Christian Science: The Revelation of Divine Power (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
During many centuries men have grown accustomed to think of religion as a haven of rest to those in some sorrow or temptation. But while religion has thus ministered to the mind, it has regarded the enfeebled body in helpless compassion. Such helplessness contrasts strongly with the religion of Christ Jesus, who made no distinction between mind and body. He asked, "Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?" He set the standard of religious achievement by healing sickness and sin by the same prayer. It is the purpose of Christian Science to increase the joy of life by restoring to the infinite compassion of Jesus' teachings the lost element of healing.
The invalid is not frightened at his disease. It is the possible termination of the disease that frightens him. Then that frightened sense finds sweet consolation in the words of Jesus, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." There followed, too, the explanation, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Two things are therefore needful to save one's life. It is not only to know the only true God, but also to know His Son, Christ Jesus. Some there are who believe that Jesus was God. Possibly the condition of thought that would set aside Christian healing may not be due so much to a lack of faith in God, as to a complete omission from one's prayer of any recognition of the God and Father to whom Jesus prayed.
Jesus Not God
It was the day of the
resurrection, early in the morning, that Jesus appeared to Mary and sent her
with a message, saying, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend
unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Now if
Jesus were God, as so many believe, and there is one God, how could God have
brethren? Inasmuch as he recognized himself to be, not God, but the Son of God,
he could have brethren and could truthfully say, "Go to my brethren, and
say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and
your God." When Jesus was before the tomb of Lazarus, it is recorded that
he "lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast
heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always." There we have a record where he prayed to
God, even as you or I may pray to the same God, and surely it cannot be said he
was praying to himself on that
occasion. Previously he had said to the woman of
God's Healing Nature
In the face of so much popular misconception about what God really is, Jesus endeavored to portray a right apprehension of God by making the people familiar with the effect divine power has on humanity. By their familiarity with the divine effect they might thereby learn to know the real nature of the divine cause, inasmuch as cause and effect cannot be unlike. For example, the popular belief prevailed then as now that God sends sickness to discipline mortals and thus to bring them to God. But when Jesus portrayed the nature of God as He actually is, it had the effect of healing the sick in every case and thereby proved, in a manner that admitted of no doubt or controversy, that sickness is no part of God's nature. Another popular belief adhered to then as now was that God knows, or at least permits, sin. That too was disposed of by showing the effect divine power had in cleansing sinners even as light always dispels darkness. Moreover, people believed then as now that God takes away our loved ones for some inscrutable purpose; and this belief has unquestionably thrust more people into infidelity and agnosticism than have ever been rescued therefrom. But when Jesus declared the truth about God as He actually is, it destroyed death and the grave, and thereby proved the nature of God to be Life. He said: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly;" also "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
People could see the physical changes wrought by Jesus readily enough, but a natural question to follow is this, — Could it be taught to others? It is said that no one really understands a thing for himself until he can teach it to another. That Jesus made disciples who could repeat his healing ministry was the proof that the healing power could be taught to others, and that he understood it. Indeed the early Christians proved the same thing by continuing those works of healing for 300 years after the time of Jesus. Even so the Christian Scientist is today perpetuating that healing ministry just to the degree that he gains a correct understanding "of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal" (Science and Health, Pref. p. vii), — an understanding of the God and Father to whom Jesus prayed.
The first man in Bible history to know God well enough to heal sickness and sin was Moses, and it came about by his recognition that the divine power operates through law. Before that he knew God only as the great "I AM," but that was not sufficient to win confidence in himself as the messenger of God. The necessity for him to speak the truth about God so convincingly that the people would actually believe what he said, was the occasion for God to reveal His healing nature by two distinct signs. The first was with the rod by which was proved the divine supremacy over personified evil. The second was the healing of leprosy. Perhaps those two were selected because none but the power of God has ever been known to destroy leprosy and sin. But that exhibition of divine power over sickness and sin revealed to Moses the existence of a well defined law of healing which enabled him thereafter to employ the divine power, guided by the intelligence of a well defined law, in healing leprosy and serpent bites. It revealed to him the existence of certain facts concerning the healing nature of God in which no variation has ever been perceived. It marked the existence of an unchanging law of healing with which human beings had been hitherto unacquainted. It revealed something so definite and tangible about the nature of God that the people believed him just as God said they would.
