What Christian Science Teaches About Intelligence
Jean I. Tainsh, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
In a lecture Sunday afternoon,
Jean I. Tainsh, C.S.B., of
Mrs. Tainsh grew up in
The lecturer was introduced by Roderick Nordell, a local member of The Mother Church.
An abridged text of the lecture follows:
Out in the Australian bush one day we watched two different birds building their nests. One, a pardalote, had made his little tunnel in a sandy cliff face. He had chosen a spot near a jutting root, where he could land with his bits of dry grass before diving into the hole.
The other was a tree creeper, who likes to line his nest with fur. He hunted around on the ground - not on a tree trunk, where he mostly works - until he found an old rabbit skin.
As I watched those busy little creatures, I thought: "What's telling you both what to do? Where to look, what to choose? Is there a computer in those tiny heads? Or are you obeying some other kind of direction, some power outside yourselves?"
Instinct? Perhaps, but it seemed to me that something greater than that was hinted at here. After all, if you or I had chosen such a clever spot to build a house - sheltered, high up from floods, with a natural patio at the front door - would we put it all down to instinct? Not at all! Wouldn't we say we had used our intelligence?
And I realized that was what I was feeling there - the presence of intelligence. I couldn't see it, or hear it, or touch it, but it was there just the same.
We get these feelings sometimes,
don't we? Have you ever been way out in the country at night, for instance.
"Out bush," as we'd say in
I remember feeling it very
strongly one night when I was flying home across the
What and where is intelligence?
Is the intelligence that holds the stars in their place the same intelligence that guides the birds in their home building? The same intelligence that guides you and me in our home building? What is intelligence, and where is it? That's what the philosophers want to know, and the psychologists. That's what everybody wants to know who's interested in what our thinking is, and where it comes from.
So, just where does it come from?
The notion that ideas come to us from somewhere outside ourselves is, of
course, not at all unusual and not at all new. For instance, I noticed in one
of our local papers recently an article by a composer of music who teaches at
There was one man who understood that the source of his thinking was indeed divine - and that was Jesus of Nazareth. "I can of mine own self do nothing," he said. "As I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John ).
"As I hear . . . ." The greatest Teacher was the greatest listener. He worked tirelessly to show mankind that God, the Father of us all, is right here, so close we can always hear Him if we listen. This guiding, directing presence of God is the Christ, and it's the Christ that fills human consciousness with all the inspiration it needs (see "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 332). It was the Christ that filled the consciousness of Jesus and motivated him so consistently that he is known as "Christ Jesus."
Jesus listened to God's judgment
So when the unpleasant and evil and pitiful sights and sounds of the world crowded in on Jesus' consciousness, what did they meet? They met the divine thoughts already firmly held in his understanding. There was no room for anything else. Jesus didn't accept the unintelligent matter-judgment that said, "Here's a leper. Here's a sinner." No! He listened to the judgment of the Father: "Here is My image and likeness, as perfect as I created him," and this correct judgment healed the leper and reclaimed the sinner.
Jesus listened so closely to the Father so he could teach us how to do the same - how to open our hearts and minds to the inspiration of good that's all around us. Closer than the air. Learning to listen is the thing, isn't it! When you come to think of it, the great inspirational leaders of mankind - all those who in some way have raised the nonmaterial level of human thinking - they've all been great listeners - not to human opinion, but to a much higher source of inspiration.
Among them was a great religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy. Now there was a listener! She had all the qualities of the true listener - humility, obedience, and vision. All her life, she loved the teachings of Christ Jesus, and, being obedient, she tried to put them into practice, all of them. And as her spiritual understanding grew, she gained the vision that enabled her to heal, just as Jesus taught, and then she was able to teach others. So we find in her both follower and Leader - follower of Christ Jesus and Leader of the Christian Science movement.
A rule based on humility
Now there's an important thing to note just here. Mrs. Eddy gave this rule to her students: "Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1901." p. 34). Now that's not the kind of rule that would come from some puffed-up personality, out to establish some new cult of worship. No. It was the rule of a deeply Christian woman, whose mission was to bring to this age the ageless healing Christ, in a truly Christian religion.
She was to found a church that strives to teach and practice exactly as Jesus did, including the healing of the sick through prayer alone. To found a church! That wasn't easy. First of all, she was a woman. Second, human nature always resists change, and it especially hates to be stirred up to think more spiritually. So she faced enormous opposition, not only from entrenched theology and medicine but from among the ranks of her own small group of students.
But she never lost her habit of listening for God's direction. Crises came and went, but always, she sought God's guidance through prayer and study of the Bible. And so, inevitably, her church took shape.
