Christian Science: The Activity of Good (1)
Paul Stark Seeley, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, has written on page 428 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the textbook of Christian Science, this important statement: "We must realize the ability of mental might to offset human misconceptions and to replace them with the life which is spiritual, not material." Christian Science shows men how to utilize mental might, or the power of God, to destroy sin, heal disease, and understand eternal life. Its message is, therefore, a healing and a loving message. It comes to tell of the goodness and love of God, and to show how you and I may immediately benefit therefrom.
Christian Science teaches that God is Mind. The very corner-stone of Christian Science is that man is not separate from God. He is united to God. But how can this be? Have you ever stopped to consider where your good thoughts come from, your right desires and high ideals? You do not originate them yourself. You accept them as the correct expression of being; but their origin is greater than yourself. Christian Science shows us that the source of all good thoughts is the one Mind, named God. Since God is Mind, He is as near as Mind is; and Mind is always present, here and everywhere. But how is man united to God? Christian Science teaches that the true individuality of man is not temporal and material; it is eternal and spiritual. Man's true individuality is the living expression of the Mind that is God. Deity and His expression must forever be united. Man lives to express God. Could he have a grander destiny? As this foundational fact, that God and man are inseparably united in being, thought, and action, becomes more fully understood, it brings to us that sense of life in which health is natural and harmony and happiness the only order of existence.
It is, of course, apparent that what we term the devil or evil opposes the supremacy of good, denies that man has unity with God, and disputes the statement that there is but one true Mind or God, with the assertion that there is another mind, which fills the consciousness of men with fear, hate, selfishness, sin, and disease. If evil's claim to place and power is legitimate, all thought of progress and deliverance must be abandoned, and we must accept the works of evil, – sin, disease, hatred, and war, – as effacing the work of God, and find ourselves without effective means to overthrow them. But is evil's claim valid? Christian Science answers with a positive No. Let us see how it is that this conclusion is reached.
When talking with a group of his countrymen in Jerusalem, one morning some two thousand years ago, Christ Jesus drew a very definite line between the devil and God. He told them bluntly, "Ye are of your father the devil." He was desiring to awaken them to their wrong mental state, which was filled with thoughts of pride, self-righteousness, selfishness, and so on. They had been boasting that God was their Father; but Jesus contradicted them with the statement, "If God were your Father, ye would love me." In other words, If you were expressing the Mind that is God, you would see and love the good which I express. The word "Father," so often used by Jesus, is another name for God, the parent Mind. His opponents were accepting evil as the source of their thinking, thus accepting the devil as their father, or starting point, since there is no devil but evil mentality – the so-called carnal mind. Then Jesus went on to explain to them that the devil, or evil, does not abide in the truth, for – to use his own words – "he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him;" also, "he is a liar, and the father of it." Here is a most important uncovering of the nature of evil, – a false mental state with no more substance than a lie.
Jesus, however, never said that they could not be rid of this wrong-mindedness; just the opposite, for he said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." This "word" was his correct teaching and thinking, not merely thinking about God, but accepting God's thoughts. To continue in this "word" would be to follow the same mental processes that Jesus used, accepting no Father but divine Mind, and ever entertaining the thoughts which manifest this Mind. As all men come to think only the thoughts which are good, they will all be witnesses and ambassadors of God, and evil will be cast into its utter nothingness.
Let us be careful to note this important point: that there is but one way to destroy a lie, be it small or great, and it is to become conscious of the truth which exposes and displaces the lie. Jesus affirmed this when he designated evil as a lie, and said the way to be free from it is to understand the truth of being. Christian Science is here to help you and me to understand the spiritual or God-appointed order of life and manhood.
We all need to let go of the mistaken sense that man is but a few pounds of flesh, blood, and bones, with a mental motor inside. He is something far more substantial and Godlike than that. When we look into a mirror we believe we see ourselves, but we do not; and how fortunate it is that the picture we see is not the true self. Said Bishop Foster, "No man living hath yet seen man." What we see in the looking-glass is but the mortal or wrong sense of selfhood, a burlesque of our eternal selfhood. This perishable material sense of self is gradually abandoned, as Jesus showed us, through the realization of the actuality of spiritual life and spiritual manhood, the expression of God.
As for the disappearing theory that man thinks through matter, the opposite of Mind, it is of interest to note a recent announcement from Paris. Professor Troude has stated in the Scientific Review that, as a result of experiments made during the war by eminent surgeons, it is believed that the human mind is seated in some part of the body other than the brain, and possibly in the trunk! "They have furnished me," he writes, "with the full facts, citing war-time operations, where all parts of the brain were removed without impairing the mental faculties." Statements such as this should awaken human thought to see what Mrs. Eddy discerned more than a half century ago; namely, that we think, not because of matter, but in spite of it. Christian Science teaches that God, the divine Mind, is never in His opposite, never in brain or matter; but that as we gain an understanding of divine Mind, God, as the only substance, we lose our belief in matter as intelligent. The man God creates is the conscious, active, individualized expression of God Himself, untouched by any secondary or intervening influence.