God Is Truth
Now that which Moses saw in the healing power of God was the truth; whereupon he declared, "He is . . . a God of truth." David later declared in the psalms, "Thy law is the truth." And Jesus indicated the intimate relation that exists between Truth and the healing law, when he said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." That is, a knowledge of God, not as a human form, but as Truth has a healing effect. Mrs. Eddy has therefore accepted that Scriptural definition that God is Truth, and also its intimate relation to law; for she has written in Science and Health, "Not personal intercommunion but divine law is the communicator of truth, health, and harmony to earth and humanity" (Science and Health, p. 72).
It is true that every system of religion known to men claims to be the promulgation of revealed truth; but that which differentiates the demonstrable revelation of Christ Jesus from all others is its power to give life and to restore health. It is the life-giving power in Christian truth which makes it demonstrable in healing sickness and sin.
God Is Principle
As the nature of God continued to
unfold before the vision of
If one were to stand at the base of the great pyramid and gaze in wonder at its vast dimensions, he could not see its whole structure from that single viewpoint. He must see it from the north and the south, the east and the west. He must explore its passages and chambers within. Not until he has seen it from every angle, and learned the meaning of its structure and design, could it be said that he has actually seen the pyramid. In like manner the various Scriptural names which are employed to define the nature of God are all essential to a complete understanding "of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal."
The Christian Scientist becomes familiar with God's ways in a most practical manner. Jesus referred to God as "my God," and "your God." He is therefore my Mind and your Mind. The practical operation of that was proved to me when I was a student in the elementary schools. For a month I was troubled with a difficulty that may be described in the words of Paul, "The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." With me it was a difficulty in answering my school problems correctly. Though I might know the correct answer, I would invariably say the wrong thing. Instead of excusing that on the basis of stupidity, Paul saw in such conditions the warring of the fleshly mind, and so did my parents, who were Christian Scientists. My mother proceeded to heal me of that difficulty according to the teachings of Christian Science. With wonderful patience she explained to me, in language I could easily understand, the reason why children go to school. It is not so much to assimilate a large mass of facts as it is to develop certain faculties; such for example as perception, reason, memory, and application. Then she explained to me that they are faculties of the divine Mind, and as such must be reflected through all alike. It concedes the right to every one to achieve the mental might of a genius. In as much as God is my Mind and my intelligence, it was my right and duty to claim and exercise that intelligence which knows all that is necessary to know. So clear was my relation to divine intelligence established, that I ceased to limit my mental capacity by the size of a brain. Its scope was broadened to that larger view of divine intelligence which transcends brain. The explanation was continued until I could realize to a degree my true relation to God, who is the only Mind and intelligence. When I could realize this, it became a reality to me, with the result that I was completely healed of the difficulty. The truth about God and my relation to Him had set me free. Therein is the proof that no human intelligence has any validity if contrary to the divine faculties; and such of the human faculties as are valid must derive their validity from the divine.
Mind of Christ
We have no record in the four gospels that Jesus ever permitted himself to be deceived or taken advantage of in any way. Had he been victimized, it would have been by reason of a lack of intelligence. But he claimed and exercised the divine intelligence that knows all that is necessary to know, and thereby set the standard for all mankind. It was the Mind which was in Christ Jesus that enabled him to heal the sick, even when they were absent from him, as in the case of the centurion's servant and the Syrophoenician's daughter. It was the Mind which was in Christ Jesus that enabled him to heal leprosy and raise the dead, even to the raising of himself from the tomb. It was this Mind which constituted his divinity, and enabled him to say, "I and my Father are one," and also the correlative statement, "My Father is greater than I." It was the divine Mind which was in Christ Jesus that enabled him to say, "Before Abraham was, I am," and "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." We are moreover enjoined by the Scriptures, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" and "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Before Jesus went away he promised us another Comforter. That no misconception might arise, he took the precaution to explain the nature of this promised Comforter. It should not be a man, nor a person, but rather the impersonal "Spirit of truth." He explained further that the "Spirit of truth" would lead mankind into all truth, even to the very source of truth which is God, and it would testify of him.
