The Healing Method of Christian Science
James Spencer, C.S.B., of Detroit, Michigan
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Physical healing by spiritual means alone is basic to the theology of Christian Science. And you know, this is what most people first raise questions about. Something like this:
"If you had something wrong with you; I mean if you were really sick, what would you do?" This is what I'm going to discuss tonight. I'm going to explain physical healing through Christian Science treatment
Let me say at the outset, that for Christian Scientists the word "healingĒ has a broad meaning. It extends to every part of our lives, not just to the healing of sickness. If includes our families and surroundings, our whole view of man and the universe. It extends to morality and to useful, meaningful careers. It extends to our daily, routine contacts with others, how we think about them and act toward them. In short, healing means proving our direct, individual relationship to the infinite source of all reality. And this kind of healing that touches the whole spectrum of human affairs, deeply involves us in helping others and society as a whole.
But, as I've said, since physical healing by spiritual means alone is what most people first hear about Christian Science, this is what I particularly want to explain tonight.
I'm sure we're all aware the most radically spiritual healer the world has ever known was Christ Jesus. He healed mental illness, blood disorders, blindness and deafness, paralysis, congenital lameness, and the dread leprosy.
All that we learn about him from the Bible and other historical sources clearly indicates that he expected his students to heal, too. He expected them to understand and apply the spiritual truths he taught and demonstrated. You remember he said, "He that believeth on me" (or we might say, understands what I teach), "the works that 1 do shall he do also" (John 14:12).
Jesus explained his healing method many times. But 1 think he put it most simply in these words, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Christian Science treatment, or the method of Christian Science practice, is exactly that - knowing the truth.
Healing, then, isn't altering some condition of the body. It's knowing or realizing the present truth about life, about man and his universe. But this realization isn't just an intellectual one - such as being aware of historical or technical data. It's the actual realization, the deep assimilation, of spiritual ideas of Life and Truth - ideas found in the Supreme Being usually called "God."
So here's a vital point. The basis of the healing method we use is God, thought of in the familiar Biblical terms as Love, Life, Spirit, but also as divine Mind. The Mind that's the source of every worthy thought. Every thought of justice, honesty, integrity comes from this Mind.
As Christian Scientists, we assign all true power, all true law, all true intelligence and action to this infinite, perfect, completely good, completely loving, divine Mind, or God. What this Mind knows is good and perfect and healthy, because it knows its own universal perfection. It knows the truth about you and me. Despite what may appear to us at the moment, there's no true being, no true presence or reality outside of what God knows.
Then we can readily see that thought allied with this all-loving Mind, stemming from it, must also be good. It must be able to promote health, give us strength. Then knowing the truth for the purpose of spiritual healing is knowing ourselves as the outcome of divine Mind. And the realization of this truth makes us free mentally, spiritually, morally - and physically.
A Christian Science treatment works with thoughts and affections, not with material objects and conditions. So although its effects appear in the physical realm, its operation is entirely in the mental realm. It's correcting false thought, false motivation, with true thoughts - thoughts stemming from divine Mind. The choice of thoughts, then, choosing which thoughts to accept as true, is basic to the healing method of Christian Science. We have to accept as true for ourselves and others only what we know comes from God, only what we know comes from divine Mind.
A Healing of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Let me tell you about an actual case of Christian Science healing. This will give you a broad overview of what happens. A friend of mine became incapacitated with rheumatoid arthritis. As the condition developed, she became deformed, was practically helpless, and suffered a great deal. But she was an earnest Christian Scientist and found hope in treatment from a Christian Science practitioner.
Her only medicine was the divine Mind, the God who's all-sustaining Love. The power of this divine Mind expresses itself in spiritual ideas and qualities. Here are some of the spiritual ideas that sustained my friend: that God is completely good: that He has created a universe completely good; that it includes only spiritual identities, perfect, unrestricted, free; that God's true man is the spiritually responsive idea of divine Mind: and that God fully and tenderly sustains man by these life-giving ideas.
My friend eagerly drank in this medicine of divine Mind. She reached out to it and pondered it. She affirmed it, established it in consciousness, and she let it transform her thinking and living.
