Christian Science: The Explanation of the Ideal Man

 

William D. McCrackan, M.A., C.S.B.

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

Deep down in the heart of every one is an ideal which represents what mankind would like to be. It is well for humanity if this ideal stands for the highest human concept of nobility, purity, grace, honesty, perfection. Sometimes it must seem so vague that it can hardly be expressed in words; at other times it may seem so sacred that people do not speak of it even to their closest friends. In moments of clearest and most exalted thinking, however, it should present itself as an ideal of the perfect man, possessing dominion and authority over untoward circumstances, enjoying the right to holiness, happiness, health, and manifesting perspicacity, intelligence, ability to do and to be, strength to perform all duties, joy and love to beautify every task.

This ideal never entirely deserts mankind. When we have stumbled and fallen and risen again, there it is ready to greet us once more. When we have been temporarily overwhelmed by sin, sickness, or sorrow, and the clouds begin to lift, it reveals itself again, full of inspiration and encouragement, to cheer us on our way from sense to Soul. It prevents us from falling permanently under the influence of discouragement or disillusionment, and helps us to avoid the pitfall of cynicism, which would try to argue itself into our consciousness with advancing years. Above all, it is full of vigor, freshness, spontaneity, and alertness; it radiates the beauty of holiness, and is anointed with the oil of gladness.

Now, if it could be shown that this ideal is no idle dream, but a reality of being, and if we could have a proof of this fact, the news would be glorious indeed. If it could be shown that even an approximation toward it is possible here and now, the discovery would prove of the highest value to suffering humanity. This ideal man already exists in consciousness as the man of God's creation, who lives and moves and has his being in God, who represents God, is the idea of the divine Mind, the manifestation of Spirit, the expression of eternal Life and of eternal Love. He always has existed and always will exist as the Christ-idea so clearly perceived and understood by the Master, who was justly called "Jesus the Christ," "Jesus the anointed," the "God-crowned" (Science and Health, p. 313).

 

The Ideal Man

But of what nature is this ideal man, and where is he to be found? in matter? in the flesh? within the evidence and testimony of physical sense? The reply must be No, for all such evidence speaks only of imperfection, of temporary and unstable conditions, of a supposedly perishable man, doomed to extinction from his very birth. The evidence of physical sense does not embrace and therefore cannot testify to this ideal man. Spiritual testimony alone can reveal this real man of God's creation.

According to the testimony of physical sense, there is no salvation from material disability, no way out except to die out. It is a losing battle against the elements, against the supposed forces of nature, against what are regarded as ruthless, destructive powers. Physical sense knows of no central Principle, no eternal Life, no invariable Truth, no inexhaustible Love capable of shattering evil and delivering mankind. Evidently we must go behind mere appearance to find the ideal man and the divine law which operates to remove the veil and reveal the reality. Only then shall we find that beyond the perception of physical sense there is true substance, spiritual and not material, which fadeth not away, but is eternal and indestructible. This is the substance concerning which Isaiah declared, "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him."

According to the Hebrew prophet, physical hearing and sight cannot reveal what God has in store for him who seeks true salvation. The testimony of physical sense is not competent to inform man about the truth of being, the eternal facts of existence, nor to solve the problems of human want and woe. Paul refers to "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," for "the things which are seen," he declares, "are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." It is in the realm of the unseen and the eternal that man finds his true being and his true ideals. Thence comes the Saviour, sent in the name of the divine Father. From this source alone spring the healing waters of divine compassion, from God, who is Mind, and not from matter.

 

Deliverance of Mankind

The Christ-idea, then, comes to save, to brush aside the false testimony and establish the true. The need of mankind is to be delivered from its woes, to be set free from its miseries. It reaches out for help against sickness, sin, and death. It prays for holiness, happiness, and health. And what are the prevailing methods put forth to meet this want? The unprejudiced observer is bound to declare that never during the whole course of history have such efforts been put forward to improve human conditions as at the present time. This is preeminently an altruistic age. In our time people can no longer contemplate with equanimity the spectacle of injustice, oppression, sorrow, impairment of faculties, failure, and want in others. The desire to reform evil conditions, to bring order out of chaos, to insure to all the blessings of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is becoming paramount in human consciousness and is manifesting itself in numberless ways.

