Christian Science: The Principle and Practice of Divine Metaphysics
Robert Stanley Ross, C.S.B., of New York, New York
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Truly it has been said that when Mary Baker Eddy gave the name of Christian Science to her system of divine metaphysics she challenged the religious and scientific thinking of the entire world. Christianity in one form or another had long been the dominant religious belief of Western civilization but to announce that Christianity as revealed to her was a healing Science meant that Christianity was available not only as universal religion, but as universal medicine as well.
Metaphysics — which means above or beyond physics or the physical sense of things — had for centuries been a subject of abstract, academical teaching, but that a metaphysics transcending not only matter but the human mind itself should be reduced to practical utility in the solving of everyday problems was something entirely new. Accordingly, if Mrs. Eddy's contribution to human health and happiness were to be summed up briefly, it might be expressed as follows: she succeeded in fully defining metaphysics and applying its theory in healing practice, thereby advancing metaphysics to the dignity and verity of demonstrable Science. In this accomplishment, Mrs Eddy was the acknowledged pioneer.
Considered solely as the revival of primitive Christianity, however, the discovery of Christian Science would have meant to most persons the rebirth of physical healing as practiced by Jesus; for Christianity in its original articulation was evidently not regarded as a Science. In it the Saviour was looked upon as a divinely favored person instead of the expression of a healing and saving Principle which could be utilized by anyone through spiritual understanding in every age and clime. Mary Baker Eddy was well aware of all this. She recognized that she was taking a new and forward step in discovering to human consciousness the basic truth about God and man, and she took that step alone and unafraid.
Writing subsequently in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs Eddy said (p. 109), "I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind-action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration." By accepting divine Mind and its universe of divine ideas as the starting point, working basis, or Principle of her practicable teaching, Mrs. Eddy proved herself to be the most scientific woman that ever walked the earth.
The Healing, Saving Principle
On pages 184 and 185 of Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy tells us how the understanding of man's spiritual existence as harmonious divine idea, instead of discordant, material personality, pierced the iron curtain of mesmeric belief and enabled her to heal quickly a case of tuberculosis of the lungs, a disease commonly referred to as consumption. The patient had heretofore breathed with particular difficulty when the wind was from the east. As Mrs. Eddy silently prayed, the woman's breathing became natural and normal. She then told the woman to look at the weather vane. To the patient's surprise, the weather vane pointed due eastward. Thus the woman learned that it was not the wind that had caused her difficulty but her fearful belief. "My metaphysical treatment," writes Mrs. Eddy (p. 185), "changed the action of her belief on the lungs, and she never suffered again from east winds, but was restored to health."
Now, all of this meant, of course, that the teaching and practice of Christian Science were entirely helpful and good. By this we mean that they were in complete accord with the spiritual, divinely benevolent nature of the universe, including man, as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis. Mrs. Eddy had already proved conclusively that this Science was fully capable of bringing about not only bodily healing, but moral regeneration and spiritual enlightenment, and that these glorious results could henceforth be obtained in the everyday experience of any sincere student. For this reason, she was convinced that Christian Science would one day find favor with practically minded persons everywhere and be recognized increasingly as the way to peace and good will amongst men and nations.
Christianity's Measuring Rod
Far be it from Christian Scientists to decry whatever of good doctrinal Christianity has done for the world; nevertheless all of us must reserve the right to ask whether the historical Church has measured up to the primitive Christian standard. Where, outside of Christian Science, is to be found the degree of spiritual enlightenment and healing power which marked the early days of Christianity? Did not the religion of Jesus freely heal the sick, overcome wrongdoing, dispel lack, and raise the dead? Surely, our Master gave us the measuring rod for Christian discipleship when he said on one occasion, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also," and on another occasion "These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover"!
