The Priceless Gift of Knowing Oneself
Theodore Wallach, C.S. of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
Many years ago when I was quite a young man, an experienced Christian Scientist said to me, "If you're not having a good time practicing Christian Science, you're not practicing Christian Science!" Well, I knew I wasn't having a good time practicing Christian Science, and in fact I wasn't having a good time – period! Really, I had been admitting to myself that I was quite unhappy, and that I had plenty of reasons for being unhappy! Thinking over his remark, "If you're not having a good time practicing Christian Science, you're not practicing Christian Science," I was forced to conclude that I must be having a wrong concept of Christian Science, somewhere along the line.
One thing I was fairly sure about, I didn't have a very good opinion of myself – and I didn't have a very good opinion of some other people I knew either! Let's state it frankly: I didn't have a very good opinion of man. All around me, I had seen just too much of deceit, dishonesty, indecency, unwillingness to do the right thing. And the reason I wasn't very happy about Christian Science was because of what seemed to me the incongruity between the nice things Christian Science says about man and some of the things I had run into in practical, everyday experience.
For instance, in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the author, Mary Baker Eddy, tells us, in a well-known passage beginning on page 475, that man is "that which has not a single quality underived from Deity." How could I square that with myself, and some other folks I knew also?
I'd like to read to you a few lines on that page in answer to the question, "What is man?" "The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness." "Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas." And farther on we read that man is "that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity."
Does that sound like a pretty good description of you? Well, to me it didn't sound like a very good description of me!
Correct Sense Needed
But I was beginning to notice more and more in reading Science and Health, that the author frequently contrasts the material sense of things and the spiritual sense, as for instance, in the statement (p. 95): "Material sense does not unfold the facts of existence; but spiritual sense lifts human consciousness into eternal Truth." Constantly, Science and Health makes the point that the material sense of man is the wrong sense; the spiritual, the right; that you don't have to change man, the image and likeness of God – the only man there really is – but that you have to gain the right concept of man. And so I finally began to see how and why Christian Science demands that the individual gain a spiritual concept of himself and see himself more nearly as God sees him.
The prophet Samuel was assured (I Sam. 16:7), "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." The question quite naturally arises, "How, indeed, does God see man?" A partial answer may be gleaned from another prophet's statement addressed to God (Hab. 1:13), "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity."
Vast numbers of people accept the Bible assurance that God is Love. And of course, many do this not merely because the Scriptures say so, but because they have so often witnessed the power of divine Love in their own lives – have felt the compassionate, healing touch of God's love when facing and working out problems. And because genuine love is inseparable from intelligence, we Christian Scientists often use the terms divine Love and divine Mind for Deity.
So the question, "How does God see man?" might be stated: "How does divine Mind see its own ideas; how does Love, which is 'of purer eyes than to behold evil' see the children of its own creating?" The answer is plain. God sees man as expressing His own characteristics, His own nature and qualities.
God knows man as His own undistorted reflection, and you can have this true spiritual concept of man, too. Recognition of the intimate and indissoluble unity between God and His own spiritual concept or reflection, man, brings a joyous sense of freedom; for then the old, limiting notions, the defiling thoughts about man, are laid off, and man is found to be, in very fact, God's perfect child. Then it becomes clear that man's God-given nature is honorable and orderly; that his sinlessness and integrity are inherent and indestructible; that his wisdom and dominion are enduring and his genuine selfhood immortal. Science and Health sums it up: "Man is the expression of God's being" (p. 470).
Friends, this is the truth about man, and the truth about man is the truth about you.
Rightness of Spiritual Sense
At this point, some one of you may be saying: "Well, that all sounds very nice. But I recently had dealings with a man who proved to be very dishonest. And I have a relative who is so unkind and critical that everyone tries to avoid her. What about that? Are these God's perfect children? And is it not true that I am often impatient, sometimes sick and sometimes sinful, full of self-condemnation, fear and uncertainty? Are we really all God's perfect children?"
Perhaps I can best answer the question by relating the experience of a friend of ours. This dear woman had been suffering intensely for many months from an illness which had been labeled by the doctors as a very serious organic condition. Because she had received no relief or even expectation of healing from all the medical assistance given her, she was finally led to turn to Christian Science for help. She requested treatment from a Christian Science practitioner, who patiently explained to her some of the foundational facts of man's spiritual being, making clear to her the impossibility of disease or any evil being God-given and real. He also treated her, and encouraged her to study the Christian Science textbook carefully.
