Christian Science: The Science of Well-Being
Charles I. Ohrenstein C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The thing most sought for by mankind is well-being. Religions, the sciences, all human learning and activities, have aimed to bring about this most desired and desirable result. Religions have looked forward to complete well-being in the millennium; philosophers and poets have pictured it in the Utopias; scholars, scientists, and statesmen have labored for its achievement, until in a material way there is little left to be desired for mankind. But do the things attained mean true well-being? That is, do they mean more abundant life, health, peace, satisfaction, and that enlightenment which rejoices in the good of all? For answer one only needs to read the daily newspapers and current periodicals; for in them one finds that even in this, the most enlightened, the happiest, most prosperous of all countries, poverty still prevails: incurable diseases still have sway; crime and degradation of all kinds still stalk unabashed; war still occupies our thought. Why? Because well-being has been looked upon as objective instead of subjective. Because it is believed to consist of what we have, rather than of what we are, inducing all to strive for great possessions, rather than for right being. And this, in spite of the teachings of Jesus, who said that life is more than meat and the body than raiment; who instructed his followers to "seek . . . first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," — meaning not that we should not have the good things for which the world has longed and labored, but that we should have them as a result of spiritual attainments, — in other words, because of what we are.
Jesus came to "give the knowledge of salvation," or, as Wyclif translated the passage, the "science and helthe" to mankind. This means that he came to teach [the science or knowledge of well-being; and well-being,] in its broad sense, must include all that can be rightly desired, all that is needful for us to have. Indeed, well-being — the basis of all achievement, yes, and of more abundant life — is the purpose of all enlightenment, all education; for, as Spencer has pointed out, education is a preparation for a fuller, a more complete life.
The teachings of Christian Science are contained in their entirety in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. They reiterate and demonstrate the teachings of Jesus. This Science is preeminently the Science of well-being, and it is such because it is the science of right thinking and of right doing, not founded upon human belief or opinion, but upon the understanding of Him whom to know, as Jesus taught, is life eternal. It is this understanding that Christian Science teaches. The chief points of this Science are: the understanding of the nature, the operation, and the law of God; the understanding of man's relation to God; the understanding of the truth which overcomes sin and its disabling, impairing, diseasing results, culminating in the wages of sin — death; the understanding of the true Savior, or Christ, and of his divine office of healing, redeeming and regenerating mankind from the effects of sin by the spiritual or mental method practised by Jesus.
Today, as never before perhaps, people are earnestly considering the nature and operation of God. In the main, opinions may now be said to be divided between the teachings of a more advanced theology which appeals with poetic beauty to the higher sentiments of men, and the teachings of the natural sciences. The first, as in the time of the prophet Ezekiel, has made of God "a very lovely song" which enraptures and entrances the human intellect, but not the God who is a "very present help in time of trouble." The second, has made a blind chemical, or mechanistic force its God, — a force ever making (evolving), remaking and destroying all that it has made, — ever grinding out of dust, ever regrinding to dust — matter — its own creation. Not so did Jesus; not so does Christian Science. Jesus taught us to know God as our Father, — a Father who is Spirit or Soul, and thus Mind. By the meekness, humility, and intelligence he expressed, by the divine life he lived, by the truth with which he made men free, and by the all-compassionate love which he manifested, Jesus illustrated and demonstrated that God is the only true Spirit, Soul, Mind, Truth, Life, Love, — the Love which causes its sun to shine and its rain to fall upon the just and unjust: which in resplendent beauty clothes the lily, and cares even for the sparrow's fall; which always heals and saves, but never destroys its ideas. It is this great, this almighty God, or good, that Christian Science teaches us to know; a God with whom all right things and no wrong things are possible; a God "who," according to the Psalmist, "forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfied thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's;" who "executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed."
But can we really be taught to know God so that we can do the things of which the Psalmist sang, the works which Jesus did?
Yes, we not only can, but must learn to know God; for only by so doing shall we know that all these things are possible with Him and learn to know man; for, as the Bible teaches, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love, are not physical and cannot be physically discerned. But all who manifest their qualities show forth something of the man whom God created, the image and likeness of God, thus, in some measure, revealing God. Jesus did this more than any one we know. For this reason he was, as he said, "the way, the truth, and the life" — the way for all to follow, the truth for all to know, the life for all to live. Only by so doing can we show forth in ever increasing degree "the only begotten Son" of God, the only true man, and know our true relationship to God.