Because of this, wrong concepts that had been taken in over the years came to the surface and she welcomed tackling them. For instance, she saw the need to express more love and compassion; the need to replace smugness with humility, criticism with honest judgment, and impatience with calm expectation. She rejected from her thought the belief in a God apart from divine Mind, divine Love, the belief in a God who could permit evil as well as good.
Although her suffering was severe at times she was able to reject any temptation to combine material means with Christian Science treatment. She knew it would have denied the very basis of her reasoning. It would have denied the efficacy of spiritual treatment. It would have been consciously or unconsciously a denial of man's perfection as the spiritual creation of a completely good creator. And it would have been an acceptance of this creator as the source of her suffering. It would have actually been a negation to her whole treatment.
My friend glimpsed that there was no place or condition where the perfection of divine Mind hadn't always been present and active. She just needed to become more aware of this truth and understand it better. As she became more conscious of God's man untouched by diseased conditions or guilty thinking, she was completely healed. Christian Science treatment had changed the basis of her thinking from relying on material conditions for her health to the all-sustaining power of divine Mind.
Matter is the Product of Mortal Mind
My friend's healing serves to illustrate that the basis of Christian Science treatment is God, divine Mind. But it also indicates something else that's vital to understanding this completely spiritual means of healing.
The divine Mind needs to be acknowledged as the only power or intelligence that exists anywhere. It's all good and health-sustaining. But if men accept into their thinking the seeming opposite - ignorance, evil, hate, and so on, if men accept the opposite of good into their thinking and give it power, it has a tendency to confuse or delude and, then, to harm them. It would seem to produce the opposite of the health-supporting ideas of divine Mind. It would tend to produce disease-developing beliefs from what we call mortal mind, the conjectural opposite of God, divine Mind.
I've been speaking rather indirectly about the relation between human thought and matter. Frankly, this has been a controversial issue for centuries. Some people think mind and body interact on more or less equal terms, sometimes supporting, other times fighting each other. Some regard matter as fundamental substance, and thought just as a function of matter - dependent on the brain. Still others regard thought as fundamental, and material objects as mere mental shadows like things seen in a dream or in a state of hallucination.
That's basically the view Christian Science takes: matter, including the body, is mental. As I said, we call the mentality which forms these material pictures mortal mind, and we identify all disease as basically mental, just pictures in this mortal mind.
Then because mortal mind and its beliefs are illusion, they must be dealt with as illusion, not as reality - however real they may appear to be. And at times they certainly do appear very real. But every Christian Science healing testifies to their illusory nature; it demonstrates that mortal mind with its beliefs is unreal, that is, without power, that it's temporal, shifting, insubstantial. It dissipates progressively before the recognition of divine Mind as the true spiritual substance of man and the universe.
I want to emphasize an important point here. Such abnormalities of human experience as disease, ugliness, frustration, wrong doing, even wrong thinking - these would rob us of human happiness and all that points toward spiritual reality. They would make life a hell. I know that. But Christian Science destroys them - and destroys them on the basis that they're aggressive lies of mortal mind. But at the same time, this treatment doesn't sweep away the good and true and useful in human experience; not anything that even symbolizes or hints at the deeper reality. On the contrary, it enables everything good and useful to shine out more clearly all around us making our present life healthier, more satisfying - really worthwhile.
This, then, is how my friend was healed of the arthritic condition. She began to see through the lies of mortal mind, and her belief in the reality of disease was set aside. It was replaced by a clearer spiritual understanding of divine Mind and its perfect, healthy concepts.
This healing method goes back to the revolutionary discovery that Mary Baker Eddy made. She was the one who founded the Church of Christ Scientist, and wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This book explains in depth the healing method of Christian Science. In it Mrs. Eddy writes: "My discovery, that erring, mortal, misnamed mind produces all the organism and action of the mortal body, set my thoughts to work in new channels, and led up to my demonstration of the proposition that Mind" (and here she's speaking of God) "that Mind is All and matter is naught as the leading factor in Mind-science" (p.108-109)).
This was truly revolutionary. Sickness had been thought of as the result of functional and organic disorders. It had been thought of as caused by a condition of matter and treated from that basis. But this new revelation enabled Mrs. Eddy to write: "Disease is an image of thought externalized" (S. & H. p. 411). She discovered that unhealthy conditions of all types could be healed by the understanding of divine Mind's presence, its power and perfect action. She applied this spiritual force to healing in her own experience and for others.
