The Origin and Power of Thought in Christian Science


Arch Bailey, C.S., of San Francisco, California

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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


"We are required to destroy sin by forsaking it and yielding thought to the power of Truth," said a Christian Science lecturer in Boston's John Hancock Hall on Feb. 8.

"We must know the origin of thought and choose wisely what we will accept as our thinking."

Arch Bailey, C.S., of San Francisco, delivered the noontime lecture, under the auspices of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.

"Our experiences are not outside our own thinking, but rather are the result of it," he said. "We must stand guard at the door of consciousness and decide whether thoughts are human or divine," separating "good thinking from evil thinking."

Mr. Bailey was introduced to the audience by Gordon F. Campbell, current First Reader of The Mother Church. The lecture was entitled "The Origin and Power of Thought in Christian Science."

Error Found in Own Backyard

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:


Several years ago a distinguished poet had as his guest a practical friend. They were rowing on a beautiful lake at sunset. As their boat glided slowly over the water the graceful form of a fish arose and as gracefully disappeared in the clear depths of the lake. As the poet pondered his practical friend remarked, "How good it would be to have that fish for dinner tonight!" Thoughtfully the poet replied, "How wonderful to see life reflected from the depths of the water!" Each saw his own thoughts. Our experiences are not outside our own thinking, but rather are the result of it. What appears to be the fault of others is often our own false concept.

I well remember visiting a Christian Science practitioner, many years ago, and unburdening to him the entire confusion of my early life. After listening patiently he asked what I thought had caused all this trouble. One by one I gave him the reasons; I blamed everything and everybody but myself. He finally asked what I would think if he told me that the pile of error in my backyard was the result of my own wrong thinking. I did not then understand what he meant, and I went out of his office with a heavy heart. However, we had more discussions. Eventually the light dawned in my consciousness. It became evident that if my troubles were the objectifications of my own wrong thinking, then right thinking would have been objectified as harmony. I had discovered the need to choose and think rightly. I had started at the numeration table of Christian Science. Each of us here is working at this numeration table of right thinking and in proportion to the spiritual truth in our thought will the Father open the way. Nothing can hinder this accomplishment for it is based on spiritual law. We should however, mark well that simply sitting before the numeration table of correct thinking will no more solve the problem of being than will standing before the blackboard solve the mathematical problem. We are always choosing our thoughts. Either we choose the good thoughts of God, divine Mind, real thoughts, or we choose the suggested false thoughts of so-called mortal mind.

Basis of Wrong Thinking Destroyed

Truly the time for scientific thinkers has come. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, states in her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 248), "We are all sculptors, working at various forms, moulding and chiseling thought." Further on she continues, "We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives." The nature of thought, as we shall consider it, should not be confused with the belief that the carnal mind is able to rationalize itself through its own assumed power. Christian Science does not arrive at rational thinking in this way. It does not combine good and evil thinking as mind. It separates good thinking from evil thinking and shows the origin of good thoughts to be the divine Mind or God. It shows evil thinking to be suppositional error without mind or principle.

This Science does more than teach rational human thinking. It goes to the bottom of mental action. It destroys mortal mind, the basis of wrong thinking, and demonstrates one Mind, God or good, as the origin of all real thought. Mrs. Eddy's revelation of Mind as God and her statement of evil as suppositional belief demand explanation. We shall consider them both.

The idea of Deity has challenged the thought of mankind for centuries. Each age has sought something, outside itself, which would complement its sense of its own inadequacy. When in the mid-nineteenth century Mrs. Eddy's innate spiritual nature sought a satisfying sense of God in the church of her parents, she found much she could not accept. The theologians agreed that God was omnipotent, all power. However, their acceptance of evil as power brought omnipotence and another power into everlasting conflict. This shattered any possibility of scientific reasoning about God. The theologians were equally inconsistent when they admitted omnipresence for God, but still asserted the presence of that which was unlike God, namely evil and matter. Likewise, it was illogical reasoning when they admitted God to be intelligence, but still insisted upon the reality of that which was non-intelligent.

