consciousness - in yours and mine - when the light of real or spiritual being begins to shine in the darkness of a false material sense of life and being. Significantly this word "Exodus" and the word "education" both mean a "leading forth."

If you found yourself in a cavern, the great need and desire would be for light - even a tiny gleam of light - first to dispel enough of the darkness to restore an aspect of clarity and a correct appraisal of the scene, and then to point and lead the way out of darkness.

On page 202 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the textbook of Christian Science, which is used by its students together with the Bible for lighting the torch of spiritual understanding, there is found the statement which inspired this discussion. It has to do with true education - indeed, this statement is written by Mrs. Eddy under a marginal heading of "Divine study." Let me read it to you: "If men would bring to bear upon the study of the Science of Mind, half the faith they bestow upon the so-called pains and pleasures of material sense, they would not go on from bad to worse, until disciplined by the prison and the scaffold; but the whole human family would be redeemed through the merits of Christ, - through the perception and acceptance of Truth. For this glorious result Christian Science lights the torch of spiritual understanding."

Now perhaps some of you may be questioning: "What is all this talk of extreme conditions? You speak of dark caverns, of the prison and the scaffold. How is all this related to my problem?" Well, surely these terms do suggest extreme conditions of darkness and human depravity which occur in the lot of relatively few persons in this blessed land of freedom. Elsewhere in the world many innocent people are being subjected to conditions of distress and slavery which in many instances include the dungeon and the scaffold. The lighted torch, considered as a symbol of freedom, has never been so needed as now, when millions cry out for release from the misery of political and social bondage.

But are these conditions of darkness and fear really so foreign to the human experience of each one of us? Is there not, for instance, a dark cavern called the physical body, where many of us have buried the sense of life, intelligence, substance, and hope? Have we not been taught to fear what this body can do to us? Only in the darkness of fear and ignorance could the elusive shapes and phantom illusions of disease and disordered functions seem to have reality and power.

In human experience each of us has known the prisoning beliefs which hold mortal man in bondage to fear or sinful habits or which bind his ability with limitations; all of us have known something of the scaffold which carries out the sentence of death upon our highest human hopes and aspirations; and do we not begin to see, too, that if one accepts consciously or unconsciously the belief that he lives in the flesh or matter, he has accepted also the sentence that he must die out of that prison house?

Now the foregoing is only to establish the reasonable assumption that each of us here this evening has an exodus to undertake if he has not already started upon it; and so I invite you herewith to see and consider how this emergence can take place in Christian Science, which lights the torch of spiritual understanding and brings glorious results.

 

The Torch and the Law of Light

The Exodus, as understood in Christian Science, is an emergence from the material darkness of fear and ignorance into spiritual enlightenment or understanding; from material sense and sensation into the awareness of the harmony of spiritual reality; from limitation which is materialism into unlimited spiritual abundance; from sickness and disability into the mental harmony or wholeness which is health; from subjection and bondage into full dominion - and yes, actually from death into life; for the only fear or danger, the only death, that mortals can ever seem to experience occur in the Adam-dream, or delusion, of life and intelligence in matter. Fear and danger can belong only to that dream.

Therefore the cry is for light. Even the world is dimly aware of its real need. Physical scientists look to material sunlight and believe that everything necessary for human survival comes from it directly or indirectly, including certain curative elements. This is but a counterfeit of real law, where "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5) - the law of life to everything God creates. The edict of God, good, is life eternal and abundant here and now, for all His beloved children. His law is a lamp guiding the feet of all who will recognize and obey His will out of darkness into that light of life.

 

The Torch and the Wilderness Way

Here let me tell you of a healing of mental darkness. It is a simple one, but it illustrates one way in which the light is turned on - namely, through reading Science and Health by Mrs. Eddy.

One evening years ago a train was drawing into the station of a small Midwestern town just as the sun was setting. A young woman on the train was at the end of a journey which for the first time had taken her away from home and family to begin study for a musical career. Suddenly, as the gloom of the station was added to the fading of sunlight, this young woman was overtaken with an extreme sense of homesickness, so severe as to represent near panic. She left the train and went immediately to purchase a ticket to return to her home that night.

She was told that no train would leave in that direction until the next morning. She went to the dormitory where she was expected, having arranged to arrive ten days earlier than other students in order to assume a position which had been offered to her. The dark dormitory room to which she was shown added to the intensity of her suffering. She sank into a chair without removing her wraps, determined to sit there through the night until time to catch the morning train.

