Recently, I was asked to write about a book that has been important in my life. My reading habits in general include reading textbook material for school assignments and novels for English class. I also read online tutorials to teach myself about computer software and to research other areas of interest.
A book that has been important in shaping my thoughts is the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. In addition to having read Science and Health in its entirety two different times, I also regularly read excerpts from this book as part of the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson I study. To me, the most important aspect of Science and Health is the ideas it teaches me about my relationship to God and my spiritual identity.
On the first page of Science and Health’s Preface, Eddy says: “The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity. Contentment with the past and the cold conventionality of materialism are crumbling away. Ignorance of God is no longer the stepping-stone to faith. The only guarantee of obedience is a right apprehension of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal” (p. vii). This made me realize that it is necessary to think about who and what God is in order to correctly understand Him, and not to blindly follow a mysterious God you do not know. I began to see that by correctly understanding who and what God is, I would be able to be obedient to Him and get the healing reward of understanding that life is eternal right now. We do not need to wait to experience healing, joy, and peace until some far-off time after death.
In the chapter “Recapitulation,” when the question is asked, “What is God?” the answer Eddy gives is: “God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love” (p. 465). These capitalized words are seven synonyms for God given in the book. They help me to understand that valuing life over death, or truth over dishonesty, is a way of worshipping God. If I choose to express love rather than be hurtful or indifferent, then I am worshipping God. When someone is standing up for principle, such as when a high school student defends his friend from bullies, this also can be seen as worshipping God. Worshipping God does not only mean sitting in a church building and reciting prayers. In part, Eddy defines Church as, “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle” (Science and Health, p. 583). Standing and acting on moral principles—based on the true nature of God and His laws—in everyday life, is seeing the true meaning of Church; it can be thought of as “going to church,” every day, no matter where you are.
The synonyms for God are tangible to spiritual sense. Eddy writes: “Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (Science and Health, p. 209). The dictionary defines the word sense in part as attaining awareness or understanding. We are generally taught that the material senses are sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Yet, these senses cannot tell us about spiritual existence. Although we all have spiritual sense because we all reflect God, Spirit, this does not mean that true, spiritual reality is always an easy thing to understand, especially when everything around us is often telling us that life is defined by material things and circumstances.
We do not need to wait to experience healing, joy, and peace.
Christ Jesus always relied on spiritual sense, not the information from the material picture, to tell him about reality. In Science and Health, we read that Jesus saw the spiritual, perfect image of God when looking at others, which allowed him to heal (see pp. 476–477). I think it is useful to remember that the material senses can be deceptive. For example, the parallel tracks on which a train travels appear to merge into a point at the horizon. I need a higher understanding that tells me this is not true, or I might be afraid to ride on a train in fear of it derailing. Science and Health states: “Lulled by stupefying illusions, the world is asleep in the cradle of infancy, dreaming away the hours. Material sense does not unfold the facts of existence; but spiritual sense lifts human consciousness into eternal Truth” (p. 95). Spiritual sense allows us to better understand God’s relationship to man, but again, seeing the reality of that relationship is a daily effort that takes place through prayer. It has been a way of life for me to strive to see the world through a spiritual lens, and to put this understanding into practice, even when it does not seem quick and easy.
One year in school I had a teacher I felt was too involved with the social interactions among students. It became so bad that I wanted to drop this class. My mother suggested that I make a list of this teacher’s spiritual qualities based on those seven synonyms for God prominent in the study of Christian Science. I thought about how enthusiastic the teacher was about the subject. This made me think of the teacher’s real, spiritual identity as the expression of Spirit, God. In addition, if the teacher found new information about whatever topic we had been discussing, we would receive a follow-up email. This love for teaching and for the students pointed me to the spiritual truth that my teacher was the expression of Truth and Soul. As I continued to pray in this manner, I more clearly saw this teacher’s spiritual identity as God’s spiritual reflection, as Christ Jesus showed us to see others, and I saw this individual’s interaction with students in a more positive light. This teacher not only wound up being my favorite teacher, but also supported me in significant ways with two academic projects outside of class.
In Science and Health, when the question is asked, “What is man?” the answer the author gives is: “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God” (p. 475). This helps me see that the good qualities, the spiritual qualities, that I express are a reflection of God. Since God is Spirit, then it is natural for me to express energy and vitality. Since God is Soul, then, as God’s reflection, I express grace and creativity. Since God is Truth, then I express integrity and honor. Since God is Love, then I can put that into practice by expressing kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. My spiritual identity is the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26). And this is true for everyone.
I expect that I will continue to cherish Science and Health for my whole life and will continue to learn and understand more about God.