Christian Science: The Religion of Friendship and Healing
Robert S. Van Atta, C.S., of Rochester, New York
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Robert S. Van Atta, C. S., of Rochester, N.Y., lectured on "Christian Science: The Religion of Friendship and Healing" Thursday evening in the church edifice, under auspices of Third Church of Christ, Scientist. Edward C. Williams introduced the speaker.
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
Most people like to make friends and have normal and helpful relationships with their fellow men. How barren human life would be without affection and companionship! There is a deep yearning in our hearts to love and be loved. Friendship of the right sort is a foretaste of heaven, or harmony.
And yet how often do human friendships fail us! How often this happy state suffers grievous discord! Friends become foes, companions forsake us, and we find disappointment and grief instead of helpfulness and love. Then must we look higher for strength and comfort; we must find a truer and more lasting friendship. The sense of friendship which attaches to material personality is temporal and delusive, like all material things; but as we learn through Christian Science to lay hold upon eternal spiritual reality, as we fasten our affections on infinite Love, we discover the foundation of real brotherhood and healing.
God is Spirit, the source and creator of all that is real. He is the life-giving Principle of the universe including man. This fact must be seen and accepted as the only foundation for all right conclusions. The sons and daughters of God, Spirit, are spiritual and dwell together in harmony as one family. Theirs is the only lasting brotherhood. There is in truth no other relationship possible between men than spiritual brotherhood.
To know ourselves and others as children of God, we must understand the nature of God. The Bible gives the histories of many spiritually-minded men and women who were well acquainted with God and found Him to be their friend. We are told that "Abraham - was called the Friend of God." (James 2:23.) It is recorded in another place that "the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." (Ex. 33:11.)
Through the study and practice of Christian Science we realize that we, too, are friends of God. We feel God's power and presence, and we partake of His love. We realize something of the infinitude of good, and express it in our daily lives. We begin to find the universe friendly, for enmity is being erased by love. The way to universal brotherhood is revealed in the Bible and explained and taught in Christian Science. In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has written (p. 276). "When the divine precepts are understood, they unfold the foundation of fellowship, in which one mind is not at war with another, but all have one Spirit, God, one intelligent source, in accordance with the Scriptural command; 'Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.' "
Jesus of Nazareth had been trained from childhood in the teachings of the Hebrew religion. The heart and essence of this teaching was the Ten Commandments, which are found in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. Of these, the first four concern men's duty to God, the last six their duty to their fellowmen.
Jesus was a careful student of the religion of his race, and devoted to the practice of its tenets. He understood the spiritual meaning of its teachings. With his genius for getting at the heart of a subject, he condensed the Ten Commandments into two. He said the first and great commandment is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matt. 22-37) Then he added, "And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matt. 22:39)
For centuries men had been worshiping their various gods and hating and killing one another. Now this original man, Jesus, tells them that loving and serving God comes first, but loving one's fellowmen inevitably follows. The two commandments are bound together. "On these two commandments," said Jesus, "hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:40.)
The Scriptures of Jesus' time consisted mainly of two groups of books. The first was known as the "Law," because those books contained the rules by which the people were expected to live. The second group of books was called the "Prophets," because they were largely prophetical. They taught the truth about God and man and foretold the coming of Christ, Truth, to human consciousness. Thus, for many years, the sacred Scriptures were known as "the Law and the Prophets." There were twenty-six books in all. They contained a great number of rules of conduct, civil laws, criminal codes, and ordinances for religious rites. Jesus said, in effect, that the substance of all this writing is that you shall love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus called the command to love, "a new commandment," and he specified the kind of love required to fulfill it. He said to his disciples, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34) They must love one another in the same manner that he had loved them. What manner of love was that? It was universal love, the emanation and expression of divine Spirit, demonstrated in the actual healing of disease and sin and the overcoming of death. Jesus' love was eminently practical. It met the needs of his friends. Jesus' friendship was a giving friendship. He asked little and gave much. He found his own good in doing good to others. God was a wonderful friend to him because he was such a true friend to mankind.
