Christian Science: The Science of Seeking and Finding Truth
Joseph Lingen Wood, C.S., of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Is there anyone here who is longing to be freed from some physical difficulty, longing to be healed of sickness, who is feeling lonely, unhappy, or is suffering from any discordant condition? I am here to tell you that the way to gain freedom, comfort, healing, is to learn of God, to seek and find the truth of being. How comforting is this message from God through Jeremiah (29:13), "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
The Bible is the most divinely inspired record of writings by spiritually minded men ever compiled, and this book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by Mary Baker Eddy, is a companion to the Bible. It is, as its title states, a "Key to the Scriptures," the key that reveals the spiritual sense of the Scriptures to the earnest, sincere seeker for Truth, and leads him to the reward promised through Jeremiah.
The basis of all human troubles is ignorance of God. Science and Health tells us (p. 390), "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony." Christ Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, reiterates God's promise, "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). It is seeking which unfolds the realization that one of the main points emphasized in the Bible is the supreme importance of learning to know God, to gain a spiritual understanding of Him.
Idolatrous Concepts Exposed
From the time known as "the Dark Ages" men have been striving to become acquainted with God, but generally have been looking in the wrong direction — the direction of matter. They have wondered what is the purpose of their being here, where they came from, where they are going. They have had some vague sense that there was a power back of all that was going on — a power intangible to them. They could not see it with their eyes, hear it with their ears; they could not smell it, taste it, or feel it materially. They were afraid. They worshiped the sun, the moon, believing that this unseen power was located in them. They made and worshiped idols of stone, wood, metal, with the hope of avoiding the terrible visitations of suffering and catastrophe which came upon them from time to time and which they attributed to God.
It is related in the Acts of the Apostles that the people of Athens had erected, among other altars, one "to the unknown God" (Acts 17:23). No doubt they were impelled by fear of incurring the anger and revenge of any gods they might have inadvertently left out. Although Athens was perhaps the greatest seat of learning and culture of that age, Paul clearly felt it was necessary to tell the Athenians that there was a race of people which for many centuries had worshiped the true God. The history of this race records that leaders such as Abraham, Moses, and others caught clear glimpses of the Christ, Truth, which enabled them to demonstrate the presence and power of God in their own experience. The lives of these men had shown clear evidences of God's power, presence, and love. They had demonstrated the liberating truth of God's omnipotence by wisely leading their people to victory over enemies and to prosperity and harmony. Christendom owes a debt of gratitude for this Hebrew race — a race whose struggles, defeats, and victories in the search for God are related so vividly in the Old Testament.
Resistance to False Concepts
Even today in this enlightened age, there are people who believe that God is a harsh, stern, man-like being who sends suffering and disaster to mankind. Throughout the years there have been men who have refused to accept the concept of God as the source of evil. Habakkuk, a minor prophet of Old Testament times, writes (Hab. 1:12,13): "Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God. mine Holy One? we shall not die. . . . Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity . . ."
In more recent times, about one hundred and twenty years ago, a girl in her early teens refused to accept the doctrine of predestination. The acceptance of this doctrine was one of the requirements for joining the Congregational church of which her parents had been devout members for many years. She could not reconcile this cruel, unjust doctrine with her concept of God as Love, which was unfolding to her consciousness as she sought the understanding of Him. She could not understand why, by God's decree, she could be saved if she accepted this doctrine while her brothers and sisters should be condemned just because they had not accepted it. Her conscience would not permit her to make any compromise with her deep conviction that God — as infinite Love as she conceived of Him — could be so unjust as to predestine some to be condemned and others to be saved.
This girl was Mary Baker Eddy, who, as you probably know, is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science and the author of its textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Mrs. Eddy's father and others brought much pressure to bear upon her to recant. She became very ill. However, she was quickly relieved when she followed her mother's advice to lean on God's love and to turn to Him in prayer for guidance. She writes in "Retrospection and Introspection" (p. 13): "I prayed; and a soft glow of ineffable joy came over me. The fever was gone, and I rose and dressed myself, in a normal condition of health. Mother saw this, and was glad. The physician marvelled; and the 'horrible decree' of predestination — as John Calvin rightly called his own tenet — forever lost its power over me." In spite of her protest against predestination, she was accepted into membership by the pastor and church members.
