Why Be Fenced In?


Charles M. Carr, C.S.B., of New York, New York

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:


A number of years ago there was a popular song, "Don't Fence Me In." The tune was catchy and so were the words. But even more the idea. In fact, "Don't Fence Me In" is a phrase each of us has probably used jokingly or seriously, whether we ever heard the song or not.

Perhaps we've all felt fenced in in one way or another by business or family demands; illness, youth or age, lack of opportunity, education or money. And sometimes we just accept living like this.

My family used to have a dog who'd been trained to stay within the boundary lines of our property. Racer was a thoroughbred pointer with free-wheeling ways, so later when my family acquired more property, they thought they could easily encourage him to explore the new grounds. But no; Racer continued for quite some time to stay within the old boundaries.

Haven't many of us been like Racer? Educated to stay within boundary lines, and that was that. But some have had a yen to try to break down barriers or concepts that restrict them. The Wright brothers didn't accept the belief that objects heavier than air couldn't fly, and their plane flew. Nylon resulted from the efforts of a chemist, Carothers, to go beyond commonly accepted chemical theories of his day.

Mathematicians have made great advances whenever they have gone beyond mathematical concepts that can be represented by physical objects. Numbers like 1, 2, 3, 4, can be represented by objects such as oranges or apples; but the square root of minus one can't. Yet this root is an essential element in useful equations like those used to develop radar and television.

Advances result from challenging the basis of what others have simply accepted without question. A renowned English lawyer was asked by students what he considered most important in his work. He said, "Always question the first premise." That's what the Wrights, Carothers, and many other discoverers and inventors did.

Today with marvelous technological breakthroughs in many areas, the question for us is, Are we using our know-how and techniques to gain an understanding of living itself? Are we questioning its premises, exploring in depth, getting at its full meaning its limitless possibilities?

On the contrary, don't we seek answers to our questions and to healing our ills from premises supplied by the physical senses? Then it's a short step to regarding the physical as all-in-all, to becoming materialists.

Dr. Loren Eiseley, well-known for his books on the large-scale history of humanity and its environment, writes: "Man has never lived before in so great an age of exterior accomplishment, so tremendous a projection of himself into his machines . . ." Then he adds, "Relatively few have spoken of values, ethics, art, religion all these intangible aspects of life which set the tone of a civilization and determine . . . whether . . . the modern world, so far as its interior spiritual life is concerned, will be stainless steel like its exterior, or display the rich fabric of genuine human experience." Dr. Eiseley concludes that the way out of today's possessive materialism to a life that's better, freer, is through spiritual insight. It's precisely this spiritual insight which is the basic factor in Christian Science insight derived from Spirit, the limitless, indestructible and eternal.

So today I want to explore with you the proposition that through this spiritual insight, scientifically developed, we can discover the underlying basis or first premise for all true knowledge and living. This insight can free us from all kinds of restrictions. It enables us to step out and take fresh views of ourselves, and our relations with others and the universe. So let's see what this spiritual insight is and what it tells us, how we can develop it, and what its benefits are.

Insight Goes to the Heart of Reality

First of all, what is insight? Webster gives us this definition, "Act or fact of apprehending the inner nature of things." In the physical sciences it means seeing more deeply into the physical nature of things on the basis of physics or mathematics.

But isn't there a deeper reality behind even the deepest physical things? To discern this to recognize the true nature of life, the ultimate reality we need a more total insight or what we call spiritual insight.

This insight isn't just analyzing an outward material sense of life, nor is it our own human understanding. It's an indwelling, spiritual understanding that comes from the very Principle of our being. It's the result of reliance on the divine intelligence or Mind rather than on our own limited thinking. It's an open door to reality an inner spiritual discernment of man as the expression of the living Principle of all things, God.

The Bible puts it this way, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5,6). Is this practical? Perhaps we don't always think so. Too often we're inclined to overlook turning to the divine Mind for guidance, purpose, ability. Instead, we're apt to base our observations and conclusions about life on mere human understanding. To go along with the popular material attitude, "Why do I need to devote any real attention to spiritual values? I've got it made. I can go it alone." What happens?

Let me tell you about a young man who learned that human understanding and ability weren't enough to base his business and his life on. When he got to college, he decided that he didn't need God or religion. Spiritual matters were an extra-curricular bother, not important nor relevant. He didn't have time for them. He was doing A-OK scholastically. He had as much ability as the next fellow and more ambition. He thought he could be a success all on his own.

When he graduated and went into business, he found things weren't moving ahead quite as he'd planned. He was working a lot but accomplishing little. Then he became interested in Christian Science, but at first he didn't do much with it. Then his business started to fail, and he learned the necessity of gaining a truly spiritual view of life.

