William Milford Correll, C.S.B., of Cleveland, Ohio
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
A clear sense of our own identity is essential for a happy and fulfilling life. In his lecture, "There's Only One Real Ego" on Saturday morning, March 3, 1979, in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, William Milford Correll, C.S.B., discussed how each of us can identify ourselves spiritually.
Mr. Correll is a life-long Christian Scientist and has been a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science for many years. In addition to his work as a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, Mr. Correll has served as Associate Editor of the Christian Science periodicals and First Reader of The Mother Church.
Mrs. LaVonia Shaw, a local member of The Mother Church, introduced Mr. Correll. An abridged text of his lecture follows.
There's a story about a little boy who was used to the loving care and attention of his mother. Then one morning she was busy with many duties and didn't have the time to give him she normally did. After being ignored several times in his bids for attention, he tugged at her, looked up with a wistful expression, and said, "Momma, you're wasting me." You can just imagine how that mother responded to the child's need!
It may be that many individuals feel wasted in our present society. Sometimes through racial inequities or through economic shortages men and women have the feeling of being neglected, forsaken, and sometimes utterly forgotten. It's no wonder that we have social explosions. Consider the situation in some sections of Asia where famine is stalking many, in middle Africa where the drought has created shortages of food, or in many countries where minorities are seeking recognition. You can just hear the individual crying out in one way or another, "I exist. I'm an individual. I deserve the right attention and proper recognition, proper care."
During this hour we'll think about these questions and consider some of the spiritual facts that will lead us to solutions. We'll learn that our lives are never wasted but always valued and needed. But for this we must learn to identify ourselves properly and understand our relationship with God.
People identify themselves in a variety of ways. When you ask "Who are you?" one will reply, "I'm so and so. I'm 35 years old. I weigh 155 pounds; I have blue eyes and blond hair." Another might answer, "I'm a lawyer. I'm an expert in social and consumer law. I have some good qualities and some bad. I play the guitar and am fond of country music."
But how did Jesus identify himself? He said, "I came forth from the Father" (John 16:28). He was convinced that he was the son of God. He said, "The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him" (John 8:29).
Well, here are three distinctly different approaches to identification. One is solely material. To this person man is a physical organism, a material entity, and that's the way he thinks of himself. The second is a human personality, a mixture of good and evil, matter and Spirit, with some good qualities and some bad. Many people think of themselves in this way. Christ Jesus, our third example, identified himself with God as his Father. He never spoke of himself as coming from a physical source or as a human personality. He knew man is purely spiritual. He knew man has a divine source and he's always one with God as His expression.
Well, how do you identify yourself? If you go out in the morning thinking of yourself as a miserable mortal having all sorts of limitations and expecting everyone to try to take advantage of you, how do you think you'll feel and act? Maybe some of you know! But if you start your day with some understanding that you're a son or daughter of God, the expression or activity of Love, then you'll identify with the source of all good and its boundless potential for achievement,
If you stand on the shore of a lake or of the ocean on a clear night and watch the moon, you'll see a shaft of light coming across the water directly to you. If you move along the shore this shaft of light stays with you always. If another person is standing at your side, he'll see a shaft of light coming to him. No matter how many people stand on the shore each one will have an individual path of light coming to him.
This indicates the distinct and individual relationship each one of us has with God, the source of all enlightenment, love, and intelligence. This individual relationship conveys the inseparability of God and man. We may be sure that the infinite Father is never wasting or neglecting us in any way.
But how do we realize this care more consistently in our daily experience? To do this it's essential to understand the nature of God as divine Love and man's status as God's image and likeness, His reflection. God is known in Christian Science as infinite Love, eternal Truth, omnipotent Life. He's the one creative power, the one Mind, and man is His idea, His expression. This close relationship between God and man must be understood so that we can identify ourselves correctly and realize the heritage of the sons and daughters of God.
Let me tell you of a man who had quite a problem of self-identification. He was born of Hebrew parents but due to some unusual circumstances he was brought up in an Egyptian household, in fact, the household of the Pharaoh or ruler. As he grew to manhood, the problem of how to identify himself became more acute. He naturally wanted to side with his own people, the Israelites, in their struggle with their Egyptian captors, and yet he was trained in a different culture.
Here was a case of heredity in conflict with environment. This man, Moses, was probably asking himself the same question that's prevalent today, namely, "Who am I?" Desperate for an answer, he reacted violently to an unjust circumstance and then had to flee into the wilderness and he became a shepherd. But he continued to ponder the question of his identity. After struggling over it for a long while, he found his answer.