Apart, from this point of irreconcilable difference, Mrs. Eddy endeavored for years to adhere to the teachings of this church. She severed her connection with it only after much searching of the Scriptures had prepared her for the revelation of God as Spirit — above all mortal sense — and when she had founded a church of her own. Her concept of God, revealed through many years of seeking through study of the Bible, is stated in Science and Health (p. 465), "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love." I should like to recommend a study of this brief but all-important definition which will be of great help in learning to know God. The earnest, prayerful pondering of this definition opens thought to realize His presence as when in the dark, silent hours of night we find ourselves mentally searching for, reaching out to, God.
God is not apparent to mortal sense, but we find evidences of His infinite goodness and love which He expresses through His reflection man. The more of good you discern in others, and the more of good you express in your own selfhood, the clearer is the evidence of God's presence. Man is not good itself; he is the expression or reflection of good.
Jesus emphasized this when he said to the young man who had called him ''good Master," "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (Matt. 19:17). This is an unequivocal indication that he did not consider himself to be God or that he was equal with Him. The Pharisees charged that he made himself "equal with God," but there is no evidence in the Gospels that he made such a claim, or the claim that he was God. His statements, "For what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19) and "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), are not claims of equality with God; they merely affirm his complete at-one-ment with God, his inseparability from Him. This is clarified in Science and Health (p. 381), "As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being."
Mortal Illusions Explained
Christian Science declares that mortal man is an erroneous concept of man, an illusionary sense of man, separated from God. This false concept is the cause of all our bodily ills, unhappiness, and other discords. To gain our freedom from these ills it is necessary to wipe the false concept or illusion out of human consciousness. An illusion is that which appears to the bodily senses to be true but is not. When you look along a straight stretch of railroad track, it seems inevitable that the two rails will meet at some point in the distance. But we know that they do not meet. What our eyes are seeing is said to be an optical illusion.
Again, when you write a figure two on a blackboard, write another figure two under it, draw a line and put a five, the evidence before your eyes is that two and two are five. We know that this is not true. This is not an optical illusion, it is definitely error, it has no existence in fact — because two and two make four, not five.
Similarly, our eyes and our other material senses would have us believe that man is a fleshly form made up of brain, blood, bones, arms, legs — that his substance is matter, the opposite of Spirit. The teachings of Christian Science enable us to see that this material concept is illusion, which is replaced as we find and accept as absolutely true the fact that man is spiritual.
Christian Science also states that Spirit is all-pervading, fills all space, includes all space, is everywhere. Then what and where is matter? The only place where it could be would be outside of infinite Spirit. It is clear that there is no such place. Therefore matter, having no place to exist, has no existence; it is therefore merely illusion, nothing. Science and Health states (p. 468), "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter."
God is Spirit
Having explained something about illusions, let us now seek the truth as revealed in Christian Science. This Science teaches that God is Spirit, to accord with Christ Jesus' statement recorded in John's Gospel (John 4:24), "God is a Spirit." Since God made all that was made, all creation — including man — is spiritual. The suggestion that, because God, Spirit, knows all and created all, He must therefore know evil is not true. It is not even logical. Does light know anything of, or create, darkness? Of course not. Darkness is not an entity, it is but a belief that light is absent. It is dispelled as light appears. Christian Science declares that evil, just like darkness, is but a belief held in human consciousness, a belief that good is absent.
We are all familiar, at least to some degree, with the law of mathematics. We know that the law of mathematics is entirely in the realm of thought, it is ever present, ever available. It is a good illustration of the infinite supply of ideas. Anyone, anywhere, at any time, can use all the examples he needs of such mathematical facts as three and three make six without depleting the supply and without depriving anyone else of using them. Individual examples of these mathematical facts do not interfere with other individual examples; they cannot take the place of other mathematical facts in working out a calculation. They are governed and controlled by unerring law, just as the spiritual creation is governed and controlled by Spirit's laws, These laws, correctly applied, inevitably result in the correct solutions. But the law must be applied, applied correctly by the one working out the problem.
You know that the law of mathematics, being exact in every detail, cannot thrust a mistake into your calculations. How much less can you be fooled into believing that God, infinite Spirit, through His laws, can impel a thought of hatred into your consciousness. You know that this is utterly impossible. Yet many people believe that God is responsible for their ills.