The supposition that life and salvation depend on matter always leads to a multiplicity of laws. Today mankind is confronted with a maze of rules, statutes, customs, and regulations far exceeding in extent and complexity anything the ancient Hebrew writers ever dreamed of. International conventions and civil and criminal codes become more and more complicated. There are laws of science, so called, which claim both to help and to hinder, to save and destroy mankind. We are asked to accept laws of health which place men at the mercy of matter; cruel theological beliefs, according to which God sends sin, sickness, and death to His children; economic laws which say we must live in hunger and poverty because there is not enough to go around.
In this age when the chaos of material laws seems to be submerging the human race, Christian Science has come as the Comforter promised by Jesus. It brings essentially the same message of brotherhood and healing that he brought. The message might be paraphrased thus: "Love and understand God as Spirit, and man as His likeness, and you will fulfill all the good law and nullify all the rest."
Mary Baker Eddy was divinely commissioned to bring to the present age the complete revelation of God's nature and ways, the truth about the universe and man. God uses in His work those who are fitted to carry out His good purpose. Mrs. Eddy was ready for the great task God imposed upon her. She was unique in her devotion to the Christian way. She loved God and deeply desired to help mankind. She proved her love for God by her true friendship for humanity. When God called her to do His work, she was ready.
Only a loving heart could perceive the Scriptural revelation of God as Love; only a thoroughly good one can understand and express the goodness of God. Truth cannot be comprehended by the dishonest and untruthful; a grossly material mentality is incapable of appreciating spiritual reality. Through the lens of her pure spirituality, Mrs. Eddy perceived God as infinite Spirit, all-knowing Mind, eternal Life, universal Love, unchanging Truth, immortal Soul, absolute Principle.
She saw that God is all good; therefore He does not know evil and cannot create it. God being the only creator, evil has no creator; therefore it is suppositional or unreal. She saw that whatever God creates must necessarily be like Him, must partake of His nature and essence. On this basis, man is seen to be the expression of God, spiritual, perfect, and complete, reflecting the intelligence of Mind, the immortality of Spirit, the unchanging affection of divine Love, the health and holiness of spiritual Life.
As the divine nature of God became increasingly clear to Mrs. Eddy, she put her understanding to severe tests. She healed desperate cases of disease and deformity, and even overcame death itself. Through her remarkable healing work she proved that her explanation of God and the universe is the true one. She studied and labored many years to give her revelation clearer expression through her writings, also to adapt the teaching and mode of practice to the needs and capabilities of people of the present age. To the end of her earthly career she continued to seek more and better ways of bringing her great revelation to mankind, to increase her means of blessing all the people.
The fact of one God insures the oneness or brotherhood of His children. One God means one Mind - infinite, all-wise, and good. All-knowing Mind could never quarrel with itself nor entertain conflicting opinions. The belief of many minds opens the door to error; it brings fear, sickness, and strife; whereas the understanding of the one Mind restores harmony. Many minds means many gods and implies conflict. (Did you ever hear of a system of polytheism where the gods weren't generally quarreling and fighting among themselves?)
A young student of Christian Science, employed in a large office, found himself one evening suffering from a variety of symptoms indicating the incipient stage of disease. Reaching out in thought for God's direction, he turned to Science and Health and read this passage (p. 375), "No person is benefited by yielding his mentality to any mental despotism or malpractice." As he pondered this statement, puzzled at first to know how it applied to him, it gradually became clear that he was in the habit of yielding his mentality to the unwitting despotism of his immediate superior in the business organization. Through an honest desire to serve God as the only Mind, he came to see the needlessness and folly of believing that each person had a mind of his own, with one mind ruling another. The conviction and understanding of the one Mind which is God came clearly to thought, bringing peace, harmony, and freedom.
The next morning the young man found himself completely well. From that time forward, his relations with his superior were on a sounder footing. There was more equality between them, more mutual respect, and a stronger feeling of true friendliness.
