Christian Science: Its Religious and Healing Elements (1)
Bliss Knapp, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Not in contravention of law, but
in fulfillment thereof, did the man of
In all that Jesus did, he made it clear that the power he employed was not of himself. He specifically declared, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do." His ability, therefore, to obliterate disease and sin was the result of what he actually knew about God, the Father of us all. When he taught that same understanding of God to his disciples, they were able to perpetuate his healing ministry. Indeed Christian healing was continued for a period of three hundred years after the time of Jesus. The ability of a Christian Scientist to heal the sick and sinning through prayer is wholly due to a better understanding of God who is the divine Principle of man's existence. This is in agreement with the Scriptural command, "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." One who is sick is not at peace. One who is distressed either in mind or in body is not at peace. Nevertheless, acquaintance with the divine nature endows one with that peculiar intelligence which inspires him with the power of peace, and thereby rules out all disturbance, whether mental or physical. Therein do you have presented in the briefest possible statement the precise method of Christian healing — acquaintance with divine nature. How then shall we acquaint ourselves with God?
One of the earliest ways of gaining an insight into the realm of God was given by Moses in the Ten Commandments. He led people to think of the divine nature as manifested not through a form but through well defined laws. Idolatry had its origin in thinking of God as a form. When men undertook to fashion what they might conceive the precise form of God to be they became thereby idolaters, against which we have the second commandment of the Decalogue. As divine Principle, manifesting His power, intelligence, and loving-kindness through well defined laws, He can be understood.
Jesus declared his relationship to this same law in his Sermon on the Mount; for there he said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.'' Having said this, he undertook to teach this law, not so much intellectually, as by a direct appeal to one's moral or spiritual nature. Not that intellectual training should be disapproved, for on the contrary, the right sort of training is necessary to the proper conduct of everyday affairs. But the one thing of special importance in this connection is the fact that Jesus addressed himself, not so much to the intellects of the disciples as he did to their spiritual faculties; to their natural tenderness and spiritual aspirations. He recognized that one who has never enjoyed the advantages of an education may have spiritual faculties as well developed, if not outshining those, of a student. This is evidenced in a little child. He has not had time to develop his intellect. Nevertheless he has well developed spiritual faculties. By addressing himself to one's spiritual faculties, that gentle Nazarene was able to impart to humble fishermen the actual understanding of divine law — an understanding that endowed them with the power of divinity to heal sickness and sin. Herein do we observe an understanding that is wholly apart from the human intellect — an understanding to which Job referred, when he said, "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." It is the spiritual understanding which we gain through the exercise of the spiritual faculties in prayer that acquaints us with the nature of God, and endows us with the power of peace unto healing and salvation.
If an individual is made to believe that he has no faculty for apprehending spiritual law, he is cheered in Christian Science by the sweet assurance that men are natively and inherently spiritual. They are so as children. Indeed it is impossible for one, by the process of education to lead himself entirely away from that native spiritual sense. Even the supposedly wicked man may know God and be saved from his evil ways. This is not a mere high sounding theory, for it is a familiar saying that no one is wholly bad, for there must be at least a spark of goodness in him. Suppose, then, that you address yourself to some very wicked man and ask him if he has ever experienced the desire to be better and to do better; has he really desired to be good? Few will deny that there have been periods when they have entertained such desires. Where do these desires to be good come from? What is their origin? Do they originate with the individual? No. They must have their origin in the infinity of good, and that to us means God — even as Jesus declared. "None is good, save one, that is, God." Infinite good is the source and activity of all right desires that inspire the individual consciousness such as honesty, tenderness, loving-kindness and so on. As one experiences those right desires, yields his obedience to them, and looks in their direction, he is looking towards God: but that is not so much a bodily movement as it is a state of consciousness: indeed, a state of spiritual consciousness.
