Jane O. Robbins, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Spiritual perception reveals
"divine Love's great and good purpose for each one of us," Miss Jane
O. Robbins, C.S.B., of
"Spiritual sense," Miss Robbins said, "shows us the realities of being and the divine laws of order, intelligence, justice, harmony, and freedom that govern all existence."
Miss Robbins, a member of The
Christian Science Board of Lectureship, recently completed extensive tours in
She spoke in The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in
Miss Robbins was introduced by
Paul R. Carmack, C.S., of
A potentially dangerous mirage
I had an interesting experience
some years ago when I did some commercial flying in northern
I picked out an easily identifiable mountain in a nearby range to use as my checkpoint. As we flew west, the range, of course, began to disappear until only the top of my high mountain was showing. I figured we could safely fly ahead another 10 minutes. Then we could turn around and very shortly catch sight of the mountain again to guide us home. I glanced back once more, knowing that the range would be well out of sight by then. But I was in for a rude shock.
Where there should have been only the flat, unbroken horizon line, there was the entire mountain range in full view − from top to bottom − as clear and defined and solid-looking as anything I've ever seen. It shook me up momentarily even though I knew what I was looking at wasn't actually there − and yet it seemed so real.
I assured my passenger we must have crossed the invisible dateline, turned the plane around in a hurry and lost no time heading back toward our base. As we approached the mysterious but solid-looking range, it began to disappear as if we were flying away from it. Suddenly it was gone and the real range began to appear, as it should, over the horizon.
The experience demonstrated a
useful and interesting point. If I hadn't known about the real mountain range,
I would most certainly have accepted the illusion as reality. And I would have
chosen my flight path accordingly. Since this would have taken us back over the
In a way each of us in his daily life is constantly choosing his flight path, the direction of his thinking. We all relate to what we believe is real and we think and feel and act accordingly.
The question is: Are we being guided by reality? Or by an illusion, a counterfeit sense of reality? It's a vital question because what we accept as reality affects our health, our capabilities, and our opportunities. It shapes our character, our purpose, and our sense of values. It influences our motivation and our morals. What we see as reality determines every aspect of our lives.
And this brings us to another part of our question. Do our material observations provide us with a sound basis for our conclusions concerning existence? Or is there something else we can see − something invisible to the physical senses, but very real, very substantial, that will guide us more surely and safely than a material sense of things can do?
Material knowledge insufficient
I'm sure we'd all agree the extent of material knowledge today is really fantastic.
Because of these extraordinary developments, there's a strong tendency to approach all problems as though they had technological or chemical answers, even though many of them really involve moral and more basically, spiritual issues. But we've become so materially knowledgeable, capable, and powerful, we've put aside questions of spiritual realities. We're tempted to believe that the question "Does God exist?" is merely academic − because who needs God anyhow?
But there's another side to the picture and it should make us quite humble. And it does bring up the point whether, as someone has said, we're really wise enough to be so smart. People walk through the streets of our cities at night and are afraid.
The congestion and pace of modern life has produced such stress and conflict that people approach each other with hostility and suspicion. Family life is under direct attack today. With all our material achievements we haven't been able to prevent the pollution of our physical or our moral environment. We feel our individuality is greatly threatened.
After all these years and all our advances, the basic problems still remain. Why? Where are we looking for our answers? You know, with all our research and inquiry, we've seldom questioned the validity of the material evidence on which we base our conclusions. And the higher nature of man, the scientific relation of man to the source of existence, and the spiritual laws and forces that operate in the universe have remained largely unknown − and little sought for the most part.
Why are these last in our priorities? Isn't it perhaps because of the egotism of materiality and its spiritual ignorance and blindness? Human thought has relegated such spiritual evidence to the realm of the theoretical and abstract − feeling it has little or nothing to do with practical living. But is this so?
Isn't it possible the very things the physical senses consider abstract and intangible are, in truth, the spiritual, scientific facts of being? If so, how can we become aware of these? Is the understanding and perception of spiritual reality a special gift to a very few? Or is it inherent in every man?
