My friend is a thoughtful metaphysician. Our conversation touched on the problem of being; who man is; the nature of reality.
"What do you suppose my experience would be just now, had my parents chosen not to have children?" I asked.
"Well," he chuckled, "you probably wouldn't be putting me on the spot right at the moment with a question like that."
Thinking about this point in more recent years, I've begun to feel such a question basically implies that one is looking to other mortals as the explanation for his present existence. "Well, haven't parents set the stage for one's view of himself as a mortal?" most people would wonder. The answer seems obvious; yet it is not so simple.
I've wondered at times if my presence here could somehow be linked to my own consent. But how? What part could I have played? Instead of wrestling with such a possibility, I used to find it far easier just to accept my being here—with no personal say about the origins of this so-called human journey. Then, not long ago, I felt the need to pray more deeply about Mrs. Eddy's thought-provoking statement: "By those uninstructed in Christian Science, nothing is really understood of material existence. Mortals are believed to be here without their consent and to be removed as involuntarily, not knowing why nor when." Science and Health, p. 371.
Christian Science had helped me understand that a person's removal from the human scene couldn't be described scientifically as "involuntary"; mortal mind certainly does consent to, even maps out, the concept of death. But still, I needed to ponder more thoughtfully the issue raised in my mind about giving consent for being here in the first place. Gradually I began to see that mortal mind surely does consent to birth in matter. And to the extent I accepted a material mind as my true state of consciousness, I was putting myself in the position of giving consent.
You may dream you're a bear. Mental consent within that dream doesn't make you a bear—even if you suppose that you start as a cub and develop into full bearhood. However vivid the fantasy, you're still no bear. The need at some point is to wake up. From a wakened state it's much easier to admit that your identity had nothing to do with a bear.
A mortal may conceive of man as material; but such a perception, however firmly held, cannot remake Spirit's perfect offspring. At any point we can begin withdrawing our consent from the concept that man exists in matter—or has ever developed from it. As we discover that our true being originates in God, we awake to a more spiritual sense of existence.
All events are in the present
Taking a fresh look at this question of consent opens an entirely different perspective on life—and an ability to redirect life. When we accept the premise that mortals have put man in mortality, the consequences are broad. Such an assumption helps lay a tidy foundation for virtually all complaints about being in a predicament because of what others have done. Because the neighbors are making so much noise, we are upset. Because of what a friend has said, or how an employer has acted, or what the government has done, we're placed in very trying or even unbearable circumstances.
Change your approach. Begin withdrawing your consent to having originally been placed in these circumstances. "But I didn't give my consent in the first place," you may argue. Yet Science and Health reminds us that mortals are only believed "to be here without their consent."
The Christian metaphysician doesn't excuse himself with the concept of "time," i.e., this happened before I knew about it. Divine Science pierces the time factor and shows that all events are a matter of present perception; they aren't—from the most accurate standpoint—a sequence of happenings positioned in specific days over a period of years. Circumstances are not adequately defined when described as taking place at "another time." At this moment we carry a view, a perception, of events. Our view can sweep across a wide variety of phenomena. We can dwell on them, even suppose ourselves to be acting out the event. In a broad sense, we perceive ourselves as mortals—sick or well, young or old, happy or sad. We can consent to material conditions; or we can begin declining them. To the extent we acknowledge God as the only source of being, we reject and overcome mortality with its limits.
It's not good enough to reason, "I was brought into matter some years ago. Now I'm having to work my way out of it." Always at this moment we must decide whether we're willing to consent to a beginning in matter—that is, into limitation. Mortal mind offers us, through materiality, an ongoing birth into boundaries. Emergence into matter, a mortal sense of existence, hasn't happened any more in the past than it is happening at this moment. Even now we are determining, by our thoughts and actions, our origin. And at this moment we can decide in favor of Truth: we can accept the fact that God, Spirit, eternally fathers and mothers man; that God holds man in perfection; that His creation never accepts a birth into error.
It's tremendously comforting to begin realizing that whatever condition we appear to be involved in, we are not at the mercy of other people or circumstances. We need not argue against our own interests by assuming, or even insisting, that others originally have placed us in materiality. Nor need we submit to the belief that today people or events fasten us to matter's various discords. We can begin to withdraw our own consent, and this is a significant, even an indispensable, step in winning our liberation.
Regeneration through Christ
Obviously, a withdrawal of consent calls for immensely more than right statements to save a sufferer from, let us say, disease. A deepening love of Truth is demanded. The ordinary view may be that illness is caused through contagion, or that it comes from an ancestor by way of heredity, or that it develops as the result of an accident. Any such beliefs may well need thorough refutation in prayer. But at a deeper level it's essential to challenge and reverse the consent mortal mind gives to illness.
We do need a change of mind. This isn't simply forcing our mentality to adopt a different view; the need is for a literal change—releasing the belief that our mind is mortal and accepting the divine Mind as our own, our only basis of intelligence. This Mind never consents to or even knows evil. Spiritual regeneration, impelled by Christ, enables us to acknowledge that man always has expressed God, Mind; only then are we able fully to relinquish consent to sin or disease. And a growing and glowing discernment of man's eternal unity with God strengthens our courage so that we begin dropping our consent to supposed birth and development in matter.
On what basis can you honestly refuse consent to discord? Only on the foundation offered by Christ Jesus. He provided the solution to the belief that man is separated from God, that he evolves materially and is bound by mortality. "I and my Father are one," John 10:30. he taught. Not "used to be one." Not "someday will be one." He consented only to a present (eternal) unity with God. And he calls on each of us to begin accepting more of our oneness with God. Jesus' life purpose was to reveal with clarity man's inseparable relationship to divine Love. He demonstrated the ability to withdraw consent to mortality.
Jesus' life and works illustrated that our lives no longer need to be lived on the basis of a fundamental acceptance of illness or sin. Perhaps we've made vigorous efforts to resist those evils; but only as we come to realize that man's true being, his spiritual nature, has never been mortal will we truly relinquish acceptance of immorality or sickness or fear.
We may be reluctant to admit any original part in consenting to the belief that our own existence began in matter. Nevertheless we do need to begin cutting off such consent—and we will by discovering that man couldn't have left the embrace of infinite Life for the confines of matter.
Mrs. Eddy writes, "You may say that mortals are formed before they think or know aught of their origin, and you may also ask how belief can affect a result which precedes the development of that belief."' Ah, yes. How could our present view that we are material affect the birth that came before this present view? "It can only be replied," Mrs. Eddy continues, "that Christian Science reveals what 'eye hath not seen,'—even the cause of all that exists,—for the universe, inclusive of man, is as eternal as God, who is its divine immortal Principle." If one sees in this statement eternity, not time, as the key, he will be led naturally to the conclusion Mrs. Eddy offers—a conclusion all of us finally will have to admit: "There is no such thing as mortality, nor are there properly any mortal beings, because being is immortal, like Deity,—or, rather, being and Deity are inseparable." Science and Health, pp. 553-554.
In truth, all effect originates in God. And He causes only good, immortal being. No one but God can determine our identity. And we can develop the humility that will enable us to relinquish consent to whatever would be less than Godlike: whether accepting birth in matter, struggling through conditions of matter, or fearing a departure from matter. In fact, we discover that as man, we never truly gave consent to ungodlikeness. Man, forever held in God's presence, is our destiny— because always true.