Your Community and You

 

Thomas O. Poyser, C.S.B., of Dallas, Texas

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

I'd like to tell you about a city I once visited. Its citizens had pooled their trading stamps. And they were very proud of what they got. A gorilla for the local zoo. Now our community may not need a gorilla! But if it's like most communities today, it's probably in need of something.

We're all familiar with the picture. Strife and poverty and pollution oppress many places. Increased crime, depressed areas, unnatural living and working conditions trouble others. Population explosion and unplanned migration have shrunken some communities and swollen still others. Urban sprawl and creeping decay have set in. These and other evils threaten the health and welfare of many communities and their citizens. We all would agree they need correcting!

And much good thinking is being applied to the problems of an increasingly urbanized world. There's intelligent planning, enlightened government, study and research. Civic minded individuals and groups are giving of their talents and efforts. Many worthwhile projects are being considered and completed. Much thought and action are being contributed by some of our best thinkers. And progress is being made. But still a wholly satisfying solution isn't in sight! So what is the answer? A better perspective of thought.

The time was when learned astronomers thought the sun revolved around the earth. This misconception greatly limited men's grasp of the kind of world they lived in. Then it gradually was discerned that the earth orbits the sun! And as this fact grew in acceptance, many longstanding limitations on knowledge yielded to enlightened thinking and broader vision. It wasn't so much that old observations had to be discarded. A better perspective of thought improved their interpretation and use.

In more recent times there's been further revolution in concepts of the universe. And this has greatly altered the affairs of humanity. For instance, Einstein's theory of relativity has drastically changed beliefs concerning time, motion and distance. Human progress constantly requires that we gain a better perspective of thought and action. And isn't this what every community needs our better perspective of thought?

A long time ago, there was a city in great trouble. The Bible tells us about it. "There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city" (Eccl. 9:4, 15).

One individual saved an entire city! Think of it. Does our community today have oppressive problems that need solving? Or rather, do you and I? For aren't community problems basically just a collection of the unsolved problems of those who live in it? Then does our community have within it citizens who can contribute to their solution? Yes, it does. It has us! We can be the wise men of today in our communities! Henrik Ibsen once wrote, "A community is like a ship; every one ought to be prepared to take the helm." (1)

Of course, we can't all of us simultaneously be the mayor or the police chief or a city councilman or a school principal! But each one of us can be a wise man, an effective good citizen who helps correct public evils and contributes to a better community. And, incidentally, enjoy a better life ourselves!

But in order to become the wise men of today, we need to gain a better perspective of thought, a vital dimension of thinking. We need to learn to think from a spiritual basis. Such thinking consistently followed leads to more mature citizenship the kind of citizenship that can help us all to solve our individual and community problems.

 

What Is This Dimension of Thinking?

We're all aware, I'm sure, of the influence of thought upon individual experience. The Bible says of a man: "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). Yes, thought makes us what we are! But what kind of thoughts? For some are certainly better than others!

There was a time when I considered it sufficient if a person's actions gave evidence of his honesty, affection, humanity, temperance, compassion, and the like. And these qualities are certainly indispensable to living a moral and constructive life! But in and of themselves they're just not enough! Another dimension of thinking is needed, thinking that has a spiritual basis. The point I'm trying to establish is this. We can act morally, we can be humanly circumspect, and yet lack the vital dimension of thinking needed to really solve the problems we're faced with. Let me illustrate.

Suppose we need to know the volume of air in this auditorium. We might be computing the cost, say, of air-conditioning or heating it. Well, our figures would be inadequate if we only measured the length and width of the room. These would only give us the floor area! We'd also have to measure the height of the ceiling in order to determine the volume of air.

In the same way, what we might call ordinarily good thinking may result in moral living. The moral qualities constitute the vital groundwork, so to speak. They prepare our thought for elevation of our lives above the evils that commonly plague human existence. But the higher dimension of spiritual mindedness or thinking from a spiritual basis is needed.

 

The Nature of Spirit

But what does it mean to think from a spiritual basis? Well let's see what this word "spiritual" means. First, it relates to Spirit, God! The well-known rocket expert, Dr. Wernher von Braun, has written: "Any man who strives to accomplish something needs a degree of faith in himself. And when he takes on a challenge that requires more moral strength than he can muster with his own limited mental and spiritual resources, he needs faith in God." (2) Adding a spiritual dimension to thought means learning to understand the nature of God as ever-active and intelligent Spirit. And it means making this understanding the basis of our thinking.