It's a church that teaches the simple, profound truth that God is good and God is All, so all is good. That evil, therefore, can have in reality no place, no power, no entity. That the world's belief in evil can be corrected by divinely inspired thought. Perhaps that's what has brought you here, to find out something of what Christian Science teaches about thought.
Christian Science is based squarely on the Bible, especially the spiritual meaning of the Bible (see "Retrospection and Introspection," p. 25). This spiritual meaning is what Mary Baker Eddy grasped as the result of her years of faithful study. She discovered the spiritual significance of events related in both the Old and New Testaments, and it was on this discovery that she founded her religion.
She found that God, the great I am who revealed Himself to Moses, was indeed the only presence, the infinite ever-present creator of man and the universe. And that, being infinite - no beginning, no ending - He must be Spirit. As infinite Spirit, He could have no knowledge of matter.
Then what about man? Man, made in the likeness of his creator, Spirit, must be - spiritual! The mortal, faulty model, known as "mankind," is only a limited, mistaken concept, never the real, spiritual man, and this faulty concept can be corrected and improved as the real spiritual nature of man is better understood. And Mrs. Eddy saw that this was how Jesus healed (see Science and Health, p. 476). She proved his method to be just as valid today by quickly and permanently healing all kinds of illness through prayer alone. The prayer that lifts thought to understand the spiritual nature of God and man.
Expanding concept of the source of wisdom
Have you ever considered that the great spiritual leaders of the Bible were those who glimpsed the true nature of God as Spirit? The Christ - the enlightening presence of God -was at work in their consciousness, and as their concept of Deity widened and deepened, they began to see Him as the source of all real wisdom and knowledge. They saw that to be almighty, He must surely be all-knowing. We find this growing understanding recorded in many parts of the Old Testament. Here's a verse from Psalms: ''Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite" (Ps. 147:5.). And from Proverbs: "The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding" (Prov. 2:6). You see how the spiritual nature of intelligence is beginning to emerge?
Sayings like these indicated to Mrs. Eddy something of the infinite nature of true wisdom and understanding. As she pondered and listened, a mighty truth was revealed to her - that not only is God the source of all wisdom and understanding, He is all wisdom and understanding. He is Mind. And as He's the infinite, the only God, He's the only Mind. Throughout Mrs. Eddy's writings we find God referred to over and over again as Mind, or divine Mind, which expresses itself in its idea, spiritual man.
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs. Eddy explains Mind as: "not that which is in man, but the divine Principle, or God, of whom man is the full and perfect expression" (p. 591). And on another page she writes, "Mind is the I am, or infinity. Mind never enters the finite. Intelligence never passes into non-intelligence, or matter" (p. 336).
Is thought in the brain?
If man is really idea, the expression of Mind, and if intelligence never passes into non-intelligence, where does brain come in?
It's a pretty widely held notion, isn't it, that brain and intelligence are the same thing. How often do we hear things like "Isn't he brainy!" Or, on the other side, "What a pin-head!" So let's look at this question of brain.
Physical scientists who believe we think with our brain study it in great detail. Here they believe they'll find what makes us tick. Here they believe they'll find how thought is born. And, what's more alarming, here they believe they'll find how to control thought with material agents, perhaps chemical or electronic. They believe that in the fleshly composition of the brain lies the secret of what makes an Einstein and what makes a Charlie Brown. But can anything having to do with thought really be found in a hunk of matter?
The brain is a complicated hunk of matter that fills up the space in our heads. It sits up there on the top floor and acts as a kind of clearinghouse for all the information fed into it. Fed in by what? By the five physical senses. Information that is, therefore, all about matter. Now, if the brain's only source of information is material, how can it produce anything as nonmaterial as an idea?
Ideas, as I'm thinking of them, have little to do with what the senses tell us. But ideas! Those original thoughts that come to us all! They must surely spring forth independently of matter!
The world's full of ideas, thousands and thousands of ideas, all there, waiting to be used. All where? In the brain? Mrs. Eddy rules that idea right out of court when she writes, "The belief that a pulpy substance under the skull is mind is a mockery of intelligence, a mimicry of Mind" (Science and Health, p. 192).
So, as we begin to see that matter can never produce mind, we can safely leave behind the concept that intelligence has anything to do with the brain.
And so, no matter what the problem we need to resolve - whether it's finding a job, curing an illness, saving a marriage, passing an exam - we have the ability to think it through to a right conclusion. This is the Christ at work, and we're alert to the directives of the Christ to the degree that we put self-will and human planning right out of the picture, no matter how righteous they may seem - and turn humbly to the Father. "Father, what shall I do?" He's our authority - not the brain!
