Wilderness Experiences

In the account of the temptation of Jesus as given in the fourth chapter of Matthew, is to be recognized an epitome of the temptations common to all believers in the reality and continuity of time. The careful study of the definitions of "time" and "wilderness," as given in the Glossary at the end of Science and Health, is a key by which these temptations can be translated into terms of the present. When it is seen that the vision of Truth gained by the acceptance of Christian Science corresponds in a degree with Jesus' vision of divine sonship, we have an explanation of the not uncommon experience of Scientists, who after the first clear perception of Truth seem precipitated into a wilderness period of struggle. This is simply a demand for proof and practice, and is bound to continue until the belief in the continuity of time is given up. Sometimes the devil indeed leaves us, but it is only for a season.

In the experience of Jesus, once in the wilderness seemed to suffice, and as he is the "way," this naturally raises the question how he got out of the wilderness and remained out. In "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany" (p. 210), Mrs. Eddy warns us against the notion that Christian Science ever should be two-sided. This is well shown in the temptations, for it is clear that each of the three was met by Jesus with a specific declaration of truth, precisely denying the specific error.

In the three tempations Christ Jesus wielded "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;" he acted as Scientists are told to act, by "prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation" (Science and Health, p. 1). To meet the belief of a return of evil, however, complete self-immolation, is the only weapon. It was therefore the practical recognition by Jesus that he "of himself" could do nothing which met and overcame this supposed necessity for a return into the wilderness. The reason the Scientist has trouble in keeping out of the wilderness is therefore lack of self-immolation, and the "self" which has to be immolated is the belief of a continuous existence in time and hence apart from eternity, this belief being in itself the wilderness. Mrs. Eddy, in her best known hymn, "Shepherd, show me how to go" (Hymnal, p. 188), prays that neither tear nor triumph harm. The difficulty of immolating self immediately after victory is the stumbling-block of most mortals. At that moment in his experience Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France, and at that stage in her experience Mrs. Eddy closed her college.

Progress Toward Perfection
December 16, 1916

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