In the course of conversations during the next few weeks, he learned that she had been much troubled and hurt by several situations which had arisen in her family; that she had harbored considerable resentment and impatience; and after this distressing physical condition appeared there had been much fear, discouragement, and morose brooding over physical symptoms.
With many careful explanations and illustrations, the practitioner endeavored to lift the patient's thought above the continual contemplation of her difficulties and to grasp the deeper, truer aspects of her being. He reminded her that "Life is Mind, the creator reflected in His creations," as stated in Science and Health (p. 331). But always, this lifting of her thought seemed only temporary, and she constantly slipped back into the depths of self-pity, resentment and discouragement. And of course, the suffering seemed very real to her.
One cold winter morning the practitioner again traveled the long distance out to her home. In spite of all his endeavors to arouse her to some genuine efforts of her own to think rightly, she persisted in painting a dismal picture of her misery and suffering.
Finally, the practitioner, determined to waken her from this needless dream, almost shouted at her, "But you're not like that!" Then, without another word, he put on his hat and coat and left. The patient was so shocked that she burst into tears. She felt that this man, who had been so loving, patient and considerate – even in the face of a hostile family – had now turned against her, too.
After some time spent in tearful self-pity, she suddenly awakened to the real import of his emphatic remark, "But you're not like that!" "Well, what am I like, then?" she asked herself. And for the first time, all she had been reading in Science and Health about man's actual spiritual being, and all the practitioner had been telling her, dawned in full power in her consciousness. For almost two hours, she said later, she actually seemed to be right in the kingdom of heaven! And at the end of that time she knew definitely that she was well.
Now here, to me, is just about the most interesting part of this experience. She knew of a certainty that she was healed although there wasn't the least change of sensation or evidence for many days. She dressed and took dinner with the family, although it seemed extremely difficult, and for the next few days did all she could to maintain a normal household routine. She wasn't even tempted to utter a word of complaint. She found that the old critical attitude towards her family was gone, and she was joyously certain of her healing. After several days she realized that she was almost free from the dreaded difficulty, and within another day or two, that she was, indeed, completely healed – a healing which has been permanent.
Plainly, this healing came about because of the patient's startled awakening to the fact that the evil, which had seemed so utterly a part of her being, didn't really belong to her at all; that it was just a sort of mesmerism brought on by her acceptance of the subtle encroachments of resentment and a false sense of herself and others.
Now to go back to the question as to whether those who express unlovely characteristics are God's perfect children. Christian Science answers by drawing a sharp line of distinction between the man of God's creating and the counterfeit sense, called a mortal. Evil of any kind no more belongs to spiritual man than the disease actually belonged to the woman I have just told you about. Evil is the expression of ignorance and ignorance is always separable from mankind. You can say of those individuals who know no better than to express these unhappy characteristics, "But you're not really like that!"
A Wrong Viewpoint
Even that which we call matter only evidences a wrong point of view. I believe that today any physical scientist will agree with the statement that matter is not at all what it appears to be, is not the solid mass it was once considered. Long ago, Mrs. Eddy wrote in Science and Health, "In proportion as matter loses to human sense all entity as man, in that proportion does man become its master" (p. 369).
What, then, is this so-called substance which appears as a physical body, which appears as a structural, organic entity called material man? It is mortal thought looking at its own materialistic misconceptions, its own mortally-mental objectifications. One might say that the only matter there is, exists in the material viewpoint which sees it! In other words, the matter is not in the object, but in the viewpoint.
How well Mrs. Eddy has stated this: "Mortal mind sees what it believes as certainly as it believes what it sees. It feels, hears, and sees its own thoughts" (ibid., p. 86).
Since matter, then, is but the objectification of mortal thought, its sensations must likewise exist only in the human consciousness. To illustrate: If some night you should have the pleasant dream of eating a piece of luscious apple pie, and you were immensely enjoying its excellent taste – and then suddenly you woke up – well, you'd have to admit that there really wasn't any flavor at all in that apple pie because there wasn't any apple pie! Even so with the sensations of matter, whether they be pleasurable or painful, happifying or terrifying. They are – one and all – the sensations of mortal thought.
Every instance of healing in Christian Science shows that matter is not at all what it appears to be, and also that the sensations of the human body – including the sensations of disease and suffering – are really the sensations of the human mind. Such healing also proves that man, being spiritual, isn't subject to material laws. The so-called laws governing disease are but false beliefs so widely held as to be generally considered factual. God is the lawmaker; therefore, all actual law is for you; there is no law against you.