It's vitally important then that we have the correct concept of God. Just what do we mean by God? Just what is His nature or character? Most people have given up picturing God as a venerable gentleman in the sky! But many still think of Him as dispensing evil as well as good. Or as expressing Himself though inert and unintelligent matter. But matter and evil are the very opposites of Spirit, God!

So these views don't give us the real nature of God! They're no more correct than the belief that the sun revolves around the earth. Such a humanly conceived God has never existed. And this is a partial answer to the current question, Is God dead? A more complete answer may be found in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." It's written by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. Here she asks the question, "What is God?" And gives this answer: "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love." (p. 465). Then, after explaining that these terms for God are synonymous, she adds: "They refer to one absolute God. They are also intended to express the nature, essence, and wholeness of Deity." And this is the living God!

Secondly, besides relating to God, the word "spiritual" relates to the way God expresses Himself in His creation spiritual man and spiritual universe. Now this may be a new idea to some. Perhaps you've thought of God as Spirit, but have been thinking of man and the universe as material. But would this really make sense? I mean, could infinitely wise Spirit express itself in finite, unintelligent matter? Certainly if we accept God as Spirit, we must accept His creation as spiritual! This means your real selfhood and mine.

Let's look a little further. For example, do we really know our friends only by what our physical sight tells us about them? Don't we measure them rather by the qualities they express and the individuality with which they express these qualities? Aren't integrity and goodness qualities of Spirit instead of matter? Isn't wisdom the expression of unerring Mind? Doesn't orderly behavior show expression of divine Principle? Don't compassion and understanding express infinite Love? Isn't beauty an expression of Soul and vitality the expression of Life? Aren't precision and accuracy the expression of absolute Truth? Aren't the really important things we experience basically spiritual and not material? The recognition and realization of this can make a great difference to your thinking and consequently to your experience! And to the community where you live!

 

Christ Jesus Knew Spiritual Reality

How do we see this? Look at the example of Christ Jesus. He knew God as Spirit. He understood Him as perfect Mind imparting spiritual qualities and ideas to His creation. He embraced this grand dimension of spiritualized thinking. He perceived the Fatherhood of God and his own true identity as the Son of God, or Christ.

The Christ is not a person. As understood in Christian Science, the Christ is the divine expression of God present with all men. When accepted into individual consciousness or thought, it destroys all that is unlike God, eternal good. Jesus thoroughly understood and consistently embraced the spiritual qualities by which God, Spirit, expresses Himself. Just consider what the spiritual dimension of this thinking enabled him to do heal the sick, reform character, raise the dead, overcome violence. And in his resurrection, he proved the superiority of spiritual knowing over the life-denying conditions of matter and material mindedness.

He also gave this assurance for all time: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12). In other words, the ability to do these things wasn't a personal possession that Jesus claimed just for himself! As with Jesus, our necessity is to "believe" to embrace that dimension of understanding which stems from a spiritual basis. This understanding recognizes Spirit and Spirit's creations alone as substantial. It excludes Spirit's opposite, unintelligent matter, and all the troubles that material, physical life is supposed to be subject to. It achieves absolute integrity and unadulterated goodness.

Spiritually enforced thinking on individual experience is only good. It's totally free of evil, of matter, of all limitation. The effect of such thinking on individual experience knows no bounds. And it can be more far-reaching than anything you or I have ever known. It enables us to serve our communities beyond all former expectation. It enables us to be better citizens.

 

Establishing a Sound Relationship

For example, thinking from a spiritual basis enables us to get along better with others. Gradually, the automobile tangles are being unsnarled. But in both urban and rural communities, there's impact of people and sometimes the jangle of differing human opinions. Its tune is that of a musical scale, repeating itself like a broken record at the third note, do-re-mi-me-me-me . . .. Too much "me" and not enough "thee" often causes discordant relations. And this is no sign of true character. The Golden Rule doesn't say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you FIRST!" Too often we're willing to go halfway with the other fellow only AFTER he goes halfway with us, FIRST! And this leaves little room for good community conditions. It's been said that a man drives as he lives, and certain we live as we think. A man's what his thoughts make him.