We all have spiritual sense
Spiritual sense is something we all have − whether we're aware of it or not. It's an innate capacity within each one of us just waiting to show us the true nature of man and the divine laws of order, harmony, justice, and intelligence that govern all life.
So with this in mind, it may be of value to consider how we can discover or become aware of our spiritual sense, how we can develop it, and how we can apply it practically in our daily lives.
We might begin our discussion with an obvious question. If spiritual sense is inherent in us, why haven't we discovered it before this? Probably because we've been educated to put our faith in matter and the material senses.
Isn't this a basic element of much of our education? Because of this, most of us give little thought to the spiritual until the material fails us. Or until we discover the unreliability of our physical senses and recognize our need for a better guide for our thinking.
We begin to find out we can't rely on the reports from the physical senses − reports concerning our health and happiness, our safety, our resources and capabilities, our opportunities. These reports are formulated from a material sense of man. Consequently they can give little or no indication of the true facts − the spiritual facts.
This is what Mary Baker Eddy came to see in her discovery of Christian Science or the Science of the Christ. For some time she had questioned the validity of the evidence of the physical senses concerning man's nature and origin. And she suspected that the material concept of man is the source of mankind's limitations and sufferings.
She was convinced that there was something else to be seen, something else to be known − some mental or spiritual causation − that would explain how Jesus' healing works were accomplished − works, you may recall, he said others would do also.
True substance discerned
The basis of Mrs. Eddy's discovery was her perception of the nature of God as infinite Spirit. She also knew God to be divine Truth, Life, and Love, as the Bible states. And she began to grasp the fact that God is infinite divine Mind, divine Principle, and Soul. She could see, then, that since man is, in Bible language, the likeness of God, he's also the likeness or expression of divine Principle, Spirit, Life, and Love.
It was obvious to Mrs. Eddy, as it is to us, that the material evidence and the physical senses don't substantiate this fact of man's Godlikeness. But she had begun to see that these senses, and the material evidence they perceive, are actually states of human belief, without true substance or reality.
In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she writes: "The substance, Life, intelligence, Truth, and Love, which constitute Deity, are reflected by His creation; and when we subordinate the false testimony of the corporeal senses to the facts of Science, we shall see this true likeness and reflection everywhere" (p. 516).
Mrs. Eddy demonstrated − for herself and for others − the healing effect of this correct spiritual perception of God and man. And in so doing, she showed that the concept of man as sick and sinning, as inadequate, lonely, alienated, and afraid, as unspiritual and un-Godlike − these material views of man are illusions. They're mental misconceptions. And that they have no basis in fact is demonstrated when they disappear when our thought turns to the spiritual facts − when we rely on spiritual sense.
A friend of mine experienced such healing when she accepted the spiritual facts and turned away from the unreliable evidence of the material senses.
Some years ago as a young married woman, she began to lose weight to a serious extent − going from 105 pounds to only 64. Before that, she had developed a large goiter, for which she'd had medical treatment for several years but without results. The doctor had also told her she was anemic and that she had a misplaced organ. And she'd suffered from facial neuralgia from the time she was a small child.
She consulted several doctors and even spent several months in a large city undergoing treatment. But the problems remained and the alarming loss of weight continued. The picture was frightening and discouraging.
One day a brother who'd become interested in Christian Science telephoned her and said, "You've tried everything else − now don't you want to try Christian Science?" She knew nothing about Christian Science and very little about any other religion. She was very skeptical. But she agreed to come to the city where her brother lived and see a Christian Science practitioner.
The practitioner talked with her about many things, including some of the things we've been discussing this afternoon − the infinitude of God, Spirit, the perfection of His creation and the invalidity of the material evidence. But she said the background of her thinking was so materialistic she felt she didn't understand a word he said.
However, the Bible tells us, "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). This proved to be true in her case. When the practitioner left, she said, he must have prayed very earnestly because suddenly she understood and accepted one thing − man made in the image and likeness of God.
The next day she noticed a slight swelling on her face. She showed it to her sister and asked her what she thought was wrong. Her sister looked at her and then said, "Why, your face is beginning to fill out." From then on there was steady increase in her weight.
