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Looking at balance from a spiritual perspective

(Adapted from a Christian Science lecture)

From the June 1998 issue of The Christian Science Journal

For some years my wife and I lived in a lovely wooded area, and near our driveway were two slender pine trees. One winter we had a heavy, wet snowfall, and under the load of snow both trees bent low to the ground. When the snow was gone, they remained bent over, so I took ropes and tied them back to a larger tree to restore them to their upright position. And the ropes just stayed there. Several years later there was another heavy, wet snowfall. The rope on one of the pines held firm, keeping the lower part of the trunk rigid. Right above the point where it was tied, this whole tree snapped off with the weight of snow. But the rope on the other tree broke, so that tree was free to bend. And although it again bent low to the ground, it was firmly rooted and remained whole. A firm foundation combined with flexibility saved that tree. Firmness without flexibility caused the other to snap off.

This balance of firmness and flexibility is essential to the structure of a tree. It is equally essential to the structure of our lives. And we need a balance of other qualities, too, such as strength and gentleness, logic and intuition, stillness and vitality. These may seem like pairs of opposites. Yet these qualities are not opposed to each other. Rather, they complement each other.

As a bird needs two wings to fly, each balancing the other, so we need a balance of qualities in demonstrating our God-given completeness and wholeness. And that balance includes no lack of good, no element of sin that would drag us down. Mary Baker Eddy writes: "The bird whose right wing flutters to soar, while the left beats its way downward, falls to the earth. Both wings must be plumed for rarefied atmospheres and upward flight."  Miscellaneous Writings, p. 267

Imbalance arises from the belief that we lack something we need. We see this, for instance, when supply fails to meet demand (or vice versa). Or when we have masculine vigor but seem to lack feminine tenderness (or vice versa). Or when we have lots of inspiration and intuition but don't exercise logic or order (or vice versa) . Or when we can conceive the grand design but lack patience with the detail needed to put it into practice (or vice versa).

Strength and gentleness, logic and
intuition, stillness and vitality, may
seem like pairs of opposites. Instead,
they complement each other.

Any sense of lack suggests an absence of some aspect of good, as if God were not omnipresent. It's part and parcel of the dualism of a material view of life—of the belief that good and evil, truth and error, Spirit and matter, plenty and lack, can coexist in God's universe. But such opposites can no more coexist than can light and darkness, because God is good and infinite. This dualism is often mistaken for balance. But it is really the antithesis of balance. You cannot balance opposites —a positive with a negative, a presence with an absence. Place a lead weight in one scale and you can never balance it with a helium balloon in the other. A positive weight has to be balanced with another positive weight. It cannot be balanced with a negative weight, or with no weight.

So positive good can be balanced only with positive good. And because God is All, the opposing negatives that may seem so real and weighty can be recognized as mistaken concepts that have no actual weight at all. They might be likened to gas-filled balloons that make a big show but are easily burst. In proportion as we understand this, these negative elements, including all phases of evil, lose their weight in our thinking, and we gain dominion over them.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, immediately following a paragraph with the marginal heading "God's allness learned," Mrs. Eddy writes, "Thus it was that I beheld, as never before, the awful unreality called evil."  Science and Health, p. 110 It's because evil is, in the final analysis, unreal that it can never actually coexist with good, even though the material senses would deceive us into believing that it does. But the allness of God, good, precludes evil. It establishes the nothingness of anything that would claim to oppose His total goodness.

That clear statement of evil's unreality is followed immediately by this sentence: "The equipollence of God brought to light another glorious proposition,—man's perfectibility and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth." What promise this holds for us all!

God's completeness or wholeness, implied by the term equipollence, means there can be no imbalance in His nature. The seven Bible-based, synonymous terms used in Christian Science to describe the nature of God—Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love—don't refer to seven gods or to seven parts of one God. Each of these names for God signifies the whole of God, but each at the same time highlights special hues, distinct qualities.

The varied qualities deriving from these diverse synonyms might be likened to the spokes of a wheel. Though each spoke is individual in the place it occupies, each has to be equal in strength to contribute to the perfect balance of the wheel. The word equipollent, meaning "equal in force, weight, or validity" according to one dictionary, describes this equality of strength. The equipollence of God and of His innumerable qualities might be thought of as describing the perfect balance or wholeness of His divine nature, which is expressed just as much in gentleness as in strength, in discipline as in spontaneity. Such pairs of contrasting qualities are like balancing spokes of the same wheel, working together to contribute to the wheel's wholeness.

