Robert H. Mitchell, C.S.B., of Edinburgh, Scotland
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
My wife and I recently flew from Britain to the United States. We'd been in the air for just over an hour, when the pilot announced that a very unusual situation had arisen. The plane had two sets of navigational aids, radio and radar, and both had failed to operate. The pilot had to decide whether to return to London, or whether to depend on his compass and fly north, keeping the coastline in sight where possible.
Visibility was very good, so he announced he would continue the flight, making a detour via Greenland. After a longer journey than usual, we arrived safely in the United States.
In the weeks following this incident, I pondered the pilot's decision and his trust in his ability to handle the situation. And inevitably I found myself seeking a deeper understanding of my own "navigational" aids.
I'm sure we're all very much aware of the great numbers of people in all age groups who seem to have lost their way in life. In my travels I see many people drifting from one location to another in search of happiness and satisfaction. They go from one job to another, finding only frustration, discouragement and a sense of hopelessness. In a number of cases they appear to be running away from an unhappy relationship problem, some business situation or a sense of social injustice. In many cases, it seems to me, they're really running away from themselves. To many faced with the stress of decision-making, the temptation is to try to escape, to "cop out."
Where can we turn for guidance in our everyday affairs when life seems difficult and confused? Let me answer that question by asking another.
Have you ever studied a good chart of navigable rivers or coastal waters? It gives deep water readings and safe channels. But rocks and dangerous currents are clearly marked, as well — hazards to avoid. A good chart gives the whole picture.
When you plan a long motor trip, you naturally turn to an up-to-date map of the area you're going to cover. Here again, we find not only the freeways indicated, but also the congested roads through business districts that would slow us up.
In the same way, we all need guidance in our everyday lives — in our homes, on the college campus, in our social and business pursuits. We all need a clear sense of where we're going, too, a basis for making the choices we face every day — a basis we can have confidence in.
Do you recall how Jesus, in the midst of difficulties of every kind, confidently declared, "I know whence I came, and whither I go" (John 8:14)? Is there any way we can gain something of that same confidence?
A Woman Who Gained a Sense of Direction
Yes, there is, and an understanding of our relationship to God is the key.
Let me illustrate: A young mother, a friend of mine, found herself overwhelmed by world conditions and the complexity of modern living. As a result of her anxiety for the future of her three sons, she had a severe nervous breakdown. Medication didn't help. Neither did the services of a psychiatrist.
When the situation seemed hopeless, she asked for help in Christian Science. I visited her several times. Each time assuring her of God's love for her and her family. But there was no response.
The husband had told me of the depression and fear that had preceded the final breakdown. He also said he'd decided to change their vacation plans. As a family they were all keen sailors and had bought a small cabin cruiser, planning to spend some weeks at sea.
This snippet of information touched off a new line of approach in my thought. I explained to the mother that the cabin cruiser they'd recently bought was lying at anchor tossed to and fro by the tides, that it would continue to do so until someone came to the decision to steer it out of harbor into the open sea. I pointed out that a clear decision had to made. That whether it be a small cruiser, or the largest, best-equipped ocean liner, it was entirely under the control of the one in command.
Pursuing this line for a time, I came back every now and then to equate the situation of the cabin cruiser riding at anchor with that of the young woman wallowing in the mire of self-reproach, inertia, and disinterest in her family. I reminded her that she had a decision to make. Quite suddenly she began to respond. Soon she was tending her family and caring for her household. In a short time she was completely healed, and they were all enjoying their holiday at sea as planned.
More to Come: A Decision Had To Be Made
I mentioned that this young woman had a decision to make. What was it? It wasn't medical or psychiatric — it was spiritual. She needed to turn to God for spiritual awakening, to realize her status as the child of God and what that really meant.
