Where in the World Is God?
Thomas A. McClain, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
All that is genuinely good has its
source and substance in God, Thomas A. McClain, C.S.B., of
In his lecture entitled "Where in the World Is God?" Mr. McClain described a number of healings through wholly spiritual means, including a young man's overcoming of dependence on LSD and other drugs.
A member of The Christian Science
Board of Lectureship, Mr. McClain spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church
of Christ, Scientist, in
Mrs. Valerie Jane Parrott of Newton,
Mr. McClain spoke substantially as follows:
The search for fulfillment
Everyone is looking for something. Each day is a search. For some this search may be seen in the desire to acquire certain things. Others see it as the achievement of goals. For still others, the idea of fulfilling oneself may be the focal point of the search. There are many ways of defining the urge in every human heart to experience good.
Here I use the word good as an all-inclusive term to embrace whatever we're looking for. Everyone identifies with good. Everyone wants it. Whatever we hold as our desire, our aim, whether for a moment, a year, or a lifetime - this is the good we're seeking.
However, any attempt to relate the meaning of good to specific personal goals or objects tends to limit good. It becomes circumscribed by the terms we use to define it. The only way to adequately define good is to resort to what we may think of as intangibles such as love, and truth, and life.
Perhaps, you would say, "Now, wait a minute, love is not always good. It can be selfish, even hateful. Truth may be stark and ugly. And life can be filled with pain." These are the opposites of good. So, our definition of good has to separate it from whatever is not good.
We're going to examine the search for good we're all involved in: and we'd like to propose a definition of good that relates it to a wholly spiritual source.
I'm sure most of us would confess to feeling at times our measure of good is limited, or we're missing some particular expression of good. We may be convinced the good we're seeking is "out there" somewhere, but where exactly and how do we lay hold on it?
The longing that underlies our search for good is a need to understand God. It means finding God right where we are. No matter what your religion may be, or if you profess no religion, you can't fail to identify with this longing - this need to know God, in the terms by which you define genuine good and seek it in your own life.
Actually, it isn't personal or material. God is its source and its substance. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writing in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," defines good in part as "God; Spirit" (p. 587).
Goodness is of God
Seeing this spiritual good as the means of meeting a human need doesn't alter its basic character or change its source. It defines genuine good as the substance and reality which are God, experienced in everyday living. We're going to talk about how we can bring more of this good into our lives.
What if I were to say you already have all the good you deserve? This might appear presumptuous. But, if I say you have all the goodness of God right with you, right now, it would present quite a different picture, wouldn’t it? And, if you could see God's goodness in the form of exactly what you're looking for in your life right now, it would mean even more. It would mean that you could discover the good you're seeking by finding God right where you are in this world.
We all experience moments in our life when we despair of finding good. If we're inclined to attribute the good we seek to a spiritual source, or Supreme Being, we may wonder if God has forgotten us, or if we lost the way of finding Him. In some form or other we may cry out, "Where in the world is God?" Actually, this is everybody's question.
It was uppermost in the thought of a man who lived many centuries ago. He was seeking a way to bring freedom and a sense of genuine worth to his people. But, who was he to lead his people? He wanted to know whom God would send with him, and how he would be sustained in his mission.
The answer appeared in the assurance that came to Moses as a declaration from God, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee" (Ex. 33:19). This was the promise that whatever he needed of good would appear in the degree he saw it as the goodness of God, as spiritual good identified with the name or nature of God.
Worship must be spiritual
He did succeed and over the years every need was met. Moses saw the goodness of God passing before him. And his ability to translate what he saw into the substance that satisfies human needs changed the history of a nation.
It established the worship of God in Spirit, not in matter. All through the task of leading the children of Israel Moses proved the good they sought was God. It appeared in the substance of their spiritual understanding, a discernment of spiritual ideas. This was the goodness of God passing before them.
We come to the heart of the matter if we substitute the word good for God, in accord with the root meaning of the name. We come to the fact that good isn't just an attribute of God, or some kind of fringe benefit of our faith in God. Good is God. The genuine good you and I are seeking in this world is God.