While he was investigating a burning bush in the mountainous desert, a great revelation came to him. He heard God speaking to him in these momentous terms, "I AM THAT I AM" (Ex. 3:14). Moses began at that instant to comprehend that God, Spirit, is the one Ego, the source of all identity, and that man is the expression of the divine Ego.
Moses saw that God was his only Ego, and this was a turning point in his life. He literally "found himself" when he realized that man is the image and likeness of God. With the growth in spiritual understanding that followed this discovery, he was able to carry out marvelous achievements. Under God's direction Moses was able to lead the children of Israel out of bondage and subjugation and bring them to the Promised Land. Keep in mind this sequence: the discovery of God as the only Ego; the discovery of man's identity as the expression of the divine Ego; how this leads to freedom from subjugation and bondage and leads to the Promised Land.
You know, sometimes we may think that God is up there and that we're down here, or that God is over there and we're over here, that God is Spirit and man is material. But, as Moses glimpsed, the fact is there's just one Being, one Soul, one Life, one intelligence or Mind. Man as the expression of God can never be separated from this divine oneness any more than a sunbeam can be separated from its source, the sun.
In order to have a correct concept of man, we must understand his source, his cause, his origin. How can we define a sunbeam except in terms of the sun? So we see that man's identity comes from the one I AM, the one Ego. Man has no ego apart from God. This means it's essential to understand God in order to know who and what man is, what we are.
In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, gives a number of profound definitions of God. Here's one of them: "The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence" (p. 587).
From this definition we can get a broad sense of the nature of God, His perfection, power, presence, and law. But the phrase that we're particularly interested in today is the "I AM" or the divine Ego.
Knowledge of God becomes self-knowledge as we realize man's relationship to God as His exact image or reflection. When we understand the perfection of God, this understanding permeates our present existence with an uplifting and purifying influence. When we realize there's just one Ego, we increasingly identify ourselves in terms of the divine Being, the nature of Love, of Life and Truth. When Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), he was surely setting forth the inseparability of God and man. But more than this, Jesus' words point to the fact there's just one Ego, one self-conscious Being. The divine self-consciousness understood and reflected brings more harmony, more health, more self-respect into our daily lives.
We've seen how Moses found himself. Now let me tell you a present-day account of spiritual self-discovery that took place in the same part of the world. This experience is related in the book "A Century of Christian Science Healing" (p. 217). A Christian Scientist, visiting the Middle East, was deeply concerned over the poverty and apparent hopelessness of many of the people. Among the beggars who often followed her on the street was a young boy with lovely brown eyes and a quick warm smile. But he presented a depressing picture of poverty and indescribable dirtiness. He could speak but a few words of English and she could speak only bits of his language. There seemed little opportunity to communicate in any meaningful way or to help him in any permanent manner.
Then one day as she handed him a few coins, realizing how inadequate they were to touch his real need, she thought of these lines from Science and Health: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (p. 476). From her study of the Bible, the woman remembered that Jesus didn't stand helpless before the beggars he met, offering a few coins. Jesus acted decisively to heal their diseases and their limitations. He must have seen right through the disturbing pictures before him and beheld man as he is, in all his beauty, purity, and health.
Out of the depths of her heart this Christian Scientist now prayed, "Lord, open Thou mine eyes that I too may see. Let there be light the light of spiritual reality." So bright was the light that she was no longer conscious of the boy or the place. She was aware only of God's presence and of His spiritual, perfect universe.
After several days she met the lad on the street again and she could scarcely believe her eyes. He was truly a new person. There were no sores on his face. He was clean his clothes, face, teeth, hands, hair. In her delight she exclaimed excitedly over his changed appearance and pointed to his clothes. "New?" she asked. "No new," he said, "wash." The words came out: "Who told you to do these things?" It took him a moment to answer: "No man tell." Then still searching for words, he looked upward, his gaze slowly following a great semicircle above. Then suddenly, joyously, he exclaimed, "I" and he pointed not to himself, but upward, "I tell me!"
"I tell me." That was all he could say, all he needed to say. His whole expression proclaimed eloquently that the message had come to him from on high. The universal Mind, the divine Ego or I AM, had spoken to him, directed him, healed him, possessed him. That was the beginning of a complete transformation of the boy. Shortly he found regular work, and he continued to appear healthy and radiantly happy. He even became a man of property, buying himself a bicycle out of his earnings.
Up until now we've been considering the importance of identifying ourselves spiritually as God's image. But in society today almost all efforts to search out the nature of man, that is, to gain self-knowledge, have been made from the standpoint that man is a material being. These efforts range over the intricate study of the material body, the human brain, psychoanalysis, physical heredity, genetic analysis and other areas of research.
