William C. Breen, C.S.B., of Sacramento, CA
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
On a cross-country flight I put on my earphones and plugged into the end of a taped program. The only words I heard were "mind over matter."
When the tape started over, I listened to what the speaker had to say. It was a message on positive thinking.
Occasionally one hears that Christian Science is simply mind over matter. But in the way that's usually meant, nothing could be further from the truth. Christian Science stresses that because there's just one God, there's really only one, infinite Mind. Each of us, in reality, is the perfect spiritual image of Mind, expressing its wisdom and goodness. As we realize divine Mind's intelligent government of man, we exercise our God-given dominion over material conditions. The emphasis in Christian Science on one Mind and the perception of spiritual reality is far different from positive thinking or the action of the human mind over matter. In Christian Science, healing follows naturally from awakened spiritual perception.
This view of God as divine Mind and man as His spiritual, perfect idea isn't an abstraction that has no relevance to today's experience. It's something tangible that can be perceived and demonstrated as useful in our daily life.
Many years ago a unique man lived in a country ruled by a military dictatorship. There was much sickness and poverty. Yet, in the very midst of this oppressive evidence he perceived something entirely different. He said, "The kingdom of God is at hand." (1) His declaration wouldn't have earned much force unless he was able to prove what he said by his healing works. This man, Jesus the Christ, showed us the way. His healing works confirmed his words.
Christ is the divine idea of God that has existed throughout all ages. Jesus is the name of the man who so completely saw and expressed the spiritual nature of God that he was rightly given the title "Christ Jesus."
In Jesus we find the highest expression of God's love for humanity. He was unique. No one else can ever take his place. The Apostle Paul said, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (2) Jesus showed the way for all to take. He expected us to follow him. This includes doing the works he did.
How did Jesus heal? Not through mere positive thinking or mind over matter. Didn't he heal through his clear perception of the nature of God as Mind, and of man's true, ideal nature? Jesus saw through the distorted view of man as a hopeless mortal to the spiritual reality of his being.
A spiritual perception of reality is at the heart of Christian healing. Let me illustrate how simple and practical a perception of spiritual facts can be.
I was flying in a plane that had no pressurized cabin, heat, or air-conditioning. We flew for hours through extreme temperature changes. When we landed, I felt chilled. My nose was stuffy, and my throat was raspy. I had all the symptoms of a cold. When I got to the hotel, I had a great desire to simply go to bed. Instead, I reached down into my suitcase and pulled out Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. I opened it and read this statement: "The atmosphere of the earth, kinder than the atmosphere of mortal mind, leaves catarrh to the latter. Colds, coughs, and contagion are engendered soley by human theories." (3)
I pondered this fact. Then I thought, "If the cold has its birth only in human theory, not in spiritual fact, it has no real base." Immediately the symptoms were alleviated. I woke up the next morning in perfect freedom. I had perceived something of reality, of spiritual truth, which excludes discord.
Through Christian Science we perceive that God really is the one Mind, the source of all true consciousness, and totally good, and that man is God's immortal, spiritual idea, having no capacity other than what God gives him. Because God doesn't know fear, man can't fear. Fear is unreal, false, and so are its supposed effects — in this instance, the stuffy nose and raspy throat.
Through a perception of reality the fear and suffering were eliminated. Because the base of Christian Science healing is God, a permanent divine Principle, the results are permanent.
We've discussed that God is Mind. But the Bible also declares that God is divine Love. So, to heal spiritually, we need not only to know God is Mind, but also to feel God as Love. The feeling and knowing of God comes through spiritual sense. Jesus said the kingdom of God wasn't something that came with observation — that is, through the material senses. He said the kingdom is within us. Each of us is endowed with spiritual sense, a Christly sense, which perceives the reality of God's love and healing power.
God's love isn't something external that swoops down on us like a giant eagle to carry away our fears. In reality it's already present. Since we already have love, we don't really have to get it! But we do have to discern and express it.
I grew up in a mining town where many of the workers were Irishmen. My father, who was associated with mining, shared this story about two men who were partners: When they heard the whistle blow, they began to pick up their things to go home. Pat said to Mike, "You haven't seen my vest, have you?" Mike replied, "You're wearing it!" Pat said, "So I am; and sure it's a good thing you told me, or I'd have gone home without it."