For example, a young boy was suffering from a diseased condition of his knee-joints. The doctor considered his case hopeless. Mrs. Eddy treated him. He was healed quickly, walking and playing normally. This of course, was many years ago. But through this same tremendous discovery, my friend was recently healed of arthritis and countless others have been and are being healed of all kinds of sickness.
To go back to just what the discovery basically is. As explained in Science and Health, it's this. That all real being is in God, Spirit, the divine Mind. That the material body and all its action are produced by erring, mortal misnamed mind. And that the realization of God's infinite perfection, of His allness and goodness, and the realization of man's relationship to Him, restores health - wholeness in the widest sense.
Destroying the Roots of Disease
Now after getting this overview of what happens in treatment, let's go further into the actual method of treatment. As you can see, an important part of a Christian Science treatment is the correction, the rooting out, of wrong thoughts, wrong concepts, through the operation of divine Mind. In other words, as we accept the enlightened spiritual ideas of divine Mind, we get rid of these wrong concepts.
You know, a gardener with a mower cuts off the tops of weeds and makes a lawn look good for a while until the weeds grow again. But if he digs the weeds out by the roots, they don't return.
The three roots of disease, which Christian Science treatment eradicates according to the specific need in each case, are fear, ignorance and sin, that is, wrong doing or wrong thinking, All sickness sprouts from them.
Let's look for a moment at fear. Fear may be generally accepted. It may be a fear we're not even conscious of - fear of contagion, of loss, of age, lack, loneliness, to mention just a few. Or fear may be particular - fear that something evil will happen or is happening to us or to our family. This tyrannical threat, rooted in mortal mind, is efficiently eradicated by the operation of divine Love, or God, because fear can't remain in the thought conscious of divine Love's sheltering care.
This Love isn't just emotion - however warm and outgoing. And it's a great deal more than gentleness and kindness. The Love that casts out fear is God Himself - the source of all good and the source that's only good. Itís the very nature or law of divine Love to destroy everything unlike good because it knows only its own perfection. Isn't it the very nature of light to destroy darkness just because it is light? But darkness isn't really a thing that's being destroyed. It's nothing; and its nothingness is recognized in the presence of light. Likewise, fear isn't a power in itself. It's a belief in a power apart from the ever-present power of omnipotent good, divine Love. And divine Love knowing its own perfect allness disperses the false belief calling itself fear. At the same time, it disperses the sick-producing effects of fear.
Let me illustrate this by going a little more deeply into a case where fear was at the root of a physical disorder.
An Abnormal Growth is Dissolved
For several years I had a small growth. As it grew larger, I became very concerned. So I gave myself a Christian Science treatment each day. I remembered Mrs. Eddy's counsel to a young man: "Pray daily, never miss praying, no matter how often: 'Lead me not into temptation,' - scientifically rendered, - Lead me not to lose sight of strict purity, clean pure thoughts; let all my thoughts and aims be high, unselfish, charitable, meek, - spiritually minded."
I checked my thoughts frequently to discipline them, and to try to make them more spiritual. I resolved to calmly reflect divine Love as clearly as I could. I knew this would act as a law of annihilation to fear and to abnormal rebellious action such as the growth.
Every time I became afraid I turned my thought to the ever-presence of divine Love. And I felt secure in the presence of that Love which is completely good and allows only good to develop. I prayed to dispel the darkness of fear by yielding to the spiritually-illumined ideas of divine Mind; ideas which revealed the allness of God and the consequent nothingness of a power apart from Him; ideas which revealed man's pure likeness to his all-pure spiritual source.††††††††††††††††
I found myself realizing spiritual facts somewhat along these lines: "1 have nothing to fear because I'm continuously aware of divine Love's omnipotence. This Love is all power and the only power. It's all good, and only good. So good is the only power, and the only power is good. There's no evil power or force.