More than once, the prophet Daniel proved that no human law could withstand the divine omnipotence. Daniel's remarkable deliverance from the den of lions is doubtless familiar to all. He thereby set aside the king's decree which had been established "according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not" (Dan. 6:8), according to the quaint language of the older Scriptures.
But this wasn't the first time
Daniel had vanquished deeply held human law by his consistent reliance upon
God. As a young man, Daniel and some of the other young Hebrews who had been
carried captive from
Daniel said to the king's overseer (Dan. 1:12-15): "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat."
What a splendid lesson for us in these days when so much attention is given to one's diet in order to reduce, or gain weight; what a reminder of the important part that spiritual right thinking has to do with gaining and maintaining a proper sense of health and appearance! Daniel has given to us one of the angel-messages which sustained him (Dan. 10:19): "O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong."
In the measure that we understand man as God's image, not matter, we find we are not subject to so-called material laws of contagion, infection, depletion, exhaustion. Neither are we at the mercy of those mistaken notions called laws of disease, of old age, deterioration, loss of vitality, impairment of the natural functions. Man is the perfect conception of divine Mind, living in the health-giving atmosphere of pure intelligence, subject only to that spiritual law which forever blesses and maintains man at the standpoint of his originally created rightness.
This is the truth about man, and the truth about man is the truth about you!
The Most Godlike Man
What was Jesus' concept of man? Jesus of Nazareth, who has often been referred to as "the most Godlike man," spoke of himself as the Son of man, and also, the Son of God. Certainly Jesus knew the truth about man, knew the truth about himself, and he identified himself so completely with the fact of man's unity with God, that he could even say, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30) – that is, in total agreement. Thus he acknowledged himself as the Son of God. But he also compassionately took up the problems of human existence, illustrating that "the Son of man" had power to triumph over human limitations, mortal hatred, disease, and even death itself. And he insisted that all men could know and utilize this power of Truth as he did.
The relation between the "Son of man" and the "Son of God" illustrates the relationship between the human sense of man and the eternal spiritual status of man as divine idea. Jesus was the human man, whereas Christ is the absolute ideal of God, which Jesus evidenced so consistently that he came to be known as Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus.
Jesus knew what was in man, and he
told us plainly. He said (Luke 17:21), "The
Christian Science is reinstating this Christly way of healing, is reinstating primitive Christianity and its vital element of healing which has been so neglected through the long centuries. This healing is not brought about by mere belief or blind faith in the power of God, but by exercising that acute spiritual understanding which the Master employed.
Mrs. Eddy clearly discerned: "It is neither Science nor Truth which acts through blind belief, nor is it the human understanding of the divine healing Principle as manifested in Jesus, whose humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth, – of man's likeness to God and of man's unity with Truth and Love" (Science and Health, p. 12). So that is how Jesus prayed: his "humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth, – of man's likeness to God and of man's unity with Truth and Love." What a standard of true prayer that sets up for us all!
You see, prayer is not so much a request as an acknowledgment, not so much asking God to do something, as a demand upon ourselves to conform to the spiritual facts of being. Prayer translates spiritual understanding into practical daily experience, illustrating the fact that healing is not a physical process but a spiritual awakening.
In her book "No and Yes," Mrs. Eddy gives another explanation of prayer: "True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us. Prayer begets an awakened desire to be and do good. It makes new and scientific discoveries of God, of His goodness and power. It shows us more clearly than we saw before, what we already have and are; and most of all, it shows us what God is" (p. 39).
Discoverer and Founder
What manner of woman was Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science? What manner of woman would be likely to utter this noble statement about prayer? It is a revealing statement, well illustrating the character of its author, for she did indeed "include all mankind in one affection." It was her prayerful thought which made "new and scientific discoveries of God, of His goodness and power," showing us "more clearly than we saw before, what we already have and are; and most of all" showing "us what God is."
There is much carefully documented, authorized biographical material available concerning the details of Mrs. Eddy's life, and you are, in fact, welcome to read, borrow or purchase books containing these interesting accounts at the Christian Science Reading Room of this Church, or at any Christian Science Reading Room in your vicinity.
