Christian Science: Its Promise of a Better 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
Peter V. Ross, C.S.B., of San Francisco, closed the lecture season sponsored by the five Churches of Christ, Scientist, Indianapolis, Monday, with an address entitled "Christian Science: Its Promise of a Better World." The lecture, given at Cadle Tabernacle, was under the auspices of Second Church of Christ, Scientist. Mrs. Elizabeth Anding introduced Mr. Ross, whose lecture follows, substantially as it was given.
Many people entertain the notion that Christian Science is difficult to understand. I say notion because the fact is Christian Science is easily understood, it is rather readily applied to bringing about better conditions in life.
But someone may argue, "Science insists that disease is unreal; certainly this proposition has difficulties." But do you not resist disease, and evil too, for that matter? You cannot remember the time when you have not resisted them, and with more or less success.
One does not oppose real things. One accepts them, recognizing that realities cannot be overthrown. To dispute disease is to question its genuineness. Why, every system of religion, of medicine, proceeds, unconsciously perhaps, from the standpoint that disease and evil are not genuine. No one has been able to explain how a wise God could put them in the world. Reason, since the advent of Christian Science, accords them no place except in appearance, in belief, in ignorance. The enlightened mind insists upon perfect God and perfect man.
Well, there can be no argument about the perfection of Deity. But does not a perfect God imply a perfect man? If we cannot ascribe imperfection to the creator, how can we believe imperfection of his creatures? Such imperfection as may appear must rest in our mistaken sense of being rather than in being itself.
True, the fool may have said, "There is no God!" Yes, he may have said it, but no man, wise or simple, has ever thought it; for he cannot help observing that there is creative intelligence evolving and directing the phenomena of existence; and this creative intelligence, this causative consciousness, this divinely directing Principle, we call God.
One's concept of the Supreme Being is progressive. It does not remain unchanged from year to year. You do not think of God tonight as you did ten years ago. Ten years hence you will not think of Him as you do tonight. So it is of a race's, a nation's, concept of the Supreme Being. It does not remain static from century to century. It advances with the advance of civilization.
Primitive people think of God as a patriarch or king. He has the form, the disposition, of a human being. He talks with Abraham and Sarah by their tent on the plains of Mamre; He repents that He has made man and brings a flood to destroy them.
This ancient Hebrew concept, portrayed in the Old Testament, in the course of long centuries, gave place to the enlightened concept emphasized in the New Testament. Today practically all of us have abandoned the olden idea of God as manlike or kinglike. We have come to recognize that God is everywhere, all-knowing, all-powerful. In other words, we have come to recognize that God is Spirit.
If God is Spirit, man and the universe, however they may appear to you and me looking through a glass darkly, truly must be spiritual. They cannot differ in quality from their creator.
All down the ages seer and prophet have glimpsed, at times, the fact that man and the universe are spiritual, but only within the last generation or so have people in general begun to get the real import of that fact. They have been helped tremendously in this direction through the discovery of Christian Science by Mary Baker Eddy. As you read her famous book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," you are reminded on almost every page that God is Spirit - that He is Mind, Life, Love, Principle.
Life and Deity, we may then affirm, are identical; Life and God are one and the same. Life, therefore, must be everywhere. And it is. You cannot get away from Life. Well, you cannot get away from yourself; and is not true selfhood a perpetual exhibit of Life, and is this not the truth which makes for freedom?
Paul, in his vivid, graphic style, pictures the divine immanence, this ever-presence of Life, when he declares that in God we live, move, and have our being; and that God is above all, through all, in you all.
Does not this bring you close to God? Sometimes you think of Him as available, as at hand. Why not think of Him as Life, and therefore conclude that Life is diseaseless, ageless, endless - because we cannot ascribe disease or mortality to Deity - and then insist that this ageless, endless, diseaseless Life is actually your life, in full and unrestricted operation, as Paul says, throughout your being, making disease and infirmity impossible except in belief.