Jesus loved the Scriptures. He quoted from them, healed by them, and admonished his followers to study them. Likewise, Mary Baker Eddy loved the Bible. Her writings show an intelligent regard for the original Hebrew and Greek writings, as well as the Latin translation; she was also acquainted with certain renderings in other languages. She loved especially the common, authorized English translation known as the King James Version. She ordained this Version, together with "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," to be the only preachers for the Christian Science denomination. Passages from these two books comprise our Lesson-Sermon, which is read every Sunday in Christian Science churches all over the world. The Sermons are contained in the Christian Science Quarterly, and the healing gospel is freely available to all who will secure the books, study them, and apply their hearts to the understanding and practice of spiritual truths.
Throughout recorded history, God, Truth, has revealed Himself to consecrated men and women of many races. The Bible is the record of these sacred revelations of God's nature. It was written over a period of more than one thousand years, by many writers living in many different countries, and in several languages. The sacred writings were at first many little books, but later gathered into one and called the Bible, or "The Book."
How fitting the name: "The Book"! There is no other to compare with it! Its influence upon the course of history is beyond human estimation. It is the foundation of all that is good in government, economics, literature, art, and science. Without this truth, there would be no freedom, no democracy, no civilization. Without some knowledge of divine Principle as revealed in the Bible, education would be without enlightenment, government would be without law, and society utterly lacking in decency.
A thousand years ago King Alfred the Great of England affirmed it to be his wish that "all the free-born youth of his kingdom should employ themselves on nothing till they could first read well the English Scripture." Five hundred years later William Tyndale, devoted English scholar and churchman, was so revolted by the ignorance of some of the clergy of his day that he declared, "If God spareth my life, I will make the boy that driveth the plough to know more Scripture than thou dost." Today, through the light which Christian Science throws upon the Scriptures, the very children learn to understand and demonstrate the power of God to heal.
Our modern ideas of universal education spring directly from the Bible. A well-loved professor of English in one of our eastern colleges once said, "A knowledge of the Bible without a college education is better than a college education without the Bible." But nowadays the study of the Bible finds little place in school curriculums. It has been largely crowded out by the study of human theories, material systems, and empirical knowledge. We deplore the delinquency of the young while we withhold from them the one book most able to enlighten and guide them. We send them out to fight for democracy while we ignore the very foundation of democracy. We spend millions of dollars for medicines which would not be needed if we would only accept the healing Word of God. We pass multitudes of laws to correct human injustices, whereas an understanding of the things of Spirit as set forth in the Bible would prevent such injustices.
The reason for this regrettable state of affairs is that men have failed to see the true, spiritual meaning of the Bible. It has been a closed book to many, a treasure chest locked and the key lost. But in Science and Health we have the "Key to the Scriptures." The study of this textbook so unlocks the treasures of God's Word that all who read the Bible may understand and be healed.
Mrs. Eddy declares (No and Yes, p. 33), "If the Bible and my work Science and Health had their rightful place in schools of learning they would revolutionize the world by advancing the kingdom of Christ." A young man who had been brought up in the Christian Science Sunday School very much wanted to go to college, but his funds were totally inadequate for the purpose. He decided that spiritual knowledge is more important so he applied to an authorized teacher of Christian Science for class instruction and was accepted. The money he had saved as a start toward the college expenses went to pay the tuition for the Christian Science class instruction. The class work brought him much spiritual illumination and convinced him he had made a wise decision in putting God first; he faced the future with confidence.
He was working at this time in the employ of a small manufacturing firm. He discharged his duties with loyalty and good will, striving to express his best conception of spiritual sonship with God and brotherhood with his fellows. A few weeks later the way to a college education was opened. First, a friend offered to help with the loan of a few dollars. Then it was discovered that many of the men in authority at his place of work were willing to lend money on his signature for the same purpose. He borrowed enough to pay his tuition and buy books for the first semester and enrolled in a mid-western university.