Hardly a gleam of reason had been able to penetrate her consciousness up to this point, but suddenly glancing down she saw her suitcase at her feet. Then she remembered that she had brought with her a book, to which she had attached great significance for the past several months, since her healing of what had been pronounced an incurable physical disorder.

Reaching down, she opened the suitcase and found the book. Switching on a small lamp nearby, she opened the book at random and read a paragraph - rather a short one, for it took perhaps two minutes to read it.

A great transformation took place immediately; relief flooded her consciousness, followed by a sense of complete well-being and happiness. She closed the book, rose, removed her hat and wraps and began to unpack. This was interrupted by an invitation to have supper and spend the evening with a faculty member and his family, a happy occasion which began a long and fruitful experience for the young woman.

The effects of this incident were far-reaching. The girl was never again troubled by the nagging depression which often had come to her with the fall of night, a dread beginning with illness in childhood. Nor was she ever troubled again with homesickness. Some years later in a large city another young woman, a stranger, approached the girl who had been healed and asked about the light shining in her face, explaining that she herself was a lifelong victim of inherited acute melancholia. The encounter led to healing in Christian Science for that stranger.

I wish I could tell you which short paragraph in Science and Health lighted the torch and brought about those healings. I was the first young woman referred to, but could never again find the passage which healed me; nor would it necessarily be the only one to heal you or another under similar circumstances, for there are no formulas in the practice of Christian Science healing, which is always inspirational. Your need will be met just as spontaneously as was mine, with the particular angel thought required in the case, which will come to you at the exact point of your need and receptivity should you find yourself in some wilderness of loneliness, sickness, or doubt.

 

Mrs. Eddy and Her Discovery

From childhood, Mary Baker Eddy learned to put her faith in the understanding gained from the study of the Bible and practice of God's law as she understood it and upon which she depended for guidance. That law proved indeed to be a lamp unto her feet, guiding her into the full effulgence of spiritual understanding, or the exact knowledge of God and His law.

Born in an era when human slavery was still in effect in part of our country, she grew up when public opinion was largely occupied with slavery as a burning social issue. Deeply sensitive to the question of human rights and the cause of universal welfare and having devout religious convictions, Mrs. Eddy unexpectedly became the owner of some colored slaves upon the death of her husband. Almost immediately she freed them, thereby sacrificing her material security. She wrote later (Message to The Mother Church for 1902, p. 15), ". . . I never could believe that a human being was my property."

Perhaps this experience in early life, when Mrs. Eddy was beginning to write upon various public issues for newspapers and other publications, helped confirm her growing conviction that mankind must be liberated from a far more insidious and general form of slavery than forced servitude. At any rate she eventually dedicated her whole life and all her substance to such a leading forth, or liberation, of mankind.

 

The Promised Comforter

Mrs. Eddy's discovery of Christian Science, or the scientific knowledge of perfect God and perfect man, which has been heralded as the coming of the long-promised Comforter by thousands upon thousands of individuals who have proven its teachings, was not the work of a moment. In many ways the experiences which led up to this discovery had similarity to those of that other great liberator, Moses. There were struggles and trials wherein Mrs. Eddy had to learn to rely entirely upon God, to seek His guidance, and listen for His voice. Her discovery was the result of divine revelation; it required humility, obedience, and, above all, an unselfed love for humanity such as few human beings have ever manifested.

Speaking of those experiences, Mrs. Eddy writes on page 226 of Science and Health: "I saw before me the sick, wearing out years of servitude to an unreal master in the belief that the body governed them, rather than Mind." In the next paragraph she continues: "The lame, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the sick, the sensual, the sinner, I wished to save from the slavery of their own beliefs and from the educational systems of the Pharaohs, who to-day, as of yore, hold the children of Israel in bondage. I saw before me the awful conflict, the Red Sea and the wilderness; but I pressed on through faith in God, trusting Truth, the strong deliverer, to guide me into the land of Christian Science, where fetters fall and the rights of man are fully known and acknowledged."

And so she did. Hundreds of thousands of happy liberated individuals now living in this promised "land of Christian Science," or understanding of God's law, rise to call her blessed. They are eternally grateful to her for her unselfish, unremitting labors in their behalf which opened prison doors for them and brought them into the healing, invigorating sunlight of the truth which is freedom from all error. They love her and acknowledge her leadership of her great movement, but do not worship her personality in rendering unto her "the fruit of her hands" (Prov. 31:31). No one can receive the comforting ministrations provided for them by Mrs. Eddy in this great spiritual household of the Christian Science movement without feeling a deep sense of gratitude to her. It is a hallmark of the genuine and sincere student of Christian Science - this insistence upon giving to Mrs. Eddy the place that is forever hers. Ingratitude is mental blindness, which stubbornly shuts out the Comforter and dwells in darkness.

