The Power of Thought
Edward A. Kimball
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
[NOTE: It will be noted that the report of this lecture is given entirely in indirect discourse.]
Before coming to England Mr. Kimball said he was told he would find in Aldershot an audience composed of men and women who were accustomed to look well into things, who were accustomed to analytical study, who were more or less profound concerning their examination of the problems and the vast things which went to make up man's being. He had come to talk to them about a subject which was as old as man, as old as God himself. What did the term Christian Science mean? It simply meant Christian knowledge. As a Christian people they believed that the divine Christ had absolutely demonstrable knowledge of God and man and the universe, of creation and power, and of everything that was included in the actuality of being.
Christ Jesus knew something, and his knowledge was Christian knowledge. Therefore they would understand that Christian knowledge was not a new thing. Christian knowledge, he would remind them, had been interpreted to this world for eighteen centuries, and there had been many scores of beliefs, and many creeds, and many doctrines, and even after all the eighteen centuries there was still a great variety of opinion as to what Christianity was, and what Christ really meant, and what all he did really amounted to. And yet he asked them to bear in mind that in spite of all the theorizing of the ages there was such a thing as the truth about it all, and the truth about Christianity was the Science of it all.
Christ Jesus, when he was teaching them, told his disciples that they did not understand it. He told them they could not then, but he declared prophetically that the time would come when they would understand it. He said "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Free from what? Everything that wounded them; everything that meant distress and tragedy; everything that meant pain, and worry, and woe, and sorrow.
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Know the truth about what? You shall know the truth about being, about life, about man, his legitimate destiny, and the possibilities of his existence. You shall know that, and when you know that, it will make you free. And for all the centuries people had been praying that they might know it in the hope that it would do what was promised of it. And Christian Scientists were the people who declared that it was being revealed. Christian Science was urging on humanity the comprehension and appreciation of man, and it was literally doing what was promised.
It was freeing the world beyond the scope of its fondest hope. The subject was vast — it was as vast as was infinity, and he could barely touch upon it that day. People had been puzzling over it for ages, and he could not solve the problem in one hour. He would touch upon one or two of its phases. It purported to do pretty well everything for humanity that was needed. Christian Science was the Science of Life, Mind and health; the Science of creation.
The one principal thing that he was going to talk to them about was the power of thought. He came to a people who were in perpetual lamentation over their agony and distress, to people who would want to know that there was a possibility of salvation. He knew that the hour would come when every man would look around with the desire to say: "Is the best being done for me that can be done?" Coming with no other purpose than to lay before them certain information for them to consider, which, if considered by them, would be an everlasting advantage to them, coming to ask nothing for himself, nothing for the Christian Science movement, nothing for any of its adherents, but coming alone in order that they might learn, if they cared to do so, something of the vast promise that was now at their door, he would ask them to consider one or two things.
Christian Scientists were accustomed to say much for their religion, but one thing in particular, viz., that it reconciled reason to God. They included men and women from almost every denomination in the world. They did not come before them as a lot of pagans, or as a lot of aborigines. They had believers from every church. They knew all about Christianity, as usually accepted, from beginning to end. They came in the name of those who declared that no longer was a man obligated to believe in something he could not understand. The hour had struck when man could learn that the exquisiteness of his reason might be reconciled to the exquisiteness of God. No longer was there any mysterious link or unfathomable dark abyss between the two.
Lest some of them might be tempted to be afraid of him, he wanted to say to them that as Christian people they believed as much as anybody in one infinite, individual, spiritual, self-existent, all-creative God. They believed in one divine Christ, one adequate and acceptable Saviour, and one Christian salvation. They believed that there was none other way than the way through Christ, and none other needed. They were believers in the Bible, and they accepted the Scriptures as revealed as their guide to eternal Life. They believed no other mandate than that of God and Christ. They believed and they were taught life, according to the highest conceivable ethical and moral standard. They were taught to be more honest and upright. Indeed all the teachings of Christian Science, and its splendid impact of thought, brought to man greater happiness, longer life, more dominion, more control, less flurry, less misery, less pain, less anguish. It healed the broken heart, and dried copious tears. Secondly they need not be afraid of him, because they did not have to believe a word of what he said. They were perfectly safe. He wanted them to consider, for a moment, the power of thought.