The earth is dotted with institutions whose purpose it is to relieve mankind from the grasp of evil. Churches there are in great numbers designed to show mankind the way of escape from sin, and to increase holiness, spirituality, and purity among men. A multitude of material methods are being tried to combat disease and to establish health. A multitude of amusements and entertainments are devised to distract mankind from the contemplation of its miseries, and yet in spite of all these efforts men still cry out to be delivered from their woes and will not be permanently comforted. It would seem as though the prevailing methods were inadequate to meet the great need, as though they had been weighed and found wanting when balanced against the great mass of human woe.

 

Complete Salvation

Christian Science declares that Christianity, when scientifically understood, is amply capable of fulfilling all the legitimate desires of mankind; that it brings a complete salvation, reforming the sinner, comforting the sorrowing, healing the sick, giving hope to the discouraged, strength to the weak, rest and peace to those harassed and haunted by that arch enemy, that chief procurer of all evil conditions, namely, fear.

Christian Science does not reserve this help for a future state of existence, but declares it to be available now. It does not encourage the supposition that salvation is for a select few, but teaches that salvation is open to all men, can be earned by all, that to each individual is granted the power and ability to work out his own salvation. In thus pronouncing itself, Christian Science does not reject a single one of the fundamentals of the Christian religion. It bases itself upon the inspired word of the Bible, and acknowledges one God, one Christ, one Comforter. It explains the atonement as denoting man's at-one-ment with God, and so leading to the salvation of men. It teaches the prayer of faith, which James assures us shall not only save the sinner but also the sick.

When we come to examine more particularly into the reason why the prevailing efforts to establish holiness, happiness, and health among men are inadequate to meet the demands made upon them, we shall find that this is due, in great measure, to the materialism which mars their efficiency. Why should these well-meant endeavors so constantly meet with disappointment and defeat?

In the first place, the power of God to save and to heal is by no means unquestioned by prevailing public opinion. This power is sometimes supposed to be exercised with favoritism. Mankind has been bewildered by the commonly accepted teaching about prayer, about heaven, about the acts recorded as miracles. Christian Science puts order into these unscientific modes of thought. It is constructive instead of destructive. It rears upon the simple teachings of the lowly Nazarene a structure perfectly fitted in all its parts, unshakable in time of storm and stress, because built upon the rock of spiritual understanding. A brief examination into the prevailing methods for meeting man's innate desire for holiness, happiness, health, and heaven will show the reason for this lack of success.

 

Holiness and Happiness

There is perhaps a nearer approach to agreement among men on the subject of the essential nature of holiness than there is regarding the nature of happiness, health, or heaven. Holiness is quite generally conceded to be a spiritual state, a state of consciousness, to be derived from the understanding of God. It would be difficult to find any one who would insist that holiness was a material or a physical condition.

It is obviously spiritual in its nature, and thus dependent upon spiritual conditions. There is an almost universal agreement upon the fact that holiness is a distinctly religious experience, that spirituality and purity are fostered and maintained by religion.

When we come to the consideration of happiness, we find that the agreement among men is less complete. It is not universally admitted that happiness, like holiness, is a state of consciousness and is to be derived from the understanding of God. For many people happiness seems to be a material condition, dependent upon material circumstances and environment, and to be acquired and maintained by material means. It is probably no exaggeration to say that for the majority of mankind happiness means the acquisition and accumulation of material things. For some it consists in the exercise of personal power and control over others; for some, perhaps, in the expression of the artistic impulse.

In spite of all these mistaken opinions, however, experience and science alike show that the more of matter a man accumulates the less genuine satisfaction he feels; the more he follows the promptings of the carnal or material mind, the more misery he encounters; the more he builds up his own will, indulges his own personal desires, the more certainly he misses the mark for which he is aiming. Entirely separate from the delusions of willful pleasure and self-indulgence is the consciousness of true happiness. They who would be anointed with the oil of gladness must recognize happiness to be a state of consciousness, dependent upon spiritual understanding and derived from the source of all good from God Himself. Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has characterized happiness as "spiritual, born of Truth and Love" (Science and Health, p. 57).

