Its Challenge to the Wrong Thinking of the Ages
Peter V. Ross, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The subjoined lecture, entitled, "Christian Science: Its Challenge to the Wrong Thinking of the Ages," was delivered in various Churches of Christ, Scientist, in Chicago and vicinity, in the past two years, by 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. The lecture is reprinted from a previous issue of the Leader.
A normal, satisfactory life is impossible without good health. Naturally therefore we wonder how disease ever got into the world. In casting about for a reason people have pretty generally reached the conclusion that disease comes as a punishment for wrong doing. The sick man has been disobedient. He has been pursuing some evil practice. His suffering is the penalty.
The weakness in this logic is seen when we observe that good people as well as bad are subject to sickness. Therefore we shall have to look farther than mere wrongdoing for a satisfactory answer to our question. Here Job's experience is enlightening. He was a good man. Yet, he was seized by a painful malady. Friends who gathered about to sympathize argued that he must have strayed from the straight and narrow way else he would not have encountered misfortune. Indeed one of them asked, "Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?" But Job, unconvinced, insisted upon his integrity, though he confessed, "The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me."
Looking for Disease
Job typifies ordinary human beings. All down the ages they have accepted the suggestion of disease thrust upon them by mortal mind. Generation after generation have they talked disease, pictured it, built it up into a universal belief or mesmerism. Today this mesmerism settles down upon mankind generally – good, bad, indifferent – as the rain falls upon the just and the unjust.
Hence it is that the best of men and women, uninstructed by Christian Science, are occasionally victimized by this mesmerism. It cannot be said that they are being punished. They have not done anything to be punished for. They have however failed to challenge the general belief in disease. Thereby have they left their defenses down. That is enough. That is all anyone need do in order to become vulnerable to the attacks of mortality.
Disease then is not genuine. Of course it is not. This is why sufferers are constantly in revolt against it. This is why every system of healing looks for the time when sickness will cease to appear. If disease were a reality people would accept it without protest. They would have no alternative, because realities cannot be evaded or overcome. People dispute only the unrealities – the things of belief, of ignorance, of appearance. Here is seen the inconsistency of mortals who argue for disease on the one hand and combat it on the other.
When we say that disease is in belief or in appearance or in ignorance, rather than in reality, we place it in the same category with the belief in the flatness of the earth. For certainly the earth appears flat. Occasionally to this day may be found a person who believes it flat. Obviously the flatness is in his thought, in his ignorance. Some day the simple fact will dawn upon him that the earth is round. Then the flatness will be cured.
Some day the undeniable fact will dawn upon the supposedly sick man that Life is God. Then his sickness will be healed, because disease and mortality cannot be ascribed to Deity. If God is Life, then Life must be diseaseless, ageless, endless.
Diseaselessness of Life
What basis is there for the statement that Life is God? Time after time in Scripture Deity is referred to as Life. When the Israelites were struggling so desperately in the desert on their journey to the promised land, Moses, by way of encouragement, declared to them, "God is thy life."
Fifteen hundred years later Jesus, in talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, referred to God as Spirit. Spirit and Life are synonymous terms. They have essentially the same significance. The woman supposed God to be a sort of judge or king who held court in the nearby mountain. Jesus made it clear to her that God is not manlike or kinglike but that he is incorporeal Spirit or Life.
New Testament writers following Jesus spoke of God not only as Spirit but as Life, Mind, Love. What a word Mind is for Deity! For Mind can know all things and can be everywhere present. But Mind does not differ essentially from Life. It would be rather difficult to differentiate between intelligence and animation. Life is the one indisputable fact. You may doubt most things. You may doubt everything – except that you live. You may sometimes wonder about other people. You may suspect that they are creatures of your own fancy. But you are absolutely sure that you exist – exist as an exhibit of Life. God's witness, to use Scriptural language.
Where is that Life? Nearer than hand or breath or thought if could be. Paul gives the classical answer when, in his letter to the Ephesians he writes of one God "who is above all and through all and in you all." What sort of Life must this be? Diseaseless, ageless, endless. It is yours, genuinely, to the remotest recesses of being. This is the truth which will make you free so far as you recognize and utilize it.
People have been healed by the very arguments you are now listening to, of such difficulties as worry, grief, resentment, unemployment, pneumonia, sinus trouble, eczema, personal injuries, impaired sight and hearing. There is no reason why you should not be relieved of your distress immediately. Expect it. You have a right to liberty and usefulness.
