Christian Science: Its Results
William R. Rathvon, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The intelligent study of any science should proceed by the orderly use of its textbooks. Its laws and its statements thus learned are to be proved in the classroom, in the laboratory, or in the field, as the case may be. Christian Science, universal in its usefulness and in its availability, is likewise to be learned from its textbook and then proved and demonstrated in all the various avenues and activities of everyday life, wherever man mingles with man or his interests touch those of his fellows.
Besides the Bible
Christian Science has but one textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. It is not a book to be quickly read or hastily thumbed over as one would a shallow novel. Nor is it to be approached with bias or prejudice if one would share its riches; but its truths may be proved and in turn imparted by child or sage who turns its leaves with an open mind. Only the open flower it is that catches the dew and yields its honey to the bee.
Saint and sinner meet on common ground, in the pages of this remarkable book. Time and again its pages have been rudely opened by unfriendly hands in search of phrases to wrench from their context and with which to smite men of straw, yet neither force nor deceit, the blundering of the bear or the cunning of the fox, can avail to divert or suppress its tidings of comfort and joy.
It has been asserted that Christian Scientists place their textbook above the Bible as the guide to righteousness. No one can honestly make this allegation who has read the book carefully, for on page 497 of Science and Health are printed these words, the first of a series of tenets of our religion: "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life."
What more emphatic and explicit negation of such a charge could be demanded?
The truths of Christian Science do not originate in the book Science and Health. They find expression there, but their origin is in God. They have always existed and will forever exist. What effect, then, it may be asked, does the study of this book have upon those who have previously been Bible students? Does it supplant the Bible in their reverence and admiration? Is the Book of books less precious to them than before? The answer is, "No." On the other hand, Science and Health harmonizes many seeming incongruities in the Bible which have long perplexed layman and theologian; it explains apparent contradictions; it discloses unexpected riches; it gives new significance to favorite passages, and brings neglected ones into favor.
The Gospels a Treasure House
The study and application of its teachings by those who have had little or no familiarity with the Scriptures has made them Bible students and Bible lovers. The one-time atheist, the scoffer, and the blasphemer are finding the gospels a treasure house of joy and consolation whose untried doors had been barred against them until unlocked by the key forged by the hands of a gentle woman who loved all mankind. No other book in modern times has made so many Bible readers.
The textbook of Christian Science was given to the world not to exploit a theory, but to relate a discovery; not to upset religions, but to establish salvation; not to confound materia medica, but to simplify healing; not to condemn the sinner, but to turn him away from his wickedness, that he may live.
It comes bringing liberty, not bondage; toleration, not bigotry; it tells little of hell, but much of God and His love. From cover to cover it contains not one threat; not one word of defamation, detraction, or vilification of any man's medicine or any man's religion. Its pages teem with love for God and man. No man can read it with an open heart and not be a better man for the reading; no sorrowing one need miss its message of comfort; none tortured by pain or enfeebled by disease need close it in despair. The simple may gather from it wisdom; the wise may gain from it simplicity.
It was written in solitude by a woman whose spiritual hearing was acute enough to catch the words which God has been speaking aloud to dull-eared mankind ever since time began. The message that rang in her ears was not for her alone, but for all her fellow men, living and to live, and she could no more smother it into silence than the trees can knot their eager leaves when they have the message of spring to unfold.
Emerson says in his essay on "Character," "There was a time when Christianity existed in one child," and it can likewise be said that there was a time when Christian Science existed in one devoted woman. But she was faithful to her trust, and before giving her discovery to the world she tested it critically. She became a Christian Science practitioner, the only one in all the world, and put her Science to the touchstone of healing the sick. It showed as pure gold.
Serving the People
Then followed the writing of her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," giving the substance of her discovery to the public in concrete and understandable form. Men may differ in their understanding of inspiration and revelation and may haggle over there being present-day possibilities. They may even deny to woman the spiritual perception acceded to man, but neither wrangling nor disputations nor denials have ever brought to poor humanity the roses of health or the fragrance of gratitude. The book Science and Health has done both in gracious profusion.