 

Spiritual Receptivity an Essential

The Comforter, always just at hand, waits ready to bring that light into the prison house mortal man has built for himself by believing in evil as real and powerful. Christian Science as discovered and taught by Mrs. Eddy is the only system of thought the world has ever known which proves that evil is unreal and impotent by using the related, self-evident, spiritual fact that God, good, is infinite - which means all, without an opposite. In this Light there can be no darkness or opposite of Light, and this truth dispels evil as easily and necessarily as darkness is dispelled in a room when light is turned on. One does not study various theories about the nature of darkness or its methods of becoming darker; nor does one waste time rearranging objects in a dark room so as not to stumble, it he has at hand a switch with which to turn on the light. Evil, like darkness in the room, is only a negation, which disappears before the light.

This is contrary, however, to the evidence before the five physical senses, which mortals have been educated to accept. Hence the statement that we must become as little children - free of false education - to be receptive to this truth which leads to heavenly freedom. One remains in the dark cavern of fear and ignorance so long as he places reliance and confidence in materiality, hoping to gain satisfaction and happiness from it. Naturally one does not turn from that which he loves and wants, or believes is real.

It is when suffering and harsh experiences force one to recognize that his faith in materialism is the cause of all the ills in his experience that he logically turns from or repents of that love for and belief in evil and becomes receptive to good. He opens the door to the light and so begins his human approach Godward.

How comforting it is to know that though there are millions of individuals upon earth who know nothing of Christian Science; and many who know nothing of the Bible or Christianity as such, there is an infallible law which brings this light to them at the instant they are ready to respond to it. For instance, I know of a case where the light of spiritual inspiration reached one in solitary confinement in the depths of a dungeon in Russia, where he was awaiting execution. I will tell you his story briefly, for in a sense it illustrates deliverance from any lesser degree of imprisonment, whether the bondage be called sickness, grief, lack, sin, or any other problem.

This man was a White Russian, a kinsman of the reigning house, who was captured with the rest of his family during the revolution of 1917 and sentenced to death. For many weeks the only sounds he heard in his dungeon cell were made by the marching feet of his guards and those being taken out for execution; but there had dawned in his consciousness the conviction that since his life was not the creation of man but of God, it was above and beyond the reach of anything that brute force could do to it. This conviction caused him to be without fear; then one day, miraculously as it seemed, he found the door of his cell unlocked. He was able to make his way out of that prison and across Siberia into Alaska. In San Francisco, where he had friends, he was led almost immediately to a Christian Science church, and was quick to recognize in this Science the truth which he had faintly discerned in the extremity of his need. He gratefully accepted it, studied it, and later put into practice his understanding of Christian Science with great benefit to himself and to others. His prayerful recognition of good and its destruction of fear brought the light where he was. So it will ever be. One may be on the "backside of the desert" as was Moses, in the danger of warfare as so many of our fine young people recently were, or in ordinary pursuit of the daily round of business, but when he is ready to accept Truth and make it his own, this perception and acceptance of Truth brings help to any situation.

 There is no limit to the healing resulting from such perception, but sometimes our acceptance of it is limited. To the degree of our turning to the light without mental reservation we may freely inherit the whole of God's goodness. Many who are already students of Christian Science need to learn this in larger measure.

This is illustrated by the experience of a young friend of mine who is now a fine worker in a Christian Science church. He said that during his service in World War II he volunteered to lead a flight of bombers across the south Atlantic from the United States to England. Naturally such an assignment gave him a strange crew, and he found that each was of a different religious faith, though all subscribed to some creed except one, who took pride in calling himself an atheist. My friend confided to me, that while he himself had been brought up in the Christian Science Sunday School and had never doubted the truth of its teaching, he had left most of the praying and work to be done by his mother and grandmother, who were devout students. He relied upon their daily support.

At three o'clock one morning, his flight of seven planes took off from Africa toward England. Flying above a heavy overcast of clouds in black darkness, the planes were seven hundred miles out to sea when all seven of them began to develop engine trouble. He himself lost the use of his right engine. Descending through the heavy freezing overcast at night and seeing disaster overtaking his fellow planes, he felt the situation was hopeless. They had turned back, for Africa, but having no hope of reaching it, he set his course in a way he felt would take them toward Spain or Portugal; but here again he was beset by stories of the rugged terrain to be encountered there. He gave up all hope of reaching safety.

