Christian Science: Its Assurance to a Troubled World
Peter V. Ross, C.S.B., of San Francisco, California
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"Christian Science: Its Assurance to a Troubled World," was the subject of the lecture given by Peter V. Ross, C.S.B., of San Francisco, Calif., under the auspices of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, at Cadle Tabernacle Monday evening. Mrs. Flora M. Rauh introduced the lecturer, who is a member of The Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Mass. Substantially the lecture was as follows;
In recent years the English speaking race, indeed western civilization, has been stirred to its depths by Mary Baker Eddy in her discovery and presentation of Christian Science. To countless thousands this Science has become their avowed religion, and has cast their lives, as they gratefully acknowledge, into a larger and finer mold. Other countless thousands never have read Mrs. Eddy's great book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Possibly they never have heard her name or spoken the words "Christian Science." Certainly they have not consciously accepted the religion. They may even disapprove what they suppose it to be.
Yet they have not escaped its sweet persuasion or healing touch, because its beneficent influence now has been at work in the world over half a century, and indirectly, if not directly, has reached multitudes who have not known its name. They voice its truths and live its precepts and enjoy its blessings, in some measure, quite unaware that the power which enriches their lives and makes for them a better world is Christian Science, and that their benefactor is Mary Baker Eddy.
She found this Science in the Scriptures. Its corner stone is perfect, here and now. To trace the growth of a nation's idea of Deity is an interesting study, because it is to trace the spiritual development of the people. The Hebrew concept of the Supreme Being was long centuries unfolding. The Bible portrays the unfoldment in word pictures of rare color and vividness. It is a library in itself. Between its covers are sixty-six volumes, the flower of Hebrew literature. He who has not read the Bible attentively, in the light of Christian Science, has awaiting him an experience highly pleasurable and profitable.
Its central theme is the advancing conception of Deity in the thought of the Hebrew race. To Abraham, when four thousand years ago he left the ancestral home of Ur of the Chaldees to sojourn in the land of promise, God, it seems, was scarcely more than a chieftain or king, great indeed, yet nevertheless human in form and temperament. Thus in that charming pastoral of the plains of Mamre, portrayed in the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, the patriarch, after the "three men" had turned their faces toward Sodom, remained standing before the Lord, and, drawing near, pleaded with Him to stay His purpose to destroy the city on account of its iniquities, if there should be found therein even ten righteous men. The Lord, having given His promise, went His way, and Abraham returned unto his place.
A slow process was spiritual development in those primitive days, tediously slow, as spiritual progress has always been. Hence it is not surprising that seven hundred years after Abraham, when Joshua had succeeded Moses in the leadership of the Hebrews, Jehovah, to their mistaken sense, was a god of war and vengeance. Therefore, when the Hebrews entered upon the conquest of Canaan, following their spectacular escape from Egypt and forty years of weary wandering in the wilderness, they supposed that God approved their ruthless attacks on tribes whose only offense against the Hebrews was occupying territory overflowing with milk and honey which the Hebrews coveted.
But if progress in spiritual things was wearisomely slow with the Hebrews it was none the less certain, for when seven centuries more had rolled by they could listen to the admonition of Micah, as he preached by the wayside in Judah: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Still another seven hundred years and Christ Jesus entered the arena of human history. By that time the Hebrews had so far advanced in spiritual discernment - that they had some appreciation of his statement, made during his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, that God is Spirit. So that in the New Testament, whose twenty-seven books were written at various times during the first hundred years following the crucifixion, Deity is no longer referred to as corporeal or manlike but, sometimes by implication and at other times expressly, is defined as Mind, Life, Love.
It remained, however, for Mary Baker Eddy, in her tireless quest for truth during the last half of the nineteenth century, to grasp the full meaning and significance of this enlightened concept of Deity, and to set it forth in language and logic so graphic and unmistakable that he who runs may read and understand. In one place (Science and Health, page 465) she defines God as "Infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love." And in another (Retrospection and Introspection, page 59) she writes: "Life is a term used to indicate Deity; and every other name for the Supreme Being, if properly employed, has the signification of Life."