An acquaintance of mine took a position under someone whom he was warned was very unpleasant to work for. He accepted his new employer as disagreeable and difficult. And he was! Things, in fact, became so bad that my friend submitted his resignation! But as a student of Christian Science, he soon realized that the problem was basically one of wrong thinking. And that if he left he would just be running away from an unsolved problem and carrying with him the wrong thinking causing the trouble. He reasoned that since wrong thinking was the problem, right thinking from a spiritual basis was the solution. So he decided to remain and work it out. He was encouraged in this by the instruction and promise of Jesus: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33)

He sought to elevate his thinking by embracing spiritual qualities of Truth and Love. As he insisted on seeing man as the spiritual image and likeness of God instead of seeing two discordant mortals, his outlook improved; and wonderful things began to happen. Resentment, bitterness, and criticism yielded to God-inspired thinking. Any evil will yield if we refuse to yield to it! Understanding, patience, and love enforced his thoughts. And this is what took place.

One day the employer's attitudes suddenly changed. The boss became very friendly and appreciative. A pleasant atmosphere began to prevail. Special assistants were provided my friend to help him in his work. Wages were raised his as well as those of other employees. And good relations continued through his long service to the firm. A set of tangled lives was unsnarled as the spirit of the Christ possessed his thinking. A business and a community were both blessed. And the blessing was far-reaching, for this was an important wartime business. A more spiritual dimension of thinking had produced a more mature and higher citizenship.

A community is greatly enriched when its citizens are this sort of thinkers! Mrs. Eddy puts it this way: "The right thinker abides under the shadow of the Almighty. His thoughts can only reflect peace, good will towards men, health, and holiness" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 210). This then is the grand dimension thought attains when we think from a spiritual basis.

 

The Need for Consistency

It's important not only to think from a spiritual basis; it's necessary that we're really consistent about doing this. For the consistency with which we think from a spiritual basis will be measured by its continuing good influence on our lives. And in turn, by its influence upon our community.

Twenty centuries ago, it was considered a mark of distinction to be able to declare oneself a citizen of Rome. Some even purchased this right if not possessed by birth. Paul once saved himself from scourging by declaring his Roman citizenship. But at another time he acknowledged a higher, divine citizenship based upon spiritual values and conditions a type of citizenship your community and mine can rightly expect of us! That the world today demands of us. What we might call really high-level citizenship. Paul wrote the Christians at Ephesus a message of promise and hope that pertains to all who embrace the spiritual dimension of thought: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph 2:19).

Only a consistent, spiritual perspective of thinking can produce a citizenship such as this a citizenship that can solve individual and community problems. This thinking can be yours and mind as we understand the allness of Spirit and spiritual creation. It can elevate all fine human qualities to a new level of effectiveness. Then our community will have its wise men and we ourselves progressive, productive lives.

One day my wife and I were driving through a town in Scotland and came to a fork in the road. One direction was marked, "The High Road." The other, "The Low Road." And we were hoping to reach Loch Lomond together! Well, actually, isn't each of us faced with the choice between high road and low road at every momentary stage of experience?

We can entertain wrong thinking or right thinking. Cheap thoughts or strong, substantial thoughts. Bad thoughts or good thoughts. We can read bad literature, or good. We can attend bad movies, or good if we're fortunate. We can watch bad television or good, if we're even more fortunate! We can do bad things or good. So which shall it be?

Now there's little lasting value thinking from a spiritual basis one moment, then the next moment changing to a material basis! This would be like skating on ice that's thick in some spots but thin in others. Our progress would probably be subject to sudden interruption! So which way shall we follow? The high road of spiritually empowered right thinking? Or the low road of human indulgences, doubts, and fears?

There have probably been times when we've all seemed to be traveling the wrong road! For when we cease to think spiritually, we really cease to live constructively. We can't travel high road and low road simultaneously! We've got to be consistent in thinking from a spiritual basis.

 

How Thinking Consistently From a Spiritual Basis Heals

I remember an experience of mine that proved this to be so. For some time, my efforts to apply the teachings of Christian Science to correct a hernia had been unsuccessful. Then one day I was struck by this statement in Science and Health: "We should forget our bodies in remembering good and the human race" (p. 261). Now this statement added a new dimension to my thinking! "We should forget our bodies in remembering good and the human race."

