Christian Science healing is remarkably simple. We just need to know some basic truths to practice it: God is Spirit; God is All; and we are His image and likeness—His witnesses. There may in fact be nothing more we should need to learn or understand for healing.
But . . . is that explanation satisfying to you? Is that really all there is to it? If that is all we need to know in order to heal, you might ask, why do we have entire books about Christian Science and volumes of periodicals, such as this one, expounding on the subject? If St. Paul implored us not to be “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3), and Jesus instructed that we need only be faithful over “a few things” (Matthew 25:21), why do we feel a need to know and read more?
Perhaps surprisingly, there is a simple answer. A sense of a material, mortal selfhood gets in our way.
Ultimately, the only impediment to healing is a false concept of who we are—a concept of ourselves as material or physical in nature. Yet the first chapter of Genesis tells us of our true origin as luminous emanations of the limitless divine Mind, God. It isn’t until the second chapter that the story of Adam and Eve introduces the idea that we get our own material bodies and our own opinions about what is real and what is not. We get to be “as gods,” the serpent promises (Genesis 3:5). From that point on, the Bible is one long narrative of God trying to bring His children back to that initial, simple, ecstatic understanding of their innate spiritual being as given in the first chapter of Genesis. In the end, thanks largely to Christ Jesus, God’s children do get there in the last pages of the book of Revelation (see 21:3, 4), but there is a whole lot of convincing going on between the Bible’s first and final chapters.
Our lives often play out in much the same narrative. Mary Baker Eddy indicates this in her writings. She says that Jesus’ spiritual selfhood, the Christ, never left heaven for earth (see No and Yes, p. 36). Certainly, our spiritual selfhood never did, either. We are, as we ever have been, God’s spiritual ideas, forever at one with God. But to the mortal selfhood, the serpent’s promise is just too alluring. Allowing ourselves to be persuaded by the serpent, we believe we get to be “gods” ourselves; we believe we get to decide who we are, what we like, what we want to do. Therefore, to get us to let go of these lies about ourselves that so many of us imagine are true and define us, we need pages and pages of convincing of the simple truth that life is in fact entirely spiritual.
If "I" am always speaking, when is there opportunity for the actual "I AM" to be heard?
Perhaps the subtlest lie and trap of the serpent is to try to persuade us to fix or heal our mortal, material selfhood by using Christian Science. The mortal selfhood, or mortal mind, would seek to take divine Truth and translate it into something it can understand, making Christian Science a theory applied materially, or a set of orthodox rules intended to rescue this mind from itself. This is a prime recipe for frustration in one’s healing efforts, for mortal mind cannot be saved. It will never understand divine Truth.
Mrs. Eddy, in her pamphlet No and Yes, addresses this point and lays out the actual method of Christian Science healing sequentially and logically. Her first point, upon which the entire pamphlet is founded, is this: You cannot heal disease if you first admit its reality (see p. 4). At the very outset, she has set forth an axiom that is utterly contrary to any material theory or mode of thinking. Her statement cannot be made to cooperate with matter. Her statement is, quite literally, a denunciation of mortal mind.
Note how mortal mind reacts to this denunciation. It becomes argumentative—arguing in favor of what it knows, trying to make divine Science something it can control or interpret materially. This must end. This is not a mental state that invites healing. It is stubborn and willful. This mortal mind thinking would outline and make itself arbiter of truth, rather than God. It attempts to usurp God by persuading us that we are “gods.” It does not understand, nor is it open or receptive to, the one divine Mind.
For example, recently, in the process of praying, I noticed how often I talk to myself mentally. Throughout the day, my thought has frequently been one long inner monologue. If someone around me does something, I pass judgment on whether it was wise or foolish. If I see something on TV, I make a decision as to whether I should care. This has been, in short, me incessantly telling myself what I think about the world. It has also been, I have come to realize, a bad case of mental flatulence. If “I” am always speaking, when is there opportunity for the actual
“I AM” (Exodus 3:14) to be heard? A “torrent of words” (Science and Health, p. 13)—even “spoken” inaudibly—is almost always the result of a false interpretation of the order of creation. I’ve realized that the voice of God is still and small. It is best not to overwhelm it by allowing in other “voices,” or mortal thoughts.
