The Meaning of Reformation


Otto Bertschi, C.S.B., of Zurich, Switzerland

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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


The "longing for truth" has been leading mankind through the ages toward a great spiritual reformation, said a Christian Science lecturer in Boston on Thursday, March 25, 1965.

Otto Bertschi, a teacher and practitioner of Christian Science from Zurich, was the speaker.

Throughout history, he said, men have felt the pull toward "a more spiritual concept of God." The result each time has been "a reformation of mankind's thinking," followed by progress and peace.

The lecture was held in the auditorium of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist.

The power of reformation "is spiritual, and has a divine origin," Mr. Bertschi told the audience.

"It is God, manifested in human consciousness through a spiritual idea. . . . This spiritual idea reforms those who perceive it and leads out of darkness into the light of moral freedom." It brings the deep change of heart that has "helped mankind to overcome imperfection and to reform the whole pattern of life."

"Whatever real progress humanity has made through the centuries had been due to changed thinking influenced by God," he said.

"Without this change of thought and without this reformation of our thinking there is no true progress, no genuine healing, no sure salvation."

Mr. Bertschi, a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, was introduced by Mrs. Elizabeth Vera Gorringe, Second Reader of The Mother Church.

The lecture was titled "The Meaning of Reformation." A partial text follows:

Chaff separated

For many of us, when we think of reformation, we immediately think of the great historic Reformation of the 16th century in Western Europe. And we are reminded of the dark Middle Ages.

Through dogma and misconceptions of the Master's theology, the pure teaching of Christ Jesus was almost entirely obscured. If there hadn't been spiritual forces to reclaim that which was misinterpreted, misrepresented, and misused from selfish material motives, I doubt that we would be gathered here today.

It: was the earnest reevaluation of true Christian virtues and purposes at that time which gave new spiritual impetus in that dark period. A radical reform of religious, moral and social standards gradually took place.

The reformers of that age fearlessly separated the chaff of pagan and Christian idolatry from the pure wheat of the Word of God. The Bible was translated into several languages of the Western countries; and as we all know, thanks to the advent of the printing press, the Bible soon found its way into the hands of any person who wished to study it for himself.

This gospel of the "good news" enlightened and strengthened the people. They reclaimed in some measure the pure values of the teachings of Christ Jesus and they endeavored to correct the wrong then existing in society.

Values elevated

Why were these efforts successful? Because the power of a right idea accompanied the Reformation. There followed an elevation of moral and spiritual values and with it an improvement in every department of human activity.

A deep reformation took place in the minds of many of the people and therefore in their lives. It brought them a sense of peace and a better understanding of Scripture. Through their inspired insight the whole thought of Christian teaching gained a new meaning and the Bible became for many a living book.

It was inevitable that the moral values began to be reformed in the Christian people and greater assurance and success came to them as a result of their improved sense of God's will.

But was the real and complete teaching of the Master's message achieved at that time —particularly in regard to Christian healing ?

This is the important point in regard to the Reformation. Surely the attempts to reach the fullness of his teaching were made then and since by many who were sincere. But has the art of Christian healing been taken up in earnest by the churches as well as by individuals?

We are instructed in Matthew (10:8) by the Master that we are expected to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils."

Instance of healing

No doubt every Christian has pondered this command of our Master and would have endeavored to live up to it if he hadn't believed that this healing art had been lost since the third century of the Christian era.

But has the power to heal actually been lost all that time? No! There have been singular instances of healing through the centuries.

I know of, for instance, the healing of my countryman, the great reformer, Huldreich Zwingli. Zwingli, together with Luther, Calvin, Knox, and others, contributed significantly to the Reformation of the 16th century.

Zwingli was a preacher in Zurich when he fell hopelessly ill. In a desperate condition, he sought his Latin Bible for strength and comfort and for an inspired message. His prayers were answered. He was quickly healed.

But what actually took place? In his extremity, he reached out directly to God in prayer and experienced healing such as that described in the book of Psalms (107:20), "He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions."

It was this spiritual experience that inspired Zwingli to translate the Bible and make it available to his people. It was this translation which enabled him to carry out the mission of Reformation in his part of Switzerland.

Now, another historical reformation, which is still going on, began about 3-1/2 centuries later, in 1866, also, in a healing experience. And this healing will go down in history as another of the great milestones of mankind's attainment of spiritual dominion over the claims of materialism.