Arriving at the campus he was told there were many applicants for all available jobs and there was no hope of earning enough to pay for board and lodging. But our friend was convinced that God was supplying his needs, guiding and guarding every step of the way. Within a few days he had located three jobs and was able to earn practically all of his expenses throughout the four year course. At the same time he was able to maintain a scholastic average of 4.97 out of a perfect 5.00; he also took active part in the work of the Christian Science Organization and participated in other campus activities.
At one time during his course, he was faced with an examination that was so difficult as to seem practically impossible. The entire class of more than two hundred students was floored. Recovering from the suggestion of defeat and fear, he turned his thought humbly to God. He acknowledged God to be the one and only Mind, the only intelligence, present to help and instruct. He resolved to listen for God's voice, knowing that man is the spiritual and perfect expression of divine intelligence. His confidence returned; he read over the examination paper, found one point he understood, and wrote down what came to him about that. Repeatedly turning to God in prayer he found more questions he could answer. So he continued, step by step, and concluded the examination, handing in his paper just as the bell rang, signaling the end of the period. When the grades were announced, it was learned that this young man had received a mark of 100%, although the class average was only 27%. This is but one of the many similar testimonies from pupils in our schools who accept Christian Science and make it practical.
Christian Science is the Science of God and His works. It explains the nature of good. By contrast it explains the nature of evil. This is important. Evil is not to be ignored, but uncovered, understood for what it is, and so rendered powerless. We need to know how to recognize and receive the friendly thoughts which God sends; we need also to know how to recognize and reject the suggestions of error which [God does not send.]
Jesus called evil "devil" or "liar." Mrs. Eddy names evil, "animal magnetism." She did not invent a new kind of evil to plague mankind. What she did was to describe evil so accurately that men can now see through its deceptions and frustrate its designs. The phrase "animal magnetism" is self-explanatory. Magnetism means a power to attract, a drawing toward. Animal means sentient, sensual, low, base. Therefore the term signifies a drawing towards that which is animal-like, the attraction of that which is low, base, mean, tricky, deceptive, and wicked. But are such things truly attractive? Is God-created man subject to anything degrading, destructive, deceiving? We know that man is not so subject, since he is the likeness of God, good. "Animal magnetism" is the name for evil, which only claims to have power; therefore the term expresses evil as a false assumption, nothing claiming to be something. This is the animal instinct in mortals which incites them to kill one another, to rob, lie, and commit adultery. It would induce fear, foster disease, thrive on ignorance, and perpetuate itself in mental darkness and spiritual dullness. It is symbolized by the talking serpent in Genesis and the great red dragon in the Apocalypse.
A boy in the Christian Science Sunday School was told that the serpent of Genesis and the great red dragon of Revelation were one and the same. His response was, "Well, why didn't they kill it when it was young?" This witty reply points out an important rule in the application of Christian Science in our daily lives, and that is to cast out of consciousness, promptly and vigorously, every erroneous belief which presents itself for acceptance before it grows upon the thought - whether it be the temptation to sin or to be sick.
When your friend is kind to you, remember that the love your friend expresses is the emanation of divine Love. Be grateful to your friend for his kindness, but grateful to God as the source and Principle of all kindness. Conversely, if your friend should be unkind to you, if he should be hateful or angry, remember that he is being tempted by the one evil, mortal mind, to accept a selfhood apart from God. To recognize this will enable you to be kind and patient with your friend until the spell of evil is broken and he recovers his normal sense of himself. Study and pray to realize the powerlessness of the evil which seems to bind him and to recognize that man is always the manifestation of boundless Love. This understanding and demonstration of the nothingness of evil is the only true forgiveness of evil. Error is not to be glossed over or excused. It must be scientifically dealt with and destroyed.
Remember also that sickness is no more a part of your friend's true being than is anger or hate. A well-known proverb says, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." The truest friend is the one who can and does meet the other's need. And what need so great as the spiritual understanding of God and man which heals all inharmony! Gifts and personal companionships may be pleasing, sympathy may bring temporary comfort, but the one who can come to your side and say with authority, "Rise up and walk," the one who comes with the spiritual understanding that will arouse you from the dream of pain and bring you Christly healing, that one is the real friend and the one you need.