With the revelation of Christian Science, there came to Mrs. Eddy the revelation of God as understandable and demonstrable Being. Her definition of God given in the textbook (Science and Health, p. 465), is stated in these words, "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love." Mrs. Eddy's use of seven terms in her definition in no way indicates seven gods. These terms are synonymous and mean one God, one Mind, in contradistinction to the heathen belief of many gods (many minds); they mean one Spirit and deny that there are good and evil spirits; they also mean one Soul and are opposed to the belief that there are as many souls as there are material bodies. This teaching is pure monotheism in harmony with the statements of both the Old and the New Testaments.

God’s Opposite Has No Presence

Through the consecrated, daily contemplation of these seven synonymous terms, together with their attributes or qualities, the Christian Scientist finds unfolding within his consciousness a demonstrable understanding of God. Indeed, the attributes and qualities of these synonyms expanding in individual consciousness become a law of annihilation to every quality unlike God and are thus the individual's very redemption or salvation. In proportion as these terms are studied and understood consciousness is spiritualized and humanity proves their redemptive power by healing discord and disease. As the Scientist prayerfully contemplates the omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience of Spirit he begins to discern that matter, Spirit's opposite, has no power, no presence, no intelligence. When he ponders Soul as all-power, all-presence, all-science he begins to understand that material sense, Soul's opposite, has no power, no presence, and it is wholly unscientific. As he reverently considers the omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience of divine Truth, Life, and Love he begins to glimpse that their opposites error, death, and selfishness have no power, no presence, and no intelligence.

Stating that Mind is God, Christian Science continues logically and establishes that there can be but one Mind, because there is but one God. It is clearly seen, then, that this one Mind is your Mind, is my Mind, is the Mind of everyone. It is easy to see that all men have one multiplication table. There is not a Chinese, a Russian, or an African multiplication table. There is one universal table of multiplication available to all, anywhere, at any time. If everyone in the universe wanted to multiply a series of numbers at the same time, the principle of multiplication would be available to each through right thinking. It is in this sense that all men have one Mind.

However, there is a false sense, which claims that there are as many minds as there are people. This idolatrous belief of many personal minds is suppositional error. Nevertheless, it must be considered in any discussion of the subject of our lecture. In the Holy Bible the Apostle Paul has written (Rom. 8:6,7), "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Here Paul speaks of the carnal mind and states that it is not of God. It is enmity against God. Mrs. Eddy named this suppositional thinking mortal mind only that as error it might be designated and destroyed. She explains its mythological nature in these words (Science and Health, p. 114), "The spiritually unscientific definition of mind is based on the evidence of the physical senses, which makes minds many and calls mind both human and divine." . . . "Mortal mind is a solecism in language, and involves an improper use of the word mind." Christian Science demonstrates that there is in reality no mortal mind. Mindless mortal mind, this mist that went up from the ground, is suppositional error of belief. This is exactly what it is, a supposition. Webster's dictionary says that to suppose is "to believe without grounds."

Suppositional thinking then is that thinking which is believed, without grounds, to originate in a cerebral cavity or brain and sees its own concepts as material things. This false thinking is based on the belief that matter and an evil mind unite to form a corporeal universe and that this universe is the creation of God. However, in contradistinction to these suppositional thoughts of so-called mortal mind, there are the real thoughts of God which originate in the divine Mind and have power through divine Science to resolve things into thoughts. This realm of the real is in substance infinite Mind and its manifestation (its thoughts or ideas). We must stand guard at the door of consciousness and decide whether thoughts are human or divine. We must entertain only the thoughts which we wish objectified in our experience.

It has been said that the material senses are the gates of hell. If the material senses are the gates of hell, spiritual sense must be the portal of heaven, harmony.

The noble Biblical characters — Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John, and Jesus — were all richly endowed with spiritual sense and their words and works are still lifting mankind's consciousness Spiritward. Jesus was endowed with unlimited spiritual sense and was able to discern the spiritual fact of that which appeared to the material senses as real. While the Pharisees, looking to the material senses for truth, were asking when the kingdom of God should come, Jesus, with innate spiritual sense, perceived the kingdom at hand and intact.