Sometimes it occurs that one is so completely overwhelmed by sorrow and grief that all the comfort and consolation of human affection seems helpless to brighten the thought. Then we need to remember there is a sorrow that purifies, and another sorrow that works evil. It will sweeten or sour the disposition according to the direction it takes. But in the apparent helplessness of insurmountable grief, there is the consolation that the power of one's right desire can steer its course unerringly into repentance and purification. In the momentum of that directed experience no harm can overtake us. Only good can come out of it. Such an assurance removes the fear and heals the grief. This is the real Comforter at work in human consciousness, purifying one's thoughts and motives. There is therefore a grief that is salutary; for it sweetens the disposition, chastens the affections, and enables one to be charitable toward the faults of others.
Mrs. Eddy's Discovery
The preparation for Mrs. Eddy's great discovery seemed to include much of the sorrow and suffering that purifies one's thought and purpose. Mrs. Eddy was a gentle woman of deep religious experience, trained from her youth to seek in divine guidance actual relief from sickness and distress. Added to that was an unusual intellectual ability which received careful training and development from her youth, so that she was characterized by great personal charm by reason of her refined manners and well-balanced mind. Then, in the very flower of her youth, she was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of all that seemed near and dear to her. There followed a long period of invalidism and the search for a remedy, which culminated in the conviction that disease responds most readily to a mental remedy. Still abiding in that conviction, she met with an accident which was so serious that it was expected to result fatally. Knowing that only spiritual things could save her, she turned to her Bible for help, and as she read those spiritual truths, she was wonderfully healed. That was in 1866. There was her proof of mental healing, and that the divine Mind is the healer to comfort in sorrow and in sickness. The next step was to learn the Science of that healing, and she states in Science and Health (p. 109). "I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration." Again she writes, "Reason and revelation were reconciled, and afterwards the truth of Christian Science was demonstrated" (p. 110). She stated that Science in the Christian Science textbook so simply and logically that the simple reading of that book has brought the healing Comforter to multitudes of those in sickness and distress, and made them "every whit whole."
Mrs. Eddy had thus become the discoverer of Christian Science, and the founding of its institutional work was to follow. By her clear statement of scientific Christianity, Mrs. Eddy has enormously increased the number of followers of Christ's teachings. The sick are healed of bodily ailments by reading its literature; the sinner may know how to liberate himself from his sin; and greatest of all, the pure-minded is given the power to save himself from the general belief in sin, so that the good he desires to do, that he can do. Mrs. Eddy has therefore proved, in accordance with the vision in the Apocalypse, that a pure-minded woman, armed with Science, can unlock "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," and reveal the promised Comforter.
Try as hard as one may, it is impossible to separate Moses from the commandments, or Jesus from the beatitudes. When Jesus had that exalted vision of law and prophecy on the mount of transfiguration, the human representative of law and prophecy became apparent to those near enough to get the lesson. It is equally certain that the human representative of scientific Christianity can never be separated from the spiritual treasures which she has opened to our use.
Jesus healed physical disease on the basis that the truth makes free. Four thousand years of medicine has endeavored to force the conclusion that disease is purely physical, and that it requires a physical remedy. The result is that diseases have actually multiplied.
Today our medical schools are beginning to teach that certain nervous disorders are mental; for though the person may be sick almost to distraction, examination may disclose no diseased organ, tissue, or nerve. He may have apparent physical ailments, such as that trinity of disorders known as dyspepsia, heart palpitation, and insomnia; but an examination discloses no organic disease. The patient's troubles are actually unreal, in the sense that they have no physical cause. But to the patient they are decidedly real, in the sense that he feels them constantly, and cannot free himself from them.
Though a patient may be perfectly sane while suffering from some nervous ailment, his belief must be changed before he can experience his healing. That is never brought about by imagining himself well. Such primitive emotions as fear and anger, so common to men and beasts, are said to produce depressing and poisonous conditions. The thought of guilt is said to be even more deleterious. Anger may cause a person to become flushed or pallid in the face, indicating the mental control of the circulation. Indeed it may stop one's digestion altogether, showing how one's thought has equal control over the digestive system. A severe examination may affect students with retarded digestion due to their fear. With the proof that functional disorders are mental in their cause, due to erroneous thinking, investigation has continued until medical experiments have proved that diabetes is entirely the result of fear or emotion. As the consuming effects of fear and emotion have been observed on the kidneys, so it is more generally conceded today that consumption may be just a consuming fear. That may be the reason why no drug or medicine ever healed them. The Christian Science textbook says: "The procuring cause and foundation of all sickness is fear, ignorance, or sin." (Science and Health, p. 411) It teaches, in other words, that all sickness is unreal in the sense that it has no physical cause.