He began to realize that this spiritual view doesn't come in a capsule. It isn't something you just take and quickly swallow and sit by and await results. There's Science behind it, and you have to earnestly study and faithfully practice this Science. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "A knowledge of the Science of being develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man. It extends the atmosphere of thought, giving mortals access to broader and higher realms. It raises the thinker into his native air of insight and perspicacity" (p. 128).

My friend saw that material knowledge alone wasn't the all of existence. That college could equip him, but it couldn't guarantee top-level performance. That what he needed in addition to the good education he had was the spiritual intuition that would tell him how to use his education constructively how to get more mileage out of it.

How did he do this? Well, he learned that he didn't have to be fenced in by old patterns of thought and action. That there is a basic, spiritual Principle of all existence a governing intelligence, ever present and ever available. That this Principle is God or Mind with a capital M. That this Mind is the only real Mind there is. That each individual, as God's image or likeness, is the expression of this Mind. That this Mind gives to each ability, capacity, motivation.

As this young man zeroed in on a deeper understanding of this basic Principle of life, he stopped being preoccupied with his own material observations and ambitions. And the outward result? He came up with useful, purposeful ideas.

It became clear to him that he must, as it were, shift gears. He must change over from a narrow, confining type of business to a related one in a marketing field that was just beginning to develop. He must realign his product sources and his marketing techniques. Before long he was able to expand his business to a point where it was operating in ten states, profitable to himself and supplying a useful service to others. You see, through spiritual insight which is really a nudge from God he began to do the right thing, at the right time, with less time lag, less material struggle. This in turn transformed his business his life, too.

A New Basis for Living

What happened here? Christian Science was showing this young man a whole new basis for living and working. He became more spiritually oriented. He questioned his old premises based on human opinions and appraisals the results of material observations and found them limiting. He replaced self-centered concepts with unselfishness and with God-directed thinking. This resulted in his expressing sound perceptive judgment, God-derived perspicacity. Now he knew from experience he had to rely on the infinite divine Mind to get the best results. Not on a finite self-interested human mind or his own personal ability.

This young businessman had really followed Jesus' straightforward directive to seek first the kingdom of God, then things would come along. And Jesus never reversed the order! He wasn't against the things of life that are needful and useful. In fact, he encouraged people to a better, fuller way of life. But he was against making a god out of the things, putting them first in importance.

Spiritual insight gave Jesus a continuously fresh view of life. One important area in which he proved what this fresh view could do was in healing. For example, the man born blind and the boy with convulsions. He showed what would free from the penalty of sin and regenerate character was not condemnation but the fresh view of "Go, and sin no more" as with the woman taken in adultery. He clearly pointed out that what frees from sickness and sin and even from death is awareness of God as Spirit, as Life, Truth, and Love. An awareness of man expressing all the qualities of God or good continually, perfectly.

About a hundred years ago Mary Baker Eddy found out what a spiritual view could do. Her formal education, intermittent because of chronic ill health, had hardly prepared her to support herself and her baby when her husband died. At seventeen she had joined the church her family belonged to, though she had steadfastly refused to agree to the doctrine of predestination. Through her early life she continued to be deeply interested in the Bible, religion, and the intellectual thought of her time. Also, she was constantly searching for a permanent basis for good health for herself and for others.

An incident in 1866 triggered a breakthrough. After a severe injury, she asked for her Bible. As she read the account of Jesus' healing of a palsied man, she began to understand man's real nature. She glimpsed that all life, including her own, was the expression of God and as such was wholly spiritual, not material or physical. She was healed.

Continued study of the Bible prompted her to look still further beyond material premises. She discerned that it would be possible to give to humanity a system for living that was both Christian and scientific.

Perhaps that seemed an enormous order for one who wasn't a trained theologian, scientist, or physician. But Maxwell Maltz, in his book "Psycho-Cybernetics," observes, "Any breakthrough in science is likely to come from outside. 'Experts' are the more thoroughly familiar with the developed knowledge inside the prescribed boundaries of a given science. Any new knowledge must usually come from the outside. . . ."

This observation certainly applies to Mrs. Eddy. And she brought to her search the fresh quality of spiritual insight. She questioned physically based premises. In studying Jesus' life she recognized that "he plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause" (Science and Health, p. 313). She saw that this understanding of spiritual cause was the basis of his words and works and that those who understood this would be able to follow his example.

Why Accept the Outward Appearance?

Mrs. Eddy became aware that the concepts which had restricted her were not inherent in the spiritual laws of being. That man's real freedom is gained through the understanding and application of a basic spiritual premise.

