Why Spiritual Healing?
McClain, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Spiritual healing was the subject of a lecture given Saturday morning by Thomas A. McClain, C.S.B., of Chicago, Ill. "Why Spiritual Healing?" was sponsored by the members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, in The Mother Church Extension.
A lifelong Christian Scientist,
the lecturer entered the public healing ministry of Christian Science in 1950
after resigning from a position in the newspaper field. As a member of The
Christian Science Board of Lectureship since 1962, Mr. McClain has traveled extensively in the
Mr. McClain was introduced by Mrs. Evelyn Heiss, a local member of The Mother Church. The following is an abridged text of the lecture:
Have you noticed in recent years how people's awareness of the quality of human life has increased? The battles against pollution of air, water, and food are indications of a growing desire we feel to improve our lives. Actually, the whole of human history reflects this desire. What is new is the focus on quality rather than quantity. Even the phrase "the quality of human life" has become a kind of byword. It crops up in conversations and current articles about personal as well as national goals.
The path of progress
This movement of thought away from quantitative to qualitative measurements of life reflects a human response to spiritual demands. It's linked to the real purpose of human existence and the need to improve it. Based on spiritual values, even the desire to live better lives is a regenerating force, a healing power.
Spiritual healing is the God-provided means by which human existence reaches a higher level. We might compare spiritual healing to a quality-control program in a modern manufacturing plant. In every such program there must be criteria for quality and some means of measuring it during the production process. And everyone in the line of production must be quality-minded to achieve the best results.
Under ideal conditions, the volume of production in other words, quantitative standards will be secondary to the standards for quality. The criteria for quality will control the volume of production, and will act as a law to the entire manufacturing process. In the marketplace it's this standard of quality that makes the product better and worth more to the consumer.
Praying as Jesus taught
In a somewhat similar way, spiritual healing works like a quality-control program in our life. The criterion it brings to human existence is God's law. Life is improved when elements of thought and action that determine our experience are brought under this law. Quantitative measurements how much we have become secondary to the qualities of true being that a perception and practice of God's law bring into expression.
We're going to explore the method of spiritual healing what it is, how it operates, and what its effect is. This will answer the question, why spiritual healing? It will reveal the deeper demand that lies under the surface of every need for healing. It's a human need, but the demand underlying it is spiritual. This demand forms the reason for spiritual healing.
A simple definition of healing the way most people look at it might be something like this: making well what is unwell. The fabric of human life seems marred by imperfections, by things unwell.
Spiritual healing is healing through the power of God. It's the result of praying in the way Jesus taught. It's the action of the divine Mind, or God, felt at the level of human existence.
It might seem enough simply to say that spiritual healing employs the power of God, or of prayer, and material methods do not. However, many who rely on material methods also pray, exercising some faith in God. But the healing method of Christian Science relies totally on the power of God. To replace sickness with health is the aim of all healing. The difference lies in the target of our treatment and the means we use to reach it.
A different target
Suppose there's an unwell condition a bodily illness, for example. If we regard the body itself as the target, our efforts are based on matter. We want this healing to change a physical condition, to increase it or decrease it; speed it up or slow it down; get rid of it or restore it. The method is material, confined to the level of materiality, and governed by quantitative measurements.
On the other hand, if we see beyond the physical need a spiritual demand, our target is different. What we seek is not primarily a change in the body but a change in human consciousness that lifts us above the level of physical discords, showing us their illusive nature illusive because not created by God, and not, therefore, actual permanent conditions. This is the Christ way of healing, Jesus' way. It is healing by the law of God.
This healing brings to human life the elements of spiritual being, qualities of the Life that is God. It heals the bodily condition. But the real change is a spiritual awakening that improves the whole fabric of human life. It makes well what seems unwell through the law of God, of divine life.
Healing tied to worship
Wherever you have law, there's a demand to respond to it or act in accord with it. Spiritual healing embodies a demand. It requires a response. Even a material method of healing acts according to what is presumed to be a physical law. We respond to it by believing in it.
Spiritual healing impels a response to divine demands, not just through belief in God but through an understanding of Him. These demands are anchored in Jesus' teachings. They spring from the inescapable need to conform our thoughts and lives to spiritual truth, to the reality of God's oneness and allness and of man's spiritual perfection as His offspring. There's a vital link, then, between the need for healing and our worship of God.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, opens up this question in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." She states: "The theology of Christian Science includes healing the sick. Our Master's first article of faith propounded to his students was healing, and he proved his faith by his works. The ancient Christians were healers." Then she asks: "Why has this element of Christianity been lost? Because our systems of religion are governed more or less by our systems of medicine" (pp. 145-146).
The point is, our choice of medicine tends to govern our religion. It determines what we worship. Jesus established a divine Science of healing based on the worship of God as Spirit. Looking to matter, to material methods, departs from true worship. Christianity loses a vital element.