It has fallen to my lot to have
known its author intimately in the last few years of her earthly activity. One
November day in 1908, Mrs. Eddy called me to her side from my home in
Mrs. Eddy's Work
The establishment of a great religious organization whose fourteen hundred growing branches belt the globe, the installation of a simple form of service which fills those churches twice each week with throngs of worshipers who are drawn neither by music, eloquence, nor sensational sermonizing; the building up of efficient agencies and institutions for the dissemination and protection of a radically new system of ethics, and the launching of a great metropolitan daily in the interests of clean journalism whose success has set a new mark in the newspaper world, – these things or any one of them would give eminence to the life-work of the most ambitious of men. To a modest woman, Mrs. Eddy, belongs the credit of them all.
But these achievements, grand as they are, weighed little with her compared with the fruits of her consecrated endeavors to bring more and more of peace on earth and good will to men, and to guide us to a clearer and more practical understanding of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men. The applause of men, like their abuse and condemnation, she brushed aside as cobwebs when she was once assured of the approval of God.
I could by the hour recite to you incidents of Mrs. Eddy's wisdom and sagacity, of her courage and steadfastness, of her wit and humor, of her love for little children, and her delight in the beautiful, of the inexpressible charm of her manner and the eloquence of her voice, but it is not of these things that she would have me speak. It was her desire – almost daily expressed – that her followers should disregard her personality and address their thought to the things of God which she had disclosed to them. She would have us study her books and not her personality. She would have us know her by what she wrote and not by how she looked. Years ago she instructed her students to follow her only as she followed Christ, and though she was a rare Leader she was an ideal follower of all that is truly good.
God as Principle
A man's comprehension of the problems of life is to be measured by his understanding of God. Men hold to contrary and widely divergent beliefs about God, and hence their interpretations of life are conflicting and discordant. If one concedes to God, the primal cause of all being, illimitable power – omnipotence – and illimitable knowledge – omniscience – and in the next breath attributes to Him the afflictions and disasters of human experience, he is setting up a god of good and evil, of benevolence and cruelty, whom he may try to love, but is bound to dread.
The anthropomorphic concept of God as a manlike being of human attributes and qualities enormously magnified, a heritage of mythology, handed down to us through generations of false beliefs, is repudiated in Christian Science. For its definition of God, Christian Science consistently turns to the Scriptures. In our contemplation of Deity, we are thus led to lift our thought from effect to cause; from the thing created to the creator; from idea to Principle. Thus we come to understand God to be the infinite personality without corporeality, the Principle of all true being; the supreme good; "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever;" "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
In contemplating God as infinite Principle, we find our life problems must be worked out according to this unerring Principle of being, or they will be failures, precisely as failure follows the work of the student in algebra who ignores the basic laws of mathematics. The mistakes we make in life, and their afflictive results, are due to our ignorance of Principle, or to our disregard of the laws expressing Principle, and in all cases are traceable to our own shortcomings and never to Principle itself. The deplorable mistakes in human history which are designated as sickness and suffering and failure and disaster will diminish in frequency and virulence as men apply themselves to gain a better understanding of divine Principle, and persist in using that understanding in the affairs of everyday life. One must give it expression to the limit of his cognition, for a truth unexpressed is as futile as a theory untried.
A Demonstrable Religion
Christian Science stands before the world as a demonstrable religion, one that is to be lived, not merely believed. The standard of proficiency for the Christian Scientist is not how much he believes, but how much of the truth he is using in his daily life, in his dealings with his fellow men and in the sanctity of his innermost thoughts.
Hence it is that there is no such thing as a purely theoretical Christian Scientist. No man can become a Christian Scientist by merely believing in the teachings of its textbook without practising them. We are Christian Scientists only as we put into constant practice our knowledge of our religion, be that knowledge great or small. We are Christian Scientists only as we are kind and helpful in thought and deed; only as we think health and talk health instead of disease and disaster. We are Christian Scientists only as we say to evil mental suggestion, "Peace, be still"! only as we are loving and courageous and resolute and unswerving in our warfare against sin, sickness, and death.