Then he remembered a favorite comforting line from Science and Health which appears on an inner wall of many churches, and he began repeating it over and over: "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" (p. 494). The plane had descended to three thousand feet by this time, and he was led to make a fifteen-degree turn to the right for no known reason. He held the plane to that reading for perhaps five minutes. Suddenly the plane came out into an open valley where lights were clearly visible. Just then the remaining engine failed, and in the silence he was able to hear the entire crew repeating as one man, "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need." It was as though the engine had stopped to allow Truth's message to ring out clearly. Moments later before his amazed eyes there appeared an airport just ahead, and he had barely enough time to drop his wheels as they struck the ground and ricocheted onto the Lisbon airport to safety. Every man in that crew sensed the fact that his salvation was due to having turned completely to divine Love in that simple prayer of affirmation; many were the questions asked my young friend about Christian Science. The young man who had professed atheism immediately began serious study of Christian Science.

How true it is that "man's extremity is God's opportunity;" but it is true only because extremity makes man willing to open the door of his consciousness to the truth. Then the light comes in.

 

Christ and Christian Science

This dawning in human consciousness of the spiritual idea of man's true and perfect selfhood in the image and likeness of God is the advent of the Christ in individual experience.

While the Christ is an ever-present reality in the consciousness of every man, woman, and child, humanity has been educated to accept as real the evidence of the five material senses. It is through spiritual sense only that the Christ can come to each of us as a discovery. This awakening to Truth has been referred to as "the coming of the Christ."  

Many beautiful and poetic references in Scripture allude to this awakening to the presence of "Immanuel" or "God with us." They indicate clearly how the coming of the Christ occurred down through the ages whenever the individual's readiness permitted.

Speaking of this true repentance Elihu said (Job 33:23-26): "It there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth: He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness."

This messenger is the same Christ referred to by John when he said, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). Not just one man, but every man - or, in Mrs. Eddy's words, "the whole human family." She says on page 332 of Science and Health, "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness." That message enables one to assume full sonship with God, with all the dominion, health, and true substance that belongs to such a heritage.

 

The Great Way-Shower

The perfect example of the effect upon humanity of the Christ appears in the life, teachings, and work of Christ Jesus. Jesus merited the title "the Christ" because he "loved righteousness, and hated iniquity" (Heb. 1:9) sufficiently to identify himself completely with God and express only the nature of God, good. He stated his relationship thus: "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). He also declared, "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10). The human Jesus was subjected to all the same arguments and suggestions of the five material senses as are we, but through his steadfast adherence to his real, or divine, nature, the Christ, he overcame progressively every suggestion of a power or presence apart from God, good. Jesus' complete willingness to yield every belief of a selfhood separate from the one self-existent cause, God, the one Mind, enabled him to express complete dominion over every belief of material sense. Thus the powerful quality of humility made possible the true understanding of God and man, thereby vanquishing the last enemy, called "death."

 

The Torch and True Prayer

Jesus taught that all men have eternal life, but they must claim this eternal life through the higher education of believing, spiritual understanding and knowing, which results from consistent study and application of Christian Science. Hear some of the Master's statements: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;" "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 3:36; 8:32); "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Thus he declares that redemption comes only through spiritual understanding.

The world owes a great debt to Mrs. Eddy for giving it a higher demonstrable concept of prayer. This prayer is the unceasing acknowledgment of God's goodness and allness, whereby man learns to accept the good which is already his by divine reflection. The Discoverer of this Science teaches that God is Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle, and that man embodies by reflection all the attributes of each of these synonyms for Deity. Here let me set forth some illustrations which will give you a clear sense of the results to be obtained through the prayer of affirmation which Christian Science makes plain and which availeth much.

Certain spiritual qualities stand out as effective factors in all prayer. Gratitude is one of the greatest of these effective aids to the recognition or demonstration of good, or answered prayer. Mental stillness, in which we quietly listen for God's voice, and obedience to what is heard are unfailing means of realizing answered prayer. But the humility which includes renunciation of a selfhood apart from God and all that is unlike good is the diamond of all spiritual qualities. The following healing through prayer illustrates the effectiveness of humility and spiritual understanding in the case of a man who was dying of cancer.