What is this premise? She states it in Science and Health; "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all" (p. 468). In other words, because God, Mind, is All-in-all, all real existence must be the infinite manifestation of God.

This is the first premise. The realization of it brings freedom to our thinking and therefore to our experience. Once we see it, we realize that man's being is not physical but spiritual. It expresses the activity of Life, the perfection of Truth, the goodness of Love, the joy of Soul, the radiance of Spirit, the intelligence of Mind, the harmony of Principle.

Then man's real life and true substance aren't flesh or physicality a collection of material parts known as organic and functional matter. Instead, man is a mental and spiritual identity. He's an idea, embodying the spiritual qualities of God, divine Mind. He's an individual embodiment of intelligence, love, integrity, happiness. Such qualities as these are what constitute man. You see, man finds his true identity as the living individual expression of the allness of God. He's therefore unlimited, unrestricted, undiseased.

Spiritual insight, then, gives us as our basic premise that God, Spirit, is All-in-all and that man is God's likeness, spiritual and perfect, eternally sustained by God.

Developing Spiritual Insight

Now all this may sound theoretical and impractical. But it isn't. It's a question of developing this spiritual insight. Paul tells us how. He says, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2).

In modern language that means, Don't be fenced in by what you think you see and know about people, things, circumstances. Don't accept the outward appearance as a true evaluation.

Here's a simple illustration. One sunny day I picked up a new car. After doing an errand, I opened a rear door to put a package on the floor. The carpet was a different shade from that in the front. How could the manufacturer be so careless, I thought. As I drove home I started to formulate a letter of complaint. Some letter!

Later, when I took the package out I noticed that both carpets were the same. What had happened was this. The sun was no longer coming through the tinted windshield to cast a peculiar shade on the front carpet and make it look different from what it really was. Obviously, my quick judgment on the outward appearance was a foolish one and led to a wrong conclusion.

We've got to do the same in the areas that really matter. We've got to go beyond the outward appearance and renew our mind with a fresh, true view. We need to individually discover the truth about ourselves, our neighbor, our world. How? Through prayer and this doesn't mean just shuffling and reshuffling our old material prejudices. It means recognizing the basic fact of existence to be present spiritual perfection. How do we do this?

We start with the premise that there's one God, one spiritual cause, one governing intelligence or Mind, one unalterable Love motivating all existence. Since there's only one cause and that wholly spiritual, there can be only one effect and that also all spiritual. This means in spite of appearances to the contrary that all existence, including man and the universe, must be spiritual not physical, perfect not imperfect. That it must reflect the qualities of God, or good, of intelligence and Love. Whatever is ungodlike or not good can't be a hard and fast reality about anyone or anything. It's simply a spiritually uneducated point of view, a wrong conclusion based on a wrong premise. This needs to be replaced with the facts of life that there's nothing but God and His infinite manifestation.

This is the way we develop spiritual insight. It's really the result of applied prayer. Just as a lawyer argues on the basis of law in behalf of his clients, so we argue on the basis of spiritual law in behalf of our experience. We apply the truths we know specifically. And it takes some doing! But that's the only way anyone can truly succeed that is, realize his full potential for good.

Prayer Is Effective in Daily Living

There's a popular musical comedy, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." This may apply in a musical comedy, but not in life.

Let me explain the idea of how applying spiritual insight or prayer helped a young housewife, the mother of six children, to take a fresh view. She found that she'd been falsely labeling herself as a mortal a harried housewife fenced in by domesticity, by lack of time, fatigue, impatience. She'd been labeling her children as immature mortals expressing lack of self-control and requiring a great deal of attention. And she'd been dividing up mankind into "her children" and "other people's children."

She prayed about this, and she came to see that she'd been conforming to commonly held world thought merely believing, assuming, that man is a mortal. So she dropped this false premise. She stepped out and took a fresh view. How? By waking up to the spiritual facts of being. She saw man as he really is the exact image of God. She thought out from the standpoint of God or divine Mind, not from a human or material standpoint.

She recognized this meant seeing everybody spiritually embodying God's qualities. It meant not seeing herself or her children merely as human beings being human either pretty good ones or pretty terrible ones! But seeing everyone including all other people's children with the fresh view of spiritually focused thought, as God's expression. Surely this was really the way to love man and she couldn't have any exceptions.

This turned out to be the greatest investment program this family ever undertook. The dividends were tremendous. A happier, better-run home. More effective and inspired community activities. Also, a fine opportunity for her and her husband to work with many college students encouraging and helping them.

