Exploring the Unlimited Dimensions of Spirit
Betty Ann Ridley, C.S., of Oklahoma City
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"Jesus must have always been consciously aware of the all-encompassing realm of Spirit, the kingdom of heaven." says Christian Science lecturer Betty Ann Ridley. "He explored it. He lived it. He embodied it." Mrs. Ridley gave her lecture, "Exploring the Unlimited Dimensions of Spirit," Thursday evening, September 17, in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.
The lecturer, a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, is active in the public healing ministry of Christian Science. She is a longtime Bible student, an interest that has taken her to the Holy Land.
Mrs. Ridley was introduced by Paul Collins, a local member of The Mother Church.
An abridged text of the lecture follows:
A story is told of a little fish who'd lived in the same pond all his life. He knew his surroundings well. He'd explored every inlet and investigated every outlet. He knew every rock and green-growing plant on the floor of the pond. And he was well acquainted with all the local fish.
One day, swimming faster than usual, he suddenly burst out of the water, making a giant leap into the air! For the first time in his life, he saw the sun shine, felt the warmth of its rays, heard a bird singing, saw a child playing on the beach and a butterfly going by. The moment was quickly gone. He was back in the water, stunned by what he'd seen.
A friend fish, drifting by, said, "What's the matter with you?"
"I've just seen the most astounding things!"
"What did you see?"
"Well, I saw a . . . a . . . ."He faltered because his "pond" vocabulary had no words to describe what he'd seen. So he said to his friend, "I can only tell you that what I've just seen is really spectacular, but if you want to see the sights, you're going to have to take that leap for yourself!''
Perhaps we're sometimes like that little fish before he took the "leap," thinking of ourselves as living within boundaries, unaware of infinite possibilities available to us. If we're comfortable in our surroundings, we're usually satisfied just to stay in the swim of things, exploring our "pond."
In this latter part of the 20th century, known as a "scientific" age, literally hundreds of sciences - biological, geophysical, nuclear, biochemical, medical, psychological, and many more - are plumbing the depths of our surroundings. They're exploring, investigating, dissecting, analyzing, and computerizing everything in our world - that is, everything that appears to our physical senses, and even much of an extrasensory nature.
‘Tunnel vision’ vs. an unlimited view
Even though these sciences are reaching far beyond previous limits, they're nevertheless still probing within the boundaries of the human mind's material concept of the universe.
The question ultimately arises: Is this intensive study of matter and its characteristics actually solving the problems in our world? Aren't many of us asking ourselves why our advancing technology is concurrent with an alarming rise in crime, alcoholism and drug use, disintegrating families, suicide, feelings of frustration and futility, a general "What's the use?" attitude?
With the advancement of such things as genetic engineering and computer technology, mankind's dependence on microscopes and machines tends to increase. The result is often a kind of "tunnel vision," confining thought within the narrow measurements of a materialistic concept of the universe. With such a limited point of view, the inclination to look to a spiritual creative power lessens.
Could it be that all kinds of pollution - physical (pain, disease, accident), mental (fear, frustration, depression, mind-manipulation), and moral (prostitution, homosexuality, pornography) - are filtering into our world through a broadening gap between technology and religion?
If so, what can bridge that gap? Can't we agree that more than great storehouses of computerized knowledge about a material world is needed? Like the little fish, anyone willing to take a mental "leap" can discover another view of life - a dimension not of human knowledge, but of divine wisdom, which holds the solution to every problem in our world.
The idea of dimensions the physical senses can't comprehend may at one time have seemed abstract. But ever since Einstein first proposed his theory of relativity, human thought has broken out of its three-dimensional limitations and generally accepted time as the fourth dimension. Today's science magazines tell us that mathematicians are interested in fifth and seventh dimensions and that mathematical theorists are studying 24-dimensional space (Science 80, July-August. Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science).
But our research will take us beyond even the most sophisticated study of a time-space-matter universe into the unlimited dimensions of Spirit, God. This realm isn't just another dimension beyond three or more physical dimensions, however. It's really the one and only all-inclusive, multifaceted realm of Spirit. It's a realm of timeless, spiritual reality, of boundless thought rather than limited things or geometric symbols.
