Christian Science: Its Healing Ministry (2)
Bliss Knapp, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
A lecture delivered by Bliss Knapp in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, Massachusetts, October 22, 1908.
If Christian Science were simply an intellectual pastime, touching only the emotions and sentiments of men, it could never emulate the mercy of primitive Christian healing. On the contrary, it appeals to their highest moral and spiritual nature, and leads them to find in God a sure reward for trusting in Him. It is a prophet of good tidings, promising deliverance from pain, suffering, and disease; and by the accomplishment of this deliverance, its truth has been established. It has challenged attention, not because of any failure, but because of its success in good works. Indeed its most uncompromising critics are now ready to admit that Christian Science has made good its claim to be a healing religion.
Possibly the larger part of song and of verse has been inspired by the tragedy of life. The mystery of suffering has compelled even the most frivolous to seek the meaning of life; and it is the theology of Christian Science that not only clears this mystery but removes the suffering. If the healing seems to be of more consequence than the religion, in its appeal to the stranger, it is because he has not looked beyond the cure to its spiritual cause, for it is the theology of Christian Science which heals the sick and reforms the sinner. Far from being an ethical philosophy, Christian Science is a life to be lived, — a truth to be proved.
In looking over the entire range of religious beliefs, whether handed down by tradition or recorded in the sacred books, it is interesting to note that they all claim to be the promulgation of revealed truth; but whatever may be the nature or quality of such truth, that which differentiates the demonstrable revelation of Jesus Christ from them all is its power to give health and life, for "I am come," said Jesus, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Moreover, that truth which heals and reforms, manifests the only religion that is susceptible of proof; for the Master's healing, resurrection, and final ascension demonstrated this life-giving element in Christianity.
The works of healing which Jesus accomplished have been preached for centuries; but for one to relate the simple story of how he went to the mother of Peter's wife and healed her of a fever, does not adequately explain how the healing was accomplished. Suppose one were to repeat the simple words of Jesus and imitate his manner of addressing disease, the mere form could never reveal the effective power which he employed, nor could it give the process so that another might repeat the operation. At least we might infer this from the fact that these works have not been more commonly done for many centuries. That which has made Christian Science eminently practical is its ability to define not only the power which Christ Jesus employed, but the rule by which another may repeat his works; and this withal in so simple a manner that even a child can understand and enjoy its protection; indeed its understanding is a panacea for everybody and at all times, whether the difficulty be a sick body or a sick mind, for "he that believeth on me," said Jesus, "the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
Footsteps in Spiritual Discovery
When Jesus healed the centurion's servant and the Syrophenician's daughter without so much as going near them, it should be clear that the power employed was mental, as mental indeed as any Christian prayer. An English poet has propounded the query, "For to say truly, what else is man but his mind?" Indeed we might ask, What else is God but divine Mind? It is truly unthinkable to conceive of an all-wise, all-intelligent God apart from Mind. Moreover, how can an ever-present God be everywhere present, except that presence is Mind? The words of Paul, that "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace," express the fact that the healing power is in the divine Mind, — in Spirit, not in matter.
To explain how the Mind that is God should have become available for our needs may seem as impossible as to determine the character of the distant stars. But as God's messengers have come down to us from former generations pointing the way, it may be interesting to contemplate the manner by which these early prophets came to understand for themselves this healing power of God, that we may emulate their good works. The first of the old patriarchs, although reared in the school of idolatry, was touched by a divine impulse and began to contemplate a diviner sense of authority; he began to recognize that, instead of many powers manifested in so many different idols, there is really but one Mind or intelligence, whose power governs the universe and man; the same power, in fact, which later divided the waters of the Red Sea and closed the lions' mouths. Abraham's unswerving devotion to this guiding and saving power inspired an absolute faith in its omnipotence. God revealed Himself to Abraham as "the Almighty;" and yet, although Abraham had absolute faith in this saving power and in its promises, his concept of it must have been limited, for the voice of God said unto Moses, "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them," indicating that there was more to learn about the application of this Mind to human needs.
