Ralph W. Cessna, C.S.B., of Evanston, Illinois
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:
If I were to choose a subtitle for this lecture, I think I might draw on modern advertising practice and call it: "Accept nothing but the best." For an understanding and proper application of Christian Science leads us to do just that — to refuse to accept or express mediocrity, half-way good, limitation. It leads us to accept and to be satisfied with only the very highest kind of experience: complete health, freedom, well-being. It encourages us to aim always, as a matter of fact, at true perfection; and of course true perfection is the demonstration of man's completeness as the image of God. For only in doing this — in claiming perfection — do we find the removal of trouble in any degree. And I should like to try to show you why this is true.
Have you ever considered that basic in the false thinking of mankind is this: that good is variable, that it is limited; that either there is too much or too little of it, and that what there is comes at the wrong time and wrong place, and usually for the other fellow? The general belief is that there is a limit to just about everything good and desirable that can be had or accomplished.
Isn't it encouraging to find, through Christian Science, that this isn't true? For this is limiting God. And limiting God is ignorance of God. And ignorance of God is not only contrary to His plan, but is completely unnecessary.
But just what is God? Did you know that in many languages the word for God is the same as the word for good; God means good. The Bible makes this clear. You will remember, for example, that Habakkuk declares that God is "of purer eyes than to behold evil" (Hab. 1:13). Scripture is filled with declarations such as the one in Psalms: "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good" (Ps. 118:29).
However, merely agreeing with this, merely professing subservience to and love for God, doing this in the most reverent way, is not enough. We must consider some other essential things about God before we can begin to understand Him, and receive His blessings. We must see not only that He is good, but that He is infinite, literally ever-present. We must see that He is the only power, the only creator. Christian Science teaches, on the basis of Scripture, on the basis of the teachings of Christ Jesus and his disciples, that God is Mind, that He is Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. And here is what might be called the practical part: it teaches that God's creation, including individual man, expresses all of the good qualities implied by those synonyms, those words referring to God. I think this helps us to see better a simple but profound fact — a fact upon which all healing is based — that God, good, is all. And on this fact we build our theme in this lecture, that good is limitless.
Now let us consider a bit further the nature of man. And first let us see that we are not talking about something afar off, apart from you, but that we are talking about you in your true spiritual identity. We see in Science that man is God's complete and perfect spiritual idea, His reflection, His expression. This being true, it follows that man, you — that you already include by reflection infinite good; not, you see, good in just limited amounts, but all that is right and needful. And from this it follows that man, who is not only created but who is eternally maintained by God, is incapable of sorrow, weakness, poverty, pain, sickness. And as you think about just what this means you can very well experience the healing of whatever needs healing.
An understanding and application of this Science has for nearly a century now brought revolutionary changes in human thinking. It has opened the eyes of mankind to something of the limitless good which is man's heritage, his birthright.
While this is stated in the figurative sense, I recall one concrete illustration. After a Christian Science lecture one listener said that the previous day her teenage son had, while out playing, a slight misunderstanding with a companion and came home with one eye black and swollen shut. She persuaded him to come to the lecture. During the lecture the eye was healed. Afterward he looked up at her and said: "Boy! That sure was an eye-opener."
But now before discussing further the subject of healing itself, let us consider matter. It may be an eye-opener for the one who approaches this Science with an earnest desire for enlightenment to be faced with this bit of pure logic: that because God who is Spirit is all, matter, which is the opposite of Spirit, is nothing, unreal. You see Christian Science reveals that all material or physical appearance is but the manifestation of individual thought; it is wrong belief, reflecting ignorance of God, being seen and accepted as something real. This belief is corrected by turning to God, who, remember, is Spirit, and realizing that what God creates must be like Him, spiritual. Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, states it this way in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul" (p. 269).
Is it to be wondered at that limited, materialistic thinking sees a limited, material world, with limited health, limited activity, limited supply, limited peace? As a matter of fact we can see that illness, all human troubles and deficiencies, reflect simply phases of the belief that God, good, is limited. The remedy must then be a better understanding and reflection of God as infinite good.
We find interesting evidence of the way this limited human thinking seems to put up barriers to accomplishment, and the way a refusal to accept this kind of thinking removes these barriers — we find this evidence in the field of sports.