We don't have to leave our present surroundings to experience and enjoy the beauty, peace, and freedom of a spiritual viewpoint. The mental "leap" we take in exploring the realm of Spirit necessitates only a change in base of thinking. It means that we stop believing that life and intelligence originate in matter and depend on it, and instead acknowledge God, Spirit, as the only source and substance of all life and intelligence.
Are we willing to reach out mentally and expand our present understanding of what life is all about?
As explorers in the realm of Spirit, we'll find our expedition made easier because of the persistent research of one woman. Mary Baker Eddy discovered the Science that explains the infinite. She discovered it, but didn't invent it. The Science or law of God has existed forever.
Technology subordinate to God's law
This Science - Christian Science - reaches out beyond what the eyes can see and ears can hear, beyond what the human mind can calculate mathematically or perceive through what it calls "psychic powers." Christian Science shatters all the boundaries of time and space and matter. It furnishes scientific spiritual data and shows us that technology, as wonderful as it may be, is nevertheless always subordinate to God's law and government. Christian Science bridges that gap between technology and religion and solves the enigma of human existence.
What, exactly, was it that Mary Baker Eddy discovered? The Science illustrated in and sanctioned by that greatest of all books - the Bible. Even as a child she'd expressed an interest in spiritual ideas, but her giant "leap" came, as it does for many of us, during a time of great adversity. Mrs. Eddy was healed by reading the Bible. She spent years, literally a lifetime, searching and researching the Scriptures, seeking and finding the rule that explains the healing she had.
What did she find in the Bible that furnishes a rule? Illustrations. Proofs of those whose spiritual viewpoint radically affected their thought and experience.
Mrs. Eddy calls the Bible the "chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 24). We'll begin our exploration by studying that "chart" - the Bible - drawn from the logbooks of some of those spiritually-minded people down through the centuries who have already explored the unlimited dimensions of Spirit.
Their descriptions give us a thrilling view. Moses described what he saw as the promised land. The Psalmist saw it as the "secret place." Jesus translated it as the kingdom of heaven. These biblical events and stories show us the present possibility and power of a spiritual viewpoint, which always results in remarkable protection, provision, and healing from a higher source than matter.
Take Moses, for example. While exiled in the desert, he came upon a bush that was burning and yet wasn't consumed. Natural science contends, according to the five physical senses, that combustion equals destruction. Here was a phenomenon that challenged that human equation and overruled it!
The Hebrew leader turned aside to see why the bush wasn't burned (Ex. 3:3). Doesn't that experience show Moses to be a scientific inquirer? He was willing to see beyond the evidence of the physical senses, to let his preconceived opinions about burning bushes be shattered.
That kind of receptivity expands power only spiritual sense can comprehend. Moses' spiritual faculties were awakened to glimpse the all-inclusive realm of Spirit - the promised land - where destruction is unknown; where God, Spirit, is the only Creator and He cares for His children.
With this spiritual viewpoint, remarkable things happened in Moses' life. He received God's law in ten commandments "written on a stone." Bread and quail were supplied daily, and water flowed from a rock. There was a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide and protect the Israelites in a barren wilderness. Is all this totally unexplainable? Not at all to those individuals who have taken that mental "leap."
Moses described what he saw as a "land" promised by God to all who obey His commandments. Using terms understandable to those wandering in a material wilderness, he spoke of the promised land as "... a good land ... a land flowing with milk and honey ... a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it" (Ex. 3:8; Deut. 8:9).
One person's leap. . .
If we view the promised land from a spiritual basis, we see that it's a mental state of obedience to God's law. We don't enter it geographically or inherit it biologically. Obedience opens the door for us to enter that mental state in which we're aware of God's constant care and provision.
Can we experience and enjoy the promised land in our lives today? Here's what happened to a friend of mine, a beautiful young woman. Several years ago, like the little fish in our opening story, my friend was totally submerged in the "pond," that limited material view of life. She was swimming around, doing the things all the other "fish" were doing: drinking socially, smoking some pot, and living promiscuously with some of the better-looking "fish" that swam her way. She was a talented young woman and very ambitious, but her career was lagging.
Then someone told her about Christian Science. She listened, took a mental "leap," and caught a glimpse of another dimension to life. She liked what she saw, and wanting to learn more, she began to study the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy.