Sometimes my inner monologue clothes itself in pious robes, making pretensions as to some ennobling self-sacrifice or desire to grow spiritually. But this is still only mortal mind talking to itself. It is the cunning lie of the serpent because it would make me think of myself as a god. It is self-justification for my own pattern of personal thinking.
This self-justifying mortal mind is, in and of itself, a primary impediment to healing. Why? Because it tries to tell us of our separation from God. Thankfully, it cannot survive. Anything that argues for our separation from God must die, must disappear. The material sense of body, which is the mental embodiment of this belief of separation, dies. The concept of separation from God may be maintained for a span of mortal years, but the constant trajectory of this mortal belief is always heading toward annihilation. What Christian Science does is lay bare the unreal nature of this self-justifying, material thought—that it is not in accord with the true spiritual nature of the universe. The architecture of the universe is divine Mind and nothing else, as the first chapter of Genesis declares.
At-one-ment with God (which brings healing) requires the destruction of our belief in separation. That means the destruction of sin, disease, and death—anything that makes us think we are separate from God. This requires a mental shift only. Healing really needs nothing more than this. The thought that there is more to be done—that matter must be dosed or treated or consulted—is entanglement in what mortal mind says brings healing.
This became clearer than ever to me on a recent night when a physical problem threatened to overwhelm me. “I” was trying to heal; mortal mind was trying to reach out and break off a bit of Truth and apply it materially. The fear of that night—and the symptoms that went along with it—broke when I stopped listening to mortal mind’s attempts to equivocate and attenuate God’s pure expression of Truth, and instead simply allowed His presence to flow into my thought in measureless beauty.
The footsteps of thought, rising above material standpoints, are slow, and portend a long night to the traveller; but the angels of His presence—the spiritual intuitions that tell us when “the night is far spent, the day is at hand”—are our guardians in the gloom.
— Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 174
That night also strengthened my awareness of another point explained by Christian Science. Whenever mortal mind is brought nearer to its extinction, it strikes out more venomously against the divine Truth that extinguishes it. I had been tempted to wonder if Christian Science can really heal, and I found an argument kindling within me over its efficacy. Testimonies of healing that I knew of had helped strengthen my faith and resolve to prove the scientific nature of true Christianity, but I was realizing that I would err if I hoped to be healed by someone else’s testimony alone. On that night, I turned directly to God alone, and He showed me what I most needed to know—something that has been a foundation stone in my continuing spiritual progress.
To attempt healing by any other way than the one Jesus showed—wholehearted, honest protests of God’s goodness and nearness (see Science and Health, p. 12)—is to invite personal smugness to take the place of Truth in our thought, to give sway to self-justification. This would attempt to make man the healer and God the client, as though God dispensed with His grace at the behest of man. Truth is the reverse. Man is healed at the behest of God, and not otherwise, for man is God’s eternal witness of His goodness. We cannot really lay claim to heal by Christian Science without following one of its central teachings—consecration to the will of God, which is always good.
This, not surprisingly, takes work. I’m finding I’m just beginning to understand how much. It took the Israelites generations to be ready for the full appearing of the Christ, and we generally need to put in hard work before we arrive at the point where our understanding of our true selves—the eternal coming of the Christ—is instant and spontaneous. Paul acknowledged this when he said we must “work out [our] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), and Mrs. Eddy echoed it in saying it is our job to “work out” our solutions, just as we would in mathematics (Science and Health, p. 3).
But Paul also assured us that God works with us; and the Bible, Mrs. Eddy’s writings, and all the Christian Science periodicals can be our “guardians in the gloom” (Science and Health, p. 174). Even when healing has not come, all these pages and pages of writings assure us that healing is coming. It is impossible that we will not inevitably see the beautiful creation that God forever knows and calls good.
Mark Sappenfield is Deputy National News Editor for
The Christian Science Monitor.