Honesty Ė The Power of Its Deeper Dimension
David W. Rennie, C.S.B., of Denver, Colorado
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Honesty is much more than sincerity or trying to do the right thing. It has a profoundly religious, spiritual basis. David W. Rennie, C.S.B., a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, explored this important concept in his lecture, "Honesty - The Power of Its Deeper Dimension" on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 22, in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.
Mr. Rennie, whose home is in Denver, Colorado, left his position as an electronics engineer in 1953 to devote his full time to the healing work of Christian Science. He became an authorized teacher of Christian Science in 1961.
Holly Bolon, a local member of The Mother Church, introduced Mr. Rennie.
An abridged text of his lecture follows:
How would you like to be confronted on the street some day by a man holding a lamp up to your face and asking, "Are you an honest man?" How would you answer him?
Apparently many Greeks of the fourth century B.C. had such an experience. The man holding the lamp was, of course, the Greek philosopher Diogenes.
Diogenes spent years looking for what to him was an honest man. But what in essence was he looking for? He must have found many people we would call honest - hard-working people who didn't lie or cheat, who sincerely tried not to deceive themselves or others.
Or was the philosopher sensing a deeper dimension of honesty? Let's explore this thought of a deeper dimension of honesty.
As an example, how many of you got up this morning, say around 3 a.m., to dance to make the sun come up? Yet if this were thousands of years ago - it's at least hinted in archaeological discoveries - that probably all of us would be believing with the profoundest sincerity that if we didn't dance, the sun wouldn't rise and shine. But honesty means freedom from deception. And here we'd be, doing nothing more than deceiving ourselves.
The ancient sun worshippers were victims of what an American writer calls a "factoid," a falsity long accepted as valid. Was Diogenes looking for a man who was sincere about the factoids, the falsities he happened to believe?
That question is pertinent because many different yet equally sincere people believe many different, often contradictory things.
I was watching TV recently - a panel discussion. Each one of the participants seemed as honest and sincere as the others. But no one agreed with anybody else. Yet each panelist chose to speak according to his own subjective sense of what to him seemed good. And if something seems good to you, it will also seem honest, won't it? - even if others disagree.
And if you think of the vast profusion of so many different viewpoints found in so many different philosophies and religions, each claiming to be honest, often while wildly contradicting each other, it's easy to see why the earnest heart, the heart longing to be good and true, may well wonder where true honesty lies - the honesty that is free from deception.
But let me try a more extreme example. Consider the Biblical character, Saul of Tarsus. In his deep zeal for doing what he thought was honest and right, Saul persecuted the Christians and sought their death! It must have seemed honest to Saul that one of Jesus' followers, Stephen, be stoned because, for whatever reason, to Saul's sense of things it looked good - at least until his conversion when his name was changed to Paul. His conversion gave him a new, a higher sense of good which taught him to cherish life.
The point I'm trying to make is that whatever it is that registers on your consciousness as good will determine what seems the honest thing for you to do. It will be the basis of what to you is an honest religion, an honest life and life style, honest governmental policies, and so on.
But what is telling us our sense of good is reliable? How do you know that what you think is true now will not in future centuries become known, like millions of other sincerely held beliefs, as a deception no more valid than dancing to the sun?
Is one's concept of good all there is to good? Is all that you and I have to look forward to but my concept of good vs. your feelings about it vs. somebody else's? If we're thinking about honesty only in terms of human beings and their sincerely held beliefs and opinions, honesty will have no standard, and sincerity will be meaningless.
That may be hard to accept, that one's sincerity may be meaningless; but it's so important that Christ Jesus said 2,000 years ago, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true" (John 5:31). For Jesus, honesty wasn't self-generated.
He explained further in this way: "It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me" (John 8:17, 18). Good, as Jesus sensed it, had a source, the Holy Spirit whom he called Father and to whom he was bearing witness. As St. John wrote: "It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (I John 5:6). Honesty bears witness to the Divine!
