See It Like It Is
Nancy E. Houston of Urbana, Illinois
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"One of the discoveries we all make is that the truth about anything is rarely what it seems," Miss Nancy E. Houston, C.S., of Urbana, Illinois, stated in a lecture in Boston Monday.
"We learn to discount appearances and to reason past surface evidence to get the truth, the reality behind false appearances," she went on to say. Her lecture, given in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, continued with an explanation of how Christian Science explains the Truth, and how to reason past false appearances.
The title of her lecture was "See It Like It Is." She was introduced by Kenneth L. Jeffery of Boston, Massachusetts.
An assistant professor at one time at the University of Illinois, Miss Houston has long been active in the public practice of Christian Science. She is currently on tour as a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship. An abridged text of her lecture follows:
Recently I was rereading one of the best loved stories of all times, "Winnie the Pooh"
- a favorite of mine. As you know, Winnie the Pooh was Christopher Robin's toy bear. And I'm sure you remember his friend the pig called Piglet. One day Piglet saw Pooh walking around a dense thicket of trees and brush. "Hallo," he called. "What are you doing?"
"Tracking something," Pooh answered.
Suddenly, Pooh stopped and bent over the tracks. "A funny thing, but this whatever-it-was has been joined by another whatever-it-is. Would you mind coming with me in case it turns out to be Hostile Animals?"
Just when Pooh was beginning to feel brave, thanks to Piglet, he stopped short. He suddenly felt more anxious then ever before.
"Do you see Piglet? Look at those tracks. A third animal has joined the other two." The prospect of so many "Hostile Animals" was too much. While all this was going on Christopher Robin was sitting up in the tree above them, and just as the two friends were about to run away, he called out, "Silly old bear! What were you doing? First, you went around the spinney twice by yourself and then Piglet ran after you and you went around again together."
"Wait a moment," said Pooh, holding up his paw. Then he fitted it into one of the tracks, and then he scratched his nose twice, and stood up. "Yes, I see now. I have been Foolish and Deluded."
If Pooh could have gotten up into the tree where Christopher Robin was, he wouldn't have been afraid. Christopher Robin wasn't afraid. He saw the entire experience for what it was - a matter of self-deception. Pooh's head got sort of tangled. His fear was caused
by false appearances. It was groundless. What Pooh needed, you see - and what Christopher Robin gave him - was a new view of the situation and of himself in it. Then he saw the frightening experience for what it really was - namely, that it really wasn't. All of us, like Pooh find ourselves deluded by frightening and false appearances. But it's a challenge to see beyond appearances to reality.
One of the discoveries we all make is that the truth about anything is rarely what it seems. We learn to discount appearances and to reason past surface evidence to get the truth, the reality behind false appearances.
Philosophers say we perceive life as events in space and in time. And they all agree that the human being's sense of space and time doesn't give accurate views of reality. For example did you know that if you constructed cylindrical columns for a building, and you made them straight, they'd look thinner in the middle than at either end? The Greek architects knew this and mastered the art of "built-in” perspective. For one thing, they thickened the columns slightly in the middle so that from a distance they'd appear straight.
Artists and sculptors know tricks the eye plays. It makes one color out of many separate colors. You've probably gone up to a painting and seen that what seemed one color from a distance was, in fact, a blending of many. It's true for forms, too. At the University of Illinois where I used to teach, there are three handsome bronze doors at the entrance to the Christian Science Organization building. Far away, they appear to be one horizontal, elliptical design. At close range, you see sharp, distinct forms with lights and shadows of objects depicting the Biblical story of creation.
The truth is, our visual sense of space and objects in space is a set of false appearances. They're convenient, mental fictions, which we learn we often have to discount. The eye perceives points of light received through rods and cones on the retina. We infer a continuous surface or extension in space from these points of light. The eye doesn't really see a wall or a floor or a table at all. It only infers it does. They're really a series of separate dots of light and not the form or continuous surface we think we see.
