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Self-knowledge and spiritual growth

From the November 28, 2016 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


One of the most important components to spiritual growth is self-knowledge. Throughout her writings Mary Baker Eddy mentions this concept and describes two distinct steps involved in gaining this knowledge. One is knowing our identity, our only true selfhood, as God-created.

Christ Jesus certainly knew who he was. This was the foundation for his successful healing ministry. He claimed no father but God. He was clear about his oneness with God, as God’s Son. He even said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), and his consistent knowledge of his spiritual selfhood empowered him with awesome effectiveness. 

In order to follow his example, we can trust this guidance from Mrs. Eddy from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil” (p. 571). As we consciously embrace the truth of our identity as God’s reflection, we discover that we have everything we need in order to demonstrate our dominion over evil.

However, there are times when we yearn to grow spiritually but sense something is standing in our way. This is where another aspect of self-knowledge comes into play. Mrs. Eddy refers to it as anatomy. She explains, “Anatomy, when conceived of spiritually, is mental self-knowledge, and consists in the dissection of thoughts to discover their quality, quantity, and origin.… This branch of study is indispensable to the excision of error ” (Science and Health, p. 462).

This step of self-knowledge involves knowing what error would claim of us so we can erase it from our thought and experience by knowing what is spiritually real. Only when deep character flaws are exposed and expelled through the operation of truth in consciousness can we leave troubling traits behind in our upward spiritual journey. 

This does not mean we go on a witch hunt to find out what is wrong. True self-knowledge is not psychology but the result of the heart’s yearning to be all that God created us to be. We can trust the searchlight of truth to reveal whatever is ungodlike in our own thinking.

Sometimes such uncovering can be disturbing. We may even be shocked to discover something unpleasant about ourselves. Mrs. Eddy provides us with wise counsel when she writes, “The physician must also watch, lest he be overwhelmed by a sense of the odiousness of sin and by the unveiling of sin in his own thoughts” (Science and Health, p. 366).

And the way we keep from being overwhelmed is to know that whatever is exposed truly doesn’t belong to us. That would be impossible. Since it couldn’t belong to God, it can’t belong to us. Our spiritual selfhood expresses God’s nature only. As we prayerfully go deep into Mind’s infinite revealing of our flawless identity as God’s beloved, the most wonderful fresh sense of our true nature floods thought. Anything unlike pure, unstained Christliness simply fades. We are healed!

Many years ago I felt as if I was up against a wall in regard to my spiritual growth. I sensed something was blocking my progress, and I yearned to move forward. One morning I remember praying something like this: “Father, show me what I need to know. I know nothing can be hidden from You. Therefore, as Mind’s expression I can know, too. I don’t care if it is hard; I really want to grow.”

That afternoon I went swimming in the ocean. A treasured ring that had combined my wedding ring with my late husband’s slipped off my finger and was lost in the water. 

Nothing can stand in the way of the heart’s sincere yearning for growth in grace. 

At first I panicked and tried in vain to find it. But several minutes later I remembered my prayer that morning, and in a flash I knew what had been impeding my spiritual growth. I was mentally holding on to a relationship that no longer existed, which the ring symbolized. In that moment I let go. I saw that holding on to the past was keeping me from fully experiencing the good God was bestowing on me in the present. I suddenly felt completely free. Two weeks later I met the man I eventually married, and we spent 34 years together. 

This was a wonderful example of how the loss of a cherished object brought a truly life-changing result. Was I sad about the missing ring? Any sense of loss was completely overshadowed by joy, because I was given an even greater gift—the recognition of something that was preventing me from growing spiritually.

One can never outline how our prayers are answered, but if our desire is pure and our heart is in earnest, God will answer them.

Another helpful aid in growth through self-knowledge is summed up in Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea” (Science and Health, pp. 323–324). Willingness: what a word! A dictionary defines it as “cheerfully consenting.” 

In my case, I had to be willing to give up a tight emotional hold on a relationship that no longer existed. It didn’t mean I couldn’t think of our marriage with joy. I just had to stop fixating on the past so I could move forward. The way it happened was pretty dramatic, but I certainly did get the point. And I truly believe that God will always make sure we “get” what we need.

Understanding and practicing the self-knowledge Mrs. Eddy describes is essential to our success as healers. Nothing can stand in the way of the heart’s sincere yearning for growth in grace. Our dear Father-Mother will bless that desire, and we will then experience the exquisite gift of the purifying and healing power of self-knowledge.

Deborah Huebsch

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