Who Shall Separate Us?

 

Elbert R. Slaughter, C.S., of Dallas, Texas

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

"You can no more be separated from God than sunlight can be separated from the sun," Elbert R. Slaughter, C.S., of Dallas, told an audience yesterday in John Hancock Hall, Boston.

Mr. Slaughter, a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship, spoke here under the auspices of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.

"Have you ever thought about what it means to be really close to God?" he asked, reminding his listeners of St. Paul's statement that ''In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

We can find our unity with God, Mr. Slaughter said, by awakening to the truth of our own eternal spiritual identity. The material picture of life we usually entertain "causes many to assume that God has forgotten them."

". . . We must conclude that material existence is not the product of God, Mind, but rather that it stems from obscurity, lack of intelligence, ignorance," Mr. Slaughter reasoned. As we let into our lives the "goodness of ever-present Deity," replacing the consciousness of material existence with spiritual ideas, we find healing, renewal, and peace, he explained.

Mr. Slaughter recounted several examples of such healing, including that of a serious tumor.

The lecturer went on to say that one wrong thought – hatred, resentment, or malice – can bring inharmony into everything we do. Conversely, he explained, one divine idea begins to change the entire picture for good. It is through daily living with these spiritual ideas that we "discover the kingdom of heaven as a present reality within ourselves."

Mr. Slaughter's lecture was titled "Who Shall Separate Us?" He was introduced by Mrs. Rose M. Henniker-Heaton, Second Reader of The Mother Church.

A partial text of the lecture follows:

 

Man never separated from God

On one of his many missionary journeys, the Apostle Paul found himself in the city of Athens, which at that time was the cultural and intellectual center of the western world. Within its confines were many priceless works of art and sculpture, along with magnificent and imposing buildings. As is usually the case, friends took pride in showing him over the city.

Now the ancient Greeks were polytheists. They had a god for every occasion and an altar for every god. As a consequence it was often impossible for the worshiper to determine to his own satisfaction which of his deities had helped him. So in order to be on the safe side, there was a god whose name was not known, to whom the worshiper might offer praise and thanks if he felt uncertain about the source of his aid.

After Paul had seen an altar to this unknown god, he made a speech to a group of Athenians. He told them that he had observed they were a very religious people. Then he mentioned this altar to the unknown god, which apparently didn't include a statue, for no one knew what the unknown looked like. He, Paul said, is the God we followers of Jesus worship – God who made all things and who dwells not in temples made by men's hands, nor is worshiped by men's hands, because He, being complete, needs nothing. Paul went on to say that this God was a universal Deity, very close to all of us. In fact, he said, "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). But there was so much intellectual complacency among the Athenians and idolatry was so much a part of their lives that few of them were able to accept Paul's teachings.

Have you ever thought about what it means to be really close to God? If we live and move and have our being in God, as Paul says, we must be very close to Him indeed. How different from the idea held by many who believe in God; they assume or have been educated to believe that, while God had some part in bringing them into this state of existence, once they are here it is up to them to work out their own salvation without any definite or substantial assistance from Him. This sort of thinking causes many to assume that God has forgotten them.

The great Wayshower, Christ Jesus or Jesus the Christ, did not so think of himself. In the dark hours before his crucifixion he said, "I am not alone, because the Father is with me" (John 16:32). He had already told his followers, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30); and now before he left them he prayed that all his followers for all time might realize their oneness with God. The "I" who Jesus said was one with the Father had reference to his eternal spiritual identity, and it is through the eternal spiritual identity of each one of us that we, too, find ourselves united with God. Man is not God nor the same as God, but man is forever united with Him, at one with Him, as son with Father, as effect with cause, as creation with its creator.

Would it not be comforting to you and me if we could gain a clear understanding of the fact that in reality we are never separated from God?

Christian Science brings to all the quickening, comforting assurance that God has neither forgotten nor forsaken them but that man is receiving always the Father's tender, loving care, because he is ever at one with God. In learning to understand your real identity, you realize that you can no more be separated from God than sunlight can be separated from the sun. He is your closest and best friend.

To reason logically on this subject we must begin with God; for after all, according to Paul, that is where we live, isn't it – in God? What, then, is this dwelling place of ours? Which is simply another way of asking, What is God? Just how is He to be found vital in our individual lives, in our homes, in our business or profession?