Human sight might be thought of as one gigantic, optical illusion. We really see everything upside down - just as a camera lens does. Everything on one side of the focal point is the inverse of what's on the other side.
That's the truth! The picture our senses give us of what is real is, indeed, often the inverse of what's real and true. And that's what I'm discussing tonight - how to reason past false appearances to "see it like it is"! The Truth.
Now when I talk about reasoning past false appearances to truth, I don't mean the human truth about optical illusions. I'm talking about Truth spelled with a capital T. As Christian Scientists see it, the ultimate facts of being are spiritual. They originate with God, Spirit, the ultimate Truth, the divine Truth that is also Love. They extend to man, man seen in a wholly spiritual view as God's expression - as God's exact likeness or reflection in all he is and does. Because man and the universe reflect God, divine Truth, the true man can never be a victim of any kind of material illusion or deception.
No 'material truth'
And this brings us to the focal point of what I'm saying. The only truth that is permanent and basic is the spiritual kind. There really isn't such a thing as "material truth." We see things as they are only as we acknowledge the spiritual reality as the sole reality, and see material substance to be something of a deception.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy asks the question, "What is the scientific statement of being?" In her answer the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science clearly shows the two necessary aspects of "seeing it like it is." Sentence by sentence, she separates spiritual truth from the material life. For example, part of her answer reads: "Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. . . . Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual" (Science and Health, p. 468).
That's quite radical, isn't it? But it's the key to seeing life as it really is.
Several years ago a Christian Science family very dear to me were vacationing in Florida. One day they were on the beach, and Anne, the young mother, was playing with children in shallow water. Suddenly a large fish appeared out of nowhere and lashed out its tail. It gashed the inside of her upper leg, and part of the serrated tail became imbedded there. She called out to her husband and mother. Immediately they began to pray. That is, they applied specific spiritual truths to the situation as they had learned to do in Christian Science. They filled their consciousness with firm declarations of spiritual Truth and Love to counteract what they knew to be a deception called accident and bleeding.
They also clung to the thought from Science and Health that "A spiritual idea has not a single element of error, and this truth removes properly whatever is offensive" (Science and Health, p. 463). They tried to realize that accident and resentment could have no form, no place, nor power. God's law, the law of Spirit, was firmly in control because man is spiritual, the very image of God.
Anne was able to leave the beach, but by nightfall the wound was raw, painful and inflamed. She was scared. At this point she called me, not only as a practitioner but as an old family friend. I asked, "Do you feel like biting back at what harmed you?"
"I sure do!" she answered through her tears. I asked her to mentally dismiss the false appearance of a material animal which could slash out and harm. Instead she must acknowledge only the ideas of God expressing good. If she was to find healing, she must appreciate that God's spiritual creation didn't include any element of destruction, and that according to the spiritual reality of things, a fish couldn't cause any harm. One doesn't retaliate when divine Love's at the helm of thought because spiritual law holds all right ideas in proper relationship to each other.
Later, she and I talked about the fact that God, Spirit, is all-powerful and ever-present good. I told her she was adulterating her thinking by accepting the false suggestion that an accident could occur to God's man, or could cause pain, inflammation, and fear. By so adulterating her thinking, she was in a sense committing adultery. With that she suddenly realized how important it was to see only the pure spiritual facts about the situation. She must be firm in understanding that God's government included only good for His children. She must reestablish herself in the secret place of the Most High - secure from all attacks of evil. That was seeing the situation as it really was.
The following day, as her fear of infection and her resentment began to dissipate, the inflammation began to subside, too. By the time the family returned to Illinois, she was completely healed. All frightening physical appearances had gone. The foreign matter had removed itself, too. You see, it had made no difference how threatening the lie; the specific application of the spiritual facts - the Truth - to false human appearances had resulted in a Christian Science healing. Her healing was brought about entirely by the healing power of Truth. What we call the Christ, Truth.