God in His wholeness is the creative Principle, the one universal cause. Can you possibly conceive of a cause without an effect—sun without sunlight? Or an effect without a cause—sunlight without sun? Cause and effect are inseparable, though distinct. The concept of divine cause and effect—God and His spiritual universe, including man—is an important aspect of balance. The effect must necessarily partake of the nature of its cause, as sunlight is all light, like the sun. So, since the nature of God includes perfect balance, or wholeness, it must follow that the real nature of man must also include perfect balance, or wholeness. This is the divine reality. It's clearly indicated in this statement from Science and Health: "The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea,—perfect God and perfect man,—as the basis of thought and demonstration."  Ibid., p. 259

This divine balance is no metaphysical abstraction. It can be made manifest here and now. The spiritual fact must be expressed in our present experience in order to uplift and transform and redeem it. Science and Health says, "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus."  Ibid., p. 25

Jesus expressed remarkable balance and made it practical in all sorts of situations. He faced up to atmospheric imbalance and stilled a storm. He confronted an imbalance of supply and demand, and with only a few loaves and fish fed well over five thousand people. Through the power of divine Truth he counteracted physical, mental, and moral imbalance, healing individuals of paralysis and lameness, insanity and epilepsy, adultery and other sins. In all these situations, Jesus spoke with great power and assurance, and he taught "as one having authority."  Matt. 7:29

Inseparable from the might of this authority was an abiding compassion and gentleness. Jesus was moved with compassion when he healed others. He cherished the gentleness and innocence of little children, and he said, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."  Matt. 5:5 The New English Bible renders the first part of this beatitude, "How blest are those of a gentle spirit."

Meekness and gentleness aren't usually thought of as strong, manly qualities. Often they're confused with weakness. But that wasn't Jesus' concept. There's nothing weak about inheriting the earth! With him, meekness and might were inseparable. For the might he claimed was not his own, but the infinite power of God reflected in him. He claimed nothing for any personal sense of himself, but acknowledged his spiritual selfhood, or Christ, always at one with the Father. This was the very basis of his healing works, enabling him to recognize and bring to light the perfect, spiritual nature of others as well.

The meekness of his might and the might of his meekness are like balancing spokes of the same wheel. His shining example stands for us to follow.

Mrs. Eddy was one of his most committed followers, so it's not surprising to find a remarkable balance expressed in her life and writings. She refers to a balance of elements that was essential in the discovery of Christian Science. After speaking of "man's perfectibility and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth," she writes: "In following these leadings of scientific revelation, the Bible was my only textbook. The Scriptures were illumined; reason and revelation were reconciled, and afterwards the truth of Christian Science was demonstrated."  Science and Health, p. 110

I was practicing architecture. My
normal approach—logical, orderly
human reasoning—was not providing
the answer.

We can see the balance of these elements—of reason and revelation—as relevant today, especially if we think of terms related to revelation, such as inspiration, intuition, or illumination. I've seen highly intelligent people struggling to discover some great truth through intellectual reasoning alone. And it hasn't worked. A balance, including intuition or inspiration, is essential.

I well remember a time when I was practicing architecture, and my normal approach to problem-solving—namely, logical, orderly human reasoning—was not of itself providing the answer I needed. So I turned in prayer to God, opening my thought to Mind as the true, unlimited, divine source of logic and order, and also to Soul as the source of such qualities as inspiration, illumination, spontaneity. Soon an idea came to thought, not step by step, but as a fully developed concept. I applied orderly reasoning to this idea, examining it from every practical standpoint, and couldn't fault it. So I proceeded to develop it, and that initial concept remained intact right through to its realization as the completed building, something I had never before experienced. On this occasion I had allowed inspiration to balance reason through turning to God as the source of both. And this had lifted the human achievement to a higher level of excellence.

The concept of balance, viewed spiritually, doesn't imply a dull mediocrity without variety and contrast. We get into that dull no man's land when we try to balance irreconcilable opposites like good and evil. True balance is between positive, God-derived qualities—different, even contrasting, but always complementary, never opposing. This balance, gained through increasingly clearer views of our God-derived spiritual completeness, inevitably lifts us higher into a fuller, richer experience. It helps to structure our lives.

At the beginning of the article we saw how a firm foundation combined with flexibility saved the one tree, while firmness without flexibility caused the other to snap off. When we combine firmness with flexibility within ourselves, seeing the mingling of these elements as a manifestation of our God-given wholeness, this prevents firmness from becoming rigid and flexibility from becoming wishy-washy. Balance thus protects us from extremes. These complementary qualities derive from Truth with its rocklike stability, and Love with its tender adaptability. And because we reflect both Truth and Love, it's natural for us to express both firmness and flexibility at the same time. This applies to the whole range of Godlike qualities.

As we let this God-derived balance structure our lives, we're never left with a missing spoke to our wheel or with a missing wing. In proportion as we recognize this perfect balance expressed in ourselves and in others, we find more of the kingdom of heaven on earth. We find harmony reigning within us here and now. And we experience more and more of the spiritual wholeness that characterizes our God-established spiritual identity.

An international conference for the academic community will explore this topic and similar issues on August 6-8, 1998, in Boston, Massachusetts. See advertisement on the inside front cover. Other articles of interest to conference partcipants can be found this month on pages 10, 16, 21.

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