Mind the Basis of All
Everything, yes, everything that is done, is the outcome of thought; therefore, because God is the source of all ideas, of all that is, Christian Science uses the term Mind as a synonym for God. In Science and Health (p. 88) we are told, "Ideas are emanations from the divine Mind." Their source being inexhaustible, they issue forth continually, perpetually, eternally. The human belief that this emanation can be turned off or that there can be a period of mental inaction is a belief of limitation, the belief that infinite Mind can cease to be conscious, that Mind can cease to express itself. If this were true, it is obvious that Mind would have ceased to be infinite at that moment. When we realize that God, divine Mind, is almighty, that He is the only power, and that therefore evil's claim to power, place, or sphere of activity is illusion, without foundation, we are ready to relinquish erroneous material thinking and replace it with ideas ever proceeding from God, divine Mind.
The experience of a young woman with whom I am acquainted illustrates the healing effect of changing thought from a material to a spiritual basis. This young woman was troubled with a burning sensation in her feet. The condition persisted in spite of her earnest seeking to realize, as she had learned in Christian Science, that God is the only power and presence.
One evening, when going downstairs with a friend, she felt a sharp pain in her leg, which caused her to cry out. In concern, her friend questioned her and was told of the condition. The friend suggested that it might be caused by some vertebral displacement, mentioning that she herself had been incapacitated for some time by a similar condition. This caused my friend to become fearful. She prayed all night and in the morning telephoned a Christian Science practitioner for treatment. Briefly, this treatment, or prayer, is knowing that God is All, that He made all perfect like Himself and therefore man, His image and likeness, is perfect. She was able to go to her work as usual.
However, the following morning when she awakened, one side of her body was completely numb. Having learned that the inspired word of the Scriptures leads to close communion with God, she pondered this verse from Isaiah (Isa. 41:10): "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." Also she sought to realize the truths imparted through "the scientific statement of being" from the Christian Science textbook (p. 468): "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual." She was able to rise, telephone the practitioner for further help, and then go to her work. On the third day she told the practitioner that she was healed. But as we shall see fear and expectancy of incapacity yet needed to be eliminated.
At the end of the week she left on a week's motor trip, and while sight-seeing she did considerable walking. However, she found that she was inclined to avoid any exertion which might affect her back. Then she realized that the fear had not been entirely eradicated, and soon her back began to ache painfully. On her return home she went to visit the practitioner, who patiently and lovingly reminded her that God, Spirit, being All, is ever present and the only power, and that man, being spiritual and perfect, is conscious only of perfect harmony. Matter, being the suppositional opposite of Spirit, has no power whatsoever and cannot inform man of aches and pains. She left the practitioner's office completely free, fearless, and she experienced no further discomfort. She was completely and permanently healed. She had learned that by seeking God wholeheartedly and through practical application of the teachings of Christian Science, one gains a knowledge of God, a spiritual understanding of Him which heals discordant physical conditions.
Let us continue our endeavor to understand God through the seven synonyms mentioned a few moments ago. In Deuteronomy (30:20) we find that Moses referred to God in these words: "He is thy life, and the length of thy days." Christian Science therefore accepts this definition of God as Life — that is, your life and my life. In Science and Health (p. 468) we read, "Life is without beginning and without end"; that is to say, Life is infinite, eternal. The infinitude of Life precludes any belief in death. The belief in death is an illusion of what Christian Science terms mortal mind. Paul called it "carnal mind [which] is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). The awakening, or saving of mankind from this belief of birth, life, and death in matter, is the salvation to which Jesus pointed the way. He appeared in the flesh for the purpose of destroying this belief and to prove for us that Life is eternal, unceasing.
The relationship of his humanity to his spiritual nature, the Christ, is explained in Science and Health (p. 473): "Jesus is the name of the man who, more than all other men, has presented Christ, the true idea of God, healing the sick and the sinning and destroying the power of death. Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus the Christ." Referring to his spiritual nature, the Christ, Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Abundant life is clearly life which is free from limits, restrictions, not subject to discord, decay. He taught that this abundant life, this eternal life, would be experienced by loving God with all the heart, mind, soul, strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The process of working out our salvation demands that the belief of life in matter be cast out of thought.
We must learn to know God, good; we must learn to love good so deeply and earnestly, so sincerely and persistently, that we will not permit any suggestion of evil, discord, hatred, and the like to enter thought. We must reverse, firmly and courageously, any such suggestions, replacing them with the spiritual understanding of God, Life, as ever present. All evils must be wiped out so completely that we do actually love good with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We must refuse to give mental consent to, or to accept as true, anything about our neighbor which we would not wish others to accept as true about us.