These books cover fully the essential points of Mrs. Eddy's background, childhood and education. They give us intimate pictures of her early struggles with illness, loneliness and frustration, as well as the remarkable – and often difficult – experiences which led to her discovery of Christian Science. They reveal her overriding sense of spiritual direction and reliance on God, until the full light of the revelation of spiritual existence finally broke through the dark clouds of human sense.
But to the sincere Christian Scientist, the true measure of Mrs. Eddy's greatness and the scope of her accomplishments is seen in this: First of all, he finds how much – how very much – is required of him in the way of breaking loose from, and overcoming, long-held material beliefs in order to prove even a degree of the all-might of divine Spirit. Then as he beholds Mrs. Eddy's outstanding achievements along this line, he knows from his own experience how greatly she triumphed over the claims of materiality. For only in this way could she have become the revelator of the Science of real being.
Always, Mrs. Eddy insisted upon the practical application of these spiritual ideals to daily living. She was never content to leave them merely in the realm of abstract theory. In Science and Health we read: "A knowledge of the Science of being develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man" (p. 128). And in this same paragraph, "From this it follows that business men and cultured scholars have found that Christian Science enhances their endurance and mental powers, enlarges their perception of character, gives them acuteness and comprehensiveness and an ability to exceed their ordinary capacity."
Application to Business
A few years ago a friend of mine was an executive in a large manufacturing plant which had been having considerable trouble with labor unions. There had been strikes and threats of strikes, with resultant wage increases and other benefits which the management sometimes felt exceeded the bounds of justice.
And now further demands by the union officials presented a crucial situation. Bargaining had gone on over a period of weeks, with tempers rising and pressures increasing on the part of both management and employee representatives.
The day came for a final meeting, a final showdown, between the opposing sides, my friend holding a key position in the bargaining. He knew that he had been allowing anxiety, resentment and a great sense of pressure to gain quite a hold upon his thought. He was a sincere Christian Scientist and prayed earnestly that these negative attitudes might be cast out; that he, and all others involved, might be seen clearly as God-governed ideas.
During the conference, there were increasingly angry words and accusations on the part of both groups. Suddenly my friend was impelled to ask himself, "What are you really doing here? Are you awake to the truth about these men?" And he turned in thought away from the human picture before him to an awareness of God's presence, the presence of the all-controlling Mind and Love.
In preparation for this meeting my friend had given much consideration to the several helpful synonyms for God presented in Science and Health. While the words "Mind" and "Love" meant much to him, the terms "Principle" and "Spirit" stood out as having special application. Now he began to see more clearly that since God is one divine Spirit, this Spirit must be reflected by man, and expressed humanly by all concerned in the spirit of fair play, the spirit of true consideration, even the spirit of genuine brotherhood. Likewise, he saw that divine Principle, fount and enforcer of all law and order, must be reflected by man and expressed humanly in honesty, in orderly and lawful activity, in upright actions and dealings with others.
The sound of angry voices faded into second place in his consciousness as a great sense of peace, the spiritual sense, came over him. He was startled from this kind of thinking by hearing the person who had seemed most stubborn quietly remark, "All right, gentlemen; we'll have to admit you have been quite fair in these matters." And the whole affair was concluded peacefully in short order.
So much of what is done in business today is dominated by fear – fear that we will not get all that is rightfully coming to us, fear of the other fellow's injustice or unfairness, fear of competition, fear of what we think the other man is thinking, fear for the future and lack of security. All of these fears amount to an accumulation of the merciless pressures so evident in the business world today.
But truly, every one of us is endowed with the ability to turn from the human picture, the sense of pressure, as my friend did, and see God controlling His own ideas. You can't put pressure on an idea of God, for an idea is subject only to the control of the Mind in which it exists. So it is our own acceptance or rejection of a false viewpoint which troubles or frees us. Do you recall the old adage, "All the water in the seven seas can't sink a ship unless it gets inside"? When we see that Deity really does control His own ideas we shall find that we possess the spiritual freedom to think and act courageously, that we can prove our continuing security as a child of God, and find ever-increasing capacity for sound wisdom and judgment.
This scientific understanding makes one the successful businessman, the trusted associate, the respected workman, the confident salesman, the loved executive, the appreciated employee. He finds that he is never subject to outside conditions beyond his control, but ever dependent upon the quality of his own thought, his own consistent endeavors to be about the Father's business.
My friends, this is the truth about man applied in the business of living, and this truth about man is applicable to you.
