Caution: Ally of Fear or Wisdom?

The healing practice of Christian Science demands radical commitment to Spirit and spiritual values. It depends on ways and means that are neither material nor human but wholly spiritual and divine. Its demonstration demands this radical spiritual commitment and dependence. And it requires these to be implemented by spiritual action and the exercise of spiritual qualities.

Is caution one of these spiritual qualities and does it have a place in Christian Science practice? Caution is not a spiritual quality; but it can be part of our equipment for healing. Christ Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, which opens with the Beatitudes, later includes such stark warnings as, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." Matt. 7:6 ;

The writings of Mrs. Eddy also contain warnings. The opening section of her book Unity of Good is captioned "Caution in the Truth." And in speaking of the public response to her teaching of Christian healing she writes: "Now the wide demand for this universal benefice is imperative, and it should be met as heretofore, cautiously, systematically, scientifically. This Christian educational system is established on a broad and liberal basis. Law and order characterize its work and secure a thorough preparation of the student for practice." The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 245 . Here is no provision for reckless zeal.

How can we reconcile the demand on us to be both cautious and spiritually radical? This question is no side trip into semantics; it is one of substance. Failure to face and answer it can lead to that dabbling which is the antithesis of Christian Science practice.

Caution, by itself, is ambivalent. Mrs. Eddy does sometimes recommend it, but she also includes caution in her Glossary definition of "fear" as a characteristic element of fear (see Science and Health, p. 586 ). Caution can be either a plus or minus in character and conduct. All depends on its senior partner, on whether our exercise of caution is allied with and directed by fear or allied with and directed by wisdom.

We cannot think of God, infinite and all-powerful good, as being or needing to be cautious. Spiritual man, made in God's likeness, perfect idea of perfect intelligence, cannot be and does not need to be cautious. Caution derives from a Latin word meaning "beware". So long as we are deceived into believing ourselves and others to be material mortals with personal minds and physical bodies, we need to beware of many things. But in the degree we let divine wisdom identify us as its own wholly spiritual ideas, there's nothing we need be afraid of. Being aware of God's infinite presence, we are out of reach of evil, out of reach of anything that would require us to exercise caution.

Caution, as indicated earlier, depends for its value on what it is allied with. Is it looking fearfully backward to matter or confidently forward to Spirit? Is it responding to the upward pull of all that is spiritual or to the downward drag of all that is material, of animal magnetism? It may be better to act cautiously than recklessly; it's best of all to act from spiritual wisdom. The human expression of spiritual wisdom includes whatever degree of caution best serves a human situation for so long as that situation obtains. Then wisdom eliminates it. Caution will not conflict with our radical commitment to and dependence on Spirit so long as it is guided not by fear but by wisdom.

Caution in truth is not compromise with evil. Caution based on fear tends in the direction of compromise with evil, and any successes achieved by that kind of caution are at best Pyrrhic victories. Pyrrhus, king of Epirus in the third century B.C., won a victory over the Romans at an intolerable cost. Hence Pyrrhic victories are successes too costly to be worthwhile.

Caution based on fear wins only Pyrrhic victories. Such caution begets more caution until caution would become a way of life. But ever-increasing caution is a way of death and aging, not a way of life. If we employ caution, it must be inspired by wisdom and accompanied by a radical commitment to Spirit.

The career of Jesus presents the supreme example of one who let his timing be determined by divine wisdom. He didn't allow himself to be hurried or pushed by the pressures of human haste. He inevitably chose the God-inspired moment to speak or be silent, to act swiftly and decisively or be still, to accept confrontation or to postpone it. To speak of him as exercising caution would be a misnomer; any need for caution was in him overshadowed by his oneness with and constant expression of divine wisdom. He perfectly exemplifies right timing governed by the intelligence of Spirit.

We aim to follow him in this perfect timing. For this we need to avoid the recklessness that provokes reaction and resistance, or the undue delays that provoke detonation. We need to ask ourselves, Is my caution allied to wisdom? With caution allied to Christly wisdom, we advance at God's pace. Then more and more we both achieve spiritual good and bless our human environment.

Peter J. Henniker-Heaton
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