Permanent healing experienced
Her father had promised to give her the money to return home when she reached her normal weight. But when she called a few weeks later to tell him she was back to 105 pounds, he just couldn't believe her. So he went with her to the scales at the corner drug store to see for himself.
The next day she joyously left for home − deeply conscious of God's presence and power and aware somewhat of man's true being as the likeness of God. In a short time the goiter, anemia, neuralgia, and misplaced organ were also healed. From a recent visit with my friend, it was quite apparent that the healings have been permanent.
As we understand and use spiritual facts − base our thinking on them, use them as our guide − the divine order of being becomes apparent. We see these laws operating very directly in our experience, resulting in physical and moral healing, in a sense of peace and order and in increased abilities. There's no more mystery or miracle to this than there is to the physicist in his application of invisible physical laws and forces.
The world is looking for real answers today, urgently needed answers to the acute problems of our times − and more satisfying answers to the deeper longings we all have. The problem is that human thought, being materially oriented, too often turns to its own outward manifestations, its own externalized beliefs, for guidance. Human thought looks to its own material sense of things to escape from that which results from this very sense.
The visible manifestations of war, conflict, and crime, the apparent conditions of addiction, alienation, loneliness, poverty, and sickness can be treated and sometimes alleviated by material means. But their root cause lies in our basic concept of man and the universe, in our fundamental convictions about what is the reality of being.
So we begin to see that spiritual sense is not something ethereal and abstract. But it's something that has a dynamic, practical effect in our everyday affairs. Science and Health tells us: "Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God" (p. 209). To understand God, divine Mind, means to understand also something of God's universe of ideas, the infinite, varied expressions of His being.
Business seen in a new light
For example, when a businessman understands something of the spiritual idea of business, he sees it as an activity of divine Principle, divine Love. It becomes apparent then that the real purpose of business is not to make money or to compete with others. The purpose of business − like the purpose of all that exists − is to express the qualities of God.
And since business, spiritually understood, is an idea in infinite divine Mind, it's always governed and maintained by divine intelligence. It's always subject and obedient to the universal laws of good.
Our human experience of business, like everything else that appears to us, is a subjective state of human thought. And when that thought is elevated and purified and guided by spiritual sense, when it more consciously reflects divine Principle, Truth, and Love, the business will respond accordingly.
It will be a force for good and a blessing to all concerned − and it will be successful! These things are true not only about business but about everything we see and everything we do. Our perception of reality determines the course of our thinking and the character of our experience and activities.
Man in his real being is beautiful and complete and wholly good.
Just think what a difference this realization can make in our relationships with one another! The love of man's true nature as a son of God brings to every human relationship more beauty and depth, more unselfishness and strength and lasting happiness than a material sense of things can ever do.
The clear perception of what God and man really are exposes and completely destroys the false unintelligent basis of racial conflicts. Neither race nor sex nor age has any bearing whatsoever on the true qualities of any man or on that man's God-given, unique, and essential purpose. Every man, spiritually perceived, is God's beautiful, intelligent expression − full of grace and truth. To understand and acknowledge this fact is to bring it to human view. To deny this in any instance or to resist it is to deny our own true selfhood and to fail to understand God.
It isn't enough just to find out we can't rely on the physical senses and their reports; it isn't even enough to try to fly our course through blind faith. Spiritual sense is something we must learn to use, to develop, and to apply practically in our everyday life.
Removing shackles of limitation
An aircraft pilot or an astronaut needs instruments to tell him what his physical senses are incapable of seeing and reporting. The "fair-weather pilot" − the one who depends on his physical senses alone − is limited. He can fly only at a certain limited ceiling or altitude and only in good weather when he can see the ground all the time.
He's not really free. Neither is he entirely safe because what he's guiding on may suddenly change or disappear − or even prove to be deceptive like my illusory mountain range.
The instrument pilot, on the other hand, has great freedom and dominion. He's not limited by what he can't see physically. Because his instruments enable him to see beyond the capacity of his physical senses, the instrument pilot really moves in a different world from the fair-weather pilot.