 

The Subject of Health

When we come to the consideration of the subject of health, we find even less agreement among men as to its essential nature and origin. It must be frankly admitted that for almost all men health is believed to be wholly a material condition, dependent upon material means, so called, at the mercy of material forces, and to be fostered or preserved by material remedies. According to public opinion, health stands in quite a different category from either holiness or happiness and is in no way related to them. Upon the supposition that health can be established and maintained by material means, a great many systems have been built up whose purpose it is to discover and apply such means to the safeguarding of private and public health.

There is one special characteristic which these material systems possess in common. They all assume that in order to know anything about health one must first know all about disease: that in order to impart health one must first immerse one's self in a profound study of its supposed opposite, of that which is not health, never will be and never can be, namely, disease. This is very much as though some one, in his desire to know all about mathematics, should first study the mistakes that can be made in attempting to apply the rules of mathematics, immerse himself in a profound study of that which is not mathematics, never will be and never can be, that, indeed, which is the negation or absence of mathematics. Again, it is as though a man, in his desire to know all about light, its properties and laws, should make a profound study of darkness, of that which is not light, never will be and never can be, that which is the negation or absence of light. He who would learn to express music does not begin by studying discord, nor does he who would become a good detector of counterfeit money study the counterfeit. Rather does he strive at all times to familiarize himself with the genuine.

The assumption seems to be that somehow health is dependent upon disease, that health must ask permission of disease in order to be, that disease is a positive fact, while health is only a negative condition. Now, it might be possible for a man to know all there is to know about disease, yet have no health himself and no way of imparting it to others.

 

Health a Fact

Christian Science proves that health is an entity, a state of consciousness, that it is a positive fact. Like holiness, like happiness, health is spiritual and mental in quality, and, like them, is to be derived from a right understanding of God. In order to find the truly Christian and scientific concept of health, let us turn to the Scriptures. Christian Science bases its testimony wholly upon the Scriptures. In them we find that David spoke of God as the health of his countenance. He also referred to God's "saving health among all nations." Again he says that it is the Lord "who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases."

The prophet Isaiah declared concerning the result of true repentance, which is, of course, a spiritual or mental change, "Thine health shall spring forth speedily." He also prophesied concerning the coming of the Messiah, of him who should make clear to mankind the truth about God and man: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing."

Coming to the New Testament, we find Jesus healing the sick by spiritual means, without regard to any material methods or remedies whatsoever, looking to God as the source of all health, teaching his disciples to do the same, urging them not only to "preach the gospel" but to "heal the sick" as well. We find the early Christians continuing this natural and normal method of healing, until the period when Christianity became a state religion, some three or four hundred years after the crucifixion. Then slowly this Christian and scientific view of health became practically obsolete, until its rediscovery in modern times by Mrs. Eddy.

It is significant that Mrs. Eddy placed the word "health" in the title of the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," in which she announced her discovery of Christian Science to the world. Among her many references to health in that work we note in this connection the following: "Health is not a condition of matter, but of Mind." "The basis of all health, sinlessness, and immortality is the great fact that God is the only Mind." "If God were understood instead of being merely believed, this understanding would establish health" (pp. 120, 339, 203).

It will be seen, therefore, that in this, as in all its teachings, Christian Science coincides with the Scriptures in declaring that health is a mental or spiritual condition and is to be derived from the understanding of God. The way to health is not material, but spiritual. The establishment and maintenance of health is not a question of physics, but of divine metaphysics. It is not pagan, but Christian; not fortuitous or experimental, but demonstrable and scientific.

 

What Is God?

This inquiry as to the nature of holiness, happiness, and health, and their origin, points unmistakably to the further question, What is God? The answer to this latter question can alone supply the spiritual understanding which saves the sick and the sinner, which shows the way to holiness, happiness, and health.

