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Mental health and identity

Reprinted from the March 27, 1978, Sentinel.

One who suffers from mental confusion, memory failure, an inability to respond to simple orderliness—what to do and how to do it in the common routine of daily living—is being confronted with temporary lapses in his sense of identity. Depending on the circumstances, the effect is mental conflict as to one’s being, location, relationships, purpose, and motive. Extreme cases present a picture of substitutive identity, where the sufferer is convinced he is someone he is not.

The remedy is to gain a clearer sense of one’s true identity, and this is a goal everyone should achieve. The dream of mortality itself is a deluded state. Every disease is evidence of mistaken identity. And sin is the same, though more serious. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, reminds us: “There are many species of insanity. All sin is insanity in different degrees. Sin is spared from this classification, only because its method of madness is in consonance with common mortal belief.”Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 407;

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What is our true identity? Christian Science describes man as image, reflection, likeness, expression, idea. God, Spirit, is the cause, and man is the effect. True identity has to do with our indestructible relationship to the creator, a relationship that is wholly spiritual.

Consider the term idea for man. Mrs. Eddy uses it frequently. Consider its usefulness in clarifying identity and in resolving the temptations of mental illness—whether they be temporary losses of memory, the confusion of senility, or the more serious forms of insanity.

In her “Scientific Translation of Immortal Mind,” Mrs. Eddy refers to man as “God’s spiritual idea, individual, perfect, eternal.” And then she quotes from Webster’s English Dictionary: “Idea: An image in Mind; the immediate object of understanding.”ibid., p. 115;

This reminds us of the statement in Scripture, “So God created man in his own image ….” Genesis 1:27;

Every disease is evidence of mistaken identity.

What is an image? The word is related to the Latin term for imitation. But it has stronger meaning. An imitation is often a cheap reproduction, lacking quality, value, permanence. Not so man, the image of God. Instead, he is semblance, likeness, endowed with Godlike qualities, the effect of the one God, who is the great and only cause. Man is imbued with the nature and character of God in that he reflects the purity, goodness, intelligence, substance, and righteousness of God. And this reflection is man’s identity.

Since Mind is God, and man as idea is an image in Mind, he has the consciousness of Mind, reflects the government of Mind, is forever free of confusion, mental conflict, forgetfulness. As “the immediate object of understanding,” he is embraced in that understanding—lucid, alert, receptive, obedient. Immediacy countenances no delay, no hesitancy, no protracted separation.

Idea has been described as a conception of any perfection. God is the only perfect One, and man as conceived by Him expresses the perfection of the original. This lifts the concept of man from an imperfect human, subject to change, prone to uncertainty, patterned after inevitable decline, to the concept of unquestioned excellence, the concept of perfection. Christ Jesus instructed his followers to fulfill the degree of perfection for no other reason than that the Father is perfect: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”Matthew 5:48; This is reason enough, since like produces like. As the Father, so the son. Mrs. Eddy confirms this: “The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea,—perfect God and perfect man,—as the basis of thought and demonstration.”Science and Health, p. 259;

“Idea” may be thought of as an exact likeness or representation. Exactness defies deviation; no slippage there. No wandering from the certainty of all that is accurate, thorough, precise. How contrary is this correct appraisal of man as idea to the transient, uncertain, fearful misconception of man characteristic of human existence! Exactness is a quality of perfection. Likeness is a synonym for image. Representation has the meaning of a model or reproduction. Man as idea is all of these, linked inevitably to his Maker, completely free of any possibility of differing from what God made him. The creator sustains, protects, and preserves the integrity of His creation. The only Mind man has is God, and that Mind is ever sound. It is totally incapable of derangement or disarrangement. And so is man, its exact likeness or representation.

An idea is indestructible. Physical objects have no permanence, but ideas can never be annihilated. As a girl, Mrs. Eddy showed she understood something of this when, during a philosophy class, the teacher asked in substance, “If you destroyed an orange, what would be left?” Mary replied, “There would be left the thought of the orange.”Irving C. Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1966), p. 20.

The only Mind man has is God, and that Mind is ever sound.

Man, as the idea of God, is not a temporary, expendable mortal, the victim of accident, subject to the gradual wasting away of physical and mental faculties. Man as idea is immortal, eternal, radiant with the continuity of being. His consciousness is the consciousness of Mind. His faculties are the faculties of Soul. His discernment, perception, acuteness, are as permanent as the Spirit which forms them. His life is no fleeting human experience but the ceaseless expression of the divine Life, the animating Principle which has always existed, the activity of Love with its tenderness and purity.

Loss of identity cannot occur as these spiritual facts are realized. Confusion, uncertainty, the inability to recall experiences in the immediate past, can be corrected as man’s true identity is understood.

Those who seem unable to help themselves can be healed through the consecrated prayer of one who is fully appreciative and cognizant of the richness of man’s being as the idea of God—richness that can never be bypassed, can never deteriorate, can never waste away for lack of use. The divine Mind, the only Mind of man, is impervious to material, eroding influences. True consciousness is untouched by the claims of genetic law, human heredity, association with those suffering from similar conditions. The complete and permanent soundness of the one, governing Mind, guarantees the soundness of the individual spiritual consciousness that reflects it. Healings of mental illness, confusion, and senility are occurring through the faithful application of these truths of Christian Science.

Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his.
Daniel 2:20

We can exercise the prophylactic nature of this Science and prevent the incidence of mental illness by consistently strengthening our understanding of man’s true identity. By including this strengthening in the prayerful work we do for ourselves each day, we find that our potential, instead of declining, continues to expand. Talents, abilities, understanding, and skills unfold as rapidly as we are willing to admit them. When we identify ourselves to ourselves as the image—the idea—of God, and do this prayerfully and faithfully, we maintain the spiritual sense of coexistence with the Father. Mental lapses find no response in us. Temptations to be confused are met with a firm insistence on our dependence upon divine Mind—on that Mind’s presence and power, completeness and perfection.

In Science and Health there are several pages where Mrs. Eddy exposes the fallacious arguments of mortal existence, arguments which, unconsciously accepted, may contribute to mental illness. These pages, 244 through 248, clearly state the remedy. They deserve consistent attention in our prayers for ourselves. When we observe the guidance of our textbook, we find ourselves becoming more and more dependent upon God. In this way we maintain our individual independence, relying less and less on the support or help of others.

A degree of dependence on others is normal in a complex society. But when this leaning begins to affect our dependence on God, it becomes a contributing factor to mental instability. If the habit of looking to others rather than to God begins to grow, this is a warning. Are we surrendering a precious heritage, which needs to be preserved? Through prayer we can assert our oneness with God, look to Him for the intelligence we need, affirm the permanence of Mind’s memory, and find that Mind is always cognizant of its own ideas. Gratefully we can insist on the law-abiding orderliness of Mind’s government and direction. Man as the idea of God has an indestructible identity, and knowing this secures our mental health.

Guest Editorial
The disappearance of the claims of matter
February 9, 2015

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