Bathing in a new light
In other words, the salvation Jesus promised requires the healing method he employed. It requires spiritual healing. The salvation that comes from God is the healing of all that is unlike God. Spiritual healing expresses our worship of God by bringing to light the truth of His allness.
The human hope that God will change a bodily disorder has no more power to heal than faith in drugs. The faith that heals is a deep, spiritual conviction that God is the only Life, the only substance and cause; it includes a worship of this Life that purifies human consciousness.
This is the highest expression of our worship of God. It's true baptism, which bathes human consciousness in a new light. This baptism lies at the base of every effort to improve the human condition, or make it well, through spiritual means.
In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy defines "baptism" as "purification by Spirit; submergence in Spirit" (Science and Health, p.581).
Full reliance on God
A woman I know suffered for 16 years from a goiter she had been told was incurable. To contain the growth she took daily medication. Stopping the medication, even for a day or two, caused the protrusion to enlarge, and other symptoms were aggravated.
She was completely healed through Christian Science. It wasn't merely a willingness to rely on prayer, or faith in it, that healed her. It was a spiritual awakening, a baptism in the Spirit.
This is where spiritual healing is sometimes misunderstood. What is involved is not just a belief in prayer or disbelief in other modes of treatment. There's a deeper requirement. Even if a temporary remedy had been found through medical treatment in this case, it wouldn't have satisfied the spiritual demand.
Turning to Christian Science was a response to this demand. It meant that she had to take a stand for full reliance on God. She had to trust Him and come to feel and know His allness. But this understanding came gradually as she expressed the qualities of God more fully in her life, as she expressed the goodness and love and purity that characterize the divine nature.
The power that heals comes with our discernment of spiritual reality. It comes with the understanding of God and the transforming effect of this understanding on our own life. This woman experienced a spiritual baptism that bathed her consciousness in a new light. It turned her away from material standpoints to the reality of life in and of Spirit.
This brought the healing. The symptoms were eliminated and the growth disappeared. Speaking of this healing recently, my friend remarked that the turning point was her awakening to see God as Life, as her only life. This is what spiritual healing involves a spiritual baptism, a transformation of thought.
The late football coach, Vince Lombard, once observed that "the quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his devotion to excellence" (The Christian Science Monitor, March 3, 1973). We agree with Mr. Lombard and would carry his thought one step further by suggesting that excellence, in its highest meaning, is a spiritual quality. It's spiritual perfection, the primal condition of all true being. Mrs. Eddy states in Science and Health: "Perfection underlies reality. Without perfection, nothing is wholly real" (Science and Health, p. 353).
What is it that interprets spiritual perfection to human understanding? The Christ, or divine manifestation of God. Christ is Jesus' divine title, the very power that lay behind his healing work. The Christ doesn't belong to a particular individual but operates as an enlightening, healing spiritual idea in everyone.
'Thou art the Christ'
Jesus once asked his disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" (Matt. 16:13). The answers he got implied that some thought he was a spirit, or even the reincarnation of an earlier prophet. This would have reduced his healing power to a form of mysticism, coming from the human or mortal mind.
Simon Peter responded with a clear recognition of the divine idea. He declared, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. ). He saw in the human Jesus the divine idea of man's sonship with God. This spiritual idea is a healing power, above the level of the human mind, above intellectual strivings.
This is the Christ, appearing to human consciousness. It's the agent of spiritual healing, revealing God's allness. Christ is the power that awakens human consciousness to spiritual perfection. This power couldn't come from the human mind. It's the direct action of the divine Mind, or God.
Mrs. Eddy proved this through her discovery of Christian Science. Prior to this discovery, however, she investigated a number of healing methods of her day, including one that involved willpower, or suggestion the exercise of the human mind. Repeated disappointments and her own increasing illness finally exhausted her faith in all material methods.
Mrs. Eddy's discovery
Then a remarkable thing occurred. She was healed of a severe injury while reading a Bible account of one of Jesus' healings. This marked a turning point in her search.
Several years prior to this experience Mrs. Eddy had healed others through her deep Christian faith, though she herself did not fully understand the method of these cures. Her own healing led to an awakening, a discovery that God is Mind and that this divine Mind is the only real cause, an infinitely good cause, governing man and the universe harmoniously. She saw that evil was a deception, not an absolute reality, because not caused by God.
Her healing, she gradually came to see, wasn't to be explained as the effect of "positive thinking" or mind over matter, if by that we mean the human mind. The divine Mind was the healer. She discovered the power of God to control perfectly every element, every idea, of true being and to destroy everything unlike Himself.