"I have nothing to fear because I'm continuously aware of divine Love's ever-presence. It's the nature of divine Love to care for me. And it's my nature to respond to that Love. There's nothing about my nature or being that responds to disease or to diseased conditions. I'm responsive to the divine Mind that knows me; the Mind that supports, sustains and maintains me."††††††† †††††††
What was actually happening here was that God Himself was being more clearly revealed to me. By aligning myself with that Mind, I was becoming so conscious of divine Love's power and presence that I lost the sense of fear. I gained a recognition of the health and vitality of spiritual man - the only true being I ever had known or could ever know. This was far more than an intellectual exercise. It was spiritual realization!
In this more purified consciousness the inharmonies of mortal mind were being eradicated. Remember what Mrs. Eddy discovered about disease, that it was "an image of thought externalized." So as my thought was being corrected, being permeated with the truth of divine Mind, my body was responding to health-supporting ideas. There was nothing left in my thinking to support or be externalized as an unhealthy condition - or an abnormal growth. I woke up one morning and found the growth completely gone. There wasn't even a mark where it had been.
Christian Science treatment eradicated fear through the understanding of divine Love. And without the root of fear to support it the growth dissolved.
You can see from this healing that Christian Science treatment isn't the process of the human mind reacting upon itself or on the body. It's true Christian healing. It's the elevation of thought to behold the allness and goodness of God, and man's relationship to Him. It's summed up in this helpful statement by Mrs. Eddy: "May the light of Divine love so illumine your mind that you behold yourself in His likeness, even as you are, - the image of perfect Mind."
Spiritual Understanding Heals Leukemia
Let's look at another of the roots of disease - ignorance. And perhaps a brief story can help us here.†††
Several years ago a man was teaching his son how to be successful in business. "Son," he told him, "always have what the customer wants."
Some time later the son had set up his own retail fish market. One afternoon, he was getting ready to go home, when a lady walked in and asked for a certain large size fish.† He didn't have it; in fact, he'd only one small fish left. But he remembered his father's advice and reached into the ice-chest for that one small fish. The lady quickly said, "I need a larger fish. I've got four to feed." Again he remembered his father's words to have what the customer wants, and he said, "Yes, ma'am."
He threw the fish back into the ice-chest, shuffled it around a few times and then pulled it back again, stretching it a bit at both ends. His customer looked at it carefully and said, "That one'll do fine." Then as an afterthought: "But to play safe I'd better take both."
When we believe in the power of sickness, in the power of evil, we're being misled. Like the lady in the fish market, we're accepting a situation that only appears to be true. The philosopher John Locke said, "Error is not a fault of our knowledge, but a mistake of our judgment." Misleading, disease-producing concepts are the result of judging from the standpoint of ignorance - ignorance of Spirit's all-power and man's spiritual substance.
Jesus showed how a life of limitation and disease can be changed to freedom and health by overcoming ignorance. He said, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Then your life and mine - a healthy, satisfying, abundant sense of life - is the direct result of really knowing God, actually realizing the ideas of divine Mind.
When we do this, the ignorance of mortal mind is replaced by spiritual understanding. Then we gain the sense of man as he truly is. The inevitable result of this spiritual understanding is health and freedom.
A woman I knew had just begun studying Christian Science when her son, about three years old, became gravely ill. Her husband who wasn't yet interested in Christian Science took him to a well-known children's hospital. Many tests were taken, and the case was diagnosed as leukemia. The family was told that nothing could be done.
In answer to his wife's pleas, the husband let the boy be taken home. A Christian Science practitioner was called and he began to treat the child through prayer.
The practitioner and the child's mother both turned to God with all the faith they had. And by ''faith" I mean more than just hope or blind trust. "The prayer of faith," which the Bible assures us "shall save the sick" (James 5:15) is spiritual understanding, or the true knowledge of God, man and the universe. And it dispels the ignorance or the false concepts about them. ††
They recognized divine Mind as the governing, controlling Principle of everything in whatís called the physical and human realm as well as in the spiritual. They knew that God's will or power was superior to any other so-called force. It became clear to them that the divine Mind was the only true Mind, and that the ideas, qualities and activities of this Mind constituted the only reality, the true, indestructible substance of the child.
