The millennial river

"Beauty will be seen to be not a rare luxury, but an essential and powerful element of daily living."

Over two millennia ago, an Old Testament prophet discovered a celestial river whose headwaters were in Paradise. Eventually his discovery was written down, and today it appears in the book of Genesis:

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"And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates" (2:10-14).

The prophet's description of Eden, the location of the river's headwaters, is brief—Eden is rendered in English as "pleasure" or "delight"—but his description of its beneficial effects on the land is significant. Over the millennia, mankind's understanding of the river's source has deepened, gathered strength and clarity, and is now washing over the world. The character and quality of humanity's moral and spiritual progress in the next millennium will depend substantially upon its willingness and ability to further plumb the source of this celestial river.

The historical context

Sweet water was a precious commodity in Biblical days. In arid lands, where there was water, there was life. Near springs and along the shores of rivers and streams, towns and cities sprang up, and where rivers met the sea, ports and harbors grew and trade developed. Rivers also served as boundaries and as a means of protection. As a part of an unending cycle that started with rain in the high country, which naturally replenished the earth on its way to the sea, rivers held profound symbolic and practical meaning.

The prophet understood the symbolism of a river and its cycle of renewal. When, therefore, the river of Paradise broke into four heads, its precious waters were channeled toward lands that were singularly important. Each head holds promise, and each land it waters has a purpose. The meaning of Pison in Hebrew is "dispersive" or "freely flowing." Gihon means "bursting forth," Hiddekel means "rapid," and Euphrates comes from a root word meaning "fruitfulness."

The river Pison waters Havilah, a land of fine gold and precious stones. The original meaning of Havilah is "circular." A circle is a symbol of eternity or immortality. The river Gihon "compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia," where in ancient times a line of enlightened female sovereigns—the Candaces—reigned. The Hiddekel, also known as the Tigris, was a rapidly flowing river that protected the northern border of Israel from its ancient enemy Assyria. It was the "great river," upon whose banks Daniel saw "a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz" (Dan. 10:4, 5). Finally, the Euphrates, the most majestic, the largest, and the longest river of southwestern Asia, flows throughout notable events in both the Old and New Testaments.

The Messianic impetus and its renewal

With Christ Jesus' teaching that man is the beloved child of God, his unsurpassed spiritual healing work, and his revelation that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, the headwaters of the celestial river were fully revealed to humanity.

Lifted by this clearer, Christlike understanding of the nature of Paradise, St. John also described the celestial river and identified its headwaters as "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 22:1).

Near the conclusion of the second millennium, Mary Baker Eddy, a woman of the New World, rediscovered the celestial river and its four heads and gave the following brief descriptions of their spiritual meanings and missions:

Pison (river). The love of the good and beautiful, and their immortality.

Gihon (river). The rights of woman acknowledged morally, civilly, and socially.

Hiddekel (river). Divine Science understood and acknowledged.

Euphrates (river). Divine Science encompassing the universe and man; the true idea of God; a type of the glory which is to come; metaphysics taking the place of physics; the reign of righteousness. ... (Science and Health, pp. 593,587,588,585)

Mrs. Eddy, author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, renewed the ancient vision and provided the explanation of its meaning for the new millennium.

What progress do I foresee?

The four heads of the celestial river provide some indication of the moral and spiritual progress that we should expect to see in the new millennium.

The Pison Effect

Mankind will increasingly see that ugliness is profoundly costly and that a true understanding of beauty is essential and highly valuable. Beauty will be seen to be not a rare luxury, but an essential and powerful element of daily living. Beauty and true goodness will be seen as indicators of truth, and those who can see true color, form, and action will be highly prized employees and citizens. Humanity will realize that appreciation of and delight in the good and beautiful lengthens life, increases flexibility and elasticity, and sharpens vision.

The social consequences of not achieving something approaching the millennial state are profound.

Why will this delightful state of affairs come to pass? For one thing, because it is the true nature of things.On an eminently practical level, however, our survival will depend upon it. Acid rain. Non-point pollution. Radioactive fallout. Carbon dioxide emissions. These, and many others, are the borderless issues of both the developed and the developing worlds. In the past it has been mistakenly believed that rapid development, progress, "goodness," must inevitably result in pollution. This was the path of the developed world; it is the current path of the developing world. It is, however, unsustainable. In order for all of us—the world—to enjoy an acceptable standard of living, we will be required, perhaps rigorously, to understand and to love true beauty—a balance of sustenance, delight, and inexhaustibility.

