Stand Up for Your Rights!
George Louis Aghamalian of New York
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Freedom from material limitations is always available through prayer, George Louis Aghamalian, C.S.B., of New York, told an audience in Boston last night.
Mr. Aghamalian, a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
"Stand Up for Your Rights!" was the title of his talk. It was the first summer lecture held in The Mother Church in many years.
The First Reader of The Mother Church, William Milford Correll, introduced the lecturer who spoke substantially as follows:
‘Acres of diamonds’ at hand
Some of you may recall the famous little book, "Acres of Diamonds," by Russell H. Conwell. It tells of a Persian farmer who lived near the River Indus and sold his property to obtain money to go search for a diamond mine. Later it turned out the very land he'd sold contained the Golconda diamond mine, the most magnificent diamond mine ever discovered. The moral of this true story is that right at hand lies the very good we desire if we'll only become aware of it.
So, let's discover our "acres of diamonds" or, more specifically, the God-bestowed rights we're so richly endowed with.
Let's begin with the right to be yourself. In most world religions it's believed that man at some point reaches a more happy or ideal state of life — in the hereafter. But the Founder of Christianity said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Christ Jesus regarded perfection, excellence, completeness as capable of present realization.
We all have a natural instinct to reach out for a higher sense of good, of health, of excellence — right from our formative years.
When I was a child of about three, I saw a clown act. While the audience was very quiet, I turned to my mother and asked in a voice that all could hear, "Did God make that man?" Needless to say, there was a loud outburst of laughter. With childlike innocence I'd readily observed the clown didn't display a sense of normal identity. And I'd been taught that God made man.
You know, we, too, play the clown of a thousand faces or moods in our human experience from year to year or even from day to day. We sometimes go from joy to sorrow or depression and back again like the pendulum of a clock. These changing moods, though, don't really represent us. They're the moods of a supposed mind or intelligence apart from the divine intelligence that made us, apart from God.
The Apostle Paul calls this supposed mind the carnal or fleshly mind. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discover and Founder of Christian Science, uses the term "mortal mind." This term pinpoints fleshly or materialistic thinking, un-Godlike and unspiritual. So-called mortal mind would paint us up like a clown, if we let it — you know, green with envy, blue for sadness, red with anger, yellow for cowardice, white with fear.
Christian Science treatment chosen
When I was 12, I returned home from school one day complaining of an earache. The condition persisted for three days with both ears, and during this period I was absent from school. Then the school authorities requested a doctor's letter stating the reason for my absence.
My mother hadn't taken me to a doctor because we'd recently begun the study of Christian Science, and we wanted to rely wholly on it for healing. But now in compliance with the school’s request we went to a prominent local physician. After examining my ears, the doctor said my mother was foolish to have waited so long as I had double mastoid. He wanted to operate on both ears that afternoon. My mother said she'd like to think it over, but the doctor replied there wasn't time. He'd have to operate immediately. Otherwise, he said, he'd have to drop responsibility for my life.
But my mother didn't become alarmed, and we left the doctor's office. She asked me what I wanted: Christian Science treatment, or to go to the hospital. I told her I wanted to be healed in Christian Science. I was in the Sunday School where I was being taught the perfection of God and man. We called a Christian Science practitioner — one of those men or women who devote themselves to the healing practice of Christian Science. The practitioner treated me daily through prayer and visited our home from time to time.
Now this is where the mistaken identity or false concept of me had to be dropped. It had to be replaced with the true concept of man as God's beloved child, watched over and tenderly cared for.
The practitioner was prayerfully realizing that right where there appeared to be a sick — perhaps dying — child, right there in reality was my true spiritual identity as the well, free, active child of God.
In addition to the practitioner's prayers, my mother and I had our part to do. My mother ignorantly had been holding over me one of those distorted clown-like appearances we mentioned earlier. In this case it was the un-Godlike picture of heredity — that, like my dad, I was prone to physical weakness. Heredity is one of those subtle clown-like masks — a vicious lie of mortal, material thinking — all parents need to watch against pinning on their children. Each child should be seen as the healthy, intelligent offspring of the one true Parent, our Father-Mother, God.