Body's Response to Mind
It is often charged against Christian Scientists, because they rely wholly upon Mind, that they "do not do anything for the sick." When the average man considers the needs of a sick person, his thought at once turns to the medicine bottle, and he believes there is nothing being done for the sick man unless he is made to swallow something. According to his peremptory opinions, the sick man should be treated with something that he can taste or smell or feel, something that the senses can perceive. Otherwise "nothing is being done for him." He may tell you that the attempt to change the condition of a man's body through mind alone is foolishness. And yet, this same intelligent citizen will readily admit that a man's body commonly and frequently undergoes sudden and very marked changes due entirely to mental causes. He will admit that salt water will flow from his eyes if he is subjected to great grief; that sudden fear will produce cold perspiration; that anger will cause the face to flush or pale, the heart to thump, the voice to change.
Now grief, anger, and the like are obviously mental, but because their effect on the body is of everyday occurrence, as commonplace as eating and drinking, the lesson they disclose is lost upon the man who hastens to censure Christian Science for achieving what he styles the impossible, yet which has been a part of him since the day when as a crying infant he on his mother's arm shed his first tears.
If then it is conceded that the state of mind may disturb the secretions, causing the tears to flow; or that the state of mind may quicken the action of the heart, causing the blood to rush to the face or away from it; or if the state of mind can affect the organs of the throat, causing huskiness, then it is plain that the state of mind may be held accountable for other derangements of the organs of secretion, of circulation, and of speech. And if of these, why not of other organs of the body? If to change grief into joy will stop the flow of tears, or in other words if a change of thought will change the flow of fluid to the eyes, why will not a change of thought change the flow of fluids to the stomach? Is it not more rational, then, to treat dyspepsia with truth than with tabloids and powders? And so it is with all other bodily diseases and derangements, they have one and all responded to the curative influence of Mind, administered in Christian Science.
In Jesus' Way
Jesus proved for all time and for all Christendom that the origin of disease was mental, and he healed it with mental medicine. He gave himself no concern about physical symptoms, but he destroyed what caused them. He cared little about what the sick man had been eating, but much about what he had been thinking. He said in so many words, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man." When he healed the sick he gave no parting directions about diet and rest, but on at least one occasion said, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee," thus indicating the mental origin of the disease. The sick were healed by him through spiritual understanding, not by human will. Christian Science, similarly relying wholly upon divine Principle, has no relationship with will-power, mental science, hypnotism, mesmerism, auto-suggestion, thought transference, spiritualism, or any of the other cults or schools which rely wholly or in part upon the influence of one human mind or human will upon another. These are essentially adverse to the teachings of Christian Science, wherein the human mind and the human will are made wholly subordinate and subservient to the divine Mind, the will of God. Success in Christian Science is attained only as fallible human mentality is eliminated. This implies self-denial, the denial of the human sense of self, and the affirmation of all good, and is a condition to which all must come sooner or later. "As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."
In considering the immortality of man one is confronted by the questions, What of the hereafter? How am I to regard the change called death? What and where is heaven? Christian Science makes direct answer to these very natural questions. That which is called death, though always an enemy and finally to be overcome, as the Bible declares, is no more to be feared than is sleep. In the present state of our development both are incidental to the experience of mankind; both interfere for the time with human activities; and the awakening – alike in both cases – will, we believe, show no substantial change in individuality or advancement. The gates of heaven do not swing open at the touch of death, but are to be entered by right thinking and right living, here and hereafter.
The work of regeneration and reformation left unfinished here will have to be done hereafter. The stirring command, "Work out your own salvation," follows us wherever we may be and through whatever changes we may pass. Death does not silence it or modify its demands. Love of life, not fear of death, is in Christian Science the great incentive to action and achievement.