Let's begin with Jesus' definition of God. Most of you are familiar with his statement to the Samaritan woman, "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24). The word Spirit as used here signifies something that is infinite, everywhere, at all times, under all conditions. It couldn't possibly be localized, limited, or outlined.

This all-embracing term "Spirit," signifying God, includes many synonymous terms used or implied by Bible writers to define God. In the book of Deuteronomy we're told that God is Life. Elsewhere in the Bible we find God referred to as Love.

 

God is a vital presence

In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). Christian Scientists understand this to imply that the Father, who animated Jesus in accomplishing his wonderful works, is properly described as divine Mind. The term "Mind" as used here to define God must indicate a Mind which is infinite, ever present, and available.

In the Bible, in the first chapter of the book of Genesis, we find that God created man in His image and likeness. If God is Mind, Spirit, Life, Love, then man must be the exact image of Spirit, and Mind and Life and Love.

This infinite Mind which is God must have some manner or method of expressing itself, and the only way Mind can find expression is through ideas. This divine Mind expresses itself and individualizes itself in ideas, and especially in its compound idea man. It is in recognizing man to be the individualized idea of divine Mind that we find our unity with God and experience all the good that comes from that closeness, that at-oneness, that spiritual unity with our heavenly Father.

Since the time of Christ Jesus no one has had so clear an understanding of man's unity with God as Mary Baker Eddy; she discerned precisely the spiritually scientific nature of this relationship and how it could be demonstrated humanly.

Mrs. Eddy's early religious training and her study of the Bible led her to the conclusion that there's a divine Principle underlying the works and teachings of Jesus and the prophets.

She was released from a life of invalidism and recovered from the effects of a very serious accident after she had turned wholeheartedly to God. She then devoted three years to a prayerful study of the Bible. The result of her work was the discovery of the positive, healing rule of Christian Science, or the Science of Christianity.

Her discovery has led an innumerable host of men and women, who were victims of disease, poverty, sorrow, and ignorance, to find happiness and freedom.

Mrs. Eddy's profound spiritual alertness enabled her to discern the nature of man's unity with God, infinite good. It also enabled her to discern and expose the pretensions of evil and how evil would claim the power to overthrow good, but cannot.

Hitherto we have been dealing with the man who is not visible to the human eye and cannot be comprehended by the five physical senses, whose origin and nature are graphically described in the first chapter of Genesis as God's image and likeness. We learn in the study of Christian Science that this man is the only real man. However, one might logically ask, "What about the man who seems so evident to the five senses – this physical, mortal man? Who made him? What about the world into which he is born, in which he lives, and out of which he dies?"

In the second chapter of Genesis we find a vivid account of the creation of this material man. Here man is pictured as the outcome of a mist; mystification might be as good a word. One dictionary's definition of mist is "anything which dims or darkens, obscures, blurs or intercepts vision, physical or mental."

In the book of the prophet Isaiah this term "mist" is referred, to as "the vail that is spread over all nations" (Isa. 25:7). In the epistle to the Hebrews "vail" is used as symbolic of the flesh. In other parts of the Bible we find the words "darkness" and "ignorance" used in place of "vail" or "mist." Since the flesh is opposed to Spirit, God, we must conclude that material existence is not the product of God, Mind, but rather that it stems from obscurity, lack of intelligence, ignorance.

This mortal, material man is certainly no child of God. He is not even a fallen child of God, who someday may regain his state of perfection. By his very nature he could never be at one with Spirit, God, for, as James writes, "Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs?" (James 3:12), Mortal man never was in a state of perfection, nor have any of his ancestors or forebears enjoyed a state of perfection from which they have fallen.

In Christian Science we learn not only to account for this mortal sense of man as a delusion, but also how to escape from the suffering which belief in its reality claims to produce.

As we have explained previously, God is divine Mind ever present and infinite. Obviously ideas are the only sons and daughters Mind can have. As the son of God, man must be idea, the compound idea of that divine intelligence which is God. The Christ, which Jesus manifested so clearly, is the true idea of all things. As the Christ wholly displaces mistaken and incorrect views from human consciousness, true ideas are revealed as constituting the identity of man, the real man, the man of God's creating, inseparable from God, at one with God.

The Christ, Truth, the true idea or divine manifestation of God, is always awaiting admission into our individual human consciousness. The Revelator puts it in this way, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20).

