Are You Thinking?
Sylvia N. Poling, C.S.B., of Phoenix, Arizona
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
Are you thinking? What is thinking? Who is the thinker? Do we originate thought or does it come to us? Thinking is not creating thoughts or inventing them. Humanly we speak of the thinker as the one who chooses his thoughts wisely. When we say men, women, or children are thinkers, don't we mean that they show ability to discern which thoughts are true, which are helpful, which are productive of good to ourselves and to others? Thinking, then, is an activity, a state of knowing which thoughts to choose, and choosing them.
The thinker is the one who uses the thoughts that make for harmony in his relations with others. He is the one that chooses the thoughts that are productive of health. The thinker is the one who uses the thoughts that enable him to be successful in his work.
What does it mean to think? It means to reflect, to reason, to use all the evidence we have to judge and reach a conclusion. Thinking, then, is not just having thoughts or originating thoughts, it is learning to listen for thoughts and choosing the ones that make for intelligent action, harmony, peace, health, happiness ‒ the thoughts that bring the greatest good to the greatest number. In this sense thinking must have a definite foundation. We must have a basis for knowing what is true, what is right, what is good.
Truth Is Power
Men, women, and children have the ability to think, to choose thoughts wisely. But it is helpful to see they are not the ability or power of themselves; they are the expression of the power. The power is derived from a source greater than themselves. They are inseparable from the power, yet they are not the power.
Let's reason from the standpoint that there is a power greater than ourselves and that it is always present, always available to us; that right thinking, right judgment, is the expression of recognizing, of expressing, this power.
The greatest thinker who ever lived, Christ Jesus, said, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30). No one in any age has equaled the works of Jesus. Who has healed the sinner, the cripple, the dying, as he did? Who has walked on the water, fed the multitudes, emerged victorious from the grave, as he did? Jesus' Sermon on the Mount has never been equaled as a moral guide for the conduct of men.
Jesus also said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Free from what? Misjudgment, ignorance, mistakes? His words and acts were the expression of the power he acknowledged. He was a thinker. He did not complacently accept the superstitions, beliefs, and conclusions of the multitudes. By his obedience to truth he proved its presence.
Since Jesus said: "Ye shall know the truth," it is the duty of Christians and of all who would emulate his example to seek out truth. His statement is a command as well as a prophecy and a promise. If one wishes to be a thinker, he must know truth. How do we know when we have it? The truth can be proved. No one can prove a mistake or error. If you try to prove an error, the error becomes more obvious. The multiplication tables exist by reason of their truthfulness. They can always be proved. But try to use three times three is ten to solve your problem, and the error shows up every time.
Truth as the Source of Real Thought
How the world needs truth! How we need truth! Humanity is far from solving its problems of government, race, war, economics, and disease. It needs to know how to make decisions, to plan intelligently. We've all had the experience of trying conscientiously to arrive at an intelligent decision about something ‒ buying a house, moving to a new city, or taking some action on a personal or community problem ‒ only to discover that the decision was wrong.
What is truth? Christian Science declares truth to be the spiritual facts of being, of God and the universe including man. This religion teaches that God is Spirit as Jesus said (John 4:24); it is reasonable to conclude that the man of Spirit's creating is not material but spiritual. Further, Spirit or God is revealed as the all-knowing Mind, the infinite intelligence of the universe and man. This Mind is the source of all true thought. Spiritual man reflects and expresses the thoughts of the all-knowing, ever-present Mind. Spiritual man is the true individuality of each one of us, the male and female of God's creating.
Is there a spiritual and a material creation? No, this truth we need to know. There is but one creator and one creation, Spirit and spiritual creation. In Christian Science the material universe is seen to be only the counterfeit or a false material view of the real and spiritual. It is a material sense of all that is real and true. This sense sees only its own false mental image ‒ the objects of its own belief. Spirit is defined as substance, and matter as illusion without substance.
The practice of Christian Science rests on the basis that God is Mind. He is infinite. He fills all space. He is everywhere, and matter is nowhere. Mind and His ideas are seen to be present, not matter. Then the false material consciousness that believes it sees and feels matter yields to Mind's eternal presence ‒ the divine Mind that is God.
In the light of this truth we are not material beings with limited minds trying to think, trying to reason, trying to reach decisions, trying to solve problems from a material basis. Each one of us is in reality an idea in the Mind that is God. We are ideas ‒ not made of flesh, blood, and bones ‒ not matter. As ideas of the infinite Mind, we are always expressing the perfect understanding of being. We express God's knowing. Therefore in reality we know what is true, we know what is right, we know what is good. Christian Science thus shows us what we are and what we have in truth, in reality.