At one time discussions of man's origin were dominated by protoplasm and "cosmic soup." Now going further, genetics claims that the intelligence, behavior and personality of the individual and his brain structure are controlled by chemicals, what's called the basic genetic substance, or DNA. Some researchers now seek to control or regulate man through manipulation of the genetic code altering its chemical makeup through the administration of drugs.
But if we think our ego or identity comes from protoplasm, "cosmic soup," or from a chemical code in the DNA, then we find ourselves subject to all manner of unwanted physical influences we have a very uncertain sense of existence, one that's subject to all sorts of accidents, alterations, evolutions. We can see that a mere chemical compound has no sense of real character, or moral or spiritual direction; it has no conscience. It's no wonder this material approach to life and intelligence breeds fear, sickness, sin, discord, and sorrow.
But today many people are growing unhappy with a material analysis of identity. They don't want to be catalogued, manipulated, stereotyped. There's a tendency to reach out for a higher explanation of existence. In this attempt some turn to mysticism or the occult. One woman explained her interest in astrology as a "desire to feel oneness with the universe, a desire for cosmic unity, a feeling of oneness with the whole." Sometimes this type of searching wanders into belief in magic, witchcraft, voodoo, and the like.
But the theory that there's intelligence in material objects, be they genes or germs, stones or stars, is mistaken. We need to learn what intelligence is and where it comes from. Christian Science reveals that intelligence isn't in matter and doesn't come from matter. When we see astronauts rendezvous at a designated place and at a precise time after traveling thousands and thousands of miles through space, we do feel there's an intelligence at work in the universe, and man can be at one with that intelligence. But this intelligence is Mind, not matter.
Infinite Spirit or Mind is ever present and is the controlling power of all that really exists. Man in his true identity is forever at one with this divine force. We can realize a unity with the cosmos the spiritual universe or only real cosmos on the basis of Spirit, the one divine Mind. This unity is brought into our experience through prayer or communion with the divine Mind.
Prayer requires us to give up the false mortal ego, the belief of a personal life and intelligence in matter. It requires us to give up human opinion, self-will, personal wants and mistaken beliefs. Then we're ready to seek the guidance of divine Mind. We learn to yield to the presence and power of God.
God is the divine Principle of the universe. God is self-sustained, self-existent, self-perpetuating. He's conscious only of good, of Love that knows no hate, of Life that knows no death. He is All-in-all and this divine All is infinite Spirit and His creation is wholly spiritual. The self-consciousness expressed in the divine Ego is utterly fearless, absolutely certain, completely fulfilled. And this true self-consciousness is reflected in the real man as God's exact image and likeness in your true selfhood.
Now self-consciousness has generally been considered to be an undesirable trait. But this depends on what self we're talking about. The ego mortals think they have is false, limited, fearful. But the divine Ego is the I AM that governs the spiritual universe and man in perfect harmony. The point that concerns each one of us in a very practical way is, "How do we identify ourselves with the material, mortal ego, or with the spiritual and divine?" Mrs. Eddy says, "The one Ego, the one Mind or Spirit called God, is infinite individuality, which supplies all form and comeliness and which reflects reality and divinity in individual spiritual man and things" (Science and Health, p. 281).
We can draw sharp contrast between the mortal ego and the divine Ego. As we've said, the divine Mind is self-sustained, complete, fully satisfied, whole. On the other hand, the mortal ego is just the opposite. It's always self-deficient, dissatisfied, discontented. It feels a poverty within and it must possess someone or lean on someone. It's always seeking something outside itself to fill the void. It must accumulate things or money; it must continually be adding something to the body a pill, a drug, a sensation. It's always hungry and restless.
This mortal frame of mind is dissatisfied because it's essentially the consciousness of lack or limitation. It's fearful because it feels separated from good, God. By its very nature it's limited, self-pitying and self-destructive. This is why it is called in Christian Science "mortal mind," a supposed mind or intelligence apart from the one Mind, God. It feels hurt, disadvantaged, imposed upon one moment; the next it's violently aggressive and self-assertive. It's no wonder we must deny this false self, this mortal ego, and admit God as the only Ego and therefore the Ego of man.
Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). Self-denial may not seem very attractive to us until we begin to see the reason for it, the potential involved, and the scientific nature of the requirement. We're denying the false, mortal, material sense of self. This self-denial is part of the prayer that reveals our true nature and reveals God as our only Ego and Mind. It's this divine self-conscious reflected in man that leads to completeness, fulfillment, satisfaction; that leads to the consciousness of ability and well-being. Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). This right understanding of God shows itself in our experience here and now, supplying all that's essential to a healthy, harmonious, and normal daily life.
