Are You Receptive to Change?
Robert H. Mitchell, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Willingness to reach out and respond to spiritually constructive ideas opens the way for healing, Robert H. Mitchell, C.S.B., brought out in a lecture in Boston, Monday.
A member of the Christian Science
Board of Lectureship from
Mr. Mitchell was introduced by Mrs. Virginia Nichols Chancey, Second Reader of The Mother Church. The lecturer spoke substantially as follows;
Things wont stand still
How many of us at one time or another have wished that life could stand still. Yet, even in this daydream state, we realize that changes are inevitable. Others of us, even though we aren't at all satisfied with the present state of the world, are afraid of change and shrink from it.
Yet change, with all that it brings in its wake, involves each one of us. We either fear and resist it, or respond to it positively. We certainly can't ignore it - at least not for long.
I'm sure we would all agree that today we're witnessing phenomenal changes in many areas.
Yet against this progressive background there are vast numbers of people who are desperately lonely, who feel shut out from society, unappreciated, who are struggling with insecurity, sickness, and lack. Confusion on moral and spiritual issues are evident in many people's thought today. It would seem that outstanding advances in some areas of human thought have left other areas far behind.
Also, many of the changes we're experiencing, both constructive and disruptive, are indirectly imposing the feeling that unrest, confusion, and insecurity are inevitable. There are many who believe there's nothing that can be done in such circumstances, and they resolve to live with the problems. Others may try to ignore them, and some may be stirred to violence. But none of these courses leads them or us anywhere.
How should we tackle this state of affairs? Behind change or the absence of change is human thinking. Therefore, the control of change and the direction of it into constructive channels must also be in the realm of thought.
No one knew the secret of constructive thinking and purposeful living better than Christ Jesus, the master Christian. His example indicates that in the search for constructive living no stone must be left unturned. Time-honored creeds and beliefs must be cracked open and many of them rejected. Nothing is to be taken for granted. The attitude of each one of us should be one of constant quest and enquiry.
But Jesus also knew that improvements in human modes of thinking aren't enough. He taught that men must face up to the ultimate questions where we've come from, where we're going, and what we're here for. If change is to be constructive and wisely controlled, we must get a better concept of our source and of our own relationship to that source to what we have traditionally called God.
In approaching the many new and difficult problems arising from rapid advances in technology, Professor Bragg, the distinguished British physical scientist, writes, "Man must try to guide his course by the 'Wisdom that is above rubies,' which exists in a dimension for which science has no measuring scale" (Prof. Sir Lawrence Bragg's letter to The Times of 11/25/68).
Jesus perceived mental states
Now, of course, some people may think they aren't interested in this sort of answer to their questions. They may even have honestly and sincerely reached the conclusion that there isn't a god at all and that the universe just happened, so they'd better leave it there and get on with the practical business of living.
There's nothing new in this. Jesus made this very point to a crowd gathered by the seaside. He illustrated various attitudes of thought, which can be found in all periods, by the parable of the sower. He related how this sower went forth to sow, and how some seed fell by the wayside and was devoured by birds. Other seed fell on stony ground and was scorched by the sun, having no depth of earth to nourish it. Other seed was choked by thorns. But some seed fell on good ground where it took root and brought forth fruit abundantly.
Is our thought receptive? Are we ready to consider fresh ideas and fully respond to them? Or are we perhaps like the housewife who was taking her driving test and said to her examiner, "I don't want to take the entire test, just enough to drive my children to school each morning!"
Isn't it possible that unsolved problems in individual and community experience point to an unwillingness to open our thoughts? To receive new ideas, and look deeply at what lies behind them? Reluctance to adjust thinking and respond to constructive ideas is often what perpetuates loneliness, the sense of being cast off by society, of crushing fear and insecurity, of sickness and poverty. When deprived of new fresh ideas, thought can be likened to a stagnant pool, dormant and dull. Yet the moment a flow of clear water is allowed to pass through it, it once again becomes fresh and active, sparkling with vitality.
Deep questioning required
A great transformation of thought is taking place in our society today and altering it. But improvement in our modes of thinking at a superficial level isn't enough. We need to make our peace with progressive changes, and to make our contribution to them. For this it's vital that we ask and answer deep questions.