Turning prayerfully to God and drawing on the truths of the Bible, I was able to assure her of God's presence as ministering divine Love, constantly caring for her and for her family. I was able to assure her she was never alone, never abandoned to solve life's problem on her own, but forever upheld by omnipresent Love. That God, the one divine intelligence, was forever imparting wisdom and confidence to each of His children. That this divine intelligence, or divine Mind, was always at hand to direct her thought.
This, then, was her decision — to acknowledge these truths and accept them as operating in her experience. Her firm commitment to this decision so uplifted her thought that all sense of burdened responsibility for her family vanished. She saw more clearly than ever before that she could rely wholeheartedly on divine Mind's ability to direct and guide the thought of her three sons and channel their talents into satisfying careers.
This glimpse of God as the one infinite Mind — the supreme intelligence of the universe — revealed to her something of the vast opportunities at hand. Her sense of limitation began to recede before her recognition of the infinite possibilities available to man — to her — as the individual expression of God, divine Mind.
She saw she had to accept her spiritual unity with God, as had the great Bible figures, including Jesus. You remember he said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). As this new concept of her oneness with God developed in thought, she began to identify herself as the child of ever-present divine Love, ready to strengthen and support every right desire. She saw that all good was available to her that very moment, but she had to claim it as the primal law of her life. As her fear and doubt gave way to a growing understanding of her unity with God, her body was "steered" into health.
In the way a captain takes control of his ship, so she found that, using the Bible truths as her chart, she could take control of her thinking and order her life harmoniously under Mind's unerring direction. This is why many find the Bible so important. The Bible provides the basis for confident decision making.
Christian Science recognizes this. Indeed, its first tenet reads: "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life." This is one of the six tenets found in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. (p. 497).
Our Thinking Determines Our Experience
Our young mother's experience teaches us a very important point about gaining a right sense of direction.
Many of us have a deep-seated trust everything will turn out all right in the end. And of course we've all come across the confirmed pessimist who feels he's being done down in everything he attempts.
But to steer a happy, purposeful way in life, it's essential that we lift our thought above the merely human sense of good and base our thought on a spiritual foundation.
To establish this foundation, this correct basis of thought, we need to acknowledge and accept one guiding influence. We traditionally call it God.
When we acknowledge the supremacy of God as the only Mind and that man has no other mind, we begin to experience the presence of God by way of the spiritual qualities and activity He expresses.
Ignorance of the supremacy of God, divine Mind, and of the availability of His qualities, limits our human experience. Resistance to His supremacy argues on the side of materiality and of continued bondage to material conditions. On the other hand, acceptance of His supremacy enables us to identify ourselves with God's infinite spiritual resources, with a wisdom that promotes freedom — with ever-widening horizons.
Our response to God's prompting does away with the apathy so prevalent in human thought and helps us range our thinking on the side of renewed purpose. Then in place of doubt and fear, we grow in confidence, in a spiritual confidence, in a spiritual conviction that life's really worth living. This in turn highlights the beauty and harmony of God's creation, and the joy of expressing them. Health appears in place of suffering, order in place of confusion, and good relationships with others in place of dissension and strain.
When we want to change the direction of a boat, we don't do anything to the front of it. We simply move the rudder. So when we want to change the course of our life as that young mother did, our first need is to change our thinking — to align it with divine Mind and divine Love. To accept our oneness with God. Then, our experience changes.
God's Guidance in Times of Trouble
A skilled seaman is as much at home with certain lights and buoys as we are with landmarks in our own home town. Even darkness makes little difference for a trustworthy skipper who has made a thorough study of the chart.
The Bible uses the word "light" as a pervading metaphor for the clarity and wisdom that guide man in dark and difficult moments. We, too, can find guidance as we study what the Bible has to say about this light and its source.
From her study of the Bible and her perception of Christian living, Mrs. Eddy recognized that the greatest source of guidance is the light of divine Love, the Love that is God. She writes, "Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way" (Science and Health, p. 454).
The effectiveness of this light was consistently proved by Jesus. Confronted with every form of obstruction and evil, he demonstrated the power of Love to heal, to restore, and to point the forward way.