Christian Science exposes the false basis of mortal mind, the belief of mind in matter, and its effects. These effects sin, disease, all the discords of mortal existence are the product of our belief in the flesh. The need met through spiritual healing is progressively to lift our life above the flesh in other words, to transform our thoughts and perceptions from a sensual, materialistic basis to a pure spiritual basis.
Look at the life of Christ Jesus, especially his resurrection. His proof of the power of the Christ to triumph over death reveals the deep Christian demands underlying human life. This transforming power of the Christ determines the quality of our life. It determines the measure of our own resurrection from the flesh.
This may be something we don't think about very often. The immense challenge Jesus faced and his loving sacrifice of self may stir us to a deeper reverence. But what does his resurrection really mean to us? How does it relate to our own life, our own need of healing, right where we are?
Jesus' life purpose was to reveal the Christ-idea as the real man, the spiritual selfhood of everyone. This same purpose underlies spiritual healing. Jesus, faced with every temptation to believe in the reality of life in matter, proved the power of Spirit, God, to lift us above the ills of material existence.
For the Master, the resurrection was a single, culminating victory over death and the grave. For us, it's the daily spiritualization of thought and life that progressively lifts us above the flesh.
Jesus' resurrection restored his body to its normal condition. This was the proof that whatever would attack man's life sin, disease, or death will be overruled by the Christ. This proof repeats itself in every healing, marking our progress, our resurrection.
I have the feeling this might be a good time to tell you a story. You know, there's a theory that in this television age the human mind has become conditioned to work only in brief time segments. There's a story about a young attorney who erred in this respect. Fresh out of law school, filled with academic erudition, he was trying his first case in court. Leading the judge through a maze of complex argument and oratory, he would pause from time to time to ask, "Judge, are you following me?" After about the third such query the judge replied, "Yes, I'm following you; but if I could find my way back, I'd leave you right here."
Being 'born again'
I hope this idea hasn't crossed the thought of any of you. It was Job who said, "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). It's this spirit in us that we're looking to for the understanding of this subject. All the logic in the world can't match that moment of inspiration in which we grasp the meaning of a spiritual idea.
Grasping the meaning of spiritual ideas is one way to describe the effect of spiritual healing in our lives. Everyone has the same need to learn that God is Life, that life and intelligence are not in matter. But few realize this or employ spiritual healing to achieve this end. Many people who investigate this healing method look in the wrong direction for its effects. There's no question that Christian Science thoroughly cures physical ills. But people tend to compare its healing with other methods only on the basis of its effects on the physical condition.
This is natural if we simply think of healing as making matter well. Once we recognize that the need to be well is really the need for a better understanding of our spiritual wholeness, we look for a nonmaterial remedy. And we measure its effects by a different yardstick. We might call it the yardstick of regeneration. Jesus referred to it as being "born again" (John 3:3).
Birth defect healed
As an illustration of being born again, I want to tell you about the healing of a birth defect in a small child. But first, it might be helpful to consider why we face this need. Why is regeneration, or being born again, necessary; and is this linked in some way to the ills we contract?
The answer to these questions lies in the understanding of spiritual wholeness as the condition of true being. Man is wholly spiritual. God doesn't create a mixture of the spiritual and material. If the spiritual is real, the material is unreal. It's an inversion of spiritual reality. Let's call this inversion of spiritual reality the suppositional opposite of truth.
To begin with, whatever is the opposite of truth would have to be suppositional. Otherwise, it would be truth and not its opposite. If we affirm a truth and then suppose its opposite to be true, we are creating an inversion of truth. Were giving birth to the suppositional opposite of truth.
The appearance of life, substance, and intelligence in matter is an inversion of spiritual reality. It's the suppositional opposite of life in God. By our belief in it, we give to this supposition a seeming reality. It's a deceptive, false sense; but to mortal mind, the bogus, fleshly mentality that believes it, it seems real and substantial. The belief of life in matter is the source and content of everything we see and experience in our lives that is unlike God.
Now, for every suppositional error, there is an opposite truth, a spiritual idea. And spiritual regeneration is what happens in our life when a perception of spiritual ideas dissolves material beliefs, suppositional errors, through the power of the Christ. This encounter of Christ, Truth, with error doesn't wipe out what we see or destroy normal manifestations of being. It restores them. Spiritual regeneration turns the inversion around.
This points up the necessity of regeneration, being born again. We need to know and experience spiritual ideas as the reality and substance of our own being. A physical change, or what we call healing, is the effect of regeneration, of a clearer view of spiritual reality. In healing, the perfect spiritual idea of health or home or useful activity or harmonious relations shows through our present sense of existence. The more imbued we are with the spiritual idea, the more we love it and live it, the more its perfection is manifested in our own life.
Now, about the healing of the birth defect. This little girl was born without a hip socket on her right side. A series of X-rays and examination by several orthopedic surgeons soon after birth confirmed this condition. The remedy proposed by the doctors was to have the baby fitted with a special brace. They said if this brace were worn continually, it might be possible later to insert an artificial socket into the hip joint.
