"Diana or Christ?"
George Louis Aghamalian, C.S.B., of New York City
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The choice between "false gods" and the "healing Christ" still faces mankind today, said a Christian Science lecturer yesterday afternoon. In his lecture, George Louis Aghamalian, C.S.B., of New York City spoke of how an understanding of God as demonstrated by Christ Jesus can heal disease and other challenges facing mankind. "Diana or Christ?" was sponsored jointly by The Mother Church and Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, in the edifice of Second Church.
A member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, Mr. Aghamalian has been in the healing ministry of Christian Science since 1951 and a teacher of Christian Science since 1964. He attended Columbia University and served in the United States Air Force during World War II.
The lecturer was introduced by Mrs. Bertha Streeter, a member of Second Church. A partial text of his lecture follows:
Lesson from a painting
Can you recall a painting or picture that has left a deep impression on your thinking? Perhaps it even changed your life a little. I can, and it has meant a lot to me over the years. Its title is "Diana or Christ?" and the question it asks is relevant to us.
The scene is the ancient Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian era. A Christian girl stands before a pagan priest with an urn for burning incense to the gods. She's refusing to offer a sacrifice to the goddess Diana.
Her young Roman lover is pleading with her to cast just one grain of incense. He knows her refusal to do so means being thrown to the lions in the arena, which can be seen in the background. The inscription below the picture reads, "Let her cast the incense, but one grain and she is free.''
The expression on the girl's face indicates that her loyalty to the Christ is unshakable. Like Christ Jesus before Pontius Pilate, she appears ready to make the supreme sacrifice.
Another thing I noted about the picture is the facial expressions of a group of Roman maidens watching callously as the Christian girl makes her decision. They could well symbolize jealousy, revenge, lust, and so forth — the anti-Christ.
The Christ vs. false gods
Yes, in this one picture there's a timeless story that points out the conflict between the Christ, on the one hand, and false gods on the other. Thank goodness, we don't have to suffer martyrdom like the early Christians by being thrown to lions, but yet we still have to make the same choice between the Christ and false gods.
What are some of the modern-day gods that would try to manipulate our thinking? Fear, hatred, immorality, astrology, drug and alcohol addiction, discouragement, dishonesty. Perhaps you could add a few gods of your own to this list.
Just think, these false gods would try to set aside the most sacred, essential concept of Christian and Jewish thinking. They have the audacity to attempt to nullify the First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).
The so-called god of fear would have you believe there's a power that can counterfeit the peaceful, restful control of God Almighty.
The so-called god of hate would have you believe there's a power that can counterfeit the all-embracing love and affection of God Almighty.
'Manifestation of God'
The so-called god of immorality would have you believe there's a satisfaction and sensation that can counterfeit the truly continuous, satisfying presence of God Almighty.
The so-called god of astrology would have you believe there's a planetary control for good and evil that can counterfeit the one all-powerful, all-good control of God Almighty.
And so it goes with the false gods of drug and alcohol addiction, discouragement, dishonesty. These pseudo-gods are boldfaced lies that the Christ can and does reduce to absolute nothingness. The Christ leads us to honor and worship the "one" God of the universe.
Now what is the Christ we're being asked to choose? In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives this definition: "Christ. The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (p. 583).
Mrs. Eddy makes a clear distinction throughout her writings between the Christ and the human Jesus. She tells us that the Christ is God's nature or presence. It's the divine Truth itself. Therefore, the Christ never had a human birth, nor has it ever departed from the earth to return at some future time.
Jesus of Nazareth was given the title of the Christ, because he understood and proved this divine presence more than any individual who ever lived. And, because Mrs. Eddy so clearly discerned the healing Christ as taught by Jesus, she was able to follow in his footsteps, healing sickness and sin with unparalleled success in this age.
The Christ is God's presence. God's activity. This activity is always good. It enlightens. It harmonizes. It heals. The Christ is not a personality. It doesn't have a human form. It never did! It's spiritual and communicates itself to our consciousness. In fact, although we may not recognize or accept it, the Christ is communicating its presence to you and me this very moment.
Now, the Roman goddess Diana, who was worshiped by the Greeks also under the name Artemis, is symbolic of the anti-Christ. She's everything opposed to the one God. According to myth, Diana, among her many celestial duties, was considered the goddess of the moon. Superstition has it that the moon, when full, has a negative effect on certain people and animals. This is one instance of what is termed in Christian Science "animal magnetism." Animal magnetism is the attraction toward any evil thinking — or detraction from God, Spirit. So Diana, a part of mythology, is typical of animal magnetism, the anti-Christ.
