Dis-cover Your Relationship to God
Betty Ann Ridley, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
People of all ages are fascinated with the idea of finding buried treasure, so searching for treasure isn't anything new. The Bible speaks of hidden treasure and pearls; it urges us to seek, to search, to find - confirming that there's definitely something of value awaiting our discovery.
Jesus illustrates in parable two different kinds of treasure hunts. In one he describes unexpected discovery, likening the kingdom of heaven to "treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, . . . for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Matt. ).
An example of that parable occurred
at an archaeological site in
In a companion parable, Jesus describes another kind of search where the individual is actually looking for treasure and finds it. He tells of "a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matt. 13:45,46).
An illustration of someone seeking
and finding the "one pearl of great price" occurred in the
mid-nineteenth century in
She found the "pearl" - the Science of Christianity. What does that mean - the Science of Christianity? Am I implying that the words and works of Christ Jesus actually constitute a science? Why that would mean that Jesus' teachings are based on a fixed rule - a rule invariable through the centuries, and so are as practical and provable today as when the patriarchs, the prophets and the Master Christian walked the earth. To discover that rule would be, indeed, to find the "pearl of great price"!
Just like the merchant man in Jesus' parable, Mrs. Eddy was willing to sell all she had to buy that "pearl" she'd found. But the pearl we're talking about isn't a commodity to be purchased. So, how did Mrs. Eddy buy the pearl? She spent years, more than 40 years of unrelenting toil, recording the Science she discovered. She stated it so clearly that today anyone who wants to can understand the ideas in the textbook of Christian Science and learn to do the works the early Christians did.
Mary Baker Eddy shared her treasure unselfishly with the world. She was a living example of Jesus' parable - someone seeking treasure, finding it, and valuing it enough to pay the cost. How sad it would have been had she found the pearl and failed to record the finding.
So whether we are casual and perhaps skeptical "plowers of the field," unaware that we're looking for something; or, already committed seekers of "goodly pearls," knowing what we're looking for, let's get involved in a treasure hunt.
What are we hunting for anyway?
The more than 500,000 self-help groups in the
Wouldn't we love to discover that each one of us has an identity that is distinct, valuable, and purposeful? We can make such a discovery - here and now. Don't you love the word "discover"? A friend of mine describes it as the moment a "wow" takes place in thought. Discover means finding something that's already here. Archaeologists discover - they dis-cover or take the cover off and reveal what's been there all the time.
Relating archaeological methods to a treasure hunt
So, if we're to be involved in a search for hidden treasure, perhaps we can learn something from successful archaeologists. Their hunt for historical treasure includes researching, digging, and recording. First, by studying history and researching it they become convinced that there's something worth searching for and gain some idea of where that something is. Second, they have to be willing to do the digging - the searching, the sifting, the sorting. Finally, with careful attention to detail, they record the evidence uncovered and so reconstruct history. How are we to relate these steps - researching, digging, recording - to our treasure hunt? An archaeologist digs into the ground. Our "dig" takes place in thought. An archaeologist looks for artifacts, then draws tentative conclusions as to human origin and history. We're looking for spiritual facts from which we can draw absolute conclusions about ourselves - as God created us.
Now let's see how the archaeologist's
three steps work out in practice, and how our spiritual, mental search follows
the same pattern. Remember that archaeological site we mentioned earlier in
Ages passed. Areas were eventually deserted - left untended. Then blowing dust and growing vegetation formed mounds of earth over the larger structures, sometimes over entire areas, until evidence of the ancient city was hardly visible. Archaeologists call such a mound a "tell."
These ancient sites, so rich with promise of buried treasure, often stand covered over for centuries before anyone undertakes the task of uncovering them. Is that because mankind is sometimes unaware of the treasure buried there? If so, what does it take to make us stop, look at that "tell" anew, and realize there is more there than meets the eye?
In the search for our spiritual identity, the human mentality - our individual consciousness - can be likened to a "tell." How can we become convinced of a spiritual identity worth searching for? And then how can we begin some mental digging - removing accumulated debris in thought - which will reveal something very worthwhile?
