Are People Your Problem?


Thomas O. Poyser, C.S., of Dallas, Texas

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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


There's a hunger for goodness in the world today, Thomas O. Poyser, C.S., of Dallas told an audience in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, last night.

"People everywhere hunger for us to care enough to be the very best ourselves and to see the very best in them," he said.

The population explosion and today's instant communication and near instant transportation are crowding people closer and closer together, he stated. It's a practical necessity that we learn better "how to be the sort of people that can live with other people."

To be able to live and work together constructively, Mr. Poyser told his audience, "we must have a fuller understanding of what people really are. . . . And to understand the nature of people as we should, we must understand the nature of God."

Cooperation of the highest order is needed in the world today, the lecturer continued. "It's essential, then, that we think and act up to the best that's in us as people who in reality are individual expressions of divine Life, God. But it's equally important that we recognize our neighbor on the same basis. . . . As we do this, we help to create a world atmosphere conducive to agreement and meaningful cooperation."

Mr. Poyser, currently on tour as a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, was introduced to his audience by Mrs. Rose M. Henniker-Heaton, Second Reader of The Mother Church.

A partial text of the lecture titled "Are People Your Problem?" follows:


A world growing smaller

Have you noticed lately how small the world's getting? Or to put it another way, how crowded the world's getting? But we needn't worry. It isn't necessary to stop the world and get off. It's just that people are living closer together. Instant communication and almost instant transportation add to this. Then there are so many more people than ever before. The world's population is rapidly exploding. And its popularity as a place to live is increasingly crowding its many inhabitants you and me and our neighbor.

Just to give you some idea in 1933, there were only two billion people on this planet. By 1963, thirty years later, the population had grown to three billion. And by 1980 it's estimated there'll be over four billion. So you see the direction we're headed!

To cope with this growing problem, we must learn better how to be the sort of people that can live with other people.

But just what are people? Are they only crowds and masses, numbers and computer fodder? To develop the sort of living and working together the world needs, we first must have a fuller understanding of what people really are. Second, we need to learn what this understanding can mean to you and me how it can really help us be ourselves. And third, we need to see how this understanding can achieve better living together among people everywhere. And in considering these three points today, we'll look for a satisfying answer to that question, "Are People Your Problem?"

People are individual, living, self-conscious beings! Apparently, sometimes good, sometimes bad. It depends upon the thoughts they think and act upon. People are different. No two are exactly alike. You're one in almost four billion, you might say!

Human progress requires the very best that people you and I can be. But everyone presents a different kaleidoscope of experience, background, ambition, tastes, opinions, interests, etc. This makes it difficult for us all to find common ground. You may remember Thoreau once said, "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." There seem to be as many drummers as there are people! And this doesn't always result in the best parade performance.


Man has a spiritual nature

Yes, there are many things that lead to diversity in human nature. But there's one characteristic true of people everywhere. We all share a significant similarity. And this is really fundamentally what we're talking about here. Man is actually much more than the merely physical creature he's' generally believed to be. He has a spiritual nature. And this is important! He's the individual expression of the great source of all life, God. This is what the Bible is saying when it describes man as made in the likeness of God. This likeness is so exact that, in Christian Science, we use the word reflection for it.

Back home we have a picture a large, framed, colored photograph. It could be entitled "Reflection." It shows a beautiful sky-blue lake in the Rockies. A mountain and forests are imaged in clear reflection on the still water. When I hang the picture, I really have to study it to tell which is the top and which the bottom! The reflection and original are so exactly alike.

It's the same with God and man. Man is the likeness or reflection of God. God is original, creator, perfect cause. Man is reflection, creation, perfect effect. God and man are one as cause and effect, but certainly not the same! This spiritual unity and distinctness of God and man is what gives character to people everywhere to you and me and the next fellow. To understand the nature of people as we should, we must understand the nature of God.