Doctor confirms healing
Then, there were a few clown-like distortions I had to unmask myself: such traits as selfishness and self-will, which didn't help me see my true identity as the obedient, loving child of God.
The turning point came after a number of weeks when one afternoon I took a radical stand for Truth. I sat up in bed and, claiming my unity with God, I ordered mortal mind out as a liar. I knew God would heal me, and shortly after I was entirely well.
In order to get a certificate to reenter school, we went back to the same doctor. He was surprised to see me alive. In fact, he told my mother, he'd been watching the obituary column every evening for my name. He re-examined my ears and said I was perfectly healed. Later on I passed several rigid physical examinations while serving with the United States Air Corps.
Our true identity is that of a spiritual, healthy, intelligent expression of God. The physical appearance, the mask, is just a projection of mortal thinking, more or less distorted according to the density and turbulence of that thinking. In the degree the divine fact is seen and acknowledged, the distortions are dispelled, human experience coincides with the divine, and healing takes place.
We can no more achieve health if we start from disease than we can begin with a mistake in mathematics if we wish to obtain a correct solution. All Christian Science healing starts from the premise of perfect God and perfect man. This is who you are — the perfect man of God's creating,
To know yourself, then, you must first know God, whom you express or reflect. God can't be thought of as the "unknown."
When I was in Athens I stood on Mars Hill, where Paul gave his famous sermon to the Athenians. I observed what Paul saw from the hill: the many ancient buildings and not far away the Parthenon, that majestic temple built for Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.
Paul had also noticed an altar with an inscription, and he commented on it. He said: ". . . as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an alter with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:23-24) — and further on, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).
Meaningful explanation of God
Christian Science teaches, like Paul, that God is to be known and understood. Mrs. Eddy gives us this profound and meaningful explanation of God in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." She writes: "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love" (p. 465).
As we analyze these seven synonymous terms for God, we find all our true rights have their source or origin in them. For instance, Principle, being the foundation of divine government, provides you and me with equality under law; Mind provides us with quickness and depth of intelligence; Soul, with feeling, joy, inspiration; Spirit, with liberty; Life, with health and right activity; Truth, with justice; and, finally, Love provides us with security or abundance.
Earlier I compared our vast wealth of God-bestowed rights to the "Acres of Diamonds" story. We already possess these rights, but we must exercise them. Otherwise, we're like the Persian farmer who failed to recognize the good that was already his and sold the very property where the Golconda diamond mine was later discovered.
An interesting episode follows in the story. The new owner, who purchased the farm, was watering his camel in a brook in the garden one day, and as the animal poked its nose into the shallow water, the farmer noticed a curious flash of light. He pulled out a black stone having an eye of light. He took the pebble into the house and placed it on the fireplace mantel and forgot all about it. Later, through the alertness of a visitor, he learned that the black pebble was a raw diamond, and this led to the discovery of the mine.
So we see that to possess good is one thing, but to use it, or exercise control of it, is still another. Yet that right — the right to control our experience — is one of the most important that we possess.
The best way to exercise self-control is to let God, divine Mind, control our thinking. And how do we become aware or conscious of divine Mind's control? Through Christianly scientific prayer. This is the healing prayer that Christ Jesus employed. It's the prayer of acknowledgment and gratitude, not of mere pleading and still less of bargaining.
You know, before coming into Christian Science I prayed in the traditional way. I'd try to bring God down from some place in outer space to my problem, and my prayers weren't very effective. So, I just decided God was too busy to hear me, or I wasn't worthy of His help.
But, after starting the study of Christian Science, I found that the whole first chapter in Science and Health was devoted to the subject of prayer. Then I began to see I'd never understood or employed prayer properly. So now, instead of praying to bring God down to my material problem, I prayed the prayer of acknowledgment and gratitude. This lifted my thinking, or consciousness, to God's level, where good is all and all-powerful and there is no problem, and then I began to get results!