First step: research
Archaeologists find that their search is made much more productive if they first seek out an authority - the writings of some ancient historian. Biblical archaeologists might study Josephus' history describing the structure or city covered over. Knowing approximately what they're looking for enables archaeological diggers to distinguish between the valuable treasures, even if they're in bits and pieces, and worthless debris.
Where can we seek out an authority in the search for our spiritual identity? What source writings can we study for our mental dig? Is there a record - field notes, so to speak - of successful, spiritual searchers whose experiences can guide us? Of course there is. Isn't the Bible such a record - an ultimate, timeless source book - describing exactly the treasure (our spiritual identity) we're discovering?
Let's remember discovery is simply finding what's already here. Think of great discoverers in several fields - Columbus, Edison, Einstein. They didn't make the earth round, originate electricity, or manufacture relativity. They simply took away covers of ignorance.
I like this definition by a nineteenth-century humorist: "Ignorance ain't so much not knowin' things as it is knowin' so many things that just ain't so." Discoverers, then, like Columbus, Edison, or Einstein, remove covers of ignorance - beliefs in limitations "that just ain't so."
Sometimes we're not too quick to admit that many of the things we think we know - even about ourselves - "just ain't so." But if we're to be effective discoverers, uncovering our own individual mental "tell," we have to be certain what is so and what is not so - else how will we know which thoughts to keep and which ones to throw away?
Where can we find the invariable standard by which to distinguish between the "so" and the "not so?" Isn't that the purpose of our source book, the Bible? Jesus, the Master Christian, urged his listeners to "Search the scriptures . . ." (John ). We learn from reading the Gospels that Jesus was a student of the Scriptures because he quotes from them so often. There's that first step - research.
Our Scriptural research can be systematic because of the Science available to guide us. The archaeologist's scientific system uncovers and reconstructs the history of ancient humanity. The Science we're talking about - Christian Science - uncovers man's spiritual history as the image and likeness of God. It shows us clearly what is so and what is not so about ourselves.
This Science pertaining to God and His creation isn't new. It wasn't invented or contrived by Mary Baker Eddy, but was discovered by her within the pages of the Bible. She describes her discovery this way: "Christian Science, understood, coincides with the Scriptures, and sustains logically and demonstratively every point it presents. Otherwise it would not be Science, and could not present its proofs" (S&H 358:9).
Admittedly, countless millions before the mid-nineteenth century had read, studied, and recognized the value of this venerable book, the Bible. They did their best to live by its laws. But not until Mary Baker Eddy had anyone discerned and recorded the precise, understandable, and demonstrable Science that underlies the events in the Scriptures -explaining them entirely from a spiritual standpoint.
The name Mary Baker Eddy has earned the respect of spiritual searchers around the globe. The book she has written, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, is just that - the "Key" to the Scriptures for anyone seeking a knowledge of God.
If we wanted to practice archaeology, let's say Biblical archaeology, wouldn't we eagerly read a book written by a respected and successful Biblical archaeologist - Yigael Yadin, perhaps, or Kathleen Kenyon? Then wouldn't we go out and dig enthusiastically, putting into practice the ideas we find in the book?
It isn't unusual, then, for those interested in understanding their relationship to God to read a book written by one who has already successfully sought and found, in the Bible, the ultimate answer to that question of our relationship to God.
People the world over, even many who have yet to see the eventual necessity of embracing the Church Mrs. Eddy established, find that her book, Science and Health, awakens their spiritual sense, deepens their understanding of the Bible and gives them a new view of themselves.
There was a time when I'd given up reading the Bible because it seemed difficult to resolve the inconsistencies and contradictions written there. God is depicted as infinite good yet allowing pain, disease, and suffering. He is portrayed as omnipotent - all-power - yet competing with another power called the devil or evil. He is presented as infinite Life yet sanctioning death: as creating man spiritually and materially.