Jesus had a clear sense of mission. It evolved from his spiritual understanding of sonship with God. This true spiritual idea of God and man and their relationship to each other we recognize to be the Christ — not a physical person, but the Truth of God and man. Jesus' thought was so much in line with this Truth as the one guiding force in his life, he could turn spontaneously to it for right direction in meeting every situation.
A familiar incident shows how his proof of the true relationship of God and man became a light to his followers, also.
After the crucifixion, his disciples couldn't at first grasp the spiritual significance of what was happening. They returned to their daily tasks, thinking they'd lost the Master. They succumbed to discouragement.
Three days later, two of them made their way to Emmaus, a village a few miles from Jerusalem. While they discussed the events of the previous day, Jesus joined them. But they didn't recognize him.
Sensing their discouragement and confusion, he rebuked them for disbelieving Bible prophecy. Luke writes on this encounter, "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (24:27). Instead of trying to gain prestige as a personal leader, Jesus referred the disciples to the Scriptures, to a new spiritual reading of the familiar passages. Later that day as they gathered for a meal, he lovingly explained to them the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection, and their practical effectiveness for inspiring and guiding mankind.
Christ Still Lights Our Way
Should we feel overwhelmed by the darkness of materialism, the arguments of evil, illness, the futility of human experience, each one of us can take that walk to Emmaus — communing with the ever-present Christ, the understanding of our spiritual sonship with divine Love. Then we, too, can reach the point of enlightenment the two disciples did when they proclaimed to their colleagues, "The Lord is risen indeed" (Luke 24:34). This new awareness of the Christ, the inspiration of our unity with God, will help us maximize the good in human consciousness, while we minimize and silence evil's claim to power or reality.
In explanation of his healing power, Jesus said simply, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). Here we see something of the dynamic humility, the power and love which so characterized Jesus' life. He certainly allowed divine Love to inspire, illumine, designate, and take the lead in his life. So can we. This is what heals.
How The Christ Heals
I'm often asked by newcomers to Christian Science, "Just how exactly does your religion heal disease?"
It's the Christ in us — the reflection of Spirit in human consciousness that heals. As we reflect the Christ in consciousness, we're individualizing omnipresent Life and Love. This brings about healing.
Mrs. Eddy has devoted an entire chapter in her textbook to this subject, the chapter entitled "Christian Science Practice." Basically she writes that we're never attempting to change people, heal material conditions or alter physical structure. What's demanded of us is that we change our mental concept regarding persons, material conditions, and physical structures. The more we understand the true selfhood of man to be that which individualizes omnipresent Life, the more effective our payer and the quicker the results. No claim of sickness, pain or fear can reside in the consciousness filled with omnipresent Life and Love. In the active presence of the Christ, Truth, nothing harmful or destructive to man's well-being can possibly exist, and therefore healing is assured.
Let me give you an example. The case was that of a young child only ten weeks old. She had been born deformed in one leg from the hip down. The surgeon on the case told the parents she would never walk normally. Although they might be able to ease the condition in later life, she would always be crippled.
At this point the grandmother of the child, who was a student of Christian Science, asked the parents if they would allow her to invite a Christian Science practitioner to take the case. The parents agreed.
In comforting the grandmother and assuring her of the power of God to meet this situation, the practitioner gave her this thought from Science and Health, "Love never loses sight of loveliness. Its halo rests upon its object" (p. 248). He explained that the child was really God's perfect expression and must, therefore, be normal and active in every respect, that she was forever under His loving care. This practitioner prayed along these lines until he gained a sense of peace about the case.
The following morning, the grandmother telephoned him to say the child had been healed and was perfectly free. The leg had resumed its normal condition, and the baby was fit and well.
Within a few days the surgeon who had been on the case visited the home and examined the child. He felt he had seen a miracle, but the grandmother knew that this was another proof of the power of God, divine Love, breaking the illusion of material sense and restoring normality. I have since learned from the family that the child is now taking ballet lessons. This illustrates the completeness of the healing.