At the present time much is being said and published about evolution. I trust that what has just been said will at least indicate that the man whom God created is not material, did not begin in slime, cell or protoplasm, nor evolve through creature after creature until he was able to stand up and think. I trust it is plain that man created by God, whom we have seen to be Spirit or Mind, is spiritual, the thought or idea of Mind; for Mind creates nothing but ideas. Hence, man made up of right ideas — not of matter, dust or slime — is God's man, the man whom we must manifest. All of us, as has been said, do this to some extent; for all of us show forth, in some small way at least, something of Life and its animation, something of Mind and its intelligence, something of Truth and its enlightenment, and something of Love, and its protection and providence. But learning what we truly are, and so learning what our true business is, we shall manifest the Godlike qualities in greater measure, and show forth more and more of our Godlikeness. Each and every one of us stands, then, at the parting of the ways; the parting of the straight, the right, the Christ way, from the devious, the material, the sordid way. The one leads in the right direction, continually up and up to good, or God, and all that God includes. The other leads continually down, — to deviation from God or good and so to sin and its apparent results, disquiet, disease, and death. The first means progress, the result of Mind, intelligence, — the reclaiming of true manhood. This is the true, the spiritual evolution, — or, as St. Paul said, the putting on of "the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness," which means wholeness, completeness, health. The second means the disclaiming, the disowning of our true heritage, — the disposal of it for a mess of material pottage. Here, then, Christian Science sets before us the truth and untruth about man, and it is for each and every one of us to decide which he will admit and accept. In doing this, let me remind you of the Bible teaching that "to whom ye lend yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness."
From what has been presented it will be seen that man as created by God — the image and likeness of God — has and does only what is Godlike, just as your mirrored reflection, or image and likeness, has and does only what is like you. And just as you are all there is to your reflection, so God is all there is to man. If this is plain, then it must also be seen that God is man's Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth and Love, and that consequently the true man has, and is always actuated by, the perfect Mind, the divine Spirit or Soul, the absolute Principle, the eternal Life, the complete Truth and pure Love, all of which together constitute God. More than this, it will also be plain that just as your mirrored reflection is begotten only by you, and is always obedient to you, so God's image and likeness, the true spiritual man, is begotten only by God and is always obedient to Him. This means that God is not only the Father, but also the Mother of man, our Father-Mother God, and that man is obedient and subject to God, to infinite good, and to nothing else.
It is self-evident that none of us has reached the stature of manhood which has here been pictured, and that consequently all of us together represent only a kind of man or mankind. In this there is presented something of a hint of the progress which Christian Science enables us to make, something of the spiritual evolution which takes place in the experience of every Christian Scientist. In our dictionaries man is defined as "a primate mammal having the brain and brain-case relatively large as compared with the face, the body erect in locomotion and the great toe not opposable." Thus, every one who is able to stand up, and has that kind of big toe, is the finished product, man. Physiologically, that is the standard, and I am sure that you will agree that many are living down to it.
You will remember that under the cover of night, Nicodemus, who was a teacher in Israel, came to Jesus to learn something of his doctrine. In answering his salutation, a salutation which was a recognition that the Master was a teacher who came from God, Jesus said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Then Nicodemus asked the question. "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb?" And "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." In other words, except one be purified of all materiality, and born of Spirit, even of that Spirit or Mind which is the Mind of Christ, — an event which can be brought about only through the operation of the right ideas of that Spirit or Mind, — he cannot come under the government of God, and so cannot become subject to the complete good which God is. In other words, he cannot experience or manifest the intelligence of the divine Mind, the inspiration and blessedness of the divine Spirit, the immortality of the divine Life, the freedom of divine Truth, and the purity of divine Love, which constitute the supreme good or God of all.
No one except Jesus has attained to anything like complete manhood. On page 258 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy has said, "We know no more of man as the true divine image and likeness, than we know of God." Let us take heart, then, for, in Bible language, "as many as are led by the Spirit of God [by the right sense of divine intelligence or Mind] are the sons of God." All of us stand at the point of this great, this supreme opportunity; the opportunity of entire and complete perfectibility. It is this opportunity to which Christian Science awakens us; for it heals us by enlightening us, and it enlightens us by healing us. It teaches us that "now are we the sons of God," and that it is our business, every day, every hour, to be what God made man.