Why have Jesus' teachings brought about the most radical and constructive changes in thought and action of all time and why do they continue to do so? Because they get at the basis of all reality God. And man's-relationship to Him. So let's consider what concept of God and of man's relationship to Him will best ensure beneficial change, and how we can deepen and develop our grasp of these concepts so as to get the maximum results.
To Jesus change was essential. The very purpose of his mission was to rouse human thought from its acceptance of fear and limitation and to encourage it to respond to the abundant good already present. He changed men's thinking and men's bodies, their attitudes and situations, and he demanded that they go on changing themselves. And the changes he brought were always for the better.
Jesus knew where he came from, and where he was going, and what he needed to do. He came from God, and went to God, and he did God's will. He called God his Father and in all he did he expressed the nature of his Father as divine Love.
Isn't an understanding of God as omnipotent and omnipresent divine Love the most vital power for good in the world today? That God is omnipresent Love gives each one of us recourse to something higher than the human concept of love. This understanding of divine Love can inspire us, enrich us, bless us. We can reach out to this Love. It's impartial. It motivates good for every individual alike. What a comfort it is to know that this divine Love is right at hand filling all space, constituting all true being.
One of the most radical aspects of Jesus' teaching he never thought of himself as separate from God, never apart from good or from Love. These constituted his very being. From boyhood he knew that divine Love, God, was his father. Remember his statement that he made at 12 years of age: "I must be about my Father's business" (Luke ). And later he clarified his relationship to God in this saying: "I and my Father are one" (John ).
This divine Fatherhood Jesus exemplified in the compassion, tenderness, and strength he showed toward others. It was only to those who rejected this concept of God that his message and mission seemed unwelcome and discomforting. To receive the full blessing from progressive change we must recognize such change as good and as coming from God, from our heavenly Father, divine Love.
God realized as infinite Mind
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, was a deep student of the Bible and of the New Testament in particular. She was familiar with such phrases of the Apostle Paul as "the mind of Christ" and that "mind . . . which was also in Christ Jesus" (I Cor. ; Phil. 2:5). So, in identifying the God whom Jesus taught, she called God not only divine Love but also divine Mind. This is another concept of God I'd like you to consider the concept of God as divine Mind.
Christian Science not only teaches that God is the one infinite Mind, but that this Mind is the Mind of you and me; that this Mind is immutable good, unfailing wisdom and intelligence. In the Christian Science textbook "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" Mrs. Eddy puts it clearly and simply: "There can be but one Mind, because there is but one God" (p. 469). And of man, the creation of this infinite divine Mind, Science and Health says: "Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas" (p. 475).
In the light of these statements we can look more thoroughly at just what this concept of God as Mind signifies. Mind, God, is impartial in goodness; so good, useful, right ideas can never be appropriated by a particular group of people, or a particular sect; they're available to every one of us at any time. Mind, God, is everywhere present.
In our true nature we're all individual divine ideas, forever held in the limitless safety of divine Mind. The Psalmist understood this when he asked: "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" (Ps. 139:7). Men, understood as divine ideas, are never separated from the infinitude of good in divine Mind; and under the control of divine Mind they are never in conflict with one another.
The teachings Jesus exemplified can bring to us today the essential meaning and purpose of change change for the good, change for the benefit of humanity. His grasp of divine reality made it clear to him what was really substantial and enduring and true; in other words, what was real, really real. He was never deceived by lies, the lies that argued evil to be a power apart from God, good, and opposed to divine power. Relying on divine Mind, he was able to reject every one of these lies and deny them any control over his experience.
If we, too, let this sense of unity with God, with divine Mind, take root in our thinking and if we respond to its possibilities, our entire lives can be transformed. We soon grasp the oneness and allness of divine Mind, the availability of this Mind as infinite good. And this in turn enables us to reject, as Jesus did, every form of evil as a lie, as false, baseless, insubstantial and impermanent, and deny it any power over our experience.
Whatever form of outward physical evidence the lie assumes disease, lack, aimless social disturbance, national strife the first steps toward dissolving it can be taken in our individual consciousness. Under the impulsion of divine Mind, anxiety, fear, bigoted thinking can all respond to active good, ever present and supreme in human thought.