Moses was taught from his youth to
believe in God, but when he began to comprehend what he once believed, he
discovered at the outset the same power which inspired the faith of Abraham.
Moses was a great observer, and he began to note that this power is not
confined to isolated places, like so many nuggets which might be discovered at
random, nor is it restricted to holy places or occasions, for he perceived the
great fact that this divine power operates through well-defined laws, emanating
from the one Principle or Mind, and that as ever-present law this power has a
healing and saving influence. Indeed this power manifested through law brought
the actual proofs of deliverance from the plagues, from the
The Jews had been looking for Immanuel; they needed a final revelation, and expected one. This final interpretation was to bring the very presence of God to their understanding; and when Christ Jesus took up the thread of this progressive revelation and carried it on to completion, an unbroken highway to the Father's kingdom was established on earth. Christ Jesus' vindication was in his works, for he said, "Though ye believe not me, believe the works." Indeed these works of healing and reformation were precisely what Moses and the prophets had foretold. If the mission of Christ Jesus is to point "the way" by manifesting the works of healing, then the intelligence or spiritual understanding which removes the scales of sin and disease in every age must be the same, — Christ, Truth, — for Jesus himself declared, "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me;" that is, by apprehending that divine Truth which brought about the healing.
Now the Scriptures imply that what the Israelites lacked was the Christian teaching that "God is love," for "he that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." Moreover Paul declared that "love is the fulfilling of the law." Thus we learn that divine Love is the benign presence that heals the sick, reforms the sinner, and fulfils the law.
I have briefly presented this idea of divine law, fulfilled in Love, by way of anticipating the frequent remark that Christian Science is neither Christian nor scientific. What does it mean to have a science? You well know that a science implies classified knowledge; it is the presentation of a law in its unity, order, and system, and this is precisely what Christian Science does. It presents divine law in its unity, order, and system, with such precision and accuracy that Christian healing prevails by way of proof. It is therefore eminently scientific; moreover, it is Christian because this law is not physical, but spiritual, divine, compassionate, and helpful.
Every one would like to have the power to do the good that Jesus did; every one would be glad to understand the divine law well enough to heal and reform men as did the primitive Christians; and when one does understand this law in its spiritual sense, he is a Christian Scientist as truly as one who understands the mathematical law is a mathematical scientist. The ability to do the works of Jesus was lost through the idolatry and materialism of the dark ages, and no further progress could be made until the rediscovery of their Principle. Jesus had promised to send another Comforter, who should guide into all truth, and this Comforter could not appear without the manifestation of these works of healing. When Mrs. Eddy rediscovered the Principle of primitive Christian healing, she made the further discovery of its Science, and called it Christian Science. It is indeed the "Spirit of truth," or Comforter, which opens the way to all truth by revealing the practical Science of Christian healing, so that all may follow in the way of Christ Jesus.
When a man is suffering a burden of disease, he wants to know respecting the practical application of this law to his needs — how it is that he may have the assurance that God is indeed "a very present help in trouble." Now a student never prays to have his problem in mathematics work itself out, for this would do away with the necessity of understanding. He has the problem and also the rule, and he must act in obedience to the rule. There must be a mental activity on his part; and when that activity obeys the mathematical rule the correct solution is inevitable. In Christian Science we have divine law, and when we are confronted by the problems of sin and disease, our next important step is to act, or demonstrate this law. That which gives to it a healing effect is the energy of eternal Spirit.
The prophet Zechariah voiced this Christian idea when he said, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord." For "the hour cometh," said Jesus, "and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." When our spiritual sense, by which we worship God, is guided by the divine law — that is, scientifically — Christian healing is inevitable. It is truly significant that Jesus opened his mission with Isaiah's prophetic words, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me." From that moment he began to solve those problems through the destruction of sin and disease. He healed the sick, cleansed the leper, raised the dead, cast out devils. Moreover he declared (according to the Revised Version) that "God is Spirit."