This spiritual knowing or understanding is our standard for thinking, for accepting or rejecting thoughts that come to us. Thoughts that are the outcome of the belief of life and intelligence in matter are recognized as error, evil, unreal, untrue. Thoughts that are spiritual, from God, and that are inseparable from the spiritual sense of being are true, real, substantial, enduring. They bear witness to health, life, and harmony.
In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, we read: "For right reasoning there should be but one fact before the thought, namely, spiritual existence. In reality there is no other existence, since Life cannot be united to its unlikeness, mortality" (492:3).
If Christian Science were just a theory, an invention of a human being, it could not be applied and tested in experience, it could not be proved. But, as the Comforter, as practical scientific Christianity, Christian Science can and must be proved. Its truths must be expressed by human beings who are learning how to choose between truth and error, between thoughts that come from God, from reality, and mere human belief. In this sense students of Christian Science become thinkers. They reason from the evidence of spiritual sense instead of the evidence before the material senses.
Thinking, then, as referred to in this lecture means separating the material from the spiritual, knowing which thoughts come from mortal mind and which thoughts have their source in God. It means replacing mortal mind's beliefs, opinions, superstitions, and contradictions with the eternal spiritual facts of being. The thinker is the individual who is doing this in his daily living.
Thinking Essential to World Peace
Let's see how Truth or divine Mind can show us how to think to fulfill three needs which are common to everyone ‒ men, women, and children. First, everyone needs to get along with others. Second, he needs good health and a sense of well-being. And third, he needs to feel successful in his work.
You know it requires good thinking to get along with others. When you children in the audience were smaller, you wanted to have playmates with whom you could have a happy time. If there were quarrels and fights, these spoiled the good times you were having. It doesn't take actual thinking to have a quarrel with someone ‒ to get angry or feel resentful. When you start thinking, right ideas come to you from divine Mind, from Truth, to show you how to think and what to do.
I want to tell you how a young girl running for a student body office used thinking to prevent a quarrel. Another girl of a different race wanted to be a candidate for the same office. One day when they met, the second girl said, "I hate you." The first girl felt surprised, but she said, "Why? I don't hate you." She said this with such kindness, love, and compassion that the hatred just melted away. Her would be enemy apologized, became her friend, and helped her to be elected.
The first girl could have become angry and resentful, and responded with a feeling of hate. That wouldn't require thinking. But she attended a Christian Science Sunday School. She'd learned to distinguish between the so-called mind of mortals, or mortal mind, that tempts us to act without thinking, and the divine Mind. She knew that hatred is no part of divine Mind, which is always Love. She knew that the same Truth, intelligence, and Love were present for both of them. Her thinking established goodwill.
Whether you are boys and girls in elementary school, teen-agers in high school, young people in college or starting a career ‒ parents, grandparents, or any other adults ‒ the same need to get along with others continues. You not only play, enjoy recreational activities with others, share things in families together, but you have to learn to work harmoniously with others. That is, if you want to be really happy and live graciously.
How our world needs to think today! All races, peoples of different states, different countries, religions, politics. A quarrel between two small children may not appear to affect the world greatly, but quarreling tendencies multiplied and magnified on a world basis threaten the destruction of all mankind.
If we want a nation free from strife, a world free from war, we have to start thinking, realizing the presence of love instead of hate. If we hate anyone in our family, our neighborhood, our country, then we may hate on a world-wide basis too. We're not contributing to world peace. Every time we think to avert misunderstanding in our immediate experience, we hasten the time when men everywhere can live in peace.
We must see everyone capable of acting as the effect of the governing intelligence or cause which is Truth or God. Truth is always present to help the thinker.
It takes love to get along with others. Love destroys faults that make for inharmony ‒ pride, selfishness, jealousy, self-will. The one who thinks proves this. He proves that no one can live to himself, work by himself, play by himself. No one can keep his happiness to himself. No one can love himself alone. Love must be shared. Such is the Science of Being. Love is the rule for living, for coexistence. Love, that expresses divine Love, exercises power; for divine Love is Truth, and it is Mind. To express Truth, intelligence, Mind, we must also express divine Love. Giving Love we have love. Thinking from the standpoint of divine Love makes us sharers, givers of Love. This thinking establishes the brotherhood of man.
Right Thinking Establishes Health
Another need of everyone is for health and well-being. Young people need health to engage in sports and do well in their school-work. The laborer, the business man or woman, the professional worker, the mother caring for her family ‒ all need to be free from even the thought of physical limitation. Everyone needs health to express his true selfhood, to serve God and his fellowmen.