At the very beginning of our inquiry into the nature of God we meet a common objection which has frequently deterred mankind from trying to know God. It has been commonly believed that God is wholly mystical and mysterious, that Spirit is shadow, while matter is substance. It has been assumed that while man might observe and dogmatize to his heart's content about physical phenomena, he could never really know anything about fundamental cause; while he might ascertain the operation of law, he could never hope to acquire any certain knowledge about law-governing Principle.

Because of these fundamental errors religion has been deemed to be visionary, problematical, of very little practical import, and largely a matter of blind belief or sentiment. There is no question that false notions about God have haunted and harassed mankind and have been productive of sin, sickness, and death. In removing these false notions Christian Science is performing a great service to mankind.

 

God Is One

In defining God, Mrs. Eddy uses the terms Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. She has laid special emphasis on the unity of God. God is one. There are not gods many. It is not possible to conceive of more than one first cause, to think of more than one original source of creation.

The evident unity of the universe, its homogeneity, the revolving of the stars in their orbits without clash or interference, all these point to some central plan, to one guiding hand, one directing Mind. God's universe is infinite, and it follows from this fact that there is nothing outside of His universe, that all which has existence, reality, or entity is comprised within that universe and is subject to divine control. The oneness of God also declares the brotherhood of man. Having one God makes all men the children of one Father-Mother, and so establishes our fraternal relationship.

It is evident that the belief of gods many lies at the base of all strife between men and nations. If different religious denominations, different political groups, and different racial units each possess a different god, then it becomes the duty of each to fight in behalf of their own god, and the result is pandemonium. But if there is only one God governing the universe, including man, then obedience to that one God insures peace, cooperation, and mutual helpfulness among men and nations. The Science which is giving man an understanding of the one God is, therefore, providing the final cure for all religious, social, political, and economic conflicts and contests.

 

God Is Principle

Scholastic theology has generally applied the term person to God, and in so doing has tended to perpetuate the notion of an anthropomorphic or manlike god. The word person conveys the impression of a being with human attributes, human limitations, and human imperfections, capable of being outlined and formed. It can readily be seen how this attempt to outline God would tend to produce idolatry.

Again, a person may be influenced by temporary conditions and be capable of favoritism, may show partiality. The term Principle is not open to any of these objections. God as Principle never varies, never changes, is absolutely reliable, dependable at all times and under all circumstances. It is the very nature of Principle to be ever active, lawful, unmoved by personal considerations. Thus the term Principle as applied to God has been found to enhance man's confidence in Him, to increase his trust in God's impartiality, justice, and power.

 

God Is Spirit

Every step in the direction of the right understanding of God brings its own reward. The study of each of the synonyms for God leads to practical conclusions which become at once available in everyday experience. The use of the word Spirit in defining God reveals the essential nature of man, for the Scriptures assure us that man was made in the image and likeness of God; then, if God is Spirit, as Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman, man must be spiritual, must partake of the nature of God. This description of man is at variance with the teaching of scholastic theology that man is a miserable sinner, and with the teaching of the so-called physical sciences that man is a material mechanism.

The saving and healing practice of the Founder of the Christian religion was based upon spiritual understanding, not upon the evidence of sense-testimony. The theology, medicine, and science of Jesus were all one. His understanding of God and of man constituted the whole of his culture and learning, and made him the wisest as well as the most scientific of all men. He did not need one kind of wisdom in order to save the sinner, another kind to heal the sick, and yet another to enable him to walk the waves and still the storm. His understanding of God made him master over sin, sickness, death, and material law, gave him authority to say to the man sick of the palsy not only "Thy sins be forgiven thee," but also "Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk," and to command the storm to cease with his authoritative "Peace, be still."