Mrs. Eddy uses the word "mythology" in her definition of "gods" in Science and Health. She writes: "Gods. Mythology; . . . the belief that infinite Mind is in finite forms; the various theories that hold mind to be a material sense, existing in brain, nerve, matter; supposititious minds, or souls, going in and out of matter, erring and mortal; the serpents of error, which say, 'Ye shall be as gods'" (Science and Health, p. 587).
Challenge in the military
Every time we choose to think in terms of conflicting minds, we're really bowing down to false gods, alias mythology. Mrs. Eddy tells us that in the spiritual reality of Life there's only one Mind or intelligence, because there's only one God. This divine Mind wisely governs everything, from the mental molecule to infinity.
Let me tell of an experience I had in dealing with the myth of more than one Mind while I was in the military. I was stationed where the climate was hot, and it didn't make things any easier living in close quarters in a tent with five other men.
As a student of Christian Science, I made a practice of studying the Christian Science Bible Lesson each day. I would read the Christian Science Quarterly, which gives specific passages in the Bible and Science and Health that make up the Lesson-Sermon. The citations are read alternately from these books.
Each day I'd place the Quarterly, Bible, and Science and Health on my cot and endeavor to do the lesson. This didn't go over too well with the other men. One of them said, "Say, where do you get off reading out of three books at one time?''
It got to the point where I found myself involved in heated, hairsplitting theological arguments, which, of course, settled nothing, but only sent the temperature in the tent soaring another 20 degrees. Then the men gave me the endearing title of "deacon," which didn't set too well, either.
Hateful traits unmasked
Finally, I decided it would be a good idea if I applied some of the things I was reading in the books and not just make the lesson a daily ritual.
So I had a discussion with myself. And this is the way it went. "George, you've got to separate the error, or false traits of character, from these men. You've got to mentally place them in one corner of the room and then mentally place the hatred, viciousness, criticism, and argumentativeness that seem to be using them in the opposite corner. Keep the error separate from man. Don't personalize it.
"In the one corner there's just the child of God's creating, the real man — their true spiritual identity. Man, as made by God, is capable of expressing only such Christlike qualities as love, patience, and cooperation. All that hate in the opposite corner I have to negate as no part of God's creation."
Now you see, I was actually drawing on the activity of the one divine Mind, God. Mind was unfolding to my consciousness, or thinking, the solution to this form of mental bondage or tyranny, enabling me to make the right choice.
I reasoned further that if one or all of these individuals were to come into the tent with mud on their faces, I wouldn't think of the mud as their identity. I'd know that the mud could be washed off. It was no part of them. Similarly, these hateful traits were something like the mud, something superficial. They're no part of man's real identity. And I had to "impersonalize" them.
Prayer brings harmony
Well, this was really a form of prayer, and through this prayer, or spiritual reasoning, I was led to a harmonious conclusion. The hatefulness ended, because I stopped reacting and began reflecting the Christ. And that's a key point in solving all human relationship problems. Don't react, reflect!
And you know, this whole episode had a happy ending. The ringleader of the group (or should I say, former ringleader) was the first to come to me when I was being shipped out. He extended his hand, winked, and said, "Deac, keep it up!"
You see, in this experience I was something like that Christian who was being asked to throw a grain of incense into the urn for Diana. At first, I was so hypnotized by the problem I was ready to throw not only a grain but a whole bucket of incense into the urn of wrong thinking. My choice was between the false god of hate and the Christ, which knows only love. But the moment I turned to divine Mind for guidance, the Christ, God's presence, exploded the myth of more than one Mind.
No security in matter
In solving any problem through Christian Science, we find the solution by understanding that God is the only Mind. This Mind is ever-present. It's never confused. It's never deceived. It never takes offense. It's never given to anger or revenge. The Mind which is God is all-knowing, all-loving, and eternal. Therefore, it can never break down, be deranged, or lost because of accident, age, or past experiences. God is the only true Mind of man, the Mind of each of us.
Now, there's one particular false god that would try to plague all of us. It has tried to get every person who ever walked the earth to bow down and worship it. It seems to wield the power of a Zeus and have the attraction of a Venus. It's the god of "security in matter." This false god would tell us our lives should be dedicated to its purpose, namely, the accumulation of material possessions and trust in them.
Of course, this isn't to suggest that we shouldn't have fine things in life, such as a nice home, an automobile, wise investments. But it's worshiping or idolizing these things that stifles spiritual growth. And without spirituality we're poor.
The worshiping of material possessions, or the fear of their loss, I like to refer to as "thing-ology." It's the obsession with material things.
Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21). In this statement the Master is telling us that what we cherish the most — what we value or remember above all else — becomes our treasure. But if we're not cherishing the Christly sense of substance — that is, the divine qualities of love, honesty, and purity — then our treasure lacks permanence, and our possessions become fleeting.
'Don't forget the best'
The story is told about a shepherd who was out in the pasture one day, tending his flock, when all at once he observed a very unusual flower, and he picked it for closer observation. As he did, he noticed a door in the side of the mountain, and it was open. He entered cautiously, walking along a corridor, and came into a large room filled with chests of gold and diamonds, and he was greeted by an old dwarf with a long beard seated in a chair. And the dwarf said to him in a kindly way, "Take what you want, and don't forget the best."
The shepherd placed the flower on the dwarf's table and began to fill his pockets and hat with the gold and diamonds. Occasionally, the dwarf would remind him not to forget the best. After taking all he could possibly carry, he started toward the door, and for the last time he heard the voice cry out, "Don't forget the best!"
The next minute he was out in the pasture. As he turned to look back the door had vanished, and all at once his pockets and hat became light. As he examined the contents, he found only dry leaves and pebbles. He was as poor as ever. He had forgotten the best!
The flower he left on the table in the treasure room was the Key Flower. Had he kept it, the gold and diamonds would have remained, and he would have had access to the treasure room at all times. (See Bayard Taylor, "Key Flower" in Swinton's Fourth Reader, adapted from "We Knew Mary Baker Eddy," First Series, pp. 62-63.)
I think by now you've gotten the point to this story. Yes, the Christ is our Key Flower. As long as we remember it as the best and always cherish it, we can never lack our heavenly Father's outstretched hand. God, divine Mind, always supplies us with the angel thoughts for meeting all our human needs.
As we make the impersonal Christ, God's presence, our treasure, we're letting spiritual substance be our security. This was proved in my mother's experience during the depression of the 1930s.
My mother was a widow with four children. My grandmother and a friend also boarded with us. Our house was a modest one, yet it was a place of shelter and love. Because of the financial condition of the times, being the depression era, my mother couldn't keep up with the mortgage payments on the house. She received a letter from the bank requesting that she come in and discuss the situation.
My mother met with the president of the bank, who frankly told her it was preparing to foreclose on the mortgage. He then turned to my mother and asked, "How do you intend to make these payments?''
My mother, who was a sincere, dedicated student of Christian Science, looked him squarely in the eyes and said, "I'm going to trust God!" I doubt if the president of the bank ever received a reply like that before, and he was quiet for a few moments, and then he said, "Well, I hope you can do it." And you know, through radical, moment-by-moment trust in God and not giving ground to the false gods of fear and lack, my mother did do it. Over a period of time the mortgage was cleared on the house, and the family had many happy years there.
Home was a symbol
Now what was my mother's choice? Was it keeping the house versus having it taken away? No, not really. That was only the effect. The choice was between the false gods of fear and lack on the one side and the security of the Christ on the other. Through unwavering trust in the Christ, Truth, my mother was confident she couldn't lose what God had given her.
Of course, God doesn't give us material objects such as a house. Christian Science teaches that we see the objects of sense, such as a house or a business, as thought. And it's the right ideas behind the object that God gives and preserves, and these ideas can't help being manifested in what is right, useful, and beautiful for our human experience.
To Illustrate, a home might be thought of as the human symbol of love, joy, protection, peace, security, spiritual substance. These qualities can never be withheld, foreclosed, or destroyed. They are the activity of the Christ.
'Seek ye first . . .'
So we see that turning to the Christ, Truth, does not lead to poverty; it leads to a well-supplied experience. But the love of the Christ is primary; then the objects of sense will follow. The Master summarized it this way: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). Notice we don't start with the things. Jesus said the kingdom of God must be sought first. And where is the kingdom of God found? Within our consciousness. Understanding this explodes the myth of a god called security in matter.
Another false god that's put on the "mythology list" by Christian Science is physiology. This so-called god would attempt to delude us into believing that man is organic matter rather than the spiritual image and likeness of God as stated in the Bible. Mrs. Eddy tells us in Science and Health, "Life is, like Christ, 'the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.' Organization and time have nothing to do with Life" (p. 249).
The god of physiology would have you suffer from "mistaken identity." Physiology would get you to believe your life's born into matter and eventually dies out of it. The Christ identifies you in exactly the opposite way. The Christ identifies you as incorporeal, not physically structural, not subject to birth, disintegration, and death.
Biblical healing . . .