You see, we need to have a spiritual concept of our fellowman as God's likeness in order to truly love him and be effective for good. This true idea of God and of man's relationship to God is the Christ. This Christ, Truth, which Jesus taught and exemplified, this Christly insight or spiritual point of view, is our Saviour. It saves us from false points of view from the belief that existence is material and mortal subject to trouble, sin, sickness, unhappiness. As we renew our mind that is, change from the material to the spiritual or Christlike point of view as the basis of living we begin to enjoy health, happiness, a really purposeful life.

The Distraction of Human Busyness

I was once talking with a very articulate friend who is a top executive in the publishing field. We were exchanging ideas on the value of spiritual insight in business in all phases of life, really. At one point I asked him, "What do you think is the greatest deterrent to the development of spiritual insight?" He paused. Then he said thoughtfully, "The distraction of human busyness."

That phrase has rung in my thought often and vividly. And in our practice and travels, my wife and I have found that this sums up why more people don't develop their spiritual insight. We hear comments like this. "I'm so busy with my job, studying, raising my family, that I don't have time now for spiritual matters. Later maybe!" Aren't we tempted to almost make a god out of work, education, family, things? We get so involved with the minutiae of human living its pleasures and its tensions that we are content to stay fenced within our material premises never even question them. We're rather like my dog, Racer.

A well-known golf pro once said to a younger professional who was struggling to play better and make a living, "Don't worry, don't hurry. Be sure to take time to smell the flowers." Are you and I taking time to "smell the flowers"? That is, taking time from the distraction of human busyness to pray, to listen to God, to be aware of His directing? To feel the presence of His love? To enjoy it? To see that we don't have to be fenced in by pressures or be libeled by labels?

Or perhaps it's not that we feel so pressured. We just prefer to coast along. And not make the vigorous effort to think beyond the material symbols of existence. To see that right where easy material living appears to be, are the deep and lasting spiritual values that we can never lose, that never grow old. Such as the warmth and grace of Love, the beauty and joy of Soul, the freshness and vitality of Life, the order and perfection of Mind.

A minister was talking about the value of religion. He said that a faith that's neglected is easily lost. A man had complained to him that he didn't mean to discard his faith he simply put it on the shelf but when he went back to get it, it was gone. It isn't the best way to put spiritual values on the shelf till we're in trouble, then go scurrying to pull them out.

We need to live constantly with spiritual insight the Christly point of view and not just have it on the shelf. Then we really develop it.

Benefits of Spiritual Insight

Of course, there are many immediate benefits from spiritual insight. One is that we can depend on it to maintain our health. As we see we're essentially a spiritual identity dependent on God, we know we don't have to try to depend on matter, drugs, or medical means for our well-being.

But perhaps we may feel it's easier to do something physically than to change our thinking spiritually. Is this a real solution? Aren't we tinkering with the effect without rooting out the cause? Actually, any physical difficulty we have is the result of a false premise about man a belief he's material a belief of life in matter. Why increase our difficulties by turning to matter for healing? Matter can't get at the cause of the trouble.

To illustrate the point, a woman was hurrying down the cellar stairs. As she neared the bottom she saw a skunk. She wheeled around, dashed upstairs and called the police department for some advice. The reply was, "Don't worry lady. Just make a trail of breadcrumbs from the basement to the yard and wait for the skunk to follow it outside." A little later the woman called back. "I did what you told me. Now I've got two skunks in the cellar!"

Why compound our difficulties by trying to get rid of them the wrong way? By yielding to the popularly held belief that man is a material being who can be improved, cured, pepped up, or made better by swallowing, injecting, or cutting up matter. Matter working on matter trying to change matter never quite finding the ultimate solution to health or well-being and not infrequently adding undesirable side effects. Such a false view fences us in with limitations.

How to Get Rid of Disease

The answer to disease is to stick to the spiritual premise about man in God's likeness. To illustrate, I know someone who was suffering from an infectious discharge. At first he was very much afraid. He thought of asking for medical help. But he decided to stick with Christian Science. He realized he didn't have to be bound by this difficulty. He saw that the basis or first premise of his being was that he was the image of God, Spirit, not the likeness of matter. He was the wholly good effect of the one cause that is God, limitless good, despite the contrary evidence of material conditions and human reasoning.

This tuning in on divine power was like the flick of a light switch that brings on the light. In this case, it enabled my friend to see that the outward material appearance wasn't true. His real life was wholly spiritual the embodiment of the spiritual qualities of God. Any nonspiritual conditions, such as disease, were no part of God; therefore they were no part of God's image, man. Right where the material sense of man seemed to be, there was in reality his real spiritual selfhood. What appeared to be a matter body with a mental motor inside wasn't his real being and therefore couldn't contain or limit him. He realized more and more clearly that he existed in limitless Spirit as its spiritual expression, not in localized matter as a physical being.