Recent theological discussions have questioned the nature and existence of God. This has greatly stimulated thought. But why these doubts and debates? The theological writer Harvey Cox asks: "Is it the loss of the experience of God, the loss of the existence of God in Christianity, or lack of adequate language to express God today?" The function of language is to express ideas, to communicate. But the language used has often failed to keep pace with the growth of human knowledge. It no longer communicates! In this way old definitions of God have become meaningless. They have died. But God, never! Old thought and word-forms for God may no longer relate to our space age. But God, and the ability to know and understand Him remain vital.


Scientific definition of God

People lived very simply in early Biblical times. Life was largely pastoral. God was understood in terms related to their lives. Men and God were frequently pictured as the great Shepherd and His sheep. And in similar ways that can still be inspiring and instructive to us today. But we also need to understand God in terms consistent with the age we live in scientifically, intellectually, spiritually. We need to cultivate this understanding and apply it in a meaningful, practical way. For example, Webster's latest International Dictionary includes among its definitions of God: ". . . the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love."

It's pertinent to our discussion to see how this definition comes to be in the dictionary. In the last century, religion and science met head on. This was due in part to the rapid growth of interest in the physical sciences. There were many who questioned a spiritual interpretation of the Bible and its authority. In the midst of this questioning was one religious thinker who plumbed the depths of spiritual understanding and reason. And she found the answer to this confrontation between religion and science. She established a spiritually scientific religion.

I speak of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. She wasn't content with popular concepts of Deity and found in the Bible the wholly spiritual nature of God. This wasn't a sudden discovery. It was the result of a life-long search a search that probed deeper and deeper as she met and overcame illness, sorrow, poverty, loneliness. She came to recognize that the Scriptures reveal God largely through spiritual qualities qualities which He imparts to His creation. Such qualities as strength, wisdom, perfection, completeness, health, reality, love. She found spiritual reality and substance to be quite beyond what popular belief held. And she patterned thought and word-forms accordingly.


Conscious awareness of harmony

And so, in Webster's and attributed to Christian Science we find her definition of God as Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. All these names for God are used or implied in the Bible. But as the seven major synonyms for Deity, they were first identified and grouped together by Mrs. Eddy in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 587).

As God's reflection, man individually expresses the ideas and qualities that these names for God imply. Man expresses God in all the completeness and variety of eternal, divine Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, Love.

Is a diseased, discordant, discontented mortal any part of this expression, this reflection? Not at all! The qualities of thought that shape mortal, material existence have no relationship to God or to the man of God's creating. Human beings are what their thoughts allow them to be. We express spiritual wholeness and perfection only as we allow into our consciousness the spiritual qualities God imparts and only as we refuse to admit disturbed, diseased, or discordant thoughts. To admit any kind of troubled thinking is equivalent to what electrical engineers call "line loss." This is a term they apply to loss of electrical energy in long transmission lines. This loss can be partially overcome by transmitting electricity at very high voltages or by use of certain regulating and boosting equipment. Similarly, you and I may experience "line loss" the further we allow our thinking to get away from spiritual values and qualities. At such time, we need spiritual regulating and boosting of thought. This is what prayer does. Spiritually scientific prayer fills consciousness with the spiritual facts of God and man. These eliminate "line loss" resulting from material thinking along with its discordant results in human experience.

I know of a little girl who when she was about six broke her leg. The bone almost pierced the skin. The child had learned some of the spiritual facts of God and man in a Christian Science Sunday School. So after the mother had carried her to her room, they discussed some of these facts the perfection of God's creation, the unity of God and man, and the wholeness of God's perfect child. The bones went back into place. Both mother and daughter continued to affirm man's uninterrupted unity with God. They were supported in this by a Christian Science practitioner called at the daughter's request. Within a few days the little girl was up and around.

The father wasn't a Christian Scientist, and he was concerned about the leg. He urged that it be X-rayed and made an appointment with a doctor. After examining the leg, the doctor observed that there had been a break but that it had mended perfectly.

Behind such a healing is this spiritual fact from Science and Health: "Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit" (p. 475). An understanding of this spiritual fact of being enables us to realize our true nature. It helps us to be better, healthier, more satisfied people. It allows us to see and understand people in their true nature as individual expressions of God, Spirit, divine Life.