The isles of the blest of the ancients, the Elysian fields of Greek and Latin mythology, the seven heavens of Hebrew cabalism, the battle-plains of the belligerent Norsemen, the happy hunting-grounds of the American Indians – all express belief in a place of happiness after death, portrayed in widely differing imagery. All of them, pagan and Jew, Greek and barbarian, Norseman and Indian, Mohammedan and Hindu, unite in maintaining that heaven stands for futurity, that its portal is death, its threshold is mystery. And now comes Christian Science, proclaiming in the words of Jesus that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" – is here and now attainable. It declares that we do not gain heaven by dying, but by right living; that death is not the gateway to a far-off paradise, but that heaven is within our reach today, and that we get little or much of it as we conform our lives, our thoughts and deeds, to God's eternal laws.
Heaven a State of
Christian Science puts aside the mythologic concept of heaven as a place, and shows it to be a state or condition of mind. It follows, therefore, that its attainment depends upon the mental processes of the individual. In other words, it affirms that right thinking which leads to right living is the sure passport to heaven. Turning to the life of the great Exemplar, Jesus the Christ, we find in him the ideal thinker whose thoughts and actions conformed invariably to the laws of God – Spirit – and touched lightly upon matter and things material only as tolerated concomitants.
But his heavenward thoughts were not those of the inert mystic or of the cell-bound monk. They ripened quickly into action and touched his fellow men with the ardor of regeneration. His thoughts were about God, hence they brought lasting good to mankind. They were of heavenly law, and so brought order out of earthly chaos. They were of holiness, wholeness, and hence health attended his footsteps. No surer road to heaven can be found than the trail he blazed for us in the wilderness of human beliefs, for though narrow it is straight, and there is shelter all along the way.
Most men have found they can get all they want of heaven's antithesis, hell, right here on earth, and there are many who believe they have already had more than their share of it, and perhaps they have. But they should know that it does not come from the hand of God. Sin brings its own punishment. It has been truly said that man is not punished for his sins, but by his sins. By sin is meant what Paul defines as transgression of the law, whether due to man's ignorance of God's law or to his wilful disobedience of it. The child who through ignorance or disobedience picks up a piece of hot iron, suffers because of his ignorance or disobedience. His loving father has had nothing to do with his suffering, and "our Father which art in heaven," loving every one of His children, sends upon them neither pain nor penalty. From Him cometh only the good and perfect gift.
How necessary, then, it is for our salvation, for our health, for our safety and our well-being, to understand God's spiritual laws, that we may obey them. Many of us for years sought this understanding, in the churches and out of them, seeking peace of mind and health of body and finding neither until we turned to Christian Science, where we found them both and with them gained a measure of the understanding of God that has transformed our lives.
Love vs. Fear
There is a short and cheering message that Christian Science has to deliver to all who have ears to hear. It is not a new message. It has reassured the children of men ever since they first felt the chill of fear. The loving mother encouraging her toddling little one, the gallant captain cheering his men on to greater valor, the gentle Saviour quieting his affrighted disciples, – all use it. That message is, "Be not afraid."
Christian Science emphasizes the fact that when fear is eliminated from the consciousness of the sick man – no matter what the nature of his illness – he has taken a long step toward recovery. It declares also that people who are habitually free from fear, worry, anxiety, apprehension, and the like, all of which are the children of fear, are far less susceptible to illness and misfortune than others. It has uncovered in fear an agency of evil, an enemy of health, a destroyer of peace, and a bar to men's progress heavenward. It is not to be wondered at, then, that the elimination of fear from human consciousness is an important feature of the mission of Christian Science.
Frequently it is said, "It is all well enough to say, 'Do not be afraid,' but how am I to get rid of fear and worry and anxiety? I use all the willpower and determination I can command, yet I do not get rid of worry. It comes in about as fast as I drive it out."
Attempting to get the mastery of
fear and worry by will-power alone is like trying to keep back the ocean with a
shovel, or trying to chase clouds away with a broom. You cannot get rid of them
by fighting them, but you can readily get out of their reach by rising higher.