An earnest Christian Scientist found her way beset with many problems. Human life had not been easy. Because she did not protect herself against criticism and condemnation and did not rule out of her thought fear, self-pity, and a mistaken sense of loyalty, she became physically ill. She lay in bed many months, and her condition grew worse. Among other errors there had been a succession of personal attachments and estrangements, which had only added to the mental darkness.
At this time one of her old friends returned to his home after attending a meeting of an association of class-taught students of Christian Science. The meeting had so filled his heart with kindness and love that he decided to write a warm, friendly letter to the stricken one. This he did. He endeavored to put into his missive some of the exalted feeling of all-inclusive love which the association meeting had brought to him. Upon reading the letter, the patient realized that here was the one to help her. A long-distance telephone call was made and treatment requested. Improvement was soon noticeable and continued steadily. The struggle was long but was eventually crowned with success, and the Christian Scientist was able to resume her rightful duties in ministering to others.
This case required strong medicine, so to speak. The practitioner lovingly but unflinchingly rebuked the errors, and the patient strove to correct them. Paul's advice to Timothy was freely followed: "Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine." This would have been a severe strain had the friendship been based upon personal sense, but these two friends were relying on something higher - they were leaning on God in their effort to demonstrate spiritual fellowship in Christ. This gave them power to overcome the discordant condition.
Love and affection make happy homes, and the harmony expressed in one's home is a foretaste of heaven. But there is much evidence that family life has deteriorated of late years. Certain it is that the marriage covenant is very loosely regarded in many quarters.
Human relationships are more intimate in families than elsewhere, therefore that is where we must be most alert to guard against the disruptive suggestions of animal magnetism. Family troubles and marital disagreements must be recognized as the suggestions of the one evil, and so mastered and destroyed.
In a Christian Science home, the man of the house found himself, late one evening, almost overcome by nausea and sickness. He mentioned this to his wife, who said, "Well, that is easy to understand. You were very unkind in your manner toward our little daughter this evening." The husband thought for a moment and was forced to acknowledge the truth of the charge. So he said, "Go on; you have uncovered the error; now let us have the truth about it." Thereupon the wife began to declare: "God is good, and good is All. He is the one and only Mind and presence. He rules this household; He is the Mind of every one of us. There is no contrary influence of hate, anger, or selfishness which can counteract the divine power. Our home is governed by Truth and Love; therefore no evil can enter therein." As she continued her statements of truth her husband soon found himself entirely free from the poisonous suggestion. He retired for the night and rested peacefully.
Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health (p. 102), "Christian Science despoils the kingdom of evil, and pre-eminently promotes affection and virtue in families and therefore in the community." As men and women become true Christians, as they learn the unreality of material sense and demonstrate through Christian Science the lasting happiness of spiritual living, matrimony will be purged of its present laxity and fickleness, divorce will go out of fashion, marriage will be put upon a much higher level than heretofore, and children will not be deprived of their right to health, protection, and happiness.
Let us not be afraid we may become too spiritual. Sometimes mortal mind argues that too much spirituality is impractical. But intelligent spiritual thinking and living can bring nothing but good into human experience. Purity is the state of being free from mixture or combination. A thing is pure when it is all that it should be and nothing else. Pure milk has no ink in it, and in pure air there is no smoke. Would you want the gasoline in your car to be partly water? Does intelligence manifest ignorance; is strength evidenced in weakness; and does success include failure? Pure patience, true wisdom, complete dependence upon the divine source of all good - all these characterize the real man.
A man who had been studying Christian Science a short time went to a practitioner to be healed of the tobacco habit. In the office was a bowl of water lilies. As the visitor commented upon their beauty, the practitioner said, "Those plants grow in the mud and mire at the bottom of the pond, but as they rise higher and come out into the clear sunlight, they produce these beautiful white flowers. So as one rises above the sordidness of materiality, he finds his true selfhood as the son of God to be pure, sweet, and gentle."