God Is Principle
It is to be noted that although Christian Science presents no new God, it does present several Scriptural names for Deity. This does not mean so many different gods, these are but human terms, used to define the one God according to His several offices. That is, Truth is the law; Love fulfils the law; Spirit demonstrates the Science of the law, and so forth. To illustrate: Let us suppose we have a six-sided room, with each side a mirror, and a lamp placed in the center of the room. Each mirror will present a perfect reflection of the lamp, which will be similar each to the others. And yet, their office differs, for the reason that it is the office of one to image or define the north side, for another to image or define the east side, and so on, all being required to image or define the complete object. In like manner these synonymous terms for Deity are necessary to present the complete nature and being of God, whereby we have the Scriptural definition that God is all Mind, Spirit, Soul, Life, Truth, Love. Though differing in their office, we recognize that they are really identical in their essence, for divine Love is indeed the Mind and Spirit which is God.
It is evident, therefore, that Christian Science teaches no new God, but it does present a new name which includes these synonymous terms for Deity, and that new name is Principle. It is quite impossible to conceive of a divine law without a Principle to govern that law, and therefore Christian Science teaches that God is divine Principle.
This may be seen in the relation of principle to rule as presented by the Century Dictionary, "You can make a rule; you cannot make a principle; you can lay down a rule; you cannot, properly speaking, lay down a principle. It is (already) laid down for you. You can establish a rule; you cannot, properly speaking, establish a principle. You can only declare it." If this word Principle implies any of the harshness of the Mosaic law with its "thou shall" and "thou shalt not," we must remember that the divine Principle manifests all wisdom, intelligence, and goodness. Indeed it includes the all of divine Love which binds up the broken-hearted and sets the captive free.
Method in Jesus' Teaching
Recognizing how essential it is, at some time, for all to claim their God-given right to be free, it may be interesting to observe the method which Jesus adopted in teaching this healing power to his disciples. Not being gifted in learning, these disciples manifested an average intelligence, and a certain familiarity with the Mosaic law. Doubtless they were as familiar with the Old Testament writings as is the average individual of today. However that may be, we read in Luke's Gospel that Jesus reproved them for their unbelief. "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." One may be thoroughly familiar with the Scripture lessons, and in his unbelief fail to understand them. For example: When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, all that he said was, "Stretch forth thine hand. . . . and it was restored whole, like as the other." We are all familiar with these words, but suppose that today these same words were repeated to one suffering from a withered hand, could their mere repetition heal him? It must be evident to all that not the words, but the spiritual understanding of the Master healed the sick. One might commit to memory the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and be unable to heal a single disease, for it is the spiritual understanding that needs to be opened. "The letter killeth," says the Scripture, "but the spirit giveth life."
To present this spiritual understanding, it was necessary for Jesus to begin on their plane of thought, where they could grasp the meaning of his teachings. He began with parables, and "without a parable spake he not unto them." A little later he said, "I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father."
In this he did precisely what the mother does when she teaches her child that two and two make four. The child does not understand this at first for the reason that it is mental. He sees nothing but physical forms. Therefore the mother begins with something as tangible as red apples. They mean something directly, and he can understand that two red apples in one hand placed with two red apples in the other make four red apples. The mental character of the problem, however, has thus far escaped the child's notice. For his second lesson, the apples are removed, and he must learn by thinking red apples that two and two are four. Then for his third lesson, he is ready to grasp the mental problem without the physical forms.
In like manner Jesus taught the disciples first in parables, using the things of common experience which they could readily understand. Gradually in this way he turned their thoughts away from the physical to a more spiritual sense of things, until they began to apprehend a degree of reality in spiritual things. Indeed, their faith was strengthened by visible proofs of healing performed by their Master. To watch others solve these problems, however, was insufficient. For their second lesson, they were sent out in pairs to heal the sick, and thus prove their slight understanding; and behold they returned saying, "Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name." The great mental Principle which underlies all being and action was unfolding to them, and they grasped the spirit of it all by the actual demonstration of healing, so that Jesus could say as an opening to his third lesson, "I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father." That is, he could then teach them spiritual things in spiritual terms and they could understand spiritually. From that time their healing was even more remarkable than before, in proof of their positive understanding of spiritual law.