The Christ is always present
This activity of good, this true idea of God and man, so clearly apparent in all Jesus said and did, we recognize to be the Christ. It's the power of God, of divine Love and divine Mind, coming to humanity to change and heal and redeem. When we think and live from the standpoint of the Christ, we demonstrate our individual oneness with divine Mind. Then we experience a complete change of thought and outlook.
The Christ, Truth, is still present. It's as operative today as it was in Jesus' time. The divine law of Love doesn't change itself, but it does change human circumstances. It's restoring health and happiness to countless people every day.
A woman I know had for some years felt burdened by a series of family crises which she accepted as her personal responsibility. During this period of worry, anxiety, and diminished income her husband passed on, leaving her with an overwhelming sense of insecurity.
She had to go to work to supplement her income. Soon her health deteriorated and she was placed under medical care. Instead of making progress her condition grew steadily worse and she was unable to continue working. She was examined by a medical board and told she was suffering from multiple sclerosis, a form of paralysis, which was beyond medical aid.
This verdict left her with a sense of hopelessness, and emotionally very disturbed. It seemed that all she had loved and cherished had been snatched from her leaving her nothing to rely upon.
A neighbor finding her in this sad state of thought asked if she had heard of healings that were being achieved by Christian Science. Soon she was given a copy of Science and Health and introduced to a Christian Science practitioner.
The practitioner drew her attention to these words from Science and Health, some of which I've already quoted: "Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science. Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique" (p. 475).
For the first time she glimpsed something of God's great love for man. She momentarily felt enveloped in the warmth of this love. From then on she knew that healing was possible. She dropped all medication and relied solely on Christian Science treatment, and her own prayerful work. In the days that followed she studied the Bible and Science and Health whenever she had a free moment.
True basis of health discovered
Soon all sense of burden, all anxiety for the future, lifted from her. As her understanding of man deepened she began to see herself as cared for by divine Love, expressing indestructible substance, vitality, and right activity. This increasing understanding helped her to deny and cast out of thought all suggestions of deterioration and bodily damage. She gradually saw that impairment was never a reality to the idea, or image, of divine Mind and could never be part of her experience. That, in fact, all right ideas such as mobility, balance, perfect poise, energy, and control were being perpetuated in her consciousness by divine Mind. Her responsibility was to respond to this flow of constructive thoughts and be expectant of healing and complete freedom.
Within a few months this significant change in her thinking resulted in her complete restoration to health. The physical condition pronounced incurable had yielded to the Christ, to divine Truth. Divine Love and divine intelligence, acknowledged and expressed, had set aside fear, anxiety, and the accompanying physical appearance of disease. A change of consciousness had resulted in a complete change of evidence. This Christly method of healing is the method of healing practiced today in Christian Science.
When our concept of God and our relationship to Him improves, instantly our lives change for the better. It naturally follows that we're better able to channel whatever changes are going on around us into constructive lines. It helps us to respond positively to these changes and contribute usefully to them.
But for full effectiveness it isn't enough for us just to accept these improved concepts intellectually or on the surface levels of thought. We need to let them become the very core of our thinking and acting. We need to make them our own in the deepest sense. We do this through prayer, through what we call treatment. This treatment is the basis of every healing in Christian Science from overcoming grief to overcoming alcoholism, from healing a so-called incurable disease to mending a broken relationship. The prayer of spiritual understanding is the greatest power there is for bringing about changes that will bless all mankind.
Mrs. Eddy challenged doctrine
The revelation of Christian Science came to Mrs. Eddy through prayer. She had learned to pray as a child. And as a young woman, she was very much aware of the changing scene in religious and social matters. She questioned accepted doctrine and she pursued her search for truth by investigating many systems practiced at the time.
She was disappointed by theories based on human doctrine and beliefs and met with much unhappiness in her own life. Prayer and the Bible proved to be the beacon lights in her troubled world. They gave her the simple direct conviction of the presence and power of God's love that led her on. But it was clear to her that she needed to know God more deeply.