Tuning in to divine intelligence
Prayer is communion or communication with divine Mind. Each time that we align thought with the all-knowing, ever-present Mind we are, in effect, tuning in to the source of all intelligence. For example, you and I know that at this moment the room we're seated in is filled with radio programs of all sorts — newscasts, music, interviews fill the air. But we're not tuned in, and, although these programs are right here, we don't hear them. It's as simple as all that!
This tuning in is something like prayer. If one's thinking is tuned in, or, shall we say, humbly receptive to what divine Mind is broadcasting to us every minute of the day, our thoughts are divinely uplifted.
Broadcasting is something all of us know at least a little about. We've all had the experience of static distorting the reception on our radios. Similarly, the subtle arguments of mortal mind thinking are like static in our prayers of communication with God. When the static of fear, doubt, confusion, or the temptations of sin and disease try to block out the divine reception, we need to deny these suggestions as unreal — not of God. We must stay strictly on the divine wavelength. The element of denial in prayer is the means of removing static, and we then hear divine Mind loud and clear.
Listening is a very important part of prayer. For some reason we always want to inform God, the all-knowing Mind, instead of letting God talk to us. I've found my best guidance and inspiration have come when I've just gotten my thinking quiet — very quiet — and let my heavenly Father, divine Mind, do the talking.
This listening process brought fruitful results to a teen-age boy I know seeking employment. He was desperately in need of a job to help contribute to his family, but it was his first experience of looking for work, and at the time, employment seemed very limited.
One afternoon, after a number of weeks of going to employment agencies, he started toward the subway to return home. Things seemed very bleak. He'd been brought up in the Christian Science Sunday School, but during his experience he hadn't been conscientiously applying the spiritual truths he'd been taught. Now he was willing to let God have a hand in the situation. So, with all the fervor he could muster, he turned in prayer to God, divine Mind, for guidance and help.
A boy’s confident prayer
You know, if we'd only start where we usually end — by turning humbly to God — we'd find the solution to our problems much sooner, instead of being buffeted about so long by fear and doubt and discouragement.
The boy tuned in prayerfully somewhat in this manner: Dear heavenly Father, you have all good for me right now. There's never been a moment when I've been outside of Your tender, loving care. You, dear Father, are the true employer. You place each of Your children in the type work that brings good to all, and I know, dear God, that in Your Kingdom I can never be displaced, misplaced, nor replaced. My place is established now and through eternity, and it includes unlimited good.
He'd no sooner finished this prayerful communicating when the thought came to go into a large office building nearby and inquire from door to door for a position. This divine direction didn't guide him to just any building, but to a specific building. Incidentally, he was in the Wall Street area of New York City, where there are numerous office buildings.
Well, do you think he went directly into the building that he was guided to? No. He began to argue with himself, or should we say, that mortal mind we talked about began to argue in the way: "Do you think anyone is going to hire you right off the street cold? Why any company could call a reputable employment agency and get all the finest screened men it needed. Why should they take you, a complete nobody, off the street?"
Then divine Mind said, "Go! Be obedient! You asked your heavenly Father for guidance, now trust Him!" Finally, he went into the building going from door to door. The third office that he entered appeared to be a conference room, with several men seated about. As soon as he realized this, he went to leave, but one of the men saw him and called out, "What is it, son? Can I help?" The young man said, "I'm looking for a position, sir, but apparently I've come to the wrong room." The man paused and said, "Well, I don't have a job for you, but I'll tell you what: go and see this man tomorrow and tell him I sent you." He handed the young man a name and an address. The following day he had that position.
Let’s all do more tuning in and then listen, quietly listen. And, by the way, when I discuss the subject of prayer with my Sunday School pupils at home, I tell them I have God's telephone number. Here it is: Isaiah 6524, or Isaiah 65, verse 24. It reads: "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." Use that number often. I can promise you'll never get a busy signal.
So, we see that through Christianly scientific prayer we spiritualize thought — we bring thought into accord with the harmony of divine Mind — and this, in turn, harmonizes the human experience. Actually, Christian Science shows matter has no power in and of itself; what appears to be our material experience simply expresses what we're entertaining in thought. If our human experience is discordant, it only shows that we aren't fully accepting the spiritual good that is already at hand.