But what Paul designates as the carnal mind, referred to elsewhere in the Bible as the mist, vail, darkness and so on, counterfeiting the divine Mind at all points, claims existence outside human consciousness, also waiting admission thereto, through our individual thinking. Neither divine ideas nor material thoughts originate in the physical brain. Just as we of our own volition accept into our human consciousness divine ideas, in like manner do we admit into our consciousness mortal, material thoughts.

Divine ideas or mortal thoughts alike, in order to appear humanly, have to be expressed through individual consciousness or thinking. Thus human thinking may be defined as the process of accepting or rejecting either divine ideas or mortal thoughts rather than creating or originating either.

In the operation of our television sets we place the antennae in such a way that the receiving set records the pictures and messages which fill the air, even though we aren't physically aware of their presence. These pictures and messages are manifested visibly and audibly through the aid of the antennae and receiving set, when they are properly adjusted. So it is with our thinking; what we might call our mental antennae, to borrow the language of the television, determines what our bodies, our receiving instruments, record; good or bad.

If our mental antennae are adjusted to the reception of hate, fear, criticism, poverty, worry, discouragement, arrogance, or any one of the myriad forms of evil thinking, then our receiving instruments, our bodies, and our daily experiences are subject to these many forms of evil which lurk in the darkness or mist of mortal ignorance. These forms of evil are recorded in unhappy lives and discordant bodily conditions, such as sickness, sorrow, poverty, sinful habits, and misery in general.

 

Prayer is more than words

On the other hand, as we let our mental antennae be directed to receive love, tenderness, compassion, humility, gratitude and the like, our bodies respond accordingly and our lives are filled with the goodness of ever-present Deity, blessing our every experience and bringing us health, happiness, peace, freedom, and abundance.

Paul tells us we must work out our own salvation. To do this involves eliminating from our consciousness material thoughts by replacing them with spiritual ideas.

Let me tell you the healing experience of a woman I know, brought about in just this way. She was confronted with a serious physical ailment in the form of a pronounced tumor. She certainly had great need to find the kingdom of heaven within her and her unity with God, good. She worked many hours daily to see that what appeared as a physical tumor was part of the false material dream of herself as a physical mortal. It had in reality no substance, no permanence, no true existence; it was and always had been nothing at all. And she had the help of a Christian Science practitioner throughout the time.

One morning about three weeks before the healing took place, she realized that enough specific praying had been done to heal any condition and what she now needed was more spiritualization of her thinking, so that she might accept what God had already done. To do this she must rid her consciousness of undesirable mortal thoughts, such as resentment, limitation, jealousy, envy, fear of the future, and all thoughts of a morbid nature.

She decided to ponder carefully one clear, spiritual idea, over and over, until she realized that it was the very essence of her being. She turned with confidence to God to reveal His message to her and opened her Bible to Jesus' words, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). She knew that this was her answer, so dozens of times daily she declared it, each time adding, "Inspire, illumine, spiritualize, and purify my thinking." These prayers never became rote or mere words, but rather they revealed God's presence and power.

She continued this practice for three weeks, forgetting about her body and no longer struggling to be healed. One day a member of her family told her that she had noticed  great change in her condition. Then it suddenly dawned on my friend that she was healed. Not a vestige of the ailment remained.

Of course, she was deeply grateful for the physical healing, but far more grateful for having proven through this experience – and these are her own words—"that as we replace wrong thoughts with divine ideas, this spiritualization of thought will bring to the human mind the corrective and healing power of divine Mind."

Now let's look more closely at how this divine Mind-healing operates.

The average human being is neither all good nor all bad. His consciousness includes both good and evil thoughts, both spiritual sense and material sense.

When for one reason or another an individual becomes aware of the need of self-improvement, he begins to change his thinking by admitting into consciousness more of the spiritual. Each step toward Christ, Truth, means for him a step away from error or evil. The evil, material elements in consciousness diminish in exact proportion to the amount of good which he admits. As this procedure is steadfastly pursued, mortal thoughts are one by one eliminated and the human consciousness becomes progressively spiritualized. Finally matter with all its ills and limitations will entirely disappear in the experience of that individual. The full demonstration of man's unity with God will have been attained.

Doesn't this explain scientifically and certainly the ascension or disappearance to human perception of Jesus? Along this line Mrs. Eddy writes in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. Christian perfection is won on no other basis" (Page 201).