As in the past, so today, Jesus is still the Way-shower for all mankind. His teaching of man's spiritual unity with the Father is no dry creed or dogma, but a demonstrable fact. The Christ, Truth, is the vitalizing force in the experience of each of us who responds to its presence and power. It's the power of God in human consciousness, available in all circumstances, in every situation. It provides the lights and buoy that keep us on our course.
When the currents of human nature rush in against a right course, it's the Christ, or truth of being in our thought, that establishes order and designates which step to take, which course to pursue. The Christ brings to thought the tangible presence of God as Love — that Love which gives meaning to existence, purpose to human effort; Love that lifts the burden of despair and guilt; Love that banishes apathy and indifference; Love that promotes self-respect, that nourishes the affections, that strengthens every right endeavor.
As the Christ inspires and clarifies human consciousness, it has a natural and direct effect in our experience. As we have just seen in the experience of the grandmother, Christian Scientists find this borne out in their lives. The light of the Christ dispels all mystery and helps us demonstrate practical Christianity, uplifting and clarifying the entire range of our thought and guiding our actions, bringing healing to any dark corner of our lives.
The Practical Application of the Christ, Truth
Jesus once said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). When we speak of healing in Christian Science we think of it as freedom and liberation, and in this sense it embraces and gives direction to every aspect of human life.
In these times when we're witnessing tremendous advances in technological progress, new ventures in commerce and industry, it's essential to see the truth of God as divine Love and as the one unerring Mind.
This truth illumines the business world as it can one's personal experience. What greater need is there in the business world than the need for deep spiritual perception? Thought attuned to "the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" is more able to promote righteous transactions that will bless the community and nation. It's spiritual insight and integrity that help us detect and avoid those ventures based on selfish bargaining and sheer speculation or maneuvered from personal motives.
The spiritual activity of the Christ, Truth, the true idea of God as divine Love and of man as the son of God, goes on perpetually in human consciousness. Our recognition and acknowledgment of this fact brings clarification and enlightenment to thought, actuating progress. It rends the mist of confusion and self-doubt and replaces them with order and conviction, and a spiritual adequacy hitherto unknown. It enlarges our capacity to grasp and interpret this Truth in practical terms. It leads thought into fresh paths of discernment and action.
Spiritualized Thinking Helps in Business
This was proved most conclusively in the experience of a friend of mine. She had a substantial interest in a large business which had begun to deteriorate. Instead of making a profit each year, substantial losses were accumulating, adding considerable sums to an overdraft at the bank. Naturally, there weren't any dividends.
Her lawyers advised my friend of the serious position and told her the bank had every right to withdraw its support. She proceeded to take the practical steps and discussed the entire situation with her bank manager and her accountant. Both confirmed the lawyer's assessment that there was no hope for the business. She then wrote to the chairman of the directors of the company who assured her they'd done all they could.
She suddenly rose in revolt at the negative attitude adopted by each person in turn. She saw she was allowing herself to be mesmerized by material evidence, by negative thinking and human conclusions. She saw she had to turn to the divine Mind for guidance.
She began to study the Bible and Science and Health for light on the situation and found this statement in Science and Health particularly helpful, "The rule of inversion infers from error its opposite, Truth; but Truth is the light which dispels error" (p. 282). She saw clearly that whatever the material evidence in the case, she was never obliged to accept this evidence as factual in any way. She saw that because the business had been based on a high sense of service to the community, it represented the appearing in human experience of an idea of God, divine Mind. Therefore, it could never be curtailed, could never be insecure or impeded in any way.
She tried to see everyone in the business as the individual expression of God, manifesting the intelligence and alertness of divine Mind. She saw, too, that she could never be separated from what was rightly hers. This attitude brought her a sense of peace. Considerable progress began to be made in the business.