What does this understanding mean to you and me as individuals? It enables us to identify ourselves correctly and to maintain this identity. I once read this statement: "Society itself suffers when people are allowed to sacrifice identity in the damp laundry of mediocrity." Pressures of modern living threaten to engulf identity and all its rich diversity. So there's widespread search among people today to find and preserve identity.

But do we identify ourselves enough with higher levels of thought and conduct? In seeking to break from static conformity do we really find a true and worthwhile sense of identity? Sometimes only another level of conformity of a less desirable, more selfish nature identifies the nonconformist!


Jesus demonstrated true identity

The world today threatens to blot out individuality by swelling population, automation, unthinking conformity and nonconformity, as well as by selfish interests. Questions posing themselves for all of us are, How can we find and maintain our real identity? How can we constructively contribute to the welfare of society?

At the time the Christian era was ushered into the world, the welfare of many was threatened by poverty, pestilence, and oppressive politics as well as by a gross materialism. But there was one man convinced of his true identity. He knew the spiritual qualities that formed his individuality. And he persistently pursued his pathway in opposition to obstructive elements. Mrs. Eddy writes of him: "Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man's oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. His mission was both individual and collective" (Science and Health, p. 18).

The life and works of Christ Jesus show you and me how we may realize our true identity. Jesus presented the Christ, or spiritual idea of Truth. Through his divinely inspired consciousness Jesus was ever one with or at one with God. He was always in accord with divine Life and Love. The Bible expresses this spiritual unity with the great source of being as Immanuel, or "God with us." This was the foundation from which Jesus preached and practiced. This is what earned him the title of Christ Jesus, or Jesus the Christ.

But he never suggested that God was only his Father and no one else's! He didn't claim that only he could enjoy and exemplify the Christ. Of his Christly works he promised: "These signs shall follow them that believe" (Mark 16:17). And he gave for all men the prayer beginning: "Our Father which art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). In other words, all people can experience the Christ and God's Fatherhood, the unity and distinctness of God and man.

Jesus experienced this relationship through his conscious oneness with the origin and source of all life and intelligence, God. This divine Life is the source of all true existence. For you and me to enjoy true selfhood in the likeness of God, we must identify ourselves with the perfect originator of man. We must image forth the spiritual qualities by which Spirit, God, expresses Himself. As we express these qualities we let the Christ, the divine idea, into consciousness and allow it to direct our thought and conduct.


Pathway to healing illuminated

In this way we can think and act as individuals guided by divine Life, God. It's important it's vital that we do this, that we maintain correct identification. God, divine Life, creates His own likeness, spiritual qualities and ideas. These alone form man in the likeness of God. They make man harmonious, perfect, spiritual. They constitute the true identity of everyone. Spiritual qualities alone lead to the sort of people so needed in a world increasingly populated. They enable us to live healthier, happier, more stable lives.

A friend of mine one day began to feel severe abdominal pains. They increased to alarming proportions, and she went home from work. She sought relief by applying the understanding of God and man she had been gaining through her study of Christian Science. But the condition grew increasingly worse and she became very fearful.

At this point she asked a member of her family to call a Christian Science practitioner to pray for her. He asked her to consider this verse in Proverbs: "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts" (20:27). She began to search her consciousness for only spiritual qualities. She asked herself, "Do I love completely?" In other words, did she really love?

She recalled an acquaintance whom she barely tolerated. Certainly there was no love here! She spoke about this to the practitioner. He cautioned, "If it isn't love, it's a degree of hatred." This was quite an awakener and caused her to think deeply. She realized a consciousness that isn't expressing Godlike thoughts is denying the Christ, or God with us. She really worked to establish in thought the truth of herself as an expression of God, divine Love, who could do nothing but love. The spiritual qualities that form man's true selfhood occupied her thinking. She began to entertain the ever-present Christ. Suggestions of indifference, pain, and fear gave way. Instead Love-inspired, Life-giving spiritual thoughts of appreciation, compassion, confidence elevated her thinking. With this the physical condition began to improve. Complete healing resulted.


