Ralph W. Cessna, C.S.B., of Chicago, Illinois
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
In the book of Proverbs (3:13) we read these inspiring lines: "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding."
There is no one here, I am sure, who doesn't want to be happy and healthy. And in the time we have together I should like to offer you a new, or renewed, assurance that an understanding of God through Christian Science brings that happiness and that health, and more than that, it brings the answers to all mankind's problems.
It is comforting indeed to know that Christian Science does heal. But I think we shall see that this isn't enough. For the fact is, healing doesn't come simply for the asking. Anything of real value requires something of us. So, healing, in addition to desire, requires understanding, a better sense of God's goodness and His ever-presence. It is through knowing Him and our unity with Him that we have tangible evidence of His care.
But one might ask if the unsearchable, unseen, Lord of all creation can be understood. Well, the writer of Proverbs thought so. And what is more, the Master, Christ Jesus, thought so. For did he not tell us plainly: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"? This was not only a promise, but a mandate. Yes indeed, we not only can, but must, know God.
Since early in human history, mankind have worshipped unseen powers governing the winds and waves and stars; the mysterious forces that turn night into day, bring food out of the ground, move mountains. Through the ages mankind's concept of God developed first into something personal and material, then gradually, through revelation, to a higher sense of Him as a spiritual, universal, benign benefactor. Yet there has remained the inclination to conceive of this being as including the likes and dislikes, the emotions, the weaknesses and limitations of mankind; to look at human personality and think of God as its image, rather than to look first for primary cause as infinite Spirit, and then to see or understand man as the likeness or effect of this cause.
Human theories tend to leave us with a God who is good, yes, to a degree, but who also creates and tolerates evil; who is big, but not ever-present; who is powerful, but not the only power; a God from whom we can be separated; in short a God who is not infinite, not supreme.
Christian Science reveals God as Spirit, universal, infinite, supreme. It brings Him close to us, shows Him as the ever-present Father-Mother who not only creates but forever loves, supports, and guides His children.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, defines God, in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," in these words; "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love."
The Christian Scientist, incidentally, though he reads and hears, this definition frequently, doesn't take it for granted. He knows that in a thoughtful consideration of these words he will learn of God's nature, and thus his own, for man is spiritual, the expression of his Maker. These synonyms, of equal value, with the four modifying words, "incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite," which, tell us what kind of Mind, what kind of Spirit and so on, — these imply the divine attributes or qualities that express God's nature, qualities just a few of which are intelligence, purity, spirituality, strength, beauty, freedom, and happiness, — qualities which characterize His creation and which you and I, in our true being, include in abundance.
I once asked a student of Science if he felt that he really knew God. "Why, of course," he replied. And he proceeded to recite the definition of God just given. "That," I said, "is a correct reading of what Mrs. Eddy has written. But knowing those words, knowing by heart all the words in the textbook, doesn't in itself mean that one knows God. Knowing God is the work of revelation and reason, the work of eternity; and this knowledge is proved only through demonstration."
Here, we may well ask. Just what is good? That word is used loosely in our speech. In grammar school we learned that most adjectives can be compared, such as good, better, best. But when we speak of God as good, we do not mean, do we, that there is something better? What would it be? God's goodness has no degree of comparison. And this exclusive goodness is reflected in the completely healthy, inspired, harmonious and satisfied condition of His creation.
But just as God is limitless in quality, He is not bound by time or space, nor are the divine ideas that comprise His creation. Perhaps it will help us in understanding this to take a simple example from modern technology. The equations, formulas and technical facts going into the building of those huge space rockets; did these begin to exist only when the experts conceived of them? And are there certain places, at the North Pole for instance, where they do not exist as facts? That which is true must be true whether it is written or spoken, regardless of time or space.
Now let us turn to man, God's reflection. How many kinds of man are there? We can approach this through the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis we read that God made man in His image and likeness and that "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Now there is no reservation about that. What God made is "very good." Yet, in the second chapter man is made all over again, and not in the image of God whom we know to be Spirit, but out of the dust of the ground.
Now, I ask you: How can this be?
Well, it can't be, fortunately. The explanation lies in the fact that this Adam story presents only a false, material view of God and His creation. And though this is a radical statement, an enlightened study of Scripture will indicate that it is not really intended to be taken as a true record of creation. It is: only an allegorical presentation of the material belief about creation, the fable of mortality. The first chapter is the account of spiritual creation.