At this point I can almost hear some silent disclaimers. If you're committed to the search for God, you may have concluded He won't be found in the world. Godliness is the opposite of worldliness. Or perhaps you'd reject the suggestion that the good you're seeking is spiritual. Whose aim, after all, is always that lofty?
There's a measure of truth in both these objections. Certainly, God is not of the world. Yet the Bible tells us: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John ).
All human needs met
It seems clear that God wants us to find Him through Christ Jesus, and to do it right here in what we call the world. Jesus himself declared, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John ). Evidently, he didn't disdain the idea of our having abundant good right here in this life.
This brings us to the other objection. You may view the good you're seeking only in the light of human desires and aims, which we don't relate to God or to the spiritual good Jesus speaks of. Is there any connection? In the priorities of day-to-day survival in this world, the search for God may run a poor second, if it figures at all.
There ought to be a middle ground, a point on which these seemingly divergent aims come together; and the good word I've got for you is that there is. There's a point where spiritual good, which is God, meets the human need. This point is reached when human desires are purified, when we're lifted above a limited, personal sense of good. Then we see the goodness of God appearing in a way that satisfies right desires.
This doesn't make God human, and it doesn't spiritualize a material want. It spiritualizes human thought. It rejects the theory that human desires for a good life must of necessity relate to matter, or material aims.
We may speak disparagingly of what is commonly called "the good life," because it suggests seeking material aims for their own sake. A self-centered concept of life affords no genuine or lasting satisfaction.
Yet, Jesus' promise stands. The more abundant life that comes with him is not separate from the good you and I need, or want to achieve, in this world. The two come together in an understanding of God as substance, a spiritual substance that human thought discerns and finds fulfilling.
I'm aware that when we speak of spiritual substance we risk getting bogged down in an abstraction. What does spiritual mean? Even more to the point, if matter is substance, does the phrase spiritual substance involve a contradiction of terms?
Here's an explanation from Science and Health: "In Christian Science, substance is understood to be Spirit, while the opponents of Christian Science believe substance to be matter. They think of matter as something and almost the only thing, and of the things which pertain to Spirit as next to nothing, or as very far removed from daily experience" (pp. 349-350).
While not suggesting that any of you are opponents of Christian Science, isn't the tendency to link substance with material things rather a common one? Few of us who are Christian Scientists have fully outgrown it. Yet, the recognition that substance is spiritual is essential to a genuine fulfillment of good in our experience.
Let's examine this proposition in the light of an actual healing experience I had some years ago. Following the extraction of a tooth an infection developed in my mouth and became extremely painful. After several days my jaw became so rigid I was barely able to speak. Eating was out of the question. This occurred on Thanksgiving Day, and the prospect of trying to enjoy a turkey dinner with friends added to my agony.
When the condition had reached this advanced state I asked my wife to help me. As a Christian Science practitioner she began treatment for me through prayer. We both continued to pray for several hours; yet, when it came time to join our friends, the condition appeared unchanged. The pain was severe and my jaws still wouldn't open.
You might wonder why we didn't call off our plans; however, we both felt a quiet, positive assurance that the healing would come. And it did come the moment we sat down at the dinner table. Right then the pain dissolved and the jaws were free.
I can tell you there's nothing quite like the moment when a healing comes. It was as if a huge weight was suddenly lifted from me. It was the weight of fear and pain; but, also, the weight of a false sense of substance.
This was borne out when I asked my wife what had been the particular focus of her treatment. She replied she'd prayed to realize the truth about substance. Her treatment was somewhat along these lines: God is Spirit. He includes all substance. This substance is spiritual and perfect. Since God, Spirit, is ever-present, divine substance is never without its pure and harmonious manifestation.
Man, the reflection of God, has only the substance of Spirit, God. There's no infection or disease in this substance. Whatever belongs to the material senses, or depends on matter for its manifestation, has no place in Spirit. Thus, it has no manifestation in man. The effect of this kind of treatment, when based on spiritual understanding, is to change the condition of human thought or mortal mind. This so-called mind holds in itself the false sense of substance that appears as a diseased condition. The scientific understanding that substance is spiritual, not material, compels the human belief in disease to yield to the harmony and perfection of true being.