You can never go home without your spiritual sense. Wherever you are — in the air, on a ship, or in your homes, you have it. It's always yours. Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, says in Science and Health, "Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God." (4)
Let me read what Paul says in his letter to the Romans, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." (5) Through spiritual sense we understand God. Spiritual sense assures us that His love is continuous and unstoppable and that this reality will be expressed in the exact way that cares for our needs.
Divine Love is the great Giver. Love has given us spiritual sense, through which we're inspired to see the path to take, the way to go. Because divine Love is Mind, it gives us the wisdom to know what to do and what not to do.
Divine Love opens our eyes to see through the deceit appearing without and the conceit within and enables us to recognize what's genuine and true. Love gives calmness and assurance. Doubts and fears disappear in its presence. Brusqueness fades as a shadow before the gentle light of Love, understood and expressed.
I've said Love is here, ever-present. What is it that obscures our perception of God as Love and of man as the expression of Love, inseparable from it? Material sense, which claims to come from the mind Paul referred to as "carnal." Christian Science points to the unreality of the carnal mind, of there being any other mind than God. As I've pointed out, the healing practice of Christian Science rests on the spiritual fact that there's only one God, one Mind.
To heal through this Science we need to understand the difference between the apparent, the visual, and the real. This difference was illustrated to me recently when we visited the Hawaiian Islands. On the beautiful island of Maui there's a volcanic mountain called Haleakala. You can drive from the coast to the top of Haleakala, which is over ten thousand feet, in a little more than an hour. It's said to be the only place on earth where you can make such rapid ascent.
One of the special treats is to get up early enough to view the sunrise from the top of the mountain. Then you have the privilege of watching the change of color and tone caused by the sun's brilliant rays.
But no matter how beautiful the scene is, the fact remains that the sun does not rise. The sunrise is apparent to material sense, but this isn't what's happening. The truth is that the earth's turning causes the appearance of a rising sun.
People often ask, How can a Christian Scientist say there's no disease when I see so many sick people and have experienced disease myself. The Christian Scientist would agree that disease seems to exist, that it appears real to the senses. Even so, disease is not a real or permanent concept, because disease isn't a spiritual idea of divine Mind, God.
Christian Science declares that God is the only creator and that God is wholly good. Obviously, disease is not good; it has no God, or Mind, to support it. No matter how real the diseased condition appears to be, it's subject to change and correction by spiritually understanding health.
To know more about health a Christian Scientist studies daily the Bible and Science and Health, the Christian Science textbook. He learns the need of purifying his thought by obeying the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (6) It's only through purified thought that God and the perfection of His creation are perceived.
A spiritually scientific thinker throws the weight of his effort on learning about God and His saving Christ, rather than on learning about disease and its so-called laws. This helps him to purify his thought and thereby gain the understanding of reality that heals.
In the Bible we read: "God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament." (7) What is this firmament?
The firmament is spiritual understanding. It distinguishes between unreal, carnal thoughts and the spiritual ideas divine Mind is communicating to us. Through this understanding we can perceive the ideas God gives and also detect the false concepts that come from beneath. God's thoughts, or ideas, elevate and uplift. Mortal thoughts, from the carnal mind, pull downward.
How does this bogus carnal mentality seem to operate? It operates only as a suggestive thought, accepted consciously or unconsciously. We can be alert not to accept it at all! Without our consent the false beliefs inherent in this false mind have no effect. They can't block our perception of reality. What is a false belief without a believer? It's nothing.
For false belief to even seem to operate, we have to consent to it. In the case of the cold, I refused to consciously consent to false theories and instead turned to the spiritual facts. This prevented a bad experience.
Sometimes we consent without realizing it. That's why it's important that we strive each day, through prayer and Christlike living, to perceive reality.
Consider the common problem of aging. Certainly we don't go around each day saying, I'm getting older today. I'm slowing down because I'm a day older than I was yesterday. I'm probably getting less healthy and a little more senile today. No, that's not the way it works. With aging it's not expressed consent but rather unconscious consent that needs to be dealt with — and dealt with on a regular basis.