Here we have the basis of Christian Science practice, for as intimated in the beginning there is no mystery about Science, its practice, its treatment. When you try to realize the ever-presence of all-knowing Mind, the absence of the dullness and confusion and alarm which arc trying to incapacitate you, you are giving yourself a Christian Science treatment - a treatment which will clarify your thinking, add to your intellectual powers, enable you better to discharge the responsibilities of life.
And when you try to realize the all-pervading presence of irrepressible, incorruptible Life, the absence of the obstruction, the inflammation, which is trying to distress you, once more you are giving yourself a Christian Science treatment which will relieve the distress and lengthen your days.
Why is it that this mental attitude, why is it that prayer - since to think and talk in this vein is to pray - will heal disease? Because disease is a mental condition and therefore yields only to mental influences. If some material remedy seems to produce results, this is because of the individual or universal faith in the remedy.
But someone may insist, My ailment is in the body, and how can the body be influenced by prayer or by spiritual processes? It can be, because the body itself is mental. We often speak of man as though he were two, both mind and body, mind being the upper, the more ethereal layer; body the lower or grosser layer. But they are both mental, both parts of the same mentality. This is why the countenance beams when one is joyous; why one may look cross if one feels or thinks that way.
The body is mental; diseases are mental. Hence, it is that every type of disease should yield to scientifically mental treatment. But not only is disease mental, it is mesmeric. It seems to be true, but it is not true.
The mesmerism of disease is brought about, very largely, through the mistaken supposition that man is a material creature in a material world of danger. But when we consider that God is Mind or Spirit, we must conclude that, however existence may appear, truly the world is spiritual and is peopled by spiritual men and women. And the truth about man is the truth again which makes him free, for truth obviously has many aspects, as that man is a spiritual creature inhabiting the unobstructed realm of Spirit, where no dangers ever come.
He is made of intelligence. This is what we mean when we say that he is mental and spiritual - that he is constituted of intelligence, not of non-intelligence or matter. Well, one has to choose between the two, and it is rather more acceptable, is it not, to think of one's self as of intelligence than of non-intelligence?
Really you are consciousness rather than corporeality. Of what are you conscious, of what are you aware? Aware of life, of life abundant. And today if life seems scanty - if you appear to be growing old, if you believe you are sick, if you incline to despair, you are mesmerized. How can intelligence grow old or rheumatic? It cannot, it does not; and if you feel that way to that extent you are mesmerized.
How may the mesmerism be broken? One may find the answer on almost any page of Science and Health. For example, "Mind is the source of all movement, and there is no inertia to retard or check its perpetual and harmonious action" (Science and Health, page 283). And this Mind which knows no resistance directs every function of man's being.
Disease, as we see it, ordinarily assumes the form of too much or too little action in some part of the human economy. How can there be any inaction, overaction, abnormal action of any sort to the individual who recognizes that Mind is the source of all movement - a Mind which knows no opposition, no acceleration, no interference.
Plenty of instruction in the art of healing may be found in the Scriptures. "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord." Witnesses to what? Certainly God's man is not a witness to age, to disease, to weakness; but to that Life which is irrepressible, incorruptible, unconquerable. The representative not of discouragement and uselessness and dullness, but of strength, of confidence, of intelligence. Reverently insist upon these truths and the mesmerism of sickness or failure will dissipate little by little and perhaps precipitately.
Man as God's witness reflects divine intelligence - all that is needed for success and usefulness. At this point you may see how readily Science may be employed in the ordinary affairs of life. It makes no difference what you are doing. If you are not getting along so well as you would like, and you are not, the difficulty lies in an apparent lack of ability.
How may you experience the capacity desired? By reverently recognizing, as many times a day as you will, that in Science man is the reflection of all-knowing Mind, and therefore possesses requisite sagacity and resourcefulness.
Let the individual in need of employment recognize that man has been brought into being for usefulness, that God has for him an undefeatable purpose, that there is need of him. Then let the individual go out and look for a position, expecting to find it and willing to accept it when found, and he is not likely to long remain unemployed.