From this point of vantage it is easy to see how God can be everywhere and All-in-all, for obviously Life, Mind, Principle are everywhere and all-pervading. No place or purpose, then, remains for man but to abide in Life and reflect Life. Paul, speaking on this issue with his usual intensity, declares that in God "we live, and move, and have our being"; and that God is "above all, and through all, and in you all." It is perfectly accurate, therefore, to define man as the expression or manifestation of Life - Life without beginning or danger or disease or end. To contemplate this scientific truth is to look into the perfect law of liberty, is to understand and apply the divine law which sets man free from the suppositional laws of sickness and decrepitude.
The recognition of this true status of God and man is the basis of Christian Science practice. Treatment or prayer in Science, in the case of sickness, consists largely in realizing, as clearly as one may, the unity of man with Life harmonious and irrepressible, and the consequent impossibility, save in belief or appearance, of inaction, inflammation, or infirmity of any kind.
Indeed, disease is a mesmeric state induced by the erroneous assumption that life inheres in matter and therefore that the material body has pleasure and pain. This mesmerism is broken by a recognition that God in His goodness and love has not made sickness and evil nor does He permit them to torment His creatures.
Eternal Life, of which the Scriptures aver man is the image and likeness, really can not be in pain or jeopardy. Life knows no opposition and brooks no interference, but, unfettered and uncontaminated, is in operation throughout man's being, even where disease may seem to hold sway. Having one's spiritual self in thought as the "temple," what more reverent, more rational, more potent prayer can one utter than to declare: "The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth (error, evil, disease) keep silence before him"?
Did not Christ Jesus have this law, this truth, in thought when he announced, "I and my Father are one"? Out of the sense of power, which the realization of his oneness with God gave him, he spoke with authority to the evils and diseases which infest mortal existence, and put them to flight. People flocked to him for help. On one occasion a palsied man was carried by his friends. Finding the house packed on their arrival, they opened the roof and lowered the helpless man, bed and all, into the midst before Jesus. "Son," said Jesus, "thy sins be forgiven thee. . . . Arise, take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up his bed, and went forth before them all."
"Where'er he went affliction fled," and this oftentimes without any direct effort on his part, apparently. People who came into his presence, listening to his speech or touching him in the throng, took on new hope and strength. They forgot their hunger, their bodily infirmities, their anguish of remorse. Ears were unstopped and eyes were opened. Three of his disciples, at the transfiguration, realized the prayer
I ask no dream, no passing ecstasy,
No sudden rending of this veil of clay;
Just send thine angel thoughts through opening skies
To take the dimness of my vision away.
Then, with spiritual sense quickened, they saw the ancient prophets Moses and Elias in communion with their Master, and realized that individual men and women do not come to an end at the experience called death but live on invisible to dull material sense.
Every individual, gross though he may be apparently, has some spark of the divine, that is to say, some measure of genuine intelligence and goodness. The divine in these simple folk responded to the boundless life and love of which their Master was full to overflowing. Deep answered unto deep. They caught, as by reflection, the thrill and power of endless life which held sway in this supreme figure who called himself the son of man or the Son of God according to his mood. They felt, in some degree, the force of Mrs. Eddy's profound observation, "Whatever is possible to God, is possible to man as God's reflection" (Miscellaneous Writings, page 183).
Jesus declared that it was not he who wrought the remarkable works, but the Father dwelling in him, that is, the divine Principle operating through him to the silencing of material limitations. In other words, it was the Christ that inspired him with confidence and invested him with dominion. By Christ is meant, to use Mrs. Eddy's illuminating definition, "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (Science and Health, page 583).