I realized that in all probability I'd been guilty of doing quite the opposite of this. That perhaps I'd been too conscious of a physical body in seeking to correct what appeared defective there. In other words, I wasn't consistently thinking from a spiritual basis. I saw that the problem really wasn't in the body but in what I'd been thinking about it. The problem was defective thinking thinking based upon matter, on the belief that man is the material effect of a material cause. This belief had to be eliminated and consistently replaced by recognition of spiritual reality Spirit as perfect creator and man as perfect spiritual creation.

So I resolved to comply with the instruction in Science and Health. I turned my thought away from self-centered contemplation of a material body, either defective or sound. Instead, I prayed. I sought to strengthen my thinking on a spiritual basis by "remembering good and the human race." And I knew that God and His creation are the only good. Through this spiritually scientific prayer, the nature of my thinking took on a new spiritual dimension. And one day a few weeks later, I suddenly realized that the hernia was no longer present! It had disappeared without my even being aware of it. The defective physical condition vanished before the spiritual dimension of consistent right thinking.

You see I learned that our compass must be oriented with Spirit, God, and the spiritual dimension of thinking that frees us from limiting, often discordant beliefs from sometimes falsely attractive material beliefs. These are just rubbish piles along the road to real advancement. Right thinking has no room for mental trash! When we reason from the standpoint that God is infinite Spirit, and therefore that all He creates is spiritual we refuse to give currency to worthless, materialistic beliefs. These are just litter along life's highway! Every year millions of dollars of tax money are spent to clear the litter from streets and highways, waterways and countrysides. But the cost is infinitely greater resulting from allowing worthless material beliefs to litter individual consciousness. So refuse to be mental litterbugs!

As we occupy our thinking with Godlike, Spirit-oriented thoughts, there's no room for anything else. And we gain real clarity of perception. Human thought is rather like a pond of water. If no water flows in or out of the pond, it's likely to become stagnant and dirty. But it remains clear if there's a steady flow of fresh, pure water. In the same way, our thinking, and consequently our experience, can't become dull, stagnant, unfruitful, or unconstructive, if spiritual qualities and thoughts are allowed to flow freely.

Such thinking replaces limiting, discordant beliefs with spiritual facts of God and His perfect likeness, man. Certainly the world needs the best possible thinkers citizens who can be depended upon to exercise clear judgment who think and act in ways that contribute to the general welfare. Surely the wise man who saved his city must have been such a person!

What a standard this is for you and me! A standard against which we can measure the dimension of our thinking and appraise our citizenship. But we must watch our thoughts to determine their nature and not skate on thin ice! We must be consistent in yielding to the same intelligent source of right thinking that Jesus yielded to the divine Mind, God.

Paul, in writing to the Christians at Corinth, warned them against letting their minds be "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Cor. 11:3). And to another group of Christians at Philippi, he wrote: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5).

"The simplicity that is in Christ" is the utter integrity of unwavering, Christlike thinking thinking which consistently sticks to the high road of thoughts inspired by the divine Mind, God. A poet once wrote: "Consistency, thou art a jewel." (3) Throughout his entire earthly program, Jesus adhered unswervingly to his divine purpose of exemplifying the Christ of expressing the divine Mind, the intelligence of Spirit, in thought and deed. Mrs. Eddy observes: "This spiritual idea, or Christ, entered into the minutiae of the life of the personal Jesus. It made him an honest man, a good carpenter, and a good man, before it could make him the glorified" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 166).

 

The Consistency of Mrs. Eddy

Christ Jesus still stands today as the highest example of good citizenship the world has ever known. But there's another exceptional example of citizenship more contemporary with our time one who followed closely the course charted by Jesus. I refer to Mary Baker Eddy. As a child, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science was accustomed to public-spirited activities in and around the Baker household. Her father, Mark Baker, and especially her brother, Albert Baker, were prominent citizens. Albert Baker was closely associate with Franklin Pierce, who as you know was once President of the United States. And he himself once engaged in a promising political career.

So matters of civic duties and good citizenship always lay close to Mrs. Eddy's heart. When questioned concerning her politics, she replied, "I have none, in reality, other than to help support a righteous government; to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself" (Miscellany, p. 276). And throughout her Christian life, she did just that!

For example, she was a highly respected and loved resident of Concord, New Hampshire, where she lived for some nineteen years. And at the time of her change in residence to Boston in 1908, many eminent voices were raised in her behalf by editorial, by letter, and even by resolution of the city council. These expressed regret at her leaving Concord, appreciation of the happy association Concord's citizens had enjoyed with her over the years, and also gratitude for her generosity to Concord in many public-spirited ways. But Mrs. Eddy's greatest contribution in the line of good citizenship undoubtedly lies in her discovery and presentation to the world of Christian Science.