Her intuitive sense of God's unchanging goodness and her frequent turning to him in prayer stirred in her a deep desire to understand the practical implications of Jesus' mission. This led her to a still more intensive study of the Bible. So, at a time of great need for physical healing it was natural for her to turn to this book in prayer. And she was healed. This healing was the turning point in her experience.
She had glimpsed that creation must be wholly spiritual, partaking of the nature of God, Spirit. She had seen too that creation, the expression of infinite indestructible Spirit, couldn't include a single destructive element: discord, disease or fear were never part of creation so no part of man.
As Mrs. Eddy pondered how she had been healed, she saw that the healing work of Jesus wasn't miraculous. It was the result of his unceasing prayer, his constant and clear sense of unity with God, a spiritual unity that embraced all mankind.
It was out of this experience that Mrs. Eddy learned to pray that prayer so characteristic of Christian Science the prayer of affirmation. Exemplifying Jesus' attitude, it's the clear spiritual acknowledgement of the presence and power of the Love and Mind which are God. Affirming the eternal facts of being brings to thought the absolute conviction of spiritual authority. Cultivating the prayer of affirmation helps us declare and know the truth in any given situation. It also enables us to denounce the material illusion that argues for acceptance in our thinking as though it were fact.
At no point in our experience can we ever dismiss the prayer of petition the prayer for increased spiritual understanding. But it's the prayer of affirmation that really brings about profound changes in our lives. It transcends the concept of pleading with God, asking Him to change a situation or to provide something.
Affirmative prayer makes it clear to us that we alter situations only as we alter our thinking, as we make the change from human will and respond to the divine will. Through affirmative prayer we rise higher spiritually and this promotes progress at all levels of thought. We see that we can unite intelligently with divine Mind and thereby shape the course of our lives confidently and constructively.
A demonstration of God's goodness and power through such prayer deepens and develops our spiritual concepts as nothing else can. It is a mighty agent for change and for directing and controlling change toward good.
New concept of God and man
For example, Mrs. Eddy had always thought of God and man as Father and son, as a loving Father caring for His child. But now that new concept of spiritual relationship, which we've already spoken of, came to thought that of Mind and idea; man individualizing and spontaneously expressing the infinite intelligence of Mind, God.
As her new concepts developed to the full, Mrs. Eddy saw that the divine ideal, which Jesus exemplified, hadn't changed, but her understanding of it had changed. This understanding gave her life new purpose, opening up constantly fresh fields of activity.
The practical effectiveness of this discovery she was later to explain in Science and Health like this: "The effect of this Science is to stir the human mind to a change of base, on which it may yield to the harmony of the divine Mind" (p. 162).
It's through prayer then that we change our entire base of thought from the personal, limited human mind to the infinite divine Mind. In responding to the good spiritual ideas that come directly from God, from divine Love, from Mind, to each one of us, we learn to renounce limited material thinking for step-by-step constructive thinking that opens up new horizons in our lives.
Human education has its valuable place; human thinking can be improved. But for real progress human thinking has to be replaced by spiritual knowing. This is prayer.
Awakening to divine Mind as the one infinite source of intelligence, we begin to turn to Mind spontaneously for the answers to all our questions. The result is a greater sense of spiritual purpose, a deeper awareness of our individual spiritual integrity, our responsibility to God and to our neighbor.
The more we turn to divine Mind as the basis of thought and action, the more productive our experience becomes. Change at all levels of experience, in order to be good, needs to be seen as spiritually mental. Change in our human circumstances is always the result of a change of consciousness and outlook. But for lasting results change of thought must be motivated by spiritual understanding, by spiritual knowing which is the prayer of affirmation. I can testify to this out of my own experience.
For severa1 years I had suffered from a difficult ear condition which stubbornly resisted all medical aid. After four years' treatment I was told that nothing more could be done, and I had to resign myself to the inevitability of complete deafness. At this stage I had great difficulty in hearing anything. Since I believed that faculties were material, entirely dependent on physical conditions, I had very little hope of ever hearing normally again. I was extremely depressed.
Prayer is spiritual knowing
A friend encouraged me to attend a lecture on Christian Science. I remember saying to her that it would be pointless for me to attend, I wouldn't hear a word. She was so persuasive and confident of the help it would be to me, I finally consented to accompany her more out of politeness than anything else.