The parents of this little girl were Christian Scientists. They were not opposed to the remedial program outlined by the doctors, but they saw a deeper need. They saw the need for spiritual regeneration that would reveal this child's true perfection and wholeness. They couldn't accept the supposition of incompleteness or malformation. They saw their own need to be reborn, to see this birth as the appearing of the spiritual idea, the child of God.
The brace was never used. Instead, they engaged a Christian Science practitioner, and daily metaphysical treatment, or prayer, was begun. It might appear that the challenge in this case was to produce through prayer what normal prenatal development had failed to produce, but Christian Science treatment doesn't work this way.
This treatment works on the basis of the allness of God and the unreality of matter. This absolute spiritual standpoint doesn't ignore human conditions or sweep them under the rug. Rather, it corrects and heals them. It produces a spiritual awakening through the activity of the Christ. Erroneous elements of belief lodged in mortal thought are destroyed. Spiritual regeneration takes place.
'The New Birth'
The Christ reconstructs thought, and therefore the body, which is directly controlled by thought. It lifts human consciousness right out of the belief in physical development or law. Jesus proved in his resurrection the power of Christ, Truth, to restore the human condition and then to lift him to the full status of man's spiritual being. The final stage in this healing experience was the ascension, when he rose out of all material form or conditions.
Now, let's return to the healing of the little girl. The parents studied an article entitled 'The New Birth," by Mrs. Eddy. In this article she explains the law of generation. Here's what she says about human birth: "A material or human birth is the appearing of a mortal, not the immortal man. This birth is more or less prolonged and painful, according to the timely or untimely circumstances, the normal or abnormal material conditions attending it" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 17). This describes the law of human generation this child had come under, and the resulting condition was certainly not normal.
'Spiritual existence dawns'
Then, referring to the effects of regeneration, Mrs. Eddy writes: "With the spiritual birth, man's primitive, sinless, spiritual existence dawns on human thought, through the travail of mortal mind, hope deferred, the perishing pleasure and accumulating pains of sense, by which one loses himself as matter, and gains a truer sense of Spirit and spiritual man" (Mis., p. 17).
These parents went through the travail of mortal mind in overcoming the fear that their child would never walk. They saw human hope deferred in the face of a spiritual demand for a higher trust, a growing love for God as the Father and Mother of all. They had to deny the belief of life in matter until they gained the clear consciousness of life in Spirit.
God is All. He includes within Himself all reality, all substance, all intelligence. These parents knew that in reality this child had always existed as a spiritual idea in God. There could be no birth defect in this idea, no flaw in the conception of this child in the divine Mind.
Sticking with the truth
These were the truths they and the practitioner worked with over several months until they were convinced the healing was complete and they could see normal development taking place in the child. They felt no need for confirmation of the healing by another physical examination. The hospital authorities, however, prevailed on the parents to allow new X-rays to be taken. These X-rays clearly showed the formation of a perfectly normal hip socket. Today this child is a young lady enjoying perfect strength and freedom in all physical activities.
Here is a clear case of reversing the evidence of the physical senses through spiritual regeneration. It illustrates healing as the effect of discerning the perfect manifestation of God instead of a defective material formation. This is the power of a spiritual idea. It reverses suppositional errors and reveals the perfection and harmony of true being.
The effects of spiritual healing were illustrated in Jesus' ascension when he rose out of material sight. Like the resurrection, Jesus' ascension appeared as a singular event. It is realized in our lives as gradual spiritual growth, an elevation of thought and life that transforms material conditions by revealing spiritual ideas.
To resurrect is to restore. To ascend is to rise above. Spiritual healing begins with our God. It operates to restore the human condition. Its effects are seen in an elevation of life above matter to the reality of spiritual being.
Jesus once offered this explanation of his healing work: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John ).
This statement denies any action or power in man apart from God: but it declares clearly that through divine sonship, man can do whatever the Father enables him to do. The quality of Jesus' life and his entire healing ministry were determined on this basis: seeing what the Father doeth and doing likewise.
Witnessing His power
No individual, through his own personal power, ever has or ever will heal a single ill. But any individual, claiming and understanding man's divine sonship, may see what God is doing, witness His healing power. God isn't moving people and things about, as if the universe were a huge chessboard. God's doing is made visible and practical to humanity through the Christ, through the appearing of spiritual ideas in the vestibule of human understanding.
You and I will know what God is doing the moment we awaken to the need of our own baptism in Spirit. We will see the operation of a spiritual healing in our own resurrection from the flesh. We will feel its effects in an ascension to the understanding of our own true being in God.
This is the "why" of spiritual healing. This is how it improves the quality of our lives. It's what spiritual healing is all about.
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 25, 1980.]