We Can Change Our World
James Spencer, C.S., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Like aquanauts and astronauts we
must launch out, seeking new ways to think of God and man, a Christian Science
lecturer told his audience in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist,
"Mankind has carried its
separating, hate-producing tendencies a long time," said James Spencer,
The challenge remains unmet, Mr. Spencer continued, because men center their thoughts largely on "technology and materiality rather than on humanity and spirituality." If the invisible - the consciousness of our basic relation to God - is neglected, then the visible part of our life suffers.
Thought that is rooted in God is the way to a better world, the lecturer said. He defined God, according to Christian Science, as the one infinite Mind, the "intelligence of all real being."
Efforts to correct social injustices and to heal physical and moral problems in Christian Science have a deeper basis than is immediately apparent, the lecturer said. These healing activities, he explained, show the concern of Christian Science with humanity, but they are grounded in the even deeper concern of proving the perfection of God and His care and protection for man.
Mr. Spencer was introduced by Mrs. Elizabeth Glass Barlow, Second Reader of The Mother Church.
A partial text of the lecture follows:
Computers canít outmode thinking
This is an age of fantastic technological progress - of astronauts probing space and†† aquanauts probing the oceans. The sciences and technology are uncovering new facts faster than the human mind can analyze them. But even in this technological explosion it's still the kind of thinking we do that determines the course of our lives and the freedom and peace of the world. For instance, computers can vastly increase the flow of information, but they can't create love and understanding in the heart. They can make over a million separate decisions in one second, but they can't change our feelings toward the man living next door. They can store and retrieve knowledge, but they can't remove hate and suspicion between nations.
In spite of the wonders of modern technology we're still being faced with the age-old basic challenge of living freely and peacefully with each other. As we look around us, we see dissension and distrust between nations. We see civil disorder within our own nation. We see student unrest and violence in the streets. In some other countries we see order but at the price of apathy and oppression. Can't we find a way to live together freely and vigorously but without hatred, without war, without crime and greed, without hunger, without despair?
Now, it isn't possible to solve all the world's problems in this lecture. But a course to a solution can be indicated. Then, as we follow this course, we'll experience health and freedom in our lives. And as we steer correctly in our contacts with the world we'll give the world some measure of release from its tensions.
The demand on us today is to do it. The temptation is to defer it or to give up in despair or cynicism and to retreat from society into a mental and physical numbness.
Mankind has carried its separating, hate-producing tendencies a long time - from the very beginning of history. But you know how a wave thunders and crashes against the shore before it breaks up and recedes into the ocean. So now these destructive forces are thundering. They're threatening to tear apart the fabric of human society on a more terrible scale than ever before. But at the same time, they're forcing us to look deeper than ever before for a just and lasting answer. As we gain the answer, hate and aggressiveness will dissipate just as the wave melts back into the ocean, and love and cooperation will remain.
In trying to see a way out of these troubles I'd like us to do some exploring together. I'm not asking us to become astronauts or aquanauts, but I'm asking us to become what we might call thoughtnauts - because the purpose of this lecture is to show how thinking from a right basis will give us a better world. And by a right basis I mean God, the one divine Mind or intelligence of all real being. I hope you're willing to launch out from the familiar into mental and spiritual concepts of God and man that may be less familiar.
So, as we probe these concepts, let's consider: How can we select the right basis for thought? And: How does thinking from this correct basis affect us and our world?
Let's look at the first question: How can we select the right basis for thought? Today our thought is based largely on technology and materiality rather than on humanity and spirituality, and this is at the root of our inability to live freely and peacefully with each other.
Let's use the analogy of a ship to show why. The superstructure of the ship (the part that's above the water) is the visible part of it. And it rests on and is supported by the hull and the keel (the part that's below the water), the invisible part. If you take away the hull, the superstructure will sink. Rocks could punch holes in the hull. Undersea perils of every kind must be guarded against. The hull, as every seaman knows, must be kept seaworthy so as to support the superstructure. So a lookout keeps alert. He gives warning to allow protective action to be taken.
'We need to be lookouts'
Now applying this analogy directly to our lives: The visible - the human sense of things, our body, our home, our technology, everything in our daily affairs - is the outward expression of the invisible - our understanding or lack of understanding of the spiritual sense of things, of our true being and our relation to God. If the invisible - the consciousness of our relation to God, the intelligent, divine Mind - is neglected, it decays. Then the visible - the body, home, daily affairs - soon suffers.