If, on the other hand, the individual believes himself to be the originator of his goodness — that it is a mere personal possession humanly circumscribed, — it could not be of God, and would not therefore be good but evil. Some there are who really believe their goodness to be a personal possession, humanly circumscribed, and that is usually what is the matter with them; for they are invariably characterized by a tremendous degree of self-righteousness; and self-righteousness is the most tenacious evil known to the human consciousness. Such a sense of ownership or control over a divine quality gives rise to the belief that man can be separate from God — that he can lose his goodness and fall and suffer the direful consequences thereof; but the entire situation is the result of a mistaken or false belief.
This may be illustrated by the experiences of Job. According to the record, in the book of Job, the sons of God came to present themselves before God, and Satan came also. When asked where he came from Satan replied, "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." Surely that is not so much a locality as a fluctuating wave of error. However, it is to be noted that Satan presumed upon the notion that Job's goodness was a form of selfishness, — that it was a personal desire expressed merely for the hope of a reward in heaven, — and that if that hope of a reward were to be withdrawn, Job would curse God to His face. Satan declared, in other words, that Job's goodness was a mere personal sense with himself, a form of selfishness, a mixture of good and evil. But the question arises as to whether that was a correct charge. Permission was granted to make a trial of his charge, to prove whether he was good merely for the sake of a reward.
The first trial or temptation was the destruction of Job's property, but that had no disturbing effect on his goodness. Next his children were destroyed, but that did not change his divine purpose to be good. Finally the trial was made more personal. Job was afflicted with grievous diseases which tormented him so sorely that his wife broke down under the stress of it. Job, however, stood fast; he was good just the same. The trial had been made; the proof was conclusive that Job's goodness was not entertained for the sake of a reward. It was proved to be as unchanging as God himself, — a divine attribute that is reflected through all alike.
With the recognition of one good who is God, it naturally follows there can be but one goodness to express Him, which expression must characterize all alike. Indeed it is so pure and simple as to be recognized and obeyed by a child. The activity of that right desire in the consciousness of Job enabled him to look up through the law to its divine source and declare that wonderful vision, "Yet in my flesh shall I see God." Those words are entirely in agreement with what Jesus himself later declared in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Job therefore acquainted himself with the divine nature, not so much by the human intellect, as by the understanding of his goodness in its simple purity, as an attribute of God. Not only did it enable him to see God, but it endowed him with the power of God to heal and save himself. The healing power of God was actually communicated to his human consciousness through the law of goodness, scientifically understood. For example: The groping student of mathematics never goes directly to its basic meaning. He needs must go by way of its rules. The first task set for the beginner to do is to assimilate the meaning of the simplest rule into his understanding, and he reaches the basic meaning by way of its several rules. So it is that no one goes directly to infinite good. He must go by way of goodness, the law of God. As Job assimilated the simple meaning of goodness into his consciousness, he could look through the law to his divine Principle, and truthfully declare, "Yet in my flesh shall I see God." That acquaintance with the divine nature healed him, and showed forth the divine law as the communicator of God's healing power to the human consciousness.
Continuing this illustration, it may be said that honesty is not a personal possession, but a law or attribute of God, for there are not as many kinds of honesty as there are people. There is one honesty, which is a law or attribute of God reflected through all alike. Honor among thieves is far from being honor among honest men. Honor among thieves is but a subterfuge that has its basis in evil. Honor among honest men is honesty from Principle. Indeed, it is commonly said that a truly honest man must be honest from Principle. One who falls short of being honest from Principle has no power to resist temptation. For example: Suppose such an one were to be placed as a cashier in a bank, and submitted to a severe pressure of temptation to dishonesty. He has no power to resist it. But the man who is honest from Principle has the power of divinity to overcome the temptation. Indeed he can not go contrary to the power of its government. Therefore honesty from Principle communicates the divine power to overcome dishonesty, even as goodness from Principle communicates the divine power to overcome evil.