And how natural it must have been for Jesus to base his honesty, not on his own vs. others' opinions, but on the man he knew himself to be witnessing to the nature of that Spirit which is Truth - and to express that honesty in actions which fulfilled Spirit's will, bringing to light the true condition of man, man's health or spiritual wholeness by healing the sick; making Love evident by destroying fear, by comforting those who mourn. Not self-generated opinions, but "... The same works that I do, bear witness of me" (John 5:36), was Jesus' standard of honesty, the outcome of his sense or consciousness of good.
But we never read in the Gospels of Jesus' sense of good - the Christly or spiritual sense of it - being overpowered by evil, as it all too often seems to be in our daily affairs. He was always the victor. Jesus didn't just try to "bear up" and "hope for the best." His sense of good was also a consciousness of power derived from Spirit. Power to destroy evil, yes, but also power to live, and to live with serenity, with confidence and dominion. It was power to love. And to love in a way which set the human heart on fire, giving it new motives, new aspirations and achievements, all pointing Spiritward, Godward, and away from material limitations.
The question is, Why? Why was Jesus able to live that way, to produce those results? Because he was acting supernaturally? Abnormally apart from truth as you and I should know truth?
The answer is a most emphatic No.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, discovered something spiritually unique which distinguished Jesus' sense of good. That good to him was not only Divine, but that it included all cause and effect, was the only reality. That Jesus' works were the inevitably natural outcome of rightly understanding good and were not miracles done in a supernatural vacuum apart from the things you and I can learn to do. But she discovered that only after her own sense of good had been gradually changed and deepened by much experience, by study of Scripture, her own search for truth - the very truth that you and I, too, must come to know.
How did she do it?
Well, here was a woman who from childhood had been longing to be good and true. But like everyone else, she had a sense of honesty - of reality - which included both good and evil, Spirit and matter. And evil often seemed to dominate, as in ill health for example. But let me read how she writes of the moment when her thought truly began to grasp a deeper dimension of honesty, when it began to witness truly to the divine:
"The first spontaneous motion of Truth and Love, acting through Christian Science on my roused consciousness, banished at once and forever the fundamental error of faith in things material; for this trust is the unseen sin, the unknown foe, - the heart's untamed desire which breaketh the divine commandments" ("Retrospection and Introspection," p. 31).
Mrs. Eddy discovered that the materialistic faith and thinking which breaks the commandments, and the spiritual mindedness or sense of good which keeps the commandments, are not only moral opposites, but being moral opposites cannot possibly be equally true. That the reality which is true - which is without deception - has only one side, and that is the good side, the moral and spiritual side wherein man is as perfect as his heavenly Father is perfect, as Christ Jesus himself said.
To Mrs. Eddy, Jesus' works and the way he lived became a divine fulmination against faith in things material. They became a divine denunciation of all reasoning as if man were antithetical - that is, a mixture of both good and evil, Spirit and matter, with matter and evil in charge. That his works proved that we have no man, no genuine conscious existence, without the goodness which is Godliness. And that is why Jesus had always spoken of himself as separate from any worldly physical causation. Because a physical, sense of causation was dishonest - because mortal existence is itself a state of self-deception.
She saw that Jesus' example was not something relevant to life, but that we see in him the Christ revealing to us what Life actually is. As Jesus himself said before Pilate: "... for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth" (John 18:37). And he didn't add, "One kind of truth for you, another kind for me.
Perhaps I should emphasize at this point that Mrs. Eddy's discovery was no momentary spasm of righteousness, no doctrinal belief which suddenly worked. The first thing that happened to her was that, as she writes, she found herself in better health than before. But she wasn't one to stop there. With the change in her understanding of good, there began also the most significant transformation of what she was able to achieve. For now, in witnessing to the validity of her discovery, and especially after three more years of the most earnest study of Scripture to discover a positive rule for healing, she tested it widely in healing many others.
She eventually taught others to heal as well, according to Jesus' instructions. And their achievements were greatly enlarged. Christian healing became to them, as it had become to her - as it has become to all who have caught the spirit of Christ in Christian Science - the normal, natural outcome of understanding good as good must of necessity be - Divine.