For example, in 1864 the best anyone could do in running the mile was 4 minutes, 56 seconds — nearly 5 minutes. This gradually improved until in 1945 the time was cut down to 4 minutes, 1.4 seconds. But it stayed right there for many years and folks began to shake their heads and say that no one would ever run the mile in less than 4 minutes. But in 1954 an English lad who didn't believe in this limitation was clocked at 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. Almost immediately a half dozen others, seeing that it was possible after all, equaled and even bettered that record. The last I heard the record was 3 minutes, 54.5 seconds, more than a full minute less than that 1864 mark.
What brings all this about? Are distances shorter? Are clocks slower? Improved equipment, better techniques and training methods — these account only partially for such remarkable and suddenly appearing accomplishments. Speaking of this mile record, the Chicago Tribune in an editorial declared: "We suppose that is only the beginning, for men seem able to accommodate their legs to any time, once they get the idea through their heads that there is no automatic limitation." Where is the limitation? In thought!
Of course it is not the human mind that overcomes the limitations of the human mind. It is an understanding of God as infinite Mind that destroys limiting beliefs and their seeming effects; it is an understanding of the fact that there is no mind, no intelligence, apart from God.
But the appearance in human experience of something less than good, less than the best, is evidence of ignorance of Truth, God. It is a result of failure to know God, who is always present, just as the wrong answer to a mathematical problem is not the absence of the right answer, but simply a failure to know and use the right answer, the scientific fact which is always present.
How does this understanding come to us? It comes to us through the Christ. And it is in our consideration of the Christ that we learn about healing.
The Christ is Truth appearing to human consciousness. Jesus, the divinely inspired man of Nazareth, demonstrated Christ, this true idea of God. And because he knew the scientific fact that God, the Father, is infinite good, he was able to prove this to human satisfaction. He did this through healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, raising the dead; and finally through his own resurrection and ascension. You will recall the instances of the Master's feeding large numbers with little food. These help to illustrate how he applied his knowledge of the ever-presence of good, proving the fallacy and powerlessness of the human sense of limitation. In one case more than five thousand had gathered in the wilderness to hear Jesus preach. Can't you picture this throng when the time arrived that they should have eaten? There they were, far from home. Yet right there, with but five loaves and two fishes, the Master fed them all (Mark 6:41,42). He did this, not as a feat of magic or a dramatic display of personal power, but because it was something that humanly needed to be done right there at that time; and as a demonstration of the fact, as Matthew records him as saying, "with God all things are possible" (19:26). But even his disciples doubted that such numbers could be fed in this way. And Mrs. Eddy gently but firmly reminds us in the textbook (p. 135): "There is to-day danger of repeating the offence of the Jews by limiting the Holy One of Israel and asking: 'Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?'" Then follows the simple but deeply significant statement or question that again proclaims our theme, "What cannot God do?"
Yes, indeed, what cannot God do? Of course I don't expect that you or I will have the need very often to feed multitudes with a few loaves and fishes, but we can demonstrate God's presence, the presence of limitless good, in ways that we do need it.
And how do we need it? Certainly one way we do frequently need it is in the healing of sickness and sin. What is healing? It is the result of understanding that God, who is good, the only creator, did not and could not create disease, and that disease must therefore be an illusion, an image of wrong thinking — it is this understanding that removes the illusion, the contrary belief which we call sickness.
But, again, we cannot hope to bring permanently even a small amount of good, a small amount of health, if we believe that health is limited. A belief in the limitation of health is a denial of God's allness and of the wholeness of His image and likeness, man, and this is the very state of thought that seems to produce all error in the first place.
Now let's see just how this works in the healing of physical discord.
A man I know was born with what is commonly called a club foot, considered incurable. His mother was a Christian Scientist. She had been taught that God, not man, was the creator. She proceeded methodically and expectantly to know better that what God creates must reflect symmetry, grace, wholeness; that deformity can be only the objectification of a deformed thought. She affirmed each day, not simply that the child would perhaps sometime be able to limp around without too much trouble, but that in reality, as God's image, he was perfect then and there. She refused to accept the temptation to be content with just something a little better. An adjustment began slowly to take place, in direct violation of medical law. He grew into young manhood with a perfect foot; so much so that in college he excelled in athletics, especially long-distance running!
Turning back to the Bible you'll remember when Peter healed the lame man at the temple gate the man did not content himself with a partial return of the use of his limbs. The story in the book of Acts (3:8) tells us: "He leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God."
Has it ever occurred to you that the healing acts of Jesus — and these, by the way, were not just occasional displays of supernatural power, but constant and natural demonstrations of what he taught — that these were not prolonged improvements or partial recoveries? They were healings! For example, when the Master healed the mother of Peter's wife (Matt. 8:15) she did not move from her bed into a chair to recuperate. She "arose, and ministered unto them." The woman with the flow of blood did not find it merely lessened — it was staunched.
