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Moving mountains

From the Christian Science Sentinel - September 1, 2013

The text of a broadcast on Christian Science given by Robert Peel on the "Third Programme" of the British Broadcasting Corporation

Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor


Within the past few years we have seen a tremendous accession of physical power to mankind. We often hear it said that man now has the power to blast all human life from the earth if he wants to. His latest achievement, the hydrogen bomb, seems a kind of blasphemous parody on the words of Jesus: "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you" (Matt. 17:20).

The faith that has rocked the world with atomic explosions is a faith in man's capacity to control nature through scientific method, but today one often finds it combined with a fearful doubt of man's ability to control himself.

Christian faith may come to our rescue in this dilemma, but in its usual forms it is far removed from the blazing assurance and unlimited claims of primitive Christianity. The sharp struggle between religion and science in the 19th century has resulted, for the most part, in a sort of gentleman's agreement between the two—a state of peaceful coexistence, with the methodologies of science supreme in the practical concerns of life, and religion left to play over man's interests as a kind of inspirational and institutionalized poetry.

The urgent need of our time is for a coherent view of life, at the same time religious and scientific, that can bring nature under the certain control of man's highest spiritual perceptions.

It is the contention of Christian Scientists that a discovery made by a New England woman in the 19th century has made available a spiritual power that as greatly exceeds the usual forms of Christian influence as atomic energy exceeds all prior forms of physical power. 

We do not claim that what Mary Baker Eddy discovered is new, but simply that it has lain unrecognized in the life of Jesus Christ for almost 2,000 years. What Christian Science claims is the presence of a metaphysical principle in the so-called miracles of Jesus, a universal Principle scientifically applicable to every discordant phase of human existence.

 In support of its thesis, Christian Science appeals not to dogma but to what it calls "demonstration"'—practical demonstration, those "fruits" of which Jesus spoke when he said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20). It insists that a "miracle" is an impossibility in a universe governed by law.

If Jesus could instantaneously heal a man "full of leprosy," it must be because he knew more about the laws governing reality than the physiologist of his own time or even of ours—more about the relation of matter to mind than either the physicist or psychologist has yet discovered. To Christian Scientists he is, as Mrs. Eddy put it, "the most scientific man that ever trod the globe" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 313). And in a measurable proportion they are today demonstrating the revolutionary dominion over nature which he exemplified.

Without its healing works, Christian Science would not deserve a moment's serious consideration, for it runs startlingly counter to the piecemeal empiricism which has wrought such technical marvels (and such philosophical chaos) in the world today. Mrs. Eddy once wrote: "If Christian Science lacked the proof of its goodness and utility, it would destroy itself; for it rests alone on demonstration" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 365).

Yet, important as its pragmatic proof is in an age of scientific skepticism, Christian Science aims at something higher than physical results. It looks on the healing of sickness and every form of human discord as among the "added things" of which Jesus spoke when he said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).

The first aim is to understand and express God and the nature of His kingdom, the nature of His power. Thus if physical ease were the Christian Scientist's only aim, he might as well resort to one of the "miracle drugs'" of today if he did not receive an immediate healing through Christian Science treatment. But to him the efficacy of the drug rests on the mental state of the patient rather than the physical properties of the drug.

His endeavor is to rise above the level of blind faith in the testimony of the senses (and in the knowledge based on that testimony) to a clearer understanding of the immutable, invariable laws of divine reality. Hence he will naturally prefer to persist in this effort until he shall have laid hold on these higher laws sufficiently to demonstrate them concretely in his life. For then he will not only be healed physically, but released into a larger measure of spiritual, moral, and intellectual freedom.

On the intellectual side, Christian Science presents a complete and coherent metaphysic. We live, on the whole, in an anti-metaphysical age. The general tendency since the Renaissance has been away from dogmatism to empiricism, culminating in the readiness of the positivists and instrumentalists to dismiss the older philosophical questions about God, man, and immortality as meaningless. The great rational structures of Aquinas and Hegel have gone down before the semantic demolition squad.

Early in the century William James wrote:

"If ... we apply the principle of pragmatism to God's metaphysical attributes, strictly so called, as distinguished from his moral attributes, I think that, even were we forced by a coercive logic to believe them, we still should have to confess them to be destitute of all intelligible significance.

"Take God's aseity, for example; or his necessariness; his immateriality; his 'simplicity' or superiority to the kind of inner variety and succession which we find in finite beings, his indivisibility ... ; his repudiation of inclusion in a genus; his actualized infinity; ... his self-sufficiency, self-love, and absolute felicity in himself: — candidly speaking, how do such qualities as these make any definite connection with our life? And if they severally call for no distinctive adaptation of our conduct, what vital difference can it possibly make to a man's religion whether they be true or false?" (The Varieties of Religious Experience. )

 Christian Science takes up that challenge squarely. Its metaphysics is inseparable from its ethics. It starts with God as the logical premise of all thought as well as the normative determinant of all value. In her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 587), Mrs. Eddy defines God as: "The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence."

From this perfect God she deduced a perfect spiritual creation, the reflection or emanation of God's own nature. Man she accepted as the image and likeness of God (as the first chapter of Genesis pictured him)—spiritual rather than material, incapable of corruption and error, no more subject to annihilation than his Maker.

The spiritual man and spiritual universe must express the law and order of Principle, the creative intelligence of Mind, the radiance of Soul, the spontaneity of Spirit, the indestructible vitality of Life, the clarity of Truth, the all-embracing warmth and delight of Love.

