What Can You Depend On?
Glenn L. Morning, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
If we're going to find God and
rely on Him, we need to understand Him, Glenn L. Morning, C.S.B., of
"We need to know enough about Him - about His nature - to know why we can trust Him," Mr. Morning said in his lecture titled, "What Can You Depend On?"
"In today's world," he observed, "there's a tendency to overrate the transitory and temporal, and to underrate the substantial and dependable."
"Matter is deceptive," the lecturer continued. "It represents a limited, finite, mistaken, or deluded concept of substance."
"Christian Science rests entirely on a spiritual basis," he explained, "but it gives evidence of the supremacy and dependability of Spirit, God, right here in the human realm."
Mr. Morning, a member of the
Christian Science Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church
of Christ, Scientist, in Boston,
A partial text of the lecture follows:
Recognition of God is a right step
What can you depend on? Sometimes in life there may seem to be no answer. But there is! We've got to depend on something, so let's find out what really is dependable.
Have you ever thought just how dependent we actually are? We've been educated to believe that matter's pretty dependable. But is it? Can we really depend on it to provide health and well-being?
Modern inventions and advances in the natural sciences have brought release from much of the limitation and drudgery that characterized human existence for so long. But in countless ways these have made us more dependent than ever upon other people and gadgets and machines. And they certainly haven't brought us independence from the aggressive persuaders that are trying to control our minds.
More and more, modern advertising media urge us to depend upon drugs and remedial appliances. We're encouraged to be satisfied with the temporary relief these offer from aches and pains. But to do this leads into enslavement rather than into freedom. And alcohol and tobacco don't bring promised satisfaction. They lead too often to addiction and bondage. Or, to take quite a different area, political slogans won't bring world peace. Peace hinges on something much more dependable than changing human opinions and vote chasing.
A group of teen-agers of another Christian denomination had the answer to our question, What can we depend on? I was invited to speak to them about Christian Science and noticed a poster which read: "God is Dependable." I was in complete agreement with this idea. And I hoped these young people were making it a practical guide in their daily lives.
To acknowledge God's dependability is a step in the right direction. But if we're going to rely on God, we need to understand Him. We need to know enough about Him - about His nature and character - to know why He's dependable. Would we find the multiplication table dependable if we didn't understand it? Because we understand it we know it's dependable and available to us wherever we are.
Christ Jesus understood God. He placed his undivided dependence upon God whom he defined as Spirit. He even said, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John ). He told his followers that his works testified to spiritual power and that without it he was helpless.
Spirit is source of good only
If we're really to depend on God, Spirit, three points need to be considered. First, why God, Spirit, is dependable. Second, why matter, Spirit's opposite, isn't dependable. And third, how we can learn to depend on the spiritual instead of on the material.
First, then, let's see why God, Spirit, is dependable. What is Spirit? If we're going to find Spirit dependable we must know what it is. What does the word Spirit mean to you? Does it mean something tangible, real, living? Or does it imply something insubstantial - illusive, nebulous, vague?
One day a woman came to my office. She wanted to talk about God and to learn how to become more conscious of His presence. I reminded her that the Bible describes man as the likeness of God and God as Spirit. The minute I mentioned the word Spirit, she stopped me. Looking upward, she blew two short puffs of breath into the air and then said, "Spirit, what is it?"
This is a graphic description of the vagueness - perhaps even the mystery - that cloaks this term for God. But I knew what she meant. At one time the word Spirit was just as intangible to me.
It wasn't until I attended my first Sunday service in a Christian Science church that this word took on definite meaning for me. But during that service I learned that Spirit is Mind, the divine Mind. The word mind meant something to me. At last I could relate myself to Spirit as Mind. Now I could settle down to seek a spiritual understanding. Gradually I came to know God, Spirit, not only as divine Mind but also as undeviating Truth, as unchanging Principle, as the source of all good and of good only.
The Apostle James writes, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James ). The term Principle expresses this undeviating, fixed, and permanent nature of Deity.
In mathematics we need to be alert
to separate truths from errors. To learn to know Spirit, we also need to be
alert to separate the truths of God and of man from errors about them.
