Christian Science: The Science of Life and Health


Robert S. Van Atta, C.S., of Rochester, N.Y.

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 Science of Life and Health" Tuesday evening in the Murat Theatre under the auspices of Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist.  Mr. Van Atta is a member of the Board of Lectureship in Boston, Mass.  The lecturer was introduced by Mrs. Bertha Lanman.

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:


The human race has been greatly blessed by the work of devoted men and women in fields of natural science.  Inventions in transportation and communications, improvements in production, have brought us greater convenience and higher standards of living.  And yet, with all our material progress, there is still something lacking.  A man may know how to sell goods, operate a machine, or build a bridge, and yet not know how to conquer the rebelliousness in his own heart.  A woman may know how to prepare meals, or keep books, or produce beautiful music, and still not know how to subdue envy and overcome her fears.  People may accumulate success, wealth, and honor, and not know how to be happy and well.  In spite of all our material advancement mankind is still woefully ignorant as to the real Science of existence.  Yes, the progress of the race has been seriously retarded by the lack of Science in religion, the true knowledge of spiritual things.

Does it seem right that material knowledge should be exact, available, and practical, while knowledge of God remains haphazard, mysterious, and impractical?  Are we to rise no higher than superstition and blind belief in the realm of spiritual knowledge, the only real and true Science?  Regarding human progress a recent commencement speaker said, "Mechanically, man moves with the speed of jet propulsion.  But in his spiritual progress he is still lumbering along at horse-and-buggy pace."  We need the Science of spiritual thinking and living, even the Science of Life itself, encompassing all existence, explaining and controlling all cause and effect.  Such Science would give the full, complete explanation of the universe; it would show the true nature and purpose of man.

Granted that there is such a Science, what would be the signs of its appearing?  To find the answer to this question you have only to ask yourself, "What would I do if I understood all cause and effect, if I knew the true nature of man and the universe?"  I can almost hear you say, "I certainly would never let myself be sick; I would never be poor; I would surmount every danger.  I would be sure of happiness for myself and others."  In short, you can think of many things you would arrange differently if you only knew how.


Jesus the Scientist

In all the history of the human race has there ever been a man who possessed this great spiritual knowledge, and who gave proof of full mastery over the adverse conditions of human life?  Yes, there has been such a one.  His name was "Christ Jesus."  He was a native of a small province of the Roman Empire.  He lived and worked many centuries ago.  Yet this humble man did such marvelous things that his life and teachings are, even today, a most powerful influence for good among men; they are, in fact, the very hope of the race.  Nothing could make Jesus sick; nothing could make him poor; nothing could injure him; no, nothing could really kill him.  He healed many people of so-called incurable diseases; he restored sanity to the mentally unbalanced; he provided food for the hungry, and protected himself and others from the dangers of storm and angry mobs. The crowning proof that Jesus' teachings were truly scientific is the fact that he taught others, and they, in turn, performed similar works of healing.  The Bible record of healing by Christ Jesus and his disciples is long and convincing.  Read any of the Gospels and note especially the number of healings.  I am sure you will be newly impressed with the extent and the importance of the healing element in the Master's career.  Here was a man who exemplified in his own experience the declaration in the very first chapter of the Bible, that God gave man dominion over all the earth.  Are we not justified in calling him the most successful man who ever lived, the most scientific man who ever walked upon earth?

However, many of the events of Jesus' life were so unusual that men have not always understood them.  We have felt unable to fit such things into the pattern of human experience as we know it; so we have set them aside, placed them in a separate category, and labeled them "miracles."  We have called them mysterious, supernatural, beyond understanding, and impossible to repeat.  Now I submit that such an attitude toward any of the happenings of human life is unscientific and unintelligent.  Where would natural science be if every phenomenon which is not understood were brushed aside and labeled "miracle"?  No, the intelligent natural scientist observes the phenomena, studies them carefully, and through reason based on experience arrives at an explanation.