These facts are illustrated in the experience of a young couple I know. The young man responded to the restless impulses of mortal mind and became involved with another woman. He asked his wife for a divorce. The couple were students of Christian Science and now the young wife and mother began to pray earnestly to see her way through this fiery trial.
She worked with a Christian Science practitioner who pointed out the statement from the Bible, "Thy Maker is thine husband" (Isa. 54:5). She began to realize she'd been depending on a person instead of God to fulfill her needs for companionship, love, joy. Now of necessity she began to seek and find the divine source of love, trust, and joy. She had to refresh her spiritual sense and gain a new and higher understanding of her inseparability from the source of all good. As she did this she saw she could affirm this bond of inseparability for all mankind, including her husband.
The young woman had to correct the aggressive thought that because she'd come from a broken home she was susceptible to divorce and that her children might be deprived of the "male image" as she'd been. She reversed these arguments with the spiritual fact that she'd never been deprived of Love's fatherhood. Her heavenly Father had always guided her and provided for her and He would continue to do so. She had to overcome condemnation, hatred, self-pity, and particularly a desire for revenge. But she began to gain composure when she saw this whole situation was an instance of wrong identification with the false mortal ego. She had to separate this evil thought from herself, from her husband, and from the other woman involved.
Hatred and revenge turned to compassion as she held in thought the perfect man instead of the mistaken belief that man is a sinner and under condemnation. Fear and possessiveness yielded to a clearer sense of her identity as complete not dependent upon someone else to make her complete.
This young woman learned that if something seemed lacking in her experience, such as trust, fidelity, moral integrity, and wisdom, she needed to express more of that within herself. As she began to see ways to express these qualities in fuller degree, her husband began to express them, too. As she gained her mental freedom her husband gained his. Eventually he completely renounced the wrong relationship and experienced a healing of self-condemnation and guilt. The woman told me, "Truly the experience strengthened me as an individual and us as a family, consuming the dross and burnishing the pure gold of our being."
Whenever we become more distinctly aware of the nature of God, His perfection, power, harmony, and beauty, we're clearing our thought of the false, mortal ego or the belief in limitation and mortality. This higher state of thought, this divine self-consciousness, naturally results in healing. It brings the completeness of the divine Mind into our human experience. Mrs. Eddy says: "Self-renunciation of all that constitutes a so-called material man, and the acknowledgement and achievement of his spiritual identity as the child of God, is Science that opens the very flood-gates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being, cleansing mortals of all uncleanness, destroying all suffering, and demonstrating the true image and likeness" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 185).
When Jesus said, "I am the way, ... no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6), he was indicating that there's just one way to come to the sense of good that completely satisfies, that fulfills one's deepest needs. He was speaking of the Christ, his true spiritual selfhood in the likeness of God. This Christ, the true idea of God, reveals man's sonship with God. It reveals man's true nature as the indestructible reflection of divine Love. Only as we recognize this true nature within us can we feel the presence of divine Love. One of the hymns (No. 221) in the Christian Science Hymnal puts it this way:
The Christ, eternal manhood,
As God's own Son beloved,
A tender ever-presence
Within each heart is proved.
Christ Jesus came to prove that man is the child of God. He brought home this fact to those that he healed. For instance, in healing a man who had the palsy, Jesus' first step was to forgive the man's sins. He must have seen that the man was under a heavy burden of guilt perhaps self-condemnation. Jesus came not to condemn people but to love them to show them their true nature as the children of God.
The scribes, steeped in traditional theology, challenged Jesus' authority to forgive sins. But he answered their challenge by healing the palsy and telling the man to take up his bed and go to his house. The man was free from limitation and disability. Christ Jesus changed the man's consciousness of himself, and in this way he healed his body. Man made in God's likeness isn't a sinner, neither is he under any law of disease. Such errors have no power to hide the true selfhood of man. And the eternal Christ is present today to awaken us to know our sonship with God, our unbreakable unity with our divine source.
It's also of great significance that, according to one biography, it was this healing of the palsied man Mrs. Eddy was pondering when the discovery of Christian Science dawned upon her thought. For many years she'd been in poor health, often bedridden for long periods. She'd spent many years in a deep and thorough research of the Bible to gain a higher and clearer concept of God and His nature as infinite good. And it was at a time of crisis in her experience when her life was endangered by an accident that the turning point came. She found healing as the true idea of God and of man in his Christly nature dawned upon her receptive thought. She says, "That short experience included a glimpse of the great fact that I have since tried to make plain to others, namely, Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 24).