Before long her view of herself changed radically. My friend began to see herself as the child of God, the effect of a perfect cause. She became aware of a spiritual identity she'd never known before.
Christian Science teaches, as indicated in the Bible, that God is divine Mind, creating and governing the universe, including man. God is knowing, and man is that knowing. My friend learned to think of herself as an idea in the Mind that is God. She asked herself: "What kind of individual would Mind, God, know?" The answer came, "God only knows His child as He creates him - perfect, complete, and spiritual!"
Once she had taken that mental "leap" and seen the beauty and felt the peace and power of spiritual vision, she knew she'd never again be satisfied swimming around in the limited material view of life.
She began to see the Bible as her "chart," providing the buoys needed to stay afloat. With her new outlook she saw divine laws or rules as life preservers, not limitations.
She figured out she'd been tying weights to herself that kept her anchored. Fear is one of those mental dead weights. So are hatred, envy, resentment, criticism, self-condemnation, and all forms of sin, which drag one down to the bottom of the "pond."
... and its blessings
She knew that loose morals, dependence on alcohol and drugs, and attempts to manipulate and contrive her career had to go. Not for fear of punishment, but simply because she'd caught a glimpse of that land, that mental state, promised by God to all who obey His commandments.
Soon she found her career expanding, and she was put in a responsible position utilizing her talents. But that's not all. Everything about her life was uplifted in proportion to her spiritual vision.
In the ninety-first Psalm there's one of the loveliest and most comforting accounts of the all-inclusive realm of God, Spirit, as the "secret place of the most High" (Ps. 91:1).
It's portrayed as a dwelling, a shelter, our habitation, where we may all say: "He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust"; where ". . . thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; . . . nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness"; where "there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling" (Ps. 91:2, 5, 6,10); where God is with man in trouble and delivers him, honors him, gives him long life and salvation.
Again, a great place to live! But the "secret place" isn't a locale. It's a sense of consciousness, a mental state of conscious awareness of God's infinite goodness. The "secret place" is available to everyone, every moment.
The mental "leap" that reveals the "secret place" to us is a willingness to be still in thought and know the all-inclusive-ness of God, Spirit, as our very dwelling place. Dwelling in the "secret place" means being conscious of the ever-presence of infinite Spirit. Then, and then only, can we drop forever the doubts and fears that accompany a material point of view.
One individual came who had the full panorama of the unlimited dimensions of Spirit — Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus must have always been consciously aware of the all-encompassing realm of Spirit, the kingdom of heaven. He explored it. He lived it. He embodied it.
Mary Baker Eddy describes Christ Jesus in many ways - as "our great example" (Science and Health, p. 555), as "the mediator between Spirit and the flesh" (ibid., p. 315), and as "the most scientific man that ever trod the globe (ibid., p. 313).
Even though Jesus walked the earth, visible and active in human affairs, his spiritual clearsightedness gave him a different view of life from mankind's view. The works that resulted from his spiritual view surpass inventions of the human mind. Even 20th-century technology can't compare.
Jesus walked on the water when he needed to, in spite of gravity. Time and space barriers were overcome when his boat was immediately at the other side of the lake. He confirmed man's dominion over destructive weather by stilling a storm. He proved the powerlessness of violence by walking unseen through an angry mob. He solved economic problems by feeding thousands when a limited, material view of life could see only five loaves and two fishes.
Jesus set the example, teaching his disciples and followers for all time the priorities required to gain the same spiritual view he had. He sought the kingdom of God first, often arising before sunrise to pray, constantly refreshing himself with spiritual views. What was the result? What followed his prayerful seeking?
Besides the incomparable events already mentioned, the Bible records that Jesus healed all kinds of diseases - even those termed "incurable": blindness, deafness, paralysis, epilepsy, insanity, leprosy, death.
Were Jesus' healings "miracles," as they've been called? Or was he a scientist in the highest sense? Wasn't he demonstrating the practicality of a spiritual point of view, proving there in Galilee and everywhere he went that his words weren't just theories but laws to be practiced in healing by all who would listen and learn?