Some months later, she had a letter from her lawyers recommending the acceptance of an offer for the business as a going concern. When this was agreed upon and the transaction completed, the bank manager said: "I can't thank you enough for discussing this matter with me. As a banker, I've not allowed anything but facts and figures to influence the decisions I make. But by the evidence you've placed before me, you've given visible proof that there's a higher power than mere facts and figures."
Here we see conclusively that spiritually-motivated thinking can set at naught limitations imposed by fearful human concepts. It can bring into focus the God-inspired ideas always available to you and me. It enables us to discern the right action, and direct our thought in resolving difficult problems.
Whether you're a business executive, a director, employee or shareholder, living consistently with spiritual illumination will assure success for all concerned, and better service to your clients and community.
As we've just seen, spiritually-motivated thinking enables us to lift the entire concept of business into a new realm, that of the divine Mind, individualized by man and meeting the human need. Spiritually-inspired thinking banishes the claim of mounting pressures, the risk of chance and speculation, and proves that God is relevant in business as in every other sphere of experience.
The genuine Mind we call God perpetuates right attitudes, decisiveness and confidence in man, His idea. These qualities we see manifested as integrity of purpose, wisdom, honesty, spiritual perception and maturity of judgment, all of which underlie sound business dealings. Responding to these right ideas brings a wider scope, overcoming limitations and restrictions imposed by mortal concepts. The Christ, Truth, does indeed make free.
Spiritual Enlightenment Brings Revelation
Throughout history, God has made His purposes clear to those in need. Through outstanding instances of spiritual guidance, He has stimulated world progress.
Such an event took place with the discovery of Christian Science. After years of prayer and searching the Bible, Mary Baker Eddy was led to glimpse that all true existence is spiritual, never material, and that God, Spirit, is the only reality. Healed and strengthened by this revelation, she devoted her life to gaining an ever clearer sense of spiritual reality and the demonstration of spiritual law as governing the human scene. She founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, to protect and foster her discovery, to help others along this spiritual pathway.
In her desire to help mankind, Mrs. Eddy was led to see that there are no exceptions to the infinite allness of Spirit. That there are no exceptions to man as being God's wholly spiritual expression. In fact, she saw for the first time that man — that is you and me and all men in reality — embody Godlike qualities alone. And this means regardless of our human appearance, nationality, sex or race. Man's comprised only of that which is good, spiritual, permanent and eternal.
As a result of her work, the study of Christian Science is turning thought away from matter to Spirit, God, as the only reality. It's awakening individual consciousness around the world to recognize the fact that health and well-being of every kind are spiritual and already established, only waiting to be demonstrated.
Putting this revelation into practice, Mrs. Eddy became the first Christian Science practitioner, taking many kinds of cases and restoring them to health and usefulness.
Once for instance, when she was staying with a friend in Chelsea, a suburb of Boston, a crippled man came to the friend's door. His arms were so stiff and his legs so contracted that he was strapped to crutches. Mrs. Eddy saw him and gave him something. Hobbling to the next house, he asked to lie down.
In about an hour, he found his arms and legs loosed. He could stand erect. He could walk. He was well. And he attributed his recovery to Mrs. Eddy, for whom he inquired without knowing her name. Later, some of Mrs. Eddy's students asked her how she healed him. She answered, "When I looked on that man, my heart gushed with unspeakable pity and prayer."
In this healing, we have an example of the method of Christ-healing and its powerful effect. Mrs. Eddy's vision revealed what was actually present in that man. Not a crippled mortal who needed to be healed, but man, made in the image and likeness of God, wholly spiritual, upright, and free.
From the time Mrs. Eddy discovered Christian Science, she developed the most extraordinary capacity for sustained effort in shaping the course of the Christian Science movement.
With no precedent to follow, no works to refer to except the Bible, she turned wholeheartedly to God for guidance in all she did. He never failed her. When every human obstacle seemed to obstruct her path, divine inspiration impelled her progress.