The corruptible material universe and mortal man she saw as an ignorant caricature of reality, a misapprehension of being conceived from the standpoint of supposition rather than of understanding. To the question how such a misconception could arise in a perfect universe, her answer was that it could not arise or exist in such a universe; it was outside reality, with no more substantive being than the darkness which vanishes at the approach of light.

Thus to the theoretical problem of evil she brought the practical answer of healing, as Jesus did. Reality, in her system, is by definition—and, in a degree, by demonstration—all that expresses the nature of God; while all that denies that nature is illusion, error, however real it may seem to the state of ignorance within which it has its fictive existence.

Christian Scientists believe that this is what Jesus meant when he said of the devil or impersonal source of all evil: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44).

They find his own repudiation of this lie in his healing of sickness, his regeneration of character, his mastery of nature, his triumph over death, his revelation of reality—and in his statement, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

To replace a lie with the truth is to banish the false consciousness that held it, and this is the process of Christian Science healing, the practical effect of its metaphysical position.

To think in what it conceives to be a scientifically Christian way is to look through the ignorant distortions of sense testimony to the basic fact of a perfect God and His perfect spiritual creation, and, reasoning from this premise, to reject as a lie all that seems to deny this perfection.

Healing, from such a basis, is the gradual replacing of false concepts in the human mind with pre-existent spiritual realities as they exist in the divine Mind, the only true consciousness. This process objectifies itself as a change in the evidence before the physical senses. It is a gradual process because the total perfection of the spiritual universe can be demonstrated only as it is acknowledged at every point and at every instant of individual experience—a severe discipline for foolish mortals.

Mrs. Eddy sensibly wrote: "I do not maintain that anyone can exist in the flesh without food and raiment; but I do believe that the real man is immortal and that he lives in Spirit, not matter. Christian Science must be accepted at this period by induction. We admit the whole, because a part is proved and that part illustrates and proves the entire Principle" (Science and Health, p. 461).

In so short a talk as this, one can give only the barest hint of what is, after all, a lifetime study. It is worth pointing out, however, that there is a sharp distinction between Christian Science and the various forms of traditional philosophical idealism.

Unlike Berkeley, for instance, it does not conceive the material universe to be an idea in the mind of God, for this is to make God responsible for all disasters, physical and moral.

Unlike Hindu pantheism, it does not conceive of an undifferentiated Absolute necessarily and eternally manifesting itself through a veil of Maya or mortal illusion, for this is to leave human life without hope of redemption.

Many philosophers in many ages have said, "All is mind," and the scientist has been able to reply: "What possible difference could that make to my study of nature, even if it were true?" But I have known the same statement, "All is Mind," when used in Christian Science, to result in the healing of an advanced case of cancer, thus furnishing the natural scientist with a totally new datum, if he cares to look at it.

The difference, as we understand it, lies in the fundamental distinction Christian Science draws between the divine Mind, as the source of all that is real, and the unillumined human or mortal mind, as the sum of all delusion.

This same distinction separates Christian Science from the various forms of suggestion and psychosomatic medicine which utilize the human mind as the healing agent instead of turning to the divine Mind in the spirit of Jesus' words, "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).

It is obvious that physical healing can be only a small part—though a vital and essential part—of any systematic effort to let God's will be done "in earth, as it is in heaven," in appearance as it is in reality. The body politic demands healing, not merely the physical body. All the poverty and frustration, the sin and violence of human life cry out for healing.

When one throws a stone into a pond, it starts a ripple flowing out from the center of disturbance in a constantly widening circle. So when an individual first tries to understand and practice Christian Science, it begins at once to revolutionize his thinking, first of all about those things closest to him and then gradually about a widening circle of concerns.

In a rather literal sense his body is that which is closest to him, and he begins to exercise dominion over it with the authority of his newly recognized spiritual selfhood. Then he finds much in his human character and temperament that must be transformed, and much in his personal relations, his business, his profession, the world of affairs, and the world of intellect.

I have had friends who were musicians or architects or were engaged in physical or biological research who have found that Christian Science has enabled them to work out difficult problems in their fields in what sometimes seemed startling ways.

The healing Principle is the same in all cases. What is involved is a surrender of the human mind to the divine Mind and a consequent banishing of the fear, the bias, the self-importance, and the other factors that may stand in the way of the problem's solution.

Christian Scientists may well be modest in assessing their present demonstration of the vast Principle they claim, yet they can not deny the magnitude of the blessings which even a grain of understanding has brought into their lives.

While sporadic "faith healings" have occurred throughout Christian history, never before has Christian teaching furnished so stupendous, so consistent and "scientific" a body of evidence for laws transcending the provisional hypotheses commonly known as "laws of nature."

Yet, with all this, the heart and soul of Christian Science, as of all Christianity, is love—love demonstrated not merely as a sentiment but as a principle, indeed the basic Principle of reality in the universe.

In nothing was Mrs. Eddy more radical than in her coupling of the terms Principle and Love as synonyms of God. She knew that a mere theoretical knowledge of the divine was fruitless; it must be loved and lived, the Word must become flesh in every area of experience, if Christianity and Science were to be proved as ultimately one.

Thus Principle must be known as Love, and law must be felt as power; otherwise the positivist might rightly dismiss the whole thing as a thin tissue of abstractions. Mrs. Eddy once wrote: "As Christian Scientists you seek to define God to your own consciousness by feeling and applying the nature and practical possibilities of divine Love" (Message to The Mother Church for 1901, p. 1). If those practical possibilities are as far beyond the common hopes of mankind as atomic power is beyond the expectations of the Newtonian physicist, then prayer may be a far more important field for research than neutron kinetics, and Jesus may yet be recognized as "the most scientific man that ever trod the globe."

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