Ancient and Present Beliefs About Ills and Their Cure
But here some may say, if God made all, and made all good, very good, as the Bible and as Christian Science teach, how is it that so many things are harmful; that so many things induce sickness, produce impairments, inabilities of all kinds, and that men are subject to these things; that they grow old and die. Then, too, it might further be exclaimed, It must be admitted that other methods than that of Christian Science heal! What about them? Perhaps we may summarize all this by asking, What is the cause of sickness and troubles of all kinds, and what their cure?
Anciently, ills of all kinds were attributed to demons, evil spirits, devils, and so on. Thus Jesus, as all know, is said to have cast out devils and evil spirits by his healing ministry. Literally taken, such causes for the ills of men are now looked upon as superstitions. But, really, can present beliefs as to the causes of our ills, be looked upon as scientific, as based upon a true understanding of these ills? And, if not, can the generally accepted methods of healing them — the medical methods — be looked upon as scientific?
Let me illustrate. All of you remember the Greek myth of Pandora and her box. According to this myth, Jupiter, desiring to punish Prometheus for bestowing light or fire upon mankind, prevailed upon the gods to fashion a beautiful woman and to send her to Prometheus. But Prometheus, knowing that nothing good would come to him from the gods, refused to accept her, cautioning his brother, Epimetheus, to do likewise. However, Epimetheus, unable to resist, accepted her. Their union was a most happy one; but soon, Mercury, Jupiter's messenger, came and left with them a huge box, intricately bound with cord. With feminine curiosity, Pandora immediately speculated as to the contents of the box, and, not heeding Epimetheus' warnings, untied it during his absence. Frightened by Epimetheus' unexpected return, she dropped the box, which immediately opened. Now, Jupiter had malignantly crammed the box with little brown-winged creatures, the germs of all the sorrows, vices, crimes, diseases, and calamities that afflict poor humanity, which, escaping, alighted on Pandora, herself, on Epimetheus, and on all the people, stinging and infecting them most unmercifully. This, it may be said, is the original germ theory. It is hoary with age, — a mere superstition, a myth. Yet, there is much food for thought in it. For today, aside from the poetic appeal of the tale, is not the medical theory as to the cause of ills the same? Is not almost every ill of mankind now attributed to germs of some kind?
The ancients, like the people of the present time, whether they were Greek or Jew, placed the blame for their ills upon something, yes, upon everything, outside of themselves, and then, also like the people of today, sought to alleviate these ills also with something, everything, outside of themselves. In this way, there is hardly a thing in the world, from the planets up and down that has not been or is not believed to cause ills; there is not a thing in the world, again from the stars up and down that has not been, is not being used to cure them.
Truth About Ills and Their Cure
Jesus, as has been said, cast out devils, evils. But these devils were bad beliefs, — beliefs contrary to the truth or reality of God and God's creation including man which He pronounced, in His wisdom, like Himself, not only good, but very good. In other words, these devils, or evils, were deviations in thought, word, and deed, from divine or right being which is God; for, as the Psalmist said, "I will behold thy face in righteousness," meaning that God is discernible in what is right. Jesus had no superstition about the devil, the personification of all ills. Most simply and plainly, he called him "a liar and the father of it," — the source of all lies. A lie is a deviation from truth or reality; and if you will look in your dictionary you will find that this is just exactly what sin is; for sin is defined as "a deviation in thought, word, or deed, whether by omission or commission, from the law of God." And the law of God most certainly is the rightness of His creation, and decrees that man shall know and deport himself as God made him.
It was deviation from right or true being, from God and from Godlikeness, which tormented, diseased, and disabled the people of Jesus' time. It is the same kind of deviation — the same wrong, false, lying beliefs, or devils, that do so now; for all such deviations are sins, and the wages of sin are sickness, inabilities, impairments, calamities, death.
The Only Savior and Healer
Who or what, then, shall save us from the mass of wrong beliefs which we still entertain; upon which all of us still act? To use Paul's words,— "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death," that is, from the mass of death-dealing beliefs or sins which beset us? The Christ!
In the Old Testament we are told that "he," meaning God, "sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." In speaking of the word of God, Jesus said, "Thy word is truth," and in speaking of himself as the Christ, he said, "I am the truth," and again, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." According to these statements, Christ is Truth, a fact which makes plain another saying of Jesus, — the saying. "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Accepted, as it has been, that Jesus in his human personality is with us always, this saying has been childish. But taken in its true sense, the sense which has been indicated, that as Christ or Truth he is with us always, it is beautiful, true, practical, and helpful.
