Individualizing God’s Power

 

Jessica Pickett, C.S., of Chicago, Illinois

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

Solving personal and world problems takes more than belief in God – it means accepting Him as literally all-powerful in every situation, Jessica Pickett told an audience in Boston on Thursday evening.

The lecturer explained that individualizing the infinite power of God, Spirit, can be accomplished "through deep gratitude for the good in our lives, through spiritual thinking, or prayer, and through acknowledging God as the only power."

A member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, Miss Pickett spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.

A former businesswoman, Miss Pickett also served in the United States Navy before devoting her full time to the healing ministry of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

"Individualizing God's Power" was the title of her lecture. She was introduced by Frederic C. Owen of Boston, Massachusetts. An abridged text of her lecture follows:

We're never too young nor too old in years to learn how to individualize the spiritual power Jesus demonstrated. We, too, can defy material obstacles and every false claim to power. We can meet God's demand on us to demonstrate His power to bless mankind.

 

Prayer is spiritual thinking

As I look back, I realize that, until I responded to that divine demand, life held very little real meaning for me and very little real purpose. Something seemed to be missing. I never quite got my feet off the ground. I was dragging my heels without real and meaningful purpose. I believed in God, but I hadn't learned to individualize the infinite power of God, Spirit. Sooner or later this is something we all need to learn how to do. And we can – through deep gratitude for the good in our lives, through spiritual thinking (or prayer), and through acknowledging God as the only power.

One of the most spontaneous ways we individualize the infinite power of God in our lives is through gratitude. It turns our thought to good. Not the superficial sense of gratitude we feel for some favor granted us. Gratitude in its highest sense acknowledges divine law, the supreme, absolute power of God.

Divine law rules out the very existence of opposing laws of evil. It rules out of the thought filled with gratitude every negation of good. It lets the good inherent in consciousness come forth with all its good effects, blessing our lives. Gratitude is an energizer. It trusts in good even before good is outwardly manifested.

Anybody in the world can express gratitude at any time. It begins with your simple acknowledgment of good as a present state of being and of God as all power. It promotes the restoration of harmony to human life. It's one of the ways we begin to individualize or experience the power of God to heal and be healed. When fully understood, gratitude reaches heaven!

One evening I boarded a plane in Chicago bound for Cleveland – about an hour's flight. I was the last on board and took the only seat left. It put me next to a very sick woman.

As I sat down, she said, "I hope I don't spoil your trip. I've been ill ever since I left California early this morning. I had to lay over for five hours in the Chicago airport before I could even go on with the last lap of this trip. And I haven't been able to eat a thing all day long."

"Oh, what a shame!" I said. "Wouldn't you like to leave this picture of yourself behind?"

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Well, we're just about to take off," I said. "We'll soon be at an entirely different altitude. This earth picture will have vanished completely. Wouldn't it be wonderful to leave the unhappy picture of yourself behind with it?"

"And how do you do that?" she asked. "By some kind of prayer, I suppose."

"A good place to begin," I suggested, "is with gratitude."

She was in no condition to listen to a discourse on gratitude as an element of prayer, of Spirit-based thinking. That I could very well see. But I longed to comfort her. And I told her a favorite story of mine – maybe some of you've heard me tell it before.

The grandmother of a very small boy I knew took him on his first plane ride. He was awed as he looked out of the window to see nothing but space all around him. "Oh, Grandma!" he said, "Isn't it wonderful being way up here like this – held up by nothing but the law of gratitude!"

I could see this simple story touched my companion. So I added, "That sense of gratitude is real power. It links us with God's infinite power, and that can heal. I'm a Christian Scientist, and we believe in this healing power. I'd be happy to help you if you'd like,"

"Oh, I wish you would!" she said. "I don't see how I can stand this pain and discomfort much longer."

So as our plane lifted off and we left earth behind, I began to think about the "law of gratitude" and how it works to help us experience God's power. I began to pray silently a prayer of gratitude. True gratitude is an aspect of "scientific" prayer because it affirms man's unity with God.

The airline stewardesses had been very kind to this woman. And now I noticed as they passed up and down the aisle she stopped each one and thanked her. Then she asked if she might speak to the pilot and went forward to the cockpit. I imagine she thanked him, too. That seemed to be the trend of her thinking now.