If this happens, the temptation is to become afraid and look harder at the sickness or discord and see what to do about it. But that keeps us from attending to the necessary part - the invisible, our thinking. So the visible gets worse. In this way, reasoning from the basis of an unintelligent false sense of mind hypnotizes our thinking. But right at that point - right at the moment our health, our loved ones, our safety are threatened by some peril - right at that point there's a course we can follow to health, safety, and the fulfillment of our highest ideals.
We need to be lookouts. We need to see where the danger lies and correct it in the invisible - in our thinking - and to do this from the basis of the one infinite divine Mind. Then the visible - our experience - will be protected and guided.
Two distinguished men have made some interesting remarks about the nature of this basis - one a philosopher and the other a physicist.
The French philosopher Claude Tresmontant pointed out that it's difficult to explain the universe without the hypothesis that there's a creative will and intelligence behind it. He discounts matter as the source of it. And he cites God as the life-giving, thought-impelling force behind the universe.
And the eminent rocket expert Dr. Wernher von Braun has said: "I find it best, through faith, to accept God as an intelligent will, perfect in goodness, revealing himself in the world of experience more fully down through the ages, as man's capacity for understanding grows."
Here two prominent thinkers in very different walks of life agree that intelligence isn't created by matter, by nerve cells, or electrical impulses, but that it's the effect of a divine force; that this force is an impelling power, a dynamic stimulus.
Christ Jesus referred to this divine force when he said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John ). And he proved what thinking from the standpoint of divine intelligence will do. He healed the sick - those sick in body and those just plain sick of life, at least as they found it. He regenerated the moral dropouts. He fed hungry crowds, stilled a storm, and even raised the dead.
He showed that men could be honest, healthy, safe, and live freely and peacefully with each other by grounding their thinking on the right basis, the universally intelligent, divine Mind, God. Imagine what such living could do today for our tensed cities and the fortified frontiers between nations.
In her writings Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, clearly reveals the nature of God as the one infinite Mind. And Christian Scientists use this name for God as the purposeful, divine intelligence behind the universe, the source or basis of all intelligent thought and action. In her book "Miscellaneous Writings" Mrs. Eddy says, "Every human thought must turn instinctively to the divine Mind as its sole centre and intelligence." And she underscores the importance of this in our lives when she adds, "Until this be done, man will never be found harmonious and immortal" (pp. 307-308). She exemplified in her own life this natural turning to divine Mind.
One day, when Mrs. Eddy was a child in school, an insane man came to the playground and was terrorizing the children with a club. Young Mary Baker, as she then was, intuitively felt the true source of that man's intelligence. Even at that early age she sensed that there was a higher controlling power that could calm and govern his thinking, and her heart went out to him. She walked up to him fearlessly and asked him to leave. He became calm and went away. The next Sunday he sought her out at the Congregational Church attended by the Baker family. He stood calmly next to her and after the service quietly left with those sent to care for him.
In later years she was to understand the Science or divine law that would heal all degrees of mental dullness or instability.
This Science has as its Principle the divine Mind, God. And it's demonstrated through thinking based not on brain cells but on the divine Mind. This divine Principle, God, isn't an unknowable abstraction. It's the source of all spiritual action and law. It's always alive and knowable. It's divine Life, divine Love, all good. True thought isn't thinking based on material observation; it's the expression of this divine Principle.
And this Principle is universal. We, you and I, can apply it, yield to it, any time, anywhere. We can never really be cut off from this basis of our thinking. In a space capsule, in a submarine, on a battlefield, in despair, in sickness, in terror - we can never really be out of its reach. No political curtain, social curtain, educational or economic curtain can shut it out.
Everywhere Principle, God, divine Mind, provides a basis for our thinking in accord with spiritual law, the only true law there is. And it's always available, always right here to heal and support us.
So you and I can scientifically demonstrate the power of God for ourselves and others. Such demonstration demands our seeing clearly what true thought is and how far reaching it can be. That it's the impulsion of right intelligent ideas from the divine Mind. That we can experience the power of divine Mind to support and sustain us in our health, our choice of direction, and our progress. And that we can help others to experience this.