This tells us two very important things about man, and thus about you and me. It shows us first that man must be spiritual, including by reflection every quality indicated by those synonyms mentioned earlier; not just some of them, but every good quality; not just some of the time, but always. And second, it shows us that man is not fallen, is not condemned, but remains upright and secure, one with God, forever inseparable from Him.
Now we are not discussing an abstract theory. This truth is a most practical thing. Let me invite each one of you, when I use the word, "man" in the following, to think of yourself as this man, God s likeness.
Because God is Mind, man — you — must reflect infinite wisdom, ability, intelligence; because God is Spirit, man must be not material but spiritual, not destructible or even impairable, but indestructible, forever intact; because God is Soul, man's only being, his only selfhood must be pure, holy, perfect; because God is Principle, man must reflect all that is right, he must embody all law and its enforcement; because God is Life, man must evidence harmonious and uninterrupted action, undimmed animation, he must express Life in eternity; because God is Truth, man must evidence all that is true, he must manifest spontaneous discernment, spotless integrity; and most important of all, because God is Love, man — you, remember? — must experience and show forth without discrimination, God's infinite goodness, kindness, warmth — all that the word "love" includes.
It is reassuring also to know that because God is infinite individuality, this quality of individuality is infinitely expressed; and thus each of His children, as His likeness, has a distinct, spiritual identity or individuality. God cannot be divided and man cannot cease reflecting God. He cannot cease being perfect, complete, individual.
Have you ever stopped to think, by the way, that loving yourself is a perfectly right and normal thing to do? How could you do other than to love God's idea, that is, your true, spiritual selfhood? This love, or appreciation, is not smug or self-righteous, but it is rather a recognition of the fact that man is perfect, not because he has made himself so, but because he is the faithful reflection of the perfect God.
Now let us in our quest for understanding pursue an essential point already touched upon, that because God is Spirit His creation must be not material, but spiritual. In declaring this, Christian Science starts, not as do the classical philosophers with human thinking, but with divine Mind, the creator. If God is infinite Spirit, what He makes must be infinitely spiritual. Matter, which is finite and destructible, is the opposite or contradiction of Spirit. Any seeming effect that could not derive from this cause and disagrees with it must be an illusion, testifying to a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Matter is such an illusion.
It may be interesting to note that even in the world of physics the concept of matter is changing. This is reflected in a significant comment in an editorial printed some time ago in The Detroit News.
"There was once a school of philosophy which held that the only reality existed in the mind. A lot of people hooted, observing that the rock which broke a man's bones was a pretty solid sort of illusion. So far as we know rocks still break bones but it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand why. Scientists looking into the rock discovered it was a rather loose aggregation of molecules in a large amount of emptiness. Upon examining the constituent atoms, furthermore, they found that the only solidity was contained in the minute nucleus. Now a super microscope has pried into the innards of the nucleus and tells what it found . . . more nothing. Matter, so hard to the touch, so cruel to the unwary, is slowly proving to be a transient shadow, of ignorance, perhaps."
Mrs. Eddy arrived almost a century ago at the conclusion that since God, Spirit is All, matter truly is a shadow, or evidence of ignorance.
Now one may say "In spite of this explanation of God and His creation, I still see matter and experience pain and discord. It must be real."
To illustrate the answer let's turn to an actual experience. One hot, clear summer day while traveling in a large ore freighter across the still, blue waters of Lake Superior, we were astonished to see off on the horizon another ship. Of course that isn't very unusual, but this one was floating along above the water, and was upside down! There it was, as clear as could be, the smoke from its stack spouting downward into the water. As we drew closer it settled slowly toward the water and then disappeared, smoke-stack first. But then there appeared, more distinctly, first a puff of black smoke, then the stack, then the ship, all right-side up. Of course, we had seen a mirage, an example of the projection of the image of an object lying below the horizon onto a mass of heated air above the horizon. Such mirrored and inverted images are often visible on a clear day for many miles. As our two ships proceeded and finally passed, with cheery toots of greeting, we considered how deceiving material evidences can be, often seeming to invert the truth.
Using the term which designates the false, mortal sense of mind as opposed to the one divine Mind, Mrs. Eddy writes in the textbook (p. 86): "Mortal mind sees what it believes as certainly as it believes what it sees. It feels, hears, and sees its own thoughts." Wrong beliefs entertained in human consciousness seem to be objectified or externalized, that is, seen, felt, or experienced as physical things. This picture or false belief is the thought-created and thought-constituted world of mortal mind, which appears to be individualized in each of us. It is a dream world, including all that a separation from God, if this were possible, would imply. But, you see, it is a dream world, not something we have actually created, but only a manifestation of conscious and unconscious thoughts contrary to Truth. It is a kind of waking dream from which we are aroused to spiritual reality through the understanding which Christian Science brings us. As we accept only thoughts in accord with Truth, thoughts of health, the body reflects this, and is healthy. The very nature of your entire experience will be good in the proportion that your thinking is in accord with God's infinite goodness.