Mrs. Eddy's Discovery

The Discoverer of the Science of Christianity was Mary Baker Eddy.  At this point I invite your kindly consideration of a few of the facts of her earthly experience.  Her family were devout orthodox Christians, respectable, intelligent, public-spirited citizens, and people of considerable standing in the state of New Hampshire.  After a normal, happy girlhood and an early marriage, she was left a widow.  Then followed many weary years of invalidism.  There were also domestic troubles and financial problems.

Being deeply religious, a careful student of the Bible, and a devout Christian, it was natural that she should be profoundly interested in the question of spiritual healing.  How did Jesus, the early Christians, and the ancient prophets perform their remarkable cures? This question Mrs. Eddy pondered long and earnestly.  She tried for many years to trace all physical effects back to a mental cause, and finally, in 1866, became certain that Mind is the only cause and all effects are mental phenomena.  In her book, "Retrospection and Introspection," she states (p. 24), "My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury caused by an accident, an injury that neither medicine nor surgery could reach, was the falling apple that led me to the discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so."  The writer here refers, of course, to Sir Isaac Newton, who, through observing an apple fall to the ground, discovered the law of gravity.  It is related that Sir Isaac Newton was asked how he came to discover the law of gravity; to which he replied, "By incessantly thinking about it."  In like manner, Mrs. Eddy, not being satisfied to accept her own healing and let the matter drop, devoted much time and effort to discovering the Principle and law of spiritual healing.  She searched the Scriptures.  The Bible was the textbook for her spiritual research.  Through prayer, study, observation, reason, and demonstration, the spiritual meaning of God's message was revealed to her.

After practicing and demonstrating the truth and practicality of her discovery, she named it "Christian Science."  It is literally what the name implies, the Science of Christianity, the exact and provable knowledge of spiritual living and healing.  It is made available in human life and work through the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which Mrs. Eddy wrote.  This book explains the spiritual meaning of the Bible, and for the first time in history mankind has been given a positive, definite rule - a truly scientific method - for utilizing the help of God in human problems.

This brief sketch of the life of Mary Baker Eddy gives you but a meager conception of the character and achievements of this remarkable woman.  She was a great spiritual genius; with unselfish devotion she labored for almost half a century to bring spiritual enlightenment and healing to the human race.  Through God's guidance and support she established the Christian Science church with all its institutional activities on a sound and lasting foundation, thus ensuring that future generations would receive Christian Science in pure and unadulterated form.


Jesus and Christ

The general misunderstanding of the teaching and method of Jesus has been a great tragedy to mankind.  It has brought untold misery and suffering to the race.  The man Jesus was a human being.  He was born of a virgin mother, was brought up, lived his life, did his work, and finally disappeared from the human scene.  How did he differ from other men?  In the fact that, although he was human, yet his character was an expression of the divine - it was as nearly divine as it is possible for any human character to be. Through the Godlike character of his human life he bridged the gulf between God and men; he brought heaven down to earth.  He demonstrated the coincidence between the human and the divine.

Jesus was the name of the man - a name in common use at that time.  Because of his unsurpassed godliness he was called "Christ," or "Messiah."  This is a title, and stands for the goodness which inspired him, the spiritual nature with which he was so generously endowed.  In Science and Health we find this statement (p. 473), "Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus the Christ."  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but the Christ, or divine character, has neither beginning nor end.  The physical Jesus has disappeared from the earth, but the Christ-idea, or spiritual nature, is always present to be learned and lived.

The Bible gives us no description of the Master's face or form, but it does give us accurate and beautiful accounts of his spiritual nature and work.  Jesus taught morality and spirituality; he taught nothing material.  He taught men how to be good and how to be free by teaching them how to think correctly.  If we hope to emulate Jesus in living a truly good life we must understand the Principle and action of his thoughts.  We must understand the Mind of Christ, the divine Spirit which animated Jesus.


Practical Spiritual Investigation

The chemist studies chemicals.  He takes them into his laboratory, he examines and analyzes them; he studies their composition, nature, and characteristics, how they act and what they are good for.  The student of Christian Science does the same thing with thoughts; he observes them and learns to identify them, he discovers their quality and origin, he learns how they act and what they will do.  Christian Science departs from the realm of the physical and deals only with thoughts, but it is none the less scientific for all that.  Why shouldn't there be a Science of spiritually right thinking?