When we consider Mrs. Eddy's gift to the world of her discovery - a gift which has healed and regenerated countless thousands with the healing and saving power of Christ, Truth, it's obvious that the world needs to get honest toward Mrs. Eddy - toward what she wrote and what she did.
And in that regard, let me pause to emphasize one vital point: Any suggestion, any argument which tries to divorce Christian Science from its Discoverer and Founder and the way she put it all together spiritually, logically, practically, is a mode of dishonesty which will destroy one's ability to honestly know what Christian Science is all about. But a persistent, determined effort to fairly evaluate what she wrote and what she did will take Christian Science out of the realm of theory and debate for the receptive heart. It will reveal to you its witness of the Divine. You'll learn right out of your own daily experience why she was able to write, "Honesty is spiritual power" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 453), why she called her discovery Christian Science or Christ Science, and why she herself came to know it as the advent of the Comforter, which Jesus prophesied would come and lead into all truth (John 16:13) - the truth of the one-sided spiritual goodness of all that's real.
But, one might wish to argue, "Rennie, turn on the TV some night. Do you see everything as all good? Was everything all good in your life up to this point?"
Well, when we look at ourselves or the world through the physical senses and faith in matter, it does seem that evil is as real as good. And then to talk about man being spiritual and perfect, may sound like so much wild-eyed theorizing. The questioner is undoubtedly asking: Where can we find proof today that Mrs. Eddy's discovery was not self-generated, but is divinely genuine?
Well, it isn't a question of getting everything worked out in a neatly worded doctrinal package. We really can't find proof merely intellectually, as if it existed in words strung together and then judged to be good by the human mind.
Why? Because you wonít see more deeply into honesty than you yourself are honest in thought and life.
The physical senses perceive of good as limited by material conditions. They persistently argue that both evil and good, matter and Spirit, are honest. But, you'll remember, Mrs. Eddy discovered that the moral opposites of Spirit and matter cannot both be true. And the power of honesty will seem limited in your daily affairs in proportion to the matter-mindedness - the dishonesty - infusing your thought.
How do you see more deeply into honesty? By first faithfully being as honest as you now know how to be. And the more of Spirit, of God or Truth, that you see to obey - and the more you do obey - the clearer will be your perception of what is actually genuine. And correspondingly, you'll see more clearly what is dishonest, and stop dancing to it - believing it and acting in accordance with it.
And therein lies the only proof that Mrs. Eddy's discovery is genuine - in the actual destruction of evil through an understanding or consciousness of the real nature of good.
As an example, let's consider together that phase of the material sense of life - the self-deceived sense of it - which has caused so much suffering throughout human history, that phase called disease. Let me tell you of the experience of a young mother and her 10 year old twin girls.
According to extensive medical diagnosis, both children had what the human mind calls an incurable disease - leukemia. No medical treatment could help. One child was given a few weeks to live, the other a little longer. On hearing the medical verdict, the mother turned radically away from medicine to Christian Science and called a Christian Science practitioner to help her.
The practitioner in no way overlooked or ignored the gravity of the situation. He had to be honest with the human body and its needs. But his appraisal of the body and its needs was not based on medical theories or diagnosis. Medical diagnosis examines matter. It accepts as real the self-deceptions of a material sense of life and law. It thus denies Spirit and its witness to man as spiritual, and so bears false witness against man. When we get honest toward diagnosis, as the practitioner had to do, we'll learn that diagnosis doesn't describe what needs to be healed. That in itself is but a mode of hypnotic material thought which tends to induce disease.
You see, disease isn't the result of a law of any real kind. In its essence it's not unlike dancing to make the sun come up. For disease is nothing but the externalizing of a false, a self-deceived, fearful mental state which witnesses only to itself. This mental state is called a physical state. But whatever it's called, the Christ-idea - the power of God unto salvation - is an ever-present divine influence which destroys that deception out of human consciousness, as light removes darkness. The material personal senses, to which disease seems so real, but misrepresent and misstate the Christ-revealed status of man. They don't alter that status. They don't alter what Spirit, real Mind, has made man to be in God's image.
