Defeating the challenge of aging
Robert Gilbert, the guest on this Sentinel audio chat, has been a Christian Science practitioner and teacher for many years. He has been a chaplain in the United States Army, has worked with state and federal legislators on legal issues related to spiritual healing, and has been a Christian Science lecturer. This chat has been edited for readability.
Host: This question is from Kansas: My mother has been diagnosed with hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and blood sugar. Do you have some thoughts for me?
Rob: Several years ago I looked into how Mary Baker Eddy talks about God, and the impact of God, the divine Mind, on human minds and bodies. When I looked up the word control in her writings, I was surprised to find out how many times she talks about the action of God, of Truth and Love, in controlling the human body. That roused me from ignoring the body to doing what she says to do: “Take possession of your body, and govern its feeling and action” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 393). She also says, “. . . dictate its terms, and form and control it with Truth” (ibid., p. 228).
She has some very practical things to say on how to do that: Truth, for instance, “imparts a healthy stimulus to the body, and regulates the system. It increases or diminishes the action, as the case may require, better than any drug, alterative, or tonic” (ibid., p. 420). She also talks about the effect of what we understand spiritually about our relationship to God and its effect on the body—“The inflammation, decomposition, or deposit will abate, and the disabled organ will resume its healthy functions” (ibid., p. 373). These statements tell me to take possession of my body and dictate its terms.
With regard to high blood sugar, the law of God, the law of harmony, the law of Mind, to thought and body, is a law of perfection. Then it’s a law of perfection and completeness with regard to assimilation, or digestion, and a law of completeness with regard to elimination that, according to current thinking, relates to problems like high blood sugar. So, what I’m finding myself doing more and more is not ignoring the body, but dictating its terms—that the law of God, the law of Mind, is a law of complete assimilation, governing every cell, gland, tissue, fluid, secretion of the human body. And, it’s a law of total and complete elimination to everything that has outlived its usefulness, leaving nothing to interfere with the functions of being.
We can be very specific and positive about governing our sense of body, rather than being intimidated by it or ignoring it.
Host: From Kenya: My thoughts keep wandering toward revenge and unforgiveness to some people who I feel wronged me some years back. What do I need to do to reverse this situation, and also to find freedom from bitterness and vengeful thoughts?
Rob: A lot of us deal with that from time to time, and it does have a direct effect on life experience and aging. What helps me the most is paying attention to Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 22). I used to think, “How can you revise the human history because it’s over and done with?”
A breakthrough for me was that the biggest impact of human history is what I presently believe about it, and that seemed to give me permission to revise the human history. And so, if a memory or feeling comes to thought, I check to see first of all, if it is an expression of God’s care and love. If it is, I identify with it. If it’s not, I reject it; I refuse to identify with it anymore as part of my history. And then, third, I replace what seemed to go on with some deep spiritual fact that I’ve discerned was going on right when that unfortunate situation happened.
For instance, if there was an accident, and if the memory comes up and there’s fear attached to it, I will not identify with it as part of my history. Then I might affirm that right when that happened, divine Love was there and the actual forces of Love were protecting, preserving, and securing everything that was important to me.
Now, in the situation this individual is asking about, it was some very hurtful things that had happened in the past, but I think it’s the same kind of thing. I find that people react the most, or feel hurt the most, when the actions of others make them feel threatened. But when I recognize that everything important to me is safe in God’s care, then I can forgive. In summary, if it doesn’t illustrate God’s love, I reject it; number two, I refuse to identify it as part of my history; and number three, I replace it with some spiritual fact of being.
Host: From Canada: Several close relatives in the past have had sight problems. While I feel I have no connection with heredity, I think it has snuck into my thought in this area. Could you shed light on how to see through these erroneous suggestions apparently connected to passing years?