This healing led to the discovery of Christian Science — the discovery of the spiritual laws underlying the words and works of the prophets, Christ Jesus, and the apostles — and to their successful application. This is a tremendous spiritual reformation!

It came about through Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy describes this crucial moment in her autobiography, "Retrospection and Introspection" (p. 24):

"My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury caused by an accident, an injury that neither medicine nor surgery could reach, was the falling apple that led me to the discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so."

Results put to test

Unlike Zwingli, however, she thoroughly investigated the circumstances which led to this healing. Mrs. Eddy dedicated three years to the search of the Scriptures to determine the full answer to her healing, and further, how she could share this with all mankind. The result of her study was subjected to thorough tests and was given to the world in 1875 in the form of this book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."

Now I should like to make one point very clear to any newcomer. The teachings of Christian Science are firmly anchored in the Bible. This Book of books will always be the authority for this Science. Science and Health was never intended to replace the Bible, but it does give us the spiritual explanation of the inspired Bible texts.

How can a key be greater than that which it unlocks? But the key is essential if the treasures are to be utilized and enjoyed! So it is likewise with Science and Health — it is the key to the Scriptures!

In this book Mrs. Eddy states the attitude of Christian Scientists toward the Bible in the first tenet of this religion: "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life" (Science and Health, p. 497). She further states in Science and Health (p. 241), "Take away the spiritual signification of Scripture, and that compilation can do no more for mortals than can moonbeams to melt a river of ice."

Key to progress

What brings reformation or salvation to mankind? It is God, manifested in human consciousness through a spiritual idea, first mentally perceived by one and then understood by many. This spiritual idea reforms those who perceive it and leads out of darkness into the light of moral freedom.

This has happened all through the ages. The Old Testament is full of such transformations. After each downfall of the children of Israel, there followed a reformation and a rededication to the laws of God. Each time when God was listened to, a reformation of mankind's thinking took place, and peace and progress followed.

Shall we today shrink when the voice of Truth, God, is heard amid the sparkling appeal of materialism? I think not!

Examine the other side of the ledger — consider the technological, social, and political progress of the last one hundred years — the period in which this great spiritual reformation has occurred! And this in spite of the many wars and upheavals!

The Reformation of the Middle Ages accomplished much to bring forth the moral forces in mankind. We must always be grateful for it. This divine impetus received new impulse through the discovery of the divine laws of Truth, Life, and Love by Mrs. Eddy. This revelation of the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures threw a new light upon its message. Its literal meaning gave way to the spiritual.

As Mrs. Eddy says, "It is this spiritual perception of Scripture, which lifts humanity out of disease and death and inspires faith" (Science and Health, p. 547).

Illusion supplanted

In learning to understand Jesus' words and works in their spiritual signification, the reforming nature of Christian Science becomes evident to its student. How can this understanding be gained?

Let us take an observation of natural phenomenon to illustrate. What happens when we look down two straight miles of railroad track? What do we see? Two parallel tracks meeting in the far distance. Do we believe the picture we see? Do we accept the evidence of the physical senses?

No! We don't! We replace the picture we see with the fact which we know by reason or proof to be true.

The correction of this optical illusion is only possible through the enlightenment of the facts. There is nothing secretive about it. The correction has taken place not at the distant point where the tracks appear to join, but in our consciousness.

This is exactly what happens in the study of Christian Science. The false picture which the senses give can't dwell with the truth. We must replace this illusion with the true facts of being. This translation is a natural, painless experience and it always will be so!

Rule to be practiced

How truly Mrs. Eddy speaks in Science and Health when she says (p. 260), "Science reveals the possibility of achieving all good, and sets mortals at work to discover what God has already done."

Here is a definite rule to be practiced, to discover what God has already done. We must change our ideals in order to improve our models. We must be willing to learn that the immortal and perfect model of God's creation is the only man there is — the only true conception of being.

In order to be immortal, this model must be spiritual, not material. The real man, then, must be Godlike, therefore, as perfect as God. And since God is Spirit, man, Spirit's expression or reflection is — must be spiritual.

This spiritual declaration of God and man — His image and likeness — must therefore be understood spiritually. But how can a human individual refer to himself as immortal, as the perfect idea of the one Mind, when he still lives in the flesh and in imperfection? Is this one of the things hard to understand? Then let us reason together.