Clearly it is a sin to believe that God, who is Love, sends disease to His people. The belief, like other sinful beliefs, brings punishment so long as entertained. The believer stands in the shadow of suffering and mortality. Writes Mrs. Eddy on page 385 of Science and Health: "Let us remember that the eternal law of right, though it can never annul the law which makes sin its own executioner, exempts man from all penalties but those due for wrongdoing." To be forgiven, the person who believes that Deity imposes or is responsible for sickness needs to abandon the belief and accept the fact that Life is God and hence that true existence is invincible.
We have thought that life comes and goes. We have supposed that life is given to one at the time called birth and taken away at the time called death. Yet Life does not come. It does not age, it does not sicken, it does not depart. Life is! It was! It will be! There can be no escape from this logic when it is remembered that Life is God. All of which has tremendous significance when it is recognized that man is an expression of Life, its tangible representative.
Making the Right Choice
In his farewell address to his people Moses said: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live." To appearances there have always been before mankind both life and death, health and disease, success and failure, plenty and poverty. But human beings, in their ignorance of God, have overlooked the Scriptural injunction.
They might have chosen Life with all that that implies, but, giving credence the while to the devastating suggestions of mortal mind, usually they have chosen to make a reality of disease, mortality, and misfortune. They have done more. They have argued for these impositions. So long and so industriously have they argued that the belief or mesmerism of disease has become part of unconscious thought.
Thus it is that people are sometimes beset by diseases they never have thought or heard of. And this liability to sickness will continue until men and women rise up and intelligently challenge disease as a thing that is not necessary, not true. Such existence as it may seem to have is in appearance or belief or mesmerism rather than in actuality. This is why disease and mortality can be overcome. Were they actual there would be no alternative but submission.
Human experience consists to a considerable degree in making choices and decisions. Christian Science acquaints the individual with the spiritual facts which enable him to judge and choose wisely, rightly. He makes a right choice, he gives himself a Science treatment, when he embraces Life and renounces everything opposed to Life. When he recognizes that Life is irrepressible, unconquerable, incorruptible. When he realizes as best he can that this resistless Life is his, that it is in full and unrestricted operation right where his infirmity may seem to be. Which means that the infirmity is not there, is not his, is not in existence.
Were it not for the wrong thinking of the ages, the consequences of which mankind inherit, disease could not come near you today. It could not find you. How could it? It has no intelligence. It has no power of locomotion. One encounters it by looking for it. Have you ever found yourself doing this? You will perhaps if you observe yourself critically for the next few days.
Revolt against Disease
You do not have to listen to disease when it pretends to argue to you. Really it has no voice, no intelligence, no symptoms, no presence, no existence. The presence of God as boundless Life and Love makes its presence and existence impossible. Realize these unalterable truths. God has given you the power. Assert, in definite thought and word, your absolute freedom and harmony as His representative.
The world abounds with well meaning people who say almost nothing because they fear they will say something unscientific. Any statement, any attitude, any mood which denounces disease as a lying imposition, and which exalts Life and health as ever-present realities, is scientific, is legitimate treatment.
It is even reverent prayer, reverent in this that it absolves God from responsibility for sickness and suffering. It is the sort of prayer which works a change in the individual. For the effect of prayer, after all, is not on God but on the man who prays. Such prayer unites the individual with that Life to which disease and age and dissolution are unknown. It unites him with that Mind which imparts to man all the intelligence he needs for success and usefulness.
All down the centuries the belief has been entertained that man is material and mortal, whereas the fact is, as both reason and revelation inform us, man, truly, is spiritual and immortal. The individual who insists that man is mortal will be a mortal to all intents and purposes. He will come under intolerable limitations. He will be borne down ultimately by infirmities.
But when an individual stands up and intelligently and thankfully admits that man in the likeness of God is an immortal, an exhibit of Life to which restrictions and distresses are unknown, he enters that reverent mood which is prayer, he makes that rational argument which undermines the belief in disease, he administers that Science treatment which dissipates the mesmerism of mortality. In a word he begins to find his true status as, to use the words of Mary Baker Eddy, "the expression of God's being'" (Science and Health, page 470).