Rob: One of the things that helps me is to more and more become aware that I don’t have any personal, private mind separate from God, or any sight, or hearing, or any other perception separate from God. In other words, that God is all-seeing. To me, that means that God just doesn’t see everything that’s going on, God literally provides His universe with all of the seeing that it has. So, I would say to our questioner, “Do be conscious of the fact that right where you are, God, the divine Mind, is exercising perfect vision.” Now, obviously, most of the world believes that the perceptive faculties are material, and they are made up of the physical organism, but what I’ve found in Christian Science is that sight is a spiritual sense. As we gain an awareness of that, it calms thought, corrects it, and it not only improves sight, but it also restores what’s considered to be normal for the organism of sight, or hearing, or any of the other perceptive faculties.
I don’t mean to sound like, “Boy, I’ve got this all figured out.” It takes real dedication and work to overcome this sense of a personal mind separate from God, a personal, private sense of sight, hearing, and action. It takes dedication to recognize that God is All-in-all, and that each of us is the expression of God’s perfect being. As I bring that understanding to these kinds of challenges, it reduces fear, and we find improvement.
Host: From Kansas: What is a great treatment or prayer we can use daily about aging for ourselves and the people around us?
Rob: I think we’ve covered some of these things, but I might just mention that sometimes we need to be quick, to the point, and responsive, because a lot of impressions may come in over the day, and we may think, “Well, when I have more time,
I want to pray about that, or get a better idea about it,” rather than doing something right at the moment.
And so, I have in my metaphysical tool belt, a six-second prayer, or treatment, to get at the condition or situation and to deal with it. I got the idea from reading a couple of passages from Science and Health. In one, Mrs. Eddy writes, “Always begin your treatment [or prayer] by allaying the fear . . . ” (p. 411). Elsewhere she says, “When an accident happens, you think or exclaim, ‘I am hurt!’ . . . .
“Now reverse the process. Declare that you are not hurt and understand the reason why . . .” (p. 397).
So if something comes along that doesn’t seem right, I’ve said to myself: “A-R-K—Allay the fear, Reverse what is being presented, and Know the reason why. What usually settles thought with regard to fear, for me, is some immediate perception of the presence of God’s love—the sense that divine Love is here. And if you feel like you have a cold, reverse that, and then know the reason why what you’re saying is true, that God governs and regulates His children. What I’ve found from doing that is that the accumulation of burdensome impressions is being dealt with right at the moment and I feel more buoyant at the end of the day.
Host: From Switzerland: How would you explain the aging of the human body since Spirit is all and there is no matter?
Rob: As we begin to pay attention to our sense of body, we see that there is a direct connection between thought and body. In fact, Christian Science brings out that they’re not just connected, they are different forms of the same substance, a little bit like water. You know water has a hard form that we can see and feel and we call ice; it has a gaseous form that while we can’t see it, we can still feel it. We might call it humidity. Well, mortal thought has a sort of a condensed form—called the human body—and it has a form that we don’t see called belief, but we can feel its effects. So, what appears to be an aging body is an impression of mortal thought that needs to be dealt with and corrected.
It’s helpful for me to see that God is omni-active. And in that regard, I have no fear that God is going to be feeble, or that some action is going to have an effect on God, and this tends to remove that fear with regard to me as God’s expression.
I just might mention here, too, that it takes diligence to distinguish your own thinking from the general public’s thinking, where people may be asking, “What is it like to enter middle-age? What is it like to be a senior citizen?” There are an awful lot of human opinions out there that would be glad to dictate and direct what you can expect and what you can experience. We need to have a spiritual model, and I haven’t found anything better than what Mrs. Eddy has in her books, and what Jesus brings out in his wonderful teachings and healing work.
Most of us know that the general concept of aging is growth, maturity, and decline, but when I look at the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and the teachings of Christian Science, I see an entirely different picture. For instance, she says, “Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (Science and Health, p. 66). That’s what we have to look forward to—divine goodness and Love, and she uses the term ripening in a few places, which means “bring to fruition, to mature, to make perfect.” She says, “Men and women of riper years and larger lessons ought to ripen into health and immortality, instead of lapsing into darkness or gloom.” And then she adds, “Immortal Mind feeds the body with supernal freshness and fairness, supplying it with beautiful images of thought . . .” (ibid., p. 248). She also says, “Neither the Old nor the New Testament furnishes reasons or examples for the destruction of the human body, but for its restoration to life and health as the scientific proof of ‘God with us’ ” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 218).