How would you describe a friend? Is it the physical appearance which endears the individual? Surely not!

But when you state that your friend is sincere, honest, unselfish, joyous, positive, you have described someone whom we all would like to know.

Which picture?

Why? Because we have discerned qualities which are spiritual, in other words, they have a divine origin. This picture has nothing to do with the friend's physical nature, but everything to do with his spiritual identity.

Which picture are you accepting as true of your friend — the physical or the spiritual?

From the Bible we learn that the dualism of the human mind isn't ordained by God. The Apostle James aptly states it:

"Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?"

Dualism or dualistic thinking is a product of the false belief that man is a mixture of good and evil. Its basis is a mortal belief which sees what it believes and believes what it sees. This state of consciousness, however, is no more real than the optical illusion of the railroad tracks converging at some distant point.

How does one come out of the delusions of mortal sense testimony?

There is only one way: by understanding what God is and what man's relation to Him is.

This is a radical departure from a traditional theological concept! Its essence challenges old beliefs. Its demonstrations prove its efficacy! It ushers in spiritual reformation!

Understanding God

In Christian Science God is understood to be Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. These may indeed seem like new definitions for God to some of you, but they all have their source in the Bible directly or by implication! When we come to know God in this way, our understanding of His nature expands. We begin to discern the spiritual power which, when utilized, blesses all mankind.

Let me illustrate. A young woman I know searched for years for a satisfactory answer for her life's problems. Her physical condition was alarming, but her mental confusion was even more extreme. She had traveled throughout many parts of the world seeking a satisfying philosophy of life. She had investigated spiritualism, occultism, and other theories.

One day, in a condition described as a nervous breakdown, she visited a Christian Science practitioner. She was seeking healing, but she warned him not to use the word "God" or to refer to God in any way during their conversation!

The practitioner realized the woman's dilemma. She could not equate her inner conviction that there must be some kind of a governing force with the traditional religious training of her youth. The practitioner asked if she could accept the fact of a great First Cause. She agreed that she could do this. She also agreed that the effect of a cause must also express the qualities of that cause.

Clues to Principle

They talked together of the wonders of a beautiful autumn leaf on his desk, and agreed that there must be an underlying, governing force — intelligence — or law which caused that lovely leaf to be.

They recalled many other evidences of an unseen but underlying Principle: the laughter of a child, the beauty of faithful friendships, the satisfaction of an honest achievement, the tenderness of a mother's love, the strength of conviction, the security of law and order.

She was requested to think often and to be happy about these things in the days to come. She was asked to realize that these were only the outward evidences of something far more significant and wonderful.

Gradually, she came to understand that she had been rejoicing and giving thanks for the evidences of God's goodness. When she could acknowledge His presence through the goodness she saw around her, she discovered that she was learning to know God as Life, Truth, Love, as all-knowing Mind, as divine Principle, Spirit, and Soul. Her thinking was spiritually reformed!

You won't be surprised to learn that as a result her health was completely restored. But it was the inner peace and security which came to her which meant the most.

Dropping the burden

When her joy in God was established, she was able to accept an explanation of her own spiritual selfhood. Once she learned that God is Truth and Love, and not a corporeal being, she could see for the first time that the Biblical statement that God made man in His image and likeness made sense. She realized that in her real being she was a spiritual idea, and that her physicality need be no problem or concern to her. Now she could see herself as capable, intelligent, loving and loved, and appreciated.

What a freedom from her former concept of herself as a burdened, confused, physical being! She saw that she had been dwelling on the physical or material sense of herself instead of rejoicing over her spiritual identity.

This spiritual re-forming of her thinking has brought this young woman continued good health, security, and progress. Just so can everyone come out from the delusions of mortal-sense testimony through a spiritual understanding of God and of man as His reflection. The arguments of dualism can no longer confuse when we identify ourselves as the loved of God.

The change of thinking which took place in that woman's consciousness was the result of the healing activity of the Christ. This is the same healing process which has taken place throughout Bible history whenever men caught glorious glimpses of spiritual truth and applied them to their problems.

More than any other individual, Jesus brought out the spirit of Truth in fullest measure. Mrs. Eddy speaks of him as the best man that ever lived. She defines Christ as "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (Science and Health, p. 583).

The spiritual reformation, or Christian Science, brings with it the perception that there is a distinction between the beloved Master and the Christ. Jesus brought Truth. He exemplified fully the Christ, which won him the title of Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus. He demonstrated the Christ.