 

God Is Love

The definition of God as Love, given by John, leads immediately to the understanding that God did not make evil. It is inconceivable that Love could be the author and distributor of evil, and this comforting conclusion places evil where it belongs, namely, outside the infinite realm of a wholly good God, in the outer void of nothingness. If evil is of God's creation, it can never be destroyed. If it is a reality, it is eternal and indestructible. But if it is a mistake or delusion about the truth, it can be swept aside in order that the truth may be revealed. Jesus declared of personified evil that it was "a liar, and the father of it." Christian Science follows in the footsteps of the Master's teaching and brands all evil as false in its essential nature, without real law, without real origin.

When we come to consider the essential nature of matter, the question arises, Is matter of God's creation? Is God, who is Spirit, the creator of that which is so unlike Himself? It should be noted that thinkers in all ages have found it very difficult to define matter. The most successful definitions have been in terms of mind, that is, have been metaphysical, not physical. The theory about matter which has prevailed, but is now waning, is called the atomic theory. This presupposes that matter can be finally subdivided into particles so minute that they can no longer be further subdivided. These final particles are called atoms, but they cannot be apprehended by the physical senses, upon whose testimony they depend for their claim of existence. They can only be imagined, supposed, assumed.

At this point there arises a metaphysical difficulty which has never been successfully explained away. The human mind cannot conceive of a particle being incapable of subdivision so long as it continues to be something. The human mind argues that if a particle is something, it can still be further subdivided. Only if the particle should become nothing would it cease to be capable of being subdivided. This argument of the human mind leads to the following dilemma: Either matter must be conceived of as being capable of being subdivided ad infinitum, which is an absurdity, or else matter must finally be reduced to the point of zero, or nothing.

In recent years the popular supposition that matter is indestructible substance has received some very marked modifications. The theory that the atom has substance has now given place to the theory that the atom is an electrical ion, and that the electrical ion is equivalent to energy, or to a form of motion. The more the atom is pursued the more evanescent it becomes, until it is reduced to a mere supposition.

 

Matter an Error

Now, if matter resolves itself into an assumption, it is obvious that its seemingly pernicious activities can be corrected mentally, through spiritual understanding, through Christ, Truth. If matter is not an independent entity, dictating terms to man, but is under control through Christian Science, then one of the most prolific sources of fear has been overcome, the fear that matter is an uncontrollable power urging man forward to an irresistible doom. Public opinion is being constantly prepared, through the investigation of the physicists themselves, to accept the conclusions reached by Mrs. Eddy so many years ago, that "matter is an error of statement" (Science and Health, p. 277).

It should be understood that God governs the universe, including man, through law. There is nothing accidental about His government, nor is it characterized by special interposition, favoritism, or partiality, but by immutable law. God's law must inevitably partake of His nature, and so be wholly good, and wholly spiritual or mental. The law of God cannot be productive of evil, nor can it be physical or material. God's law never ultimates in sin or sickness, nor does it produce the physical phenomena which destroy and maim the innocent and the defenseless. The law of destruction is the law of the carnal mind, of self-will, of mortality and personal sense, and it is curbed and made of none effect by the law of God.

 

Miracles

When we come to consider those acts recorded in the Scriptures, commonly called miracles, the questions which present themselves in regard to them are these: Were they performed according to law? Are they natural, normal, and legitimate manifestations of power, or are they unnatural, abnormal, and illegitimate? Do they represent an infraction of law, or are they in accordance with lawful procedure? Are they the manifestations of a special interposition of Providence, or the grant of a special privilege? Are they altogether exceptional and confined to a special time and place, or are they to be expected among all men, in all places, at all periods of the world's history, in response to the definite and eternal law of God? In modern times, when confronted with the evidence of these acts recorded in the Scriptures, the tendency of mankind has been either to doubt the authenticity of the records or to describe them as altogether exceptional and as the result of a special power conferred solely upon Jesus.