The waves of fear and the mists of worry do not extend upward, and if we but
climb to the hilltop of selflessness where Love stands waiting to welcome us
with outstretched hands, we shall no longer be buffeted by fear or befogged by
worry. For centuries
In that perfect love may fear-tormented men find a panacea that is free as the air, as animating as the sunrise, and as dependable as the tides of the sea. Perhaps the nearest similitude to perfect love that we can find in this human sense world of ours, is the love of an unspoiled child, and when you find such a jewel you may note an absence of fear in the little one that is both a delight and a rebuke to those of us "grown-ups" who have so much to unlearn before we can "become as little children." Our human sense of love, fine though it may be, must be broadened, purified, unselfed; and just in proportion as this is done, it is to be relied upon as the complete antidote of fear.
As fear, then, is seen to be the cause of so many of the afflictions of mortals, so love is to be known as their remedy. If we would have less of worry, anxiety, apprehension, and the ills they invite, we must be more loving; that is to say, the more of God, perfect Love, we bring into consciousness and make manifest in our daily lives, the less of fear can enter.
It may be urged that it is not an easy thing for many of us to love our fellow men. Not all of us are so happily constituted as the man who not long ago said to me, "I just can't help loving people." I need hardly tell you that he was a much beloved man because he loved others.
More frequently do we encounter the argument which says, "I just can't bring myself to care for people who are not congenial to me. I am fond of a few who care much for me, but farther than that I can't go." Do you remember the rebuke that Jesus gave to this self-centered thought when he said, "If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?"
Love for God and man is the one indispensable element of all true and lasting success. The world of today is slow to rise to the appreciation of this great truth. The world of commerce, of industry, of the professions, is still constructing its various undertakings out of the raw materials of energy, determination, skill, and enterprise, each of which is measurably useful in its particular channel, but all are lacking in the one essential needed to make them enduring and truly beneficent. That one thing needful is love for God and man.
Did you ever consider how our great cities are made up of buildings, large and small, each constructed by laying one brick on top of another until their walls tower upward and the streets stretch out for miles? And did you ever consider how all of this is possible only through the universal use of that commonplace and homely material known as mortar? How these miles of walls would totter and crash to the ground if the countless millions of pieces which compose them were not cemented together by the mortar that binds every brick and stone?
So it is with our thoughts, our actions, our endeavors. They are brick and stones out of which our lives are constructed. However well shaped, however carefully laid they may be, unless they are bound above and below with the cement of love for God and man, they may in time, like mortarless bricks, tumble into a tangled mass of debris; but, when laid with a cement of love into the structure of our lives, they will protect and shelter all who enter them.
Christian Science brings the truth to human comprehension, gives freedom from whatever enslaves, and thus bestows mental, moral, and physical liberty. In the process of liberation it sifts out certain pernicious practices and propensities, generally regarded as harmless, but which are to be shunned as allies of evil. It shows us that we have indulged in moods and inclinations that we believed were guileless, if not commendable, but were in reality neither wise nor harmless. We find we have been warming in the incubator of our favor the eggs of serpents that we believed belonged to doves. Perhaps the most common among disease-inviting habits of thought is discouragement. I dare say we have all of us been on intimate terms with it at one time or another, and while we have never found it cheerful company we have not looked upon it as a sinister visitor. Yet that is just what Christian Science shows it to be.
Discouragement wears the invisible livery of evil and is constantly and consistently working for its master. It is always pulling down and never building up. Did you ever know any one to accomplish anything worth while when in the grip of discouragement? It paralyzes effort, stupefies thought, and dissipates purpose.
There is a ridiculous side also to the condition of the man who is mentally sick abed with a bad case of discouragement. He is only happy when he is miserable; the worse he feels the better he likes it; the things that please him most are the things that do not please him at all. He is continually stumbling into the two extremes of self-justification and self-condemnation. Both are bad; both are modeled after plans drawn in the devil's workshop; both are obstructive to progress. Self-condemnation digs a hole; self-justification sets up a pillar, and no man can go very far in any right direction when he is either crouched in the bottom of a hole or perched on the top of a pillar. Man is endowed with nobler qualities than those of the beasts of the field or the fowls of the air, and mortals must come out of the hole of self-condemnation, they must come down from the pillar of self-justification to the level ground of unselfed endeavor if they would progress in Christian Science.