Where, we repeat, are these essential works or necessary proofs? Has the divine standard been changed or lowered? Must we now accept Christianity in theory but reject it in practice? Surely, those works and proofs were not intended for Jesus' time only! Furthermore, Jesus would not have issued his commands to heal if they were not to be understood and obeyed. How impossible it would have been for our wise and loving Master to require of us that which he knew in advance could not be done! Evidences in the Gospels, Acts, and the epistles show that a point beyond faith is spiritual understanding and that it was through this spiritual understanding, or understanding of Spirit, that Christians were expected to demonstrate the healing power of God in what have been mistakenly referred to as miracles.
Now, there must always have been a way by which this lost element of healing could be discovered and so restored to Christianity — a way by which reason and revelation could be reconciled and thus together made practicable to mankind; and it remained for Mary Baker Eddy to discover this way and, appropriately enough, to give to Christianity its "new name" (Rev. 2:17; 3:12). Referring to her discovery in Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy writes (p. 107): "In the year 1866, I discovered the Christ Science or divine laws of Life, Truth, and Love, and named my discovery Christian Science. God had been graciously preparing me during many years for the reception of this final revelation of the absolute divine Principle of scientific mental healing."
If it could be shown that Mrs. Eddy's discovery was not the metaphysical Science of Christ which, Jesus implied, would one day be revealed to the world, then we should simply have to wait longer for its inevitable coming. But it is being proved daily, through the healing by Christian Science of all manner of disease, discord, and limitation, that the discovery of this Science of divine Mind is the promised Comforter, the second coming of Christ, or the final revelation of Truth, foreshadowed by the prophets and foretold by the Master. This comforting, healing, saving Science is the understanding and demonstration of divine Principle, Mind, even that all-embracing spiritual presence and power which includes on the one hand all that truly exists and excludes on the other hand, as unreal, untrue, and powerless, all that is unlike God, spiritual good.
Scientific Name for God
This term Principle is part of Mrs. Eddy's scientific and complete definition of God which will be found on page 465 of Science and Health. It implies source, origin, or cause. It means that from which all things real proceed. This definition of Deity includes also the name Mind. Therefore, when we refer to God as divine Principle, we are simply saying that infinite Mind is the one and only creator. By this we mean that divine Mind is the ever-present, creative, sustaining, directing, and controlling cause of the one and only universe, including man.
However, at this point someone may be protesting that a wholly spiritual, incorporeal concept of Deity denies the personality of God. Our answer is that Christian Science teaches that God is a spiritual, infinite Person or self-conscious Being. But how could a personal God, or a God who is a material person, be other than a magnified mortal, abiding in a particular locality, and having a definite physical outline and form? Surely, no finite concept of the infinite could be true, and Christian Science declares that this limited view must be discarded before we can know Him as ever-present Life and Truth and Love.
To say that God is divine Principle is the same as saying that He is the all-creating Mind; that creation, including man, is divine Mind expressing itself individually as infinite, divine idea. How, otherwise, could it be reasonably asserted by the Scriptures that "in him we live, and move, and have our being"? No my friends, you may be sure that in employing the term divine Principle, Christian Science is proposing to the world no strange God, but a higher and more practical concept of Him who is the only source, cause, or creator.
Therefore, in coming to Christian Science, we can still retain our concepts of God's goodness and power; we can still retain about Him whatever thoughts have heretofore comforted, encouraged, and strengthened us. All that we shall need to discard will be those false and fearful concepts which have hidden from us God's comforting, protecting, healing nature as infinite good or all-pervading Love. Although we Christian Scientists will continue to refer increasingly to God as divine Principle, we shall nonetheless be reverently worshiping the one universal cause or creator, even the only Father and Mother of the spiritual universe, including spiritual, incorporeal man.
An Old Question Answered
At this point, however, there may arise in the thoughts of some listeners a question which, to the human mind, is as old as the record of philosophical thought itself. The question is this: If the one source, origin, or cause of existence is Mind, and if the universe and man are therefore spiritually mental, whence comes a something else called a material universe including material man? To this question Christian Science replies that even though to physical sense, or the false sense of person, matter appears to be real and substantial, this reality is only seeming, only suppositional. This scientific denial of matter as reality, the carnal mind or material sense desperately resents; but Christian Science is progressively sustaining its denial by demonstrating in ever-increasing measure the allness of God and His spiritual ideas.