Soon after she returned, dinner was served, and I noticed she ate everything on her tray. She then asked for some writing paper and wrote a letter. She passed it to the man across the aisle. He signed it and handed it to another passenger. It traveled from one passenger to the next up the aisle and back again to my companion.

 

An outburst of gratitude

Now she handed it to me to sign. It was a letter to the airline, describing her difficulty and expressing her thanks for the consideration of the crew. Every passenger on board had joined in this expression of gratitude by signing his name to her letter. I guess no plane had ever been filled with so much gratitude! I think it was almost literally held up by the law of gratitude.

In a few moments we'd be landing, and she turned her attention to me. "Now, last but not least," she said, "I want to thank you for your prayers and your help, and for showing me something about the power of gratitude. I'm entirely well."

She'd come on the plane in a wheelchair. She left with a happy, free step.

Now just what did gratitude have to do with her healing? How did it reveal something of God's power? First of all, it turned her attention to the good being expressed toward her, and that lifted her thought spiritually. Second, it was the basis of my prayer, which declared that God is all power and man in His likeness reflects this power.

You see, I didn't share this woman's miserable concept of herself. I was grateful to know she didn't have to suffer her way out of this picture in order to change it. She'd invited me into her experience. But I felt a higher demand being made on me – to know that as God's child she wasn't really in that experience. And I prayed to fulfill that divine demand. I prayed to see that in truth God holds man forever in His image and likeness, as His perfect, harmonious expression.

 

Linkup with the divine

I thanked God this woman in her true, spiritual selfhood was made as God made and sees her. I thanked God she could see herself that way, too. I knew that praying with gratitude links our individual consciousness with the divine. And as I prayed in this way she became more aware of what was spiritually true about her – and the false belief about her was dissipated.

It's a little like what happened in the incident that Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, writes of in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Here she relates: “A woman, whom I cured of consumption, always breathed with great difficulty when the wind was from the east. I sat silently by her side a few moments. Her breath came gently. The inspirations were deep and natural. I then requested her to look at the weather-vane. She looked and saw that it pointed due east. The wind had not changed, but her thought of it had and so her difficulty in breathing had gone. The wind had not produced the difficulty. My metaphysical treatment changed the action of her belief on the lungs, and she never suffered again from east winds, but was restored to health" (p. 184-5).

My prayerful affirmations of the spiritual truth about my friend on the plane changed the action of her belief about her illness – and she was healed. Those affirmations of truth included the grateful acknowledgment of the power of God.

Where there's no gratitude, however, we feel completely cut off from the law of God and its resources of good. Ingratitude for the good we have and for our true selfhood as God's beloved children has the effect of separating us from good.

I remember hearing a woman tell an interesting experience that illustrates this. She was confined to a sanatorium where she was having Christian Science treatment through scientific prayer. To all appearances she was getting worse instead of better. One day she blurted out in despair to the young nurses' aide who was making her bed, "What do you think is the matter with me?"

"You've asked me, ma'am," the girl replied quite frankly. "So I'll tell you what I think. I think you're suffering from 'ingratituditis.' "

This gave the woman quite a jolt. Up to that time she felt she had nothing under the sun to be grateful for. Her difficulty was about all that was real to her. It consumed her time and thought. It seemed to be consuming her very being. But now, she began to search her thought for some small blessing she might be grateful for.

Her eye fell on the doorknob, of all things! She suddenly realized how many loving hands had turned that knob as they came in to take care of her. And the door – it was the entrance for so much good. The protecting walls with their privacy, the windows letting in the light – these she saw as providing a sanctuary of peace and inspiration. The table by her bedside with her Bible and Science and Health containing words of comfort – what a blessing they were! And so, on and on her eye traveled from one thing in her room to the next until her thought was filled with light. She found herself gratefully acknowledging everything as an element of the healing power she was longing for. Actually, she was beginning to pray, beginning to bring the healing energy of divine Spirit to her rescue.

She was individualizing the infinite power of Spirit. She was responding to God's demand on her to see herself as she really was.

Everything good and useful around us, seen in its pure spiritual light, is an element of God's infinite good. In its spiritual import, it's a message from God to you to lift you up into the consciousness of His goodness. As we surrender to His will, the impelling energy of Spirit, we begin to fulfill God's demand on us – His purpose for us. And that purpose is always to express the divine harmony, the true or Christianly scientific view of being.