Some there are who believe that the healing works of Jesus are not in obedience to a teachable law, averring that the disciples gained their understanding through the personal inspiration of the great Master. If this were true, what shall we say of Paul and the early Christians? Paul was not a personal disciple of Jesus, but he understood how to heal the sick and raise the dead. He was at first a persecutor of the Christians, actively engaged in opposing their teachings; but the moment he gained a spiritual sense of this divine Principle, he gave to the world the proof of his understanding by the healing works. It was no longer unreasonable to him. He had learned that the carnal mind is no fit standard by which to judge the spiritual facts of being. For three hundred years this same Christian healing continued to be exercised by the Church.
When one turns to God for comfort or consolation it is commonly through prayer. Christians are taught to pray for deliverance from sickness and from sin. They continue their preaching against sin, but through unbelief they are apathetic toward the Christian healing of sickness. The explanation may lie in the physical appearance of sickness, for if sickness were known to be as mental as sin, then it could be seen how a mental prayer could control both. If disease were purely physical and could be reached only by drugs or material means, there could be no such thing as Christian healing. One of the leading points in the theology of Christian Science, and one which physicians are now admitting to be true, is the mental nature of disease.
We should look beyond the physical effects to their mental cause, just as Moses did, for when he withdrew his hand from his bosom white with leprosy he awoke to the mental nature of leprosy. Again, when he returned his hand to his bosom, in obedience to the word of God, and withdrew it free from that dread disease, he learned of its mental cure, and that the divine Mind is the healer. It follows therefore that Christian prayer should be just as efficacious in healing disease which is mental as in casting out the belief in mental sin.
Now when a dentist administers anesthetics to suspend or divert the thought during the process of an operation, he is proceeding on the assumption that if a man cannot think, he cannot be hurt; for during the time when the patient's thought is suspended or diverted, his flesh and bones can of themselves experience no pain nor sensation, no life nor intelligence. Consequently pain is all in the thinking. It is in the mortal mind and not the physical form. It follows therefore that even surgery may prove indirectly the mental nature of disease.
Human Mind Not Regenerative
The observation that disease is mental has aroused the frequent remark, "Well, if pain is all in the thinking, just think you are well and you will be so." Now the same ignorant belief that causes disease can never cure it; for if thinking you are well is all that is necessary, and it could be so arranged at twelve o'clock tonight to have everybody think they are well, then all the pain and suffering of the world might be wiped out in a single night. But the most masterful logic of material philosophy can never convince a suffering man that his pain is not real, for the same mind that produces disease can never destroy it. Only the spiritual Mind revealed by Christ Jesus can uncover sin and disease and destroy them, and that Mind which was in Christ Jesus has stood forth in bold relief throughout the Christian era as the panacea for the world's ills. Therefore "let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
Christian Scientists do not go to the sick-bed with the heartless assertion, "Nothing ails you." Jesus had compassion for those who were bound. He never healed a man by ignoring his difficulties, but by recognizing in his bondage a problem which needed to be solved not by ignorant belief, but in obedience to divine law, for the spiritual understanding of this law exposes the nothingness of evil, which is dissolved before it like dew before the sun.
Jesus Eschewed Human Will
It is well to know that the supposed cause of disease obtains in the mortal mind, and that the understanding of the divine Mind will cure it; but human nature always finds somebody who wants to climb up by some other way. Such people hold that spiritual-mindedness is fit only for weak women and children, but for the man with a belief in personal magnetism the exercise of human will seems more manly. This unchristian belief in human will has been seized upon as a ready method for competing with Christian Science in casting out disease by a mental process. Various names have been used to designate these efforts, such as suggestive therapeutics, psychotherapeutics, or Christian psychology. These are admitted to be the operation of the human will or carnal mind, and they may be used by a wicked man, an infidel, or a pagan, and therefore they must be the polar opposites of the Mind of Christ, for "the carnal mind is enmity against God."