But how, says one, do you master the persistent suggestions of sin or sickness which sometimes press themselves on your thought? By the prayer of right thinking. Through prayer, men gain their God-given dominion over evil. Thus is our consciousness freed from subjection to and the fear of error, and our thinking brought into agreement with God. Only as we learn mentally to assert man's God-given right to exemption from evil shall we see that right made manifest. Said John, "Now are we the sons of God;" and Paul wrote to the Romans, "We are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." This inheritance brings to men permanent health, happiness, and well-being. Through the realization of these facts of spiritual existence, the claims of evil are compelled to yield, and the bodily condition becomes healthy and painless.
You will see, I think, that the practice of Christian Science is but the displacing of the evil and erroneous sense of life with the true and harmonious facts of the God-appointed sense of life. It is simple in method, but it requires courage, honesty, and perseverance to put it into practice. The reward is very great. Indeed, the world knows no joy comparable with the unselfish joy of sin conquered, sickness healed, burdens lifted, through the understanding of God. Hundreds of thousands of your fellow-men are winning their mental victories over every form of sickness, discord, and sin. You can do the same.
Perhaps the work of freeing ourselves from material laws may seem a large undertaking. We may not be able to fold our tents and leave the deserts of wrong thinking in a night; but we can at least be on the move. Let us remember often that howsoever steep the way may seem, it has been explored before us by the Way-shower, Christ Jesus, who nullified every so-called material law, and proved that individuals, by their right mental effort, may and must rise from bondage in matter to man's natural sonship with God.
Jesus was confronted, as we are, with the persistent false claim that matter is cause and lawgiver for men; that matter makes and destroys, cripples and blinds, imposes all manner of misfortune; and that there is nothing to do but submit to its decree. But here is the difference. He knew, without a shadow of doubt, that we do not have to submit. His clear understanding of the allness and supremacy of God enabled him to realize that every element of matter, whether it was the water of the Sea of Galilee or the storm-tossed air above it, the food for the multitudes, or the flesh and blood in the bodies of ailing mortals, is subordinate to divine intelligence and impotent to harm, limit, or destroy the creation of God.
This lowly Man of Nazareth really understood, despite all the contradictions of material sense, that "the kingdom of God is at hand;" that within the reach of every individual's apprehension is the true creation, spiritual and divine, which the temporal, material sense of life never touches or intrudes upon; that man's true self is spiritual, transcending material birth and parentage, one with the eternal Mind that is God. Fortified with this understanding of eternal things, he could and did fearlessly face and destroy the worst false claim, – that matter and mortality could exist. The dead were raised, the so-called incurable healed, the hungry fed, and the priceless truth he taught protected for all time from the hatred of the world. What, then, is the lesson for you and me? Just this: that through the power of spiritual might, individuals may set aside the misconceptions of material sense, and replace them with a healthier, holier, truer expression of Life and manhood.
Christ Jesus spent the first thirty years of his human experience preparing for the years of his teaching and ministry. Mary Baker Eddy spent the first forty and more years of her human life searching for that understanding of God which would heal the ills of men. It is apparent, therefore, that Christian Science was not discovered by chance or in a moment. On page 107 of Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy says: "In the year 1866, I discovered the Christ Science or divine laws of Life, Truth, and Love, and named my discovery Christian Science. God had been graciously preparing me during many years for the reception of this final revelation of the absolute divine Principle of scientific mental healing." These years of preparation had been years filled to the full with sickness, sorrow, and disappointment. The arrogant human so-called mind finds it difficult to understand why it was that the bearer of God's great message to this age was a gentle-mannered New England woman, for human reasoning fails to see the divine law and order expressed in Mrs. Eddy's discovery. But He who sent the message must needs choose the messenger; and His wisdom could not err. Beneath the gentle-mannered personality of Mrs. Eddy was a heart filled with high resolve, a courage that never faltered, a consciousness ever turning to God, listening to hear, willing to obey. No other was so ready to receive, no other could inscribe so well as she the divine utterance given to men in Science and Health.