Unlimited good pouring forth
So, let's never believe that some outside, material force, calling itself destiny, luck, astrology, heredity, or even another person, can in any way prevent us from experiencing the unlimited good that is continually pouring forth from the ever-present, all-knowing Mind, God. There's no power to oppose, delay, or destroy the activity of spiritual ideas in our consciousness, and these ideas in turn harmonize or control our human experience.
Let's talk about one more right: the right to fulfill your purpose.
Everyone desires to fulfill his purpose in life and feel a sense of accomplishment. So, for a moment let's revisit the Golconda diamond mine. Have you ever seen a raw diamond? I have. It isn't very attractive. At times it looks like a small piece of coal — no luster, no beauty — just grayish black. Yet, the diamond expert knows that beneath that unattractive crust is a magnificent gem. The raw stone has to be washed, cut, polished, and set. Then its brilliance and fire are there for all to enjoy. We might say, at this point the diamond is fulfilling its purpose.
This is similar to our own experience. We're all divinely blessed with diamond-like talents in one form or another, but like the diamond, our true purpose may remain buried deep in the mine waiting to be unearthed.
What is the basic purpose of each one of us? It's similar to that of the diamond. We, too, are in the reflecting business. Just as a well-cut diamond with its many facets reflects the light and throws off all the colors of the spectrum, we, too, reflect the infinite spectrum of God's qualities.
There’s the beauty and brilliance of Soul, the warmth of Love, the purity and flawlessness of Spirit, the vitality and joy of Life, the accuracy of Truth, the order of Principle, and the intelligence of Mind.
This, then, is our true purpose — to reflect these divine qualities in thought. In turn, they're made manifest in our everyday human experience: first and most importantly in spiritual-mindedness and spiritual growth; then in health, joy, companionship, success in our home and school, and effectiveness in our community service and in our business endeavors.
Let me illustrate this with an experience I had while in the United States Air Corps.
At the time, my great desire was to become a pilot. I took all the required mental and physical examinations and was accepted. However, during the early stages of my flying training, it became evident to me that I wasn't in my proper type work.
Lesson from an ant hole
I didn't wish to withdraw from the training as I felt it would be a sense of defeat. And, in addition, what would I tell my family and friends, who were so proud of me — that I was to become a commissioned officer with pilot's wings! But each day I wrestled with that problem and prayed to the best of my ability.
Then it happened. One day my instructor called me aside and said, "Aghamalian, you don't appear quite suited for pilot training. We feel you should be transferred to some other form of flying duty." It was a relief to be taken out, but a great sense of defeat and self-pity overwhelmed me.
I had to return to my barracks and prepare to be shipped out. As I walked across a long, rather sandy field to the barracks, I couldn't keep the tears back. Material thoughts were saying, "What a disgrace. I've been washed out." Everything seemed lost.
Then I reached out in prayer to divine Mind, God, for guidance and comfort, and it came in rather a strange way. I heard an inner voice say, “Bend down and look at the ground!" I brushed aside the command and thought, "What good will that do?" Again the demand came, "Bend down and look at the ground!" This time I was obedient. As you can see, the need was for obedience first; then I saw results.
As I bent over, I saw an ant hole with dozens of ants entering in single file and another column coming out. The ones coming out were carrying pieces of earth and other particles in their mouths. Some particles looked larger than the ants themselves. I have since learned they can carry a load as much as seven times their own size.
As I observed them, I noticed that, if one dropped the load it was carrying, several others would rush to its assistance. It was really fascinating to watch them at work.
After five or ten minutes of studying the ants building their home, the thought came to me: "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You've been taught that you are the very expression of God and that God has all good for you. If these little creatures can express so much perseverance, diligence, and patience, where do you get off to think that this is the end and all is lost? Get on your feet and trust your heavenly Father! He has a plan for you.”
The right to fulfill one’s purpose
Well, I stood up like a new person. It felt as though a 50-pound pack had dropped from my shoulders. I wiped away the tears and said, "Thank you, dear Father, for your tender, loving protection."
