Let There Be Light

 

Edward C. Williams, C.S.B., of Indianapolis, Indiana

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

No one today has to live in darkness − not even the darkness of illness, immorality, or discouragement − Edward C. Williams, C.S.B., told an audience in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, Thursday.

The light that's needed, through which anyone can discover a full and free life, is spiritual illumination, which is found only in an understanding of God, the lecturer said. It was with this light, "the truth of God and of man in God's likeness," that Jesus healed, he declared.

"Jesus clearly understood and thoroughly exemplified the truth of God as infinite good, and of man's indestructible relationship to good," Mr. Williams explained. "It's this truth that brings enlightenment to human consciousness, and releases our natural capacities for achievement and happiness. It's the power through which Jesus could cure the incurable and give new hope and purpose to the sinner and the outcast."

Christian Science brings such light today by helping us to see the true nature of God and man as Jesus understood them, the lecturer said. In this light man is seen to be spiritual, like his creator.

Understanding like this, Mr. Williams observed, dispels the darkness of ignorant belief, and then "the pain and weakness resulting from spiritual ignorance melt like ice in the warm sunshine."

Mr. Williams, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science, is currently on tour throughout the United States and Canada as a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship. He was introduced to his audience by Noel D. Bryan-Jones, First Reader of The Mother Church.

A partial text of the lecture, titled "Let There Be Light," follows:

 

The most important light of all

Recently I heard someone say that perhaps the next great breakthrough in scientific research will be the development of the vast potentialities of light.

This set me to pondering just what kind of light is most needed today. Certainly the material, everyday light defined by physical scientists as radiant energy is important. It's hard to imagine what living would be like if we were totally without this kind of light. We depend upon it for our sense of form, direction, color, even our sense of balance. Why, most of us depend upon light to divide day from night. It regulates our sleeping and waking, and the scheduling of all our affairs.

Even artificial forms of physical light are useful − street lights, traffic lights, automobile lights. But as marvelous and useful as physical light is, it can never satisfy humanity's need for higher illumination. Radiant energy has never taught a man to be honest, or to love his neighbor.

Another type of light is the human enlightenment found in academic learning. Never have we enjoyed so much education. Millions of dollars in public money as well as scholarships make education available to more young people than ever before. And in the field of adult education it's reported that one out of every five adults takes at least one school course.

This educational enlightenment is all to the good. Yet, in spite of it, there's a moral decay in some areas of society which threatens our modern culture. Since 1958 crime has increased five times faster than the population of our country. Society spends far more money on drugs, liquor, and smoking than it does on higher education. For want of a fuller understanding of strong, spiritual values our society stumbles in moral uncertainty, and we're referred to as a pill-worshiping generation.

We need something to firm up the character of men. And this brings us to the most important light of all: the spiritual illumination which is found only through an understanding of God. It's the light referred to in the Bible where John speaks of God's Word, God's message to the world, or the Christ. John says, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). The New English Bible refers to this light as the "absolute" light. Suppose we examine this light from the viewpoint of three basic questions. First, What is this true light? Second, How do we find it? And third, What is the effect of this light?

 

Man expresses his divine source

The answer to our first question − What is the true light? − lies in John's assertion of God's Word as the true light. And John explains further that this message of Truth from God to humanity came through the man Jesus. Speaking of his divine message, Christ Jesus said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).

The enlightenment Jesus brought raised humble fishermen and other simple men to such spiritual heights that they could go fearlessly out into the world, teaching what he had taught them, transforming men's characters, healing the sick and even raising the dead.

Now this light had always been present. It appears in the first chapter of Genesis in the divine command "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3). But in Jesus this light clearly shone through to suffering humanity. It was the truth of God and of man in God's likeness. Its purpose was to rescue humanity from that ignorance of God which is the source of all human discord.

Jesus clearly understood and exemplified this truth of God as infinite good and of man as God's expression. It's this truth that brings enlightenment to human consciousness and releases our natural capacities for achievement and happiness. It's the power through which Jesus could cure the incurable and give new hope and purpose to the sinner and the outcast. Jesus taught that God is Spirit; and he pointed out the spiritual nature of man as created by God when he said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Here Jesus showed that man in his true nature is spiritual, the expression of his divine source.