Truth must, does, consist of right ideas. Right ideas about God, about man, and about being, correct and nullify every wrong, false, mistaken belief about them. They correct every belief that in any way deviates from God and man's Godlikeness. It is in this way that Christian Science heals. Thus, in Christian Science, it is never any man, any woman, or any thing that does the healing: but it is always Christ or Truth that does it, and Christ heals sicknesses and ills of all kinds by destroying the false beliefs or sins of which the ills are the results. It is the ever-present, ever-available Christ, or Truth, that does all the beneficent works of Christian Science: healeth all diseases, forgiveth all sins by enabling us to see them as frauds and impositions upon us, thus making us willing, nay, glad to abandon them.
The Bible enjoins us to "pray without ceasing." The practise of Christian Science is such prayer. When Jesus' disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he cautioned them against public or audible prayer, against word-worship, and supplication, telling them not to be like the heathen who think that they shall be heard for their much speaking, — adding, "for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." He then illustrated his meaning in a prayer which has since been called the Lord's Prayer, and which, as Mrs. Eddy states in Science and Health, page 16, "covers all human needs." According to a recent translation, this prayer does not consist of supplications, but of declarations, — the declarations that God's name (that which shows forth God — His character or nature) "must be being hallowed;" that God's kingdom (government) "must be being restored;" that God's "will must be being done both in heaven and upon the earth."
A good many years ago the Chancellor of one of our universities — a clergyman of many years' experience — asked me how we pray in our churches. I told him that at every service we have silent prayer, followed by the audible repetition of the Lord's Prayer, and that this is our only audible prayer. After a few moments of silent thought, this well-known clergyman and scholar said. "Mr. Ohrenstein, I have been a minister of the Gospel for forty-five years, and were it possible for me to live my career over again, I should never make any audible prayer except the Lord's Prayer."
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." In the Revised Version a note to this text indicates that the Greek word translated into the English word receive, really means received. Correctly translated, therefore, the text in the Revised Version should read, "All things whatsoever we pray and ask for, believe that ye received them and ye shall have them." It is this prayer of understanding that when God made man in His image and likeness, man received all that is Godlike, all that is good, and only that which is good; that man received all that is possible for God to give and for man to receive or desire, — it is this prayer that is the basis of all Christian Science practice and of all true prayer. It is in such prayer, — prayer which of necessity declares that by the image of God — man — God's name, or character must be and is being hallowed, God's kingdom or government, must be and is being restored, God's will must be and is being done and that this is so, irrespective of any and all mere appearances, — it is in such prayer that the Master's instructions and commands are being followed and obeyed in Christian Science. It is such prayer that has brought health, and joy, and peace to thousands upon thousands of people by lifting up their thoughts in prayer to God and to what man really is; by encouraging them to be and enabling them to be what God made man, and to fulfill the demands of God upon them.
The Christian Science Textbook
Quite probably there are those here who are in need of the help of Christian Science, but who do not know enough about it to decide about entrusting themselves to it, because they have not investigated or studied it sufficiently. This they can best do by procuring a copy of the Christian Science textbook, which has already been mentioned. This book presents the entire doctrine of Christian Science, and many have been healed by the study of it without the aid of practitioners. My own wife was healed in this way when the best medical skill we were able to secure had failed, and at the time when her condition seemed quite hopeless. More than this, she has ever since been able to live in a locality where it was claimed by the doctors she could not possibly live. Nor are such healings strange. You will remember that it has been stated that "he," meaning God, "sent his word, and healed them:" indeed that no other agency than the word, or truth, of God does the healing in Christian Science. It is this word of God that is presented to us in the Christian Science textbook, and the thousands of healings which have followed the study of it are an attestation of this fact. In this connection, in her book, "No and Yes", page 3, Mrs. Eddy has said, "People dependent on the rules of this practice for their healing . . . will put that book [Science Health] into the hands of their patients, whom it will heal, and recommend it to their students, whom it would enlighten." You may be told, or you may be tempted to believe that there are books by other writers which will enable you to understand Christian Science more easily than does this book. Do not believe it. In my practice of this Science, of over a quarter of a century, I have never known one person, understanding the English language, who was unable to understand any sentence I have read to him from Science and Health. A professor of English in one of our universities — one who is not a Christian Scientist — in speaking to his class about the chapter on "Prayer," with which the book opens, said that it was one of the simplest and most beautiful pieces of prose in our literature, and if Mrs. Eddy had written nothing else, that alone would place her among our best writers. The difficulty is not that people do not understand what Mrs. Eddy has written: it is that what she has written does not agree with what they have been believing, and they are unable to reconcile the one with the other. In this regard, they should remind themselves, that, according to Jesus, they should know the truth, and the truth would make them free. Consequently, if they are not free from fear, anxiety, sin, sorrow, sickness, want, or any other ill, what they believe is not the truth. This alone should make them not only willing, but glad to abandon the beliefs which they have been entertaining — no matter how cherished — and to accept the new, the right ideas, presented to them. For, in Bible language, you cannot "put new wine into old bottles," unless you empty the bottles. In this book, Science and Health, is presented to us what is needful to comfort, to encourage, to heal us, and every Christian Scientist is learning to turn to its pages with an expectancy and assurance of receiving the help he needs. For myself, I can truly say in the words of one of our hymns,
"I look to Thee in every need,
And never look in vain."