So the more I gain the spiritual reality as God sees it, the more I gain the spiritual facts about home, family, and relationships; health, vitality, and body. This not only improves my human thinking about these things, but actually improves the condition of the body, home, and family. This improvement continues until humanly, everything I do is more and more representative of the spiritual facts of being—representative of spiritual reality—until the ascension. At that time, what represents spiritual reality to me here on the human scene is replaced by the divine reality itself.
Host: From Oregon: How can we get people to stop judging us by our age?
Rob: One of the things that has helped me is to recognize, first of all, it’s my perception that is dominant, and not others’. Or as Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health, “Christian Scientists, be a law to yourselves that mental malpractice cannot harm you . . .” (p. 442). The point is, it’s what you think that is the dominant power here, and not what you believe other people think. And that’s important.
However, with regard to the decisions that are being made about us that seem to affect our lives—if we are seeking a job, for example—what I’ve found helpful is to keep thought in line with a rule that’s positive. For me it is that right when decisions are being made that appear to affect our lives, the fact is that God, the divine Mind, is right there, and is causing what appears to be the human will to be silent. Divine Love and Truth correct false impressions and enforce God’s judgment.
So, instead of feeling, wondering, what others think, it helps me to use this as a means of grace, of getting really close to God, to acknowledge God’s presence right where those decisions are being made, and that the presence of Truth and Love does silence human will, correct false beliefs and impressions, and enforce God’s judgment. That helps me a lot.
HOST: From Washington: One of the most aggressive challenges of aging is decreasing mobility. How would you prayerfully address this challenge?
Rob: Well, again, my human experience has been that I’m more and more transferring my own sense of personal, private abilities, to see these abilities and qualities in God. With regularity, I affirm to myself that God is right where I am, exercising His infinite power, without pain, without restriction, without decrepitude, and I’m the expression of that. In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy uses as an illustration, a mirror and somebody standing in front of it. She says that if the individual lifts a weight, the reflection lifts the weight also (see pp. 515–516). It seems to me, though, that it’s the one in front of the mirror who is doing the heavy lifting, the movement, the action, and the expression or reflection expresses that. It’s helpful for me to see that God is omni-active. And in that regard, I have no fear that God is going to be feeble, or that some action is going to have an effect on God, and this tends to remove that fear with regard to me as God’s expression.
A friend of mine said he once was bringing a Christian Science lecturer, who was a man probably in his seventies or eighties, to the lecture hall. They were a little bit late, and when the car pulled up, the lecturer jumped right out. The hall was up a couple of flights of stairs, and the two of them were sprinting up there, and the senior citizen got up there first. My friend said, “I got up there a few steps behind, wheezing.” The lecturer turned around and said to him, “Don’t worry, son, I used to have that problem when I was your age, too.” Then he went right in and gave the lecture. So it’s not a matter of passing years; it’s spiritual development!
HOST: From Connecticut: How do you handle the belief of memory loss as a belief of aging, and similarly, how do you handle the belief of Alzheimer’s?
Rob: I have thought a lot about Mrs. Eddy’s statement “. . . the impossibility that matter, brain, can control or derange mind, can suffer or cause suffering; . . .” (Science and Health, p. 414). I know there’s a great deal of emphasis on the anatomy of the brain, its biochemical actions, changing electrical synapses, and trying to locate identity, consciousness, memory, in certain portions of the brain. I think if we accept that, then if changes take place, we might conclude that it can affect short-term memory or even take away one’s sense of identity. It helps me to be a strong witness that God, the divine Mind, is indeed the only Mind, and that I don’t have a personal, private mind of my own. The material organization and the biochemistry of the brain do not affect the activity and the capacities of the divine Mind as they are expressed in me. Memory is spiritual and immortal, and in the divine Mind, an idea is never lost, neither does it disappear into oblivion. Mind is right here and right now exercising perfect awareness, understanding, and memory in me.