Let us suppose, for example, that a man who had long been in bondage to the fear and wretchedness of a despotic government were to escape from that government, find refuge in a liberty-loving land, and become a citizen thereof. Would he not breathe a prayer of gratitude for release from that despotism? Possibly he would shudder a bit before the now-and-then momentary recollections of past injustice and cruelty; nevertheless he would recognize with increasing clarity that those fearful recollections could be quickly dispelled by gratefully reminding himself that he was now living in another country and under more just and humane laws.
Similarly, many persons in bondage to the fear, sickness, and other limitations that are inseparable from material sense are learning through Christian Science how to escape from that bondage and find refuge and citizenship in heaven, even in that liberating awareness of ever-present good, which, Jesus said, is not a material locality either far or near, but within the grasp, mentally and spiritually, of everyone, everywhere, all the time. They are learning that laws which claim the ability to fetter men with fear, shackle them with sickness and enslave them with poverty, have no divine authority or sanction. Instead, they are learning that such so-called laws are powerless either to control or to harm the person who understands the spiritual, unfettered, free status of man as God's likeness or spiritual reflection.
However, nothing in what I have said should be taken to mean that Christian Science teaches that there are no real men and women, no real mountains, seas, skies, birds, flowers, and other phases of so-called objective experience. What this Science does claim is that mortals seem to perceive spiritual realities through the medium of material sense, which is always misleading. In other words, finite sense wrongly interprets or, shall we say, it misinterprets reality, the things that are seen being at best only poor material counterfeits or mental misrepresentations of spiritual facts, facts that are ever present, perfect, and intact, but without material accompaniment. We do not say that the material senses tell us nothing, but we do say that what they tell us is untrue. Consequently, their testimony needs to be reinterpreted in terms of the Science of infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation. When so reinterpreted, we shall find that Christian Science satisfyingly explains and at the same time denies the supposed reality of sense testimony and thereby scientifically establishes in individual human experience the harmony that is inseparable from spiritual understanding.
Interestingly enough, we do not trust sense testimony nearly as much as we believe that we do. Even in the finite realm, we are daily explaining and thereby denying the reality of sense testimony. Let us cite only a few already familiar examples. A straight stick, placed in a pail of water, is broken according to sense testimony; but natural science explains this phenomenon on the basis of the reflection and refraction of light, thereby denying sense testimony. If you were to stand on a straightaway railway track, the sense of sight would tell you that the rail lines gradually approach each other and finally meet; but the law of perspective clearly explains this phenomenon and thereby denies sense testimony. For centuries, nothing was more obvious than that the earth was stationary and the sun in motion; but further enlightenment regarding the solar system showed the reverse to be true, thereby explaining and at the same time denying sense testimony.
And so, as the result of the difficulties, disappointments, and failures that have arisen from the common error of believing in an existence apart from infinite Mind there has come a deeper investigation. Interpreting the universe and man scientifically from their divine Principle, we find that this interpretation explains and at the same time denies sense testimony not only in part, but as a whole, whether the testimony should seem to be materially bad or materially good. In the light of divine Mind's allness, we recognize the total unreality not only of matter but of its supposed cause, namely, material-mindedness. In short, Christian Science explains all supposed material phenomena as humanly mental misconceptions of spiritual facts and then interprets them in accordance with infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation. In the proportion that our vision becomes clarified spiritually, we see, in the words of the Revelator, "a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth [are] passed away."
All that truly exists being spiritual and good, how could the very opposite, called matter or evil, have a place in this spiritually good creation? Christian Science denies the reality of matter on the basis that evil has no abiding place in the universe of Truth. It has no more reality than the fearsome ghosts of childhood, the silly superstitions of adult years, or the hallucinations of the man who believed himself to be a kernel of corn and was hiding himself lest the chickens should get him.