After he sank into a coma and the physicians foresaw his passing within twenty-four hours, they withdrew from the case, requesting the family to call them only for the signing of a death certificate, since nothing more could be done for the patient. The family decided to call a practitioner of Christian Science to aid them through the final ordeal, though none of them were students and they had not asked for help in healing the cancerous condition. The practitioner, finding that the doctors had withdrawn from the case, asked permission to see the patient. She was told that complete unconsciousness had existed for several days and was warned of shocking visible manifestations.

Here the practitioner brought to bear her understanding gained through many years of consecrated study of the Science of God, good, which she had proven to be effective in healing. Resolving to see only the man of Love's creating, she went to the bedside of the sick man. She audibly assured him of God's presence and goodness and power, and of his exemption under God's law from that which would deny his perfection as God's image and likeness. She realized the eternality of Life, man's oneness with Life, and the nothingness of death. And she knew that God's law of everlasting Life was operative right there at that very moment.

The practitioner left serenely rejoicing in the truth she had declared and her knowledge of its effectiveness. She reflected upon this truth again later in the evening, affirming the true nature of man as God's image and likeness and denying belief in false laws that would condemn God's perfect child to death.

The next morning the practitioner received a call from a jubilant household, saying the patient was awake, sitting up, and himself requesting another visit from her. He greeted her with the statement that he had heard and understood every word she had spoken the evening before, and as he had meditated upon those truths during the night the kernels that had distorted his throat and face with ugly manifestations of disease had all gone away. He was able to speak clearly, as he had not done in weeks, and to take nourishment. Within a few days all evidence of the trouble had vanished, and a few weeks later he was back at his former employment which he had been compelled to leave several months previously. One of the physicians who had attended him brought his own wife to that practitioner for help because of what he had seen in the man's case.

Now the practitioner had spent no time trying to manipulate or change those ugly manifestations, or even to treat disease. Knowing that those were only shadows cast by ignorant false belief about man, she brought her faith and understanding to bear by focusing the light of spiritual understanding upon the case. This dispelled the shadows. What happened was effortless healing, because the man turned away from matter to Spirit, thereby awakening to his true selfhood, which all the time had been perfect and untouched by the error.

Whether one turns quickly or gradually in gentle emergence from erroneous belief, whether one is healed instantly or as the result of patient application of the truth, steadfast adherence to the truth of Spirit will bring about complete healing in every instance. Consider the experience of a young woman who brought to bear her faith in God through the study of Christian Science in the following way, which took patient, persistent effort over a period of several months, resulting in perfect healing.

Her husband, a rancher in the West, brought in to her one day a tiny lamb which had been stricken with the dreaded "range paralysis" - a disease which is usually believed to be fatal. The lamb's legs were completely paralyzed and the breathing and swallowing badly affected. With this distressing picture apparent to her eyes, if this student had put her faith in recent educational campaigns carried on in the press, on radio and television, she could have had no hope. But, as she wrote me: "I turned earnestly to God to know what divine Love was saying to me about the case. Jesus' parable of the ninety and nine came at once to my thought, especially his words: 'Even so it is not the will of your father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish' (Matt. 18:14). Though the world might say that this was just a lamb, I knew it was vitally necessary that I reject and prove the nothingness of all evil suggestions about 'unavoidable death' or 'incurable disease,' or 'contagion and infection.' " Her letter included the various steps of unfolding inspiration and revelation through which she rejected, reversed, and dispelled the error with the truth, patiently correcting each lie of material sense with the opposite truth. Knowing the equipollence of God, she was able to restore the lamb to its natural environment without fear, for the power of God is equally present in all places. Four months later the lamb was one of the most beautiful and healthy among the flock.

 

Conclusion

My friends, time would fail me to tell you of all the beautiful proofs I have seen of the efficacy of this study to bring about the glorious results mentioned in Mrs. Eddy's statement quoted at the beginning of our discussion here tonight. Christian Science holds aloft the lighted torch of spiritual understanding; the healing effects of this Science are published so that all who run may read. We promised that this discussion would be simple, and I hope it has been, for our intention is to help you to see how this Science may kindle for you this illumination in your consciousness which, through its healing power, achieves immortal results.

"From glory unto glory,

Be this our joyous song;

From glory unto glory,

'Tis Love that leads us on;

As wider yet and wider,

The rising splendors glow,

What wisdom is revealed to us,

What freedom we may know."

(Christian Science Hymnal, No. 65)

 

[Published in The Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) News, May 20, 1954.]

 

 

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