The unreal god of physiology argues that you're a statistic given to all sorts of numbers such as age, weight, IQ, astrology, numerology. The Christ, Truth, speaks to each of us right now and says, "You're age-less, unlimited, unbounded, living only in the limitless good of Spirit." The false god of physiology says you've inherited certain traits, bodily conditions, and mental limitations from other persons. The Christ, Truth, says, "Not so. You're the temple of God. You're not a fleshly mortal, the offspring of another mortal. You're the reflection of God, divine Mind, embodying all right ideas."
Now, there's your true body in the light of Christian Science — the embodiment of all right ideas, all spiritual ideas, right now. That's your true body, but you've got to acknowledge it; you've got to be aware of it.
Physiology argues, "How can Christian Science prove that man is not organic, not structural — that he's the spiritual image and likeness of God?" Then Christian Science says with conviction: "The Bible, our lawbook, is filled with accounts of physical healing based on spiritual understanding alone. Moses healed his sister, Miriam, of the dreaded disease of leprosy, solely through prayer" — and notice we're speaking of Moses, who lived centuries before Jesus, and yet he utilized the Christ. Remember, I said the Christ isn't a person, it's a spiritual force, a divine energy; it has always existed throughout eternity; Moses utilized it centuries before Jesus and healed his sister. "Then," Christian Science continues, "Jesus came along centuries later, and he demonstrated the Christ to the fullest. That's why he was given the title Christ Jesus. Some of Jesus' healings included a man who was an invalid for 38 years, a woman who was diseased for 18 years, and a man who was born blind. Paul and Peter healed lame persons. With all these cases, including that of Moses, the healings were brought about through the action of the Christ, Truth, alone."
. . . repeated today
Physiology quickly replies: "But the age of miracles is over. I alone legislate man's destiny regarding health and longevity." Christian Science says: "You're misinformed and totally mistaken. Healings as convincing as those in Bible days are still taking place, because the healing Christ, as demonstrated by the prophets, Jesus, and the early Christians, is still at hand today." Physiology then smugly retorts, "All right, give me an actual case diagnosed by a medical doctor and healed beyond a doubt through Christian Science."
Let's take an actual case that occurred in New York City in the last few years. The patient, whom we'll call Joe, had a condition medically diagnosed as cataracts on both eyes, and an operation was recommended.
Joe became very fearful of the impending operation, and in order to quiet his fears, the doctor sent Joe to a Christian Science Reading Room. He said, "Try Christian Science, Joe. I hear it's great for the nerves. It might calm you down!" So Joe went to a Reading Room.
After hearing his story, the Reading Room librarian reached out with Christly compassion to divine Love. She knew with conviction that the Christ is ever-present to destroy disease and bring to light the truth of God and man.
Humility is potent
Joe became very humble. Now, there is an important ingredient in all Christian Science treatment and healing: humility, teachableness. Joe became humble as the librarian assured him that divine Love holds its beloved child safe and secure. He diligently studied the Bible and Science and Health and drank in the truth like a thirsty plant.
During this period of study, Joe learned an important aspect of prayer: to listen. Do we think of prayer as a listening process, or more of a talking process — telling the all-knowing Mind what needs to be done? Joe learned to listen. Listening to the voice of the Christ, Truth, inspires and heals.
After several weeks of thorough study, studying the Bible and Science and Health, Joe lost his fears and surgery took place — but it was mental surgery through Christian Science. Now, what do I mean by "mental surgery"? It's the regeneration and purification of thought — the spiritualization of thought. The cataracts simply dissolved in the presence of God's allness. How can there be cataracts in the presence of God's allness? How can there be any disease in the presence of God's allness?
After the complete healing had taken place, the truth of what I've just told you was verified by the doctor, who re-examined Joe's eyes and confirmed the healing. He rejoiced with Joe over the power of prayer — scientific prayer. Joe's freedom came through understanding the ever-presence and all-power of the healing Christ — the same Christ, Truth, the Master demonstrated almost two thousand years ago when he healed a blind beggar sitting by the side of a dusty highway outside of Jericho. It's the same Christ, Truth — the same spiritual force — the same divine energy — and it's going on right now and forever. It will never be any more available than it is at this very moment, because it's always ever-present.
'Temple of God'
So we see that the healing Christ, God's holy presence, explodes the myth of a god called physiology. Man in his spiritual selfhood is the embodiment of divine ideas and is upright, pure, and perfect right now.
I made reference to Paul's words a few moments ago: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Cor. 3:16). Now, it's interesting that Paul speaks of us as a temple. If anyone had traveled the world of that period and seen temples, it was he.
Paul had seen the great temple at Jerusalem that had taken nearly 50 years to build. He had also seen the majestic Parthenon in Athens and the temple erected to Diana in Ephesus that took 120 years to complete and was ranked among the Seven Wonders of the World.