Without thought none of them would ever have been born; without thought no country ever would have been discovered or colonized; no government ever would have been organized; no city ever would have been built. Their vast and superlatively great city of London never would have been a thing of any consequence at all without thought. All their society had been erected and formulated by thought. Their education, their politics, their art — all that went to make up the paraphernalia of their social life was in consequence of thought; all the commerce, all the manufacturing industries, all the business, all the agricultural pursuits, all the coming and going of humanity and the world was in consequence of thought.
Thought committed all the suicides, thought committed all the murders; all the sin was in consequence of thought; all the anguish and woe was in consequence of thought; all the temper amongst men was because of thought; all wars had been in consequence of thought; indeed, so conspicuously active was thought that he would remind them that the two Napoleons were two thinking men and by reason of their thinking they had plunged all Europe into tumult and disaster. Thought had over-turned empires and obliterated races; without it humanity would cease in a minute; without it all things that man's hands worked would perish and crumble.
He was only reminding them of that in order to bring to their consideration that one thing — that thought was the one supreme animus of humanity. He wanted to remind them that the wisest men in the world would persistently tell them that humanity had very little correct knowledge, that their knowledge was not proved to be true. The wisest men would tell them that the great realm of knowledge lay almost unexplored.
Let them follow this line of reasoning. He did not expect them to take it all in and at once say: "Oh yes, it is so." He knew that sometime they would think about it. Thus lay their pathway to the only possible help — every other highway and every other lane led to nothing but disaster.
Consider the human race; contemplate it as a long procession, and what distinguished it? At the bottom of the line was the Hottentot; at the top such men as Shakespeare, Longfellow, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin, Gladstone, and so on. What was the difference? In the mere matter of animal and physical comparison the fellow down below was superior. The chances were that he could digest his food better than the other men. The chances were that the animal tissues of his body were better than those of the other men, and that his blood circulated better than that of the other men. At the World's Fair at Chicago it was decided that the best specimen of physical manhood was a South Sea Islander. But what distinguished them? The distinctive difference was in the realm of mind. The man at the bottom knew least, and the man at the top knew most. Let them consider that and they would find one trend of thought pervading the whole thing. It was that every man, woman, and child represented what they would call a materialistic belief of life, materialistic philosophy, a materialistic estimate concerning the origin of man.
At that point he urged upon them one of the most important declarations of Science. It was this: Causation or primary impulsion of being was actually in the realm of mind and not in any matter at all. Christian Science was always with them, and in its modus operandi it was impalpable. They had got to take it on trust, and that seemed objectionable. For of the invisible mind action, man says: "I cannot feel it, I cannot smell, hear, or taste it," and he declares it is not good.
He admitted that that which healed the sick in Christian Science was something they could not smell. But having already reminded them that the thought which created the habit of the world was also invisible — they could not smell that, either — was it very strange to say that that which would work to heal was also invisible but nevertheless absolutely superior? Whether they were materialists, or whether they believed themselves of divine or spiritual origin or creation, it was just as true.
Holding up a flower, he said: "This is a thing." Something was the primary animus of that thing. Whatever was primary by way of impulsion, was the principle by reason of which it existed. Whether they called it mental or material, could they see the principle by which it existed? Could they smell it or feel it? No! That flower would never have existed had there not been a law to induce the activity which brought it to pass. Could they see the law? Could they smell it or feel it? No! That flower existed because of the exertion of some power.
Did they ever see any power at all? No! Let them go and look at a steam engine; let them go and fire a cannon — could they see the power? No! Nobody ever saw any. The only thing they could suggest was the theoretical supposition as to what caused it; but they never cognized it at all. They said that the thing existed because of an atomic substance — but this was absolutely theoretical from beginning to end. There was nothing more tangible, nothing more palpable in the materialistic view concerning cause and law and power than there was in the theory of Christian Science.