The Gihon Effect

In the acknowledgment morally, civilly, socially, of the rights of woman, mankind will delight in discovering its own true nature and will find balance in life. Predation, victimization, homelessness, and overpopulation will cease as the meaning of the divine equipoise becomes more fully understood and lived. The full implications of individuality for men and women will result in true wealth creation beyond anything currently experienced in a hyperexpansive stock market, and a greater balance between justice and mercy will be evidenced in our legal systems.

And why will this state of affairs come to pass? Once again, it is the true nature of things—and frankly, we have no real choice. The social consequences of not achieving something approaching the millennial state are profound. In the United States our penal systems spend more to house an inmate than our educational systems spend to educate a student. In many countries overpopulation, especially in urban areas, has congested infrastructure systems, reduced real economic growth, and dwarfed lives. And finally, if the entire world is to achieve an acceptable standard of living, true wealth creation—balanced wealth creation—will require equal partners in life.

The Hiddekel Effect

Mankind will come to know God as divine Principle, Love, and finally, once and for all, dispose of anthropomorphism as it relates to Deity. Sin—the claim of separation from God—will diminish. And with the cessation of the belief in unforgivable sin, thought will become open to understanding that all disease is curable, that death is not inevitable, and that man is the loved child of God. This internal dominion will expand into "external" dominion.

I am learning to listen, to develop my intuition, and to have confidence in my prayers for the world.

The "inevitability" of natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and global warming will be seen to be profoundly unnatural. But to attain this vision, mankind will first learn to think differently about itself, especially as it relates to sin. As the belief in inevitable and inescapable sin diminishes, mankind will be positioned to exercise dominion over the seemingly inevitable and intractable externalities.

The Euphrates Effect

The last river holds perhaps the most promise. Much has been written recently about the "end" of science—that all of the big questions have been asked and, more or less, answered. If the questions are framed within the context of the "constants" of time and space, then this is perhaps true. Physics is bound by these constants, almost as much as the thought of the Middle Ages was bound by the "fact" that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

That is why mankind will finally decide to replace physics with scientific metaphysics. As we reach out to touch the universe more intimately, metaphysics will be found to be the only frame within which to ask and to answer the questions that will open these doors.

My prayer and initiatives

How will my prayers and initiatives help usher in the millennial state? The rivers of Eden are within our hearts and are filled from the wellsprings of our hearts. These rivers are not private affairs; they are comprehensive and inclusive in their very nature. For the waters to run deeply within our hearts, the channels have to be sufficiently wide and deep. A favorite hymn states,

Make channels for the streams of Love,
Where they may broadly run;
And Love has overflowing streams,
To fill them every one.

(Christian Science Hymnal, No. 182)

My work at broadening my mental channels has included and will continue to include reading The Christian Science Monitor regularly. It takes some effort to follow world events, but in the next millennium we will all, of necessity, be world citizens. Again, this is not a matter of choice. We must, with vigor and earnestness, become citizens of the world and become aware of the events that mark the lives of our fellows. I have identified key Internet sites to monitor as well, and am in touch with individuals daily throughout the US and abroad to learn of recent events that are not reported by the regular news channels.

Finally, I am learning to listen, to develop my intuition, and to have confidence in my prayers for the world. One morning, on a trip to Mexico City, I found the city air so polluted that it was difficult to see across the street from my hotel room. I had some free time, so I spent the morning praying. My prayer went to the spiritual headwaters for humanity: man as the child of God is fundamentally pure and cannot be poisoned morally, sexually, chemically, or theologically. After a while, a gentle rain began, and the wind picked up. By noon the sky had cleared, and the entire valley was visible in all directions from my hotel room. It was spectacularly beautiful and remained so throughout my week-long trip.

I will continue to work like this for the world. But in order for any of us to do this work, we need to become aware of the need, the opportunity, to love. Then we must fill the channel with divinity.

Associate vice president for research at Drexel University in Philadelphia, James H. Albins handles the university's research relationships with foreign universities, United States federal agencies, multilateral international funding agencies, and members of several Congressional delegations. Most recently, this work took him to China to finalize contracts with several Chinese universities, along with a private company, for joint development of Web-based courseware in business, engineering, and the sciences. While in China, Mr. Albins climbed the Great Wall, scaled Yellow Mountain, and floated down the Yangtze River.

Along with a B.A. and M.A. in history from two different universities, he holds an M.S. in science and technology commercialization from the University of Texas.

Father of both a son and daughter, Mr. Albins enjoys swimming, listening to opera, and reading historical biographies during his spare time.

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Our sins are forgiven
January 10, 2000

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