In the orderly universe of this Mind which is infinite Spirit and in which every effect is in immutable accord with its divine Principle or cause, there could be no room for evil and its supposed victims, any more than in mathematics there could be a place for numerical mistakes or in music a place for discords. Once the principle of mathematics is understood, numerical errors can be made to disappear. Once the principle of musical harmony is understood, discords can be made to disappear. And, for the same reason, once the divine Principle of being is spiritually understood, the evil appearances called sin and sickness, poverty and death can be made to disappear from individual human consciousness and, accordingly, from individual human experience.
Man is Divine Idea
Interpreting existence from this perfect Principle or wholly spiritual cause, what must be our logical, scientific answer to the heretofore perplexing question, What is man? Our answer is that man is exactly what the Scripture declares him to be: namely, the spiritual likeness, self-expression, or idea of God. Therefore, as the reflection of divine Mind, individual man must be a compound idea forever at spiritual completeness, instead of a material personality, whether young, middle-aged, or old. Christ Jesus exemplified to human consciousness the truth that man, the offspring of God, is not a human personality nor a finite concept of the infinite, but that he is himself a divine idea. In his real being, he consciously embraced or embodied this idea as God's individual self-expression.
The infinite idea or divine manifestation of God is the Christ; it is the coming, appearing, or revelation to so-called human consciousness of the eternality, oneness, and perfection of God and man. It completely governed the consciousness of Jesus. This made it possible for the Master to see that the real and only self of man was not the offspring of Mary nor of any other human parent, but the divine idea, spiritual offspring, or forever son of the eternal Father-Mother, or divine Principle, which we call God. It is this revelation, through Christian Science, of man as the divine idea that is the second coming of Christ. This immaculate idea, or perfect man, Jesus presented more fully than all other men, and it must one day, soon or late, be presented by you and me and all as our true, spiritual, and only selfhood.
This recognition of man as the perfect or Christ idea, cherished in individual consciousness more tenderly than a human mother cherishes her child — it is this cherished recognition that is destined to appear, to be born in, every individual human consciousness. This new birth will not only heal, regenerate, and unify the race, but it will eventually and completely redeem mankind individually and collectively from the delusion that the universe is material and prove that man is not a human person, but instead is an individual, spiritual, compound idea or identity. If you were to ask how these things could be, we should answer, By the inseparability of cause and effect; for the ideals which one entertains, be they worthy or unworthy, spiritual or material, inevitably mold one's character, direct one's career, and determine the state of one's health and morals.
Accordingly, let us keep Christ, the divine idea, or idea of perfection, in the forefront of consciousness as the truth about man, instead of the material or human counterfeit. Let us do this for the benefit not only of ourselves, but of others, including even those upon whom we may have been looking as enemies. This will heal us of hating, cause us to be thoughtful acquaintances, helpful neighbors, and loving friends, and make us true followers of the Master. On page 62 of "Miscellaneous Writings," Mrs. Eddy says, "Holding the right idea of man in my mind, I can improve my own, and other people's individuality, health, and morals; whereas, the opposite image of man, a sinner, kept constantly in mind, can no more improve health or morals, than holding in thought the form of a boa-constrictor can aid an artist in painting a landscape."
A Biblical Illustration
In the story of Jacob and Esau, for example, the Bible illustrates how this true concept of God and man destroys hate and brings about harmonious relations in human experiences. Jacob had greatly wronged Esau, and they had been enemies for years. Now the time had come when Jacob must face the man whom he had wronged, and he feared the outcome. In humility he spent the night in prayer, struggling with a sense of sin and materiality and reaching out to God for healing and purification. Through this faithful striving for a higher sense of existence, Jacob's nature was changed. His thought was uplifted to discern the Christ, Truth, the spiritual reality of being.
When Jacob met his brother in the morning, he was lovingly received, and they embraced each other and wept for joy. Then Jacob said, "I have seen thy face as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me." In spiritual reality both Jacob and his brother were children of God and could not express anything unlike Him. This spiritual understanding destroyed resentment and fear and restored harmony. Accordingly, when you and I can see our fellow man as though we had seen the face of God — in other words, as God's idea or reflection — he will be pleased with us and we with him.