Mary Baker Eddy's endowment of spiritual sense exceeded that of any individual in this age. She challenged the teaching of scholastic theology concerning God, man, Christ Jesus, heaven, hell, substance, prayer, and salvation. She accepted the account of spiritual creation given in the first chapter of Genesis. She understood the second chapter account to be the record of creation as mortal and material. She reasoned logically step by step from the basis of this spiritual account and no one has been able to disprove a single premise of her teaching.

Creation Is Complete Without Evil

In the first chapter of Genesis creation is complete, but there is no record of the creation of material person, matter, or evil. It was logical then for Mrs. Eddy to reason that matter was never created and is therefore unreal.

Let us reason here and ask what is this ponderous, palpable, restrictive mass called matter? To sense testimony it claims to contain, to resist, to oppose, and to limit us. We seem to be enclosed within it. Its elements of time and duration would rob us of eternity; its distances and space would hold us from infinity. With clear spiritual perception Mrs. Eddy says that matter is simply another name for mortal mind. But mortal mind is a misapprehension of divine Mind. Matter and this misapprehension being one, matter then is a misapprehension. A misconception is always ignorance, and ignorance is darkness, a negation, no entity, no thing, no place, no power. Matter has no being. It is of the nature of seeming. It actually is not.

Everyone here has doubtless had the experience of being on a railroad coach which was standing still at a station. Suddenly, it seemed that the coach was moving. Later we found that the coach had not moved. It was the train next to the coach which had moved. We had not experienced a moving coach, but we believed we had. The moving train was an illusion. It seemed to be, but it was not. This is the nature of matter as we understand it in Christian Science. It is an illusion. It seems to be, but it is not.

A somewhat humorous illustration of this idea came to my attention recently. A woman was standing in the lobby of a fashionable resort hotel waiting to be assigned a suite of rooms. Beside her in queenly fashion stood her French poodle dog. A gentleman approached and remarked, "I didn't know they accepted dogs in this hotel." The woman replied coolly, "That isn't a dog. It only looks like one." You see, things are not what they seem.

Nearly one hundred years ago when physical scientists were imputing to matter substance, weight, causation, and effect, Mrs. Eddy stood alone before the world and declared that all is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation. Mrs. Eddy declared more than sixty years ago that matter is certain qualities of thought opposed to Spirit. The exact quotation is from "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 199) where, in speaking of Jesus, Mrs. Eddy says, "The power of his transcendent goodness is manifest in the control it gave him over the qualities opposed to Spirit which mortals name matter." Does not Mrs. Eddy say plainly here that what mortals call matter is but a term for certain qualities of thought? Can we not see, then, that if we were free from the qualities of thought opposed to Spirit, we would be free from matter? When there are no qualities in our consciousness opposed to Spirit, there will be no matter there. Thus we progressively handle matter by living the qualities of God, Spirit, in daily life.

Jesus Refused to Accept Materiality

Several months ago I was again studying the New Testament accounts of Jesus' healing ministry. It was interesting to note that his consciousness did not entertain any of the qualities which comprise materiality. He did not entertain in his consciousness hate, malice, envy, resentment, revenge, sensuality, fear, animality, time or duration, distance or space. His consciousness was filled with the qualities which comprise spirituality — love, joy, peace, harmony, patience, dominion, power, and unselfish consideration for others. And then I recalled the incident where Jesus passed through the door which seemed closed to others. And I saw that he did not have to meet materiality because he did not have materiality in his consciousness. I remembered also, the incident where Jesus was on this side of the lake and immediately he appeared on the other side of the lake. Here I saw that he did not have to meet distance and space because his consciousness was entertaining the qualities of infinity and omnipresence. Do you not see that we, too, may meet matter progressively in our own consciousness by cultivating the qualities which constitute spirituality?

This teaching of Christian Science that matter is illusion requires a re-evaluation of the nature of man. The first chapter of Genesis tells us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Since God is Spirit we reason that the likeness of Spirit cannot be unlike Spirit — cannot be material.