He consistently refused to conform to the material or incorrect point of view of himself. The effect of this was to transform his mind, therefore his body. He was healed. You see, his primary need was for a spiritual point of view. Then physical health followed.

Sometimes today's advertising and material theories of life try to sell us the idea that health and happiness can be gotten like refreshments from a vending machine. You put your money in the slot and you get the desired thing as the answer. But a British clergyman, the Reverend Stanley Smith, reminds us, "We cannot get serenity from a bottle of pills, but from faith in God and man and an unaccusing conscience. You cannot clear up the poisons of hate and jealousy by any hypodermic injection, but by the practice of love. We shall not cut out resentments and bitterness except by a forgiving spirit." This unaccusing conscience, this love, this forgiving spirit can't be bought or sold or hoarded on the shelf. They must be spiritually learned, lived, loved.

Unlimited Possibilities

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Stretch the mind and it never goes back." You might say, expand the basis of your thinking and your experience will never be fenced in. I'd like to tell you about a Christian Scientist who proved this very conclusively.

During the Second World War he conceived the idea of making a vacuum product for high voltage using an everyday metal, nickel, which cost only one sixtieth of what the standard imported metal had cost. Very shortly his product was in great demand. Financially it was a success, too.

Now this man's background and training weren't really related to this manufacturing field since he'd been a music major and a radio minor in college. He had had some experience in electronics, but design, production, finance, development, and quality control, plus responsibility for welding and glass-blowing techniques, would hardly be labeled as the usual assets of a music major.

His primary desire was to be of service to his country and develop a better product at a reasonable cost. So he didn't start by taking an inventory of his own human plus-and-minuses or his business prospects. He threw out all restrictive, labeled, negative thinking and determined to take his directions from divine intelligence. He saw clearly that he was the infinite expression of ever-active, uninhibited, divine intelligence or God. He didn't permit himself to be fenced in by the boundaries of his experience and education.

At one point, when a dispute arose over whether quality would be maintained without compromise, a strike was called against him by a faction in the plant. He was threatened with removal. War Production Board inspectors came to the plant. What did he do?

He prayed. He turned unreservedly to divine Mind as the unopposable basis for all thought and honest action. He knew that Mind's all-presence and all-power gives man ability and capacity, foresight and opportunity to be the complete expression of purposeful good now. He knew that no destructive elements calling themselves injustice, resentment, stubbornness, treachery, could trap him or the WPB officials. As the result of the hearing he was left in complete control of the business. No stoppage of production occurred.

After the war the problem of oversupply loomed large. Losses mounted. He tried to sell out. Then he listened for Mind's direction. He began to work on important new developments which gave promise of being needed. In a few months the loss was completely wiped off the books. After that, there was never a question about the success of the business.

My friend has attributed all this success to the understanding and application of Christian Science. To the understanding of the first premise that God is All-in-all and the only Mind. He saw that his progress was not in proportion to his devotion to Big Business with capital B's, but in proportion to his devotion to the one infinite Mind with a capital M. He realized that business was the ever-expanding activity of God or good and that he was a definite part of this activity. He didn't have to be fenced in by his own human understanding or even his own ingenuity. He didn't try to go it alone.

Now this points up the wonderful possibilities for us when we work from the premise that man's activity his very being is the infinite, spiritual manifestation of Mind.

Take a Fresh View

"The horizon is not where the sky comes down. . . . We do not have to live in walled-in spaces," said Grove Patterson. Why not? Because life and being are purely spiritual the effect of the operation of divine law. Because as we develop spiritual insight and conform our thinking accordingly, we find we're not hemmed in by limitations, sickness, and mortality's parade of problems.

We find like Racer that there's no fence on the old boundary line and we're free to go beyond. We find we don't need to libel ourselves and our neighbors with meaningless labels. We don't have to keep ourselves down under the verdict, "You'll just have to live with it." We don't need to restrict our life's work because of channeled thinking and limited training and pressure-cooker living.

We'll find as we step across the old lines of thought that our entire life will be transformed. We'll express the abundant freedom Jesus promised to each of us. And this abundance will be the natural result of our devotion to divine law of putting first things first. We'll take time to smell the flowers to enjoy God's goodness and love. We'll know His care and direction. We'll feel His presence as though it were an encouraging pat on the shoulder. We'll realize our full potential as we step out and take a fresh view.


1967 Charles M. Carr

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