What are some of the spiritual qualities which characterize the Christ, or divine nature? Jesus indicated a few of them in his Sermon on the Mount, where he exhorts his listeners to meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity, peace, and forgiveness.  Also outstanding are honesty, humility, hope, faith, gratitude, patience, wisdom, and love.  These are the materials of our spiritual chemistry.  Take any one of them, look it up in the dictionary, study it carefully, observe it in action, put it to the test in your own daily experience.  No matter how much you know about any of these qualities you can still learn more.

Research chemists have found unsuspected riches in very common things.  They have taken into their laboratories such things as the lowly peanut and the soybean, and have discovered within them the materials for many useful products.  The student of Christian Science is a research Scientist in spiritual things.  His laboratory is the office, the shop, the kitchen, the street, the playing field.  Wherever his human activities take him, there he finds the opportunity to test the quality of his spiritual understanding and demonstrate its usefulness.  The Apostle John says, "Try the spirits whether they are of God." (I John 4:1.)  And Paul writes, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (I Thess. 5:21.) Use these good ideas, prove them, and you will discover that they have more power and more practical worth than you realized.  Try humility, for instance; explore the possibilities of unselfish love; learn the great power of justice; and you will begin to realize that the vast potentialities of Spirit for creating health and happiness have hardly been touched.  But in your researches don't be like the man in the story who was being discussed by two of his friends.  One remarked, "Smith claims that honesty is the best policy."  The other friend replied, "Well, Smith ought to know; he has tried them all!" There are some things we do not need to try.


Ideas from God

How about the origin of spiritual ideas?  When you have a good thought, where did it come from?  Did you create it yourself?  Evidently not, for others probably have had the same good thought before you.  Then you must have received the thought from a source outside yourself.  It makes a man humble to realize that he is dependent upon a source outside himself for right thoughts.  It makes him want to know more about that source and how he can have a closer connection with it.

Jesus declared his complete dependence upon the divine source for his understanding and wisdom.  He said, "I can of mine own self do nothing: 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 5:30)  Here is the secret of his success.  Jesus knew there was primal Mind or Spirit, outside his personal selfhood, which continually furnished him with the necessary intelligence, insight, patience, courage, good will, and all needed qualities. These spiritual ideas, flowing freely from God through his thought, made Jesus the man he was.

The communication of true thoughts from God to man is due to the relationship which exists between God and man.  Let me read to you a paragraph from Science and Health (p.336):

"Immortal man was and is God's image or idea, even the infinite expression of infinite Mind, and immortal man is coexistent and coeternal with that Mind.  He has been forever in the eternal Mind, God; but infinite Mind can never be in man, but is reflected by man. The spiritual man's consciousness and individuality are reflections of God.  They are the emanations of Him who is Life, Truth, and Love.  Immortal man is not and never was material, but always spiritual and eternal."

Realizing our oneness with eternal Mind, we shall find spiritually right thinking is natural and unlabored.

What must we do in order to bring ourselves into conscious communion with the divine Mind; how shall we hear God's voice and recognize it?  By way of illustration we may say that as a man develops an interest in mathematics, as he becomes active in the study and use of its laws, the facts of mathematics reveal themselves to him.  In similar fashion one may develop his interest in spiritual thinking and living; he may appreciate and use his present highest conception of moral and spiritual values, and no matter how small his spiritual endowments may seem he will find that the revelations of God’s nature will pour into his waiting thought.  Let him but hunger and thirst after right knowing and if his desire is deep, sincere, and thoroughly honest, he will indeed be filled with the understanding he seeks.  Honest desire and spiritual striving are effective prayer.