Because of his great love for humanity, Jesus translated his uninterrupted vision of the kingdom of heaven to them in parables. These illustrations were told in familiar terms of wheat fields, pearls, servants, vineyards, fig trees, sheep, leaven in meal, terms familiar to those who believed they were living in a world of limited dimensions.
Listeners could begin to gain a spiritual viewpoint, a view that acknowledges God's ever-presence and shattered self-imposed boundaries. The effect of this spiritual view is always to meet human needs, no matter how severe those needs may be.
For years after Jesus was on earth, his followers maintained that higher view, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, and raising the dead as Jesus did, through reliance on God, Spirit, alone.
Why did this kind of pure spiritual healing practically fade out of human history after about AD 325? Was it because humanity's vision of the presence and practicality of Spirit dimmed when people began worshiping Jesus' personality instead of practicing the Science he taught? The Science of Christianity lay dormant under a blanket of ceremonies and ritualistic worship. Then, in the mid-19th century, that courageous woman, Mary Baker Eddy, took a giant mental "leap" and forever left behind conventional matter-based human theories. She was called by God to reveal the Science behind the events of the Bible (ibid.: p. xi).
From an entirely spiritual viewpoint, she explored the unlimited dimensions of Spirit. There she saw the allness of God as Love and the nothingness of hate; the allness of God as Life and the nothingness of death; the allness of God as Spirit and the nothingness of matter.
This discovery of the omnipresence of God, Spirit, led Mrs. Eddy to the inevitable conclusion that matter doesn't constitute reality. It's not surprising that her bold statements on this subject sometimes arouse criticism, condemnation, and mockery when we recall in the biblical record of John that many of the disciples turned away from Jesus after he made a statement denying matter's substantiality: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). That declaration of Jesus was proved accurate when he overcame death and the grave.
Mary Baker Eddy's revelation, explaining the Science behind Jesus' works and his victory over the flesh, has also been proved profoundly accurate. Well-documented healings occur daily through the understanding that God, Spirit, is indeed the source and substance of all that exists, including man and the universe.
The concept that matter isn't really substantial seemed ridiculous to me when all I knew of Christian Science was hearsay. Like most people, I had accepted the appearance of things as reality. If I could see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, feel it, if it seemed reasonable to human logic, or if I could support it statistically, I usually believed it.
But when I began reading the writings of Mary Baker Eddy with an open mind, willing to let my preconceived opinions be shattered, that concept of God's allness and matter's nothingness became more and more understandable.
Mrs. Eddy's statements made me think deeply, taught me to take a different view, a spiritual view, of everything. I learned to think from a spiritual basis, in terms of ideas rather than objects. For me, this meant translating mentally what appears as a three-dimensional material world into spiritual concepts.
How practical is all this? How would you apply it if, for example, a 1,200-pound horse fell on top of you?
That's what happened to me a few years ago. I'd just settled into the saddle when my buckskin horse reared straight up on his hind legs, dropping me on hard, gravel-covered ground. Then he fell on top of me, pinning me beneath his enormous weight.
My husband, who was the only help for miles around, saw what happened, sized up the situation, and knew what to do. He grabbed the horse's head and held him immovable to prevent his scrambling to his feet and trampling my head. We both knew I would have to pull myself out from under the horse.
In that moment, I was glad I'd learned something of the spiritual, mental "translating" business. This reasoning quickly took shape in my thought as I began to see beyond the material view to the real realm of Spirit:
"If God, Spirit, fills all space, then He is the only substance there is." I translated mentally; that is, I thought of the horse as a spiritual idea rather than a 1,200-pound, three-dimensional object, and I could understand to some degree that the substance of that idea, horse, couldn't crush my substance, because we would both have to be made out of the same, one and only spiritual substance.
After a few minutes, I had inched my way out from under the horse. Neither of us was injured - not a scratch, not a bruise, no broken bones! How different that experience might have been had I accepted a limited material view of a crushing weight on fragile bones! It was a spiritual view that enabled me to see my way out of the experience with my horse.
Does that kind of a spiritual view perhaps give some hint of what happened in many biblical stories, even Jesus passing though closed doors or walking unseen through that angry mob? Wasn't it Jesus' uninterrupted vision of the kingdom of heaven, his understanding of his inseparability from God, that enabled him to do whatever was necessary and practical?