Health an Attribute of God
It is true that orthodox Christians generally accept this teaching as it relates to temptations of sin; but Christian Science accepts the same teaching as it relates to temptations of sickness. That is to say, we recognize that health is just as much a characteristic or attribute of God as are honesty and goodness, and therefore the individual makes the same mistake who believes that his health is a personal possession, as he does who believes that his goodness and honesty are personal possessions. We save our health through the recognition of its divinity, — that it is the gift of God, — and that God can no more purpose to withdraw it than He would honesty and goodness. God never died, nor is He ever sick. Indeed, it is unthinkable to conceive of a sick God. In fact, the characteristics or attributes of God must be and are life and health, as truly as they are goodness and honesty. Consequently, one's health can no more be destroyed or impaired than can God himself. If we seem to lose our health, it is not lost but merely hid: or, as explained in II Cor. 4:3,4, "it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not."
Who then is "the god of this world" if not the same Satan that tempted Job? And what of this mental blindness? Had Satan succeeded in beguiling Job into the notion that his goodness was a form of selfishness, he would have implanted a lie that would have blinded Job to the fact of his goodness as an attribute of God. In that mental blindness he would have lost the healing power that was ever ready and waiting to be entertained through that divine acquaintance. The same Satan would tempt one to believe one's health is a mere personal possession or fleshy condition, rather than the gift or attribute of God; and we save our health as Job saved his goodness. The method is so naturally simple that the children and common people as readily grasp its meaning and consequent healing today as when taught by the gentle Nazarene.
Mrs. Eddy's Discovery
The first case of healing that led to the discovery of Christian Science was that of Mrs. Eddy. She had met with an accident which those about her considered must result fatally. Undaunted by the weight of so great a fear, the effort of self-preservation turned her naturally from the contemplation of her extremity to seek comfort in her Bible. Always a devout student of the Bible, it was but natural that she should turn to its inspired pages for comfort, consolation or hope of relief. But there, stripped of all material aid, she became imbued with a dawning ray of spiritual reality. She began to recognize that health is not a fleshy condition to be lost or impaired, but rather the gift of God, as imperishable as God himself. In that she recognized what constitutes the immortality of man — that which every Christian admits and believes. But she saw in it as present a possibility as are goodness and honesty, and she was instantly healed. That was in the year 1866. She could then say with Paul, "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
It was indeed a wonderful experience, and coming so quickly, Mrs. Eddy experienced considerable difficulty in explaining it to those about her. Then she recognized that she never could explain it properly until she more thoroughly understood its Principle and rule of operation. In the effort to learn the explanation of her own healing, she resumed her search in the Bible and continued for a period of years, until she re-discovered how Christian healing operates through spiritual law — the law which Jesus fulfilled. She began to write out her observations concerning the Christ-law. These writings formed the basis of the more complete record known as ''Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures," first published in the year 1875.
Mrs. Eddy Honored
It may be of interest to learn
that the simple reading of Science and Health has healed disease and sin. This
is the more notable since it is the only book since the writings of the
primitive Christians to effect cures of mind and body by the simple study and
contemplation of its truths. The last chapter of this textbook, called
"Fruitage," contains a hundred pages of testimonials in evidence of
the fact that the simple study of the book has healed such diseases as
consumption, locomotor ataxia, cancers, tumors, curvature of the spine, and so
on. In recognition of her distinguished services the French government has
honored Mrs. Eddy by causing M. Briand, at that time minister of public
instruction and fine arts, to decorate Mrs. Eddy officer of the
The true character and nature of an individual can be known only by his friends. We can learn best the real character of Jesus from the beloved disciple — the one who rested on his breast. He knew more of the inner meanings and characteristics of Jesus' life than any other person. The enemies of Jesus could not give any correct analysis of his work. It follows just as truly that one understands best those of his friends that he loves most. One's enemies never could do one justice in writing one's record, and it follows that only the friends of Mrs. Eddy — those who have known and loved her most — can really give a correct estimate of her. It has been my pleasure and privilege to know Mrs. Eddy personally for nearly 25 years. She has visited in my father's home. At one time she came to our home and remained nearly a week. Thereafter she moved into a house directly across the street from where we then lived; and there again she visited in our home. I have visited her in her home, and I know from my personal acquaintance with her that she has lived as pure a life, as unselfish and Christian a life, as is possible for a denizen of this world; and in all that she has done she has considered herself but a humble disciple, seeking to learn more of the spiritual meaning of the Bible that she might impart it to the world, and to its great advantage.