It seemed obvious to me that the contradictions in these statements couldn't both be true. All attempts at mere literal interpretation only compounded the mystery. So in my deep desire to find some real meaning to life, I became a student of philosophy and enjoyed reading the great thinkers' sincere search for truth. But it wasn't until a friend gave me a copy of Science and Health that I found the ultimate, divine philosophy - a spiritual, scientific interpretation of the Bible that unlocks the mystery.
As I began reading Science and Health, I knew instinctively that the author, Mary Baker Eddy, wasn't just another woman with a good idea. Her inspired conviction, the strength and clarity of her thought and expression, led me to think that here was someone with a unique mission - a divine calling.
I was amazed at her perceptive statements. Unlike most philosophers who talk in circles about God or Truth, Mrs. Eddy defines God, Spirit, and His creation clearly and explicitly as altogether spiritual. Science and Health turned me back to the Bible with such enthusiasm! I knew I had found the "Key" to the Scriptures.
In the light of Mrs. Eddy's explanations, I could read the Bible with a new view. It was as though someone had taken the cover off and revealed what had been there all the time - the invariable rule or science on which Jesus' healing and teaching were based.
What was the standard for Jesus' healing works? Wasn't it his understanding that God’s spiritual creation of man and the universe, as recorded clearly in the first chapter of Genesis, is the absolute fact - the "what is so" about all creation?
Let's listen afresh to this Biblical description of a purely spiritual creation and consider the possibility that these statements do actually constitute a scientific, unchanging rule or law by which Jesus healed and told us we could do the same. I'll read from the first chapter of Genesis: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth . . . And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion . . . over all the earth . . . So God created man in his own image, . . . male and female created he them. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:1,26,27,31).
Until the time of Mary Baker Eddy, the religious world seemed unaware of the science behind Jesus' deeds, and largely ignored the Scriptural account of spiritual creation just read from the first chapter of Genesis. Much attention has been focused through the centuries on the Adam and Eve story beginning in the second chapter of Genesis - which depicts a man "formed . . . of the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2:7), and woman taken from his rib and both condemned because of sin.
An enormous amount of religious doctrine - like a giant "tell" - had accumulated through the centuries based almost entirely on the Adam-creation story. Since this "tell" was a mental one - made up of thoughts, religious opinions, and theories - it look a thinker with the exceptional spiritual aptitude of Mary Baker Eddy to unearth it.
Mrs. Eddy knew that buried beneath ceremonies, rituals, and doctrines, the Science of creation which has existed forever and which was the basis of Jesus' healings, still existed intact, awaiting discovery. Hers was a courageous task of "digging" - removing centuries of misconceptions about man and woman - until she revealed that the purpose of the Adam and Eve story in the Bible is to illustrate "what is not so" about the man God has made. This is the revolutionary revelation that came to Mary Baker Eddy's receptive thought and resolved the ambiguities in the Bible.
The "what is so" (the spiritual creation described in the first chapter of Genesis) and the "what is not so" of the Adam and Eve story beginning in the second chapter of Genesis (material or physical creation) lead to the inevitable conclusion of the reality and allness of Spirit, God, and man created spiritually, and the basic unreality of matter. This is the Science of creation.
Didn't the Founder of Christianity show us how to apply this Science of creation in our lives? Wasn't Christ Jesus the most effective discoverer the world has ever known? Wherever he went, he discovered the good creation God has made.
When the Galilean Prophet met up with a blind man, he dis-covered sight. Wasn't he illustrating that sight is what is so about man and woman? And that blindness should be classified and demonstrated as what is not so?
When Jesus came upon a sick man, he discovered health and strength. Wasn't he demonstrating that health and strength are what is so and that sickness should be classified by his followers, by scientific Christians, as what is not so?
When confronted with death, he discovered ever-present life. When he came upon a storm, he discovered calm. When he was with five thousand hungry people, he discovered an abundance of food. At tax time he discovered the wherewithal to pay. When he personally faced hatred, persecution, even crucifixion, he discovered within his own thought - love.