This treatment stopped the intrusion of the false concepts of mortal mind. These had been delineating their ugly forms, as disease in the child's experience and body. In any area of thought you know that when you understand true facts and apply them, they correct and dispel what's false. So here the recognition of infinite Mind's presence, power and activity began to dispel the inharmonies of mortal mind called a sick child.
This had a marked effect. The child began to improve. He began to eat and in a few weeks to play. Five weeks later the hospital wanted to take another test. The father was still very much afraid and insisted on it. The test was made, but not a trace of the disease could be found. The child was completely healed.
Seventeen years later the boy was appointed to Annapolis. When his medical history form showed he had had leukemia, he was given a rigorous examination and then accepted as being in excellent condition.
What is this "prayer of faith," or knowledge of God, that so effectively healed the child? It's the understanding that God is the one true cause directly controlling every effect in His universe.
Jesus' perception of God as Father and of man as God's image or spiritual likeness was the basis on which he healed.
It was this profound understanding that illumined Jesus' teaching, and was exemplified in his healing work. It elevated simple faith in good to the standpoint of spiritual understanding of God and all that God is and does. He said: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). Look deeply into the effect and you'll find the divine cause. This is what Jesus enabled men to do, spiritually to see divine cause and effect, perfect God and perfect man; to dispel the ignorance or delusion and misconception with the knowledge of man's relation to his divine cause. And even a glimpse of this true relationship healed them.
Mrs. Eddy pondered Jesus' teaching. She knew there must be a continuing Principle behind his works. The Bible was her guide and healing was her proof. She writes: "I had found unmistakably an actual, unfailing causation, enshrined in the divine Principle and in the laws of man and the universe, which, never producing an opposite effect, demonstrated Christianity and proved itself Science, for it healed the sick and reformed the sinner on a demonstrable Principle and given rule" (My. p. 348).
So you see spiritually scientific prayer advances beyond blind faith. It demonstrates the spiritually scientific understanding Jesus taught and exemplified. This understanding is the cultivated ability to see beyond the superficial testimony of ignorant matter to look through outward appearances to spiritual reality.
In heavy fog our eyes can't pierce very far into the haze. But switch on the radar, and you see mountains and other forms indistinguishable before. So with spiritual understanding we recognize good by using a set of senses, which are far different from the physical senses. With these we penetrate the hazy exterior of ignorance. We get a view of man's true nature. We see him as the perfect effect of his perfect divine cause.
Through spiritual sense, my friend gained a view of her child's true being as the spiritual creation of a perfect creator. This view was going right down to the bedrock of spiritual understanding. It strengthened and deepened her faith. It enabled her to overcome her ignorance, or delusion, and to look beyond the appearance of sickness to the spiritual facts of wholeness and health.
She began to see that neither she nor the practitioner was really responsible for healing her son. That neither one was the agent of healing. That healing wasnít something concocted by the human mind. But it was the result of the law of God, divine Principle, in operation; a law that was ever-operative and ever-available. Her task was to see it, to bring her thinking into line with it and yield to it. She had to do her part in order to be receptive to the spiritual truth that would make her child free. But the actual healing effect was the result of divine Mind revealing itself and its own perfection to her and to the practitioner. Divine Mind was fully responsible for sustaining its own pure creation.
To pull these last two points together, let me say that to heal we first must be motivated by Love. This destroys fear. And second, we must work through spiritual understanding, by quietly listening for divine ideas. This destroys ignorance. But underlying this healing is the activity of God Himself, of divine Love, Principle, Mind. Mrs. Eddy sums it up clearly: "That individual is the best healer who asserts himself the least, and thus becomes a transparency for the divine Mind, who is the only physician; the divine Mind is the scientific healer (Misc. p.59).
Wrongdoing Detected and Rejected
We've looked briefly at how the healing method of Christian Science deals with those two roots of disease - fear and ignorance. Now let's glance at the third root - sin or wrongdoing and the wrong thinking that lies behind it.
Basically, sin is the belief in separation or alienation from God. You might say it's the distance between the spiritual fact - perfect God and perfect man - and the material belief that man is a willful, biological being. This belief of distance or separation appears in the particular forms of selfishness, self-will, greed, dishonesty, hate and so on. It ranges over the entire spectrum - from innocent mistakes to the most malicious forms of evil. Its detection and correction are vital to healing.