Home and Environment
Much of what I have said about business applies equally to the home. In fact, we all know the close interrelation between thoughts of home and business. Many a business failure has been directly traceable to an inharmonious home; and it is equally true that success in the business world is often due to the wonderful, supporting love in the home. Likewise, the mental atmosphere of the home has much to do with sickness and health.
Of the many inconsistencies of the human mind, few seem more unreasonable than the apparent inability or unwillingness of those in some families to see the ones who are actually nearest and dearest to them in their true, spiritual nature – to separate the human shortcomings from the individual.
The mother of a little four-year-old, let us call him Tommy – and by the way, this is a true story – had often explained to him that because he was really the child of God, only good belonged to him; that when he was naughty, that wasn't the real Tommy at all.
Well, it so happened that one day when Mother was busily working upstairs, little Tommy seemed determined to get into all kinds of mischief. After many warnings, his exasperated mother finally told him in no uncertain terms that he was a very naughty boy, gave him a less than gentle push, and sent him downstairs with the harsh reminder, "And that's not the real Tommy!"
Little Tommy was quite hurt; not used to such rough treatment from his dear mother. As he went downstairs, one step at a time, he sobbed, "And that's not the real Mommy, either. That's not the real Mommy!"
And so when we sometimes feel hurt by the thoughtlessness or willfulness of one close to us, can't we just say to ourselves, "That's not the real Tommy, or Mommy, or Daddy or sister, either"? And then let's be sure to remind ourselves what the "real" Tommy or Mommy or Daddy or sister actually is like!
What warmth of tender understanding and joy comes into the home as spiritual vision replaces harsh suspicion and criticism! How true the statement, "We think in secret and it comes to pass. Environment is but our looking-glass." All the way through, we see that our environment, whether in business, in the home, or in the world at large, is shaped by our basic attitude towards man, himself. After all, every city, state or country is but an aggregate of individuals, and no individual or group of individuals is beyond the reach of the ever-present divine Love and intelligence. It is our privilege to know that because the real man is susceptible only to true thoughts which come from God, he is not at the mercy of carnal suggestions. In fact, it is well to remember that man does not have a suggestible mind, cannot be misled by suggestions of hatred or other forms of untruth which claim to hold entire nations in bondage. Our sure and prayerful knowing that each idea of God is subject to the divine Mind alone tends to lift this burden of untruth from the human mind and bring that freedom from oppressive fears for which all people long. So it all goes back to our conception of man.
"Citizens of the world, accept the 'glorious liberty of the children of God,' and be free! This is your divine right" we read in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy (p. 227), which I have been quoting from. And this book shows us how to attain the liberty for which we all long – freedom from enslaving habits, from disease and the fear of disease, from discordant environments and relationships. It opens wide the door to the dominion which God has given man, and enables one to live up to the visions of spiritual rightness it describes.
Christian Science Textbook
I urge you to read this great book with deep sincerity and thoroughness, for large numbers of people have been healed and helped in innumerable ways by its careful reading. You will find that it is truly a key to the Scriptures, making the Book of books come alive in your understanding, enabling you to demonstrate the profound spiritual truths of the Bible. Consistent study of this textbook unquestionably spiritualizes the thought of the reader, lifting one from mere human trust and faith in God to conscious awareness of the intimate and indissoluble unity which exists between God and man. The thoughtful, daily reading of Science and Health makes clear and keeps clear the distinction between material sense, which claims man to be a physical, structural, organic, material mortal, and spiritual sense, which reveals him as the noblest work of God, the divine conception of divine Mind, and governed by divine law alone.
Such correct thinking sets aside human self-aggrandizement and self-condemnation, self-adulation and self-depreciation, self-will, self-justification and self-deception, and through careful self-examination and self-knowledge leads to true self-appreciation, self-respect, and self-consecration to good. It is thus that we come to a knowledge of man's true being.
Mrs. Eddy says in "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 185), "Self-renunciation of all that constitutes a so-called material man, and the acknowledgment and achievement of his spiritual identity as the child of God, is Science that opens the very flood-gates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being, cleansing mortals of all uncleanness, destroying all suffering, and demonstrating the true image and likeness." Mrs. Eddy continues, "The spiritualization of our sense of man opens the gates of paradise that the so-called material senses would close, and reveals man infinitely blessed, upright, pure, and free."
My friends, this is the truth about man, and the truth about man is the truth about you.
©1963 Theodore Wallach
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