Were Jesus' works miracles? Did he create sight, health, life? Did he manufacture a calm sea, baskets full of food, safety for himself, or love for his enemies? Or, as one Greek scholar suggests, were these acts proofs - evidence of what had been there all the time (see C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel [Cambridge University Press, 1965], p. 90).
Jesus was imbued with God's view of creation. His healing works sifted the facts from the fiction, the treasure from the dirt. He demonstrated over and over again what is so and what is not so about man and woman! Aren't the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, then, our primary authority - the basic source materials - as we prepare for our spiritual, mental dig?
Mary Baker Eddy's explanations of Jesus' illustrations are invaluable to any seeker for spiritual facts. Her spiritual vision saw through the world's great pile of accumulated beliefs in what is not so about man. She saw through the misconception of man as a helpless, sinning mortal, subject to all kinds of disease, and saw man as he really is - as God created him - spiritual, complete, perfect. She describes this God-created man in her book, Science and Health. This book gives us an accurate, detailed description of the treasure of our own true identity.
We might compare Mrs. Eddy's
insights - her spiritual perception - to the modern technique used by
archaeologists called "infrared photography." This method provides archaeologists
absolute proof of hidden treasure. In the comparatively recent past, such
photographs have revealed that beneath a "tell" in
In much the same way, haven't many of us just been walking through life looking at ourselves as that man formed from dust described in the second chapter of Genesis - only so much flesh and blood and brain and brawn? But Mrs. Eddy's discovery provides for spiritual diggers absolute proof of man's spiritual origin - his true nature as the child of God described in the first chapter of Genesis.
Just as ancient historians provide facts for archaeologists, the Bible and Science and Health equip us with all the facts we need to begin our dig and uncover our real identity so that it's visible to ourselves and others. Now we know what books to study as authority for our dig. That's the preparation. It's the first step - the research step. Now, what about the dig itself?
Second step: the dig
In the search for our spiritual
identity, we're sometimes tempted to confuse the research step with the digging
A Biblical archaeologist can read
Josephus' history book, look at infrared photos, and become thoroughly
convinced of a treasure worth searching for. And he can gain a fairly accurate
idea of where it is. But if he wants to see that treasure, lets
say the colosseum buried at
Likewise as diggers for spiritual facts about our real identity, we can read and study our source books, the Bible and Science and Health, and become convinced theoretically of a spiritual identity worth searching for. And, if we accept the teachings of Christ Jesus, we'll be certain that identity is already within. But then we can't just close those books and leave the ideas between the covers.
To see that man we're reading about in the first chapter of Genesis -created in God's likeness and having dominion over all the earth - these ideas must become tools to dig with. Now what does that mean? What does digging mean to an archeologist? His work is meticulous. He often begins as early as to avoid the heat of the day. He uses very small tools - little brushes, spoons, and trowels - patiently removing centuries of dirt, weeds and debris bucket by bucket. Imagine excavating a hill large enough to cover an enormous colosseum and attacking it, not with a bulldozer, but with a tiny trowel!
Our mental dig may look a bit like that to us if we've left the windows of thought carelessly open, allowing the dust of worldly thinking - statistics about crime or accident: descriptions of diseases and their symptoms detailed by magazines and newspapers and TV; publicity exploiting the pleasures of immorality - to blow in and settle in our consciousness.
If that is the case, as it often is, we have to resist the temptation to give in to discouragement right at the beginning. Even if layers of ignorant beliefs about our homes, our families, our businesses, our bodies, our churches, our communities, or our world have accumulated until our problems look like a giant "tell" to us, so what? Remember that "tell" is hiding a valuable treasure which can be brought to light if we are willing to do the mental digging necessary.
Study will remind us of the facts of our spiritual identity - awaken our spiritual sense - our awareness of God's infinite goodness. We'll gain from that research a conviction that God, Spirit, is the only creator. And that's the major tool for anyone in search of his true spiritual identity. With that fixed rule - God as the only creator – as our tool, we can search, sift, and sort out our thoughts - keeping only what is so.
Didn't Christ Jesus prove that anything appearing to contradict the perfection of creator and creation can be removed from thought and experience because it simply isn't so? Let's look at two specific incidents in Jesus' life as examples of his seeking and finding process.