Jesus taught that God is Life and Love, tenderly caring for every least identity in His creation. He taught that men should live to express the perfection of their heavenly Father, and that this was possible because God had made man good, like Himself. Each of these facts contains tremendous implications that throw an entirely new light on our experience and its possibilities for good.

Take, for instance, this fact that man is spiritual. It means that in reality we're not physical organisms, depending upon the ever-changing conditions of matter. We have the indestructible substance of Spirit and we can utilize Spirit's unbounded qualities of intelligence, integrity, joy.

 

Spiritual illumination dispels ignorance

Evil is ignorance of God, ignorance of man's eternal unity with God. It's the belief that almighty God is not almighty; that there is an opposite power, which often upsets good with bad.

Centuries of materialistic teaching have built up this world belief into ice-bound conviction. But spiritual enlightenment can and does penetrate it. Revealing God's all-power, it dispels the darkness of ignorant belief. In the radiance of Christ, Truth, the pain and weakness resulting from spiritual ignorance melt like ice in the warm sunshine.

We can compare evil to darkness. As darkness is the absence of light, evil is the suppositional absence of God, good. But God is everywhere. An infinite God can never be absent. Then evil can never be present. It's simply ignorance of God's presence and of man perpetually in that divine presence.

A sickly, discordant mortal is no more real than a cruel and wicked mortal. Both are mistaken concepts of God's spiritual, perfect man − shadows cast by ignorance. Christ brings spiritual enlightenment. Then the shadows fade before the spiritual reality of man, perfect in God's likeness.

The Bible tells the story of a man who traveled all day in the bright desert sun; yet he was in mental darkness until the Christ, through spiritual illumination, pierced that darkness. Saul was an overzealous Pharisee who believed that he was serving God's purpose by persecuting the followers of Jesus.

Saul went to Damascus, as the Bible says, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1). Steeped in theological dogma, Saul's narrow, materialistic sense of God prompted him to do wrong. Of course, he thought he was right, but now, as he approached Damascus to take more prisoners, he began to feel the prick of conscience.

Then suddenly came the light − spiritual illumination of such brilliance that even in the blaze of the desert sun its radiance shone round about him. A revelation of the Christ spoke audibly, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4); and his whole structure of Pharisaical learning collapsed. Complacent scholasticism went dark, and his sight was gone. Saul found himself in an intellectual blackout, and actually physically blind.

In the days ahead Saul must be born again, but with a new nature and with the new name of Paul. He must be transformed by spiritual enlightenment. He would see again, but never from the old, Pharisaical viewpoint.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, refers to this in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." She writes, "Saul of Tarsus beheld the way − the Christ, or Truth − only when his uncertain sense of right yielded to a spiritual sense, which is always right" (p. 326:23).

Have you ever prayed that an "uncertain sense of right" might yield to a "spiritual sense, which is always right"? Every day of our lives each of us needs the light of spiritual illumination − a light far beyond either physical light or mere human education. The same Christ light that shone upon Saul as he knelt in the desert sand is here to illumine us with a measure of that "spiritual sense, which is always right."

We can't dispel the darkness of spiritual ignorance by ourselves, for we have no inherent personal light. Christ, the true idea of God, comes to human consciousness and enlightens it. This light expels evil from our experience just as rapidly as we make room for it in our thinking. It's the true and absolute light. The darkness of fear, unhappiness, all materiality, cannot stand before it. Christ reveals our spiritual identity, just as it revealed Paul's.

Now so far we've considered our first basic question, What is the true light? We've seen that it's the spiritual illumination that comes through the Christ, God's Word or message of divine Truth to humanity. This brings us to our second basic question: How do we find this light?

One way is through prayer.

A hundred years ago a solitary woman reached out in prayer for spiritual light under circumstances where all hope, even life itself, seemed lost. But Mary Baker Eddy was a deeply religious woman, so she had prayer and her Bible to work with.

As she pondered the healing works of Jesus, she was convinced that God is infinite good − that is, good with no possibility of an opposite. She saw that God is Life, Spirit, and that this Life is the total and only reality of existence. It dawned upon her that this was what Jesus had been proving when he healed the sick and raised the dead.

This revelation of the Christ lighted so sharply and registered so distinctly upon her receptive thought that she was healed.

Mrs. Eddy went on to heal and teach others. She saw that all causation is God, divine Mind; that God is the intelligent Principle of all creation, and that men must learn how to commune with this Principle and identify it as their source for it to bring happiness and order into their lives. She saw that the answer to both personal and world problems lies in understanding God to be the one and only Mind, and that acceptance of this one divine Mind will bring harmony and unity to men and nations.