In reply to these views it must be said, in the first place, that these acts are as well authenticated as any that are recorded in history. It is just as easy to prove that certain historical events which are undisputed today never took place, as it is to prove that these miracles were not actual occurrences. Then, if they are believed to be the result of a special power conferred upon Jesus, this does not take into consideration similar acts recorded in the Old Testament, nor the works done by the disciples of Jesus and by the early Christians for several centuries. Neither does it take into account Jesus' own commands and injunctions to his disciples, not only to "preach the gospel" but also to "heal the sick;" likewise his prophecy and promise that "he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father," nor his statement, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; . . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

This makes it evident that in considering the acts recorded in the Scriptures, commonly called miracles, we are dealing, not with isolated instances, but with phenomena which manifest law. But what is the nature of this law? Is the law of spiritual transformation and healing a law of the carnal mind, as Paul calls it, or mortal mind, as Mrs. Eddy so aptly terms it? or is this the law of God? In the first place it should be recognized that the word miracle does not necessarily denote anything supernatural. The words used in the text to denote these acts mean marvels, object-lessons, or illustrations, wonderful indeed to human sense but perfectly natural to spiritual understanding, to that understanding which knows God and man as they really are. It is possible in each instance of a recorded miracle to recognize that the discord to be corrected is due to a supposed law of the carnal mind, while the correction is accomplished by the operation of the law of God. Paul summed up this whole process in a few words when he declared: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

 

The Discoverer and Founder

The world owes the discovery of Christian Science, the rediscovery of the Principle by which the healing was done in Bible times, to a consecrated Christian woman, Mrs. Eddy. It was my great privilege to speak with Mrs. Eddy herself, to receive her advice and admonition, and I would like to bear testimony to the fact that I have never met any one who manifested so much of the universal, impartial, and divine Love as she did, and with it all a great sense of might, of the might associated with meekness, derived from an understanding of God as the one and only power.

It was in 1866 that Mrs. Eddy's discovery of Christian Science took place as the result of her sudden recovery from an accident. For twenty years before that she had been studying the question of mental causation for all physical effects, but it was this sudden recovery which acted as a sign, showing her the way to the true healing as spiritual, as both Christian and scientific. She searched the Scriptures, taking the Bible as her only textbook, and finally, in 1875, published the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." She founded, one by one, all the various means by which Christian Science has been brought before the public, displaying in this beneficent work a wisdom and loving-kindness which stamp her, not only as a great discoverer, but also as a large-hearted and broad-minded woman. Under her wise care the periodicals were established which illustrate the teachings of Christian Science in human affairs, and which go to all portions of the globe, carrying with them the glad tidings of spiritual healing and regeneration.

 

The Comforter

To those looking with hope and faith for better things, Christian Science comes as the Comforter promised by the Master. It shows that the right ideals which we have cherished and nourished are not idle dreams, but realities of God's creation; that the ideal man is God's man now; that the kingdom of God is at hand. It answers the cry of mankind for deliverance from its woes. It assures us that no sorrow is too deep, no sin too persistent, no sickness too severe, no question too perplexing, and no burden too heavy for the saving grace of spiritual understanding. It teaches us to know God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. It corrects the false concept of God as the supposed source of evil, shows that evil has no real origin, permanency, and power, and thus, once and for all, removes the sting of fear from our existence.

No more comforting statement was ever made than this from the Scriptures: "Perfect love casteth out fear." Fear seems to be a component part of almost every case of sin, sickness, or crime. Banish fear, and a great percentage of all human woe would disappear. Christian Science is showing the way to do this. It is proving the correctness of its teachings by its works. It is going to those who are considered hopeless victims of bad habits and striking off their shackles. It is going to the bedside of those who have been declared incurable, because there is nothing in the whole range of material remedies which can reach their cases, and is making them well and strong again. It is going to families once disrupted by vice and misunderstanding, and is establishing peace and mutual respect.

To all those who are in need of any sort, whether harassed and haunted by pain or heartache or fear for the future, Christian Science says, with infinite compassion and with absolute certainty, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," the kingdom of heaven, the assurance of perfect safety and protection, the possession and enjoyment of holiness, happiness, and health.

 

[Published in pamphlet form by The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1914. This lecture appears to be the same text as that of the lecture entitled Christian Science: The Promised Comforter, delivered by March 6, 1914 at The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Journal, June 1914.]

 

 

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