But since this one infinite divine Mind, this law maintaining Principle, is ever-present as a basis for intelligent right ideas, what's the source of the many opposite kinds of thought? Where do the aggressive evils and tragedies we see around us come from? And the sickness, accidents, crime, hate, greed, war? Don't they contradict the ever-presence of God and His law? Don't they undermine and wash away the foundation for our right basis of thinking?
They would, if they had any secure basis themselves, but they don't. As we understand it, they arise from the supposition that there's another mind besides the divine Mind, another mind that's the very opposite of divine Mind. We call this false, negative, limited sense of mind mortal mind. It's something that isn't really true at all.
Break through the illusion
We're all familiar with optical illusions. They present visual misconceptions or false impressions. For instance, as part of my Marine Corps training I was given a test in perception. It was really a test of my ability to analyze some of these optical illusions. I looked at a box which appeared to be turning in one direction when actually it was revolving the opposite way.
Mortal mind with all its evils is a false impression presented not only to our vision, but also to our hearing and feeling and thinking. You might call it total illusion.
Have you ever become so deeply involved in a nightmare that you found you couldn't let go of it, even after you woke up? Or have you ever become so involved with negative thinking about a person or condition that it seemed you couldn't drop it or think objectively about it? Something at home or at the office? Some person or even a physical condition? Well, that's material mindedness, or mortal mind. Mortal mind aims to perpetuate its illusions by getting us so involved with its misconceptions that we won't let go of them.
But the total illusion, mortal mind with its so-called laws and all its various phenomena, has no real control over us, no power over us. It can't create a true effect or condition. It can't cause disease or immorality. It can't cause limitation or sorrow. It can't cause war or famine. It can't cause anything. But it certainly does seem to until we recognize it as an illusion.
So what do we do about it? In that Marine Corps test with the box, once you perceived the false nature of the illusion confronting you it lost its power to confuse you. You could then penetrate the illusion and see the fact of what was happening. So thinking from the right basis, from the basis of the one divine Mind, pierces the total illusion and corrects the misconceptions which make up mortal mind.
Most challenging adventure of the age
As long as we think from the basis of a mind apart from God, of a law apart from divine Principle; as long as we do that, we're adding to the confusion of this total illusion. Without meaning to we actually contribute to building up sickness, strife, and suffering. We build it up in our own lives. We build it up in the world. Why, it's just like punching holes in the hull of the ship. It brings down the entire superstructure. But the discovery that we can resist this aggressive phase of mistaken thinking - not only for ourselves but also for others - is the most challenging adventure of the age.
The response of Christ Jesus to the illusion of mortal mind centuries ago is still very much to the point. He waged a true war on poverty; a war on sickness and degradation. It was a war on the illusion of mortal mind. He demonstrated the power of God, divine Mind, to penetrate and dispel it.
Jesus' life exemplified the basis of right thinking for all of us for all time. His thinking was rooted in the divine Mind. This power of divine Mind to heal and save is what we call the Christ, the irresistible power of God meeting every one of our human needs. Jesus was so at one with God, this divine Mind, that he was freely able to demonstrate its power; so we call him Christ Jesus.
The Christ is timeless. It's ever-operative and ever-available for us right here and now. It's available for everyone everywhere. It operates in our lives as the power of God to sustain and support us - to heal us, comfort us, and free us from any discordant condition.
The Christ is telling you and me the truth about ourselves. It's the way divine Mind reveals itself to us - through right, intelligent ideas. It breaks the hypnotic spell of the physical senses and lets us see through the fog of mortal mind. It demonstrates to us that things aren't what they appear to be, that we're not chained by evolutionary or hereditary characteristics, that we're not controlled by biochemical reactions or preprogrammed by nervous impulsions, that we're not molded by psychological concepts or urges.
The Christ shows us instead that in reality we're governed, controlled, and impelled by the one creative Mind, God; that we're never unaware of this Mind or its helpful, spiritualizing ideas; that these ideas are available to every individual everywhere; and that no ignorance or false education can keep us from expressing these ideas ourselves or from seeing them expressed by our fellowmen. To the degree that we yield our thinking to the Christ-power operating in our lives the Christ lifts us out of suffering and wrongdoing. And it will eventually lift all mankind.
God provides right basis for thought
In summary, then, How can we select the right basis for thought? We won't find this basis in a biological or sociological concept of man. We'll find it by looking to God as the intelligent Mind, the source of all right thought. This Mind is a law of harmony and order to our daily lives, giving us health, purpose, and direction.