I shall tell you briefly of my own experience. All through my childhood and teens I was troubled by physical weakness and a painful internal condition which the doctors were unable to diagnose or do anything for. Going to school had always been hard for me, and I could not do many of the things other children did. The condition grew worse until in the beginning of my college work I had to stop school.
All this trouble was the result of accepting mortal mind's thoughts. When I had to stop college, I began to study Christian Science. I began to learn how to think, to claim the health that rightfully belonged to me. I saw health, strength, and harmony as conditions of divine Mind and not of the physical body. I claimed divine Love as the cause of my being and my lawgiver. I understood that in Truth I was spiritual, not material. I rejoiced in my spiritual freedom from discord and pain as the offspring of divine Mind. I saw that divine Principle, as God is defined in Christian Science, could control me in perfect harmony. I was healed and able to finish my education and enter the teaching profession.
When we know that intelligent existence derives from the divine Mind, we understand that matter or the physical body can make no conditions for us and is in complete submission to right thinking. We understand spiritual man to be the real man; Truth is his divine Principle, and Principle is always perfect. Thinking from this standpoint, we reason that man in reality must be perfect too. Then we see that health is the spiritual fact of man, and that true medicine is divine Mind or Truth, able to destroy all the ills of mankind.
The true idea of Life and being corrects the beliefs and opinions that make disease or sickness seem real or necessary to human beings.
Wrong thinking such as hatred, anger, resentment, dishonesty, and fear expresses itself on the body in conditions diagnosed as disease. The false thinking that matter, physical life, and disease are realities of being is the cause of much bondage.
No one has ever seen disease in the body. What is seen is effects and the conclusion is drawn that disease is present. These effects are given a name although the disease is unseen.
Christian Science can remove the cause of disease and destroy the evidence, as human thinking changes to conform to spiritual facts of God and man.
Any system that first admits the presence and reality of disease and then attempts its cure with material means, only adds lie to lie and enslaves the patient in greater bondage. His thinking is thus removed further from Truth, from God, and reality.
It doesn't take thinking or spiritual understanding to get a childhood disease. But it does take thinking or spiritual knowing not to have it and to be well. Thinking based on the truth of being is preventive. Children in homes where families don't accept the mass thinking about disease and sickness tend to have fewer children's diseases. If they manifest sickness, they recover quickly.
The childhood experiences of two friends of mine show how Truth heals. Both of these friends, one a girl and one a boy, had serious difficulty with their ears. Because the girl did not hear well, she did not always know what was going on at school. The boy, from the time he was very young until his early teens, had a condition of running ears. The doctor predicted that he would lose his hearing. Material methods had not helped either of them.
In both cases these conditions had been accepted without thinking, without knowing the spiritual facts of God and man. When the individuals were introduced to Christian Science they were shown how to think in order to reject the ear trouble as necessary, as being the result of any law, or as being in accord with the divine Mind or Truth. Their complete healing followed. They learned that hearing belongs to divine Mind and that the physical organ called ear does not really hear at all. Hearing is spiritual understanding and man expresses it from divine Mind. Since matter does not do the hearing, it could not deprive these children of hearing. Their healings proved the power of Truth.
It doesn't take thinking or a knowledge of God to develop a disease called incurable, or to accept crippling conditions. Right thinking has brought healings of all types of disease, even those named incurable. Healing results from understanding our likeness to our Maker, from knowing that we are in reality spiritual not material. It comes from knowing that health is spiritual not physical, that health is a state of divine Mind and is the reality of our being. Since divine Mind or Truth can be neither diseased nor sick, health is the normal state of man. When we understand that man's divine Principle is Love, and that Love makes no laws to cause disease, we claim our freedom and right to be well
Thinking Basic to Good Work
A third need we all have in common is to feel successful in whatever we're doing that is right and good. How am I playing the ball game? Did I pass that examination? How am I doing in my profession or business? What kind of house am I keeping? ‒ How well am I doing in my work?
People all over the world are carrying on thousands of different occupations. How wonderful it would be if everyone could feel that he is doing a good job! That the work he is doing is useful and of service to his fellowmen. If what we are doing is honest, we should have a joyous sense of doing it well. This should be true of everyone ‒ the little girl or boy building a castle in the sand, the college student preparing for a career, the man helping to build a road, the secretary in the office.
Whatever one is doing, he needs intelligence and right ideas. He needs to express happiness in his work and toward others. Right ideas show us how to do our work well, to put freshness into it, to keep it interesting, to keep improving, to see new and better ways of doing things.
Right thinking begins with the source of intelligence and right ideas ‒ the divine Principle of man. It sees man inseparable from his source. If we believe that ability is in our personal selfhood, we are likely to feel limited, feel that there are things we can't do. We may even fear we'll be a failure.