A Word to Ourselves
And now just a word to those who are of the household of God in Christian Science, to those of us who are members of the Christian Science movement. May I not remind you, as I frequently remind myself, that Mrs. Eddy has told us that "the Sermon on the Mount is the essence of this Science" (Science and Health, p. 271), and that this sermon "read each Sunday without comment and obeyed throughout the week, would be enough for Christian practice" (Message for 1901, p. 11). The Sermon on the Mount teaches humility, meekness, purity, righteousness, faith, expectancy, love. All of these are emphasized in the first eleven verses, the Beatitudes. Therefore the Beatitudes may be said to be the essence of the Sermon on the Mount. The practice of their teachings, we are assured by the Master is not only the way to that harmonious, that perfect state of being designated by the word "heaven," but the way to "inherit the earth," and the way in which to become "the children of God." How then may we practise these things, all of which are again summarized in humility or meekness, and in purity? With all loving-kindness for all those of other beliefs, let me say that there is only one way under heaven in which we can do this, and that, the way which Christian Science teaches. In the first place, no amount of mere placidity or self-repression constitutes humility, and no amount of refraining from physical sensuality constitutes purity. To be truly humble it is necessary to know the allness of God, and man's Godliness; to know that God, and God alone is all presence, all power, all intelligence or Mind, all Life, and all Love; that, consequently no matter what, our physical, intellectual, or even religious attainments; no matter what the probity or uprightness of our life, what our charitableness or loving-kindness, — the credit for all of these belongs to God, and only to God, because, as Jesus said, "the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do." This also applies to purity. For let one keep one's self as pure as may be physically, and even keep thought from resting on forbidden objects, unless the allness of God, — that is, the allness of Spirit, Mind, Life, Truth, and Love — is constantly realized, and so matter and its physicality with their attendant claims of all the pleasures, pains, sins, diseases, troubles, abilities, disabilities, and inabilities to which the flesh is believed to be the heir, — unless all of these are constantly disclaimed and disowned one is not yet "pure in heart," his innermost thought. In this same Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Christian Science, like the Master, makes high demands upon us, but, like the Master, it gives the understanding of the allness of God and the consequent nothingness of matter with which to meet these demands. Let us, who have named the name of Christ in Christian Science, consecrate ourselves to the Science given us at the price of the life-devotion of our Leader. Let us be humble enough, meek enough, and pure enough to know always that she was God-inspired in her establishment of this movement and in her provision for its maintenance. Then we shall know that those who have been and are chosen for its carrying on are chosen by God's direction, and the holding up of their hands will be a blessed privilege to us. No attacks, whether from without or within, will disturb us, and the progress of our Leader's great movement, the progress towards individual and universal well-being, will be undisturbed and sure.
With your permission, one more word, — a word about the woman who discovered this Science and gave it to the world. So meek, so modest and so retiring was Mrs. Eddy that after she had proved her doctrine, taught it to others, published it, so that all could avail themselves of it and be benefited by it, — after she had hedged it about so as to preserve it for all time in its purity, — although continuing to direct the great movement she had founded, — she withdrew herself from the world to meditate and to commune with God. She never stooped except to lift some fallen brother, or some fallen sister. In her the humility, meekness, purity, and righteousness taught in the Beatitudes were exemplified, personified. No words could more fittingly apply to her than those of the wise king in Proverbs, —
"She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
and in her tongue is the law of
kindness. . . .
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and
let her own works praise her in
[Delivered March 4, 1927, at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Peekskill, New York, and published in The Highland Democrat of Peekskill, March 12, 1927. The title and the words in brackets, which were inadvertently omitted by the typesetters, were supplied from other copies of the lecture, as were other corrections of minor typographical errors.]