The Christ, Truth, has been evident throughout human history. We come to know this healing power of Truth as God-with-us, an awareness of ever-present, divine Love. This is the Christ, the spiritual manifestation of God as it comes to human consciousness, uplifting, freeing, cleansing human thought and experience of false appearance, of any error or inharmony. Its healing effects are seen in physical, moral, and spiritual well-being. Throughout all ages, Truth has allowed man to see life as it really is.
For example, the life of the Old Testament prophet Elisha offers striking evidence of Truth's correcting power. You may remember that Naaman, captain of the Syrian army, had leprosy. Everyone noticed it, including his wife's maidservant, a captive Israelite. She said to Naaman's wife. "Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy" (II Kings 5:3).
So Naaman went to Israel to seek out Elisha. He came with horses and chariot and stood at Elisha's door. But, because Elisha's thought was so focused on divine Truth, Elisha sensed immediately - without even having met him - that Naaman was proud. Elisha recognized the error to be healed - that pride corrupts. But he saw it for what it was, no part of God's expression. He saw also that in truth no man was ever the master of another, but that all men were equal, children of the one God, that they were all equally perfect reflections of God, divine Love. Here was a purer view of man.
Naaman apparently needed humility. So, Elisha didn't receive him with the ceremony customarily accorded a man of rank. He merely sent the message to wash seven times in the Jordan River. If he'd do this, Elisha promised, his flesh would grow again. He'd be clean.
Naaman was infuriated. "Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean?" (II Kings 5:11.12).
But then the great love his servants felt for their master reached him and that love melted human pride. As Naaman became humble enough to wash in Jordan, he recognized something of his true selfhood. He felt the touch of the Christ and was instantly healed. The power of Love melted conceit and self-will, wiped out the false, human picture of victor and vanquished, servant and master, and healed both mind and body.
Jesus saw the truth about all life. He was so clearly aware of the power of the Christ that we identify him with it, naming him "Jesus the Christ," or "Christ Jesus." He demonstrated fully how the perception of life through the lens of spiritual Truth can transform human experience. He healed sickness and sin, and raised the dead by a method that seemed miraculous but was in fact divinely natural. He proved for all time the availability of Truth when understood. He proved that the unity of God and man has practical meaning for humanity. Through spiritual understanding, he saw things as they truly were.
For example, when the insane man "cried out with a loud voice, . . . Let us alone; . . . art thou come to destroy us?" Jesus checked him by saying, "Hold thy peace, and come out of him" (Luke 4:33-35). To the amazement of all, the man was healed. Obviously, spiritual Truth transformed the man's human experience. Jesus accepted only what was true — the spiritual selfhood of the man. As Mrs. Eddy says: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (Science and Health, p. 476,477).
In a certain sense this correct view of man rebuked the error clamoring to be heard and demanded it depart. It did, and Truth was proved to be all powerful. As Jesus recognized the man in his true, spiritual selfhood - as he really was - this enabled the man to see it for himself. Those around saw it, too. They actually witnessed the power of the Truth and were so convinced of its authority they told everyone they could. Friends suffering from one disease or another came to him. All were healed.
Jesus knew conclusively that the healing and redeeming power of the Christ, Truth, had always been present and always would be. He taught this to his disciples. He demonstrated it continuously. He said of the Christ, Truth, continuing through all time, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad." When he was challenged on this, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" he replied, referring to the eternal Christ, "Verily, verily, I say unto you. Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:56-58). Later, Jesus spoke again of the healing power of Truth as always available to the one who believed on him. "The works that I do," he said, "shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do" (John 14:12).
The history of the early Christian church tells about such healing, accomplished entirely through spiritual means for about 300 years after Jesus. Yet evidence of the power of Truth to heal grew less and less as increasing attention was given to materialism and ritualistic forms of worship. As priesthood grew more powerful, it was even thought that only through intermediaries could man come to know God.
