A few years ago I decided to return to college to obtain a degree. During these college years I learned many useful lessons. In my marine biology class, one simple lesson taught me how ignorance of the truth can appear as an illusion, and how the truth uplifts one from the deception of the physical senses.
The biology class used microscopes to identify specimens of phytoplankton and other marine specimens. Inasmuch as this was my first use of a microscope since my high-school days, I was eager to renew my knowledge of the instrument. Each student had his own to use. After identifying a number of specimens in another's scope, I looked into mine and exclaimed, "Oh, what a beautiful shell!" After the student next to me viewed my findings, she said that it was not a shell; and the teacher confirmed that it was not a shell but a piece of broken glass on the edge of the slide that held the specimen. Unfamiliar with the magnifying power of this microscope, I was fooled into seeing a beautiful shell when it was really only an enlarged piece of broken glass. The illusion was in seeing the broken slide incorrectly; it was nothing more than ignorance of the truth. My ignorance in the use of a microscope led to a belief in the illusion. Students of Christian Science have likewise learned that ignorance of God and of man's spiritual relationship to Him leads to false conclusions, presenting pictures of sin, sickness, and even death.
What makes it possible to identify an illusion? It is understanding the truth.
When we are spiritually instructed, we cannot be deceived or misled by illusive pictures of material limitations and conditions. One dictionary says illusion is "an unreal, deceptive, or misleading appearance or image"; delusion is "a false, persistent belief maintained in spite of evidence to the contrary." We can learn how not to be deceived through study of the Bible. We read in II Timothy, "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." The "man of God," the real man, is the image and likeness of God, perfect and under God's control. But we have to understand and demonstrate man's true nature.
Mortal mind—the name for all the false perceptions of reality—is like a microscope lens, making something that is not to appear as something that is. It can present the ugliest and least desirable as the most beautiful, or vice versa. The textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health by Mrs. Eddy, states, "Mortal mind judges by the testimony of the material sense, until Science obliterates this false testimony."
What makes it possible to identify an illusion? It is understanding the truth. If you want to identify a counterfeit five-dollar bill, you would not need to study all the ways the counterfeit could be made. No, you would study the actual, the genuine, until you could immediately recognize the counterfeit as not the true. Mrs. Eddy tells us in Science and Health, "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony." Students of Christian Science therefore study the Bible each day, together with Science and Health, so that they will be instructed "in righteousness."
In Romans we read, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." It is important to understand the spiritual import of the word of the Bible. God is Spirit, Mind, Principle, Love, Truth, all that is good. Man, the child of God, is the expression of this goodness. As the reflection of divine Mind, man expresses intelligence and wisdom.
Mrs. Eddy helps us understand these truths by identifying truth and error in her writings. She names matter mortality, mortal mind, illusion; she gives the name error to corporeal sense, and the name substance to Mind, God. This helps us realize that matter is an illusion because it has no substance in Truth, therefore no actual reality; it is a misconception. In daily experience, however, illusions sometimes appear very real when we consent to mortal mind's consistent mental suggestions that we live in matter and are controlled by the corporeal senses.
If what the physical senses are presenting to us is a misconception, and this error is not identified as such nor corrected by the truth, we are then allowing this illusion to govern our lives. Mankind has suffered unnecessarily from fears caused by belief in all sorts of illusions that were originally seen or accepted as facts and were later proved to be illusions through an understanding of the truth.
Prayer and daily study of the Bible Lesson outlined in the Christian Science Quarterly are solid preparation for meeting everyday challenges by identifying the material and temporal as not the truth of being. We can cast out deceptive thoughts when we understand spiritual reality and hold this true, spiritual concept in thought continuously.
Christ Jesus has shown us the way. He saw through the delusion of mortal mind; he was not fooled by the material picture. His many healings established the proof of the spiritual facts of being. Today we can humbly learn to follow his example step by step, endeavoring not to be misled by material appearances but to be governed solely by God, divine Principle, Truth.
One evening, at the time when many people read their daily newspaper, I was sitting in my living room studying. All of a sudden the suggestion came, "You are dying." I simply continued reading, for I knew I was healthy and well. But this thought persisted until I had actual symptoms of incapacity—no energy, difficulty in breathing, inability to use my legs. Mortal mind was trying to convince me that I was dying. The thought came immediately, "The understanding of God, as taught in Christian Science, is the Science that will destroy this erroneous picture along with the deceptive symptoms, because the origin of this Science is spiritual, emanating from divine Mind and not material reasoning."
I thought of the microscope experience and realized that believing in death was seeing an illusion; it was not acknowledging the spiritual facts of being. I turned to God in prayer. I acknowledged that God is the one and only creator, the all-knowing and all seeing Mind. He has no knowledge of, nor recognition of, any error—sin, disease, nor death; Mind sees only its perfect creation, including spiritual man and the spiritual universe. That is all that exists, and it is good, pure, and whole. Man, God's image and likeness, can only reflect this divine goodness and purity.
I affirmed that God is Spirit, incapable of being deceived; therefore God's expression, man, cannot be fooled by any illusion or aggressive suggestion. God, Life, is the living God. He is not dead, nor does He have any knowledge of death. He is infinite, ever-present Life. As Life's expression, man is alive—the active evidence, witness, and proof that God is Life.
My prayer continued along these lines until I was free. I felt normal and well again, and I returned to my studies.
The next day when I went to the office, everyone was shocked to see me. I learned what had happened. At the same time I was praying to understand and accept the truth of my spiritual identity as a child of God, my friends and business acquaintances throughout the county were reading my name in the obituary column in the newspaper; they were all seeing and believing that I was dead. Yes, there in the newspaper was my name, but it belonged to another woman with the same first and last names. I realized that I had become mesmerized unknowingly by the thoughts of those who were ignorantly believing I was the woman in the obituary column. But the belief of my death was only ignorance of the truth.
Suffering cannot take place in our experience if mortal mind's suggestion of it is not first accepted mentally. But even then it remains an illusion without a real cause. When we replace the false belief with the truth, the deception must disappear.
What a satisfying revelation to know that any picture of evil will disappear as we grow in our understanding of man's true, spiritual identity, inseparable from the one, infinite God, good. Acknowledging what God is and recognizing man as God's reflection breaks the ignorant, mesmeric belief that man is a corporeal being living in matter and subject to all the pains of the flesh. There are no illusions in the presence of Truth.
In I John we read, "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." Instruction in righteousness certainly is profitable in revealing the nothingness of an illusion.