Spiritual wholeness means health
The key to a healthy body is the understanding of spiritual wholeness. Man embodies divine ideas that reflect the understanding and action of Truth. This Truth acts on the human body to remove and correct whatever would hinder our harmony and health.
The human body is generally regarded as the physical aspect of man distinct from the spiritual. Insofar as this body is material, it's not God, or Truth. However, seen as a human concept of man's embodiment of divine ideas, the human body responds to Truth. It yields to the harmony of the divine idea.
This is the basis on which Jesus healed. He healed through the recognition of the Christ, the divine idea of God, and of man's spiritual selfhood.
Spirit, God, imparts to man the spiritual wholeness, which appeared as the Christ in the human Jesus. It's the divine nature each individual can claim as his own true selfhood. As Science and Health states it, "Christ presents the indestructible man, whom Spirit creates, constitutes, and governs" (p. 316).
To see man as perfect and whole doesn't mean to visualize a perfect human or physical condition; it means to see man as a spiritual idea of God, as His image and likeness. This man is perfect because God is perfect. This man is whole because God is whole. This man is indestructible because God is indestructible.
There is no fear, pain, or disease in true manhood. The goodness of God passing before human thought is the Truth that corrects and destroys error; even the error of believing that matter, or physical laws of health, form and control our bodies. Spiritual wholeness is the law of God, and it's the law of healing to the human body.
Mrs. Eddy discovered this law midway in her life, after suffering years of ill health. Her search had taken her through most of the popular remedies of her day. In fact, she conducted extensive experiments in homeopathy, only to find that the less drug used in a medicine the more effective it seemed to be. This reinforced her growing conviction that all physical effects have a mental cause.
False mentality rejected
Mrs. Eddy's discovery included the fact that the physical condition is never the reality of being, whether it appears to be healthy or diseased. It's a manifestation of a false mentality. She named this false mentality "mortal mind." This term embraces the total supposition of a mind apart from God and the effects of such a mind. Governed by this supposed mind, the human body acts according to whatever physical laws are imposed upon it, including laws of disease.
In the reality of spiritual being there's no such thing as ill health. The conditions of illness in the human body belong to suppositional material sense. The removal of the evidence of disease on or in the human body is a necessary part of healing. But in Christian Science this change represents the action of Truth destroying error, the supposition yielding to reality.
This suggests that the search for health as a condition of matter is self-defeating. Mrs. Eddy warns against this belief when she declares, "The consciousness of corporeality, and whatever is connected therewith, must be outgrown. Corporeal falsities include all obstacles to health, holiness, and heaven" ("Miscellaneous Writings, "p. 309).
Now, it may appear that right here we walk a very fine line, because there's nothing in Christian Science that disdains or ignores the need for a healthy body. This is achieved, however, by reversing the testimony of the physical senses, turning thought away from matter to Spirit. This spiritually mental activity or prayer compels mortal mind to relinquish its hold on what appears humanly as a material body.
God isn't aware of a human being struggling to be healed. Right where human consciousness sees this struggling human being, God is aware of man as His reflection, wholly spiritual. As human consciousness is uplifted to see as God sees, the struggle ceases. Thought discerns and expresses the substance of good in Godlike qualities, in the spiritual wholeness it's man's purpose to express.
Let me say again this doesn't make God human. It makes man spiritual; or more precisely, it awakens thought to acknowledge spiritual manhood. We become imbued with a sense of man's spiritual purpose, and the qualities of good we reflect are seen as the substance of our true being. The "man of substance" we would become is the child of God we already are.
The essence of what we've said here is that the good we're all seeking in this world has its source and its substance in God. We answer the question, "Where in the world is God?" by understanding and achieving this good. We prove that God, infinite and inexhaustible good, is right where we are right now.
A detour into drugs
The goodness of God is right now passing before us. The key to its fulfillment is the willingness to look to God as its source, to lift human thought to a spiritual sense of whatever it is we're seeking. Sometimes this means gaining a whole new outlook on our life.