Putting Aside Skepticism
Not a person should walk out of this auditorium the same person he was when he came in. Each one of you should depart with more hope, strength, courage, and endurance than you had an hour ago. Many of you could well spare ten years of age or ten pounds of weight. Why not allow these undesirables to dissipate and depart along with your aches and failures and loneliness? They are not actualities. They are deceptions. You can lose them all if you will suspend your unbelief long enough to permit the truths you are hearing to take lodgment in mentality.
It is not an easy thing for a person to revise his opinions, to subdue his prejudices, to waive his skepticism. It is much easier to say: "These pronouncements are wonderful. They may be true of spiritual man but what have they to do with me?" They have everything to do with you, for are you not in your genuine make-up a spiritual man?
Accept these precious gifts of the Almighty which hitherto you may have been putting aside. Yours is the life that does not come or age or fail or despair or sicken or fade out;
yours is the life which by the grace of God is invincible.
As you silently talk these truths over with yourself, while at rest or at work, you will become aware of a better body, a better intellect, a better career, a better world. You will come more certainly into the possession of that Life whose joys eternal flow.
Rigidity of Thought
Every instant of his experience does the individual make a choice, a decision. Normally he chooses success, works for it, achieves it. But if not on his guard he may choose failure and work for it. He will have to do this if he ever encounters failure, because failure cannot find him. Like disease failure has no intelligence, no power to move around, no ability to find anyone. It is quite helpless, quite harmless, of itself.
No man is likely to get into a pit without deciding to walk toward it and fool around on the edge after arriving. The pit can hardly come to him. With the same effort he can take at least a few steps in the opposite direction of security.
Not all of one's difficulties can be attributed to the folly of past generations, of course. One's own mental attitude has a vital bearing on one's well-being. For example he who goes about tense with anxiety, resentment, remorse, or other abnormal emotions can hardly expect permanently to enjoy good health or reasonable success.
Tensity of temperament in the upper realm of mind becomes tensity of tissue in the lower realm of body. Rigidity of thought reacts at once in rigidity of bodily functions. Whereas flexibility of mentality, confidence, friendliness, ease, and poise build a sure foundation for soundness of body and attractiveness of individuality.
Acquisition of Attractiveness
Every individual who chooses to act and live his best possesses attractiveness. This must be so in view of the undeniable logic of perfect God and perfect man. He who has the courage and at the same time the graciousness to rise to this height will find needful things flowing to him. His exalted mood becomes a veritable magnet which draws opportunity, position, companionship, all the conditions essential to an abundant life.
No one of course denies that human existence appears to have its trials and disappointments. Everyone observes that the good things of the world seem most unevenly distributed. Yet in the face of so-called failure and even despair
There's a wideness in God's mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader
Than is seen by human mind,
And the thought of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
Conversing in Heaven
The mesmerism of the material world is not a permanent affair. Man's genuine status of perfection has not departed. It has not even faded. If unseen or forgotten in this wilderness of mortal belief and ignorance, it is nevertheless at hand. It is not a condition so much to be struggled for as it is to be called to remembrance. Life with all its glories is here to be recognized. It is yours this day, yours to be enjoyed.
It makes no difference how busy you are, you are choosing, you are making decisions, you are talking with yourself. If you are not cautious you will be picturing age, fashioning ill health, deploring the inefficiency of government. When you select this line of conversation you add to the mesmerism which is already weighing you down. You make the wrong choice.
With a little more discernment and resolution you can make the right choice. You can order your conversation along healthful and wholesome lines. All day long you can talk with yourself of the vigor, the buoyancy, the resistlessness, the eternality, the glory of Life, keeping in thought all the time that it is your life you are talking about.
In this way you put vital truths to work in your own premises instead of idly contemplating them in the abstract. In this mood you are not far from invoking the Daily Prayer set forth by Mrs. Eddy in her Manual of The Mother Church: "Thy kingdom come; let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin."
Relation of Body to Mind
At the outset of our argument we agreed, did we not, that God is Spirit, Life, Mind, Love. Which means that His people must be mental and spiritual, that is, constituted of intelligence. They cannot differ in quality from their creator. A moment's self-examination leaves no doubt that man is made of intelligence rather than of non-intelligence. This is why he is so secure. Intelligence cannot grow old, cannot become sick, cannot suffer fractures, cannot be extinguished.