Letís go back to that fish market. You might say a suggestion stemming from mortal mind tempted the young man to mislead his customer. Had he detected the suggestion and rejected it, he wouldn't have been caught red-handed. His customer's mistake was ignorance, but his mistake was sin.
We put aside wrongdoing by putting off the belief that the man God causes can ever really be capable of wrongdoing, be formed from matter, be a self-willed mortal separated from God, Spirit. We replace this belief with a sense of manís spiritual nature, with the knowledge that he's motivated and impelled by divine Mind. That he's inseparable from it, the very emanation of that Mind, expressing the moral and ethical purity of that Mind.
This is the Truth which Christian Scientists consider to be the Messiah. I mean that the long-promised, delivering Christ wasn't just the human man Jesus, but the Truth he preached and practiced, his spiritual selfhood, which made him inseparable from his Father at all times.
The Christ, then, is the healer and deliverer. Its mission is to dissolve the belief in our separation from God and show us our eternal unity with Him as His continuing expression. Yes, we love and revere Jesus as deeply as do all Christians, and we're thankful he so fully expressed the Christ, or divine Truth of being, in a human way, but the Christ is universal Truth. It appears in a degree in the lives of spiritually minded men everywhere on earth and in every age. It even appears in our experience here today.
So the solution to the belief of separation from God - a belief that's caused untold suffering from self-will, greed, malice and ungodliness - the solution to this belief is the Christ. It's the consciousness of man's sinless, pure, unbroken relationship to God.
We each have the ability to perceive this, no matter how far or how long we may have gone in the wrong direction. The presence of the healing Christ is always at hand to guide us and lift us.† Mrs. Eddy once said: "Work and wait, watch and pray, till you know the allness of God, and in that understanding you will gain the desired result, the 'secret place,' where you can abide under the assurance spiritual, of His support."
A Christian Scientist was once experiencing a great deal of pain over a period of several weeks. It became so acute that he found it difficult to move. He and a practitioner prayed earnestly for a clear perception of the Christ, the consciousness of man's true oneness with his perfect creative source, God.
During an especially trying time, the practitioner perceived that jealousy and hate directed toward the patient were at the base of the problem. The solution was to see the powerlessness of anything apart from divine omnipotence. The patient gained a clearer sense of his true being; a clearer sense of his unity with divine Mind. He saw that a so-called evil influence could harm him only to the degree that he believed in his own separation from God. He refused to continue to indulge in this type of sinful thinking himself.
He remembered these arresting words of Mrs. Eddy's: "Beloved Christian Scientists, keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them. It is plain that nothing can be added to the mind already full. There is no door through which evil can enter, and no space for evil to fill in a mind filled with goodness" (My. p. 210).
He saw that filling his mind with Truth and Love was actually to think from the standpoint of divine Mind - to think the thoughts of that Mind. In divine Love there are no hate-producing or hate-supporting beliefs. In divine Truth there are no disease-permitting or disease-inflicting beliefs. There are only the ideas of divine Mind always revealing protection and health as factual.
With the recognition of God's all-presence came the calm assurance of his freedom. Within a very short time he was completely well.
We can each find for ourselves that divine Love is sufficient for every need. It knows no bounds. It's alike for everyone. No one can be cut off from it, no one can be separated from it - no nation, no race, no individual - because divine Love is everywhere. And it's always able and willing to care for us.
The Ultimate Significance of Healing
Well, we've covered a lot of ground this evening. So let's briefly review what happens in Christian Science treatment.
In the healing that results from it, the basis of our thought begins to change. The belief in a personal, mortal mind with its fear-producing, ignorance-developing, sin-supporting beliefs begins to yield to the intelligent, spiritual facts of divine Mind. This change of basis brings changed concepts. God is actually revealing Himself and His creation, man, as perfect and forever intact. Corrected thought then expresses itself in healed and invigorated lives.
In its widest sense, Christian Science treatment is the realization of God as perfect cause and man as perfect effect. Specifically, it's the action of God meeting a particular problem. Its nature is therapeutic - as well as moral, ethical, and spiritual. In a word, Christian Science treatment demonstrates God as the divine Principle that governs and controls each one of us.