We have considered the basic truths about God and man, also something of the nature of evil and how to destroy it. Let us now see what are some of the most persistent forms of evil argument that must be eradicated from human thought. One of the most common is self-will. This leech-like mental encumbrance is defined by Mrs. Eddy on page 597 of Science and Health to be "the motive-power of error." The evil in human will is that it is blind to aught but its own purpose and desire. It has no relation to the Father-Mind, but sets in place of the will of wisdom and divine Love the driving compulsion of the ignorant, selfish, and maybe criminal, human will unruled by divine Principle. This enemy of the individual and the common good appears early in human life, and is ever seeking to control us, blinding us to the government of God. It is often manifest in the early acts of the infant, insisting upon its own desires. The youth is frequently obsessed by this unseen evil influence, and goes his erring way, his thought shut to any counsel but that of his own selfish, willful purpose. The adult often mistakes this mental usurper for true manliness, believes he must gain success by it, dominate those about him with it, and in general be a little god bossing his own little kingdom and his subjects with this unholy power. The human will is the autocratic ruler, the tyrant and the criminal of the mental realm.
A friend once owned a parrot which would say day after day, "I want what I want, I want what I want." This is ever the cry of the human will. It wants its way, no other. Blind, selfish, unreasoning, it drives its victims headlong into the pitfalls of destruction, and furnishes the impetus for the basest of human passions, malice and lust. Christian Science binds with everlasting chains this conspirator against happiness, goodness, and brotherhood. It dethrones any belief in, or submission to a mortal or evil so-called mind, and establishes in thought the will of God as the one determining power.
Another of the common barriers to spiritual progress is pride. It may be pride of position, pride of power, pride of class or race, or pride in the superiority of our own personal opinions in things small and great. In "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 2) Mrs. Eddy has written, "Pride is ignorance; those assume most who have the least wisdom or experience." This false sense is sometimes bold and noisy, oftentimes silent, but deep-rooted. It clings with tenacity to precedent and custom, and is the main prop for false education and cold intellectuality.
Time and again did the Master strive to uncover to the proud Pharisees and to his own followers the danger and obstacles which pride offered to their spiritual growth. Once when he was in Nazareth he spoke to his townspeople in the temple. They were pleased with his manner and words. But as Luke tells us, he perceived that they were expecting him to heal their sick, and he immediately began to tell them what the great obstacle was to their receiving the healing blessing. It was their pride. He reminded them that the healing truth, when it came in the time of Elijah, came not to any of the widows of Israel, but unto a widow in Sarepta, a city of Sidon, a rank outsider according to the thinking of the Jews. Again, he told them that when the healing truth came in the time of Elisha it came not to the lepers of Israel, but to Naaman, the Syrian, a race regarded by the Jews as their inferiors. Then what happened? When they heard these things, they were filled with wrath, and they tried to kill him. The evil mentality has not changed. And it still covers its hideous emptiness with the cloak of pride, and becomes enraged when told of its ungodliness.
There is but one antidote for pride and self-will. It is humility. Humility is no sign of weakness, no surrender of real initiative, individuality, or power. It means the finding, in the fullest sense, of all these divine qualities and more; for true humility brings man into accord with God's purpose, into accord with God's power, into accord with God's plan. What error terms "my will" or "your will" must be put down, and kept down, if our prayer, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done," is ever to avail. Jesus' prayer must become ours, "Not my will, but thine, be done." Solomon puts it thus: "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
In that helpful book, "The Greatest Thing in the World," Drummond tells us that the one universal language is love. On Drummond's visits to the heart of South Africa he had come upon black men who remembered well the only white person they had ever seen – David Livingstone, the noted explorer. Says Drummond: "As you cross his footsteps in that dark continent, men's faces light up as they speak of the kind doctor who passed there years ago. They could not understand him; but they felt the love that beat in his heart." All of us, if we will, may leave the unerasable impress of selfless love along our pathway.
The world, torn by strife, dissension, and ill-will, is indeed hungry for love, – for the love that is genuine, good, and pure, the love that destroys hate, unites men, and expresses God. And so to every one interested in human betterment let us say that the world needs brotherly consideration one for another; it needs toleration, and kindness. We also need to be ever ready to recognize and to rejoice in the good in those about us, and to minimize the evil. We need continually to exercise more toleration, not for error, but for our brother the whole world over, who is working his way heavenward according to his highest light.
We are brothers. God has made us so. Only as brothers can we find true happiness; only as brothers can we fill our place in Love's harmonious plan. The efforts of the adversary are to divide Christians and Christendom, to bring among us controversy, dissension, strife, and war. But we are brothers, – brothers now, brothers forever and forever. Only in brotherhood can heaven be demonstrated; only in brotherhood can we find truth expressed; and the one road to brotherhood is love. Said John, "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Let us hear the Master's own words: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
[Published in The Christian Science Journal, February, 1923. This is a portion of a lecture delivered by Mr. Seeley in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, November 13, 1922.]