 

The nature of prayer

This illumination which came to Mrs. Eddy through prayer was infinitely more than a personal transformation; it was a scientific discovery for which the world had been waiting for centuries. In fact, Jesus had prophesied its reappearance. He referred to it as the Spirit of Truth, which would lead into all truth. It was to be known by its influence in the lives of men; and a vast multitude of people have found that this is just what Christian Science is, a revelation of divine Truth which brings comfort and healing.

The message is complete in Mrs. Eddy's book Science and Health, which all Christian Scientists use in their study of the Bible. This book unlocks the healing message of the Bible and its application to human needs.

Mrs. Eddy named her discovery Christian Science because it's based on the same divine Principle Christ Jesus demonstrated. She founded The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, as a means of sharing with all mankind the spiritual enlightenment which had come to her through prayer. Today this Church has branches around the world.

Now let's consider further what the nature of true prayer is. By prayer I don't mean giving advice to God, or pleading with the infinitely intelligent creator to correct some supposedly divine mistake. God is the one perfect, all-knowing Mind. We can't influence Him through prayer. But we can sensitize our thought to God's enlightenment by learning more of Him as divine Love, Principle, and Truth. We can respond to Love's influence through more unselfish living. Then increasing good will brighten our experience.

Now the inspired light which healed Mrs. Eddy wasn't visible to the human eye. Just as some kinds of material light are invisible to the naked eye, so spiritual light is invisible to the material senses. Degrees of light which are beyond the spectrum of visible light, such as infrared and ultraviolet, can be seen only through scientific instruments that are more sensitive than the eye.

 

Gratitude is a quality of prayer

To perceive spiritual truth, which is invisible both to the senses and to scientific instruments, we must purify and spiritualize our thinking. Love of good is the lens through which to see God.

Like Christ Jesus, Mrs. Eddy saw beyond the narrow spectrum of mortal thought. She discerned spiritual realities which are invisible to the materialist. The materialist may disregard God because his faculties for discerning spiritual truth are out of focus, obscured by his contentment with matter. But the light of spiritual reality is clear and bright to those whose thought is in focus. This adjustment comes through prayer, the prayer of conscious alignment with divine Truth.

Let's take a look at some mental qualities in particular which are a part of true prayer and help to align us with the divine. One is receptivity. Receptivity is willingness to accept a new idea, even if we have to let go of an old belief.

Another is perseverance. This quality of thought persists in relying upon God's all-power, even in the face of the most discouraging appearances. You may recall the story of the Shunammite woman in the Bible. Even when her little son had died, she insisted that all was well with the child. Her prayer of persistence must greatly have helped Elisha in restoring the child to life.

Another quality of true prayer is gratitude, for gratitude is our innermost acceptance of ever-present good.

Let me illustrate how this kind of prayer brings enlightenment and healing.

Late one evening I received a telephone call from a woman who said she needed help and asked me to come to her office. I found it located in a second-rate downtown office building, just a cubicle at the end of a dim hallway. When I knocked she called for me to come in − and there was a lovely young woman sitting alone on the floor, listening to a Beethoven symphony on a little record player. She had a cigarette in one hand and a textbook on psychology in the other.

She was in such pain and tension that it was difficult for her to speak, but her story was that she was desperately ill and afraid. Her father had put her out of her home. She had only her car and a rented room, and she was in a severe state of tuberculosis. Clinical examinations had confirmed this.

Her regular physician had cautioned her that unless she stayed in bed under a strict medical regimen and avoided the slightest exertion, she couldn't last more than a year. But she had to earn a living. In discouragement she had tried several times to destroy herself. Now she wondered if there was anything to be found in Christian Science. So we talked about God.

 

 

Spiritual enlightenment brings healing

We talked about the reasonableness of finding courage through acknowledging God as ever-present good − not as a personality, but an all-encompassing Love, intelligently protecting and caring for each of His dear ones. I explained that resentment and cynicism, which occupied much of her thought, were like a darkening cloud which produced pain and disease in her experience. Now she must reverse this destructive mental action by letting in the light of forgiveness, the activity of love. She was receptive to this and began to relax. Gradually, the pain subsided.