Nature of Evil

So we see that Christian Science presents a simple and logical explanation of intelligent spiritual thinking.  But human experience seems to indicate that there is another side to the picture, and we find ourselves asking, "Where do the evil thoughts come from?" Science explains that evil thoughts come from no impelling source, they carry no power to propagate, and they have no real substance or meaning.  To ask, "What made the evil thoughts?" is like asking, "Who put the mistakes in the multiplication table?"  The answer is, "There are no mistakes in the multiplication table," and you know that to be true when you thoroughly understand multiplication.  Evil thoughts are like ignorance - not really thoughts, but the seeming absence of thoughts.  As you become intelligent you no longer wonder where ignorance came from.  Likewise, as you become increasingly good, evil becomes less and less a problem to you.

In the beginning of this lecture it was pointed out that all existence is conscious existence.  All human experience is conscious experience.  If there were any existence outside of the mental it would be impossible to know it.  Now then, since every human event is a thought experience it follows that sickness is mental.  Perhaps you have supposed that sickness is a condition of matter.  But if you will consider the question carefully you will see that sickness is a mental conviction or belief.  When a man says he is sick he means he is conscious of disease.  When he says he is in pain he means he is conscious of pain.  And then when he is healed he knows he is healed, he is aware of health and freedom.  The change from sickness to health has been a mental change.  But please do not misunderstand me on this point.  To say that sickness is mental is not to say that the patient only imagines it.  Sickness is more than imagination, it is generally a solid conviction.  But a conviction - even a solid one - is still mental, and it may be mistaken. True thoughts are real, and yet an evil thought can seem quite substantial to the unenlightened human mind.

Likewise poverty is a mental condition.  A man says he is poor because he believes himself to be so, because he believes he doesn't know how his needs can be supplied.  A man says he is in danger because of his state of mind, his belief that something unpleasant is going to happen and nothing can be done to prevent it.  And so on through all the various kinds of unhappy experiences, the conditions always seem to a man to be just what he believes them to be.  Healing in Christian Science is sometimes retarded by the failure to grasp the fact that the problem is mental.  But when this point is clearly seen it is obvious that the remedy is a change of thought.


Will Power Not Scientific

Humanly speaking, we need to change our minds.  How is this to be done?  Many believe they can do it themselves.  They believe they have a power within themselves which they call "will power" by which they are able to control and regulate their mental processes.  It is also believed that one person can influence another through the medium of the human will.  But will power is not scientific, because it is a belief of an effect without a cause, an attempt to separate the creator from His creation.

Human will power is characterized in Science and Health (p. 490) as "an animal propensity, not a faculty of Soul.  Hence," the statement continues, "it cannot govern man aright.  Christian Science reveals Truth and Love as the motive-powers of man.  Will - blind, stubborn, and headlong - cooperates with appetite and passion.  From this cooperation arises its evil.  From this also comes its powerlessness, since all power belongs to God, good."

It should be clearly understood that Christian Science healing is not brought about by human will power.  Truth shows us a more excellent way - the Christian way of meekness, patience, and intelligent faith in God.

What is the nature of the cause or creator of the universe of true ideas?  It can only be divine Mind - Mind that is all-knowing, intelligent, and good.  There can be only one such Mind because it must be infinite.  It can have no limits.  It is necessarily present everywhere, all the time; it is universal and eternal.  The individual consciousness, in its true selfhood, is the reflection or expression of the infinite good Mind or Spirit called God.


Nature of God

Our conscious communion with God is in direct proportion to our understanding of the true nature of God.  The great need of humanity is to know God.  Most people readily accept God when an intelligent concept of the creator is presented to them.  The great purpose of Jesus' lifework was to reveal to humanity the nature of his divine source.  In describing God, Jesus often used the word, "Father."  By this Jesus meant that God is eternal Life, the creative Principle which endows man with intelligence and strength, protecting and sustaining His children by spiritual means.  If, when you hear God referred to as Father, it brings to you a picture of a greatly magnified human being, discard it at once, for this is not what the Master meant by the word.  God is Spirit, not matter, and the fatherhood of God is spiritual fatherhood.  As you accept into your consciousness the spiritual ideas of peace, wisdom, true brotherhood, obedience and purity, your human sense of life is transformed and uplifted, and you begin to know God as eternal Father and yourself as the blessed child of His loving care.