Although it is generally admitted that Christian Science heals both sickness and sin by a mental process, fully 90 per cent of the popular misconception concerning it relates to the mental quality that heals. Some mistake it for the human will, others suggestion, and they are the polar opposites of Christian Science. We need therefore to recognize with Paul two types of mind, "for to be carnally minded," says Paul, "is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." How then shall one differentiate between the carnal and the spiritual? From the viewpoint of such divine laws as honesty and goodness; for the psalmist has said "Thy law is the truth." Moreover, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Some of the fruits of the carnal mind are the human will, suggestion, anger, malice, persecution, evil criticism and so on. These are continually at war with the fruits of the spirit, which are goodness, honesty, health, joy, a pure affection and so on. The laws or attributes of God eternally link man to God; they communicate the power of God to the human consciousness, and make for life and peace.
Carnal Mind Discredited
As the attributes of God have been analyzed to indicate the operation of the spiritual mind, so must we analyze briefly some of the characteristics of the carnal mind, that we may thereby differentiate more accurately between them. Jealousy, for example, as a characteristic of the carnal mind, is always the result of ignorance of some sort, and never should be indulged. It never can know the truth about anything. Again, dishonesty always bears the mark of ignorance. A dishonest man cannot know whether another man is really honest. It is largely guesswork with him. Like most sinful men, he invariably suspects others of his own baseness, often unjustly. Only an honest man can really know whether another man is honest. To illustrate: Suppose you are in need of an employee. You advertise in the morning paper, and a half dozen men may respond. In looking them over, you may recognize one man in the group to be thoroughly honest. But how do you know? You may say that you can see it in his countenance. But what is it that enables you to discern the honesty expressed in a man's face? Can you describe it or tell what it looks like? Yet you are sure you can discern it; but how? Do you observe it with your eyeballs? Even our physiologies teach that it is not the eye that sees, but rather the mind back of the eye. It is not the ear that hears, but rather the mind back of the ear. Is it not, therefore, the mind or intelligence expressed through honesty in yourself that enables you to recognize the corresponding quality expressed in another? The Scripture declares, concerning God, "In thy light shall we see light." Honesty is spiritual light that lights up the countenance, whereby it may be intelligently recognized. It is positive intelligence. Dishonesty, on the other hand, is negative, non-intelligence. Thus we might continue in the analysis of the characteristics of the carnal mind and we could prove them all to be negative, non-intelligence. The carnal mind, however, assumes to be intelligent, even as Satan pretended to intelligence concerning Job's goodness; but it is destitute of intelligence. It also claims to be honest. Indeed it pretends to be the same mind that Jesus employed to heal; but Jesus said of this carnal mind, it "is a liar, and the father of it." Since a lie is untrue, it must be in its ultimate analysis unreal. That is why it can never be understood. The psalmist asks the question, "Who can understand his errors?" Nobody can. That only can be understood which is true. No one can understand an error that may be introduced into a mathematical problem, and no intelligent person will try. Rather will he seek more thoroughly to understand the rule of truth that governs the problem and to act in obedience thereto. Whereupon the error disappears. But where? Into its native nothingness. That is why Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth," not the error, "and the truth shall make you free." Whatever is destitute of truth and of understanding, is necessarily mindless, — lacking in the very qualities that characterize mind or intelligence. Hence the so-called carnal mind is no mind at all.