Healing of a mental disturbance
Let me describe to you what this release from believing the brain was the authority meant to a young woman I know. She believed there was something wrong with her nerves, and that this was affecting her brain, and she was therefore going out of her mind. She became so confused and miserable that she had to leave her job. She was urged to seek medical help, but was reluctant to do so because she was afraid of getting addicted to the drugs often prescribed in such cases.
Then she remembered something of what she had learned when she'd briefly attended a Christian Science Sunday School years before. It had taught her that healing can take place without drugs. Here was a ray of hope. She began to attend the Christian Science church in her town on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. On weekdays she would go to the church's public Reading Room and find much comfort in studying the Bible and Science and Health
Feeling the need for further support, she asked a Christian Science practitioner to help her through prayer. The practitioner reassured her at once that her ability to think had nothing to do with her brain. That her intelligence was safely and forever anchored in the one infinite Mind, and that she couldn't go out of her Mind, because it was infinite. The young woman began to feel a sense of peace and safety and sanity.
As she and the practitioner worked together over a number of weeks, she began to see herself as the loved child of God, never outside of His care. Until this time, she'd been feeling very much alone, very much a worried and nervous little atom, battling for existence in a difficult world, bullied by her nerves and badgered by what she believed were laws of mental health.
But as the real law, the law of God, the law of good, was acknowledged, she felt it at work in her consciousness. She began to let go of any notion that she had a separate little mind, controlled by the nerves of her body. Instead, the wonderful truth took hold that she herself was a spiritual idea, held forever in the one and only Mind, in God.
Gone was the desperate feeling of being separate and alone. Her thinking took on the confidence and order so natural to Mind's idea. Soon she was free, and able to go back to work in a job that demanded special mental alertness. Nothing medical had been done to the brain or nerves. But the power of the Christ, Truth, working in the human consciousness, had corrected the material notion about the nature of intelligence and had replaced it with the truth of her being. The young woman put it this way when she wrote to the practitioner: "Thank you for helping me to find my identity."
Identity found in consciousness
Where did she find her identity? Not in the body - that had proved very unreliable. No. she found her identity in her thinking, in consciousness. Her concept of herself had been corrected and improved.
And how did the practitioner help? She began by filling her own thought with the spiritually scientific fact that God, divine Mind, is the only real consciousness, and that this consciousness is the atmosphere that envelops all true creation. It is God's infinite knowing. Nothing is outside, because there's no outside to infinity. This atmosphere is infinity. It's filled with the ideas of God's knowing - divine Mind expressing itself (see Science and Health, p. 475).
The compound of these ideas is man, spiritual man, the full expression of Mind. Each one of us, in our true, spiritual selfhood, fully represents the compound idea, man. Our individual identity lies in how each of us uniquely expresses the qualities of God's knowing - His strength, joy, intelligence, beauty, energy. This is the answer to the old question "Who am I?" This is where the young woman found her identity - not as a parcel of flesh and bones, but as idea, the intelligent expression of the one Mind.
Seeing past the labels of 'IQ'
Now let's turn to another area in our daily lives where this question of intelligence is always under the microscope - education. Our educators, from play-school to university, watch their students closely in the light of their expectations of intelligence. And because this faculty seems to vary so greatly, many subscribe to the theory that intelligence, wherever it may come from, is doled out at the point of conception - a big dollop for baby "A," and not so big for baby "B" - and that, as the child grows a little, this dollop can be measured and the child cataloged accordingly.
But was this how the greatest educator saw his pupils? Jesus' immediate disciples must have seemed to their contemporaries as average a group of students as you might find anywhere: Peter, impetuous and lovable, but who sometimes exasperated his Teacher; methodical Matthew; the plodding Thomas; and the brothers James and John, whom Jesus called "the sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). We all know those sons of thunder in the class, don't we? How was Jesus able to teach such an average-looking group so that some of them at least were able to carry on his work with such spectacular success?
First of all, didn't he see them all as the sons of the one Father? "Thine they were," he said, "and thou gavest them me" (John 17:6). And so he accepted for them the ability and intelligence he accepted for himself. And he was able to lead them, step by step, through parable and proof, to grasp the greatest truth mankind can know. And after his final lessons with them - the crucifixion and resurrection and the ascension - they were to become graduates in this truth that life and intelligence can never be destroyed because they're divine, they belong to God. And so these simple men were to go out into the world and perform work of the highest caliber.
Now if there are any teachers or parents laboring under the notion that the children in their care are of limited intelligence, let them turn to the great Teacher and learn how to see them as they really are. I learned this lesson in my own experience as a high school teacher.