That true manhood is "pure, sweet, and gentle" seemed to the one seeking help to be a very revolutionary thought. His conception of manliness had always included a certain amount of "rough stuff." But he thought to himself, "I can see that this practitioner is a regular fellow himself, so there must be something in what he says." Through the practitioner's clear understanding that God's image and likeness expresses goodness and purity, the man's concept of himself was changed. He gained a deeper understanding of God as good and of man, His reflection, as spiritual and perfect. The appetite for tobacco dropped away like an old, outworn garment. There was no great struggle of the will, just a glad yielding to the higher and holier sense of Life and manhood.
The healing was permanent and far-reaching. Faults of character began to diminish and disappear. His thinking became clearer, quicker, and truer. He did better work in office and shop; he advanced to higher positions and larger salaries. Never did he find that his increase of spiritual purity was a handicap or in any way impractical. On the contrary, he was convinced of the truth of Mrs. Eddy's statement in Science and Health (p. 67), "The notion that animal natures can possibly give force to character is too absurd for consideration, when we remember that through spiritual ascendency our Lord and Master healed the sick, raised the dead, and commanded even the winds and waves to obey him. Grace and Truth are potent beyond all other means and methods."
Healings in Christian Science come about through prayer. This religion is revolutionizing the world's concept of prayer. Prayer is commonly thought to be asking God to do something which He has not done and may not be willing to do. Have you ever considered that this implies a misconception as to the true nature of God? It means, does it not, that the petitioner considers that God can be moved by personal influence? If that were true, God would not be supreme and all-knowing. But since He is supreme and all-knowing, perfect and all-powerful, it is no use trying to tell Him something. He knows our needs and has supplied them. It is our work to understand this and claim the good which His wisdom has already provided.
Christ is the idea or manifestation of God. It is always present and is realized through earnest prayer, through spiritualization of thought, and through consecrated service of God in daily affairs. The Christ, or divine idea of God, comes to the receptive individual human consciousness, and through its purifying, correcting, and uplifting influence destroys the errors and diseases of the human mind and body. Thus God and His Christ save mankind from all types of discord, proving that salvation is present, practical, and complete. The demonstration of present salvation is real and satisfying; the belief that salvation is for the future only is visionary and impractical.
True friendship is eternal, therefore it cannot be lost. In reality you cannot lose a friend. All the great spiritual leaders of the past are still our friends. Abraham's fidelity remains to inspire us; we are still ruled by the moral laws of Moses; Peter and Paul and John continue to enlighten us through their writings; and Christ Jesus is always humanity's great Way-shower.
Jesus walked so closely with God that he could truthfully declare himself to be one with God. He presented and demonstrated the Christ, or true idea of God, and this made him the Saviour of mankind. He was not God, but he was truly Godlike. Wherever he went, men felt and recognized the divine presence which he reflected, and were healed. Jesus demonstrated man's oneness with God, which made him humanity's best earthly friend. The world today needs many such friends - men and women who walk in the footsteps of the Master. To aid us in the great healing work, we have the simple directions of Christian Science, as well as the inspired example of our great Leader. She entertained only the most loving thoughts toward friend and foe. Tenderly she watched over her household. Patiently she instructed and corrected her students. Unselfishly she worked and prayed to help and heal all mankind of sickness, sorrow, and sin.
There is a sweet little story about how she missed her loved ones when any of them had to be away. On one of these occasions, Mrs. Eddy called the members of her household round her and tenderly remarked, "We are all one family, and when my parents would go away we children used to get together and say to each other, 'Now you will be good to me while they are gone, won't you?' So we must all be good to each other while one of us is away." (Mary Baker Eddy: A Life Size Portrait, p. 228)
The prophet Malachi tells us, "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?" (Mal. 2:10.) The Christian Science textbook states (Science and Health, p. 467), "It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established."
Yes, we are all one family. So we must all be good to each other.
[Published in The Marion County Mail of Indianapolis, Indiana, Nov. 21, 1947. This transcription was made from a badly decomposed page; the words in brackets above, missing from the page, were supplied from a copy of the lecture published in The Dobbs Ferry (New York) Register, May 14, 1948.]