Actually, it is the Christ, Truth, which is our Saviour, our Re-former.

Humanity needs a Saviour because evil claims to exist — in fact, to be very aggressive. This saving, healing activity is the Christ. It is an impartation of Truth to mankind. It comes to the receptive human consciousness and corrects the false testimony of the material senses.

The Christ is the spiritually perceived nature of God; the spiritual discernment of His holy purpose. This divine nature of God is expressed in such qualities as purity, love, and sinlessness.

No preferred ones

Jesus referred to this spiritual impartation as the Comforter, or the spirit of Truth.

All men can acquire this spirit of Truth. God has no preferred children or singled-out nations, races, or denominations. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14).

Those are the chosen of God who have chosen God as their Life and being. Thus, all who choose this path belong to the chosen people.

For example, if we want to become mathematicians we must choose this subject and devote ourselves to its study. No one is a mathematician simply by calling himself such. The student becomes proficient through applying his understanding of the principle. He may earn the title of mathematician. He chooses his field, not vice versa!

Christian Science follows much the same pattern. It can be applied by the simplest child, but it does require a deep interest in the subject. Its teachings need to be studied and practiced.

These spiritual facts seen and accepted bring a reformation into our life experience. This new and improved outlook turns human thought away from sickness, sin, and death to that which is spiritual, pure, harmonious, healthy, and practical.

Letting in the light

We can experience these purifying effects of the Christ, Truth, in the smallest expressions of honesty, forgiveness, cooperation, justice, compassion. These signs bring hope and confidence. They lessen and destroy fear and limitation and turn the tide of mortal, material thinking. This divine influence brings freedom from mortal beliefs to those who earnestly seek or choose the higher way. It opens the door to progress and the reality of true being.

The influence of the Christ is present in every human consciousness. But it must be acknowledged and expressed. All mankind can be touched by this purifying and enlightening influence. The Christ can heal every type of material discord. The Christ is the reason for mankind's hope. Healing in Christian Science demonstrates why this is so. It takes place through God, not man. It is the transforming — or re-forming — process of the healing Christ, Truth.

A windowpane covered with dust and grime lets through very little light, I think we all agree. But when both surfaces of that window are thoroughly cleansed, it is obvious that the light shines brightly through that window without obstruction.

Now, compare the windowpane with human consciousness. When its material-mindedness gives place to spiritual-mindedness — in other words, when the mortal, confused, incorrect thinking is wiped away — the consciousness is free to let in the spiritual expressions of Truth and Love. They shine fully, casting out every shadow of doubt, fear, and sin. Therefore, it pays us to keep our windows clean!

Scientific prayer

The light is the Christ; the source of that light is God; and the beneficiary of that light is the individual who cares enough to cleanse his consciousness of the mist of materialism.

We have spoken of individual reformation in several aspects. But a big part of individual reformation is that of re-forming our day through systematic study and scientific prayer.

What is scientific prayer? It is defined in these words of Science and Health (p. 15):

"In order to pray aright, we must enter into the closet and shut the door. We must close the lips and silence the material senses. In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings we must deny sin and plead God's allness."

The statement continues further on:

"We must 'pray without ceasing.' Such prayer is answered, in so far as we put our desires into practice. The Master's injunction is, that we pray in secret and let our lives attest our sincerity."

This in fact is a full-time assignment. But many people find it helpful to set aside a special time each day for specific prayer.

'Oil' in the house

As Elisha asked the widow, "What hast thou in the house?" we might well reply as she did, "Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil" (II Kings 4:2). The weekly Christian Science Lesson-Sermon, comprising citations from the Bible and Science and Health, illustrates that oil which we can have right "in the house"! For example, this week, students of Christian Science all over the world are daily studying the Lesson-Sermon on the subject "Reality."

A young woman I know learned of the helpfulness of thorough study of the Lesson-Sermon when she severely injured her ankle in a ski accident.

She was at a ski resort far away from her office where she was urgently needed. She valiantly tried to get back to the office, but only got as far as the railroad station. The pain was so excruciating that she was forced to return to her hotel — and had to be carried there, at that.