So long as one believes his malady is physical, he naturally feels helpless. But when he knows it is the result of erroneous thought, then he is encouraged in the conscious ability to change that thinking by the presence and power of God's truth. Some fears seem more real than others. They seem more real when tissue disorganization is apparent. But when examination discloses no diseased organ or nerve, those fears are regarded as intangible and superstitious. The fear from superstition is called a delusion, and is said to be unreal. The patient is said to be deceived by an unreality. In either case we must know how to prove to the patient the unreality of his fear, just as Jesus did when he said, "Peace, be still," and the storm abated.
Physicians have observed that the depressing and poisonous effects of fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, and so forth are relieved by the wholesome effects of faith, hope, cheerfulness, loving-kindness which promote health. How then shall they be administered to the patient? The method taught by the schools is by suggestion, human will, and human reason, which are as material as the disease. They may be employed just as well by a wicked man, by an infidel or a pagan, — one who knows nothing about the truth of God. The Christian Scientist, on the other hand, employs only the spiritual Mind which transcends brain or matter. That Mind is never transmitted through suggestion; because it is everywhere present, and its government prevails wherever it is most needed by the patient. We simply have to understand the ever-presence and activity of that truth for the patient, and the truth makes free. The Scripture says that "fear hath torment," but "perfect love casteth out fear." There is no remedy known to the human consciousness for fear of any sort, save alone divine Love. It is that understanding of the divine Mind, whose nature is Love, that gives to the Christian Scientist the spiritual power to wipe out the fear of consumption and to remove its physical effects. It is on that basis that Christian Science heals all manner of disease.
A well-known naturalist once described an interesting experience that illustrates the operation of human will. He described two men on the western plains, intent on observing on the distant horizon two rapidly moving objects, always the same distance apart. In their rapid movements these objects drew nearer and nearer, until it could be observed that they were two elk, — the larger one in hot pursuit of the smaller. The smaller one was fleeing for his life and relying on his strength of animal will for safety. But even the animal had the instinct to know that his animal will was getting wearied and exhausted; indeed, it had an end, and with its end would come his own destruction. Whereupon even that animal began to look beyond, outside himself, for some higher, greater power on which to rely. Recognizing as by instinct a greater power in humanity, he rushed to the feet of those two men and stopped in their protection. The larger one, observing the situation, checked his pace, circled about twice, and then loped away.
Thus it is with suffering humanity. Relying on the strength of human will for healing, it finally discovers that human will gets wearied, run down, and exhausted; that it has an end, and with its end hope is swallowed up in despair. In that extreme situation, when the physician makes the solemn pronouncement, "There is no more hope, because there is no more strength of will to sustain life or existence," then poor, suffering humanity begins to look beyond, outside itself for some higher, greater power on which to rely. Then "man's extremity is God's opportunity." Turning to the one source of intelligence for guidance, humanity feels the touch of Truth, of reality, and is made well again. He finds himself sustained by the gentle presence and peace of divine Love. In that sweet sense of heaven here and now, he feels a strength and power that is never wearied, never exhausted; but is eternal in heaven — the heaven that Jesus said is within you, right within one's own consciousness.
Since Jesus gives us the right to
refer to God as "my God," and Job has said, "He is in one
mind," then the Christian has an equal right to say, "God is my Mind,
my intelligence, my honesty, my life."
Individuals in dire distress have been known to cling so devotedly to the one
fact that God is their life, and to the exclusion of all else, as actually to
realize the truth of it, and to be wonderfully healed thereby. Then, since God
is our Mind, and "In him we live, and move, and have our being," we
do not look up to Him in the distant heavens, "for, behold, the
[1915-1916. This version of the lecture was also delivered on May 13, 1917, at First Church of Christ, Scientist, St. Joseph, Missouri, and published on Page One of The St. Joseph Observer, May 19, 1917.]