The teachings of Christian Science explain Jesus' theology and his magnificent works, and make it possible for us to feel today the presence of the healing Christ and to practice the dominion he came to illustrate. Isn't that what the Master instructed all of us to do when he said. "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12)?
Who could resist wanting to know about the woman who revealed this Science of the Christ? Don't we really only know someone when we understand what motivates him? Mary Baker Eddy writes of her lifework: "The motive of my earliest labors has never changed. It was to relieve the sufferings of humanity by a sanitary system that should include all moral and religious reform" ("Retrospection and Introspection," p. 30). What a motive for living - "... to relieve the sufferings of humanity . . . ."
Mrs. Eddy fulfilled that life purpose. With her vision of the unlimited dimension of Spirit, gained through a lifetime of searching the Scriptures, she healed herself and others through prayer just as the early Christians did.
Inspired to share what she discovered with all the world, she wrote "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which teaches anyone to heal spiritually, as illustrated in the Bible. This volume contains the scientific data Mrs. Eddy accumulated from practical proofs of healing. It's a "key" to the Bible in that it opens the Scriptures for all spiritual seekers. With these two books anyone can learn to take a mental "leap," gain a spiritual view, and become well acquainted, firsthand, here and now, with the kingdom of heaven.
Let me share with you what spiritual vision meant to me when my husband and I were in Jerusalem on the last day of a Middle East tour.
An occasional sharp twinge in my side suddenly became an acute and severe pain. On top of that, our return flight reservations were unexpectedly canceled. No seats were available on any airline, and all hotels were booked to capacity.
... the kingdom of heaven right now'
At the airport, arrangements were made for me to make an overseas call to a Christian Science practitioner. As I waited for the call to go through, the window of the phone booth framed a chaotic picture. The terminal was jammed with people pushing and shoving. Armed guards were everywhere. Bags were being searched piece by piece. There was a pandemonium of voices in an assortment of languages.
Suddenly, the practitioner's voice broke in on my thought. Briefly I described the situation. Immediately, and with solid conviction, the practitioner said, "You're in the kingdom of heaven right now."
That statement startled me. The confusion my eyes and ears were witnessing was far from the way most people would describe the heavenly kingdom.
But that practitioner was reminding me of Christ Jesus' teaching that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and within. The heavenly qualities - the comfort, joy, peace, dominion, and protection of God - are all around us, actually within us, no matter where we are. The practitioner was describing reality to me.
I had two choices: I could believe what I was looking at, what I was hearing and feeling, or I could take a mental "leap" and accept the spiritual facts discovered and proved by Christian Science. Mary Baker Eddy puts it this way:
"The effect of this Science is to stir the human mind to a change of base, on which it may yield to the harmony of the divine Mind" (Science and Health, p. 162).
That's exactly what happened. Within hours we were on our way home. Soon after boarding the plane, I fell into a peaceful sleep for the first time in nearly 36 hours, and awakened sometime en route healed!
Perhaps someone is wondering why, in a crisis like that, one wouldn't just call a local doctor or go to a hospital for tests. It isn't because of any opposition to the medical profession, but rather because of a deep desire to follow the Way-shower, Christ Jesus, whose system of healing was altogether spiritual. His was the one real Science of medicine - a never-failing method, not guesswork or experimentation or testing, but based on unchanging laws.
Didn't the Master's ability to heal result from his spiritual view - his constant, conscious awareness of the unlimited dimensions of Spirit?
Christian Science reveals such a spiritual view, in which, in a very practical way, God is the "great Physician" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 151). What could be a safer and more scientific approach to challenges of all kinds than the method proved by the Master's spiritual vision?
Spiritual vision! Isn't that what revealed to Moses the view of the promised land? Isn't it what the Psalmist described so beautifully as the "secret place"? Isn't it what Jesus translated to us as the kingdom of heaven?
We see this view when spiritual sense is awakened. It's the view that showed my friend a new life style and career; the view that enabled me and my horse to emerge unharmed from our fall; the view that brought me through that physical crisis overseas.
Such a view exists for us here and now! All we have to do is open our thought. Let's take that mental leap!