Are you recording years? You respond, "For statistical purposes I need to. I have to have a driver's license that lists my age. Every so many years I have to have it renewed."
But is man simply a statistic? The acme of God's creation is infinitely more.
The suggestion of age may come through such thoughts as how long you've been at your present job. How long it is before you retire. How many anniversaries you've had. How old your children are. We could go on and on, but we can see how general this belief of age is and how recurring the suggestions about it.
Christian Science gives us an understanding of God as the one eternal Life and of man as co-eternal with that Life. We're actually as ageless and timeless as our source. As we perceive these spiritual realities, we stop consenting to the concept of inevitable decline.
Friends, we don't have to get healthy or ageless. Substitute the word "let" in place of the word "get." We only have to let spiritual sense reveal the health and the agelessness that are already ours as spiritual ideas of God.
We've seen how this spiritual perception helps combat aging. Now, let's see how a perception of spiritual reality harmonizes relationships.
What's the reality we need to discern in this area? Isn't it that God makes you and your fellowman, that you and your brother are His ideas? Because you are related as ideas in one Mind, God, in reality you have a concordant relationship. You have all the qualities of God he has, and your brother has all the qualities of God that you have. But each of you is unique in the way you express these qualities.
From the divine standpoint you're intelligently, harmoniously related to all ideas. But from the human standpoint the harmony of your relationships depends on how spiritually you're perceiving yourself and others — and to what degree you're presently understanding and living the divine qualities.
The qualities of God you express today determine today's relationships. Relationships don't remain static. God's qualities, such as love, order, freedom, firmness, must also be seen as growing ideas, flowing ideas, and not as static concepts. Even if it was difficult at one time to get along well with someone, this need not remain so.
I learned a valuable lesson about relationships in a corporation I worked for. A man in a management position had built quite a hierarchy around himself. He was touchy, ill-humored, obdurate, and everyone tried to avoid him. It was impossible, it seemed, for anyone to determine if he was running an efficient operation. Several people had tried to understand the situation and to bring out a solution, but after a short time they would simply blow up and then give up. One day the head of the department asked me if I would accept the challenge, which I did.
I soon found that everything I had heard about this man was true. In fact, he was even worse than I had been told. I thought that as a Christian Scientist I should love this stubborn, crotchety manager. But the more I tried to be kind and affable, the more difficult he became.
As I was taking stock of the situation one day, I wondered how this could be. Here I was, being God's loving man and expressing God's qualities to this crotchety old fellow, and nothing seemed to be happening!
You may be ahead of me at this point and know why nothing was happening. I was seeing myself as loving, but I wasn't seeing him as loving and Godlike. Regardless of how others viewed him or how he was viewing himself, there was only one view that was the true concept. What was the spiritual reality? What should I be perceiving? That he was the loving reflection of divine Love. How else could I see him if I used the spiritual perception God has given me?
My view of him as stubborn or his view of himself as ornery wasn't in accord with God's view. They were concepts of material sense, having no divine Principle. As such, they had no support from God, and further, they were subject to change and obliteration. Gradually, as I knew this truth, his attitude toward me changed. I began to see more clearly some of his good abilities and capacities, and together we found some solutions as well as mutual appreciation. He became a more cooperative manager. But, I'm the one who had learned the bigger lesson — I had learned more deeply about expressing divine Love. This was clear proof that spiritual perception and healing are linked in Christian Science.
I would like to discuss with you another link, the one that relates the names Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy. One writer asks about Mrs. Eddy, "How could she make mankind hear, how could she make them understand, this lone woman, this only Christian Scientist on the earth?" (8) The answer from God to Mary Baker Eddy was healing.
Mrs. Eddy's deep understanding of divine Love and of the spiritual laws of scientific healing, made her one of the greatest spiritual healers since Biblical times. In obedience to the Master's teaching, she proved the healing power of the Christ. Central to all her work was a perception of divine reality. Through spiritual sense she continually looked beyond the limited, unreliable view of the senses to the concrete, though unseen, facts of existence. Through this spiritual perception, she healed others of such troubles as insanity, an acute heart problem and cancer.