Let me tell you about a young man who discovered this while he was in college. It brought a real sense of purpose to his life. He wrote me a letter about his experience, and I'd like to share some of it with you.
He'd been raised in a religious family and entered college with a very positive attitude. But soon his sense of values adapted to an entirely different life style he found there.
During this time he began to see many things about the world he didn't like. Racial and religious prejudice, social climbing, and hypocrisy all added to his dissatisfied state of mind.
Many of his friends were taking drugs, and his sense of values were so confused by this time, he went along. He even thought he was seeking a higher type of happiness. Before long his whole life became drug-oriented. Feeling a deep distrust with what he termed the "straight world" he quit school and the job he had and moved to the mountains with a few friends.
One day he experienced a "bad trip" with LSD. In a temporary state of insanity, he was committed to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital, where he was given shock treatment. After several weeks he was released in the care of his parents; and, although he found them very kind, he knew he needed something higher than human help.
Now, let me read directly from his letter: "One day I passed a Christian Science Reading Room. I went in and talked with the man attending the room. He answered many questions about God and man I had always wondered about. It puzzled me but for the first time in many months I felt loved and useful.
"I returned every day to talk and study. This new religion was lifting me out of a pit. Many times I would write down a sentence from Science and Health and take it with me everywhere I went that day, to read it over and over. I knew that God was helping me. I stopped using drugs and returned to school."
He goes on to say that, after graduating, he visited some former friends and attended a few parties. It seemed that everywhere he went there was something to smoke or swallow. Soon he was back on drugs. After an LSD trip that lasted for four days, he again experienced temporary insanity and was taken to a private hospital for drug cases. When he began to come around, he was convinced he had to turn to God for help and rely entirely upon Him. He dropped all material aids and called a Christian Science practitioner to help him through prayer.
"Since then," he writes, "I haven't touched another drug. I was tempted, but never gave in. I turned to God hour by hour for more strength and understanding. I kept a copy of Science and Health with me and spent many hours reading it. Soon I was completely healed and all desire for drugs left me.
"What I found in Christian Science was an understanding of God I could relate to. It opened up a whole new life to me. New friends, a splendid business opportunity, and a very happy marriage have followed. Most of all, I've gained a strong, deep sense of confidence and self-respect. I found myself only by finding God."
This young man found the good he was seeking in an awakening to his spiritual purpose. The appearing of this divine purpose is the goodness of God constantly passing before human thought.
We've said that God's goodness is constantly passing before us. Yet, human thought often seems unable to discern or identify good as anything more than an erratic occurrence, a sometime thing. It's here, or it's there. It's past, present, or future. It's never always, or everywhere.
If good is God, good must be eternal. The concept of a limited good begins with the belief that time controls it and physical space defines it. We call this belief "circumstances," and conclude that the good we know must inevitably be controlled and defined by circumstances.
The eternal now of creation
The prophet Haggai warns, "Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes" (Hag. 1:5,6).
Today, we can certainly identify with this, especially the bag with holes in it. Yet the fact is the objects of a material sense of existence can never measure or define genuine good. This is the error that limits the appearing of good in our experience. We attach it to finite objects. We define it in finite terms.
Genuine good is God, revealing Himself in spiritual ideas. This is the eternal now of spiritual creation. The good that comes from God is unceasing because God's creative activity never stops. If it did, God would cease to exist, and good indeed would dry up.
But this can never happen. Creation is perpetual, never circumstantial. It's God's bestowal of right ideas.
Mrs. Eddy proved the continuity of good in her own experience. Her life was made up of the kind of conditions that often identify one as a "victim of circumstances." She underwent great hardship. Her discovery of Christian Science changed all this. She saw the spiritual fact that man's true being is eternal in God. And from this point in her life, her accomplishments were tremendous.
These achievements came as the result of Mrs. Eddy's refusal to stop growing spiritually. At an age when most people have retired, she wrote to a group of her students, "I am still with you on the field of battle, taking forward marches, broader and higher views, and with the hope that you will follow" (Mis., p. 136). Her life exemplified a continuity of spiritual unfoldment, a creative force that never dies.