More than all this, Christian Science discloses that the man habitually discouraged is not only an inviting target for disease, but is already striped with the colors of unbelief, for he gloomily distrusts the power and goodness of God Himself. This may startle some of us who are accustomed to let ourselves be robbed of our courage and to slide unresistingly into the bilious depths of the "blues" when things go wrong. The Christian world is full of God-fearing and truth-loving people who yield readily to discouragement because they have not yet discovered where it comes from and what is back of it. They do not see that it is but the advance agent of evil itself.
How far away God seems to be when we are in the grip of discouragement! But whatever the seeming, He is not; actually He is not. The trouble is that we have allowed discouragement to open the door of our consciousness, and evil does not wait for an invitation, it only needs the open door. Discouragement is a great door-opener for evil.
A familiar fable of folk-lore will perhaps illustrate this point. It was once announced that the devil was going out of business and would offer all his tools for sale to whoever would pay his price. On the night of the sale they were all attractively displayed, and a bad looking lot they were. Malice, envy, hatred, jealousy, sensuality, deceit, and all the other implements of evil were spread out, each marked with its price. Apart from the rest lay a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, much worn and priced higher than any of the others.
Some one has asked the devil what it was. "That's discouragement," was the reply. "Well, why do you have it priced so high?" "Because," replied the devil, "it is more useful to me than any of the others. I can pry open and get inside a man's consciousness with that when I couldn't get near him with any of the others, and when once inside I can use him in whatever way suits me best. It is so much worn because I use it with nearly everybody, as very few people yet know that it belongs to me." It hardly need be added that the devil's price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold. He still owns it and he is using it.
Discouragement is a stranger to unselfishness. No man who faithfully trusts in the omnipotence of God and the omnipresence of Love can afford to allow discouragement to argue with him for one minute. The Christian Scientist in his unceasing warfare against evil in every form allows discouragement no more foothold in his consciousness than he does malice, hatred, envy, or deceit. He is freed from the bondage of all of them by knowing the truth about God and man.
An effective plan to drive out discouragement is to bring into thought some measure of gratitude or praise. There can always be found something to be grateful for if we will hunt for it honestly and earnestly. The good old-fashioned practice of counting our blessings, – the things we have we would not like to do without, – generally brings gratitude to the surface, for along every man's pathway in life there are blooming the sweet flowers of gratitude, and if he will but stoop and pull one and wear it he will find its fragrance a magic dispeller of discouragement. Or, if the day be cold and dreary and the flowers covered with snow, he can find that warmth of soul which always banishes discouragement, if he will but heed that part of a favorite passage with Jesus from Isaiah, where we are commanded to put on "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." It never fails.
Light and Darkness
I have thus far spoken more of the results of Christian Science than of its methods. For the latter I would have you consult the pages of its textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mrs. Eddy. You will not lay it down with disappointment if you take it up with sincerity.
The Christian Science method of getting rid of things that are wrong is to introduce things that are right. This is not fighting evil, but destroying it. It has been proved in millions of instances that a wrong thought, which is the father of a wrong action, will invariably vanish into nothingness if a right thought is introduced in its place. Good destroys evil as surely and as quickly as light destroys darkness. If we associate good with light, and evil with darkness in our thought, we shall have but a flashlight glimpse of the impotence of evil in the presence of the good. Not all the darkness in the universe can extinguish the light of one tiny lamp. Wherever it goes it chases away darkness, which is always without power to move or even to be in the presence of light. So it is with the light of good and the darkness of evil.
The comparison is a good one, but it is not mine. We will find it many times in the pages of the Bible. The Christian Science method of banishing evil, darkness, is to bring in the light, good. Every time we find ourselves thinking unkindly about our neighbor, let us bring in a good thought about him. It will help him and it will help us.
Every time our thought drops to the level of animality, let us lift it as near the stars as we can. If thoughts unclean, unjust, malicious, or obstructive intrude, let us bring in something of purity, of justice, of helpfulness, of love. When we have done our best in this line of noble endeavor, we have accomplished much. We have taken a step, a little one to be sure, but it leads in the direction of the understanding of God – the knowledge of Him whom to know aright is life eternal.
[Published by The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1912.]