She asked for help from a Christian Science practitioner and readily agreed to his request that she thoroughly study the Lesson-Sermon. She not only analyzed each section, but she wrote out the central thoughts and questioned herself on what she had read. Periodically during the day she mentally reviewed the wonderful truths which had become so clear to her. The next day she faithfully repeated the work again. These consecrated hours so enlightened her thinking that she literally jumped for joy.

This was the young woman who two days previously had been carried back to her hotel after giving up her journey. She had learned her part in a Christian Science treatment.

The hotel personnel who had witnessed the experience were astounded.

It was the preparation of her heart in prayer, study, and application which made possible the answer from God. And this coincidence, this prepared state of mind, is the Christ activity — that remarkable meeting of the power of God, Truth, with the "earnest longings" of the individual for the truth. This is why the daily reformation of thought is so important.

 I can't emphasize enough that there must be "earnest longings" for spiritual reform, not just the desire for the visible results. Do we want to be better morally and spiritually, or do we want only material satisfaction?

Christian Science isn't a religion for those who seek only physical healing, or desire that some problem be easily solved without the requisite change in attitude. Nor can we sit back and let another do the work! It is the "earnest longings," or receptivity, which prepare the heart. As Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21).

True substance

As a young engineer in your country, this lesson of "earnest longings" very vividly reached me.

It was in the darkest hours of the depression period, and my last dollar was plainly in view. I was unemployed, and the prospects for a young foreigner without family responsibilities were slim indeed.

Through a mistaken, personal sense of goodness, I endeavored at first to solve my problem by performing helpful chores for my landlord, with the admitted motive that in so doing I would be rewarded. This human way of approaching the problem only delayed the solution.

Finally one day, I awakened to realize that in Christian Science one doesn't solve a problem either through personal goodness or human will or by calculated planning. Through deep and earnest prayer together with the study of the Lesson-Sermon I realized one day that I had to give up the human struggle and trust in God's guidance.

From then on my days began with a fuller sense of prayer and continued with prayer. This yearning for Truth for Truth's sake and the sincere desire to be of service to God and mankind were soon put to the test.

One morning, while reading The Christian Science Monitor, I suddenly realized spiritually that the true substance of that newspaper was its courageous stand for Principle. The desire was kindled in me to do something to express my appreciation for the Monitor.

'But' rejected

The thought came that I could support it by placing an advertisement for my services. I deeply desired to support that newspaper whose mission Mrs. Eddy put in these words: "The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353).

Immediately a very negative and aggressive "but" presented itself. "But you haven't even enough money to pay next week's rent. You'd better keep what you have for your legitimate needs."

I listened to the original thought and placed the ad. To give unselfishly, regardless of the problems at hand, helped to put down the lie of limitation. This was replaced by a joyous expectation of good.

On the day that I was down to my last five nickels, not only was I given permanent employment, but I also received a pay-check in advance for the remaining days of the month.

Truly my prayers were answered when I was willing to re-form my whole thinking and when I met the test through selfless giving. I saw that material-mindedness under the guise of personal goodness had been the stumbling block to my progress. This stumbling block was removed as I expressed the spiritual counterfact — that of God's unlimited supply for each of His beloved children.

As the crow flies

It happened that the information about the new position came from an entirely different source. I didn't actually find my employment as a direct result of the Monitor ad. But I know that my willingness to look out beyond my own personal problem in support of a cause I knew to be worthy, set into motion the series of developments which took place.

To apply these truths one is never too young, too old, too busy, too important, too unimportant. His nationality, race, or creed need not prevent his progress.

Did it ever occur to you to reckon the distance, geographically speaking, from the land of Egypt to the so-called Promised Land — the goal of the children of Israel?

As the crow flies, the distance from northern Egypt to modern-day Palestine is but a little more than one hundred miles. Even the long and complicated route taken by the children of Israel couldn't have exceeded four to five hundred miles, a distance which could be covered by foot even under difficult conditions in less than two months at the most. Yet it took those dear folk 40 years to cover this territory — two whole generations!

This is so typical of mortals! How often we are tempted to wander aimlessly in the wilderness, imposed upon by our own ingrained beliefs, when we could be making our journey with practical and continual spiritual progress.

We need not wallow in the mire of confusion nor drag in the sands of the non-essential! We need only to grasp the right idea of God and of man in God's spiritual image and put this into practice! For every idea of Truth that we clearly perceive and live has a reforming effect in our lives.


[Delivered March 25, 1965, at The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Monitor, Mar 26, 1965.]