But as the lecture progressed, I became convinced that this was the Truth even though I couldn't hear a word of what was being said. I was responding to the Truth that was being affirmed and to the divine Love that was being expressed. I could feel myself relaxing as fear, anxiety, and depression left me. Toward the end of the lecture I began to hear the speaker very faintly but couldn't make out the words.
The following day I got a copy of Science and Health and read it prayerfully whenever I had a free moment. Intuitively I accepted it as the truth Jesus had taught, and the logic of it appealed to me. My concepts of God and man were changing. I was learning to understand God as infinite Love. My sense of a human mind and human thinking was yielding to the spiritual knowing of the one divine Mind, controlling and sustaining its own idea in health and well-being. And although I wasn't aware of it at the time, this spiritual knowing or prayer of affirmation was more and more taking over my thinking.
Six weeks later I awoke one morning hearing perfectly. That was almost 20 years ago. Here was a clear example of a change of consciousness resulting in a change of evidence.
In taking these forward steps through prayer each of us is free to think through and establish in our own experience our own inseparable unity with divine Mind.
Instead of habitually thinking of ourselves as human beings separated from God, we can respond to the spiritual facts stated this evening: that man has immediate access to abundant good, omnipresent Love. And that man is the perfect individual expression or idea of infinite intelligence, of divine Mind.
The problems that present themselves to us today are for solution. They are not obstacles, stumbling blocks. They enable us to prove the truth of what we have learned. We make a ladder of our problems if we turn for their solution to divine Mind.
If you're in business, for example, having to make quick decisions involving many factors, knowing the spiritual facts can aid you the facts that divine Love is caring for each one of us and that the intelligence of infinite Mind is available to all. In the most practical way such prayer can lift the load of personal responsibility. We've spoken of God as ever-present divine Mind embracing its idea man. You can come to know that Mind as your mind, the source of unerring wisdom and intelligence.
Mind provides instruction
As you respond to this fact, you'll begin to express more of the wisdom needed to arrive at right human decisions. As you learn to reach out to Mind to instruct you in all matters, you'll find that you get your answers in ways that you can understand and put into practice; fresh ideas of how best to utilize the equipment available to you; how you can be more efficient with resources at your disposal; how you can make better use of information and experience built up over the years.
It's as Science and Health states: "Prayer cannot change the unalterable Truth, nor can prayer alone give us an understanding of Truth; but prayer, coupled with a fervent habitual desire to know and do the will of God, will bring us into all Truth" (p. 11).
In whatever walk of life we find ourselves, whatever age group, we can let the spiritual understanding of God as divine Love, Mind, Truth, Life free our thought from limitations of fear, lack, sickness, unhappiness. Isn't this what each of us prays for? Isn't this what we really desire for ourselves, for our friends and neighbors? Isn't this something to make us want to accept improved concepts that make all this possible?
In the few moments that are left to us let me state this: None of us should feel overwhelmed in the face of perplexing upheavals in our universities, youth activities, the family, politics, science, or religion. Each of us possesses the spiritual perception to see what is fleeting and of no consequence and what is valid and vital.
Divine Love is in action. Divine Mind is on the field making its presence felt in countless different ways. Many of the progressive and liberating changes taking place in our midst are evidence of this divine Love, this divine Mind, in operation. These changes point to greater freedom for the individual and society and indicate a tremendous and beneficent power for good propelling us forward.
The spectacular breakthrough in the sciences has come about through the triumph of the human spirit responding to the divine intelligence, breaking down mental barriers and reservations. Our individual responsibility is to respond to this divine impetus. This yielding of the finite consciousness to the infinite is the divine order of things. And spiritual knowing is awakening individual consciousness to acknowledge, accept and respond to this good which is right at hand.
Today the tempo of change is increasing out of all recognition. And each one of us has reason to be grateful for the stabilizing standpoint which a spiritually scientific understanding of God as divine Love and divine Mind provides. Our need is that we continue to identify motivation with divine Love and thought with the one divine intelligence. Then we can interpret and respond to change in terms of great spiritual unfoldment for all mankind welcome it with confidence, expectant of greater good to come.
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 1972.]