The greed, envy, and hate which cause wars between nations spring from the same beliefs that cause strife between individuals, and they must be overcome by the Christ, Truth, in divine Science. There is no other way. In Genesis we read, "There went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." The mist represents error, the belief of life and intelligence in matter, the belief in an existence apart from God. The mist of erroneous thinking still seems to persist. One of its most aggressive arguments is that mankind is divided into nationalities, races, and religions many, that these groups are inevitably antagonistic, and that this antagonism can lead to war and persecution. The duty of those who are spiritually awake is to deny and destroy this falsity on the basis of the one Mind and its universal expression or spiritual manifestation.
The Final Revelation
Here let us go back in thought to a small sailing ship which dropped anchor in 1620 off the south shore of what is now known as Massachusetts Bay. On board was a band of hardy English pioneers seeking asylum from religious and political tyranny. The little ship was the "Mayflower." Its passengers were the Pilgrims, including men, women and children. The place off which they anchored was later named Plymouth, after Plymouth, England. Here at Plymouth these Christian pioneers laid the foundation of a new nation, a nation that was destined one day — although they knew it not — to witness the final revelation to human consciousness of the scientific, healing, regenerating truth about God and man.
In the midst of this new order of society, which pulsated increasingly from generation to generation with freedom of thought, political independence, and religious toleration — in the midst of this new order of things, there was born in 1821 a child who was one day to be known and revered throughout the Christian world as the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Inevitably, Mrs Eddy's unique character from earliest childhood partook of all that was best in the moral and intellectual realm of the then still early American scene. Keenly alert to the basic problems confronting her country and mankind, she was ever seeking ways and means to solve them.
At length, when she herself seemed to be fatally injured, Mrs. Eddy in her extremity opened her much-used Bible and read anew the story about the healing by Jesus of a palsied man. Suddenly, the healing truth which she had so long and reverently sought burst upon her thought. It burst with such effulgence that she was instantaneously healed of that supposedly fatal injury. Rising from her bed, she dressed herself and walked unannounced into an adjoining room where friends were waiting for the end to come. When one of those present asked in astonishment whether Christ had returned to earth, Mrs. Eddy calmly replied that the Christ and its healing power had never been absent.
Through this and subsequent experiences of similar nature, Mrs. Eddy recognized that the truth which was revealed to her on that momentous occasion was identical with the truth exemplified in the practice of Jesus and his apostles. She recognized it because those experiences were characterized by the unmistakable signs or wonders which, the Master said, would inevitably accompany those who should spiritually understand his teaching.
A Typical Demonstration
With the discovery and founding of Christian Science by Mrs. Eddy came such a revival of spiritual faith and understanding that even many heretofore prejudiced persons were obliged to admit that nothing like it had been seen since the early Christian era. In a particular American community, for example, a number of impressive healings had taken place. And now, in another home a child seemed to be close to death. Medical treatment having already failed, the resolute mother lifted the little form from its crib, wrapped it in a blanket, and left the house, saying as she went out that if only she could reach a particular person who was a Christian Scientist, she was sure that her child would be saved.
After trudging for two miles or more over unlighted country roads, the mother reached her destination with the seemingly lifeless body in her arms. The Christian Scientist quickly recognized that such faith as the mother was displaying could be nothing less than deep-rooted trust in the unseen presence and power of God. This convinced her that victory was already assured. And so it proved to be; for after a night spent in prayerfully reminding herself and the faithful mother of the ever-present and changeless love of God, and that God's children were not material persons either sick or well, dead or alive, but eternal, indestructible ideas, forever safe in the Mind which is God, the case was healed. With the coming of daylight that grateful mother was joyfully on her way home, and in her arms was a normal, well child.