Divine qualities accessible

Expression and preservation of true identity are essential in any society that is to progress. Not only for individual but for collective progress as well. There's no reason for mediocrity or dull conformity. There need be no loss of true identity; everyone can acknowledge and employ the spiritual qualities imparted to him by God. But this is something each must do for himself. No one else can do it for us. The well-being of the world requires the active realization and demonstration by each one of his true self. This then enables us to be the sort of people we're meant to be to be ourselves!

But we can't live just to ourselves! Not if our world is to progress. We live in a world increasingly full of people of differing beliefs and customs. Sometimes these tend to ruffle dispositions and set people at variance. At other times they may tend to induce aloofness and indifference among people. So how can we get along and help others get along under these conditions? How can we really live and work together constructively?

When I was in military service, I was once stationed in an area where morale was at a low ebb. As a result, the commanding general issued an interesting order. I saw it posted on a bulletin board at headquarters. The command stated simply, "There will be morale!" The sort of constructive coexistence the world needs like morale can't be legislated into being, established by violence, or gained merely by wishful thinking. Something much more is required. What is it?

Perhaps cooperation is the word. The fabric of much of the world has been stretched and torn by violent social, political, and economic revolutions in the past century. Now it's slowly knitting together again. Changes have occurred in views and relationships of many nations. There's an encouraging budding of cooperation.

The year 1965 was designated by the United Nations as "International Cooperation Year." But during that same year there were many disputes and disagreements between nations, as there have been since rebellions, riots, strikes, civil wars, hot and cold wars. Each year presents significant instances of progress in living together among nations and peoples. There is little doubt cooperation is the answer. But there continues the need for a fuller sense of cooperation. It needs a greater depth of meaning than is often given the word.

The highest form of cooperation has a double aspect. It means helping one another to achieve individual ends, and also working with one another to achieve common ends. Every athlete in a team is important and wants to win the game. But if each thinks only he can do it, the result's likely to be failure. There must always be teamwork. As Alexander Dumas put it for his Three Musketeers, "All for one and one for all." This is the sort of spirit that should motivate you and me. It's the kind of spirit that inspired Mary Baker Eddy.

She loved all manner of people. For nearly twenty years she resided in Concord, New Hampshire. There poor children, soldiers, all sorts of people attracted her interest and benefactions. Let me read part of a resolution passed by the Aldermen of Concord in 1966, the centennial year of the discovery of Christian Science: "Whereas, Mary Baker Eddy, while a citizen of Concord, contributed liberally to the civic and material betterment of the community and has helped to spread the name of Concord far beyond its boundaries, Therefore, the City of Concord resolves as follows: That this anniversary be recognized in honor of its distinguished citizen so that her good deeds among us may be remembered and commemorated."

From her first discovery of Christian Science Mrs. Eddy felt divinely impelled to share its healing message with all. Persistently she pursued this work through healing, teaching, writing, and through the church she founded. Then, finally, she established a daily newspaper that now circulates around the globe, The Christian Science Monitor. In a lead editorial in its first issue she wrote: "The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless, all mankind." Here in this brief phrase is indicated the essence of her own life-purpose, too. It might well be the essence of our life-purpose, too "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind."



Christly discernment is a duty

It's essential, then, that we think and act up to the best that's in us as people who in reality are individual expressions of divine Life, God. But it's equally important that we recognize our neighbor on the same basis. We can't be responsible for undesirable qualities or conduct of another. But we are responsible for what we think of him, how we regard and treat him. So we must take care how we judge or criticize or whether we do so at all. We must acknowledge another's true identity as God's reflection.

Humanity's need is that we build one another up by seeing the best the Christliness in others and by expressing the best in ourselves. This means obeying Jesus' instruction to love our neighbor as ourselves. And it begins right here at home with you and me! A little boy put it: "To love my neighbor by myself!"

But how can we do this with one who seems disinterested, disagreeable, or apparently disinclined toward us? Well, if he's suffering from such "line loss," perhaps we can help by recharging his batteries! We can disagree agreeably, as we recognize everyone's right to his beliefs and opinions whether they accord with our own or not and we can agree agreeably as we recognize the true nature of man in the likeness of God. This is our neighbor's real identity as well as our own. And whether he knows it or not, it's true. It's up to us to know it for him as well as for ourselves. As we do this, we help to create a world atmosphere conducive to agreement and meaningful cooperation.