With the Reformation, the idea of direct communication between God and man began to dawn once again. Every man began to have the right to read the Bible on his own in his own language, to come to the truth by way of his own reason, his own spiritual intuitions, to pray directly without need of priest or saint to intercede for him. Through the efforts of men such as Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, and John Calvin, the dignity of every individual as a child of God began to be reasserted. These Protestant reformers opened the way for the Truth once again to be seen as an active, regenerative, and healing force in individual human experience.
In the mid-19th century, while she was still a member of the Congregational Church, Mary Baker Eddy became intensely aware of the power of this Christ, Truth. And she came to the overwhelming conviction that man as God had created him was never for an instant dependent on matter for his protection or survival. This was at a time of severe trial for her and, as she lay in bed reading Jesus' healings in the Bible, she glimpsed all true being as completely spiritual - God, man, the universe completely spiritual. This was the true picture. This was seeing life as it really is.
With that momentous dawning of the Christ in her consciousness, she was healed. From this period she dates the discovery of Christian Science. For the next several years, she studied the Bible constantly to understand more about the spiritual power that had healed her. She came to see that her healing had been the natural effect of the divine Truth which is God.
As her understanding grew she was able to heal others. One day Mrs. Eddy and a friend went to a furniture store to buy chairs. The clerk who waited on them had a bandage over one eye. Mrs. Eddy was so absorbed by it she couldn't make up her mind about the chairs. "Could I think of chairs when the man was suffering?" she said. The next day the friend had to go back and place the order. The salesman asked about Mrs. Eddy. He said he had an abscess on his eye the day before. When she had left, he'd taken off the bandage, and the abscess had completely disappeared.
Through her study of the Bible and application of Biblical truths, she had discovered the method behind such healings. She wrote down her revelation in Science and Health. She went on later to establish the Church of Christ, Scientist.
In Science and Health, you'll find a very interesting final chapter called "Fruitage." Each testimony tells a case of healing resulting simply from reading the book.
My thoughts sometimes go back to a time when I found myself in a doctor's office. The university where I taught required that all faculty have physical examinations. This was just a routine kind of thing so you can imagine my surprise when the doctor told me I had an extreme case of anemia. This turned me quickly to the only way I knew I could find permanent healing - to Christian Science.
I began reading Science and Health from the beginning. I read 50 pages a day. With notebook and pen in hand, I copied quotations I felt pertained to my situation. I heeded the words of the Song of Solomon, "Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth" (Song of Solomon 7:12).
Each day I got up early and reviewed my notebook, pondering passages I'd copied. Then I continued with my "intensive-care" project. When I reached the last page, some 13 days later, my, had I learned a lot! The pomegranates had indeed budded forth. I felt more healthy and energetic than I ever had before. My complete healing was later verified by the same physician when I was required to have a checkup. Since then, I've had many healings. I attribute them completely to the application of the truths found in this book.
This healing was one more proof to me that the Christ, Truth, applied in varying degrees through the ages - by Elisha, by Jesus, by Christian reformers, and by Mary Baker Eddy - that this truth is possible today, too.
Now, as in the past, you and I can have continuing evidence of the omnipresence of the Christ, Truth. It can correct the most current of contemporary problems, revealing true, spiritual pictures of harmony. Recently this was brought home forcibly to me all over again in a talk I had with a friend named Gordon who is a chaplain and a Christian Science practitioner at an Illinois prison. This is one of the experiences there he shared with me.
One day an inmate approached him who said he was in prison for the third time because of drug addiction. Eight of his 21 years had been spent there. He'd taken the "cure," but it had failed. He wasn't on drugs then, but he was afraid that once out of prison in several weeks he'd slip right back. Another conviction would mean life.
But Gordon said Christian Science could help him to a life free of drugs. Before his next Sunday visit, he prayed for the man by seeing him as wholly spiritual.