Christian Science shows that the cause of all discord and disease amongst mortals is this mistaken belief that existence is material and that man is a material person. Accordingly, the healer of discord and disease is spiritual recognition of the fact that the universe and man are not material, nor even humanly mental, but divinely mental. Writing in Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy says (pp. 264, 265), "The universe of Spirit is peopled with spiritual beings, and its government is divine Science." Therefore the practical student of Christian Science recognizes that he is associated only with the divine ideas which people the universe of Mind. He recognizes that in this divinely mental realm there are no mortals either sick or well, discordant or harmonious, because there is no existence apart from divine Mind, God. The understanding of this truth restores harmony.
In view of all that I have said, you can see that prayer as understood in Christian Science is not to be used for the purpose of begging God for that which the all-pervading Love is always more willing to give than we are, at times, to receive; nor is prayer to be used for the purpose of communicating with a supposedly far-off God. The understanding, through Christian Science, that omnipresent good is God, teaches us that prayer is not alone importunity, but a strong, affirmative conviction that good is always natural and normal; that it is always in accord with the divine will and purpose that all men should be healed and saved from evil of every sort, here as well as hereafter. Therefore the basis of every true prayer in Christian Science is, "Not my will, but thine, be done."
This understanding of what God's will truly is — never condemnatory, but always helpful and good — this is the effectual, fervent prayer which availeth much. Hence, it is more through spiritual recognition that the good we desire is ever present than through pleading for what seems to be absent or lacking, that prayer is answered in Christian Science. When, for example, we pray or desire that we and others may be lifted out of sickness, wrongdoing, and lack, we need only to recognize and rejoice over the truth that, as children or compound ideas of the Mind which is God, we already have all that we shall ever need, and that we are already everything that we can ever hope to be.
Diligence is Essential
The ability to heal through enlightened prayer (and it was after this manner that Jesus and Mrs. Eddy healed) can be acquired to at least some extent almost immediately. With spiritual understanding, attended by self-abnegation and a yearning to know and do the will of God, will come more and more the ability to accomplish what to human sense may seem to be wonders in healing sickness, transforming character, dispelling poverty, and overcoming sorrow and other aspects of human limitation. This understanding can be acquired progressively by searching for it in the Bible, in Science and Health, and in Mrs. Eddy's other writings as diligently as discoverers have searched for new continents, for mines of precious metals, for deposits of coal, for pools of subterranean oil, and so on. If, I repeat, men were to display a diligence in searching for the truth about God and man comparable to that which they have displayed in the pursuit of material ends, the certainty is that in a suprisingly short time they would receive enlightenment and benefits that would make them champions of Christian Science and devoted followers of Mary Baker Eddy.
Even we who have already experienced the benefits of Christian Science healing, even we who have to at least some extend already come out of sickness, sorrow, and tribulation — even we, I say, recognize only faintly the sacred significance of Christian Science and what it meant for Mrs. Eddy to be its Discoverer and Founder. With the humility, strength, and perseverance born of a holy purpose, this divinely inspired pioneer in the realm of Christian metaphysics has made it clear that the wholly spiritual way is the only way by which mankind can experience true and lasting health, happiness, and peace. By demonstrating and then through her writings showing others how to demonstrate in everyday experience the unity and purity of Christianity and Science, Mary Baker Eddy has made mankind her debtor and has earned for herself a unique place in the religious and scientific history of the world.
In presenting this lecture I have endeavored to show (1) that Christian Science is a divinely metaphysical system based wholly and solely upon the changeless spiritual nature of the universe, including man, as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis; (2) that Christ Jesus proved that he thoroughly understood the wholly spiritual nature of whatever truly exists and, through strict adherence to divine law, freely invoked the healing power thereof; (3) that Mary Baker Eddy discovered and demonstrated the divine Science underlying the teaching and practice of Jesus and named her discovery Christian Science; (4) that Mrs. Eddy formulated her discovery into a scientific system and recorded this system in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures"; (5) that through the prayerful study of the Bible in the light which Science and Health sheds upon its sacred pages, it is now possible, for all who will, to understand divine metaphysics and to practice the art of Christian Science healing.
[Given May 12, 1950, under the auspices of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Detroit, Michigan, and published in The Grosse Point News of May 18, 1950.]