Gradually I learned that good thoughts, true thoughts, are from God, infinite
and immortal Mind, but that evil thoughts are lies. Their only source is a
supposed finite personal mind, mortal and fleshly. Paul called it the carnal
mind and said it was "enmity against God" (
Divine Love outweighs human sense of love
I glimpsed why Spirit is dependable: because it is divine Mind, the Mind that knows only good and imparts only good thoughts; because it is divine Principle, unchanging and invariable Truth. So when my friend asked, "What is Spirit?" I was able to answer her.
Christians in general, and many who aren't Christians, acknowledge God to be Love. For us the term divine Principle and divine Love are used in close relationship. We associate the constancy and invariableness of Principle with the tender, compassionate, and warm qualities of Love.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, closely relates these terms for God in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." For instance, she writes, "Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man" (p. 256). No one is left out. The whole universe is included. God, divine Principle, is our loving Father-Mother, our heavenly Parent.
Divine Love, then, is the source of all real being, the creative Principle of all existence. And man, as he really is - your true selfhood and mine - is inseparable from this all-loving, deific Principle. God embraces every one of us in the tenderness of Father-Mother love.
It's easy for a child to depend on its parents. It feels secure in their love. But God's love for His creation is far more dependable than any human sense of love. The human parent often thinks of his child as a physical mortal and therefore subject to danger, disease, accident. The human sense of love includes fear, worry, anxiety. But God's love for His offspring includes no sense of apprehension. God beholds only perfection. His love doesn't alternate between good and bad thoughts. Because God is infinite good, He has nothing unlike good to impart to His sons and daughters.
Jesus referred to God, Spirit, as his Father. He knew that life in and of Spirit was good, satisfying, and complete. He was tempted, as men are today, to turn to material ways and means for satisfaction, security, and power. But he wasn't taken in. He knew that Spirit alone was really dependable.
Return to spiritual 'home' brings healing
Jesus' parable of the prodigal son tells of an impetuous, restless young man who thought material pleasures would satisfy him. But he was disillusioned! He was reduced to poverty and despair. Finally, he remembered the love and security he'd enjoyed with his father, and he returned home. There he found true dependability. His father's love expressed invariable, patient, changeless Principle. All the good the young man had left was still his, still waiting for him when he returned home.
The experience of a Christian Scientist I know parallels, to some extent, the story of the prodigal. She had allowed business and social activities to overshadow the importance of spiritual matters. Eventually, she found herself not even attending church.
Later, she began to suffer from gallstones. She was operated on and everything went well. But a relapse occurred and she seemed to be in danger of passing on. One Saturday, several doctors held a consultation, and another operation to try to determine the cause of her trouble was scheduled for the next morning, Easter Sunday.
When my friend learned of this, she remembered the prodigal son and the joyful reunion with his father. It was time, she thought, for her to get "home" to her Father-Mother God and His all-embracing love.
During the weeks she had been hospitalized she had used the bedside telephone to call a dear friend several times a day; but now she was so fevered and ill she couldn't remember her friend's number. But another number came vividly to her thought - that of a Christian Science practitioner whom she hadn't contacted for several years. She called him immediately.
The practitioner reminded her of God's great love for her. He assured her that she could never be separated from God's healing presence. She wept with joy as she listened to the once-familiar words he read her from the Bible and Science and Health. That night she slept peacefully.
Her doctor arrived at the next morning to prepare her for surgery. When he looked at her chart, he was both amazed and delighted. The fever had broken, and by her temperature was normal for the first time in five weeks. The eternal Christ had surely appeared to her that Easter morning.
The kind doctors and nurses who had given her such loving care rejoiced with her when she was released from the hospital two days later, completely well. The spiritual forces of good had proved themselves dependable. They had dispelled all evidence of fear and fever, and she was healed. Not only had her life been spared; she also found her way back "home," to dependence on Spirit instead of matter.
We don't have to see Spirit to depend on it. We can't see the laws of mathematics, yet within their limitations we find them dependable. But Spirit is dependable without limitation. Spirit is universal Love, the unerring divine Principle of all real existence; and as God's likeness, you can never be separated from Spirit.
Now let's take up our second step. Let's examine that which is commonly regarded as the opposite of Spirit - namely, matter. Let's see why matter isn't as dependable as we sometimes believe it is.