Jesus met a woman who had a terrible reputation. She came to the home of a Pharisee while Jesus was an invited guest at dinner. The Bible tells us she washed Jesus' feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head - indicating she had long, loose hair (thought to be characteristic of prostitutes of that time). Apparently the Pharisee accepted the reputation of the woman - like someone passing by a "tell" unaware of and uninterested in the treasure buried within. But Jesus, knowing the Science of creation, wouldn't he be constantly aware that morality is a fixed fact about the sons and daughters of God?
Jesus' spiritual vision, surpassing even modern infrared photography, saw through the accumulated mental dirt - beliefs in sin, guilt, punishment. He revealed to her and everyone woman's real spiritual identity - her innocence as a child of God. What was the result of Jesus' seeking the woman's God-given goodness and helping her to find it within? Once her spiritual identity was seen and appreciated, she was freed from the dusty layers of sin that had covered over the treasure of her real being.
Another example of Jesus' seeking
and finding took place at
The superstition then was that at a certain season an angel came and troubled the waters. The first one into the pool afterwards was healed. What did Jesus do when he came upon a man in this superstitious environment who had been ill for 38 years? Did he just accept the outward appearance of that man - thinking it was a huge and longstanding mound of physical disability and hopelessness? Did this Master physician offer to drug, manipulate, or alter by surgery the patient's useless legs? No! Instead he asked a thought-probing question, "Wilt thou be made whole?" (John 5:6). Doesn't this question indicate that Jesus had already perceived within the man his God-created wholeness? It was this clear perception that awakened the patient's receptivity and helped him begin to discover his God-given dominion.
The man made excuses for his condition, like we so often do, saying, "I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me" (John 5:7). How many of us have accepted some physical condition or limitation, are making excuses for it - like age, lack of education, poor economy, not enough spiritual understanding - and are perhaps looking to some human agency for help?
Could we perhaps think of that invalid's mentality as a "tell" - 38 years of accumulated layers (beliefs) of pain, fear, superstition, dependence on man instead of God, on matter instead of Spirit?
Jesus broke through these layers of encrusted mental dust when he said, "Rise" (John 5:8). What a thing to say to someone who had thought for so long he couldn't get up without help! Is it possible the man believed something all those years that just wasn't so?
Jesus knew the Science of creation. He understood God as the loving Father of all. So he could see that individual as God made him - whole and free from bondage. This keen awareness of God's love for His creation gave Jesus the authority to demand of the patient the very thing he thought he couldn't do - rise. Wasn't Jesus helping in the highest way possible?
Jesus was the most skillful of spiritual searchers. He never failed to penetrate the dusty thinking that needed to be removed to reveal an individual's real God-given identity. He commanded the invalid, ". . . take up thy bed . . ." (John 5:8). The man had been a captive of that bed for 38 years. When he took it up, wasn't he removing all evidence that he'd ever been confined in his true history as the child of God? That demand, ". . . take up thy bed, and walk . . . ," indicates something is required of the one being healed, doesn't it? The Bible records: ". . . immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked" (John 5:9). He had responded to the demand by being willing to discard superstition and fears and accept man's God-given freedom.
My own experience was somewhat similar to that man's at the pool. As a college student I'd had polio. Much of the time for many years was spent waiting around hospitals, hoping for some human help - a magic mingling of ingredients or circumstances to restore my physical strength and agility - my sense of well-being.
The current superstition then was that certain heat therapy or experimental drugs could possibly effect a cure. But five years of such efforts had failed. I was given no hope for complete restoration.
When my friend gave me a copy of Science and Health, it brought the same thought-probing idea to me that Jesus offered the man at the pool. The Christian Science textbook said to me in so many words, "Wilt thou be made whole?" In other words, are you willing to believe and understand that God made you whole, and sustains you?