Who is to blame for sickness? Who was to blame, before the time of Columbus, for the world's being flat? The answer is, it wasn't flat. If one believes a lie because he hasn't learned the truth, he has trouble; and to remove the trouble he must find that truth and with it correct the belief. And this is where the practical effect of a better understanding of God and of man as His perfect likeness becomes so apparent, for this understanding corrects the belief, and thus banishes the trouble.
Perhaps we are seeing better what Mrs. Eddy meant when she wrote these simple words in the textbook (p. 390), "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony."
This thought so helpful to us today came to Mrs. Eddy through divine revelation after many years of earnest search. She lived in New England in a time and an atmosphere of resurgent religious and intellectual inquiry. Her family, her environment, and especially her gentle but keen, selfless and perceptive character contributed to the fulfillment of a mission which has set her apart, even among many who do not yet follow her teachings, as one of the world's great religious leaders. Though in frail health in early years before her discovery she sought something more than healing. And though a member of a Protestant church and devoutly religious she sought something deeper than creed or faith. She refused to believe that the God she loved and worshipped could bestow less than good, and she yearned for a better understanding of Him. A developing spiritual insight, apparent, even when she was a child, led her to suspect, long before the healing which set her on the way to the revelation she named Christian Science, that disease is mental.
Severe injuries from a fall on the ice in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1866 turned her more resolutely and expectantly to God. Pondering again the account of the healing by Jesus of the palsied man as recorded by Matthew, she arose a few days after the mishap and joined an astonished household, healed and restored. She writes in the textbook (p. 109), "I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind-action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration." While Christian Scientists do not worship Mrs. Eddy, it is not to be wondered at, is it, that they are profoundly grateful to her, grateful that she was not content with the marvelous healing but went on in her search for a fuller understanding of what had healed her. They are grateful for her love of mankind and her persistence in the face of discouraging opposition. They are grateful that she was able, not of course to do our work for us, but to bring to each of us the means of gaining this same understanding.
One of the important things Mrs. Eddy has given to the world is a comprehension of the scientific character and mission of the man Jesus. From his own words she perceived something vital to a demonstrable understanding of his teaching, the fact that Jesus was not God, but the divinely inspired bearer to mankind of the divine message, the Christ. Jesus spoke consistently of God as Father, and of himself as Son. He humbly declared (John 5:30), "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."
When he said (John 10:30), "I and my Father are one," it is clear he did not mean that he and God were the same, that he was God. That would conflict with his other statements. Furthermore it would make God finite, material, deny His nature as ever-present Truth. The Master was referring to the inseparability of the Father and His idea. He was pointing to the fact that in his spiritual identity he was one with infinite Spirit just as light is one with the sun, a musical note one with the principle of harmony, effect one with cause.
Jesus, born of the pure-minded Virgin Mary, was the anointed one promised in Old Testament prophecy. The Christ, on the other hand, is the divine impartation of Truth which Jesus taught and demonstrated for humanity's salvation. When Jesus said (John 8:58), ". . . Before Abraham was, I am," he did not mean that he as the human Jesus existed before Abraham, but that the Christ, the true idea of God, which he so perfectly represented, exists through eternity.
The Christ, the spiritual selfhood of the man Jesus, did not die, even though the man of Galilee experienced the crucifixion and resurrection. The Christ is as undying as is God. Because this is true it appears in some measure — I earnestly hope in a very generous measure — to us here tonight. And the individual perception of this Christ, Truth, bringing some understanding of the perfection of God and His creation — this is what heals.
Why must there be understanding? If sickness is unreal as Christian Science declares, why do we have to do anything to heal it? Actually we don't do anything to heal it. Before anyone gets up and leaves I should explain that this is what we mean: What needs healing is not sickness, but the belief in sickness, the ignorance of Truth. To illustrate this: Suppose someone attempted to build a space rocket without making any effort to learn and apply the intricate mathematical formulas involved? Suppose he just said: "Why, those facts exist, don't they. There are no mistakes. We have nothing to do but go ahead and build, and shoot off our rocket." Would not the ignorance result in failure, in spite of the facts being facts?