May I read a paragraph from the Christian Science textbook which outlines clearly and eloquently the nature of spiritual man? (p. 475), "Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas; the generic term for all that reflects God's image and likeness; the conscious identity of being as found in Science, in which man is the reflection of God, or Mind, and therefore is eternal; that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker."

Man Can’t Fluctuate From Principle

This spiritual truth of man denies the generally accepted teachings of biology, physiology, and false theology. It denies that man is a biochemical mechanism with a mind and creative power of his own; it denies that man can be good one moment and fall into error the next moment. It holds that man cannot fluctuate in the slightest degree from his perfect Principle, God. When we realize that the reflected qualities of an infinite God would be infinite in number, we begin to glimpse the vastness and grandeur of man's nature in Science. Man reflects infinity and includes all right ideas.

What a wonderful experience when the truth of man unfolds to consciousness; when we see that he is not contained by nor enclosed within matter; when we understand that matter cannot resist, oppose, or limit him! What a glorious revelation when we even glimpse that matter's element of time cannot rob man of eternity; its belief of space cannot hold him from infinity! How true is the Bible statement (Ps. 100:3), "Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."

A common claim made by some is that Christian Science conceals sin by teaching that it is unreal. In Mrs. Eddy's book "Miscellaneous Writings" are to be found these words (p. 107): "Without a knowledge of his sins, and repentance so severe that it destroys them, no person is or can be a Christian Scientist." This statement forcefully indicates that we do recognize the belief of sin and destroy it. Mankind is as responsible for obedience to the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount now as it was centuries ago. We have seen that God is infinite, divine Mind or Principle. He is the only cause and creator, who has created all in and of Himself. From this it follows that all that God created is good. Knowing this, we detect sin and reject it as a lie, as no part of man's true being. We know that God did not create sin and therefore its appearance before the material senses and outside God's creation is an illusion. Sin is always handled in this Science as illusion, as nothing, as no thing, but it is always handled. We are required to destroy sin by forsaking it and yielding thought to the power of Truth.

It is clearly seen that the night dreamer and his dream are one. The dream is gone when the dreamer awakens, and likewise there is no dreamer when the dream has vanished. The dream and the dreamer are one. They vanish together. The dream dreams a dreamer so that it may be dreamed. Just so the sinner and the sin vanish together. When sin is destroyed, there is no sinner. When the sinner awakens from the dream of sin, there is no sin. Sin dreams a sinner that it may have identity, but both the sin and the sinner are lies about God's man, our perfect selfhood. We rejoice in the victory over a single sin for it portends the possibility of complete victory over all error.

The Christ Establishes Harmony

This design of divine Love which comes to human consciousness destroying all error is the Christ. This Christ is our Saviour. What does it save? Certainly not God's man or God's creation. There is nothing about God or His creation to be saved. God is infinite good, and His creation and man are as perfect as their cause. We have said before that Christian Science does not ignore the false sense of man which appears to the material senses as the only man. It is this false sense of man, this false thinking about man, which the Christ comes to destroy. Christian Science makes a clear distinction between the personal Jesus and the Christ. These two words are not synonymous. Jesus was a human person. Christ is the divine nature which Jesus demonstrated as the Saviour of the world. Through the activity of the Christ, Truth, in human consciousness all erroneous thinking will yield to the thoughts of God and harmony will be established in our lives.

If we were able right now to press a button and silence all false mortal thought — thus clearing consciousness for the unfoldment of the ideas of divine Mind — the kingdom of heaven would then appear simultaneously with the change of consciousness. Obviously, we cannot press such a button and change consciousness, but thought can be spiritualized progressively, and bodily improvement follows such change.