If we'll listen to what the Christ is constantly telling us about ourselves, we'll not allow ourselves to be duped by a false sense of mind. We'll be alert lookouts and we'll be able to keep our thinking on the right basis. If we'll yield to the ever-present power of divine Mind, then we'll be assured that our thinking and therefore everything in our daily experience is firmly based on that Mind and supported by it.
Now let's go to the second question: Just how does thinking from this correct basis affect us and our world? The answer to this question highlights the deep concern Christian Science has for humanity.
Christian Science is concerned with healing physical, moral, and mental problems. It's concerned with correcting social evils and social injustices. But its concern for this isn't just to bring about a happy material state of things.
Its deeper concern is to prove the basic fact of the perfection of God, divine Mind, divine Principle; and man's relation to God as God's perfect spiritual creation. It's concerned with proving the powerlessness of false, evil forces through the presence of God's omnipotence. As we bring our thinking into line with the divine Mind and insist that the basis of our thinking be that Mind, we awaken ourselves to the practical law of divine Principle operating in human experience. Then we're able to apply this Principle to help ourselves and those around us.
Here's an example. When I was in college I played on the varsity football team. We were having a hard-fought game against a team that often pulled some pretty underhanded tactics. During one play I raced downfield and threw a body block on my opponent. As I threw myself in front of him, he gave me a good swift kick in the side. I was out for the rest of the game.
I earnestly lifted my thought to divine Mind to base my thinking on true reality, to realize the truth about myself so I could be free of pain.
But 10 days later I could still only run at half speed and could hardly lift my arms up to receive a pass.
I talked to a practitioner about the situation, and together we saw my mistake in the way I was applying Christian Science. I thought I'd been praying clearly. But I found that my prayer was exclusive and self-righteous. I was thinking only about myself. I wasn't correcting my wrong thoughts about the other player. I'd been trying to see the spiritual fact about myself as the creation of God - healthy, free, active, expressing God's qualities. But I'd also been seeing the other fellow as an underhanded, dirty-playing mortal, expressing negative, aggressive qualities.
That type of thinking certainly couldn't bring about a healing. Every time I fastened this lie on him I nailed my own suffering right back on myself. We always come right back face to face with the kind of experience we mold from our own thinking. What we think is the forerunner of what we meet in our lives. I couldn't see the spiritual fact about myself that would free me from the pain so long as I refused to see the spiritual fact about the other player's true being, so long as I failed to be as concerned about his well-being and his difficulties as about my own.
Looking at it another way: Every so often our automobile industry remakes its die-casts. These casts stamp out the shape of the new model cars. In order to change the model the makers have to change the cast or mold. If an imperfection appears in the cast, it'll be stamped out every time in the model.
'Mental retooling' heals football injury
Our thinking is the cast, and our body - and our experience as a whole - is stamped out daily and hourly in the form of the cast. "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" brings this out clearly where Mrs. Eddy writes: "Deducing one's conclusions as to man from imperfection instead of perfection, one can no more arrive at the true conception or understanding of man, and make himself like it, than the sculptor can perfect his outlines from an imperfect model, or the painter can depict the form and face of Jesus, while holding in thought the character of Judas" (p. 259).
When I was with the practitioner I saw this clearly, and I changed my concept or model of the other player. The important point was that now I lifted my thought to God and changed my concept, not just to help myself or heal myself, but because now I wanted to realize the truth about the other fellow and his relation to God.
Point by point I allowed intelligent ideas to dispel the ignorance that made me accept a lie about him. I had accepted the distorted model before the game and had been stamping out distortions ever since. But no more. Inspired by divine Mind, I retooled mentally right then and there. The very next day I was back on the field with 100 percent speed and complete recovery.
When I say I retooled mentally, I don't mean I just casually changed my opinions. I got down to some good bedrock thinking based on the divine Mind. This thinking was an actual law to my human experience and to my body. The invisible, the spiritual facts of being, were now supporting and sustaining the visible.
Thinking from this right basis healed me of the underlying resentment and of the physical pain. This, of course, was my individual experience involving just one other person. But it showed me the way we can and must resolve some of the larger, more aggressive clashes going on around us today.