If we're developing our spiritual understanding, we, too, will find we can cut through a limited ceiling and visibility. We, too, will find we're not so earthbound, so matterbound.
The conditions of matter that appear to bind us or to limit us are actually conditions of human thought. And when that thought is governed by spiritual insight, the realities of being remain clear to us.
Then the beliefs of material sense and their externalized material conditions can no longer misguide us. They can no longer impress us or frighten us. Nor can they determine our health, our capabilities, and our opportunities.
Learning to use our instrument of spiritual sense, to trust it, to let it determine the direction of our thinking, is something each of us must − and can − do for himself. It requires work.
It requires strong motivation, study, practice, and self-discipline. It takes a conscious mental effort to challenge and refute the visible material evidence with the unseen spiritual facts. And, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, to acknowledge the presence and control of divine Principle, Truth, and Love.
This is actually a form of prayer − and a very effective form. It enables us to see what's invisible to the material senses. It makes us aware of the divine order of all things and enables us to demonstrate this order in our daily lives.
This kind of prayer − the acknowledgment of the presence, the power, the infinitude of God, divine Principle, and of the nature of man as God's likeness − this kind of prayer may seem difficult to us at first because it does challenge some of our long-held convictions and material observations.
But as we begin to learn what God and man really are, the spiritual facts become clearer and more logical to us. And the more natural this spiritual thinking and seeing become to us.
It was certainly natural to Christ Jesus. His unfailing perception of man's spiritual, Godlike nature gave people who came to him a much higher sense of themselves. Jesus' more spiritual view of man showed individuals that they were well and whole where the material senses had convinced them they were diseased or crippled.
It revealed to them their innate goodness and purity as sons of God and so destroyed their misconception of themselves as sinners. It brought to light their divine heritage of all good and so healed them of a sense of lack and inability and alienation.
Jesus knew that spiritual sense is something we all have because of our relationship to God, an element of the Christly nature that characterizes the true identity of every individual. He knew that this sense could be awakened and developed in human thought and he patiently worked with his disciples and followers to this end.
The Christ is always present
By precept and example he showed them − and us − how to heal the sick, the lame, the blind, the sinner. How to lift human thought out of its material limitations and fears through the understanding of the spiritual, Godlike nature of man and the universe.
Mrs. Eddy recognized this divine impartation of spiritual truths to human thought as the Christ that Jesus so completely represented. She points out that the Christ is eternal − always present wherever we are and always communicating with each one of us. She says, "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (Science and Health, p. 332).
The healing, guiding messages, the reports that come to us from God through spiritual sense, appear in many different ways. Often a phrase or a word from the Bible or Science and Health brings to thought the idea needed for healing and inspiration. Sometimes what we need comes in the form of intuitions. As our thinking becomes more spiritually oriented, more spiritually educated, these intuitions appear to us more consistently and directly.
The character of these intuitions is brought out in Science and Health in a definition of angels. This is the passage: "ANGELS. God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality" (p. 581).
The student of Christian Science learns to recognize these angels, these pure thoughts from God, and to trust them. And when he does, he finds them an unfailing source of health and strength, of inspiration and protection.
I'll never forget one time when I
had such a clear proof of the presence of divine Mind and its angel messages.
This, too, was in
We were racing some bad weather, trying to get through a mountain range before the weather closed in completely. We squeezed over the first high ridge, taking a calculated risk that the weather would be better on the other side. It wasn't. In fact, it was much worse, but by then we were committed and couldn't turn back.
Clear thinking in an emergency
My friend yelled over the engine noise, "I sure wish I hadn't done that!" Suddenly, the sense of fear and panic was so overwhelming that I realized I must do something about my thinking in a hurry.
As I turned my thought to God, the angel messages, the spiritual intuitions that are always at hand, came through in my thinking clearly. I had such a clear sense of the presence of Mind. Not an erring, uncertain mortal mind but the all-knowing, infinite Mind whose vision and knowledge and action are not limited by the physical senses.