To those who desire spiritual growth that they may experience the unfoldment of the kingdom of heaven right here Mrs. Eddy has given a rich heritage. She has left for them the great gift of her published writings; she has given them the authorized periodicals; and she has also provided the weekly Lesson-Sermons and arranged for their continued preparation. Nothing offers the Christian Scientist more opportunity for spiritual growth than does the regular and thorough study of these Lesson-Sermons. As a young lad in the Middle West I had two relatives who operated adjoining farms. One of them was very successful and the other was less successful. I remember my father explaining this to me. The less successful relative only scratched the surface of the land in preparing for planting, while the successful one plowed deeply in the soil. In studying our Lesson-Sermon daily we must set the manner of our study for deep plowing. We must turn up the rich subsoil of spiritual Truth if we would gather an abundant harvest of spiritual growth.

What Exists Can Be Demonstrated

If you take the Sunday edition of any city newspaper and turn to the church section, you will probably be surprised, as I was, by the great number of church advertisements which mention mind-healing as a part of their ministry. This does not mean that all of them are practicing Christian healing as Jesus practiced it; nor after the manner of operation set down by Mrs. Eddy in her textbook. Treatment in this Science is never one mortal mind influencing another mortal mind nor influencing itself. It is neither suggestion nor autosuggestion. It is not hypnotism, mesmerism, spiritualism, psychiatry, or psychology. There is a great gulf between spiritually mental healing in Christian Science and materially mental healing in which one human mind undertakes to manipulate another human mind even for good.

The term demonstration is widely used in Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy states that the First Commandment demonstrates this Science. Only that which exists already in reality can be demonstrated. Let me tell you of a healing experience which illustrates this point.

Several years ago a group of friends was riding horseback. One of the men was riding a horse that was strange to him. It was discovered that this animal had a habit of rearing up at the least disturbance. On one occasion the horse lost its balance and fell backward onto his rider. The rider suffered a serious back injury and could not move his body from the waist down. The rider's wife asked a Christian Science practitioner in the group to take over the situation. She also asked the other friends to leave the two alone.

The practitioner knew that what was actually true about this situation could be demonstrated. He implored the rider not to believe the testimony as it appeared before the senses. He declared audibly that it would be impossible for man in God's likeness to experience anything which God did not experience. He declared that man cannot be hypnotized nor mesmerized into believing the material sense testimony. He knew that this affirmation of truth and denial of error constituted Christian Science treatment. And he had faith in the treatment. Within fifteen minutes the rider was free from pain. Within half an hour he was walking and was healed. It was possible to demonstrate this man's perfection in divine Science, because it was a fact of creation. The practitioner did not implore God to do something. He humbly accepted what God had already done. Nothing was changed but thought.

Prayer or treatment in Christian Science differs from other forms of prayer mainly in that it does not approach God as a person, but as unvarying, all-inclusive, divine Principle, Love. What need is there to implore a power which is omnipresent and all-knowing? Divine Love has already provided all good for His children. If He had not, He would have violated His very nature. What is to be changed then in times of need? (And when are we not in need of a better sense of things?) Nothing needs to be changed except the belief that we can be separated from divine Love; the belief that we have somehow gotten outside the Father's tender care.

Prayer Accepts Perfection’s Fact

If we seem to be separated from divine Love, we can always turn to the Lord's Prayer and increase our understanding of His omnipresent goodness and power through the prayer of adoration or love of God; through the prayer of appreciation for the present perfection of being; through the prayer of allegiance to God's power alone; through sincere desire for growth in grace; and by the acknowledgment and utilization of God's power to deliver from all evil.

Prayer is union with God, and union with God is really entertaining the thoughts of God as our thoughts by reflection. We must know the origin of thought and choose wisely what we will accept as our thinking. If we sow the wind of wrong thinking based on the testimony of the material senses, we will reap the whirlwind of discord and confusion. If we accept only the thoughts of divine Mind as our thoughts, we will experience the kingdom of God right at hand. As our Leader has admonished us (Science and Health, p. 249), "Let us accept Science, relinquish all theories based on sense-testimony, give up imperfect models and illusive ideals; and so let us have one God, one Mind, and that one perfect, producing His own models of excellence."


[Delivered Feb. 8, 1963, at John Hancock Hall under the auspices of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 9, 1963.]