Let the business or professional man recognize that his enterprise has a commendable purpose in the community in that it affords needed employment and produces or distributes needed commodities; let him further recognize that his enterprise is sustained and directed by Principle and therefore that unprincipled forces of greed and rivalry and alarm cannot interfere with a right outcome of the undertaking. Let him insist that divine Mind is directing him and his associates and hence that mistakes and confusion and inefficiency cannot defeat the project. In such atmosphere failure becomes well nigh unthinkable.
When we conceive of God as Life, and of man as the expression or reflection of this inextinguishable Life, we at once begin to grasp the scientific unity of God and man, we begin to appreciate the significance of the atonement or at-one-ment of man with God. We associate the atonement with Jesus because he actually proved his unity with indestructible Life. He permitted his enemies to try to destroy him. Apparently they succeeded. Presently he was back alive, the self same man. He proved that individual life cannot be extinguished, for the reason that individual life is a manifestation of the everlasting Life called God.
Every time you voice one of these truths you will move toward the same demonstration which Jesus made. You will prove to some extent that your life cannot be brought to an end, that it cannot be weighed down by years, cannot be frustrated by failure, cannot be tormented by disease. And there is no reason why you should not be silently voicing these truths all day long from the time you awake in the morning until the time you fall asleep at night.
It requires courage to talk with one's self in this way, so much indeed that many a time, if not on guard, you may say: "How old I am getting, how sick I feel, how dreary are the prospects." And every time you utter one of those untruths you add to the mesmerism which is already weighing you down.
Then you ask whence comes the mesmerism of age, of suffering, of failure? Well, do you not dig these things up out of nothingness and hand them to yourself? But you do not have to argue in this devastating fashion. You can stop it today. You can, if you will, as you stroll down the street or carry on your work, talk with yourself of the omnipotence, the permanence, the buoyancy, the purposefulness, the glory of life, keeping in mind all the time that it is your life you are talking about. Thereby little by little, you will break the mesmerism which has been impairing your health, impending your progress, even freezing up your existence.
As you think out those truths which we have been developing and make them yours, gradually you will become aware of a healthier body, a sounder intellect, a more satisfying career. Or to put it in perhaps a better way, consciousness, thus uplifted, will build for you a better body, a better intellect, a better world.
How good an intellect will you eventually attain? There are no limits to true intellectual unfoldment, are there? How good a body will you ultimately acquire? Find encouragement, if progress toward health seems slow, in the fact that Jesus reached so high a development as he adhered to spiritual thinking and living that he could stride through the threatening crowd unseen, and, without troubling to open the door, step into the room where his disciples were gathered.
An individual is in a satisfactory condition who can do these things. He is quite out of reach of rheumatism or of fractures. And as one prayerfully meditates upon these truths one inevitably moves-toward the acquisition of the same sort of individuality Jesus possessed, moves toward the same freedom and dominion he enjoyed.
An individual who can perform such feats as Jesus performed, and they are within the reach of anyone who makes himself at home in Science, is fast growing unto the stature of perfect manhood. He is putting resistances behind. He is emerging into spiritual or genuine consciousness. And genuine consciousness cannot become unconscious. Hence, the permanence of individual man.
Here is immortality placed on a rational basis: that man, far from being a corporeal figure, is an individual consciousness; and real consciousness cannot become unconscious. There is a temporary, deceptive aspect of consciousness which views the world as material, sees man as a physical outline, and experiences disease and dissolution.
This material consciousness lapses on occasion, whereupon we say the individual is unconscious. His awareness of the material world and of the material body with its pain and limitations then fades out. But life is still present with him; true consciousness is as active as ever. "We must," declares Mrs. Eddy, "hold forever the consciousness of existence" (Science and Health, page 428). You cannot let go of your sense of life. You can let go of your sense of the physical world. You may even lose your sense of the physical body. But you cannot relinquish your sense of existence. Genuine consciousness, like Mind, is from everlasting to everlasting.
Jesus demonstrated in his resurrection and ascension the continuity of individual life. Prior to this supreme achievement, however, it was quite natural that he should prove man's exemption from sickness and infirmity. Fever and palsy fled from his presence as definitely as want and remorse. To the helpless man who waited at the pool for someone to put him into the water at the favored moment, he said, "Arise, take up thy bed and walk." And the man did so.