Intelligence does not differ essentially from consciousness, which reminds us of Mrs. Eddy's definition of man as "individual consciousness" (Science and Health, page 76). Here again one observes how safe true selfhood must be. For consciousness cannot be seen, cannot be touched, cannot be put in danger. And yet how real, how tangible it is. Immediately an individual's sense of being quickens as he recognizes that he is consciousness rather than physicality.
What about the body? Science teaches and observation confirms that the human mind and the human body are one. They are different levels of the same mentality. What we call body is the lower, the grosser stratum. What we call mind is the upper, the more ethereal stratum. Together they make up that intelligence which we call a human being.
Not a perfect intelligence, certainly, but an intelligence which appears partly good and partly bad, partly spiritual and partly material. So that consciousness appears to be a mixture of human and divine ingredients. As one emphasizes the divine and repudiates the purely human, one puts off limitation and mortality and gradually discovers that true selfhood, the perfect man of God's creating, occupies the whole ground and always has occupied it.
Bodies Come and Go
Since the human mind and the human body are different layers of the same mentality, an improved mentality must bring an improved body. Better thinking must result in better health. No mystery then about the process whereby a Christian Science treatment reaches the body. To use Mrs. Eddy's inimitable language, "Consciousness constructs a better body when faith in matter has been conquered" (Science and Health, page 425). As one corrects the material beliefs, the ignorances, the mesmerisms which throng the human mind, one finds that consciousness builds for him a healthier, stronger, younger, body – a more prepossessing personal appearance.
Consciousness is continually at work. The physiologists say that it builds each individual a new body every year or so. Why are the same scars and limps and idiosyncrasies imaged forth year after year? Because the individual holds them in thought. He refuses to forget the accidents, the ailments, the misfortunes that have appeared to cross his path in this material world. He describes them, boasts of them, whenever he can find an audience. In short he fills thought with the worst sort of materials for consciousness to use.
Because consciousness is not only the builder but the building material, it is at once the sculptor and the marble. Serene and possessed of divine substances – integrity, animation, wisdom, affection – consciousness becomes spiritual and thus is equipped to rear a princely structure. Upset by alarms, anxieties, animosities, and supplied with mortal materials, consciousness becomes darkened and produces forms and figures which do well if they survive years and ten.
Bodies come and go but consciousness persists. It refuses to be put under ground. Eluding the grave it builds in the hereafter such a body as it may need to operate through. You get a hint of this process in your dreams. The moment you fall asleep consciousness evolves another body. Your friends do not see it. You take it a hundred miles on a visit. It has all its members. You may have only one arm when awake. You have two in slumber.
Identity in the Hereafter
Does this not help you to understand what takes place when one falls into the last sleep? Immediately consciousness evolves another body untouched by the "last illness" and invisible to anxious friends. The departed, becoming invisible in the form we are accustomed to, take on another form which our dull senses cannot comprehend. But with vision quickened by the truths of Christian Science we shall some day see that the real man does not come, age, sicken, or depart. We shall see that the real man, is, was, and will be. He lives on and on indefinitely, maintaining his identity distinguishable and recognizable, made in the pattern of endless Life.
Things of Spirit may seem at first approach elusive to him accustomed to deal with the supposedly sure, firm things of matter. But if difficult to define, they are impossible to deny. In number they are as the sands of the shore. In unison they are the substance of spiritual man. Outstanding among them are affection, faithfulness, generosity, acumen, integrity.
Integrity as God knows it! Can there be time or place from which it is absent? From everlasting to everlasting it endures in form more palpable to enlightened vision than the wayside rock to darkened material sense. So it is of all divine qualities or ideas. They exist in mold and structure as tangible as they are permanent. Not one of them can lose or surrender its identity. And as they are when viewed singly so must they be when fitly joined together in man.
Birth is not the beginning of an individual's career and death is not its conclusion. Birth and death are events in the voyage of human experience. You cannot trace the beginning of the tiniest thing in the world. You cannot foresee its end. Even a fluffy snowflake, transient and insubstantial as it is, was something before. It will be something after, for a time. Silent as thought, it tumbles down to earth bent on an undefeatable purpose. Can you then not believe that you were something before? That you will be something after? That you have come into being for an undefeatable purpose?