Let them examine for a moment what the atomic theory did for them and him. Christian Science repudiated it at every point. What did it mean? It meant that every one of them would be eventually annihilated. It meant the utter and irretrievable extinction of every man and woman and every life. Why? The reason ought to have discovered itself to man long ago. It was simply that if man be the offspring of man, intelligent dust, then he will return to that dust for the simple reason that nothing could possibly outclass, or exceed, or rise superior to its source. If their source was the dust — then unto dust literally everyone of them would go. How useless was prayer according to the atomic theory! Why, it would be folly, abject waste of time and endeavor, to worship in a church, or read the Bible, or pray, or even to try to find God. There was nothing but oblivion for the atomic theory.
What did Christian Science come to plead for? The recognition of God as the creator of the universe and man. He did not mean a man with grey whiskers and grey hair with a purple robe sitting on a white throne. The age of that puerile picture of God was past. It came to plead for the recognition that God was the very infinity of wisdom, the infinity of knowledge, of Truth, of power, of law, of capacity. It came to plead for the divine Mind as the only creator of being, and no being was actual that God had not created. One might say "That is nothing but theory," but there came the satisfaction of proof. It was simply this. When they came to understand that life had an immortal basis with God, they would begin to live longer; they would begin to lose their fear of death; they would begin to lose their fear of constraint and limitation. When they began to learn that man had his fountain and his maintenance with the perpetual Mind; when they learned that man would exercise dominion over his surroundings; when they learned and began to find that the actuality of power was in God, good, or Mind, then they would find they would overcome the theory of evil power.
It has been declared, he said, concerning someone in England, that years ago two or three medical students decided to try an experiment on a man, and by arrangement one of the students met the man and engaged him in conversation as he was passing along the road. He told the man he was sick, but he retorted: "No, I feel quite well." But the student persisted, and said he should see someone about it, saying: "You may feel well, but you are not." Further along the road another student met the man, and said much the same as the first, but the man replied: "I don't feel bad." The next student waylaid him and said, "You have got so and so, and if you don't look to it you will die." The man, continued the lecturer, went home and died, and it was of the utmost importance to everybody that lived on this planet to decide whether that man died according to law or not. He died according to some impulsion, to some rule; but it was not law.
Supposing they had gone to the man and been called upon to heal him, would it have done any good to have put a plaster on his back? No. Any good giving the man pills? None at all! Christian Science came to declare that the diseases of mankind were not according to law, but according to mere belief. That was the reason the man died — the only reason in the world. Christian Science declared that the death of man and woman was not according to law, but according to outrage, according to the abominable imposition upon mankind, according to a gratuitous, wretched, and spurious pretense of power and rule.
Mr. Kimball told of the case of a man who had lost much flesh, but was later restored to health through Christian Science. What was it that was killing him? The carnal mind; a mind of death, the philosophy of disaster, the philosophy of theory, the network of doom, and all the misery caused by a materialistic sense of life and law. "To be carnally minded is death." The business of the carnal mind was to scare them to death, to torment them, to limit their existence, to put upon them the blight of spurious law, rule, and burden. "To be spiritually minded is life and peace." "Let that mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." What saved that man? It was a little of the Mind which was in Christ. It was just a touch of the Mind that meant life, that meant health, that meant dominion, that meant law and God and good for man.
What was the mischief-maker doing for them? One thing that it had succeeded in fastening down upon the world was the law of hereditary contamination.
They were a poor stricken race, crawling upon the face of life under the blight of supposing that they had been stung even before they were born, stung by the venom of mischief and that they must be limited. What did that law of heredity include? Why, it included the supposition that they had got a sort of job lot of diseases around them and that people possessed only second-hand things of no interest to them.
He did not presume to intrude upon their affairs, he understood that it was a delicate matter to ask them to put aside their misery. Yet he would be a recreant to his purpose if he did not say to them that it had been determined that the long-drawn-out mystery of hereditary contamination was no longer a mystery. That trouble of mankind had been solved, and to-day Christian Science with the utmost honesty exposed with vast amplification the whole network of hereditary disease, declared what it was, and declared that every bit of it could be annulled.