It is safe to say that no one, not even the early followers of Christ Jesus, has had a more accurate estimate of his teachings than has Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Her spiritual insight, penetrative and sympathetic, discerned the purpose of his career, appreciated the magnitude and grandeur of his life, and, above all, comprehended the Science he employed in healing the sick and raising the dead. She silenced the age-long supposition that his extraordinary works were miracles in the usual sense of the word.
She saw that they were wrought not in contravention of law but in accordance with law - spiritual law, understood by him and understandable by others; and therefore that they were as natural and inevitable as they were significant in showing that spiritual man, real selfhood is invulnerable to the attacks of mortality. She could understand and believe his works as readily as she could his words, because she could see how one who gives himself into the hands of divine Principle attains the mastery of sin, disease, and death.
There are those, it is true, who are skeptical about the New Testament biographies of Jesus, and sincerely so. Yet how has anyone the right to question the acts ascribed to Jesus until he himself has reached the stature of sinless manhood? Who can say what potentialities reside in perfect man? In dealing with this subject Mrs. Eddy has penned some of the finest passages in English prose. Her chapter on "Atonement and Eucharist" in the Christian Science textbook is a masterful melody of words, while at the same time a profound and enlightening elucidation of spiritual truths.
Thus far she brought assurance of relief to a troubled world. She has given cheer, courage, and actual freedom to multitudes who otherwise had been in despair. Many are they, who, through the study of her writings, have equipped themselves to speak with authority to the various types of sin and sickness to which flesh is heir. How hope revives in the sick room when a practitioner enters calm and assured because more than once has he seen pain retreat before truth.
And what is the truth which audibly and inaudibly he declares to the sufferer until the distress abates? That Life, his life, is God, and therefore that strength and energy and harmonious action are his to the innermost recesses of his being; that the ailment, whatever its type, is at most temporary and evanescent, and actually not there, for the presence of God, of omnipotent Life and Love, makes the presence of sickness impossible.
This, and more of like character, will the practitioner affirm, until the insidious belief of suffering - for suffering is in belief rather than in actuality - gives way to the realization that man in the likeness of God is forever out of reach of disease and danger. These enemies exist, if at all, only in the realm of human belief; and when they are faced and challenged as without cause or foundation they cannot do otherwise than retire from the field of human experience.
Sin and sickness are healed in Science by the same process. And what a glorious achievement it is to separate, in thought, disease from the person to whom it would cling, and, with the power of Science, prove its nothingness. There is no achievement more satisfying, unless it be to detach evil from the person it would defile and with Truth's weapons exterminate it. Yet every individual has it in his power, at least in some degree, to enter into the joy of these achievements and have part in the final conquest of sin and sickness.
For he can cease from talking and picturing evil and disease - cease from fastening them, in thought, upon himself and others. Thus he can withdraw, immediately and continuously, his support from these would be enemies. Unsustained by human fear and belief they cannot long endure. And on the other hand, he can cultivate the habit of fearlessly facing these foes as the falsities and vagaries of mortal mind, and resolutely realizing that they are unreal, unknown to God and to His man and universe.
The world of industry and commerce has need of Christian Science. Suppose a business is sick, almost unto dissolution. At least one of the directors may refuse to be alarmed. He recognizes that the enterprise holds a legitimate, even a beneficent place in the community, offering needed employment and producing needed commodities. He courageously insists that such an institution has the support and guidance of Principle, and therefore that the storm of competition and depression cannot prevail against it, nor can internal dissention or inefficiency work its disintegration.
He maintains that unerring Mind directs those in charge of the business, employer and employee alike, and therefore that confusion and mistakes cannot interfere with a right outcome of the venture. In this way divine intelligence will be brought to bear in the premises, either to save the business or to place those connected with it into some new situation of usefulness and success.
These simple illustrations, which could be extended indefinitely, show how Christian Science, though purely idealistic or spiritual, can be applied to matter-of-fact affairs to bring about better conditions in daily life. The fact that Science can thus be utilized accounts for the strong appeal it makes to a world with its struggling multiplicity of economic and social problems.