Leaning Back on Mind
You have seen the surf riders of
You could cultivate the habit of leaning back on all-knowing Mind and permitting it to give you direction. This Mind would then keep you out of mistakes, out of dangers, out of follies. It would release in you thoughts that would enable you to build a better business or to carve out a finer career than you have yet attained. That Mind might impart to you some idea which would enable you to launch an entirely new enterprise in some hitherto unexplored field where there is no competition.
If the unemployed would lean back on divine Mind it would direct them to where they are needed. For every individual is needed. No man has been brought into being for uselessness or idleness. God has an active career for each of His men and women. He has a vital purpose for every one of them, a purpose that cannot be frustrated.
You may fear that the injustice of others can defeat that purpose, can keep from you the good things God has prepared. Nothing of the sort really can happen. Not even your own folly can indefinitely postpone the destiny God plans for you as you "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
You remember the morning Jesus was brought before Pilate, charged with making himself king. At one point in the trial where he refused to talk, Pilate said to him: "Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee and have power to release thee?" "Thou couldest have no power at all against me," answered Jesus, "except it were given thee from above."
Then Pilate delivered him to his accusers and he was executed. But presently Jesus was back alive the same man he was before. How little the conspiracy accomplished except to speed and glorify the career of that great man. There was not power enough in the clamorous rabble or even in the Roman government to defeat the purpose God had for Jesus.
There is no circumstance, no injustice, no power in this world to defeat the purpose God has for you if you make the right choice and stay resolutely with it. And life is still before you.
Discovery of Christian Science
Christian Science has now been in
operation three-quarters of a century. Discovered and founded in
Prior to her discovery of Christian Science Mrs. Eddy was seldom free from sickness. Finding no material remedy, she eventually concluded that there must be a spiritual law of healing. As a spiritually minded woman and a great student of the Scriptures she naturally sought for this remedy in the Bible. She found it there. She discovered that Jesus in healing the sick was not working miracles but practicing Science.
Having discovered the Science of Christianity she tested it on people in distress and found that she could relieve them. She next set forth the teachings of Christian Science in her famous volume "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." The book can be read in any public library or in any Christian Science Reading Room. Many people have been healed of serious ailments by studying its pages.
Science in our times has gone as widely abroad perhaps as has the Sermon on the Mount. In other words it has permeated universal thought. There is hardly a person in western civilization who is not talking a different and a better language, who is not pursuing a different and a better life, who is not living in a different and a better world because this great woman has lived and labored here.
Remedy for Lawlessness
Every individual can make the world better. He can have part in quieting the present unrest. This he can accomplish by recognizing and insisting that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. We all know that He does reign, reign wisely and absolutely. We should be sufficiently alert and just and reverent to admit the fact. In this very admission, this very recognition, we help to make of none effect the turbulence at large in the earth.
The world, with its affairs and its people, is, after all is said and done, governed by the one Mind. Chaos and disorder therefore cannot run riot. The world is a place where divine Principle governs, making sinister intrigue, selfish ambition, attempts at ruthless domination unavailing. The certain effect of a constant and resolute acknowledgment of these truths will be to still the harsh noises of the day.
The impatient and turbulent utterances of the day scarcely reach the plane of intelligence. They are more on the level with lunacy. Shall we then be alarmed by their clamor? Rather shall we challenge them as senseless, and powerless to deceive or organize or work mischief of any sort. We are not helpless in the situation. We have the ability to extinguish, noiselessly and finally, the forbidding influences bent on undermining industry and government.
It is time to know that "He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness; and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong."
We can calm the international suspicions and hatreds which lead to open conflict, we can silence rumors of war, by realizing that divine Principle holds the nations in their orbits and will not permit them to spring at each other in strife.
Are you not persuaded that God has a destiny for your nation – a peaceful and fruitful destiny, a destiny that as yet is not half fulfilled? Perhaps it will not be fulfilled if we fail to do our part. What is our part? It is to take definite account of the wily attempts to undermine government and civilization itself, and denounce them as unprincipled and therefore as impotent to carry out their designs. Every one of us has a responsibility which he cannot evade. We can do more than we have dreamed toward preserving the stability of nations and of society generally.
If civilization is permitted to go forward at its present pace, toil and pain and strife may well be eliminated from human experience within another century. The millennium cannot long be postponed if the impatience and lawlessness of the times are curbed. We have the means of curbing them; and "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds."
[Published in The Chicago Leader, April 5, 1940.]