Well, to shorten the story, during the next few weeks my wife and I saw this girl at the strangest times. One morning before daybreak we heard a faint rap on the door and found her lying unconscious on the doorstep. Again, very late on a cold winter night, the police found her walking along a deserted street. They brought her to our house where she spent the rest of the night on the sofa. She came often after that when the fear and pain became too great.

But as the days went by, she persevered in her study of the Bible and Science and Health, and she prayed. This kindled an inner light which regenerated consciousness and laid the foundation for complete healing. Gradually, lovely qualities of character appeared − patience, gratitude, thoughtfulness. Then the time came when she was strong and well. The tuberculosis with all of its symptoms was gone. She lost all desire for tobacco and liquor. A normal companionship with her father was restored.

Shortly afterward she was married, and for years has enjoyed a home and her profession with satisfaction and security. Incidentally, when I called her to ask if I might tell about her healing in my lecture, she agreed, and then she said with a good-natured laugh, "You can tell them that now I work hard every day!"

Now if this restoration can come to one, it can come to all. This healing was an illumination of consciousness, the activity of God's word, or the Christ. The power of divine Love to care for its own − to care for you and me − was brought to light.

Now up to this point we've considered our first two basic questions. First, we concluded that spiritual illumination is the true light. Second, we saw that one way to find this light is through prayer. This brings us to the third question, What is the effect of this light, of this Christ, Truth? Well, we've just seen that the effect of spiritual illumination is to regenerate and heal. Let's take another look at how this is done.

Actually it's the penetrating action of divine Truth piercing the fog of mortality. What do we mean by mortality? We mean all that's material and subject to discord and death.

Mortals believe that they live inside a physical body; but actually the body is in them. It's one of many concepts which they embrace in consciousness. Someone once said that if we actually lived inside our body, we wouldn't be able to see beyond the end of our nose. It's all dark in there! What appears to be a physical body is subjective thought. Like a dream-body, it walks, stands up, sits down, gets sick or well, in obedience to its owner's thinking.

You see, we're dealing always with thoughts. The great message of the Bible is instruction in right thinking. Jesus referred to evil thoughts as the tares and good thoughts as the wheat. He said the former should be destroyed, the latter retained.

Disease, crime, tragedy are externalized thoughts. What would make a man commit a crime? Lawless thoughts. Crime begins in thought before it's acted out. What spreads social diseases? Immoral thoughts, resulting in immoral conduct. Drugs and alcohol can't hold their victims unless, in thought, their victims give consent. Society attempts to battle the social delinquent instead of battling the thoughts which cause delinquency.

We need to screen our thinking and not leave consciousness like a house with many open windows letting in the wind and dust and rain. We should be as selective about what we put into our minds as what we put into our mouths, or even more so. No one would think of eating contaminated food; but sugar-coated contaminated thoughts are urged upon us from every side. They seem harmless only because their poison is slower.

 

Truth melts evil

Mass world belief in the pleasure of sin and the fearfulness of disease is hypnotic. Too often these take shape in our experience if we leave our thought open to their mental contagion. Mental acceptance of sin and disease obscures God's all-presence and all-power and exalts suppositional evil. Evil may seem tempting, or terrifying, until the light of spiritual truth melts it away. Evil can't project its tragedy into our experience when we reject its arguments and hold steadfastly to the all-power of the one God, the Truth that brings light.

With even a little spiritual enlightenment, the contrast between good thoughts and deceptive beliefs stands out in sharp profile. We begin to rule out of consciousness discordant, worthless thoughts just as a cashier in a bank detects and rejects counterfeit money. Loyalty to good, courage to stand for the right, faith in God's presence and power to heal, gain predominance in our thought. These are the effects of the Christ, Truth, as it illuminates our consciousness through prayer.

One of the errors of mortality which the light of Truth pierces is the belief that disease is real, actually part of God's creation. Why, if disease were the work of God, Christ Jesus would have agreed with it; he wouldn't have healed it. His consistent negation of disease leaves no doubt that it's contrary to God's purpose. God's purpose is good.

How does God's law of Truth control the human body to bring about a physical healing? To answer this, we must remember that the body is a formation of thought. It expresses our thoughts, as illustrated in the movement of our hands and the tone of our voice.

Joy, exhilaration, age, even death, are mental states which the body obeys. Mental discord causes physical discord. Spiritual understanding promotes health and peace. The material body is the blackboard on which discordant mortal thought draws its disease pictures. Spiritual enlightenment wipes the slate clean.