What effect does our own thinking have on the world? Mrs. Eddy revealed the state of our material world as the result of what we mold from our thinking. She writes, "The physical universe expresses the conscious and unconscious thoughts of mortals" (Science and Health, p. 484). So you see how important our own thinking is to the world! How can we stop hateful wars, for instance, without first stopping hateful thinking?
How can you help ease world tensions
But one point I need to make clear here. It doesn't mean that just because we find ourselves facing a certain unpleasant condition or lot in life our own thinking necessarily put us there. But it does mean that we need to know more of spiritual truth to protect ourselves against such a condition or lot. And it does mean that the way up and out is by lifting our thinking to God and proving our relationship to Him.
When misunderstandings develop within families, when jealousies flare up in neighborhoods, when tensions rise in cities, when we hear of accidents or storms, when war threatens nations, there is something that we can do to help. We can actively reject the distortion. We can know that right at the scene of the accident or misunderstanding or anger - right where that distortion seems to be - are the spiritual facts of being. Right there divine Principle is in operation harmonizing, controlling, guiding, protecting. This Principle is an actual law to the situation and can correct the distortion.
Early one morning the librarian was alone in one of our Christian Science Reading Rooms counting the money for the previous day's sales. She looked up and saw a man standing in front of her. He presented a frightening appearance and was obviously there for no good purpose. His coat collar was turned up to shield his face, and he appeared to be holding a weapon inside his coat. He pointed to the money and said, "I'll take that."
The librarian had already devoted time that morning to basing her thinking on divine Principle; to thinking through her concept of God and man; and to piercing the fog of wrong thinking. She based her conclusions on the spiritual facts of divine Mind and its intelligent government of everything in its own universe of right ideas. This gave her a clear sense of the protecting power of divine Mind's presence.
She found it quite natural to say fearlessly to the man, "You'll take what? Do you know where you are? This isn't my money to give. Nobody takes anything away from God." Even as she was speaking, these words from Science and Health flooded her thought: "The Christian Scientist has enlisted to lessen evil, disease, and death; and he will overcome them by understanding their nothingness and the allness of God, or good" (p. 450).
Problem faced and solved by Principle
At the same time she didn't close her eyes to the danger confronting her. That never solves anything. We don't pierce the fog by ignoring our problems. We only increase it that way. She faced the problem. She recognized it for what it was - a challenge to the spiritual fact of divine Principle's lawful control over all its creation.
The man demanded the money and said he was desperate. The librarian told him something about God and how he could experience God's care and direction in his life. She offered him bus fare home and told him to leave. She also gave him some good practical advice on where to find food and possibly a job. Quite shocked by this fearless confrontation of spiritual understanding, the man took the bus fare. Then as he walked out, he said, "Lady, I don't know why I'm doing this, but someday I'll come back and return this 15 cents to you."
Wasn't that a wonderful view of God's goodness and power for the woman - and for the man, too! He saw a view of life that he'd never seen before. And it changed his thinking and his actions. As astronauts have said when they've looked out the window of their capsule, "What a magnificent view!"
Well, the view we see when we think rightly is magnificent! We can keep our thinking so high that we stay above the fog of wrong concepts, and at the same time so aware of divine Principle's governing power that we can help to solve the problems of humanity.
So now let's sum up this second question: How does thinking from the correct basis affect us and our world? Christian Science is concerned with humanity. But this concern is based on the deeper concern of proving the fact of the perfection of God, divine Mind, divine Principle and of His care and protection for man, the product of His perfect spiritual creation. The more conscious we become of these spiritual facts of being the more we find them directly controlling our own everyday affairs and those of our world,
We don't have to accept the distorted models of mortal mind. It's always shaping suffering, distrust, and dissension. As we mold our thinking to the one Mind, God, and His intelligent ideas, we begin to correct the distortions in our own lives. And as we apply this divine Principle in daily practice, we can help correct the distortions in other men's lives.
To base our every thought on the one infinite Mind doesn't remove us from the mainstream of life. It doesn't call us to withdraw within ourselves and let the world rock on its way. It demands individual commitment to the law of divine Principle, total involvement in applying this law to the problems of society.
Once we become aware that it's the invisible - our understanding of the spiritual facts of being - that underlies everything in our lives, we'll see how we can help ourselves and the world.
© 1968 James Spencer
All rights reserved
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, March 18, 1969, under the headline "Looking for a better world? God shows the way".]