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The right identification of ourselves

From the January 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal

How do you identify yourself? Even though many people think of their core identity as being spiritual, in everyday life we often identify ourselves in terms of our physicality. Passports, for example, require a photo of someone in order for the passport to be an acceptable identification document for that individual. And in conversation, the way we might describe someone to others, in order for them to recognize that person, often refers to their physical appearance. Or we might identify someone by their personality—by their good and not-so-good characteristics. 

Spiritual sense, however, enables us to identify individuals by their spiritual nature—the good, pure nature that we each uniquely have as God’s children. The material senses seem to counterfeit this spiritual nature, but as we learn to exercise spiritual sense, man’s true nature comes to light, and a limited material sense of being gives way to an understanding of God’s allness.

In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy asks the question “What are body and Soul?” (p. 477). The answer begins, “Identity is the reflection of Spirit, the reflection in multifarious forms of the living Principle, Love,” and it then goes on to further elaborate the fact that true identity is purely spiritual.

The correct identification of ourselves, as purely spiritual, is basic to the healing practice of Christian Science.

Sometimes there is a mistaken belief that although we are basically spiritual by nature, we still need a material body in order to express our individual identity. Saying that matter is needed to express Spirit would be like saying darkness is needed to express light. Light is an entity in and of itself; it has no need of, nor knowledge of, darkness. Likewise Spirit, God, is individual and complete, and man, made in God’s likeness, manifests this individuality and completeness. Matter, rather than being needed to express Spirit, is the supposititious absence of Spirit. And this belief of matter, or the belief that Spirit is absent, disappears to the degree that the substance of Spirit becomes apparent.

The correct identification of ourselves, as purely spiritual, is basic to the healing practice of Christian Science. Identification of ourselves and others as being at one with Spirit helps shift thought away from materiality to recognize and experience the blessings of knowing our true spiritual nature. 

This was illustrated in a healing a man had of a growth on his finger. It was quite a significant growth, was getting larger, and was painful. Both he and his family were fearful. He knew something of Christian Science and asked me to pray for him, which I did. 

Some days later he was back in touch and reported there had been significant physical and mental improvement. His fear had lifted and his interest in Christian Science, which had helped him in the past, had been reignited. He did not ask me to pray for him again, but he continued to pray for himself. 

A couple of weeks later he dropped by my office. The growth had almost entirely disappeared. He explained how he had been fearful that the condition was inherited, as someone else in his family had suffered from the same kind of condition. But prayer had enabled him to let go of his fear as he glimpsed something of the fact that material conditions didn’t have any real power over him. When I spoke with him at a later time, he said all evidence of the growth had left and there was nothing to show it had ever existed.

From the standpoint of material sense, matter is believed to be an entity separate from consciousness, and to have a power of its own. But as we grow spiritually and begin to understand that matter is merely the objective state of mortal thought, we find that we have dominion over the belief of matter to the degree we bring our thought into accord with the truth of being. In the healing the man had of the growth on his finger, his thought was significantly transformed, from identifying himself materially to identifying himself spiritually. He let go of the fear of a human history and the belief of heredity, and felt more of his oneness with Love. An improved condition came about as a clearer sense of spiritual identity was gained. 

Jesus spoke of the importance of being single-minded. He said, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). I find it helpful to think of this statement of Jesus as countering the belief that we are both spiritual and material, and affirming the fact that the true identity of each of us is purely spiritual. Each uniquely expresses the full spectrum of Godlike qualities, such as health, purity, love, and spiritual understanding.

In our human experience we generally see only a limited sense of our spiritual identity. All the genuine good in our human experience, expressed in countless qualities, capacities, and attributes, hints at one’s true identity as God’s idea. It is perhaps relatively easy to see how mental qualities such as kindness, intelligence, honesty, intuitiveness, and reliability give hints of the nature of God, and are based on spiritual good. We might not, however, as readily see how attributes such as form, outline, and color are ultimately found to be attributes of God, expressing God’s nature. But through spiritual growth we will come to see that every aspect of our identity is purely spiritual. Science and Health assures us: “Thought will finally be understood and seen in all form, substance, and color, but without material accompaniments” (p. 310).

Science and Health also states: “Rightly understood, instead of possessing a sentient material form, man has a sensationless body; …” (p. 280). This “sensationless body” would surely be completely spiritual, the pure expression of Spirit, including the spiritual substance of form, outline, and color.

Our complete demonstration over the material sense of body may seem remote to us at this stage of our spiritual growth, but spiritual sense gives us the confidence that, step by step, we can prove our dominion over matter. We might say with St. Paul, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

We understand Truth as we let go of material beliefs. Science and Health gives us a useful analogy that likens “the manifestation of God through mortals” to “light passing through the window-pane.” The passage goes on to say: “The light and the glass never mingle, but as matter, the glass is less opaque than the walls. The mortal mind through which Truth appears most vividly is that one which has lost much materiality—much error—in order to become a better transparency for Truth. Then, like a cloud melting into thin vapor, it no longer hides
the sun” (p. 295).

In considering this analogy, it might be tempting to think of oneself as the window-pane. However, each of us is a child of God, not a mortal. As such we are at one with God, in the same way that each ray of light is at one with the sun. We identify with the light, not with the window-pane, in order to identify ourselves correctly in the analogy. Certainly in this human experience we need to pray consistently for the transparency of thought that recognizes the truth of being, but our prayer is effective to the degree that we pray from the standpoint of our relation to God as His very manifestation, idea, or expression. This is our true identity as the sons and daughters of God.

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