Mrs. Eddy's discernment of the scientific nature of spiritual healing, of its divine Principle and laws, wasn't an overnight experience. It was a lifetime process. It was the culmination of years of great struggle, of deep yearning for Truth, of a genuine love for humanity. However, her work wasn't complete with the discovery of Christian Science.
As a mother realizes that the birth of a child is only the beginning of the loving care the child will need, likewise, Mrs. Eddy discerned that the newborn idea of Christ-healing would need loving care and protection. Her question was always, "What is God's way?" Turning to Him expectantly, she prayed, listened, and the answer came. She must establish a church organization that would mother and protect the newborn idea of Christ-healing.
Through years of struggle and victory the present organization of The First Church of Christ, Scientist — The Mother Church — and its branches, took form. Now, this Church, established upon the rock of spiritual understanding, will preserve Christ-healing for all mankind.
Mrs. Eddy discovered the scientific nature of Christian healing. She proved it as a practitioner. She recorded the discovery in Science and Health. She preserved it through establishing the church organization. Each of these achievements in and of itself is major. The accomplishment of all four is clear evidence of her immense spirituality and her deep perception of the infinite source of man's capacities.
Christian Science proclaims the oneness and allness of God, the perfection of spiritual reality. It shows how this truth applies practically. It also discloses the entirely mental nature of physical problems.
A question that bothers many people is, How can thought have any effect on matter? How can the mere perception of spiritual truth alter a physical condition? If we take some ice cubes out of our freezer and put them into a glass of water at room temperature, the ice will soon disappear. Both ice and water are made up of the same elements. Ice is harder, more solid, but it's still the same. H20. The Science of Christ teaches us that the body is simply a more solid state of false belief, of material thinking. It's not a different substance. The mortal body and material mentality are one and the same — different strata of the same false concept.
Because the body is a state of thought, every wrong condition of body is subject to change and correction through perceiving the truth of being,
Man has a definite, distinct identity. But this identity isn't really matter. It's the embodiment of right ideas, such as order and harmonious activity. As these ideas are spiritually perceived, they displace the false beliefs of disorder and malfunction, and healing takes place in the body.
Where does this spiritual conception come from? The spiritual perception that heals can be obtained from only one source — God. All Christian Science healing is God-healing. It is the Christ, Truth, which heals sinful or sick thoughts and also the objective state of those thoughts, which we call physical disease.
In Christian Science healing one doesn't try to change a diseased body into a healthy body. Instead, one recognizes that all he is going to change is a false concept called disease. This misconception is exchanged for a spiritual idea from God. Now, where are these true thoughts — these healing ideas? They are already within each one of us as God's reflection. You and I and everyone already include every right idea. Through spiritual sense we perceive health, a true idea, as a present reality.
A significant statement of Mrs. Eddy's, indicating the mental nature of sickness, is this: "The procuring cause and foundation of all sickness is fear, ignorance, or sin." (9)
You will recall we discussed earlier how Christian Science healed fear. How does ignorance relate to sickness? Many people living good lives are still suffering from disease. Their problem isn't basically a moral transgression, sinning, but ignorance of the nature of God and man. I like to think of ignorance in relation to its base word, "ignore," which simply means "not to be aware of."
I think most of us have had experiences with packages labeled "easy-to-put-together" items — such as baby cribs or doll houses. Recently I purchased an easy-to-put-together barbeque. As usual, the instruction sheet starts with: Take one 3/4 inch bolt "A" and put it through leg "B", after applying washer "C"; then, put on nut "D", but don't tighten. Over the years I have learned that it pays to read and follow all the directions, not ignore them.
Let's see how it helps us to be healthy by following directions. To have a permanent sense of health, which is really a quality of God, divine Mind, we need to perceive God and man's true nature. We have been given some great direction about this. Jesus, who was the greatest healer of all time, taught that God is Love. He gave us the simple direction to love God, good, and to love our fellowman. Now, wouldn't we be ignoring God's nature as Love if we believe that God sends disease as some sort of punishment?