For one thing, matter is deceptive. And the material or physical senses which make us aware of matter are also deceptive. Today, physical scientists tell us that matter isn't at all what it appears to be. It isn't the solid stuff our physical senses tell us it is. The fundamental characteristics of matter and the material universe are being progressively brought to light as something very different from the traditional concept of matter as composed of solid particles.
Outward appearance found deceptive
Physicists have come to agree with the Apostle Paul. You remember he warned against blind acceptance of material appearances. He asked: "Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" (II Cor. 10:7). Matter may look like solid substance; but the "outward appearance," as recognized by modern physics, is deceptive.
These facts are, I'm sure, familiar to all of us. But I wonder if we fully realize just how far traditional concepts of matter have broken down. Physicists are beginning to find that the more they press the search for matter, the more illusive the nature of fundamental substance becomes.
One Nobel Prize winner for physics has taken the view that shape and organization are the permanent element in the ultimate particles of matter; in fact, that they are pure shape and have no substratum of matter at all.
And let me read from the introduction to a book on the nature of matter, recently prepared for the American Foundation for Continuing Education: "The exact nature of matter itself still eludes us. As the frontiers of knowledge are pushed back, there is an ever-receding horizon and the central concept remains to this day a vague speculative idea which is difficult to define in precise terms" ("The Mystery of Matter," Oxford University Press, 1965). Hardly something to place our dependence upon!
Christian Scientists, along with other thoughtful people, highly regard the dedication of physical scientists. We appreciate the progress they've made toward overcoming material limitations that so long confined and restricted humanity. And this progress points to even greater possibilities.
We also appreciate the beauties of nature and the work of great artists. The majesty of mountains, the order and loveliness of the stars, the color and fragrance of a garden - these bring to us delight of high order. Painting, sculpture, and architecture can be among the noblest achievements of the human spirit. All these are valuable. They hint at the eternal realities of the spiritual universe.
But materialism is something else. The materialist looks upon matter as the all-in-all of creation. For him this is a question of faith. Materialism has been defined as "the doctrine that matter is the only reality and that everything in the world, including thought, will, and feeling, can be explained only in terms of matter." It's evident that, according to the doctrine of materialism, matter is considered to be the only creator - the father and mother of the universe.
Spirit’s reality unmasks matter
In a book called "The Dignity of Man," the American author Russell W. Davenport makes this point: Modern physics has deprived matter of virtually every quality the human mind can recognize as material. We might suppose that by so doing physics would have destroyed the doctrine of materialism. But it hasn't.
According to this author, modern physics shows matter to be, so to speak, nonmaterial; but in spite of this, modern materialism is just as materialistic as ever. He then states: "This fact leads to a rather startling conclusion. Materialism, we are forced to admit, does not depend upon any particular view of matter. Indeed, it does not seem to be a philosophy of matter at all. It is a way of looking at the world."
This "way of looking at the world" just doesn't meet our need today. Unlike Spirit, matter can't be depended on to express good consistently. The destructive forces of matter, controlled by a materialistic outlook on the world, seem to be more powerful than the forces of good. Doesn't war rob us of peace? Doesn't sickness sometimes overshadow health? And what about sin and evil? Don't they claim prestige over goodness? It's clear, then, that our dependence must rest on a higher plane than matter and material appearances if we want good to dominate our lives.
In today's world, there's a tendency to overrate the transitory and temporal and to underrate the substantial and dependable. The Apostle Paul said: "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Cor. ).
Matter is deceptive. Matter does not lead to ultimate reality. But there's a still more basic reason why matter is not dependable. It is that, Spirit, being infinite, matter, Spirit's unlikeness, is actually an illusion, without substance. It represents a limited, finite, mistaken, or deluded concept of substance. Matter is the fabrication of the fleshly mind. Its conditions change when thought about it changes. Spirit's reality and allness and matter's consequent unreality and nothingness are basic to Christian Science and its application to healing.
The physician, dedicated and unselfish in his service to humanity, believes that matter is real, and he works within the realm of matter and material thought. He thinks of disease as real and physical, and he largely employs physical means to correct or counteract it. Material methods may alleviate suffering and sickness temporarily, but they implant images of disease more firmly in thought. And these false images may later express themselves on the body as a return of disease.
Disease recognized as mental state
The Christian Science healer, on the other hand, denies the actual existence of matter. He recognizes its diseased conditions to be false mental states, images of fear imposed upon the body. He replaces these false images of thought with mental states that express Spirit, divine Love, in which there is no fear.