Human will is an animal propensity which tries to dominate everything and seeks to exploit itself as some great thing, but if "the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." This blind belief in animal will would commit murder and do all manner of evil to satisfy its own desires. Its chief characteristics are lust and selfishness. As an educational system, its more hidden use is exploited in hypnotism and mesmerism, which are specifically defined as animal magnetism. Think you that this fable of materialism is the panacea for the world's ills?
Christ Jesus completely eschewed any use of the carnal will, well knowing that it possesses none of the joy and strength of divine Love, which regenerates both mind and body. Indeed, he understood the powerlessness of human will, for he said, "I can of mine own self do nothing. . . . because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true."
Paul declared that the unrighteous mammon "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator." Therefore the basis of all evil, animality, and disease is a lie; without mind, intelligence, or power. Hence, too, any use of this animal will or therapeutic suggestion is a lie about God, or Truth. This carnal mind being a lie, or nothing, no one can ever explain it as something. "Who can understand his errors?" asks the psalmist. Truth, on the other hand, can always be understood, and the understanding of Truth casts out error as dew before the sun. We are learning in Christian Science to recover man's divine inheritance of dominion over all sickness and sin and in consequence we are learning to experience more of the joy of that blessed freedom from error by the understanding of Truth.
Cause and Effect
We may read from the book of Hebrews how that the figure of the law never made the chosen people perfect, rather did it continually remind them of their sins, in view of which they made sacrifice year after year, and for the same sins. But Christ Jesus, manifesting the eternal spirit of the law, purged their conscience once for all, and once purged they had no more consciousness of those sins, either in mind or in body. The apostle Paul has portrayed this as the true healing. Instead of continually doctoring effects, Christ Jesus dealt with the mental causes, and when he purged the conscience of sin, it also freed the body of disease, indicating a positive relation between sickness and sin. "For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk." Thus it is that Christian Science heals both physically and morally.
There are many who really believe that God visits sickness and death upon humanity. It would startle many to learn of the large number of excellent people who are driven annually into infidelity by the cold and cruel assertion that God takes our loved ones away from us. Christian Science wins these good people back to the Father's kingdom by proving that divine Love never afflicted a man with suffering and disease. When Jesus healed the lunatic child he did not rebuke the angels of God, in the belief that God had inflicted the disease, but he "rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour." He referred to a poor crippled woman as "a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years," and he healed her by casting out the sinful cause.
The mission of Christ Jesus was to "destroy the works of the devil." He regarded both sin and sickness as belonging to that which he proceeded to destroy with Truth and Love. His sense of devil was not a something with hoofs and horns, but the carnal mind which is enmity against God. The sick man by reason of his sickness may not be half so sinful as the well man. This is indicated by Christ Jesus' words when he said, "Those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." And from what should we repent, if not the carnal mind with its train of materialism, that we may "hold fast that which is good"?
So good a man as Job regarded his sickness as the sufferings of Satan and not of God; and he sought his release through a better understanding, not of his disease, but of the power of God, — the truth that makes free. He was exhorted to acquaint himself with God and be at peace, and finally he cried out, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee," and he was healed.
Mrs. Eddy's Discovery
Before Mrs. Eddy discovered Christian Science, she had been searching for years along this line of mental causation. She had been studying homeopathy, had learned the mental nature of disease, and that the higher attenuations of medicine which contained the least of the drug and the most of mind were the most powerful. She continued her investigations beyond homeopathy to a mental standpoint, with the question ever before her whether matter or mind heals the sick.