Like Jesus, Mrs. Eddy's great work was also to reveal the nature of God.  She got her ideas from the Bible.  Through spiritual insight she was able to perceive the deeper meanings of Holy Writ.  To Jesus' description of God as Father, Mrs. Eddy added the concept of God as Mother.  This word also implies that God is divine Principle or eternal Life.  It emphasizes especially the idea of God as Love.  It indicates the tenderness, gentleness, patience, and brooding care with which God cherishes His children. Remember that God holds you in purity, goodness, and innocence.  Always think of yourselves as upheld, nourished, and pacified through His unfailing spiritual affection. No human being, regardless of how strong or great or intelligent he may appear to be, need never feel ashamed to acknowledge his complete dependence upon the motherliness of infinite Life and Love.  May you never drift away from the protection and peace of God's loving arms.

Whether you call the divine cause Father or Mother, God or Creator, always remember that you are not speaking of a human person.  Whatever terms you use, remember that you are referring to the infinite Mind or Spirit wherein originate all true thoughts, motives, desires, aims, and impulses, the creative source of intelligence and light. Perhaps the best and highest word for God is "Love."  This word indicates the nature of Deity as the source of universal, outpouring, spiritual good, which includes no material element, no friction, inharmony, or destruction.  Mrs. Eddy's ideas were so novel that her choice of words to express them was necessarily unique.  For example, the word "Principle," as a synonym for God.  The word characterizes God as fixed and unchanging, expressing Himself according to law - just and impartial, never arbitrary. "God is no respecter of persons," as the Apostle Peter perceived. (Acts 10:34)


Treatment Illustrated

Now we come to the point of immediate interest and importance to all of us: how to apply spiritual Science in the solution of our human problems.  First, remember that the problem is not primarily a material condition, but a false state of mind.  Then turn to God as the only Mind and Life, that He may fill your consciousness with the spiritual sense of being.  Do not reach out to Spirit for help in matter, but go to God for spiritual help only; do it in full faith and honesty, and you will find your every human need is met.  The response from God is quick and certain; it never fails.  Turn your thought away from the contemplation of life as material; hold strongly the truth that all being is in and of God; maintain this position with patience, courage, and persistence, and you will win.

Perhaps you would be interested in some examples of this mental method of healing. These cases illustrate both the mental diagnosis and the spiritual cure.  A dear relative who was visiting in our city was taken ill and asked to be brought to our home so she could have Christian Science treatment.  This relative had had a severe illness some years before, which seemed to leave with her a strong fear of that particular disease.  Perceiving this fear in her consciousness and believing it to be the cause of her present trouble, the practitioner thought of an appropriate passage from Science and Health, as follows:

"Always begin your treatment by allaying the fear of patients.  Silently reassure them as to their exemption from disease and danger.  Watch the result of this simple rule of Christian Science, and you will find that it alleviates the symptoms of every disease.  It you succeed in wholly removing the fear, your patient is healed.  The great fact that God lovingly governs all, never punishing aught but sin, is your standpoint, from which to advance and destroy the human fear of sickness." (411:27-4)

Going to the bedside of the suffering one the practitioner assured her that God was her loving Father, ever present to guard and care for her, therefore she had nothing to fear; she could safely trust herself to Him.  As the assurance continued in this vein her fear abated, she became more confident, and before the practitioner left the room she said, "Oh, I know I am going to be all right!"  The symptoms subsided, and she was soon well and able to resume her daily duties.