Spiritual creation, God revealing Himself, is timeless, eternal good. The "days" of God's creative activity are the evenings and mornings of divine revelation. This has no relationship to the calendar of time. It's controlled not by time, or material circumstances, but by God, infinite good.
God the source of all right ideas
I'm sure we would all agree that controls are necessary. The real question is: Do they serve us or do we serve them? Is our day governed by the ideas it unfolds, or are we so caught up in the demands of time and circumstances that we've lost touch with the creative forces that generate right ideas?
We talk about ordering our day? We want our day to be productive and creative, with a continuous flow of good ideas and the freedom to respond to them.
Maybe you haven't thought of this in relation to the creative activity of the divine Mind, God; but this is the key to productive activity. God is the source of all right ideas. We order our day by recognizing and responding to the divine order of God's day.
What does this mean, the divine order of God's day? Science and Health describes it as "The irradiance of Life; light, the spiritual idea of Truth and Love" (p. 584). In other words, God's day is the illumination of spiritual understanding, an understanding of Life, Truth, and Love. Its order is marked by the appearing of this understanding in human consciousness.
Now, what does this do? Science and Health continues, "The objects of time and sense disappear in the illumination of spiritual understanding, and Mind measures time according to the good that is unfolded. This unfolding is God's day, and 'there shall be no night there.' "
God's day is the perpetual appearing of good. The expression of this good in man insures his usefulness. God requires each one of us to fulfill His unfolding good, His eternal day.
What should an individual do if he's afraid his usefulness will come to an end, whether due to age, changing times, or simply running out of productive ideas? How can he help himself?
A friend called me not long ago with just this problem. He’d lost his job with a company he’d worked for 25 years. The industry was changing, he said, and his particular skills were no longer in demand. To make matters worse, he was past the age a man is generally considered to be employable. He remarked that it looked like his day had passed.
We talked about the value of seeing that this very day is God's day, filled with the activity of unfolding good. He saw the point and got busy working out the problem right where it needed to be worked out - in his own thinking. It meant changing his sense of the good he was seeking.
Man is fully employed
"The objects of time and sense disappear in the illumination of spiritual understanding, and Mind measures time according to the good that is unfolded." This is the truth he worked with. The objects of time and sense consist of whatever human thought would consign to the limitation of time, or attach to a personal sense of good. Do you see your usefulness limited by age? Do you see the good you can accomplish weighed in the scale of personal abilities? These finite concepts limit the expression of good.
Spiritual understanding reveals that man is fully employed as the reflection of God, the individual expression of all right ideas. Time is not a factor in the appearing of these ideas. Age cannot limit man's expression of good.
My friend prayed over these truths until he was no longer afraid. And he held his thought firmly to the standpoint that good is eternal, not dependent on time. His clear acknowledgment that this day is God's day brought his activity under the divine order of unfolding good. Within a few weeks he was back at work in a new position, better than the one he'd had before.
You want to have a good day? You want to prove the continuity of good in your own experience? Then, take the first step. The first, and indeed every step, is to put our hand in God's and reject every suggestion, every temptation to believe that there is any other Life, or Truth, or Love, any other substance or good.
This is the affirmation of our own spiritual being. It constitutes a denial of the material senses. The chief obstacle to proving this in human experience is the tendency of mortal mind to hold to a personal sense of self, and a personal sense of good.
Acknowledging your own true being in God impels a letting go of personal sense - the personal sense of ego, as an identity separate from God; and a personal sense of good, as something we're doing or not doing, something we have or don't have.
God's goodness is the eternal now of spiritual creation. It includes what human thought calls past, present, and future. Just as we recognize right now the good we've known in the past, so we should recognize that future good is also present now.
The substance of good is spiritual. It's true being, eternal Life. As mortals we may ask, "Where in the world is God?" In true manhood we answer "God is here. He exists in the qualities of good I express, in the ideas of good I embody, in the continuity of good I prove."
This is the genuine good we seek. It's here, everywhere! It's now, always!
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 13, 1974.]