The love of high ideals and the desire to live by them are common to many, although at times it may seem difficult to see this under the mask of hopelessness, discouragement, and faintheartedness. Much has been said of late of the need for higher ideals to motivate the efforts aiming to relieve humanity of the injustices and sufferings that seem to beset it on every hand, every land.
Usually, realism is thought of as the opposite of idealism, as being an attitude of thought more concerned with immediate advantages, with the expediencies of the present, than with any supposedly impracticable ideals.
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In the human sense of things, wherein idealism is frequently thought of as impractical, and realism as materialistic or as largely bereft of high ideals, there would seem to be little that is satisfying. Much needless confusion has arisen out of these misconceptions, particularly among young people who, sooner or later, find themselves confronted with the opposing arguments of these two mental attitudes. This usually happens early in their careers, when they are most eagerly searching for the best means to bring their ideals to some practical realization.
Apparently surrounded as one is by this conflict of human sense with its arguments concerning the relative merits and demerits of these two attitudes toward life, it is most important that—turning away from both views for the moment—one ask himself the questions, What is true idealism? Is it really opposed to realism in the sense that it has little practical value? And by what means can a true idealist best achieve the practical realization of his purpose to contribute to the welfare of humanity? To these important questions Christian Science gives a wholly adequate reply.
One definition of "idealism" is, in part, "the practice of forming ideals or of living under their influence." Since, as Christian Science teaches, God, the divine Mind, is the only source of the ideas which form our ideals, "the practice of forming ideals" becomes the practice of entertaining the ideas of God. Consequently, true idealism in human experience is constantly living under the influence of God. And since God and His ideas constitute all reality, it is self-evident that in their Christianly scientific sense idealism and realism not only are not opposed to each other, but are one and the same.
The conscious, active desire to discern and express these realities opens rich opportunities to realize them in daily experience. Thus may be satisfied the desire of every true idealist to serve the real interests of mankind.
Therefore, in attempting to relieve the injustices and sufferings of humanity, we must start from a strictly scientific basis if practical results are to crown our efforts. Only the Science of being, Christian Science, can furnish that basis. It teaches that the real universe is the spiritual expression of infinite, perfect, creative Spirit, the divine Mind; that it is infinitely good and right; that since in divine Mind all things are governed by the divine law of righteousness, they move in accord with God's perfect, harmonious plan for the constant benefit of all His children.
The so-called material creation, then, with its selfishness, greed, hate, sickness, ignorance, and fear, is merely a material counterfeit sense of the real spiritual creation. This false, temporary sense of creation as material needs to be corrected in individual consciousness through scientific discernment of the real creation. Our beloved Leader, Mrs. Eddy, writes in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 260), "Science reveals the possibility of achieving all good, and sets mortals at work to discover what God has already done."
The greatest and most practical of all idealists, our Way-shower, Christ Jesus, knew more than all others about "what God has already done." In pursuance of his understanding of the divine plan, he translated this knowledge into teachings and acts of enormous practical significance to the salvation of humanity. Of him Mrs. Eddy writes (No and Yes, p. 38), "He established the only true idealism on the basis that God is All, and He is good, and good is Spirit; hence there is no intelligent sin, evil mind or matter: and this is the only true philosophy and realism."
How beautifully and satisfyingly does this scientific idealism meet the desire to correct iniquity and suffering in the world! And how adequately the great Master equipped us with the practical rules for actually accomplishing this high aim! These practical rules are based upon the First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," and the Golden Rule, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Our divinely inspired Leader calls these "the all-in-all of Christian Science" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 5), and continues, "They are the spiritual idealism and realism which, when realized, constitute a Christian Scientist, heal the sick, reform the sinner, and rob the grave of its victory." We may have supreme confidence that these rules, when applied in consecration to Truth, will always reveal to us the wisest human footsteps leading toward our grand goal, and the right time for taking them, and also constant spiritual alertness to the guidance of divine Mind. The life of a true idealist is not one of dreamy or inactive theorizing, but follows a busy course, a truly great career. Its purpose is to help humanity. And it is one that all may enter upon without delay.
The ultimate aim of all idealism is the full understanding of God, good, and the eradication of evil from the human experience. The true way of attaining this summum bonum for all humanity, guiding all earnest idealists through the confusion of purely materialistic experiments for world betterment, and keeping their ambition and efforts centered on the practical, realistic idealism taught by Christian Science, is set forth by our beloved Leader in the following statement (Unity of Good, p. 6): "Sooner or later the whole human race will learn that, in proportion as the spotless selfhood of God is understood, human nature will be renovated, and man will receive a higher selfhood, derived from God, and the redemption of mortals from sin, sickness, and death be established on everlasting foundations."