 

Better thinking betters experience

Does all this seem impractical, nebulous, and farfetched? You have just heard how purification of thought healed a woman of a tumor. Let me now reassure you further from my own experience. When I first heard this healing and regenerative method discussed at a Christian Science lecture, I was in the depths of despair and hopelessness. I had reached a point where life seemed to have no meaning whatever. As I listened, the significance of the lecturer's words gradually began to dawn in my consciousness. Somewhat vaguely at first; but when he had finished, I knew I'd found the way.

I secured a copy of Science and Health and began to study it. I wasn't exactly aware at the time of what this study was doing to me, but mortal thoughts began to be displaced in my consciousness with divine ideas. Hope replaced despair. My daily life became a joyful experience instead of drudgery. My business improved rapidly, my health was restored, and our home became what a home really should be. In fact, a whole new life unfolded for me. I had gained some understanding of man's unity with God.

My study led me to the conclusion that if I was to understand Christian Science I must know more about the Bible which hitherto had been a puzzle to me. It was most comforting to learn that Christian Science offers a logical, demonstrable, and scientific explanation of the Bible. So instead of being a book of mystery, abstractions, and contradictions, the Bible became a way of life for me; it enabled me in the light of Christian Science to work out the problems of everyday living.

So if your life seems drab, incomplete, beset by fear and uncertainty, or if you are simply a seeker for truth, let me recommend that you study the two textbooks of Christian Science, the Bible and Science and Health, carefully. You, too, can clearly recognize your unity with God and feel the strength and assurance which come with that understanding and are manifested in a more abundant life even as it happened to me. Do not become discouraged or disappointed if at first you are not able to grasp the full meaning of what you read. Remember the writer is expressing spiritual ideas through a language designed mainly to convey material thoughts. But persistent effort will bear fruit.

As we recognize God's power and presence by admitting these divine ideas, we bring good into our daily experiences. We begin to see the kingdom of God or rule of good on earth. We begin to control circumstances instead of having them control us. Our material world is the product of material thinking, and as we accept divine ideas into consciousness we eliminate some of the materiality in our world. As fast as we can bring these ideas into consciousness, just so fast will human living lose its inharmonious aspect and take on the aspect of peace and harmony.

As our consciousness is filled with divine ideas, to that extent we can see our fellowmen as Jesus saw them. And as we do that we will not come into contact with dishonesty, hatred, and trickery in our everyday life, except to see their nothingness and so destroy them.

Jesus knew that to the extent we see our fellowmen as in reality the perfect children of God, free from sickness, sin, and poverty, to that extent we are overcoming these conditions in our own experience. In this way we can realize the necessity for guarding our thoughts at all times. One wrong thought in consciousness inevitably affects every thought which we hold in consciousness. It prevents the recognition of our unity with God.

Hatred, resentment, or malice toward one person or thing in our experience will bring inharmony into everything we undertake, even though our mental attitude toward all others is ideal. Conversely, just as one erroneous thought brings inharmony into our entire experience, so will one right idea begin to change the entire picture for good, and the more we entertain these right ideas in thought the more harmonious and pleasing our daily living becomes. In this way we establish in consciousness our unity with God, and by so doing discover the kingdom of heaven as a present reality within ourselves.

 

Goodness blesses all

Did it ever occur to you how often our failure to recognize the presence of God, good, our at-oneness with Him, has its origin in a concern over past mistakes and fear of the future? Quite often our thinking follows this general pattern. Though things may not be too good, we usually feel that right now we are all right. But some mistake we may have made in the past or a dark cloud of fear looming in our future is lurking in our consciousness and it robs us of present good.

Mortal thought swings from one extreme to another. It may tempt us at one time to feel a personal sense of pride and self-satisfaction over some accomplishment, then again to entertain thoughts of self-condemnation and self-depreciation. Sometimes we may be tempted to believe that self-condemnation is humility, when it is actually egotism, claiming that God, whose entire creation is good, finally made a mistake with us. "I am the exception," it says, "I am unique." Well, you are not that at all, in spite of the human evidence which says you are.             

Contrary to the evidence of the eyes, the sun does not revolve around the earth, but the earth around the sun. And Mrs. Eddy tells us, "Thus it is with man, who is but the humble servant of the restful Mind, though it seems otherwise to finite sense" (Science and Health, Page 119).