Yet, Paul speaks not of these magnificent structures, but of our temple.
No place for fear
What does Paul mean by that statement, "Ye are the temple of God and . . . the Spirit of God dwelleth in you"? Certainly, he must be talking of more than just our physical body. He undoubtedly is referring to our consciousness. Spiritual consciousness is truly a temple, because it's a holy place, a sanctuary, a place that enshrines the Christ, God's presence. Our temple — our consciousness — is a place that glorifies God with thanksgiving and joy, a place that's hallowed by prayer and reverence, a place enfolded in divine Love.
As we know that our true identity is the temple of God, then there's no place for the darkness of fear, but only the light of the Christ. Our temple doesn't include disease or pain, but only the health and comfort of the Christ. And our temple doesn't include discouragement and failure, but only the inspiration and support of the Christ.
Let's frequently remind ourselves: "I'm the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in me. The very light of the Christ shines through me."
At the outset of the lecture I described the picture "Diana or Christ?" to you. It may interest you to know that I saw this picture in Mrs. Eddy's home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. In fact, she had two of these pictures, perhaps indicating the importance she placed on the lesson it points up, namely, choosing the Christ at all times.
A radical commitment
Mrs. Eddy herself was a living witness of steadfastness to the Christ, and she instructs us to be radical in our commitment to the Christ, Truth, too. She had to be absolute in her stand to continue with her discovery of Christian Science in 1866, for at this period of her life things were very dark. Her husband Dr. Patterson had deserted her and left her practically destitute.
Mrs. Eddy's sister Abigail Tilton wrote her to leave Lynn, Massachusetts, and return to her former home in New Hampshire. Her sister offered to build her a house next to her own and give her an income. But this would be contingent on Mrs. Eddy's attending the sister's church and giving up her ideas on spiritual healing (see Sibyl Wilbur, "The Life of Mary Baker Eddy," pp. 134-136).
Just think, if Mrs. Eddy had done this we might not be gathered here today. In fact, some of us who have been healed in Christian Science might not even be alive, and I can speak as one of those individuals, because at the age of 12 I was raised off the deathbed with a condition diagnosed as double mastoiditis. And I was healed solely through Christian Science.
It took great courage on Mrs. Eddy's part to choose to stand alone and refuse her sister Abigail's offer of home, income, and family companionship. Her sister dearly loved her and was genuinely interested in her welfare. But Mrs. Eddy was strongly independent and would have found it difficult to return to her old home with its limited horizons. But even more powerful than independence was her conviction that she must pursue her spiritual discovery wherever it led, on into territory unknown.
Yes, like the Christian girl in the picture in her Chestnut Hill home, Mrs. Eddy chose to be radical.
In another room of Mrs. Eddy's Chestnut Hill home, there's a beautiful tapestry, and it shows Jesus as the Good Shepherd walking along a path with a baby lamb enfolded gently in his arms. And it's interesting to note that wherever you walk in the room the path that Jesus is taking is always coming toward you, perhaps indicating that no matter what your past has been, how difficult or wrong, or how difficult the present or future may appear to be, the Christ is always coming to consciousness to enlighten, harmonize, and heal. The comforting thought about the tapestry is that the Christ, Truth, which Jesus understood and expressed is choosing and enfolding us right now just like that little lamb. Just think, friends, the Christ has already chosen us and is tenderly enfolding us.
You see, as we choose the Christ, we've accepted the truth. And the truth reveals to us our God-given selfhood. Our Christly identity, or Christly consciousness, is already tenderly enfolded in Love without a false god of hate or conflicting minds. Our Christly identity, or Christly consciousness, is already tenderly enfolded in Spirit without a false god of security in matter. And our Christly identity, or Christly consciousness, is already tenderly enfolded in divine Principle without a false god of physiology, life in matter.
Awakening to allness
As we fully commit our thinking to God's holy presence and activity, there will no longer be a need for choosing. We'll awaken to realize there's nothing but God's allness and His perfect, beloved reflection, the Christ-man, our true selfhood.
Just as the Roman and Greek Empires in all their splendor fell, so did their mythological gods. And so are the gods of modern living taking their place alongside Diana; that is, being seen as mythological and powerless through enlightened Christlike thought and action.
Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health, "As the mythology of pagan Rome has yielded to a more spiritual idea of Deity, so will our material theories yield to spiritual ideas, until the finite gives place to the infinite, sickness to health, sin to holiness, and God's kingdom comes 'in earth, as it is in heaven'" (Science and Health, p. 339).