About five months after his release, the man wrote Gordon a seven-page letter which Gordon related to me in detail. It was thrilling. The man was completely healed and knew Christian Science had done it. It wasn't any matter of willpower, he said. When he returned home, he found himself living in exactly the same environment as before. But the man remained absolutely free of any desire for drugs. If it hadn't been for the power of God, he said, he would have been hooked all over again.
He was attending Christian Science services regularly and felt confident his future would be full of good. He ended the letter by saying, "If anyone would have told me that I would lose all desire completely for drugs just by going to a Christian Science service and gaining a relatively superficial understanding of an infinite God, I would have said he was crazy."
Just what did my friend, the chaplain, do as a Christian Scientist? What was the "treatment" given the man? First, let me say that Christian Science treatment isn't material, but spiritual - it's prayer. It's seeing it like it is. Gordon prayed - understandingly, scientifically. He saw the man was eager for healing. He knew he felt the mark of his past experience and humbly yearned to lift himself up, out of this drowning sea of addiction.
He saw, further, that the problem wasn't drug addiction at all, but fear. The man feared the power drugs had over him in the past, and the power he thought they might have in the future - feared he was doomed to repeat his past. But Gordon was confident that according to the spiritual truth of being these fears had no more reality than Winnie-the-Pooh's "Hostile Animals." He saw them as false appearances. The true picture of any situation can be seen only in our oneness with God and our dominion as His expression. Active acknowledgment of our unity with God can eliminate any false appearance.
So, Gordon began to pray. He declared that God, who is the one true Mind, is perfect, infinite, and complete. That in his true selfhood the convict reflected God's spiritual perfection and completeness. He and God were inseparable. Gordon declared that the convict's spiritual identity was never less than whole and sinless. It always had been. It always would be.
Then he saw the false picture, the supposed power of matter to have control over man, for what it was - a lie about God's creation. He saw through the false picture that God's expression ever was, or ever could be, a drug-addicted mortal. He also saw that man is not destined to repeat his mistakes - lost endlessly in his own footprints.
Gordon completed his treatment by reaffirming the true picture about man's spiritual identity. As this identity he was forever sound, pure, intact. He reaffirmed that the activity of good in man's experience was in truth the only experience he could ever have. It was unfolding constantly as newness, freedom, confidence. So he simply saw the lad as he really was - wholly spiritual and this correct view, supported by the power of divine Truth, healed.
Let me add one point. The compassion and love of this chaplain played the vital part. His spiritual reasoning enabled him to be instant in the Truth when it was needed. His compassion and patience with the man's fears helped defuse them. His spiritual conviction of Truth and Love as All opened thought to the healing power of good.
This is what Christian Science treatment is and what it can do. It heals through the power and law of God. Mrs. Eddy sums it up like this, "His law of Truth, when obeyed, removes every erroneous physical and mental state" ("Rudimental Divine Science," p. 10).
Opening our consciousness to the spiritual truth of being brings good into focus. Because God is omnipresent, good is omnipresent this minute, this second, this instant. Each moment vibrant, fresh, new. To see the newness and ever-newness of Deity is to see life as it really is.
Now is always new, isn't it? We've never been at this point, this moment, before now. Now is always God's moment, forever full of God's love. We live forever active in the eternal unfolding of spiritual reality. All the good we can ever experience is right here, right now; unfolding for each of us every day.
This means false beliefs can't prevent us from claiming our right to success, health, or harmony this instant. The moment we realize with complete conviction that man is perfect, made in the image and likeness of God - at that instant, healing takes place. Instantly!
The only time it ever takes to be healed is the time it takes for us to wake up from erroneous appearances, get rid of them. All it takes is filling our thought so full of Truth and Love - so full of God - that we don't leave room for anything else. Once we know the truth about something, a lie has no power to influence us. The only time a lie ever seems to have power is when we think it's true. The minute we recognize its falsity, its control over us disappears. Only apathy or unwillingness to give up mistaken concepts can postpone healing.