Christian Science shows us that the source of our ability is not in a personal selfhood, but is all-knowing, changeless intelligence; thus we see that it will never fail or be lost. Right ideas come to us from the intelligence that is divine Mind. They are timeless. The right idea we need has always been present. We don't originate it; it comes to us through thinking and listening. We need to listen for the Truth to guide us. Many people have learned the art of listening. There is always a right thing to do, and we can know what it is. It is present where we are, for divine Mind is present everywhere.
Many business men and women are proving through understanding God and their relationship to Him that right ideas, instead of money or goods they derive from their work, are their real supply. The student relying on the presence of divine Mind loses fear of examinations. He knows that when he has done his work honestly, there is a law to help him. The law is simple and in constant operation. Even a little child building a castle in the sand or of blocks can be observed listening for the way to do it. An engineer, an artist, a teacher, a homemaker, learning to draw on the divine source, finds new ideas unfolding and limitless inspiration. They can all feel successful in their work. This success should never be regarded as an end in itself. The purpose of Christian Science is not merely to make us happy, well, successful human beings, but to show us the way out of bondage to materiality, to the wrong thinking that man and the universe are material and subject to discord instead of being spiritual and harmonious.
Mrs. Eddy, Revelator of Truth
Thousands of people ‒ men, women, and children ‒ are finding spiritual light or understanding as they gain a more spiritually scientific concept of God. This has been happening ever since the discovery of Christian Science by Mary Baker Eddy.
Mrs. Eddy could not invent Truth: it had to be a discovery. She was a thinker whose revelation of Truth was not readily accepted at first and is still being rejected by some because it is opposed to the materialistic thinking of the world.
The discovery and the discoverer must be associated together. Associating Mrs. Eddy's name with her discovery of Christian Science is not worshiping Mrs. Eddy; it is assurance that the teaching is not being adulterated. It aids the student in the practice of this Science.
For three years after Mrs. Eddy discovered Christian Science, she searched the Scriptures to find its positive rule. She read little but the Bible, and stayed away from society. In the Christian Science textbook, that resulted from this study, she says: "I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind-action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration. The revelation of Truth in the understanding came to me gradually and apparently through divine power" (109:16-24).
Something of the character of Mrs. Eddy and her humility and unselfish devotion to the cause of Truth is found in these words to members of her household: "Now measure yourself and your growth by your works, not by your words. All I have ever accomplished has been done by getting Mary out of the way, and letting God be reflected. When I would reach this tone, the sick would be healed without a word" (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, First Series, p. 23).
Mrs. Eddy not only discovered Christian Science, she proved its Principle by healing the sick. She gave us the Science and rules of practice in such a form that everyone everywhere can understand and practice the Science of Being.
Mrs. Eddy's discovery brings to the understanding of humanity the Christ, Truth, which Jesus taught and proved. We recognize this Truth as the coming of the Christ to human consciousness. The Christ, the spirit of Truth and Love, so exemplified in the life of Jesus, has been present in all ages to lead men out of the bondage of materiality. It appeared in some degree to the prophets hundreds of years before the time of Jesus.
Christian Scientists understand the revelation of the Christ today is the appearing of the Comforter as taught and promised by Jesus. In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy makes clear the relationship and distinction between Jesus and the Christ in these words: "Jesus demonstrated Christ; he proved that Christ is the divine idea of God ‒ the Holy Ghost, or Comforter, revealing the divine Principle, Love, and leading into all truth" (Science and Health 332:19). Today Christ is again seen healing the sick and sinning through Christian Science.
All of us can prove the Christ, or Truth, as Jesus did, in daily experiences ‒ in everything we do. How do we prove it? By letting Truth be the substance of our thoughts, motives, and acts. Truth has to be in thought before it can be spoken or acted.
Right Thinking, or Prayer, Changes Men's Lives
When Truth instead of the thoughts and beliefs of mortal mind or the material senses governs our thinking, what are we doing? We are praying. This prayer is entirely spiritual. The proof that it is effective must show in the lives of those who use the prayer of spiritual understanding.
This prayer does not praise God just to win favor, and it is more than petition. It recognizes what God is, what He has already done as perfect divine Principle. The first sentence of Science and Health is: "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, ‒ a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love" (1:1).
The results follow naturally. Thoughts externalize themselves, in our environment, our circumstances; our bodies, and our activities.