Turning now to the subject of sin we see that the healing of sin is an essential element of Christian Science practice. But just what is the difference between sickness and sin? The difference can be seen in this, that no one wants sickness, while usually he wants, or thinks he wants, whatever it is that sin is supposed to supply. In other words he wants to get rid of the sickness of course, but he wants to keep the sin. He says: "Please take away my sickness. But don't disturb the satisfaction I get from stealing and cheating and indulging in fleshly pleasures." The trouble there is that sin itself is a kind of sickness. And more often than not it is the cause of some physical difficulty. Why? Because sin is a denial of God, a denial of the ever-presence of good. And when one is denying the ever-presence of good in this way how can he expect to experience good in the form of health? No, one cannot get rid of sickness which is the result of sin until he gets rid of the sin. And naturally he won't try to heal the sin until he stops wanting it. And he stops wanting it only when he sees that Godlike thinking and acting do not limit inspiration, satisfaction, happiness; that on the contrary this is the only way to bring these into experience. Acknowledging God's infinite goodness and man's reflection of this infinite goodness doesn't take away good. No, this is what brings good, this is what heals both sickness and sin, and opens new and glorious vistas of human experience that utterly defy comparison with the old ways.
Now we have discussed the healing of sickness and of sin. Let us see more of just how practical this Science is in the solving of lack and other everyday human problems. For you to believe, for example, that there is a limit to opportunities for employment, right activity of any kind, that there aren't enough jobs to go around — this would be believing that the man of God's creating could at times be inactive, incomplete, less than a perfect image. It would be assuming that divine qualities such as activity, satisfaction, well-being, ability — that these are not present, that there aren't enough of them to go around. And our knowledge of God's ever-presence, and the limitless abundance of His goodness, tells us that this could not be true.
It is very interesting to see how this Science works in business. It is commonly assumed that business people have to cope with shortages, seasonal slumps, economic cycles, weather, changing buyer demands, and even occasionally, I am told, government policy. But what are these obstacles or seeming walls between us and good but, again, phases of that false belief that God, good, is not ever-present, that there isn't enough good for everybody? Why, this is like saying there isn't enough God for everybody. This belief, which is the only wall, no matter what it is called and no matter how real it may seem to be, fades away and abundance in some right and needful form appears, as we cease to limit God.
The need always is first to resolve things into thoughts, and then to see that right thoughts, deriving from the one infinite source, God, are not subject to human claims of shortage or limitation. Truly as St. Paul reminded the Romans: "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28).
Have you ever been tempted to think that certain desirable things are just too good to be true, for you? We learn in Science never to say that something right and needful is too good to be true. What is really good is always true. And what is true of course is always good. To accept the mortal claim, for instance, that it is too much for you to expect to have complete health, strength, harmonious action, freedom, dominion, is to believe that these divine qualities are in short supply, not everywhere present. And again our glimpse of the immeasurable abundance of good with which God endows each of His ideas shows this to be impossible.
For participants in any righteous activity to retreat before the mortal claim that there isn't enough good in the form of money, not enough interest or support — this again is limiting good, limiting or denying God — the very thing Christian Science teaches us that we must not and need not do. Whether the challenge concerns world or national affairs, personal associations, your bank account, home, school, or body, there need be no retreat, no retrenchment; and there is none when God's infinite goodness is acknowledged.
Suppose the challenge is fear of loss of life itself, of limited life. We learn in Christian Science that any seeming evidence of this kind is just as much a mental mistake as for a musician to believe that he could run out of B flats, for example. How many B flats are there? How much Life is there? Does it begin? Does it end? Can it be limited? Christian Science reveals that God is Life. And because God, who is infinite, eternal, cannot be limited, it follows, does it not, that Life cannot be limited? How then could the life or existence of man, the eternal, individual, spiritual expression of God, be lost or limited? It could not be, of course, in spite of mortal testimony to the contrary.
Now to summarize, to this point: we see that whether it is the healing of loss or of lack, of sin or of sickness, Christian Science healing is not a question of psychology or faith in the ordinary sense, but a question of correcting human thinking. And this is accomplished through the Christ, that manifestation of God to human consciousness.