I returned to my barracks and was assigned to a new form of training. The new assignment was far more suited to my ability and was enjoyable and rewarding. In fact, I finished at the top of my class. I had exercised the right to fulfill my purpose.
What enabled Christ Jesus to exercise the Christ-power so completely? It was his total obedience to his heavenly Father, his total acceptance and expression of divine sonship. We, too, can claim our divine birthright in its entirety as we turn to God, divine Mind, in prayer and then obediently follow divine Mind's direction and let the Father's will be done in our experience.
This was how Mrs. Eddy claimed her rights and helped others to do so. You know, the life of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was compassionately dedicated to standing up for the rights of her fellowman. She was not an activist in the ordinary sense, but she was deeply interested in such vital issues as slavery, war, alcoholism, the sick and underprivileged, and helping women out of second-class citizenship — yes, the very issues that are making headlines in the press and television today.
In 1866 she caught her first glimpse of the totally spiritual nature of life and all reality. At this time what she saw healed her instantly of a physical condition that was expected to be fatal. She dates her discovery of Christian Science from this healing.
And, with this discovery, something happened to Mrs. Eddy's thought on rights. She now understood Jesus' method of upholding man's rights. She now recognized that rights based on a material concept of life and intelligence were inevitably subject to change and loss.
On the other hand, the discovery of life as wholly spiritual pointed out the permanency and ever-availability of man's rights. They can never be taken from you, for they dwell in your consciousness or thinking. They can never be withheld because of race, lack of education, sex, age, or even a past unhappy experience. Your rights emanate from divine Principle and are forever maintained by this Principle.
Spiritual activism is realistic
Mrs. Eddy realized that the greatest contribution to mankind's rights was to help each one scientifically to understand and demonstrate his true birthright as God's image and likeness. She founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, which has branches throughout the world today, to share the understanding of man's rights as God-given and God-maintained and right at hand for all to exercise and enjoy. Every student of Christian Science is involved with a rights movement that can truly heal the world's ills.
Now this is no Pollyanna approach to today's problems. It's spiritual activism — highly realistic and a permanent solution.
I like to think of the practical and permanent solution used by Jesus' disciples, Peter and John, as recorded in the Bible. They met a crippled man begging at the gate of the temple. Many, no doubt, tossed this crippled beggar a coin out of human kindness or charity. But, was this the real need of the man? No. The need was for him to be free — to claim his divine birthright of dominion — and walk!
And, unlike anyone else who met this crippled beggar, Peter and John refused to take in the human picture of a man devoid of his right to wholeness, his right to walk. Rather than give him a coin and leave him helpless on the ground, Peter extended to him his hand, a hand that was motivated by divine Love and Life. Then Peter uttered one of the greatest statements on rights to be recorded: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3:6). And the man did walk.
Yes, this man literally stood up for his rights — his God-given right to be free. Think of it! — he was free for the first time in his life — a freedom that all the charity and human kindness in the world could never have given him. He was free to look his fellowman in the eyes rather than to watch their feet as they walked by.
My friends, is this freedom lost within the pages of the Bible? Of course not — this is what Mrs. Eddy's discovery is all about — the rights of man as bestowed by divine Love — the rights of each one of you here today!
Vast wealth of God-given rights
You know, in the days and weeks to come if some of you should have occasion to refer back to this lecture, you might call it the "diamond lecture," because of my reference to the Golconda diamond mine. And if you do, let each brilliant diamond symbolize one of the vast wealth of spiritual rights that you already possess. Your rights are a God-given possession never to be taken from you and more valuable and enduring than all the diamonds in the world.
Right now you have the right to be yourself — the man God made, the man Christ Jesus exemplified. Right here you have the right to control your experience and be free. And forevermore, you have the right to fulfill your God-directed purpose. In the words of the Christian Science textbook: "Citizens of the world, accept the 'glorious liberty of the children of God,' and be free! This is your divine right" (Science and Health, p. 227).
[Delivered July 17, 1972, at The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Monitor, July 18, 1972.]