No, to say that there is no sin or sickness and that nothing need be done about the appearance of sin or sickness, an appearance solely due to one's not really knowing the truth, this is not according to Christian Science. By the same token it is encouraging to see, that, facing and denying sickness on the basis of a knowledge of the presence and power of God doesn't make the error more real, more fearsome. It is this very discerning, facing and denying of evil with Truth, that helps destroy it.
Perhaps you have heard about the student who complained of a recurring dream in which she was confronted with three huge, fiery, ferocious horses rushing at her. In the dream, she would turn in fright and run, then would awaken feeling, she said, almost as if the horses had trampled right over her. She was told: "You must know this is a dream, and that there are no horses. Should you have the dream again, this time instead of running you just stand right there." She later reported having the same dream. "At first," she said, "I was tempted to run; but I stood and faced them. And the horses vanished to a mist."
Because sickness is the presence in thought of a wrong concept, we see that we can't ignore it, or hope to remove it by sweeping it under the rug or going physically or mentally some other place. Only as the individual perceives and handles the error in his own thought, handles it as nothing, but handles it, is this nothingness demonstrated to him.
As a child I saw my mother healed through Christian Science, first of what earlier had been medically diagnosed as cancer; then of an acute and advanced goiter. Each healing took some time, but each was complete, leaving not a mark or sign. During the first world war when Spanish influenza was rivaling the war itself for attention, I was healed in a few hours of a severe attack. Later after an automobile accident I was healed through Christian Science treatment, without material means of any kind, of a broken rib. I knew it was a broken rib and that it had been healed because later during an examination, for an army commission the physician said to me: "I see you had a bad break in that rib there. Someone certainly did a good job of setting it." What did set it? My clearer appreciation of the fact that the image of God had not been and could not be in an accident; for how could anything be in conflict or out of place in Principle?
That Christian Science heals the big things, so-called incurable illnesses as well as other types, has been thoroughly demonstrated and attested. Among the avenues provided for bringing this good news to mankind are the Wednesday meetings held by every Christian Science church, where spontaneous testimonies are offered; radio and television programs reporting case histories of healings; and Christian Science periodicals including carefully verified records of such healings. I have here a copy of one of these, the weekly Christian Science Sentinel which may be obtained in the Reading Room of this church. There also may be read, borrowed or purchased the Bible, the textbook, the other writings by Mrs. Eddy and other authorized Christian Science literature.
The healings of so-called big things are wonderful. They prove that what heals is not one power working against another and sometimes bigger power, but that an omnipotent Principle is ruling out the possibility of any other power. But some may be more immediately concerned with lesser troubles. Incidentally it is not a lesser Truth that heals the lesser things. It is the same infinite, invariable Truth. The God who heals the smallest discord is the same God who was present when the crucified Jesus rose from the tomb.
And this leads us to another question. If one honestly and persistently applies this Science and is not healed, what is the trouble? A Christian Scientist I know of was asked to address a class in a university. After his talk one student asked: "You say Christian Science heals everything. You are wearing glasses. Why is that?" The speaker asked the student what marks he was getting in school. "Why," the student replied, "all B's."
"Well," said the speaker, "the reason I am wearing glasses is the same reason you are not getting all A's."
A failure to heal is simply a failure to learn and to use sufficiently well the Truth which Christian Science teaches.
But let's go back to the use of this Science in those so-called lesser problems. I have seen three cases of measles in the same family — one case was that of a parent — healed through Christian Science over night. Then there's the so-called common cold. Christian Science does not admit that it is common at all or real at all, except to ignorant human sense. Through showing that God did not create a thing called a germ or virus, and that weather has only the power we give it in thought, Christian Science not only heals the cold but prevents it.
Our son who had had some difficulty with car or sea sickness earlier healed himself to the extent that he spent 19 days on a small troopship in a rough crossing of the Pacific, almost the only one of the "landlubbers" aboard not affected.
I have seen the desire for both alcohol and tobacco destroyed as these were shown to be false appetites, without power to give or withhold good.
What is poverty? Poverty in any measure is a mental state, not an economic condition. Through an understanding of God as the ever-present source of all good I once found fruitful activity during a business depression when one was not supposed to be able to do that; and, what is more, during that prolonged slump, we actually enjoyed a constantly improving standard of living.
Grief, loneliness, inadequacy? Christian Science reveals that the man God made lacks nothing, can be deprived of nothing good. In short, an understanding and application of this Science, can heal whatever needs to be healed. And it does so with only God's help.