As men and nations accept the teachings of Christian Science, the human mind begins to part with its limitations. Then individuals begin to recognize the universe more nearly as it is and to envisage the health, abundance, and opportunity which are the legitimate birthright of man. Thereby does mankind get glimpses of that ultimate perfection which characterizes reality; for it would be a bold man who would argue that God's creation falls short of perfection.
Biology believes that man began a low, simple form of life, in an inconceivably remote past, and throughout the ages has been toiling upward toward a perfection attainable, if at all, in a future still dim and distant. Theology teaches that man began perfect, only thereafter to fall through disobedience; and that now his chief concern is to recapture that perfection.
Christian Science insists that spiritual man, true selfhood, was never less than perfect, never less than eternal Life expressed; and that perfection is man's real status now. Scientifically speaking, therefore, man is not working toward perfection; rather is he
working from perfection, ever growing and expanding, "rising higher and higher from a boundless basis," to use Mrs. Eddy's colorful words from page 258 of "Science and Health."
For perfection is not static, no more than are Life and Mind, which undeniably are in constant and perpetual operation. Jesus sums this up emphatically when be declares, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." A state of rest or completion, without further work or continued capacity for unfoldment or higher heights to climb, would be intolerable. To paraphrase Tennyson's stirring lines;
Man desires no Isles of the blest,
no quiet seats of the just,
To rest in a golden grove, or to bask in a summer sky:
Give him the wages of going on, and not to die.
When it is remembered that God is Mind and Spirit it must be conceded that man, genuinely, is mental and spiritual. It is of God and of spiritual man in His likeness that perfection is predicated. Confessedly man conceived materially is lamentably imperfect. There art not two men, one material and the other spiritual. What is called material man really is not man but simply the human mind's mistaken sense of man; for the human mind, itself limited and material, entertains a limited and material sense of man and the universe.
Hence the importance, in Science practice, of insisting at the outset upon present perfection, perfect God and perfect man, regardless of what the human mind or corporeal sense may testify to the contrary; doing so intelligently and gratefully. In this mental attitude, which is the effectual prayer of the righteous man, the individual will begin to part with his heaviness and infirmities and begin to experience more of the confidence and freedom which inalienably are his. This is what Paul calls putting off the old man and putting on the new. It is an undertaking to which every individual may direct himself if he would work out his salvation.
Fear, danger, limitation - all grow out of the supposition that man is a material creature, inhabiting a material universe. All discord, disease, accidents are unrealities of the mesmeric mental realm in which man and things are believed to be material. Freedom and safety, on the other hand, are assured to spiritual man inhabiting the unobstructed realm of Spirit; and, genuinely, every individual is spiritual. There can be no dangers and impediments to spiritual man; but certain security and inextinguishable existence. Here is the truth which protects him who realizes it from disaster and destruction.
To affirm that man and the universe are spiritual obviously is to challenge the validity of matter. Yet to question the reality of matter, whether it appears in the human body or in the external world, is not to question the existence of man or the world or the things therein; it is only to question the accuracy of our concept of them. For matter, far from being the formidable substance it seems, is the human mind's limited sense of things. In disposing of matter, therefore, we are not combating an entity but correcting a mistaken conception. And we correct that concept through exchanging limited corporeal sense for spiritual sense full and unrestricted.
Putting matter in its most favorable light, we may say that what the human mind or corporeal sense vaguely sees in the landscape, tree, bird, or man is not the actual but a symbol of the true and genuine. And as corporeal sense yields to spiritual sense the symbols disappear and the stately structure of reality appears. Hence the force of Paul's admonition, "Let that Mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"; for then will materiality, with the limitation and suffering that follow in its train, depart from human experience.
To dim corporeal sense, or the unillumined human mind, the world may seem dull and drab - a place where strife and privation appear to be in ascendancy. To spiritual sense the world is appareled in celestial light - a place of peace and joy and uninterrupted usefulness. There are those in our midst today who at times get glimpses of this new earth and heaven precisely where Jesus located it; for did he not say, "The kingdom of God is within you," that is, in consciousness awaiting recognition by every Individual?