The fear and mesmerism which had bound his limbs for years was broken and he strode forth to have his part in the joy of living.
This is about what happens when one is released from any ailment or infirmity. If some organ of the body will not function as it should; if sight or hearing is impaired; if hand, foot, or arm is drawn into helplessness, this means that fear or mesmerism has laid its heavy hold there. When the fear or mesmerism is dissolved the organ or the member springs into normal action.
Disease, for the most part, originates in the mistaken belief that man is a tottering mortal in a world where danger and mortality are inevitable, whereas the fact is man is an exhibit or reflection of that Life which knows no disease, no suffering, no beginning, no end.
We have been taught that our diseases and difficulties are traceable to sin. Doubtless many of them are. Certainly no one will counsel another to live carelessly. Yet you may know some rather careless people who enjoy wonderfully good health and whose businesses prosper. On the other hand you may know some extraordinarily fine people who are sick or whose businesses have failed. Their goodness has not been sufficient to protect them.
Goodness is not to be considered lightly, of course. It is the first consideration always; we cannot get along without it. Yet all down the ages has come the question, "Why does the good man suffer?" Apparently he does, right along with his evilly disposed neighbor. The rain still falls on the unjust as well as on the just.
Why does the good man suffer? The book of Job undertakes to answer the question. Job was a good man. Yet he was overtaken by that dreadful affliction. In rushed his neighbors to ask: "Job, what in the world have you been doing? Something dreadful, that is evident, for are you not sick? Own up and make a clean breast of the affair." But he would not. He was an upright man and had nothing to confess.
People today sometimes wonder if there ever was a Job. There have been millions of Jobs. You know of some right in this community - perfectly fine men and women who are sick or otherwise down and out. Evidently they are not keeping up their defenses.
If you would protect your health, your life, you may need to do more than simply be good. Be good, of course, and then realize that there is no necessity, no essential reality in disease, since Life is God, and therefore diseaseless. If you would protect your career or your business, recognize that there is no virtue, no necessity in poverty or failure, for are you not in a world of abundance and of opportunity? Recognize, too, that avarice, envy, competition, and other enemies to success are powerless to interfere with that useful purpose God has for you to fulfill.
When you challenge failure and disease in this fine courageous attitude you will better defend yourself against their inroads. And you will develop this resolute attitude by emphasizing the truths we have thus far considered. As you think these truths out and gain something of their significance, you will attain that intelligent courage which will enable you to walk the earth in dignity, as you should walk it, and not in fear and trembling.
Christian Science came to humanity less than four score years ago through Mary Baker Eddy. She discovered it; proved, in healing the sick and troubled through its ministry, the soundness of its teachings; set forth its rules in her extraordinary book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures"; and finally placed it on a workable, enduring basis by establishing The Church of Christ, Scientist, whose activities have long since reached round the globe. Starting out life in an obscure New England community, she became, with the expansion and appreciation of the Christian Science movement during the closing years of the nineteenth century and the opening of the twentieth, one of the world's outstanding figures.
She found Science in the Bible. From her youth up she had been a diligent student of its pages. More than once was her thought arrested by the spiritual healings wrought by Jesus and the prophets. On occasion she glimpsed the realm of reality. She accepted the Scriptural promise of a better world - a world where peace and security prevail.
She refused to believe that Jesus' achievements were miraculous or supernatural. She saw that he worked not wonders but that he practiced Science. She grew, in the course of years of research and demonstration, into an understanding of that Science. She refused to admit that spiritual laws are beyond the comprehension of the average individual. She stated the Science of Christianity in terms intelligible to every earnest seeker for truth. Today we are all in a world made better by her labors.
After studying her writings one can understand how Jesus proved man's dominion over disease and even over death. For on a number of occasions he brought back people and presented them alive to sorrowing friends. Finally he stepped from his tomb, appeared to his friends, talked with them, ate with them. He proved that individual life is inextinguishable.