One reason why Christian Science practice was resulting in the cure of hereditary diseases with the utmost simplicity was that it was the master of what was called hereditary mystery. He could testify concerning hundreds of cases of the most wretched hereditary diseases so-called, which had been healed — many of them almost instantly. But they never knew it was true until they proved it. Think of the hope, of the promise, in learning that that one dreadful thing at the doorstep of their life had been found to be something that could be annulled. Materialistic theory concerning law and power declared that they were limited concerning opportunity. How common it was to say: "A man has one opportunity in his life. If he loses that, he will probably never get another." Another outrage! One and all declared that they were limited, that they could go only so far, and do only so much, that they were in the narrow groove of restriction and hindrance. Humanity was a dwarf, a wretchedly circumscribed state of life. Christian Science came to declare that, instead of all that, they had an unlimited right to unlimited manhood and unlimited womanhood.
How did that rule strike human existence? Let them go to a man and ask him his estimate of human life and he would tell them: "I was born without any consent on my part; I was thrown upon the earth without any consultation at all. I began to cry the day I was born, and I have cried every day since." The man would tell them that after a while came the disappointments of life; then came the time when according to a supposed law he became almost an imbecile; his mind became debauched; his memory weakened, and life became a burden. He had almost become heartless and heart-broken, without any vista except the grave and mystery. He even wished he had never been born, and many times he wished he were dead.
He (Mr. Kimball) said that humanity was thus under the blight of outrageous materialism, and the theoretical philosophy of death and mortality. Carnal mindedness would kill anybody if they gave it time. To have the right understanding of being meant life and peace. No sooner did they reach the age of usefulness and maturity and manhood than they expected to be undone. It was most common in society to find a lot of people a little past middle age getting together and telling each other what they could not do any more. Was it a question of mind or matter whether they could continue to be a man or not? It was a question of mind, and a very poor article of mind, too. So absolutely immediate was the effect of belief over the body that if they were cold and wanted to get warm they could do so by taking up an imaginary dumb-bell three or four times.
The materialistic theory of life absolutely bereaved every man of legitimate dominion over matter. That theory, or philosophy — they were equivalent — reconciled man to being the victim of matter instead of the master of it. The consequence was that every human being was burdened and twisted and distorted more or less. That was illegitimate aggressiveness. There was nothing normal about it. They would learn that they might become the master of theory, that they could absolutely overcome it and release themselves; and then they would know that they had entered the door of heaven, that they were inside, and that they would never get out of heaven again.
Aldershot, he said, was a military centre. He presumed that in the theatre there were some military men. He dared say that the military men had tried to decide why the Japanese army overcame the Russian army in the late war. They had doubtless found many reasons, but there were two reasons that were of greater importance than all the others. The philosophy of the Japanese inclined him to a subordination of sheer individualism in behalf of a splendid coöperative unit. There was no army on earth to-day that operated with such absolutely subordinate individualism and with such splendid unification of purpose and result. Another reason was that the philosophy of the Japanese divested him more largely of fear than any other nation in the world except the Turk. The Japanese was less afraid of death than any other soldier in the world, and these two things and nothing else were what made the Japanese a superior military people.
Fear was the paralysis of humanity, an outrage on humanity. The whole thing was illegitimately imposed upon them. Even doctors had admitted that if the world and humanity had never departed from the normal there never would have been any sickness. Christian Science declared that sickness was abnormal, and promised its extinction; it promised to annul the law of heredity, to annul the law of disease; it promised to bring every evil under the vast legitimate dominion of man.
He said he wanted to try to reconcile reason to God. Let them look for one moment at the mission of Christ Jesus. Every Christian with more or less intelligence subscribed to the proposition that in some way Christ Jesus showed and manifested a divine purpose, that he demonstrated law, and moreover, that he abolished the law of sin and death.
There was a verse in the Bible that would redeem the race if people only understood it. "Christ hath abolished the law of sin and death." Christ was not a mere figure upon a tree. Christ was not simply a babe born of Mary. Christ was not something that could be killed upon Calvary. Christ was vastly more than that. Christ was the very offspring sent in manifestation of Mind, of omniscience, of the spiritual allness of God; and it was that Christ which came with the understanding, with the Mind and power of right philosophy, knowledge, and right Science. It was the Christ that came to show them the way whereby the law of sickness could be abolished.