In her subsequent investigations of mental influences she learned that the carnal will or magnetic healing was absolutely opposed to her own ideals of mental healing as practiced by inspired Christians, and she turned from it. She possessed a spiritual insight that others failed to appreciate. Surely God was even then guiding her up to the right understanding of primitive Christian healing. Indeed she submitted to all manner of stress and trial, but withal proving a special fitness to receive the revelation of Truth, by clinging so naturally to her ideal of right and forsaking the counterfeit.
It was at this period of her experience that the great spiritual light dawned upon her consciousness, and found her waiting and prepared to receive the message. The circumstance which brought this spiritual awakening, and thereby established her conclusions, was her remarkable recovery, in the year 1866, from an injury caused by an accident. She was seeking to console her suffering sense by reading passages from the Scriptures, when she caught the depth of its spiritual import and was instantly healed. This was the vindication of her long search, for it was the Spirit that quickened and she knew it.
Now that Mrs. Eddy had found the Comforter, which is the "Spirit of truth," and which heals the sick, she resumed her search of the Scriptures for a scientific explanation of it, that she might impart it to others. She soon learned that the healing is effected according to a divine law, and she began to write out her observations. These writings formed the basis of her more complete work, known as "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which was first published in 1875.
This wonderful treatise on Christian Science presents so accurate an exposition of its Science that thousands of people have been cured of all forms of chronic and acute diseases, by its simple reading, in fulfillment of the Scripture, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Mrs. Eddy has religiously excluded any mere opinion on the subject, confining herself strictly to a declaration of the facts as they exist. For this reason it cannot be the human opinion of a woman, for no one can either make or change the law. The facts of the divine law have been presented with such precision and grace that all may read, and understand, and be free. Indeed the last chapter in this book Science and Health, known as the chapter on Fruitage, contains a hundred pages of testimonials in evidence and proof of the fact that its study has healed all manner of sin, sickness, disease, and infidelity. Surely, by such works of redemption, Mrs. Eddy has become the greatest benefactor to suffering humanity since the time of the great master Christian.
There are some, however, who have found it difficult to grasp the author's meaning in their study of the Christian Science text-book. Indeed there are some intelligent people who have confessed to this difficulty. On the other hand, a little child has been known to gain a sufficient understanding of its teachings to heal himself and others. The seeming obscurity to the riper intellect is occasioned by a wrong method of approach. When one approaches the study of Christian Science from as material a view-point as he would the study of physiology, he fails. As one has to think mathematically to learn mathematics, so must he think spiritually to understand Christian healing.
The Master said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." We discover therefore certain needful childlike qualities which lead to an understanding of Christian healing. These are humility, spiritual receptivity, and teachableness — three simple qualities, yet so essential that, if lost, they must be regained before one can reach the verities of Spirit.
Whatever else may be said about her, this fact should portray the true character of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science; for these childlike qualities must have characterized her attitude of thought in order for her to apprehend and accurately express this "Spirit of truth" or divine Comforter. Indeed she is a true friend to all lovers of Truth. She has presented the true meaning of liberty, and thereby won the boundless gratitude of humanity.
How clear it is that a book indicates the quality or character of the author's mind. We can know the mind of Shakespeare today by reading his books. We can discern the kind of man, whether he was good or evil, by his writings. In like manner the purity of Mrs. Eddy's thought is clearly portrayed by her writings, for she is a faithful disciple of her own teachings. To understand the works is to understand the author, and it follows that to understand the author is to understand the works. This is why Jesus said, "There is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me," and it follows just as truly that no one can lightly speak evil of the author of Science and Health and understand its teachings. Paul had to change his thought concerning the early Christians and their teachings, and his advance in understanding was coincident with this change. It should be thought a reasonable thing in a Christian land for the teachings of our Master and Wayshower to be fulfilled. Christian Science has penetrated the mystery of his words and works; and in all that we do we are asked simply to observe Mrs. Eddy's enjoinment. "Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ."
[Delivered Oct. 22, 1908, at The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Journal, December, 1908.]