As I acknowledged that divine Mind was in complete control of everyone and everything in the situation, I felt a sense of confidence and safety. In spite of the fact that conditions were getting even worse.
The rest of the story takes a lot longer to tell than it did to happen. It was a matter of split-second timing. We suddenly realized the way immediately ahead was impassable. To avoid crashing into a mountain, we had to go into a very tight vertical turn of 270 degrees. As low as we were, this seemed almost suicidal because a small plane loses altitude in such a turn, even with full power on.
In the middle of that critical maneuver, the engine stopped. This spelled total disaster according to all the rules.
Every pilot learns when an engine stops to check immediately his fuel supply and to switch to another gas tank if necessary. All summer the other pilot and I had both been flying a different plane where the gas switch was overhead.
When our engine stopped, the pilot's hand automatically shot up to the ceiling searching vainly and frantically for the gas switch. Here is where my prayer − the understanding and acknowledgment of the presence and control of divine Mind − gave me the guidance needed.
Because even though my trained and automatic reaction was also to reach to the ceiling for the switch, I was compelled to reach under the instrument panel to a switch I couldn't even see. The engine caught instantly. This in itself was extraordinary as a dead engine usually takes many seconds to catch. Although we were dangerously close to the ground by then, we completed our turn and were able to fly low over a small creek that led us safely out of the mountains.
God keeps us in all our ways
The ideas we need to make spiritual sense practical in our daily affairs are constantly being imparted to us from the continuing source of our being. This shouldn't seem surprising or unbelievable to us.
There are many things, even in the material universe, that hint of a universal infinite Mind beyond human ken or material explanation. Think of the flight of the great wild swans, for example. Or the astonishing migrations of the tiny hummingbirds and butterflies over many hundreds of uncharted miles. This still fills us with deep wonder and awe − and rightly so!
Why then should we doubt that man is under the loving control of the infinite divine Mind and that this Mind is constantly imparting to us the spiritual ideas that will keep us safe and whole and happy?
The Bible assures us that God will give His angels charge over us to keep us in all our ways (Ps. 91:11). And this is exactly what God, divine Principle, Truth and Love, is already doing.
It doesn't make any difference who we are or where we are. God's healing, liberating thoughts are with us in the form of right ideas and pure spiritual intuitions. Our business is to learn to recognize these ideas and respond to these intuitions. And when we do, we'll find ourselves less influenced by materialistic thinking, less subject to material conditions. And we can help others gain this same freedom and dominion.
We need humility to do this. And we must be honest in our desire to be and do good. Otherwise the egotism, selfishness, the sensuality and self-will of materialistic thinking will misguide us and get us off course. We need purity to do this − childlikeness and obedience to divine Principle. And above all, we need love − a deep and compelling love of God, good, and of man in His likeness.
There may be times for many of us when we feel lost − without direction, purpose, or reason for being. When we feel we're without health, resources, satisfying, and happy relationships. The problems arise because we look to an illusion for reality. We look to a mistaken material sense of man for things that this sense cannot provide. But at any moment − and at every moment − we can turn to the spiritual facts and find there the real answers the world is searching and longing for.
Not one of us exists outside of infinite divine Mind and its intelligent, unerring control. Not one of us must try to get along without the guidance, the strength, and the support of divine Principle. And not one of us ever has been or ever will be separated from the tender, constant care of divine Love and its angel messages.
Spiritual sense shows us the realities of being and the divine laws of order, intelligence, justice, harmony, and freedom that govern all existence. Spiritual sense shows us how we can be − shows us in fact that we already are − all that divine Principle, Life, and Love has made us. It cuts through the bonds and mists of materialism and shows us that we have a spiritual ceiling and visibility that are unlimited.
It frees us to find and to follow our right night path - the path that leads us to the divine Principle of all being. It shows us divine Love's great and good purpose for each one of us and enables us to fulfill that purpose.
©1971 The Christian Science Board of Directors
All rights reserved
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 1973, under the headline "Spiritual ceiling and visibility − unlimited".]