The practical man is inclined to scout spiritual things as visionary and shadowy, and to put his trust in material things, for they, he argues, are tangible and knowable. Yet how are they, how is anything, tangible and knowable, to him or to anybody, except through consciousness. Consciousness tells the most confirmed materialist all he thinks he knows even about matter.
It is to human consciousness that iron is hard, the world round, the daffodil yellow, the lark melodious, the body heavy, the heart glad, the man merciful. Without consciousness there would be no form, no color, no sound, no rapture, no life, no world, no man.
Man, far from being the physical corporeality he appears, really is a reflection of divine supreme consciousness. Indeed Mrs. Eddy speaks of man as "an individual consciousness, characterized by the divine Spirit as idea, not matter" (Science and Health, page 76). But consciousness seems not wholly spiritual, not wholly good, but a blending of the spiritual and material, of good and evil; and man appears to vacillate between righteousness and sin, health and sickness, life and death. So that consciousness, mysterious in substance and swift in action, may one moment sound the depths of Adam and in another ascend the heights of Christ.
Yet, actually, then is no merging or confusion of material and spiritual elements in consciousness, because true consciousness is spiritual throughout. Actually there can be no blending of material and spiritual elements in man, because man, in the image and likeness of God, possesses no mortal or material qualities. For, writes Mrs. Eddy on page 477 of Science and Health: "Soul is the substance, life, and intelligence of man, which is individualized, but not in matter."
Whatever in man or in consciousness seems material or mortal is seeming or phenomenal only, not actual. That consciousness which testifies of matter and mortality is false and fleeting; and however intimately it may appear to be associated with genuine consciousness the two really never touch or blend.
Life and Mind have always found expression, and always will find expression; and that expression is spiritual man, individual spiritual consciousness. Hence man coexists with God, without beginning of days or end of years. Not in the beginning of ages but in divine Principle has God created man. Therefore, were the mist of material existence lifted, it would be seen that birth and death are alike unknown to man. In this unassailable truth lies the remedy for fear.
It is so-called mortal man, the false material sense of self, that seems to be born into this vale of tears and appears to die out of it; and this false sense will recede and further recede to one who begins to gain the true sense of self and steadfastly hold thereto. How apropos and heartening are Mrs. Eddy's inspired words; "Never born and never dying, it were impossible for man, under the government of God in eternal Science, to fall from his high estate" (Science and Health, page 258).
Material consciousness may lapse at times, as when an anesthetic is administered or accident or sickness overtakes the individual. It may weaken or fade with advancing years and eventually come to an end. If one's observation extends no further than these passing phenomena, one may conclude that man is mortal and that individual existence ends with the grave.
And yet, were the entire structure of material consciousness dissolved, there would remain the sublime structure of spiritual consciousness, which, like Mind, is from everlasting to everlasting. Spiritual consciousness precedes birth as certainly as it persists after death. Repeatedly does Jesus refer to pre-existence as well as to future existence. "Father," he prayed, "glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Also, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father."
True consciousness in its very nature cannot become unconscious. Say Addison:
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amidst the war of elements,
The wreck of matter, and the crash of worlds.
Human consciousness is the field where all curative and corrective work must be done. There it is that fear, ignorance, and sin would sow that consternation from which germinate disease and despair. And it is there that these components and companions of animal magnetism, of evil and mortality in action, must be intelligently and fearlessly rooted out, not only for the sake of peace and happiness but in behalf of health and longevity.
The reaction of the body to mental moods is as inevitable as it is obvious, for consciousness is the body's architect and builder and not only plans the edifice but furnishes the materials. Selfish, frightened, vicious thought darkens and disfigures the countenance, but it also interrupts digestion, stifles respiration, clogs every physiological function. So that it is biologically true that he who habitually entertains mean, hateful, fearsome thoughts, when he might beam with love, gratitude, magnanimity, literally does not half live out his days.