Through this experience and her subsequent study Mrs. Eddy began to understand that God, infinite Spirit, is the actual indestructible Life of man our deathless Life. She began to see that God is the only Mind of man the only real consciousness or Ego there is. She saw, too, that her own sense of selfhood, her own true self-consciousness, came from God and is the image and likeness of God. As she learned the immortal nature of God, Life, Truth and Love, she began to see the immortal nature of man. This real man is spiritual and perfect. Once we see that Life doesn't come from matter nor depend upon it, then we can also understand that matter doesn't have the power to disable Life nor end it. Here's the basic truth that lay behind Jesus' ability to restore his patients to health and normality. Mrs. Eddy saw that this Truth, this divine ability to heal, is scientific and is therefore ever-present and ever available.
In her own experience as a practitioner Mrs. Eddy proved the power of Christian Science to heal all manner of disease. She thoroughly tested this scientific method of healing. She brought to those in need the consciousness of their sonship with God. For instance, while she lived at Lynn, Massachusetts, and was passing along one of Lynn's streets, she saw a man sitting on the sidewalk who was so deformed or crippled that his knees touched his chin. Going to him and leaning down to him she said, "God loves you," and then went on without waiting. Almost immediately the man arose and walked. A Christian Scientist saw this healing from her window and the man rushed to her house to ask who it was who had healed him ("Historical Sketches," by Clifford P. Smith, p. 78).
This is what spiritual identification can bring to each of us now the consciousness of man's sonship with God. I'd like every one of you to realize that you are indeed a loved child of God, that God is your Father, and that you're not under any law of condemnation. I want you to know the self-respect that comes from identifying with divine Principle. I'd like you to feel the love that God has for each one of His children. Not one is wasted or unwanted or unloved.
At present we're faced with a materialism, a selfish, self-centered egotism, that seems to grow more and more arrogant. It feels the spiritual challenge which Mrs. Eddy's discovery, the Science of the Christ, is bringing to the world. This false ego would undermine our society and cause all manner of distortion and dissension. Materialism manifests itself as immorality, crime, violence, selfishness, as well as various forms of disability and disease.
How many times recently we've heard of so-called irrational crimes where no apparent reason or motive for the wrong-doing has been established. When questioned, some criminals don't even know why they've acted as they did. Christian Science has uncovered this wrong influence as mortal mind, the belief of ego in matter. Jesus denounced it as a "liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). He healed those that were "possessed with devils." We can't be "possessed" of any error if we know its unreality. We can be encouraged to reject the belief of mind in matter, of material ego, whether it's manifested as disease, hereditary influence, or criminal tendency. By rejecting this false ego both for ourselves and for others we are contributing to the health and harmony of our society.
Mrs. Eddy says: "The understanding that the Ego is Mind, and that there is but one Mind or intelligence, begins at once to destroy the errors of mortal sense and to supply the truth of immortal sense. This understanding makes the body harmonious; it makes the nerves, bones, brain, etc., servants, instead of masters. If man is governed by the law of divine Mind, his body is in submission to everlasting Life and Truth and Love" (Science and Health, p. 216).
The same Mind that heals and restores harmony to the physical body restores health and harmony to the body politic, to society. God's declaration to Moses, "I AM THAT I AM," is a law of destruction to mortal mind and all its conditions, individual or collective. The commandment to have one God, one Mind, points to Spirit as the source of all real intelligence and control. Actually all the forces for good in the individual and all the positive influences in our society come from this one source, divine Mind. The integrity of Principle, the warmth of Love, the purity of Soul, the indestructibility of Truth, the oneness and allness of God, good these are the spiritual forces that hold society intact. None of these essential elements come from matter. They're the expression of Spirit: they manifest the will of God, the great I AM.
Now let's remember the nature of God as self-perpetuating Life, as self-revealing Truth. as self-sustaining Love and then let's be clear as to the nature of man in the likeness of God. Know yourself in God's likeness. Turn away from matter to Spirit to gain the true idea. Become conscious of the spiritual forces that make up your real being, your Christly selfhood. This true self-consciousness brings fresh ability and capacity; it brings a demonstrable knowledge of health and well-being. As we embody the qualities of God, the integrity, the love, the perfection and completeness of God we feel the divine Ego expressing itself in our lives. I AM THAT I AM becomes a law to our existence, a law to our actions, our health, and our abundance. Let's acknowledge this divine Ego and we'll find that God does work in us both "to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
[Delivered March 3, 1979, in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, and published in The Christian Science Monitor, March 5, 1979.]