That was what this woman was experiencing now as gratitude flowed into her thought, filling the vacuum of ingratitude. She was individualizing God's infinite power. And this power was a light, a spiritual appearing of God's presence and power manifested in the little things around her.

You know," she said, "before I'd gone halfway around that room, I was so uplifted with a sense of gratitude for God's infinite goodness, I knew I'd been healed. The pain had suddenly disappeared. I was filled with hope and joy."

"What is gratitude," Mrs. Eddy points out, "but a powerful camera obscura, a thing focusing light where love, memory, and all within the human heart is present to manifest light" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 164).

We've seen there is a "law of gratitude" – quite unlike the law of gravity my young friend meant to imply on that first plane ride.

We’ve explored something of the power of gratitude – how it can spiritually uplift consciousness and help restore health. But to more fully individualize the divine energy of Spirit demands something more, as I've already suggested. It demands we understand man's unity with God. Thinking based on this unity with our creator is "scientific" prayer. Such spiritually enlightened thought or scientific prayer derives its power from God.

 

Ignorance produces discord

In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy makes this statement, "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony" (p. 390). And in another of her books she says: "There is not sufficient spiritual power in the human thought to heal the sick or the sinful. Through the divine energies alone one must either get out of himself and into God so far that his consciousness is the reflection of the divine, or he must through argument and the human consciousness of both evil and good, overcome evil" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 352).

The Bible was Mrs. Eddy's authority for these declarations of spiritual truth. They're laws of harmony to any discord in our lives. And thinking and action based on spiritual truth link us with spiritual power. They link us with what's actually true as we affirm our unity with God, Spirit.

You've watched people scurrying to and fro on the streets as they go about their daily business. But where are they in consciousness?

 

Our being is in God

The bank officer may be presiding at his board meeting discussing weighty matters of inflation. The English professor may be discoursing on Chaucer before a college class. The student may be solving a problem in mathematics. The homemaker may be working out plans for some family activity. Mentally, of course. But in the highest spiritual sense they're moving as ideas of Spirit in the spiritual universe of God, expressing His wisdom, intelligence, and spiritual power. So the demand is that we get out of ourselves into God so far that our consciousness is the reflection of the divine, as Mrs. Eddy states it.

How can you do this? How can you get out of yourself into God?

Well, from the highest spiritual point of view, you don't have to. You're already there. St. Paul tells us, "In him [God] we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

How few of us realize we can never be outside of God. We're never really outside that divine consciousness in which Jesus himself thought and acted. He knew who and where he was all the time. "I and my Father are one," he said (John 10:30). This is the Christly view of life – the divinely scientific view. It made Jesus the most powerful, the most scientific man who ever lived. Jesus prayed that all might be one in God's Fatherhood with him. To see this makes us all sons and daughters of God and able to understand and demonstrate spiritual power.

What I've been discussing is the nature of spiritually scientific thought or prayer. Mary Baker Eddy was the first to consistently apply the word "Science" to Christianity, as you may know. But, by doing this, she didn't change Jesus' theology. She brought out a new dimension to his teaching. The word "Science" explains Jesus' miracles and works because they're the effect of law – the law of God. It signifies the authority and the infallibility of his words.

Just as it took Jesus' spiritual discernment to lift the Old Testament law to a new spiritual dimension, Mrs. Eddy revealed Jesus' theology of the New Testament in its spiritually scientific dimension, restoring its practical nature. She discerned Jesus, the man, not as synonymous with Christ, but as the most divinely gifted practitioner of the Science of the Christ, Truth, and therefore deserving the title "Christ Jesus."

How do you and I utilize more fully the power of Truth as Jesus did? Mrs. Eddy writes: "To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science" "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 160).

To exchange the finite view of man for the scientific view calls for spiritual discernment. Only in this way can you get out of a false sense of selfhood – with material, changing concepts of good and evil – into God, into the divine consciousness Jesus entertained, the consciousness of the reality of things spiritual. It means that in praise of God, you take everything your eye beholds and all your thought rests on into this divine consciousness with you.