His method is prayer, the steadfast acknowledgment of Spirit's allness and goodness, and the steadfast rejection of the belief that matter is real and can affect God's spiritual creation. This prayer, or metaphysical treatment, changes the action of wrong belief upon the body. Not only is health restored, but the individual improves morally and spiritually.
If we believe that matter is the solid substance it seems to be, we're then apt to believe that its conditions are real (including those of disease). But if we understand that matter is unreal and that its "outward appearance" is deceptive, we can control material conditions mentally and destroy evidences of disease.
How, then, can matter be dependable? It's never what it appears to be. It can never lead us to final truth. And in the light of Spirit's allness, matter is actually nonexistent. It's but a false image of mortal thought. Whether material conditions seem to be bad or good, dangerous or safe, sick or well, the "outward appearance" is deceptive. Just how dependable is a deceiver?
This brings us to our third step. We've seen that Spirit is dependable because it is the Principle of unchanging good, divine Love. We've also seen why matter, the opposite of spiritual substance, is not dependable. Now, let's see how we can learn to transfer our dependence from matter to Spirit, from the seen to the unseen.
Metaphysics holds the answer. By metaphysics I mean the study of underlying reality, of that which lies beyond physics, beyond the surface appearances observed by the physical senses. This metaphysics isn't just philosophy or theory; it isn't abstract or abstruse. It is hard, practical, applied Science.
Matter and the observation of matter by the physical senses are, of course, the basis of physics. But the basis of scientific metaphysics, or Christian Science, is Spirit and the observation of spiritual reality by spiritual sense.
This Science, or "practical metaphysics," as Mrs. Eddy once called it, rests entirely on a spiritual basis, but it demonstrates the supremacy, the dependability, of Spirit right here in the human realm - right where matter still seems to the physical senses to be real and solid. It can do this because it works with ultimate, fundamental reality.
Spiritual sense, the sense of consciousness of ultimate spiritual reality, translates God's ideas to the human mind in a way that makes them real, tangible, and dependable.
Let's think about the translation of ideas for a moment. Take the substance we know as water. English-speaking peoples think of this colorless fluid when they hear the sound of water or see the combination of letters which symbolize it. But to one unfamiliar with English, our sound and symbol would be meaningless. Human comprehension depends on the sounds and symbols thought is tuned to.
Spiritual sense enabled the prophet Elijah in the well-known Bible story to see beyond the violence of earthquake, wind, and fire. He found peace in "the still small voice." The thought of the materialist is tuned to accept only the evidence before the physical senses. But when thought is tuned to Spirit, divine Mind, we can clearly understand and utilize spiritual ideas. They become real and tangible. They relate spiritual facts unseen by the material senses; and these spiritual facts, as we understand them and depend upon them, control our human experience for good.
Healing leads to discovery
Scientific metaphysics brings the spiritual sense of being to human consciousness. It reveals to humanity the true nature of creation wherein Spirit and its ideas are tangible and dependable. Science and Health makes quite a point of this. "Metaphysics," it says, "resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul." Then it continues, "These ideas are perfectly real and tangible to spiritual consciousness, and they have this advantage over the objects and thoughts of material sense, - they are good and eternal" (p. 269).
Metaphysical, or Christian, Science translates God's spiritual ideas to humanity today. Its language is both understandable and demonstrable. We are now in the second century of Christian Science in the world, for Mrs. Eddy discovered it in the year 1866.
Circumstances forced Mrs. Eddy to depend radically on God when neither medicine nor surgery offered hope of recovery from an accident. She asked for her Bible and opened it to Matthew's account of Jesus healing the palsied man. Suddenly, her thought was illumined with the spiritual import of the incident, and her own body responded to the same spiritual force that had restored the palsied man. She, too, arose from her bed healed.
With this positive evidence of spiritual power and its healing effect she plunged into the task of searching the Scriptures. She looked to divine Mind to unlock their spiritual message - to reveal the scientific cause behind her healing. No human being could show her the way. Her earthly ideal was Christ Jesus; the Bible her only authority. She knew she had to rely solely upon divine Mind to unfold the spiritual meaning of God's word to her waiting consciousness.