How do we use prayer to show us whether or not we're really thinking? Spiritually enlightened thinking does not tempt people to smoke, to drink intoxicants, to be immoral. They do these things because others do them, because they believe they gain pleasure or popularity from doing them. But in Christian Science many find that thinking from the standpoint of man's relationship to the Supreme Being, the good and intelligent, shows there is a higher, more satisfying sense of enjoyment. It shows that spiritual man is capable of satisfaction and happiness far more enduring than any produced by the material senses. The human faculty of reasoning, when prompted by thinking that is truthful, can lift us out of the bondage of false appetites.
Bondage is a correct term. Unwholesome habits not easily broken make slaves out of us. We are anything but free. Whatever cripples the sensibilities deprives one of the full use of his understanding, capacity, ability, and activity. He becomes a slave to wrong desire, desire that is no part of his real selfhood as spiritual man. This desire hides from him the true source and power of his being.
Scientific thinking lifts our desires and sense of enjoyment to the level of man's oneness or unity with his spiritual source. It frees permanently from all enslaving habits.
When one is dishonest in school, in business, in his relations with others, is he really thinking? There is no permanent or real satisfaction in the results that follow any form of dishonesty. It is most harmful to the individual himself if it deprives him of Truth, all that can really help him to realize the full capacity of his being, his opportunity to do good and to receive good. Any false sense of satisfaction is short-lived and always shadowed by fear and uneasiness. Only the practice of honesty brings true freedom. Truth is the Principle of our being. It enables us to be honest.
No one has to think, accept divine ideas, to be a failure, even to be poor. These conditions are the result of accepting outward circumstances as conclusive and capable of governing us. There are those who are learning to prove through Christian Science their God-given dominion over such evidence.
Praying to realize man's unity with God and God's loving provision for all His creation changes our thinking, our outlook. We begin to make room in our consciousness for greater supply, expression of abundance. Ideas that are helpful and productive unfold to us. These appear to us as whatever we need to meet our human requirements. We read in the Christian Science textbook: "The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible" (199:21-22).
Positive thinking is confident thinking on the human level. It is better than negative thinking. But it can be like a house built on the sand with no foundation. Without the foundation of thinking that has its source in God and in spiritual understanding, it can be shaken, overcome by fear and material beliefs.
Spiritual knowing, not mere positive thinking, replaces the material, false, and fleeting in human thought with the spiritual, real, and enduring.
Surely it doesn't take intelligent thinking to be destructive, to be a juvenile delinquent, to be disobedient to parents and teachers, to defy laws. These acts are the result of not really thinking or of not knowing how to think. Behaving in these ways doesn't help anyone and hurts the one who indulges in such behavior. He deprives himself of Truth and the protection that comes as the result of doing right. He isn't really happy.
To be one of the crowd, to do something because others do it, is not acting according to a standard of conduct. To be individual, to use judgment, to weigh one's thoughts and actions, to have a definite goal in life, to adhere to standards of decency, honesty, and law requires thinking ‒ thinking based on an understanding of the source of man's being ‒ thinking based on God, on Principle, Mind, intelligence. When one knows how to think, he acts accordingly. He sees his future safe in God's keeping. His rewards are sure and enduring.
It doesn't take thinking that starts with God to give up when the going seems difficult; neither does it take such thinking to die. Thinking ‒ thinking that is reflected from man's divine source ‒ brings courage, intelligence, strength, and life to any situation. The divine Mind, the infinite intelligence, is present wherever we are. It gives us the insight, the discernment, to know the answer to any problem. Knowing spiritual facts changes our conscious sense of being. This in turn changes circumstances, events, bodily conditions. It lifts us to more spiritual altitudes where we lose the discords of the material senses' false testimony.
It doesn't take truthful thinking to criticize and condemn, to hate another individual. But it does take such thinking to have understanding and to love ‒ thinking that starts with divine Love and the desire to see man as he really is, inseparable from the Principle of his being. This man is faultless: he expresses the divine perfection and purity. This is the man evolved by the intelligent creative force, the man who lives forever as a witness to infinite intelligence. This man knows eternal Truth. This is the man we all really are.
Can Machines Displace Man?
Can machines displace man, the individual expression of intelligence? No, for they can never displace God, who is the source of all intelligence and from whom man cannot be separated.
Material reasoning and computing machines can never approach the spiritually enlightened thinking that meets the needs of humanity. The writer of Philippians saw that only correct, good, true thinking could do this. He wrote: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4: 8, 9).
When men want righteousness, a knowledge of real cause and effect ‒ when they need to settle their differences in a world flooded with conflicting opinions ‒ when they need lasting health, intelligence to do their work, and courage to face the vastness of eternity ‒ only God can supply the answers.
I wish to leave with you these words from the Preface to Science and Health: "The time for thinkers has come" (vii:13).
©1963 Sylvia N. Poling
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