Sometimes little or no personal communication with the patient is possible and the occasion demands absent treatment.  This method is also effective, since space is no barrier to thought; the one divine Mind is everywhere, and Christian Science treatment is not the transfer of thoughts from one mortal to another; it is the communication of God's thoughts to man.  You can pray for those who are far away as well as for those present; your prayers will be equally effective in both cases.  For example, a boy of three was taken to the hospital with a broken leg.  The bone was set and the leg put in a cast, but it could not be held in place, and after three weeks there was no sign of the bone's knitting. A practitioner was called by long-distance telephone, and absent treatment was begun. The next day an X-ray examination showed that the bone had started to knit - the first sign of healing in three weeks!  The second day the surgeon discovered that the bone had grown together so firmly that nothing less than a hammer and chisel could have separated it.  (These were the surgeon's own words.)  The healing of the bone was complete in less than forty-eight hours.  On the sixth day the boy was taken home, and in a short time was walking normally.

In this case the treatment was mainly for the parents, as it must always be when the patient is a young child or a baby, because these little ones are so dependent upon their parents, mentally as well as physically, that their sense of being is largely colored by their parents' thinking.  By realizing the presence of Truth and Love their fears were allayed, friction was eliminated, and harmony established in the home.  How important it is that parents should be scientific Christian thinkers, so as to protect themselves and their children from suggestions of fear, jealousy, doubt, anger, and so forth.

Sometimes a critic of Christian Science remarks that we make too much of physical healing.  In answer to that let me call attention again to the importance placed on healing by Christ Jesus.  Christian Science places strong emphasis on healing the sick by spiritual means alone as a vital part of Christian ministry, and it does this in obedience to the Master's command.  However, it is also true that the higher aim and the emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin.  Sinful deeds are the outward results of sinful thoughts; therefore sin, like sickness, is fundamentally mental, and is mastered by the same spiritual power - the power of divine Mind or infinite Love.  There is, however, an important difference between the two, which is this: sickness is a wrong state of mind that everyone wants to get rid of, while sin is a wrong state of mind that many want to hold onto.  This makes sickness easier to heal than sin - strange as that may seem.  People sin because they believe they like it; but they are sick because they believe they can't help it.  The sick man readily gives his consent to being healed; the sinner is inclined to withhold it; therefore the sinner must first become willing to be healed - thoroughly and honestly willing to change his thinking.


Progress in Understanding

During the First World War I was employed by a firm engaged in the manufacture of a certain important accessory for the Liberty engine.  One of our traveling sales engineers returned from a visit to an Army flying field where they had a Liberty engine equipped with a device manufactured by a competitor.  We eagerly asked him for a report, expecting, of course, to hear that our competitor's product was inferior to our own.  But to our chagrin he replied, “Well, the thing works; and you can’t argue against performance!”

Christian Science has now been before the world for eighty years. During that time, it is safe to say, every known type of disease has been healed.  It has regenerated the lives of thousands of men and women.  Business problems of every sort have been successfully solved.  Family troubles of all kinds have been harmonized.  It is unquestionable that the truly scientific Christianity has been revealed to mankind.  Shall we investigate this higher method and give it a fair trial, or shall we close our eyes to the mighty works of healing going on all around us?  "You can't argue against performance!"

Christian Science is a rational religion, devoid of emotionalism, a revelation of sanity and good sense.  It opens the door to wisdom and intelligence.  It will develop your latent abilities and lead you to success in business and work, to health, happiness, and long life. You can begin now to appreciate and love the Life which is Truth, to enter into heaven on earth.  Spiritual progress commences every time a man turns his thoughts from evil to good, from sin and sickness to health and holiness, from the deadness of matter to the immortality of Spirit.  Progress can never stop, it must go on to perfection - perfection in understanding, perfection in thinking, perfection in living.  Progress in spiritual understanding is the way of salvation for the human race.

For seeking and finding true knowledge, you will need the Bible with "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" to explain it.  Mankind has long cried out, in the words of Job, "Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it. . . . But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?" (Job 28:1,12)  The answer if given by James, when he writes, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)  "Through Christian Science," our textbook says (Science and Health, p. 107), "thoughts acquaint themselves intelligently with God."

Be honest and sincere, and your Father-Mother Mind will bless you with spiritual understanding and healing.  In conclusion, I leave with you this simple thought from Job: "He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee." (Job 36:4)


[Published in The Marion County Mail of Indianapolis, Indiana, Feb. 14, 1947.]