The practitioner's appraisal of the situation was based on the witness which the Holy Spirit gives of man through Christian Science. Thus his approach to the case had to be from the standpoint of prayer, the spiritual discernment of the children's status in truth. And he assured the mother that the spiritual status of the children was forever intact, that no human fear or medical prediction based on material sense could alter it, that all that each child needed for her eternal welfare was assured to her by divine law, the law of that Spirit which is Truth.
Of course, these statements - while indicating the underlying truth of being - aren't formulas to be recited or chanted on occasion. They impart no power to heal without the spiritual consciousness of their meaning. And that consciousness is ours only in proportion to our fidelity to God and His law. They are powerless without the backup of one's own thought and life in ever-deepening obedience to God.
So, with sacred determination to live life honestly, Christly, the practitioner and the mother confidently and expectantly maintained the truth of each child's at-one-ment with God, that He was the All-in-all of their being.
That very day the child medically believed to be in most danger was not only out of danger, but was well - completely healed. A few days later, the other child was also well. The father, not a Christian Scientist, asked that the children be re-examined medically. All the tests proved negative. And the doctors gave Christian Science full credit. The twins now are grown, married, and have families of their own.
So far I hope we've reasonably established that honesty is far more than sincerely believing something. That it has a spiritual dimension found in Christ, God's or Truth's idea, which shows us the manhood which is without deception. That any concept of self, of anything, based on matter and mind in matter is inherently dishonest. That it is through faith in matter that you cheat yourself out of true self-knowledge, And that getting honest to God and honest to man, to ourselves, as in Christ - seeing the nature of good truly - we can learn that what we've commonly called disease is actually a factoid, a falsity long accepted as valid. That we can correct that falsity - stop dancing to it - by replacing it with the consciousness of true being. But to do that we've got to come to grips and deal with the mentality to which the deception of disease, evil, and matter seem so real.
And in our quest for honesty's deeper dimension, that must include yet another phase of falsity - sin. It's indispensable to one's own mental and physical welfare, and the welfare of society, that we get honest toward sin.
Honesty toward sin perhaps best begins with St. John's words: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin" (I John 3:9). Sin, then, like disease, has no real source, hence no necessity. It, too, witnesses only to itself, hence is a liar fathering a lie about man. In Christian Science, sin is a lie obscuring what is born of God, what comes from Truth, so that we don't see the nature of good truly. It beclouds our assurance of His ministering presence and the certainty of our sonship with God.
Sin isn't solely a question of morality. It's true you'll never know honesty's deeper power with lame morals. But any feeling within that God is not loving you, governing you, sustaining you, providing the moral courage you need, the strength, the intelligence you need to do His will - that feeling also is sin. It's a lie asserting itself because God is in fact imparting all those qualities to each individual consciousness right here, right now.
And any mental, urge or push within to act contrary to your sacred sonship with God, contrary to good as God defines good in His revealed Word - that too is sin. St. Paul defined it as "... the good that I would I do not" (Rom. 7:19). And that must include love to be loved but neglected, truth to be upheld but compromised, as further descriptive of sin.
Sin claims that God and man, Father and son, are separable - that man lives and moves and has his being with a mind and life of his own in matter and the material senses, through which he can ignore God, break God's law, and diminish the power of good. That sense is pure delusion - a delusion not to be ignored but uncovered, dug out of thought, and destroyed. It's a delusion, a deception, yes, but we'll go on dancing to it and be unable to prove its essential unreality, until we recognize sin as sin. That selfishness is selfishness. That manipulation is manipulation. That intimidation is intimidation. Until the stoning of Stephen begins to register on consciousness for what it is - murder. Until the wrongs we may commit are seen and acknowledged to be just that - wrong. Until our standard of honesty shaped by Principle, by that Spirit which bears true witness of man and governs him, and not by human policy or expediency.
"Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the Christian Science textbook by Mrs. Eddy, puts it this way: "If you commit a crime, should you acknowledge to yourself that you are a criminal?" And the answer is, "Yes" (p. 461). Without the common honesty which holds oneself responsible and accountable for one's own thought and behavior, an honesty so deep that it yearns for and brings reform, there can be no forgiveness of sin, no destruction of it.