We can see the possibility of Jesus' sublime demonstration when we recognize that the real man, instead of being a physical body, is constituted of intelligence, that he is an individual consciousness quite out of reach of disintegrating or destructive agencies. The human body and intellect lack perfection and permanence. Ordinary observation convinces us of this. But there is no disposition here to ridicule the body or counsel its neglect. It is the only body you and I know, and what we need to do is to improve it rather than to despise or rid ourselves of it. And this improvement will be wrought as we uplift and spiritualize our thinking and living.
Nor is there any purpose to belittle this human life which appears so confused by fear and mesmerism. It is the only life you and I are acquainted with. And when we live it to the full, when we magnify it as we may, we find it expanding into that Life whose joys eternal flow.
The prospect of the end has been a dreadful prospect. The fear of death has been responsible for much of the disease and hell in the world. Now we are beginning to see that this fear is groundless, because spiritual consciousness, which constitutes the real man, knows nothing of death, dissolution, or graves. Even human consciousness, not yet cleansed of all material or mortal elements, escapes the grave. Rather comforting, is it not, to consider that your friends at the funeral will not be dealing with you. They will be quite powerless to seize consciousness and tuck it away in the ground.
Quickened and enlightened by the truths of Christian Science we may all hope to attain that spiritual altitude reached by Christ Jesus where there are no obstructions to vision or to movement, no hazards or impediments to continuous being. In that realm of boundless Life men live on and on indefinitely, each maintaining his identity, each recognizable and distinguishable from the others, each made after the power of endless life.
For Life is endless - no end in this direction, no end in that direction. Birth and death are incidents in human experience. One does not mark the beginning nor does the other mark the end of an individual. "If man did not exist before the material organization
began, he could not exist after the body is disintegrated. If we live after death and are immortal, we must have lived before birth, for if Life ever had any beginning it must also have an ending, even according to the calculations of natural science," says Mrs. Eddy (Science and Health, page 429). The clear implication is that pre-existence, indeed all true existence, is spiritual.
Repeatedly does Jesus refer to pre-existence as well as to future existence. On one occasion he said, "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father." A brief, direct biography. It is the biography of every individual, for most of Jesus' utterances were statements of universal truths applicable to all men.
He said also, "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he who came down from heaven, even the son of man which is in heaven." First there was the ideal state, heaven. Then followed the apparent fall or coming down before there was any necessity of ascending; but quite disregarding the mythological fall is the inference that really he never came down. As Mrs. Eddy says, "Jesus' true and conscious being never left heaven for earth" (No and Yes, page 36).
Have you the courage to claim this of your true self? A moment ago you were brave enough to say, "Genuinely I am an expression of unextinguishable Life, a Life to which disease and danger and dissolution are strangers." Now you should be able to say, "Why, really I have never left heaven for this mire of mortality. Therefore I am not called upon to explain its suffering and misfortune. I will no longer wonder why rheumatism has got hold of me when I have lived the best life I could. Neither will I wonder why I do not get over the rheumatism today or tomorrow. Rather will I insist that rheumatism has not got hold of me.
"I will no longer wonder why I am a failure. I will stop digging up the follies of past years and tormenting myself with them. I will insist that at most they were incidents of a dreamlike excursion in which no true man indulges. I will repudiate, disown, and forget them, being careful not to be drawn in that direction in the future.
A failure? How can I fail when God has provided a world of abundance and opportunity? How can I fail when God has a purpose for me which cannot be frustrated - a purpose which abounds in activity and usefulness, and wherein idleness and uselessness cannot enter; how can I fail permanently when, regardless of apparent defeat or dismay today, life is still before me with all its possibilities?
When you think and talk in this vein, and you can begin to do so tonight if you have not done so already, keeping in thought that it is of your spiritual selfhood you are claiming these prerogatives, you will begin to dissolve the mesmerism of mortal existence, with its failure and limitation and disease, rather rapidly. You will glimpse the fundamental truth we started out with, namely, perfect God and perfect man.
The perfect man is here and now, and really you are the man. Your perfection may seem to be obscured today; may seem to be temporarily forgotten. But it is here awaiting recognition. And for you to voice the foregoing truths is for you to bring to remembrance, little by little, the perfect man, apparently so long overlooked, you always were and always will be.