But there is another point here that needs attention. We learn in Christian Science that we do not make up our own definition of what is good and then expect, after asking God to help us a bit, to go right out and find just what we want. A Christian Science practitioner was approached with the request that he help another find a home. This was reasonable enough, but this one even supplied the street number of the home she wanted! She was told that we don't outline in that way. We don't decide what is right, then ask God to get it for us. We don't expect Him to satisfy our "wants." We look to God for love and intelligence and wisdom, for humility and honesty, and in reflecting these we find our true "needs" satisfied. As we see that true, spiritual existence, God's creation, must be good, and that a limit to this good is impossible, then a better accomplishment, a better home, a better job, a better human experience is bound to unfold. And we leave it to God's law to determine just what and where and how.
Now perhaps we're seeing better what true prayer is. Whatever the problem, Christian Science prayer or treatment is of course not a method of pleading with God; it is not an act of blind faith; it is not the display of a knowledge of words. Christian Science prayer for you is an intelligent but heartfelt expression of your glimpse of God's infinite goodness; of your love for God, and of your knowledge of God's love for you.
Then there is that all-important subject, love. Let us apply here our thesis that good is limitless. Hatred is not removed by removing just a little bit, or even a great deal of it, but by putting love in its place. If the love we seek to express is mixed with only a little hate, a little envy, a little criticism, it just isn't love at all. How much love is there? Enough to go around? Enough for me? Enough for you? We find the answer again in this: God is Love. There must, then, be an infinite amount of love. Love must be everywhere, always. So, you see, whether we are giving it, or hoping to receive it, we have no authority for putting a limit on it. And think of what goes with love: not just a superficial coating of smiles and nice words — but honest, deep-down warmth, kindness, compassion, helpfulness, patience, joy. All these are ours, to give and to receive; not in just small amounts, either, but in abundance. They are ours as we open our hearts to this fuller view of God.
Mrs. Eddy's own experience very interestingly illustrates all this. As a child and young adult she was chronically ill. But she would not, even then, accept this state as inevitable, despite failure of medicine to heal her. With her discovery of the universal healing power of the Christ, the spiritual idea of God, she was not only able to recover quickly from what others feared would be a fatal accident, but she went on to demonstrate unusual physical and mental capacity. At the age of 87 she read without glasses, and was otherwise in the best of health. She was mentally so able that shortly before this she founded what has come to be universally regarded as a journalistic marvel, The Christian Science Monitor.
It is significant — and important to us — that Mrs. Eddy did not accept the limitations which the frailty of her early years would have imposed upon her. She became extremely well-read, gained a wide reputation as a writer, and attained a high scholarly standing. She went on to reject the old-world concept of woman as inferior, and worked to remove this limitation. Her very discovery of Christian Science itself grew from her refusal to think of God as limited, as capable of creating or tolerating anything less than wholly good. Then, in telling the world about this Science she was not deterred by the fact that its radical nature would stir stubborn opposition. In establishing her church she fearlessly ignored the bounds of common religious practice. After that she faced with supreme confidence the limitations that narrow selfish human thinking would place upon the prosperity, progress, and permanence of her church.
This church, incidentally, now named The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, today has many thousands of branches, located in almost every civilized nation. Through its related Trusteeships, its activities include the publishing of the Christian Science textbook and other writings by Mrs. Eddy, and also the monthly Christian Science Journal, The Christian Science Herald in its several foreign editions, the weekly Christian Science Sentinel, the daily Christian Science Monitor, along with other works concerning Christian Science and the church. All these, together with the Bible, may be read or obtained, by the way, in the free public Reading Room of this, or of any other branch church. The Mother Church also provides regular radio and television programs. This lecture is a part of these activities of The Mother Church in co-operation with the branch churches.
There is one circumstance in connection with Mrs. Eddy's establishment of this church that especially well illustrates our point about seeing beyond the claims of limitation. The physical structures standing today in Boston at the center and headquarters of this world-wide organization occupy land that had been reclaimed from an arm of the sea, called the Back Bay. When Mrs. Eddy chose this site for her church it was a sorry picture indeed; a dreary, desolate expanse of apparently untenable land. One can imagine what others with less spiritual intuition may well have considered of her judgment — that it was, at best, peculiar. But those seeming physical limitations must have been to her just as clearly illusive phases of mortal belief, as were the evidences of bodily disease which she so readily proved unreal. The grandeur and majesty of that same spot today, as well as the effectiveness and prosperity of her church, serve to verify the accuracy of her vision. It all proves the unreality of those physical barriers which must have seemed so real to others.
And here is why this is all so important to us. Just as Mrs. Eddy saw beyond the seeming limitations of that bleak physical picture, she saw, and has enabled us to see — and here again is our theme — to see that there are no limits to what we may demand and expect in the way of health and well-being regardless of the human picture.