Now as Christ, Truth, pervades human thought, it governs all the thought-formations of the body. Christ demonstrates that man is spiritual, not material; and that his real body, or identity, is his conscious embodiment of divine qualities.

 

Man's real identity is spiritual

This true light clarifies individual consciousness and its concept of body, uplifting it from a sense of insubordinate matter to a higher understanding of substance that is spiritual. The effect is a better sense of body whose members now function in obedience to God's perfect law, because thought is obedient to God's law.

Christian Science is here to show us how to root out the evil and cultivate the good. It teaches us to distinguish between disease-producing thoughts and the true − how to understand the reality of good, instead of living in a false consciousness of discord and evil.

Spiritual enlightenment shows us that we're not mortals. Our true identity is the spiritual and perfect likeness of God, as the Bible tells us. This illumination pervades consciousness with increasing harmony and peace. The body, a formation of consciousness, responds in becoming normal and healthy.

Now the effect of this light extends far beyond the individual. Truth illuminates individuals, and through individuals it illuminates the world. For example, Science and Health says, "The rays of infinite Truth, when gathered into the focus of ideas, bring light instantaneously, whereas a thousand years of human doctrines, hypotheses, and vague conjectures emit no such effulgence" (p. 504).

Just as rays of sunlight produce intense heat and brilliance when they are focused, so the rays of infinite Truth, when gathered into the focus of ideas, bring light and penetration to the clouds of human woe.

Just think how the vital ideas of justice, love of liberty and freedom, focused at one point of human history, brought forth the Magna Carta, or the Declaration of Independence!

A discordant, material belief is simply a mistake made up of false thoughts which have no focus and give no light. But a spiritual idea is a focal point of infinite Truth whose rays bring inevitable light.

History shows repeatedly how such illumination has brought progress and freedom to humanity. Inspired by God, Moses brought the Ten Commandments to Israel. These focal points of divine Truth, highlighted the character of God as the one supreme good, and when the Israelites obeyed them, they rose from slavery to national independence and prosperity.

Jesus was born a babe in a manger. But later as a teacher voicing the Christ message he declared, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). His followers, mentally transformed by this light, founded the early Christian church.

 

Material restrictions are crumbling

Again, centuries later, spiritual light was made available to the masses by translation of the Bible into the language of the common people. Gradually, like the coming of spring, humanity awoke from the winter of the Dark Ages. Literature, art, and music blossomed.

Within a brief 500 years education increased a thousand-fold. Breath-taking forms of labor-saving power were discovered as mankind stepped into the mechanical age. In wide areas of the world, government by the people and for the people was established in the place of autocracies. Women's rights were acknowledged.

Now the leaven of Scriptural enlightenment has raised world consciousness to where at last it is ready for the appearance of the Science of Christ, the Comforter, or "Spirit of truth," which Jesus foretold (John 15:26).

Christian Science defines the universe and man in spiritual, not material, dimensions. It arouses rebellion against time-honored, material limitations which were never divinely ordained. Men are exploring pioneer areas of thought where the horizon is continually expanding.

During the last century material restrictions have crumbled more rapidly than ever before. Worldwide communication has become almost instantaneous. Transportation has advanced from a horse's pace to beyond the speed of sound. Our astronauts soar into outer space to circle the earth in a matter of hours. Inveterate diseases are being healed through spiritual means alone.

Now these developments are no accident. The ideas were always here. Humanity broke through to them when inherited limitations were challenged − when the inertia of materialism began to stir and churn under the penetrating focus of spiritual light. This light, divinely demanded from the beginning, has reached its full brilliance in the Science of Christ, or Christian Science.

Now all of this adds up to the conclusion that real progress is the growth of human consciousness out of mortality into the understanding of infinite Spirit, God. It will continue to be illustrated in our progressive release from discord and restriction until we fully demonstrate the spiritual reality that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God.

What is it that awakens us so naturally in the morning when night is past? Isn't it the coming of daylight? Even so, the brighter, spiritual light of the Christ can awaken as from the darkness of mortal beliefs into health, harmony, and spiritual freedom.

 

1967 Edward C. Williams

All rights reserved

 

[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, under the headline "Spiritual enlightenment reveals man as child of God", March 22, 1968.]

 

 

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