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From the October 13, 2008 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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Early In The 16Th Century, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon journeyed from the island of Puerto Rico to what is now northeastern Florida. Some historians say he was searching for a legendary "fountain of youth." Others argue that, being a conquistador, de Leon was looking for more mundane stuff in the form of gold deposits. But the explorer's search has come to symbolize humanity's quest for life's source.

Ancient and modern searches alike are impelled by an imagination-firing concept that predates de Leon's journey by millennia—one that has fueled many seekers, writers, and mystics—namely, the notion that matter, in either an ordinary or alchemical form, holds the secret to eternal life.

These days, what besides modern fountain-mythmaking could persuade so many people to consume ever-expanding quantities of increasingly expensive bottled water? Why else do people go on pilgrimages to sacred springs or secular spas thought to offer rejuvenating or health-restoring effects? And isn't there a fountain-of-youthlike search behind cosmetics that promote the promise of "advanced healing" or "anti-aging, rejuvenating" effects on the skin?

These and a myriad of other notions and nostrums actually may have their origins in a subtly pantheistic belief that the spiritual resides in, acts through, and blesses the material. In Christian metaphysical terms, the pantheistic concept holds that God, the infinite life-giving Spirit, needs and uses matter to create and sustain life. That infinite Spirit can somehow dwell in the finite. This line of exploration, though, inevitably leads to a dead end.

Who doesn't yearn for a better and longer life? Or even for a more youthful outlook on life? But isn't the deepest yearning of all the desire to know Life itself—to come to know the living, breathing presence of God, and to live and enjoy the spiritual existence that this divine Life alone can give?

If you're among the multitude of searchers, perhaps you're ready to consider a radically different proposition about life's source, and about eternal being. This proposition's starting point is that God is all the Life there is, and that each son and daughter already has a perfect spiritual life as God's reflected image. We are as ageless as the one Eternal, as spiritual as our Spirit-source, as whole as the Soul that authors all creation, and as worthy of love as the Love that animates us.

But what about the quite material human body that appears to confine and define existence? Isn't there "life" in orga nized organic matter? Yes, a kind of life—something like a faint copy of a majestic masterpiece that the physical senses cannot begin to perceive, because spiritual being can't be discerned through matter.

About 350 years after Ponce de Leon sailed around the coast of Florida looking for either a life-source or just a better life, a spiritual and Christian explorer found herself bumping up against what she would later call "the confines of mortal existence." You can read about Mary Baker Eddy's journey and the healing it brought her in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She summarized her discoveries in this way: "I learned these truths in divine Science: that all real being is in God, the divine Mind, and that Life, Truth, and Love are all powerful and ever-present; that the opposite of Truth,—called error, sin, sickness, disease, death,—is the false testimony of false material sense, of mind in matter; that this false sense evolves, in belief, a subjective state of mortal mind which this same so-called mind names matter, thereby shutting out the true sense of Spirit" (p. 108).

Mary Baker Eddy's map for her journey? She relied entirely on the Bible as "the chart of life" (p. 24), and said, "When humanity does understand this Science, it will become the law of Life to man,—even the higher law of Soul, which prevails over material sense through harmony and immortality" (p. 311).

Jesus lived, taught, healed the sick, and raised the dead according to the laws of eternal Science, the truth of spiritual life. To a woman he met one day, drawing water at a well, Jesus said, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). The water of spiritual insight that Jesus offered that woman is available in abundance to any searcher. It awakens us to real and permanent Life. It's no myth or mirage in the desert. Nor is the map leading to the Source someone's secret possession.

Fair warning, though: Drinking this water will have radically transforming effects—all of them beneficial. Like the woman at the well, you may find all that you thought life to be, exposed as worth little, and ultimately illusory. And all that Life really is, opening to you, giving fresh purpose and strength.

With its healing waters, you can give Life-giving drink to yourself and others. ♦

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