I have a friend who did this. He accepted a better position with another firm. He worked out the details of leaving his present employer in a completely satisfactory way for everyone concerned. But when the time came for him to receive his terminal pay and other benefits due him, the money didn't arrive. He then found payment wasn't to be made at all apparently because of some technicality.

A substantial sum was involved and my friend felt there was no question about its being due. Still, what really disturbed him was that his former employer wasn't living up to the best in him. My friend felt only love and compassion toward him and began to consider the significance of man's true identity and unity with God. He prayed that he might perceive his former employer's spiritual selfhood and expect him to do the same.


True selfhood acknowledged

Then he wrote a letter not demanding payment but only incidentally mentioning it. Primarily his desire was to help bring recognition of the presence of the spiritual qualities God imparts to His likeness. In the letter he offered many useful ideas for improvement of the business activity which he hoped would enrich the other man's life. By return mail came a reply praising my friend for his previous efforts (something never before acknowledged). It included an apology for the delay in forwarding the money and made full restitution of the amount involved.

Now what happened here is that my friend conducted himself according to his spiritual nature and knew his former employer was capable of doing the same. He didn't fly off the handle. He didn't send an inflammatory letter. He didn't accuse, condemn, criticize, or become bitter. He built up. He recognized good. He supplied love instead of anger, compassion rather than recrimination. He saw the problem for what it was: a mistaken sense of identity. He replaced this with the acknowledgment of true spiritual selfhood.

We can't be the sort of people we should be if we regard others as anything less. But to regard people rightly is something you and I can do in helping our neighbors wherever they are, oceans away, across town, next door. Let's not be like someone who said, "I live on the top of a hill and have no neighbor." All mankind is our neighbor. All over the world.

All men yearn for a better image, for true identity, to find place and dignity as individual expressions of divine Life and Love. People hunger everywhere for us to care enough to be the very best ourselves and to see the very best in them. This means we must constantly acknowledge the good that is available to everybody impartially and universally. We must express the Godlike qualities that make up our nature. The world doesn't owe you and me anything. But we owe the world all the evidence we can give of our spiritual riches. This is being the sort of people the world needs. This is what can achieve better living together among people everywhere.

On the west bank of the Mississippi River, about midway from its headwaters to its mouth, there now stands the tallest man-made monument in the United States. Completed in 1966 at St. Louis, Missouri, it stands six hundred and thirty feet high. It honors the valiant men and women who passed that way to settle the great West. In the form of an arch, it's named The Gateway Arch.


Keystone is correct understanding

Now we all know what an arch is two curves leaning against each other and supporting each other. But perhaps we're not all so familiar with the keystone, a specially shaped piece which joins the two curves at the top. This equalizes and distributes the forces and pressures of the structure uniformly throughout its members. It holds all securely in place. The arch was introduced into architecture by the Romans and has played an important role in the advance of civilization. The keystone made this possible. Just as it has made possible the beautiful Gateway Arch.

In the progress of humanity our keystone for human security and fulfillment is the correct understanding of what people really are. This understanding is a power the power for good with which people are imbued when they recognize their true natures as individual expressions of God, divine Life and Love. Science and Health points out: "The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable" (p. 192). The world can recognize this. It needs the example of those who understand something of it.

If we really love our neighbor as ourselves, and by ourselves and this is what it amounts to we can set off a chain reaction for good more powerful than any nuclear bomb. Consider the possibility, for instance, of any two people anywhere settling all matters of disagreement between them on the basis of man's unity with God. Not tomorrow or next week or at a convenient season. But right now, today.

Then consider that tomorrow each of these does the same with another. This would make four living as real people. The next day each of these again repeats the procedure, then, there would be eight. Each day doubles the number: two, four, eight, sixteen, etc. Thirty-two days of this consistent effort would embrace over four billion people! Isn't this worth our doing?


1967 Thomas O. Poyser

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[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 5, 1967, under the headline "Understanding of God promotes harmony among men".]