An extraordinary claim of the carnal mind is to project itself through suggestion. Beginning mildly, these suggestions become more insistent only to the degree they are believed or indulged by the individual. Consequently he alone endows them with all the seeming power they ever had. Psychology has seized upon this mode of operation, so peculiar to the carnal mind, and developed its suggestions into various systems. Some of these systems have been called hypnotic suggestion, vibratory suggestion, auto-suggestion, therapeutic suggestion, psyco-therapeutics, and even so-called Christian psychology. They are all conceded to be the operation of the human will or vibratory suggestion, — the product of the carnal mind whose basis is a lie. Anciently these systems of suggestion were employed by the magicians, astrologers and necromancers. It is a matter of record that those magicians and sorcerers were continually at war with Moses, Daniel and the early Christians, even as the representatives of these modern systems of suggestion are continually at war with Christian Science. And why? Because they are the product of the carnal mind; and the Scriptures declare that the carnal mind is "enmity against God." By reason of its peculiar operation, one may determine with accuracy the nature of his thoughts, whether they are good or evil; for evil operates through suggestion and appeals to the nerves: the power of God is expressed through the divine attributes and appeals to the intelligence or reason. And "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"
Jesus repudiated the use 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." We might repeat those words and substitute honesty for an added meaning. "I can of mine own self do nothing: . . . because I seek not mine own sense of honesty, but the honesty of the Father, from Principle." It is only that honesty from Principle that has the spiritual power to overcome dishonesty. It is only that goodness from Principle that has the spiritual power to overcome evil. It is only that Mind or will of God, — the divine Principle, — that has the spiritual power to overcome sickness and disease. Christ Jesus specifically declared that he used or employed only that will or Mind which is God, — the polar opposite of suggestion. Christians are, moreover, enjoined by the Scriptures to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
Job declared concerning God, "Thou art in one Mind;" and Jesus recognized but one Mind, — the Mind which is God. He referred to Him as "My God, and your God." He is therefore my Mind and your Mind; He is my life and your life; my honesty and your honesty; my intelligence and your intelligence; for, as Paul says, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." Endowed with that "mind which was also in Christ Jesus," we may fulfill the scriptural enjoinment "be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Some might say, however, "If good will overcome evil, so will evil overcome good." But that is not true, for the reason that good and evil are not alike. They bear precisely the same relation to one another as do intelligence and non-intelligence, as do the positive and negative, as do light and darkness. Intelligence will destroy non-intelligence, but non-intelligence can never destroy intelligence. So it is that light destroys darkness, but darkness cannot destroy light, — cannot so much as put out a lighted candle, — and it matters not whether a room has been maintained in darkness for five minutes or fifty years, the light will dispel the darkness with the same ease. In like manner it matters not whether an individual has been maintained in the darkness of despair and disease five minutes or fifty years, the light of spiritual intelligence will dispel it with the same ease. It will illuminate thought to conscious strength in the good to rule out evil.
Sin Not of God
Jesus employed the term sin in over one hundred places in the four Gospels, and in each case the corresponding word in the Greek manuscripts is hamartia. The first meaning imputed to this word hamartia is "to miss the mark," as in the throwing of a spear. The Greeks were much given to the enjoyment of athletic games, and if one were to hurl a spear and miss the mark, he committed hamartia, — the same word which Jesus employed for sin. So it is with archery. When a man pulls his bow and shoots his arrow, if he fails to hit the mark, he has transgressed the laws of archery or committed hamartia. Even so sin is the transgression of the divine law, and it is so defined by our lexicons.
What is it that would make a man transgress the laws of archery? Is it not his ignorance or lack of practice? And what is sin but the result of ignorance or disobedience of the divine law? No educated person could transgress the simple law that two and two are four, for he not only understands it but practices it, and he will tell the child that the errors are not in the mathematical law nor of that law; that mathematical law knows nothing of mistakes but heals them, even as intelligence dispels ignorance. So it is that sin is not in the divine law nor of the divine law. God never visited a man with sin. God not only is not the author of sin, but He never afflicted a man with it, for as the prophet Habakkuk has said, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." Sin is the transgression of God's law, the result of ignorance, fear or willfulness. When therefore Jesus came to fulfill the law and to teach the understanding of it, he was removing the possibility of sin; and incidentally the wages of sin.
