When I was growing up, my family and I used to dine at a restaurant, where the owner would entertain his customers with a variety of magic tricks. On one occasion he asked me to be his assistant for a trick, and I agreed. He began by shaping the big restaurant menu into a cone; next he folded under the bottom of the cone so nothing would leak out. Then he took a pitcher full of milk and began pouring the milk into the cone until the pitcher was almost empty. He instructed me to hold this cone of milk and began to carefully hand it off to me. But just before completing the hand-off, he suddenly let go.
Thinking the milk had spilled all over my dress, I began frantically wiping it off. This was all to the amusement of my family, who clearly saw there was no milk in the menu! It was all a deception. The pitcher was not your normal pitcher; it was designed so that when tilted, it appeared that the milk was pouring out and going into the cone. But it was not. Had I known that, my response would have been different. I would have seen through the magic trick and not reacted to its deception.
Many magic tricks like this are examples of deception, making something appear to be quite real, which in fact never happened. Animal magnetism—a term Mary Baker Eddy often uses in her writings to describe the deceptive suggestions of mortal belief that oppose God’s supremacy—operates in a similar way. It would convince us through the material senses that evil is real and then impel us to react to its supposed reality.
In seeing through evil’s deception it has helped me to consider a Hebrew meaning of the adjective evil given in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: “to be unjust.” Injustice could be described as the absence of justice. So freeing oneself from the injustice of animal magnetism, or evil, would include the recognition of the ever-presence of God’s universal law of good, which is always just and available for everyone. Wherever we are, God’s impartial law of justice, order, harmony, and love is operating on everyone’s behalf, so in divine reality there can be no such thing as an unjust law in operation. God’s law is supreme.
Wherever we are, God’s impartial law of justice, order, harmony, and love is operating on everyone’s behalf.
Another Hebrew meaning of evil I found in Webster’s dictionary was about evil’s intent “to defraud,” in other words, its defrauding nature. Freedom from evil entails recognizing the infinitude and allness of Truth, God, in which there is nothing to defraud and no one to be defrauded. We are, after all, God’s witnesses, His spiritual image, or reflection. As such, we can see, hear, and express only the truth; God’s reflection can never be deceived or lapse into false beliefs. Freedom from being deceived comes to one who understands this. As Christ Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
The truth Jesus shared with the world, and which he proved, unmasks the trickery of evil and frees us from it. Jesus recognized evil as a lie and the father of it, without any truth abiding in it (see John 8:44). Anything that would deny the presence of the law of God, good, is a fraud with no reality to it. Jesus’ healings are proof that discord, limitation, lack, and disease are lies that hide the truth that man is perfect and Godlike. The coming of the spirit of Christ, Truth, to human consciousness unmasks evil’s deceptions by revealing the reality of being to us and by appealing to our God-given ability to understand spiritual truth.
Jesus’ parable of the tares and wheat teaches us about the deceptive, or fraudulent, nature of evil (see Matthew 13:24–30). In the parable Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven “unto a man which sowed good seed in his field.” But at night, an enemy sowed tares in his field. Then, “when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit,” the tares “appeared” with the wheat. Both were left to grow until the harvest, at which time the tares, which have no grain, are burned, while the wheat is gathered into barns for use.
It’s been helpful to me to see that the illusory, unreal nature of evil, as represented by the tares, can be hinted at in the word appear. Evil “appears” to the material senses to be real, though it is unreal.
Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The temporal and unreal never touch the eternal and real. The mutable and imperfect never touch the immutable and perfect. The inharmonious and self-destructive never touch the harmonious and self-existent. These opposite qualities are the tares and wheat, which never really mingle, though (to mortal sight) they grow side by side until the harvest; then, Science separates the wheat from the tares, through the realization of God as ever present and of man as reflecting the divine likeness” (p. 300).
Only through deceptive material sense do the tares and wheat seem to mingle, but the spiritual perception “of God as ever present and of man as reflecting the divine likeness” makes clear the distinction between the wheat and the tares and shows the unreality of evil.
Spiritual perception of the Christ, Truth, frees us from animal magnetism’s lie of what seems to the material senses to be real. And we all have this spiritual perception! As the Apostle Paul said, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (I Corinthians 2:12). By exercising our spiritual sense we can see through animal magnetism and so be freed from its lies.
Evil’s deception is no match for divine Truth.
These ideas came into play when my family and I spent a week in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, enjoying the beauty of nature and various water sports on a lake. I was the first to go waterskiing, which meant being the first to try the newly-bought skis that, unknown to us, were “trick” skis used for accomplishing fun “tricks” on the surface of the water. We weren’t used to these skis, and also, we later found out that they were defective. Unknown to us at the time, our boat was under-powered because the underdeck was full of water from a day’s rain.
As the sluggish boat tried to pull me up, one of my legs turned sideways at an extreme angle, which left my leg badly injured. Because I was unable to move or climb the boat ladder, my family helped lift me flat onto the boat.
Wracked with pain, unable to find a comfortable position, I asked my dear family to take some moments to pray with me. I was strengthened by the stillness and palpable presence of divine Love I felt during those minutes of prayer. I didn’t want everyone to miss their turns riding on the water tube we had with us, so I decided to stay on the boat rather than ask to go back to the dock.
As I prayed, one idea that really broke through the pain and injury and opened the way to healing was the fact that what had happened was actually a deception, an illusion. That may seem hard to grasp, but at the time, I likened the deception of material sense to what happens in a dream. The dream is a state of thought in which one is completely unaware of and uninformed about what is actually going on.
I reasoned that if I dreamed I climbed a tree, and then fell from the tree and bumped my knee, when I awoke, where would the bump be? Of course there would be no bump because what was actually going on was that I had been safe in bed; I had never fallen from a tree.
So, I saw that as a spiritual idea I had never left my Father-Mother God’s care, because in Her infinite law of love there is no possibility for harm or accident. There could be no effect from that which never happened. This insight was like a small, bright beam of Christly light dawning and then expanding in my thought. All the fear and pain left. As I continued to pray and cherish these ideas, I found I could comfortably sit on the boat.
By the time we returned to the dock an hour or so later, I was able to walk supported hand-in-hand with my family back to the cabin. The next day I was swimming in the lake. The full healing of any sense of pain or injury came right along as I continued to pray over the next few days. No vestige of the injury remains, any more than any residue of spilled milk remained on my dress in that restaurant, because in reality neither had actually occurred.
Truly, nothing but the mighty hand of God governs us. Because God and man are one in being, we are forever able to understand what is spiritually true, and thus be free from any apparent evil suggestion that would say otherwise. Evil’s deception is no match for divine Truth, which promises, “I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
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