Self-depreciation arises from the belief that man is a frail, fallible mortal. It can never help us rise above and correct mistakes. This can only be accomplished by gaining the understanding of man's perfection and completeness, his unity with God, and from this standpoint demonstrating by right conduct that man is not a sinner or wrongdoer. Self-condemnation and remorse are not effective weapons in the regenerating process. In fact, to look upon the discordant happenings of the past as realities and mull over them is a hindrance to one's progress. Repentance and reformation are often needful; but no benefit accrues to the individual who allows himself to look back upon the past and wallow in self-condemnation and remorse.

Remember Lot's wife? When the family was instructed to flee from the burning city and commanded not to look back, she disobeyed and looked back upon evil destroying itself. She was immobilized – turned to a pillar of salt.

Self-condemnation sometimes results from a morbid tendency to compare oneself unfavorably with others, which is purely a waste of time. God is not partial. Mrs. Eddy writes, "Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals" (Science and Health, Page 13). All the good any idea of God has is available to all His ideas.

In order to progress Spiritward we must banish from thought the inharmonies which seem to belong to the past, even as we would the unpleasant experience of a nightmare. Repentance is essential for regeneration; but repentance, in making one aware of his transgressions, at the same time enables him to become humbly receptive to the uplifting spiritual ideas which bring relief from discordant and sinful traits.

In like manner we must establish control over our thoughts about the future. Every effort to outline the future, by mere human will or planning, is a moment wasted. If we take proper care of our now, we need have no concern about what is termed "time to come." Remember we can never get away from now. To cross a bridge before we get to it is an impossibility.

Being alert to the newness of being handles the thought of procrastination. If tomorrow never comes, why should we put off? For our own well-being we simply cannot afford to dream away the hours. We rob ourselves of present good.

 

True source of brotherhood

As we realize that man owns no past or future, only the ever-present now of infinite good, we are in position to refute arguments of past mistakes and fears of the future. Did you ever stop to think that now and eternity properly understood are synonymous terms, for neither has a beginning or an ending? We never lived one moment before now and we will never live one moment after now.

Jesus tells us, "Take . . . no thought for the morrow" (Matt. 6:34). Paul speaks of his "forgetting those things which are behind" (Phil. 3:13). Mrs. Eddy states, "We own no past, no future, we possess only now" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Page 12).

Recognizing our sonship with God and our unity with Him, we become aware of the true concept of the brotherhood of man within the fatherhood of God. National, racial, class, and family characteristics exist only in finite material thinking. When each of us recognizes his individual unity with the divine Mind or God, when in St. Paul's words "we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13), then indeed there will be "neither Greek nor Jew, . . . Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free" (Col. 3:11). Christ will be all and in all.

Only as we see our fellowmen in the light of divine Science as they really are, upright, pure, the children of God; only as we bestow upon mankind our tenderness, love, and patience, are we proving our unity with God.

Can you and I then afford to withhold from the world's sick, misguided, sinning, frustrated, and unfortunate the love and tenderness bestowed on such by the Master? You will recall that, even at his crucifixion by those whom he had endeavored to help, Jesus did not condemn nor berate them; rather he said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Had he not done so, he would never have risen.

We can't afford to let the little foxes of suspicion, condemnation, criticism, envy, jealousy, resentment, hate, pride, and self-righteousness take from us our conscious unity with the Father. When we are tempted to judge or condemn, to criticize or find fault, to hate or envy, let us stop and consider how much good, joy, peace, happiness, hope, and comfort one little thoughtful deed, one kind, compassionate look may mean to another and to ourselves. Our need is to denounce and expose not man but the lies of life and intelligence in matter, of a past or future separating us from God's presence, of mist and mystification hiding from us the Truth. And we do it by first affirming the truth of God and man and their indissoluble unity.

This unity, this oneness of man with God, as son with Father, exemplified in the life and works of Christ Jesus, is what you and I must ultimately demonstrate. Then we shall not be like the Athenians with an unknown God. Instead we shall find true at-onement and self-fulfillment in a full and satisfying experience here and now in the presence of God, good, spiritually known and understood.

 

©1964 Elbert R. Slaughter

All rights reserved

 

[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 18, 1967, under the headline "What it means to be really close to God".]

 

 

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