Let me tell you of a heart sick of sin, and how the Christly dimension of honesty transformed and redeemed this individual's life. One day a woman appeared at the door of my office, and I invited her in and offered her a chair. By looking at her, her soiled clothes, unkempt hair, and general appearance, anyone could tell at a glance that she was in a very bad way indeed. It seemed in fact that she might be a prostitute, and that turned out to be the case. She was sobbing as if her heart and soul were in each tear. And I reached out to the Father in prayer as to how to help her. I knew it was the Spirit which bore true witness of man. And so, as a Christian Scientist, I made the prayerful effort to see through and beyond the material sense of her, to the unseen status of her spiritual being as God's image and likeness. I knew that God had not conceived of her or, anyone in terms of sin and condemnation, but in terms of salvation and the beauty of holiness.
When she was finally able to speak, she startled me by saying: "I want to apologize for coming into such a religious office." Frankly that riled me. And I said, "Lady, I've got some news for you. I need the Christ every bit as much as you do. The only difference between us is, I know it and you don't."
Whatever those words may have meant to her, there began right before me the spiritual transformation of a fellow being. She stopped crying, sat up straight, and in a little while said, "I've never felt so at peace before."
As she stood up to leave and was walking out the door, I could tell just by the way she did it that she'd been touched by this more deeply dimensioned sense of honesty, that she'd caught a glimpse of her Christ-revealed true self which had never sinned.
In about five minutes she startled me again by rushing back into the office with this story to tell. On reaching the lobby, she'd tripped. A man helped her to her feet and said, "You look like someone who could use a job. I own a restaurant and need a waitress." He gave her the address of the restaurant and added, "Why don't you come over in about half an hour and you can start work by having lunch."
She was crying again - but now, glistening through those tears was the gratitude, the happiness which often come with the beginning of regeneration.
And it was only the beginning. You'll remember what happened in Saul's life through a change in his understanding of good. How Mrs. Eddy reinstituted primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing through her discovery of the nature of good. How the healing of leukemia took place through a change in the mother's understanding of good. So there began the most wonderful transformation in what this woman was able to accomplish in her daily affairs.
But her healing was first a call to spiritual growth, to a deepening reformation and a continuing conformation of her thought to the Christ ideal of manhood. She developed a deep love of the Bible, and of Science and Health. Later she saw fit, and indeed was fit, to join a Church of Christ, Scientist. She had found that the touch of healing was actually a divine call to sacred Christian discipleship, to thinking and living in the deeper aspects of spiritual goodness - that of witnessing to others the reality of God and man which she had found. It was the call to care.
She'd found the honesty which does much more than heal sickness or sin. It makes us care. Care that truth is upheld. Care to side with the integrity which assures the well-being and freedom of others. Care to do the right thing and to prayerfully learn what the right thing is to do. Care enough for the things of God so as to obey them, embody them.
Jesus promised us - and it's a sacred assurance to each one of us - that we can love as he loved, that we can do the works which he did, the love and works of Christian reality.
But it requires of us, even as it was required of him, that we let the Spirit through spiritual sense bear witness in our hearts. That we become willing to bring a Christly discipline, a Christly correction to the lying physical senses, that we look through and beyond those senses to the unchanged spiritual status of man as Godís likeness. If we are to live truth as Christ Jesus lived it, it requires of us a conformation of our thought, our attitudes and affections, to Christ, the true idea of God and man. In no other way can we help others free themselves from the wretched conditions self-imposed by false material thinking.
Jesus said, ". . . freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8). The freedom of your giving bespeaks the depth of your honesty. We can't live another's life for him. We can't relieve another of the responsibility to think and live truly, Christly. But we can care to so Christianize, so spiritualize our own thought and lives as to win a response from the native honesty in others, and so draw them toward the more deeply dimensioned honesty which is in Christ.
When Diogenes walked the streets with his lamp 2,300 years ago, the light from that lamp fell upon human motives and trusts, commitment, faith. But it is to the Christ that St. John referrred when he said: "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9).
With that true Light shining in our faces - and setting our hearts on fire - how would you answer the question: Are you an honest man?