When I was an undergrad, my bedroom looked out onto a cathedral tower topped off by a fifteen-foot statue of an angel. Around midnight the lights illuminating the main body of the cathedral shut down while the winged angel remained floodlit—a heavenly symbol hovering over an increasingly secular campus.
I was part of that growing secularization. Like many students I had turned my back on religion and was investing my hope for a better world in political activism. I went on protest marches and boycotted a professor whose political views I deemed unacceptable. Yet far from satisfying my desire to improve the world, my attitude and actions were fueling an increasing sense of anger in me.
The way ahead looked like more of the same until I caught a glimpse of another possibility when I had an encounter with what, in hindsight, I would describe as an angel. By that I don’t mean I met a living being resembling that winged statue. This was an encounter with a thought, one that fits squarely into a definition of angels I’ve since come to know and love. It says angels are: “God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 581).
One of the evils that angels counteract is anger. That’s what happened for me. The angel I experienced lifted my thought higher as I was about to deliver a cutting and very personal put-down to a fellow student who had upset me. As I opened my mouth to dispatch my missive, a deeply tender thought winged its way into my thinking, and I found myself voicing the most healing and unifying words. I felt as if I’d been aided by a wiser mind than my own. I recall thinking, “Where did that come from?”
A deeply tender thought winged its way into my thinking, and I found myself voicing the most healing and unifying words.
To my joy that question was answered as my undergraduate days drew to a close, when I was introduced to the teachings of Christian Science. From the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, I gleaned that such healing thoughts come from the divine Mind, God. And as I studied Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures together with the Bible, I increasingly understood how this all-loving intelligence was the only true Mind, and that man is its reflection. This meant the experience I’d had of being lifted from self-centered ire into an unselfed calm and kindness hadn’t simply been a one-time gift of grace. It was a marker of reality, a precious glimpse of the true man’s spiritual individuality as the reflection of a God that the Bible describes in very tender terms.
For instance, the Psalmist says of the divine Mind, “Your gentleness has made me great” (Psalms 18:35, New King James Version). In contrast, anger is pinpointed in Mrs. Eddy’s writings as a “… quality of mortal mind,—not immortal Mind” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 36). It’s a trait belonging to a mistaken, finite conception of ourselves as separate from God.
Seeing ill temper as a mistakenly inverted sense of true identity shed light on my need to break free from the anger I nursed for those with opposing views. I saw how Christ Jesus loved even his adversaries, and it became increasingly apparent that I too had to turn the other cheek.
As I did that, step by step, it was liberating. I became increasingly aware of how spiritually blinding my righteous indignation had been. It had closed my eyes to the inherent Christliness of others, and veiled from view my own true Christliness as God’s reflection. But the incessant “us versus them” narrative in my thoughts gradually gave place to the understanding of there being just one Ego, “one I, or Us” (Science and Health, p. 588).
This gave me a new and empowering basis for addressing local, national, and global issues. Instead of protesting angrily, I could protest privately, prayerfully, against the belief of all that would claim to separate individuals, communities, or nations from God, good, and from one another, echoing the healing stance taken by Jesus, “… whose humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth,—of man’s likeness to God and of man’s unity with Truth and Love” (Science and Health, p. 12). On this basis of man’s unity with God, Jesus cured cases of acute and chronic illness, and liberated minds mired in immoral choices, proving how powerful such a spiritual stand can be—a spiritual stand very much needed around the world today, including on campuses.
As universities in the Northern Hemisphere open for a new academic year, college life globally can, and should, be a satisfying and joyful adventure. And the best of academia contributes richly to the progress of society. But academic life can throw up moral and ethical dilemmas that tempt those attending college, and caring observers, to react angrily—from academic rivalry and research bias to conflicts about the proper limits, if any, of free speech, to relationship difficulties far more complex than the flash of anger that led to my moment of angel-delivered grace.
Nonetheless, that moment hints at the possibilities of listening for and being guided by God’s angel thoughts. Whether one is starting college as a freshman or returning as an undergraduate, postgraduate, or professor, God’s guidance can bring to light innovative solutions to campus challenges and enhance the best of college life.
Granted, not every campus has a neighboring fifteen-foot angel to remind those attending of the all-important spiritual dimension of their lives. But no matter how secular a campus might sometimes seem, angels abound by virtue of their ever-present source in infinite Mind. And if we pause, pray, and listen carefully within, whether we’re academics or not, we will hear those angels assuring us that far from being angry men or women, we are God’s creation, man, in “the image and likeness of the patient, tender, and true, the One ‘altogether lovely’ ” (Science and Health, p. 3).
Access more great content like this
Welcome to JSH-Online, the home of the digital editions of The Christian Science Journal, Sentinel, and Herald. We hope you enjoy the content that has been shared with you. To learn more about JSH-Online visit our Learn More page or Subscribe to receive full access to the entire archive of these periodicals, and to new text and audio content added daily.