Mrs. Eddy writes of man's nature in Science and Health, "Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique." (10) I've been healed and thousands of others have been healed by understanding man as idea and not a corporeal structure.
The true spiritual perception of God and man is revealed in the Bible and Science and Health. The directions in these books are clear. We can all read them and follow them.
As the introducer mentioned, I have been in the healing practice for many years. Almost daily I have people come into my office and ask questions about Christian Science healing. I realize from these questions that there are many misconceptions about Christian Science healing. It may be helpful to answer them by explaining what this unique system of healing is not, as well as to summarize what this Christly system of healing is.
Healing in Science is not saying or repeating words as if they were a formula, no matter how good or how true the words may be. Christian Science healing doesn't include human will or hypnotic suggestion. It's not just saying that in spite of a bad situation everything will be all right. Christian Science healing doesn't ignore disease or accidents. It doesn't hide them under the rug.
Now let's consider what this healing system is. Christian Science healing is God understood and error destroyed. It's a regeneration of thought as well as a restoration of the body. It makes Deity better known as a God at hand. It lifts human consciousness a step higher in spirituality, because in each case the Christ frees us from some aspect of mortality.
Christian Science healing is immediate because God, good, is already here. The moment you let spiritual truth into your consciousness — the truth that God good is perfect, therefore, man is perfect — it's already working within you. Through the perpetual activity of the Christ you perceive something of divine reality and find healing. A gem from the Christian Science Textbook is, "A grain of Christian Science does wonders for mortals, so omnipotent is Truth, but more of Christian Science must be gained in order to continue in well doing." (11)
A spiritual perception of the one Mind and the true nature of man healed me of the effects of a serious accident. Some years ago in London I crossed a busy street about dusk. I saw a car moving very rapidly toward me. Although I moved as quickly as possible to avoid getting struck, the car hit me and knocked me to the ground. As I lay there, I quickly turned to God for healing thoughts. I clung to the fact that God was the only Mind and was ever conscious. This enabled me to stay conscious and receptive to the truth that would heal me.
There was a large wound and bleeding. When I tried to get up from the street, I couldn't move. Then the beginning of a statement from Science and Health came to me. It reads, "Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good." (12) Glimpsing the power of this statement, I was able to drag myself over to the curb. By this time a number of people were gathering around and offering advice, particularly about how bad my condition was. I was wishing they would stop making these comments. Even so, these right thoughts came — love these people, and divine Love alone heals. As I perceived Love's power at hand, I began to feel a surge of strength returning to me.
The next morning I was able to slowly climb some stairs. After a couple of weeks of further prayer and study the wound had healed, and normal action was restored. I was even able to go swimming. The false concept that I could lose mobility or consciousness had been removed. How? By perceiving the spiritual nature of God as Love and of man as Love's expression.
The inspired revelator, John perceived a new heaven and new earth. Where were this new heaven and new earth? Far off in outer space? No, they were spiritual ideas he discerned — ideas within his God-bestowed consciousness. It was a spiritual sense of heaven here, earth here, which he saw. There are not two heavens or two earths any more than there are two kinds of man. There is just the all-harmonious earth and heaven and man the divine Mind creates and knows.
Has our discussion made it clear that spiritual perception is an inner discovery rather than an outward observation? Have the healings we've discussed helped you to see that as we discern divine reality and as false beliefs are eliminated, health, harmony and longevity will be enhanced?
Have you recognized how spiritual perception and healing are linked?
Christian Science provides the signs of healing. More important, it provides the answers to the deep questions of all being. We don't have to wait a day longer to perceive something of spiritual reality. Christian Science is here to help us do it now!
Through Christian Science we can all perceive divine reality and enjoy its blessing of healing.
1. Mark 1:15
2. I Timothy 2:5
3. Science and Health, p. 220
4. Ibid., p. 209
5. Romans 8:16
6. Matt. 5:8
7. Gen. 1:6,7
8. Mary Baker Eddy: A Centennial Appreciation (The Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston,
1965) pp. 59-61
9. Science and Health, p. 411
10. Ibid., p. 475
11. Science and Health, p. 449
12. Ibid., p. 393