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Alertness on the frontline

From the April 24, 2017 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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On April 25 each year Australians and New Zealanders remember those fallen in combat. In particular, they commemorate over 11,000 soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who gave their lives during World War I in a thwarted effort to take the Gallipoli Peninsula from the Turks, who also suffered tragic losses. 

These ANZAC Day observances include dawn parades, often carried out in silence, that commemorate the military routine of waking soldiers before sunrise so they could be fully alert should the enemy attack “in the morning’s half-light.”

No doubt many of those, on both sides of the battle, prayed in the first, quiet moments when they were stirred from sleep. For some, reassuring Bible passages would have echoed in the sanctuary of their silent thoughts—passages like Psalm 91, with its protective promise, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (verse 1).

One young man who enlisted for the First World War while in Australia recalled how this psalm, “as understood through Christian Science,” was his “greatest standby” as he regularly turned to the divine Mind, God, for guidance and courage (Keith Ovenden Lefeaux, Sentinel, June 26, 1943). His alertness to God’s presence and power brought healing from severe dysentery and septic poisoning contracted during the Gallipoli campaign. And it gave him a “positive assurance of protection” when he and a partner stumbled across an enemy stronghold while on a reconnaissance mission. That thought proved prophetic when they felt led to go into the fortified place and found a tunnel there that led them away to safety. He also marvelled at how he and others had been spared from harm “when shells burst in open ground so close that it would have seemed otherwise impossible to escape injury.” 

Most of us, thankfully, don’t face the kind of enemies or harmful hazards in our lives as the soldiers did that day. Yet we, too, face a frontline, one that’s closer to home—a war being waged in our thinking. According to Mary Baker Eddy—a veteran of humanity’s spiritual fight for full freedom from sickness, sin, and death—our frontline is “the warfare with one’s self” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 118). The struggle is differentiating between the limited sense of the material mentality that the Bible calls the carnal mind and the limitless ideas being revealed by the all-knowing, divine Mind­; that is, discerning between thinking that tends to be self-centered, sensual, and materialistic, and spiritual and inspirational thoughts that lead in the direction of goodness and purity and an unselfed love for others.

In this daily battle between conflicting perceptions of our being, our need is to ensure that God’s thoughts prevail in our consciousness over the opposite aspersions of the human mind.

In particular, in Mrs. Eddy’s key text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, a paragraph given the marginal heading “The great conflict” explains: “The suppositional warfare between truth and error is only the mental conflict between the evidence of the spiritual senses and the testimony of the material senses, and this warfare between the Spirit and flesh will settle all questions through faith in and the understanding of divine Love” (p. 288).

This might seem paradoxical. How can something be both “suppositional” and a “great conflict”?

It makes sense, though, when we realize that the “evidence of the spiritual senses” is that God is supreme, all-power; yet, the contrasting material belief in an opposite power can seem so tenacious. Our need is to overcome this false “testimony of the material senses” through grasping, and yielding to, the truth of the omnipotence of Spirit, God. 

This suggests a different kind of alertness—a constant awakeness to divine Spirit’s supremacy over any conflicting claim of a material power. To win the “warfare between the Spirit and flesh” we need to gain such familiarity with what we are as Mind’s spiritual reflections that we more readily recognize, and denounce, any claim of ourselves or others as less than the spiritual and perfect outcome of divine Spirit. 

On this basis, too, we can gain the inner poise by which we more decisively distinguish and destroy any claim that we’re defined by a material body, rather than by divine Soul. 

Such claims come as thoughts, and they can be countered in our thinking. They appear as self-centered cravings over which we can progressively prove we have God-given dominion. Or they appear as beliefs of sickness and disease that can yield to healing prayer.

Our ally in each battle of this mental conflict is the Christ—the divine Truth Jesus represented as he vanquished material beliefs of sickness and sin. The Savior expressed his sense of alertness in words that appear on the front cover of this magazine, “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” His fearlessness suggests he wasn’t asking us to peer apprehensively outside of ourselves in dread of dangerous foes. Rather, he was urging us to be vigilant within—to see more of what he spiritually saw—so we increasingly win our own battles over all the claims of mortal existence. 

As we do so, each victory is won on behalf of all because every time anyone gains ground in their “warfare with one’s self,” it’s a demonstration of everyone’s true identity. And whenever “the evidence of the spiritual senses” frees any of us from the fragile hopes and frequent fears that attend the belief of existing apart from God, we’re demonstrating a universally applicable truth. Indeed, we’re proving in part the premise stated in Science and Health that the “warfare between truth and error” is solely “suppositional.” 

That is, in reality there’s only “the secret place of the most High” in which infinite Truth excludes any conflicting error. And so, similar to soldiers watching together in quiet camaraderie, we can stand alert to entertain the true sense of omnipotent Spirit and its spiritual ideas, which bring God’s healing love to light in our lives and to the wider world. 

Tony Lobl

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