Of course, you can't take a physical body into this consciousness. You can't take material objects into this consciousness. You can't take time and space into this consciousness. But, this true consciousness entertained embraces in itself you and everything true about you as timeless and purely spiritual. Its transforming effect is the action of "Science" in the absolute, spiritual sense of that word. It stems from the divine Principle, God. And it was presented by Mary Baker Eddy to this age as Christian Science.

Mrs. Eddy's logic is based on the Scriptures, including Jesus' words and works. She literally companioned with the inspired – the spiritually scientific – Word of the Bible. It was one of her means of talking with God. One of her biographers writes: "When she entered her study in the morning, she would open her Bible or Science and Health and read the first line or verse her eyes rested upon. Sometimes she would call to one or more of her household, 'Come and hear what God said to me this morning' " (Ella H. Hay, "A Child's Life of Mary Baker Eddy," p. 107). In such a spiritual state of thought there could be no separation between God and man.

Until Mrs. Eddy's discovery of Christian Science, man was widely regarded as a finite physical creature hopelessly separated from an infinite God, who is Spirit. The finite and physical couldn't be reconciled with the infinite and spiritual. God was thought to be way "up there" somewhere; man way "down here" and subject to powers wholly ungodlike – sin, sickness, failure, death. Man, it was believed, had to die out of this mortal existence in order to find his spiritual immortality in God.

But, since God, Spirit, is infinite, doesn't His very infinitude preclude the possibility of a fragmentary or detached existence? Since God is All-in-all, isn't man – and the whole of creation – necessarily embraced within this allness? And, in spite of the testimony of the physical senses, mustn't this view be a completely spiritual one, as it exists in the consciousness of God?

Mrs. Eddy accepted this divine consciousness as the only true consciousness. It was her true consciousness. It's yours. It's mine. And it's revealed through spiritual discernment alone.

Mrs. Eddy's discovery of Christian Science at the same time brought to light her mission. She wrote the Christian Science textbook, founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, became Leader of the Christian Science movement – all in the hope that others would accept this scientific dimension of the theology of Christ Jesus as Science by which they could find themselves and their own mission in life.

 

The dimension of Spirit

I'll never forget how a fuller sense of this new dimension of Christianity dawned on me once. I really came to see what spiritually scientific thinking is.

I was in church very early one Sunday morning before scarcely anyone had arrived. I'd gone to inspect some work I was responsible for in the church auditorium. A careless mis-step catapulted me in a backward somersault down a stairwell onto the marble floor below. In spite of the shock, as I was hurtling through space I vehemently rejected the whole picture. "This isn't true!" I thought. "It isn't going on in the divine consciousness. It can't be happening to me."

I was able to get up and adjust my clothing before anyone could see me. Nevertheless, I was shaken and turned humbly to God for help. "Father," I said, "I know this isn't real, but help me to unsee it."

Immediately the inspiring thought came, "It isn't true because it hasn't the dimension of Spirit."

"Why, of course," I thought, "without God, Spirit, it has no reality at all. It has no more reality than a two-dimensional picture on the wall." This fact was enough to bring relief, and I was able to go on with the work at hand.

But when I got home the pain had become severe. I had to get down to further basic scientific thinking or prayer. I turned to Mrs. Eddy's writings and picked up where I'd left off in my thinking about the dimension of Spirit.

"Science," Mrs. Eddy says, "is neither a law of matter nor of man. It is the unerring manifesto of Mind, the law of God, its divine Principle . . . It is the infinite calculus defining the line, plane, space, and fourth dimension of Spirit" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 22).

Like a flash of light, I had a view of spiritual truth I'd never had before. It was a deep insight into Christianly scientific thinking. I came to understand more fully the City Foursquare mentioned in the Scriptures.

Science and Health gives a spiritual interpretation of this metaphysical city. It describes its four spiritual dimensions as the cardinal points of all spiritual truth. They are: ". . . first, the Word of Life, Truth, and Love; second, the Christ, . . . third, Christianity, . . . fourth, Christian Science . . ." (Science and Health, p. 577).

 

Effects of accident healed

For the Christian Scientist, whatever can't be calculated from this spiritual basis has nothing to stand on. Well, that's the way I began to reason that day when I got home; I began to think in a more scientific way along these lines:

1. Not based on the Word, divine Truth, this accident had no cause.

2. Not identifiable with Christ, the one and only true selfhood, it could claim no identity, no victim.

3. Having no place in Christianity, the spiritual realm of the real, it had no space in which to exist, and no time in which to act.