Because Christian Scientists do rely solely on God they are sometimes approached with this statement: "I understand you do not believe in doctors." The Christian Scientist highly respects the honest physician who practices what he believes and acts out of compassion for humanity. But the Scientist's attitude is not, let me say, a matter of believing or disbelieving in doctors. He just does not believe in sickness. He knows that resorting to material remedies, or even having a medical diagnosis, discloses one's belief that there can be something in God's kingdom that needs healing. It is, as a matter of fact, this very belief, a sometimes latent or hidden belief in the reality and possibility of disease, that invites the trouble to begin with. The Scientist knows that disease is not a pain in a place, but a painful thought, and that neither medicine, physical therapy, diet, exercise, nor the surgeon's knife, can correct wrong thinking. The only remedy for that which is mental is — what? — correction of the mental state, of course. The changes that seem to follow use of material remedies show not the potency of the medicine, but only the patient's faith in it.
Why not have both medicine and Christian Science? Because they are opposites. Christian Science is based on the understanding that disease is unreal, an image of wrong thinking; it is going in one direction. Medicine presents the contrary theory that disease is real, has a cause, exists in matter and can be healed by matter; it is going in the opposite direction. You cannot go in opposite directions, physically or mentally, at the same time.
Among innumerable references in the textbook on this point is the following (p. 182): "Mortals entreat the divine Mind to heal the sick, and forthwith shut out the aid of Mind by using material means, thus working against themselves and their prayers and denying man's God-given ability to demonstrate Mind's sacred power." Of course the important thing, when there is a temptation to use material means or mix medicine with Christian Science, is to remember that God does love His ideas, and that we are safe always in entrusting ourselves wholly to His care.
Now in Christian Science healing is there a formula? No. There is no formula or set pattern of words or even of thought. The need is met either out of a spontaneous realization of God's allness, or if this doesn't come clearly at once, through a denial of the specific error and an understanding affirmation of the specific spiritual fact. The Christian Science prayer, in others words, is not a matter of words, not a method of pleading, but of knowing, knowing that God has already given His ideas happiness and health.
However, this should be said. Essential in every healing is love. What does it mean to love? It doesn't mean that we just smile sweetly and repeat words about love, and say nice things to those we still believe do not deserve them. We can always be considerate and kindly; but real loving is much, much more than that. Real loving is seeing the perfection of God and thus the perfection of His creation, man — seeing better what is really there instead of the false material testimony. The sun doesn't shine in or on darkness; and it doesn't go about looking for places that have no darkness. It just shines. And where the sun shines, there is no darkness.
During the last war a Christian Science Wartime Worker, one of the authorized civilians who conducted services and ministered to the needs of Christian Scientists in the services, told me this story. One day a young private came to his office and complained bitterly about his sergeant. It seemed the sergeant had it in for the soldier, picked on him cruelly. The soldier was told he would have to love the sergeant, which seemed a pretty big order. Soon after this the worker was transferred to another station. But one day in came the same soldier. He had been transferred to a new outfit, and had a new sergeant. But this sergeant was as bad as the other, if not worse. This time they really got to work on loving. A few days later the soldier came back beaming. "You know," he said, "the funniest thing has happened. That sergeant has changed completely. Why, we're buddies now."
Real loving removes pride, arrogance, dishonesty, greed, hatred, and such things from oneself, but also removes all this from one's experience, which, you see, is the same thing. This same love knocks down walls that may seem to loom between us and rightful things. Whether the wall calls itself age, geography, parentage, race, medical law, education, or accident it is composed of wrong beliefs, and these crumble away before the love which knows only the presence of limitless good.
No matter what may seem to appear in the way of physical, personal, political, or economic conditions you can know that your well-being depends, not on the mortal picture or report, but solely on your own understanding and use of this Science. The power, the dominion, is not in what seems to be the outward evidence, no matter how big or real it appears; the power exists by reflection from God in individual consciousness. In other words, the problem doesn't have the dominion. Reflecting Love, you have the dominion.
Doesn't it unfold more clearly to us that what we are doing is not working against something; that actually we are not in the midst of error trying to remove it or get out of it; that we are in the midst of good, seeing more of it?
Now let us here recall the Master's promise mentioned earlier that the truth shall make us free. But what is the rest of that verse? "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
To be free, to gain that promised happiness and healing, we are directed to know the truth, to understand that God is good and is everywhere.
This then is the message I should like to leave with you. You shall know the truth. You shall understand God, and be healed.
[Jan. 26, 1961.]