This book teaches that because we are the sons and daughters of God, we have God-given authority over our circumstances. Science and Health upholds and explains the Biblical standard of God as infinite good and as the only creator. It shows us how to see ourselves as our creator, God, sees us. We need only know what is so about ourselves and discard the mental rubbish - beliefs and fears in sin, disease, and death which, according to our definition of ignorance, just aren't so.
As I read, I wondered why I hadn't thought this way before. Such profound thinking, and yet ideas so simple a child can easily understand. What Mrs. Eddy says in Science and Health makes sense even though it challenges much of what we're all educated to believe.
Almost immediately after letting the ideas in the Christian Science textbook take hold in my consciousness, that longstanding physical condition, diagnosed and rediagnosed, with all its pain and limitation, was gone. That healing happened in the same way as in the earliest days of Christianity - through prayer (spiritual awakening).
I knew I had found a treasure. But I wasn't satisfied just to be healed - to feel good and strong again. I began researching and digging with enthusiasm, becoming more and more convinced that man's true identity is spiritual, not material, and that healing is simply uncovering our sonship with God. But I soon found that researching and digging were not enough.
Third step: recording the dig
That third step - recording - is as essential to us when digging for spiritual facts as it is to someone digging for historical facts. The recording step to an archaeologist involves artists' drawings and photographs, washing potsherds and other artifacts, sorting, labeling, and carefully listing them with written descriptions in field notes.
If a digger finds artifacts, exclaims over their beauty or importance, and yet doesn't catalog his treasures but leaves them on the ground, what happens? Blowing dust and growing vegetation quickly cover them over again, and his dig - all that hard work - has no permanent record of the history uncovered.
To a scientific Christian, this recording step means living in such a way that every thought, word, and action is a vibrant and ongoing record of what is so about man. Isn't this essentially what happened to that sinful woman after Jesus discovered her innocence? Her thought and life lost its appearance of sin and showed forth instead the purity that had always been her real identity as a child of God.
We might call Jesus' healing of that woman a spiritual discovery. Her newfound purity of heart - awareness of what is so about man and woman - and recording of morality in her life-style add significant scientific data to the history of every individual's God-created identity.
What do we learn from that Biblical record? Doesn't it encourage us to realize that no matter how long or how deeply an individual seems buried in sin, he or she can in a moment, with Biblical authority, acknowledge the treasure of man's real identity as a child of God and then living that identity, like the woman Jesus healed, we can be faithful followers of the risen Christ.
Isn't this recording step what Jesus was demanding in his final words to the man at the pool of Bethesda when he said, "Behold [and how often Jesus used that word, suggesting that we only have to open our thought to see this moment], thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (John 5:14). Was Jesus reminding all of us that indulging in sin is like layering over with dust and debris the beauty of our God-created wholeness? How do we define sin? Isn't sin any ignorant belief in a power, a presence, or a lawmaker besides God?
What a soul-penetrating pronouncement for mankind throughout the ages! We can remain free from bondage, disease, limitation, fear, pain, by striving to make each minutest detail of our lives a vibrant, ongoing, living record of our spiritual identity - of our understanding that God, Spirit, is the only creator.
As we open the covers of our
source books, the Bible and Science and Health, we find recorded there absolute proof of our spiritual identity.
If you're hearing for the first time that your identity is spiritual, not
material, and find this hard to believe because it's not visible, remember that
Let's keep our mental home - our individual consciousness - carefully tended. Then, blowing dust of ignorant beliefs - things that just aren't so about ourselves suggested by the mass media and sometimes even by the conversation of our friends - won't cover over our spiritual identity until it's hardly visible to ourselves or others.
Christian Science shows us what is so - the reality, allness, and goodness of Spirit, God, and man and woman, as His image and likeness. So what may look like an accumulation of problems - a "tell" - in our experience isn't substantial. It's only composed of ignorant beliefs - things that just are not so about God's creation.
So with great joy we can awaken from the belief that we were ever formed from dust and uncover the spiritual identity we each have as the child of God. We don't have to make or contrive our relationship to our creator. We only have to find - dis-cover - what's already true and always has been. We know what to do: research, dig, and record. Now let's add a fourth - have fun doing it.