Through this consecrated striving to purify consciousness from all thoughts and notions unlike God, infinite Life, and to fill our consciousness with loving thoughts, we become conscious of eternal Life, utterly free from all error. We see our brother man as in reality he is, pure and spiritual; we see him as diseaseless, ageless, deathless, as God made him. To our discerning thought, man and the universe present a beauty far beyond anything mortals can imagine. We see them as God sees them, as very good.
Soul, Principle Individualized
In Christian Science we use Soul as a synonym for God as infinite individuality. Each one of us, in truth, is an individual expression of Life, God. The individualization of conscious being is man's real identity. In answer to the question, "What are body and Soul?" the textbook states in part (p. 477), "Soul is the substance, Life, and intelligence of man, which is individualized, but not in matter." Thus we see that our identity, our selfhood, is not in matter, is not in the material body. It has nothing to do with matter. It is the individual expression or reflection of God, Spirit. This individual conscious identity of being is, of course, just as eternal, ever existing, ever present, as divine Principle, God, of which it is the reflection. This identity of each individual coexists with God; it is absolutely inseparable from Him. It it not possible that man, the reflection, could be separated from the Principle reflected; if this were possible, then God, Principle, would be separated from His own expression; He would be a nonentity. Cause would be without effect.
The mortal, material body which is but the erroneous concept of identity, must be put out of thought and replaced with this true spiritual identity. As Paul says (1 Cor. 15:53), "This mortal must put on immortality." You each have your own identity, your own immortal identity, and this appears, because understood, as the false material concept is cast out of thought. This is your true selfhood. You cannot give it to another. No one can take it from you. It is, through all eternity, your individual conscious reflection of divine Principle, Soul. One might be willing, and perhaps one might wish, to change his human circumstances for those of someone else. But you would never really wish to be someone else, would you? You always want your own sense of identity — always. Even the disappearance of the body to mortal sight does not in any way affect one's spiritual identity; that goes on unceasingly because it is the individual reflection or expression of unending Life.
When he was on trial before Pilate, Jesus said that he had come into the world to "bear witness unto the truth" (John 18:37). Christian Science reveals that Truth is the reality of all things, that is why this word is included as a synonym for God. On one occasion, as related in John's Gospel, Jesus pointed out to the Jews that believed on him that, if they continued in his word, "then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31, 32). This is a statement of divine law. Let us see how we can put this law into our daily life, so that we may experience its benefits.
Speculating as to why or how we came to believe that we live in matter, does not help to correct the belief. If you were shipwrecked, not much progress would be made by speculating as to what caused the shipwreck. It would be far better to turn thought to God, to know that the understanding of divine Mind, when applied, can rescue you from any seemingly hopeless situation.
Similarly, if you awaken in pain, with an illness, distress, it is a waste of time, for example, to speculate on what you might have eaten to bring about the condition. You will gain freedom sooner by knowing the truth, that you are a child of God, the image and likeness of Him, and therefore well, healthy, and free from all error. Know that no matter or material conditions can affect you, that no medical or so-called material laws can affect you, for you are subject to laws of God alone, to His laws of harmony. That is just what Jesus meant.
He did not tell his followers to speculate how they came to believe in a mortal sense of life. No, he told them to live in accord with his teaching and that, if they were steadfast in this, they would come to know — to understand — the truth of being. This would wipe out beliefs of discord and disease from human consciousness. Freedom would inevitably follow. The Pharisees then claimed that because they were the descendants of Abraham, they were free by birth. Here was an opportunity to point out that it was actually this sense of human birth which is the evil, the lie to be destroyed.
Jesus said, in effect, that the father of all flesh was the devil (the one evil). This evil, which they called Satan, was the belief that there is a power, a creator other than Spirit. There is no truth in this so-called power, no truth in the material sense of existence, which was fathered by its own misconception of spiritual being. Jesus said, describing Satan, "He is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). Science and Health explains it in this way (p. 259): "Mortal thought transmits its own images, and forms its offspring after human illusions."