In the psychology of teaching it is well known that if you're given a group of students already labeled "bright" or "difficult," you'll be likely to teach them accordingly, with predictable results. When I first went out to teach high school, I fell right into this trap. Something called the "Intelligence Quotient Test" had just come on the market. This claimed to be able to measure a child's ability to think and reason and to label him accordingly, more or less for the rest of his life. It all sounded very impressive. Everyone was talking "IQ." Everyone seemed to accept it in those days. So when I was given a group of children who had been labeled "low IQ," I expected they wouldn't be very inspiring to teach. So my teaching wasn't very inspiring, and we were all pretty miserable together.
But I longed to help them. Already they were seeing themselves as failures. It seemed so unfair that they should be facing life under such a handicap.
I knew something of Christian Science, and I prayed to be shown how to be a better teacher for them. The answer to my prayer came as a simple thought: See them as they are.
I realized what I had been doing. I'd been seeing and teaching them as if they were limited mortals, as children whose supply of intelligence was somehow restricted. But how could this be, when I knew the source of all intelligence to be unrestricted?
And so I shifted my point of view. Instead of seeing them in the limiting framework of a man-made intelligence quotient, I began to look at them from the summit of their infinite Mind, our infinite Mind, which has no framework, no horizons. And I began to teach them from this point of view.
My prayers for the inspiration and patience to meet their needs were abundantly answered. The intelligence that had been theirs all the time began to be seen. A sullen or vacant face came alive. "I can't" became "I'll try." Someone who had been terrified of figures began to delight - and then to excel - in speed-and-accuracy tests. A girl who believed she literally couldn't finish a sentence on paper began to write fluently.
At half-year, the group put on an exhibition of work that surprised the rest of the school. At the end of the year, those ready to leave went off confidently to jobs or apprenticeships. The rest went into the mainstream of the school.
What had happened? This: When I had turned in prayer to our loving, caring Father who is infinite Mind, I had been set free from the temptation to believe a human opinion that a person's ability to think is limited and so can be measured. Instead, I'd come to trust that God's Word is law. His law for those children, and for every one of us, was to be like Him, to express Him with unlimited, immeasurable intelligence outside of material circumstances. As my original attitude was corrected and healed, the children felt it, and began to emerge into a wider mental experience. It was like watching butterflies emerge from cocoons that had seemed too dried up and shriveled to let anything out!
We live and move and have our being in the consciousness of the Father, and so our intelligence is right here. It's got nothing to do with who our grandparents were, what color we are, how healthy or wealthy we are. The Father doesn't know us in terms of genes and chromosomes, rich and poor. He's Spirit, and knows us as His spiritual idea, whom He dearly loves and cares for. To understand this is to be free of the slavery of human opinion.
Divine intelligence frees us also from the slavery of physical troubles. Is there anything intelligent about sickness? Is it an intelligent thing for normal, healthy functions to break down? It's hardly the will of the God whose "understanding is infinite"! And so it's a glorious fact that His infinite intelligence frees us more and more from our physical ailments.
Let me show you. This is about a little child who had suffered from a severe case of eczema from shortly after birth, and was placed under specialist medical care. After about 12 months, with no cure, the family heard of Christian Science. The parents withdrew the child from medical treatment and went to a Christian Science practitioner. In three days the skin of the little one was clean and fresh, and it stayed that way. How did this happen? Through prayer. The young mother studied the chapter on prayer in Science and Health, and the practitioner, in her prayer, affirmed that only what divine Mind knew about the child could be true. She assured the anxious parents that a wise and loving Father could never send such an affliction to one of His little ones. A line from one of Mrs. Eddy's poems helped the mother to see the real identity of the child: "Thou gentle beam of living Love" ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 23). Mistaken human opinion had again been corrected by divine intelligence.
Helping children to love and trust God
Parents who choose Christian Science to take care of their children do so because they know they can trust this logical, loving, and wholly Christian truth to heal their little ones. Children brought up in Christian Science learn to love and trust God, and are beautifully free from many of the fears - and therefore many of the troubles - that are too often implanted in young minds. Children who know their loving Father is always right by their side often heal themselves and others by their simple trust.
We're all children in a sense. Children of the one all-knowing, all-loving Father. It doesn't matter whether on the human scene we're black or brown or yellow or pink - one of the millions of a teeming metropolis or one of a few in some remote outpost. Wherever and whatever we are, our Father is already there. His divine intelligence pervades the whole of human experience.
Let's go out of here now and look for the signs of His intelligence. They're all around us! It's a very broadening experience. The more we see, the more we'll go on seeing, until we find there's really nothing else to know. All our knowing is His knowing, the divine and only Mind, your Mind, our Mind, which has no horizons. Be reassured by the Bible promise: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men - liberally" (James 1:5).
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 1981.]