As the Founder of a worldwide movement, Mrs. Eddy had to establish a system of government aimed at keeping her church progressive. Step by step, this was achieved. But she knew the spiritual vision required for this task was derived from humility, and that in order to qualify as a true leader of mankind, one must first qualify as a follower of God.
This quality of humility — of listening to God for guidance and direction — will lead each one of us out of any adversity, no matter how difficult. When we give the Christ, Truth, a foothold in the doorway of our thinking, it expands until it opens wide our consciousness to spiritual being and its practical possibilities. It breaks down all barriers of fear and doubt, of social or economic background, of human origin or history, it banishes exclusive, restrictive thinking and points the way to acknowledgment of spiritual perfection as the present reality.
Our willingness to relinquish limiting human theories determines our course. As we humbly and obediently let this Mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus, as Paul says, we're prepared to open thought to the liberating Christ in every area of our experience.
Mrs. Eddy puts it in these words: "Self-renunciation of all that constitutes a so-called material man, and the acknowledgment and achievement of his spiritual identity as the child of God, is Science that opens the very flood-gates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being" (Miscellangeous Writings, p. 185).
A Healing in God's Time
This renunciation of matter and acknowledgment of spiritual reality is prayer as understood in Christian Science — scientific healing prayer. As we begin to understand the power of this scientific prayer for good, we find it is effective even in what are considered the most hopeless situations.
This was illustrated in the experience of my father-in-law. After a very active life as a pilot in the First World War, and a naval captain for many years, he became ill with tuberculosis.
He had undergone considerable periods of medical treatment when the family heard of Christian Science. He was encouraged to look into this teaching, but firmly stood his ground, feeling that religion wasn't for men. At least it wasn't for him. He believed in God. That was as far as he would go.
The physical condition was becoming serious, and my mother-in-law went to a Christian Science Reading Room one day seeking prayerful guidance about what she could do. As she read through some testimonies of healing in Christian Science periodicals published many years earlier she came across a testimony which immediately arrested her attention. It was written by a navigator in the First World War whose plane was attacked while on a flying mission over enemy territory, and the oil feed pipe on the outside of the plane was badly damaged.
The navigator wrote that, as a student of Christian Science, he prayed. Then he climbed out onto the wing and held the oil pipe together. Although still in danger from enemy aircraft, he and his pilot were unharmed and made the return trip over the Channel and landed safely in Britain.
My mother-in-law felt this testimony was just the one for her husband, and she took it home. She asked him to read it — just this one testimony — and he said he would. After reading it, he looked at his wife and said, "You know, this is the most extraordinary thing. I was the pilot of that plane, and that man was my navigator. I never knew he was a Christian Scientist, but I remember the incident very well."
This convincing account of God's direction and loving care was just what my father-in-law needed to wake him up spiritually to some degree. He began studying Christian Science. But it wasn't until his physical condition became critical, and he was given only the weekend to live, that he turned to it for healing.
When thought is directed to spiritual channels and finds cooperation from the individual, then wonderful things begin to take place. When the harmony and peace of divine Love displaces fear and confusion in human thought, discord progressively vanishes from our experience.
Light That Doesn't Fail
When we're alert and obedient in channeling our thought spiritually, there's no limit to its effectiveness. The healing and freedom we can enjoy as a result indicate the tremendous power there is in spiritualized thinking — thought based on an understanding of our relationship to God, Spirit.
With that security, then, we can go about our daily tasks, knowing that within our own consciousness we can lay hold of the spiritual truth of all being. This Christ-idea guides our thoughts from the material to the spiritual, from the earthbound to the inspirational.
Those who've been uplifted, healing, and regenerated from any form of adversity through the influence of Christ, Truth, recognize that scientific Christianity isn't just another religious viewpoint. It illumines with deeper meaning the wisdom of the prophets and thinkers. It carries to logical completion the work they began. Above all, it points to the timeless relevance of Jesus' mission and its practical message for us all today.