These truths, which Mary Baker Eddy has set forth with charm and dignity in her writing and exemplified so faithfully in her life, are neither remote nor abstract, though they may at first glance so seem; because as one contemplates and assimilates them, consciousness, thereby clarified and uplifted, builds a better body, a better career, a better world. In other words, as the individual thinks on these things of Spirit, his mentality gradually is transformed; and with the transforming of the mind comes a renewal of health and hope and a vision of a world wherein are security and opportunity for endless progress.
Certainly the way is not easy; but we should be profoundly grateful that it has been made plain by Mrs. Eddy through the books she has written, the institutions she has founded, and the example she has set. One scarcely knows which to admire the more in this great woman - the extraordinary spiritual acumen which enabled her to discern Christian Science or the indomitable courage which qualified her to promulgate and establish it in a material age.
For the period in which she lived, 1821 to 1910, was an age when material achievement was paramount. Yet during those years there were released, through this New England woman's discovery, spiritual forces destined unobtrusively to lead the world out of the muddle into which proud materialism and intellectualism have plunged it. Her eminence in the religious world and among the benefactors of the human race is incontestable. Two authentic and readable biographies have appeared; one by Sibyl Wilbur, the other and later one by Lyman P. Powell. Both are available in most bookshops and in all Christian Science reading rooms.
She founded The Mother Church in Boston, which has branches all over the world. She established the Christian Science periodicals - the Journal, the Sentinel, the Monitor, and the Heralds. And she placed all the affairs and activities of her Church in charge of The Christian Science Board of Directors. Under their able direction the Christian Science movement is rapidly growing and definitely fulfilling its appointed mission. It is common knowledge that people are healed by reading Christian Science literature or attending Science services. One can scarcely afford to overlook these opportunities for advancing his health and steadying his purpose in these troublous times.
Poverty in the presence of plenty - a strange paradox truly. Now that ingenuity has brought forth machinery which all but abolishes physical labor, mankind is bewildered and knows not what to do with its leisure. Still mesmerized by the bygone curse that man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, people look about for a ditch to dig or a column to add; and they would make war on the machines that have despoiled them of their drudgery. So the world today, which might be a place of peace and abundance, with cultural and spiritual development as man's chief occupation, has, to appearances, become a place of alarm and want. And the end is not yet, for the miracle of production is hardly more than well under way. It can fill the world with comforts and luxuries as the waters cover the sea.
Have we not in all this a hint of the coming of man's dominion? The intelligence which almost miraculously has speeded up invention and released men from toil, can we not trust it to lead him into higher and richer fields of endeavor where work is unlabored and gloriously productive? Labor, in its old sense, is nearing its end, let us hope; but on the other hand, let us not overlook the fact that man as God's representative can not be otherwise than active, and that work and business, more and better than have yet been known, are at hand for those who have the vision to see.
And men have this vision just so far as they let that Mind be in them which was in Christ Jesus. That Mind holds the solution for the world's perplexities; it has a way of escape. Leaning less upon our own understanding and gratefully turning to divine Mind for direction, we may confidently expect to find that way and that solution. More than this, we should concede unreservedly that divine intelligence is available to our leaders in public affairs and clothes them with sagacity equal to the exigencies of the day. It is no time for captious or unfriendly criticism but a time for holding up the hands of those we have put in places of responsibility.
The fact is that after ages of wandering in materialism we are nearing the promised land. The Hebrews, when they reached the borders of Canaan after centuries of privation, were dismayed because of rumors of giant foes and fortified cities ahead. They therefore turned back into the wilderness, where they wandered forty years. Then, more courageous counsels prevailing, they marched on to possess the territory which had been sworn them. There may be temporary confusion with us today, but when we move forward with Him "whose presence bright all space doth occupy, all motion guide," depression will collapse as fell the olden walls of Jericho.