4. Without a foundation according to Christian Science, the law of God, it couldn't stand. It had no law to support it. And Christian Science could correct its painful effects because in the truth of being these effects were without reality or power.

The treatment lifted me out of myself into God so far that my consciousness reflected something of the divine, and every vestige of the incident immediately disappeared. I was well.

God's all-power is the basis for the only reliable thought. And through spiritual thinking or scientific prayer we individualize infinite power.

The physical senses and human reasoning can never bring us to the recognition of our unity with God. Material calculations, however logical they may seem to be to our physical senses, are still finite reasoning and therefore temporal and devoid of real power. You remember Mrs. Eddy's statement I quoted from earlier, "There is not sufficient spiritual power in the human thought to heal the sick or the sinful." It's through spiritually scientific thought that we get out of ourself into God so far that our consciousness and our life reflects the divine.

Tremendous as the material forces supposed to govern the universe of matter appear to be, they don't compare with the divine energy Jesus relied on – the energy that keeps you and me going.

We've talked today about how we can individualize divine power through gratitude and also through Christianly scientific thinking. It's our individualizing the power of Spirit that makes the difference between a passive Christian and a true active Christian. The active Christian recognizes the full authority of the power of God – and in gratitude uses it through scientific prayer for the benefit of himself and mankind.

There's one Christ Jesus. There's one St. Paul. There's one Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Each is fulfilling in history a definite Christly mission. But each one of us, also, has a mission as individual and distinct for us as theirs were for them. We're the extension of the power of Spirit in our individual arena of thought and action.

The Bible says, "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about" (Luke 4:14). People flocked to him. And why? Because his healing presence was felt. If he'd returned merely as Jesus, whom some believed to be only the son of Joseph, it probably wouldn't have made very much difference. But, "in the power of the Spirit" – as the Son of God – he changed their lives. He changed the world.

The key to all spiritual power is to recognize that God, Spirit, is the only power. The Bible speaks of the power of Spirit as the Christ and sometimes refers to this power as "the right hand of God." Referring to Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy uses this term, too: "It is not a search after wisdom," she says, "it is wisdom: it is God's right hand grasping the universe – all time, space, immortality, thought, extension, cause, and effect; constituting and governing all identity, individuality, law, and power" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 364).

Jesus extended "the right hand of God" to humanity – to whoever came to him in need. He reached out with the Christ, Truth, to uplift, revitalize, awaken and heal. He was at once the derivative and the extension of the all-powerful One, God.

The right hand of God doesn't mean "right" as distinguished from "left" – but the righteous, benevolent power of divine Love. So you see the healing power Jesus demonstrated isn't personal or mystical. It's the scientific healing power of the Christ, Truth. It made Jesus the most powerful man that ever lived, and the power of God is just as available today as it was then. Jesus demonstrated how to use it. It's up to us to use it, too. Then, in the power of the Spirit you'll be able to meet every divine demand on you. You'll lift up yourself and everyone. Even the world, with all its problems, will feel to a degree the power of Spirit – because of you!

As you see something of our unity with Spirit's unlimited power for good, you're ready to meet the more important demand – to go out and extend this transforming power, not only to your own needs but to those of mankind in the many crises that face the world today. We can prove we're men and women with spiritual energy for any crisis. Our true selfhood, impelled by the Christ, is always carrying out the demands of the divine Mind, God.

The world needs this power as it never has before. How did Jesus bring this power to the world? How did he go about changing the world with it? It was always one to one, one to one, one to one.

 

Divine energy here and now

I like to think of that one to one outreach as One to one! One spelled with a capital "O" to one spelled with a small "o." One to one!

The divine energy of Spirit is pouring out its power to you and me – and through you and me. We are at once the derivative and the extension of it. If we're lifted up by it, we'll lift up the whole world with it – and to it – to the Christ. This is Christian Science. This is spiritual truth. This is the power of God, Spirit, at work!

I hope that in this time together you recognize your ability to individualize this wonderful power. You are the extension of God's right hand, of the Christ-power, to whatever reaches out to you for assistance. This power isn't faltering. It's safe, sure, effective, and completely scientific.

So go out now "in the power of the Spirit!"

Extend it!

This is the divine demand!

This is your mission!

 

[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 1976.]

 

 

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