Christian Science presents the understanding of the Christ law with such simplicity and accuracy that even the children and young people readily gain its spiritual meaning which liberates them from suffering and sin of every sort. That is based on the recognition that disease in its cause is mental. Consumption, for example, is considered by many to be an incurable disease. It is generally conceded that no known drug or medicine can heal consumption, especially in its advanced stages. Therefore the usual method of today is to resort to what is known as the nature cure; outdoor life, exercise, and pure air are resorted to in the hope of abating the white plague, as it is called. It is moreover generally conceded that consumption is largely a consuming fear and manifestly no drug or medicine can cure fear. Physicians readily admit the element of fear in nearly all disease, especially contagion. When a frightened child rushes to the arms of its mother, she instinctively employs the proper remedy. She does not rush for a medicine bottle. Rather does she soothe and comfort the child in his fear by her tender love and pure affection. The enduring affection that a mother entertains for her child, and that wipes out his childish fears, should point us to a greater Love — even the God who is Love. The Bible declares that "fear hath torment" but "perfect love casteth out fear." There is no known remedy for fear save only the tenderness and compassion of unselfed Love. It is that understanding of God as divine Love that enables the Christian Scientist to wipe out the fear of consumption and to remove its physical effects. On the same basis Christian Science heals cancers, tumor, pneumonia, locomotor ataxia, etc., — and heals them permanently.
A Surgeon's Testimony
The question has been frequently asked, "How can some inanimate drug know just where to go and what to do?" An eminent surgeon once said in my hearing that "No drug, medicine, or physician ever healed anything." That is a remarkable statement, and might appear meaningless if uttered by some. The gentleman is, nevertheless a practicing surgeon, examining physician for a large life insurance concern, and also instructor in physiology and hygiene in a well-known American university. Moreover, the declaration was made before a legislative committee on public health at the Massachusetts State House. A physician on this committee promptly challenged the declaration, whereupon the surgeon invited citations, and the committeeman cited appendicitis and pneumonia. "Two very good cases," remarked the surgeon. "Now let us suppose the case of a man said to be suffering from appendicitis. He may be operated on, his appendix cut out, and after a time he may recover; but he isn't healed, because he no longer has an appendix, and he ought to have one. So it is with pneumonia," he continued. "No drug, medicine, or physician can heal it. We may assist the situation in helping to absorb the accumulation that appears; but we never can stop the accumulation nor heal the disease. If it is healed at all, it is nature that does the healing." And, strange as it may seem, the physician had nothing to say. He could not fail to recognize the great truth that it is not the drug but nature that heals.
What Is Nature?
What then is nature? It cannot be a thing in and of itself. It must characterize or be the nature of something else. Jesus said, according to the revised version of the Bible, "God is Spirit," and the nature of Spirit must be spiritual. It is spiritual nature that heals. But we cannot afford to wait blindly on nature to heal. The silly nonsense of trying to imagine one's self to be well, while one is suffering, will not bring a recovery. We may but turn to the man who, in his great extremity, cried out to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." There one may recognize the utter helplessness of a blind faith; but Jesus and his disciples, with their understanding, had dominion over all. Therefore the Christian Scientist proceeds directly to lay hold of the actual understanding of the same spiritual nature that Jesus taught and demonstrated. Whereupon, clothed with spiritual understanding, he may apply it intelligently to the specific case, and the sick and the sinning are healed quickly and wholly.
Therefore, in leaving this subject I would commend to your further consideration that Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," whose only purpose is to unlock the spiritual meaning of the Bible that we gain, not through the human intellect, but through the exercise of spiritual faculties, rising to the recognition of God as absolute good, as the author of only that which is good and real and positive and immortal. Imbued with spiritual understanding we may demonstrate today the same divine law in life, liberty and salvation. It gives us that spiritual dominion which God gave to man from the beginning — that dominion which has never been withdrawn. Christian Science presents the spiritual understanding in such a way that it may be applied from the very outset with the more simple problems. Such fruits of Christian Science, spread over a period of nearly half a century, have done more to change the thought of the world to higher ideals than any religious statement or teaching of modern times. They have challenged attention to the fact that spiritual teaching improves the health as well as the morals of men. Such divine characteristics as health and life, which proceed from God and are reflected through man, can no more be annulled, disintegrated, or destroyed than can God Himself; and we save ourselves by the conscious recognition of that fact.