When I started out in the study of Christian Science, I had an experience that forever changed my view on the nature of reality—literally turning what I held as real upside down.
Prior to learning about Christian Science, my view of reality was based on what was taught to me in my childhood Sunday School in a traditional Protestant church. By the time I entered graduate school, I had some serious questions as to what was real and true about me and my relationship to God.
I began attending Christian Science Organization (CSO) meetings at the university and was intrigued. I agreed with all the fresh ideas I was learning about God and Christ—ideas such as God does not give out both praise and punishment, but rather God is only good, all-encompassing divine Love, and that by coming to realize and understand this fact, we discover that it is Love that constantly guides and directs our thoughts and actions, every day and every moment. I was also learning that the Christ is timeless—in operation before, during, and after Jesus’ appearance and ministry—and that the Christ is a real and active presence in our lives today. The Christ, or the action of divine Love, helps us onward in our spiritual progress, freeing us from sin and sickness.
While these ideas were fascinating and made sense to me, I still could not believe, let alone understand, the concept that I, as divine Love’s reflection, was entirely spiritual. How could I not be both material and spiritual? How could this be true?
I had some serious questions as to what was real and true about me and my relationship to God.
One evening I was studying in my dormitory room. Sitting at my desk, I was suddenly overwhelmed by an acute pain in my abdomen. The pain was so severe that it forced me to double over in my chair. I managed to waddle over to my bed and flop down. As I lay there in agony, the simple but clear thought that “God is love” (I John 4:8) came to me, that Love is all power, and therefore I could not be harmed by anything. The situation grew worse. The pain was more intense and I was becoming dizzy and nauseous. I continued to fervently affirm the truth, the reality that God, Love, was all power and that the power of that Love was all I could know. I reached a point where knowing the power of divine Love was absolutely the only thing that filled my consciousness. In that instant, I did not just know, I literally felt Love and deeply loved. I say felt because it went beyond thought. I was warm and happy and peaceful like you feel when you are wrapped in the arms of someone who deeply loves and cares for you. In an instant this feeling enveloped me. The pain, dizziness, nausea—everything—left, was gone. It was like a switch had been turned off. I was healed!
I had never been healed by only praying, never thought it possible. Now I knew why it was possible to be healed through prayer alone. The idea that I am not material, only spiritual, was true! I had demonstrated what Mary Baker Eddy said would happen: “Become conscious for a single moment that Life and intelligence are purely spiritual,—neither in nor of matter,—and the body will then utter no complaints. If suffering from a belief in sickness, you will find yourself suddenly well” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 14). My understanding of reality was totally and forever changed.
The significance of this healing and of my new discovery that I was spiritual was further brought home to me by what happened next. Since I was feeling fine, I decided to go to the CSO meeting that was happening that night. As I crossed the campus to get to the meeting, I noticed a half dozen or so ambulances around the high-rise dorms that shared a commons area and cafeteria with my dorm. When I got to the CSO meeting, I shared the awesome healing I had just experienced and acknowledged that the same all-powerful Love that had cared for me was also caring for the students at the high-rise dorms.
The next day the headlines in the student newspaper explained that there had been an outbreak of salmonella in all the dorms nearby, due to spoiled turkey salad that had been served at supper the night before. Three hundred students, including me, had eaten the turkey salad. The paper said that the students had to receive some kind of medical treatment at school and that nearly 100 had been taken to the hospital for more intensive care. When I read the article I realized I’d handled a severe condition of food poisoning by praying, by declaring and knowing some basic facts about me and my relationship with God, and I had been quickly healed. I had proved for myself that all of us are spiritual. This experience was something that a year prior I probably would have dealt with by getting into one of those ambulances. Needless to say, I was very impressed—not with myself, but with the power of this proof and the understanding I’d gained through Christian Science to help and heal myself and the world.
Mrs. Eddy provides a wonderful description of the process each of us goes through when we seriously study Christian Science and make the effort to find out who we really are. She writes: “Christian Science presents unfoldment, not accretion; it manifests no material growth from molecule to mind, but an impartation of the divine Mind to man and the universe.… The scientific fact that man and the universe are evolved from Spirit, and so are spiritual, is as fixed in divine Science as is the proof that mortals gain the sense of health only as they lose the sense of sin and disease.… Spiritually to understand that there is but one creator, God, unfolds all creation, confirms the Scriptures, brings the sweet assurance of no parting, no pain, and of man deathless and perfect and eternal” (Science and Health, pp. 68–69).
From that healing experience and many others since, together with the study of the Bible and Science and Health, by Mary Baker Eddy, I am still growing in my understanding of what it means to be spiritual. I love this daily discovery of who I really am and my true relationship to God.
Mark Catlin lives in Rochester, New York.