You remember Naaman's healing didn't come right away. He was too proud to wash in the Jordan River where everybody else did. But when he finally overcame his pride and did what Elisha asked, he was healed.
Jesus healed instantly, with total lack of concern for time. No matter how long an illness had been going on, he healed it right then and there. Remember when he spoke to the insane man, he spoke with instant authority to the error. "Come out of him, and enter no more into him" (Mark 9:25). The man was immediately sane and well. To the woman who'd been bleeding for 12 years and getting worse, he said, "Be whole of thy plague" (Mark 5:34). That was the end of the bleeding.
"The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword" (Heb. 4:12), Paul reminds us. "Is quick and powerful," not was or will be. It destroys false appearances of inharmony to reveal spiritual man - you and me - well and whole.
One bitter, cold morning in January, a friend of mine drove her mother to the town's small train station to catch the train home. She took her three-year-old daughter, Amy, along. Amy stayed outside to play in the snow while they went into the station. A few minutes later, the mother heard her scream. She ran out to find the child had climbed on a luggage cart. Intrigued with the metal pushbar, she'd put her mouth around it. Her lips and tongue were frozen fast.
The only way for the mother to loose the child was to forcibly pull her free. So she did it and hugged her. All this time she calmly but emphatically declared aloud that Amy was at that very instant held securely in God's love. That the warmth of God's love was the only sensation Amy could feel. She had put a handkerchief over the child's mouth. But she knew the material picture of injury wasn't true. Amy's spiritual selfhood was her only selfhood. In the meantime the train arrived, and the young woman assured her mother her granddaughter would be all right.
By the time they reached home, the little girl was quiet. The mother called me for spiritual support for herself as well as for Amy. I could see the mother had done the spiritual work well for the child and suggested we both support it by reviewing from Science and Health Mrs. Eddy's answer to the question: "What is man?"
Let me quote a few sentences: "Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science" (Science and Health, p. 475).
The mother stopped condemning herself for allowing Amy to play unsupervised and instead began to glimpse something of the child's true, spiritual being. But she couldn't lift her thinking above the mortal picture. Each time she closed her eyes to pray, the train platform came into view. She opened her eyes to shake it off only to have it return again. And then she knew what she had to do. Instead of averting her eyes from the scene, she needed to look directly at it and see it for what it was. See the true, spiritual picture of peace and harmony. She did just that.
When the human picture came again, it brought no sense of horror or shock. She saw the lie for what it was, and it had no reality or power in her thinking or Amy's.
A few minutes later, she heard her husband say, "Goodness, Amy! You were hungry!" Hurrying to the kitchen, she found her daughter had finished a breakfast of cereal and two pieces of toast. Although there appeared to be damage to both lips and tongue, Amy didn't feel any discomfort. Within two days, all the flesh had filled in. Not a mark could be seen. Mrs. Eddy says, "It was the living, palpitating presence of Christ, Truth, which healed the sick" (Science and Health, p. 351). We all can recognize this present help.
Truth always sufficient
Divine Truth is never less than omnipotent. The all-power and ever-presence of God has always been and always will be sufficient to break through false material appearances of every kind.
Spiritual Truth is available to each of us right now. All we have to do is accept the spiritual picture as the true picture. As we gain more spiritual views of ourselves and our environment, we find our lives more truly reflections of God's perfection.
Like Christopher Robin from his vantage point up in the treetop, all of us can see it like it is. Once we know God as divine Truth, we're seldom again fooled by a lie. False human appearances - uncovered for what they are - disappear under the lens of Truth.
We can see ourselves as we really are - wholly spiritual and well. We can see our neighbor as he really is, too. In fact, we can see all mankind as they really are - spiritual reflections of the one Father-Mother God. The ever-presence of this truth is the spiritual fact. Why not accept it, work with it, prove it? Why not see life like it is - now!