With consistency of thought she saw that the allness of God precludes the possibility of reality in anything unlike or opposed to God. She reasoned that what appears real to the physical senses only counterfeits and often but caricatures the true substance and nature of the God-centered universe of Spirit. Since like produces like, God can only originate that which is like Himself perfect, complete, harmonious, spiritual.

Mrs. Eddy further saw that the teachings and demonstrations of Jesus bring the facts of Spirit into focus, operating as spiritual laws. And she proved that application of these laws heals, harmonizes, and exalts human experience. The Church of Christ, Scientist, which she founded, and its worldwide activities indicate how thoroughly she did her work and the significance of her citizenship.

 

An Employment Problem Solved

One hundred years ago Mrs. Eddy was the only Christian Scientist on earth! Since then a multitude of students of this Science have been blessed by learning to think more consistently from a spiritual basis. Possibly one of these is sitting beside you right now! If so, he or she could probably tell you of many instances of healing of how the spiritual laws which this Science reveals have healed and comforted and brought release from difficult human situations of many kinds.

Let me tell you of the experience of a friend of mine. The place where he worked changed hands. Shortly afterwards he was abruptly fired. This was a sudden and unexpected turn of events. He had growing family responsibilities. Employment at this time in his country was not overly plentiful. And to further complicate things, only that morning the movers had arrived. For a larger house had recently been purchased to meet the family's growing needs, and this was moving day!

But my friend was an active, consistent student of Christian Science. He knew that true employment consists in utilizing the spiritual qualities given man by God and that such qualities form man's real individuality in the spiritual likeness of God. He saw that there could be no lack of opportunity and ability to employ what God had given him to be and do. And with great confidence that all things work together for good, he hurried home happy that he could help his wife settle their home. And during this time he didn't look for further employment, but he certainly prayed about it. He steadfastly maintained a spiritual attitude of expectant thought.

One day, an acquaintance suggested that he inquire at a certain firm for employment. This didn't appeal to him, but he felt it was divine direction. So he contacted the management and was offered employment. Although it didn't compare with his former position, he gratefully accepted it and went directly to work. Soon he was promoted to a position equal in importance and salary to his former one, and his work was continued to be progressively satisfying.

Science and Health recommends: "Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts" (p. 261). This is what my friend did!

Our success in this direction may be seasoned by experience and environment. But real maturity our full stature as citizens is shaped by allowing spiritual facts to consistently permeate and direct our thinking. This doesn't wait on age or time or circumstance. It doesn't matter where we are in our experience. Every man, woman, and young person can embrace the spiritually inclined thinking that will meet his present needs. This is the impact of consistent, God-imparted thinking on us as individual citizens and as members of any community.

 

The Full Stature of Citizenship

There's a story of a certain village whose citizens were known for the excellent apple cider they made. One year they planned a great festival and each villager was to bring a jug of his best cider to pour into a large barrel in the town square. During the festivities all were to sample of the fine blending of cider. One of the villagers reasoned, What is one among so many. I'll just bring a jug of water and save my cider for myself! At the time of the main event, all the villagers gathered about the barrel, and the first cup was poured. Perhaps you've guessed what flowed from the barrel. It was water! Only water! Every one had done the same thing! Foolish villagers! Immature thinkers!

But what about us? Is limited, material thinking watering down the contribution we can make to our community? Or are we consistently thinking from a spiritual basis? Is our contribution the dimension of thought inspired by Mind, Spirit, God? It's that kind of thinking that makes us really mature citizens inspired, constructive, dependable. If so, then we can share wisely in helping to shape the course of events in our community and in the world.

Such a spiritual dimension of thinking will enable you and me to meet our individual problems with a new enthusiasm, a new ability, a new responsiveness. It really develops the full stature of citizenship the world needs. So dare to think spiritually! Then your community will have what it needs. And so will you!

 

1. "An Enemy of the People," Act 1

2. Dallas Morning News, This Week, July 19, 1955

3. From "The Home Book of Quotations" by Burton Stevenson.

 

1966 Thomas O. Poyser

All rights reserved

 

[1968.]

 

 

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