What did it mean to abolish it? Christ came to cast down the idols of this race, to destroy and upset them. What was an idol? He called an idol that which man was afraid of, that which he bowed down to. One of the idols that their race was given up to was the idol of the so-called law of disease. Christians looked to Christianity for salvation, and the only Christian who really sought to get any benefit was the Christian Scientist. Could they exterminate anything that had a right to exist? Did Jesus annul any divine law, purpose, or anything that had an acquired right to exist?
The promise of Christian Science was this. Christian Science came now in the name of the right Christ, in the name of the right Christianity; it came in the name of the right salvation to declare in favor of the right man, and of the right of that man to escape from misery now; and it came to show the way.
It promised to make known the right, it promised to lead, sustain, and transform life; its promise was fulfilling itself in human behalf to-day. One million people stood on earth to-day, most of whom would have been dead, insistently to declare that they had been delivered from the very depths of sin and vice and misery, from an open grave; and yet there were those, forsooth, who looked to it as a joke.
Let them go to the man who had sounded the very depths of misery as he (Mr. Kimball) had. Let them go and watch him die inch by inch alongside of an open grave; let them observe some mighty influence that dragged him back, restored him to life, usefulness, and happiness, and they would find a man who would regard it as no joke.
Let them go to the home of the drunkard who had been debauched, see a whole family blighted, the wan and pale face of the mother spelling misery and wretchedness. And let them see upon that home the same influence at work, transforming that man, and now bringing life and spirit to the family redeemed from their misery; and it was no joke. He would spare in pity the poor man or woman who could contemplate the testimony of millions and see in it anything that would excite his hilarity or ridicule.
What was the redemptive agency? It was the interpretation of Christianity that had been vouchsafed to the world by Mrs. Eddy, and when they considered the vastness of her purpose, when they considered the splendor of the promise, when they considered the vast benefit that had accrued to the world, when they contemplated the prospect, when they contemplated the possibilities of the world under the influence of such a mighty transforming animus, did they wonder for a moment that that dignified woman had persistently refused to descend into the mud and quarrel with everybody who chose to lie about her?
He had been in hell himself — he was an expert on the subject. But he knew that hell was not eternal, because he had got out of it. And he was confident that if he got in again he would get out too, because he knew how to get out. But there was a time when he was consuming in hell, and in that hour there came to him the balm of heaven, and it stayed the flame of disease and death, and in course of time he knew what it meant. It meant that in the evolution of their race, the cost of the attenuation of the human race, it was possible for somebody to grasp the splendid import of the Christian's humanity. He knew that although Mrs. Eddy was obliged to stand as firm as a rock in the sea, she had stood nevertheless against all odds, and had published that gospel to the world. He knew that she had continued to labor for humanity, until a million of mankind rose up and said: "I have been delivered from the depths."
Did anyone in England know of such a parallel? Did they ever read in the history of all ages of such an instance of benefit to mankind? What were they who were Christian Scientists to say concerning Mrs. Eddy? Nothing, except that she was living through the fire of antagonism, and asserting the propriety of her life, asserting the beauty of her labor, asserting a splendid vitality; and this was the justification that would be the indestructible answer to mankind forever.
Christian Scientists had no apology to offer in defense of a grand, noble, high-minded, loving, and tender-hearted woman, intelligent, cultured, profound — they had no apology to offer because, to-day, she was leading the most successful religious movement of all times. Because of the healing of the sick the Christian Science denomination was growing so rapidly that they were obliged, in order to accommodate the people, to establish a new church every four days. He hoped that sometime they might come to know what was stirring these people to such superlative gratitude and happiness and testimony.
[Delivered at the Aldershot Theatre Royal, Aldershot, England, taken from Sheldrake's Aldershot Military Gazette. This is the fifteenth of 18 lectures featured in the book Lectures and Articles on Christian Science by Edward A. Kimball.]