God, Spirit, is the Father of man. Man is not a liar, nor is he a creator; he is the evidence of Truth's being. In his first epistle, John writes (3:9), "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; . . . and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Therefore Satan, the personification of sin or evil, is not a child of God who has fallen to temptation. If God is infinite (and He is), if God fills all space (and He does), then there is no place mentally, physically, or metaphorically, where His child could fall. The image and likeness of God cannot for a moment cease to be less than perfect, unless God Himself ceases to be perfect.
So Christian Science, opening the way for the seeker of Truth, maintains that "evil is a negation, because it is the absence of truth. It is nothing, because it is the absence of something. It is unreal, because it presupposes the absence of God, the omnipotent and omnipresent" (Science and Health, p. 186).
In his first epistle, John writes (4:16), "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him." Following his own counsel, "Seek, and ye shall find" (Matt. 7:7), Jesus preached and practiced love divine. Dwelling in love, he faced the cruel, hateful charges made by the Pharisees, with fearless courage and love for his persecutors, and found victory.
Although Jesus was born of the flesh, he understood far more of the divine nature, the Christ, than any other human being. He demonstrated the power of the Christ to heal the sick, raise the dead, and redeem mankind from the belief of life and intelligence in matter. Impelled by the power of God, divine Love, he showed us the way to full salvation from evil. Salvation is free, yes, absolutely free, like the air we breathe, but we must make the effort to avail ourselves of it. Jesus did not work out our salvation for us. We must follow in the way he showed us. We must understand and use what he taught, and we must take the necessary human footsteps to work out our salvation. The practicality of Jesus' teachings in solving daily problems, physical and mental, is being proved every day by students of Christian Science.
As an illustration, I should like to relate the experience of a businessman I know personally. As a boy, he had attended Christian Science Sunday School and had grasped something of the practicality of the teaching of this religion. Some years later his employment as a salesman had been terminated through no fault of his own. Although this resulted in some discouragement and depression, he saw the experience as an opportunity to put into practice what he had learned.
He felt guided to take a long trip to an industrial center to investigate possibilities of employment. During the journey he spent much time in earnest study of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook. He pondered prayerfully Christ Jesus' promise (Matt 6:33), "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." This brought a clearer understanding of Christian Science and enlightened his thought spiritually. Discouragement began to disappear. In its place appeared the true business — that is, putting into practice his understanding of God rather than trying to accumulate worldly wealth.
He saw that his daily business was to serve his fellow man. He found that he was gaining a completely new view of selling — that selling is giving, not getting. My friend glimpsed the fact that divine law is ever operating in the affairs of men; but in order to experience its benefits all errors must be cast out of thought because, they were hiding from him his divine activity — errors such as quick temper, criticism, and selfishness.
You see, my friends, he was learning to understand God through the light which the study of Christian Science was bringing to his consciousness. He was ready to listen for and to obey God's direction. Errors faded from consciousness. Here is what Science and Health (p. 406) has to say: "The Science of being unveils the errors of sense, and spiritual perception, aided by Science, reaches Truth. Then error disappears."
Later he and about a dozen other men applied for a position. The choice narrowed down to one other man and himself. Finally, the other man was selected. Now, my friend's prayers, his earnest desire to learn of God, and his willingness to obey God's laws were a strong defense against suggestions of loss, discouragement, disappointment. Furthermore, he was grateful for the other fellow's progress. He saw quite clearly that what had happened was the best thing for the company. He felt impelled to write to its officials thanking them for their consideration. It was a joyous surprise when they replied offering him a position of unusual opportunity. From this beginning, he developed and established his own successful business, and now he employs a number of people (Sentinel, March 31, 1956).
The healing prayer in Christian Science is spiritual activity. In her book "No and Yes" (p. 39), Mrs. Eddy writes: "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." When students of Christian Science, seeking healing or the solution of any problem, repeat the Lord's Prayer and other truths from the Bible, or "the scientific statement of being" and other statements from Mrs. Eddy's works, they do not do this because they believe that there is any power in the constant repetition of words. The words are repeated so as to open thought to the spiritual truths underlying them. These truths become active in thought, and they reverse, wipe out, the false, the erroneous, or evil thoughts. These spiritual facts become an active influence in the thinking of the individual.
Having prayed in this way, feeling assured of the truth of our affirmations, with strengthened faith and trust in God, we confidently take the human footsteps which are revealed to us through our spiritually enlightened thought. Having sought and found that God is infinite, is All, ever present, let us join in this most beautiful, most powerful prayer of David which is found in I Chronicles (29:10-13): "Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name."