As His spiritual messages came her, she proved over and over again that they healed others as she had been healed. Finally in 1875, after nine years of complete dependence on God for spiritual enlightenment, she published the first edition of what is today "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." In its present form it contains the final statement of metaphysical Science, the Science Mrs. Eddy named Christian Science.
Christ, Truth, active here and now
She had expected her discovery to be embraced by the Christian churches of her day; but it wasn't. Spiritual healing, so evident in early Christianity, was neither understood nor accepted as a present possibility by the religious leaders of her day.
She had depended on God alone to reveal the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures and the scientific metaphysics of Christian Science. Now she had to depend on Him to show her the way to prevent her discovery from being lost. Here again, there was no human precedent to follow. But she trusted the guidance of divine Mind. And, step by step, she was led to found the Church of Christ, Scientist.
Christ Jesus was the master-metaphysician of all time. He was endowed with unprecedented spiritual insight. His capacity to depend on God has never been equaled. He exercised complete dominion over his human experience and outward circumstances by understanding that Spirit alone is the source and substance of life. He said, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). Without fail, he listened with his well-tuned spiritual sense and obeyed God's angel messages that came to him.
Angels are often pictured in human form with wings. But Mrs. Eddy refers to angels as "God's thoughts passing to man" (Science and Health, p. 581). The function of the Christ is to speak to the human mind in a way that makes God's spiritual thoughts practical to mankind. Jesus demonstrated this. The Christ, his divine nature, brought to his human sense the spiritual facts about both God and man.
The Christ also endowed Jesus with divine power - practical, spiritual power which dispelled fear, subdued sin, healed the sick, enabled him to transport himself instantly from one place to another when the need arose. He even raised the dead. But the Christ did not leave earth with the ascension of Christ Jesus.
Divine Truth - the Christ, Truth - is a universal force. It is present and active here and now. It is still healing and redeeming mankind. This Christ, Truth, or divine metaphysics, reveals the Christly presence to men today. It is teaching men that Spirit alone is dependable.
Man has only one condition – good
Let me give you an illustration of this out of my own experience. I hadn't been studying Christian Science very long when I came down with influenza. I'd had an outstanding healing of an ulcerated tooth which had convinced me of the healing power of Spirit; but this had been accomplished mainly through the efforts of a Christian Science practitioner. But now the congestion, fever, and weakness lingered on and on.
In the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson that week a verse from II Samuel () read: "God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect." As I read this one morning, something sparked my thought. I knew that God was speaking to me, and I pondered these words as an angel message from God. Suddenly I realized that God was my Life and the source of my strength. Immediately, all sense of fever and weakness disappeared. There was no period of recuperation. I was working my way through college as a theater musician, and I went to work that evening well and strong.
The divine metaphysics of Christian Science prepares us to hear God's angel thoughts. This Science teaches us how to transfer dependence from matter to Spirit. It translates the dependability of Spirit into terms humanity can understand.
So then, when we think of the advances of this scientific age, let's not overlook this one: Spirit, God, is now revealed as the divine Principle of all that truly exists. Good is the only condition of Spirit, and good is the only condition of man in the divine image and likeness. Spirit, infinite good, is always dependable.
Matter, on the other hand, just doesn't provide the kind of dependability we're looking for. The "outward appearance" of matter misleads us. As we've seen, matter is very different from what it appears to be. And the pursuit of matter will never lead us to ultimate reality.
Dependability lies outside matter
If we accept material concepts of creation as real, we find ourselves in mental darkness about Spirit and spiritual man. What produces darkness when night comes? Isn't it that the mass of matter we call earth gets in the way of the sun's rays? The sun is still shining. But we're in darkness, the earth's shadow.
In much the same way, material concepts of creation obstruct the light of spiritual understanding. But the scientific facts of God, Spirit, and of man's dependence on Spirit are never changed or affected by material concepts. Within the oneness and allness of infinite Spirit, matter is actually nonexistent.
Haven't we seen, then, that if we're going to find true dependability, we must search beyond matter - beyond the sciences relative to earthly existence? We must make a deeper search in and for the spiritual. The words Spirit and spiritual mean something. When we find out what that meaning is, we will have found what we can really depend on - God.
© 1967 Glenn L. Morning
All rights reserved
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 14, 1968.]