You see, Christian Science shows not only that we need not accept sin, sickness, trouble, and lack in aggravated ways, but that we need not put up with these at all.
But here let us turn to a question that is still sometimes asked: "Is Christian Science just a way to get things?" Of course we reply with a vigorous, "No!" Christian Science is the way to understand, to really worship, God. As the result of a progressively better understanding of God as the one and ever-present source of good, and an application of this knowledge, whatever is needed for a healthy and happy experience is objectified, that is, this good in thought is seen in evidence. But, as we have already learned, if we are looking only for good in a physical or selfish way according to our own definition of the word good, and presume to use God as a handy way to get it, we will find not good, but trouble.
And did you know that actually Christian Science is not even primarily aimed at just getting well? Yes, the application of Christian Science does bring what is called healing, but this is only evidence of gaining some grasp of a primary objective, which is to show that God's image always has included and always will include all good, perfect health. Getting well, to human sense, is a natural consequence of getting an understanding of the fact that the man of God's creating is always well.
But to go back to the subject of getting things. That it really isn't things we need primarily is illustrated by the fact that we don't always find the greatest health and happiness in the presence of great material wealth. Quite often it is the contrary. You've heard the term "financial security," as it is referred to, an iron-clad guarantee of eternal well-being. Well, did you know there is no such thing as financial security? Of course we don't mean to suggest that you stop saving your money. But we do see in Science that the only real security is in obedience to God, in spiritual understanding and its application. What we really need, perhaps without realizing it, are not things, but qualities, divine qualities such as joy, satisfaction, beauty, happiness, peace of mind and so on. And of course neither money nor things produce any of these. Mrs. Eddy declares, in an article entitled "Angels": "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 307).
No, the primary need is not for things but for a better appreciation of God's infinite goodness. Through this we find, as a sort of by-product, the presence of abundant good. As a matter of fact isn't this just exactly what Jesus meant when he said: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"? (Matt. 6:33).
As we recognize that a seeming lack of health or a lack of good in any form is but the manifestation of a wrong thought, we see that the remedy is not the right material medicine. There is no such thing. How could medicine correct a wrong thought? The remedy is the right thought, and of course we find this in our understanding of God through Christian Science. In the textbook Mrs. Eddy writes: "Christian Science deals wholly with the mental cause in judging and destroying disease" (p. 157). A thoughtful consideration of that brief passage, which is but one among almost countless numbers dealing pointedly with this subject, will reveal with sharp and satisfying clarity why it is that Christian Scientists do not use material remedies and do not attempt to mix medicine with Christian Science. Using Christian Science is believing, understanding, that sickness is unreal, that it exists, not in matter, but in mortal thought as a false concept. Using medicine, even just a little bit, is believing that disease is real, that it exists in matter. Now you cannot mix those two beliefs. Try as hard as you will you cannot believe opposites at the same time.
We are seeing, I am sure, why it is that in order to have good health, harmonious activity, a good home, a sense of assurance, we need only remove the mental barriers. Let us see that these are made up of nothing more than that belief that God, good, is limited. And let us see that they are removed by the knowledge that God, good, is infinite, limitless.
A fuller understanding of the fact that God is infinite Spirit and that man, His spiritual idea, is not born into and doesn't die out of matter — with this understanding one's very concept of existence as consisting of material things eventually dissolves into the understanding of spiritual reality. But, while we in the meantime base our every affirmation squarely on this absolute fact, it is important for us to see that before arriving at that full recognition you and I first have proof of our better understanding in the way of a better experience. The human picture — your experience and mine — becomes good in the proportion that our thinking is good, in the proportion that we know only an infinite, limitless God.
You see, the heartening thing about all this is not just the assurance of ultimately seeing the perfection which exists. It is also the possibility, present for each one of us, of proving some of this now. As a matter of fact one of the most encouraging things about it is the possibility of healing today what needs healing today. And we do this in the proportion that we are obedient, humble, and honest, and pursue the task of knowing God's infinite goodness.
Let us recall here the comforting but demanding words of Mrs. Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 281): "You will need, in future, practice more than theory. You are going out to demonstrate a living faith, a true sense of the infinite good, a sense that does not limit God, but brings to human view an enlarged sense of Deity."
This then is our lesson, that we shall not limit God. And from this follows the very practical lesson that we shall not limit God's perfect creation, man; that we shall not limit the good that is available to each one of us, even in human experience. Let us resolve to accept nothing but the best. Let us aim at and be satisfied with only the very highest and best kind of experience. This is your heritage, your birthright.