Some years back I lived on the 25th floor of a high-rise apartment building, where my grandsons loved to visit me. One of their favorite things was riding up in the elevator, and it never escaped their notice that after the elevator reached the 12th floor, it then skipped in numbering to the 14th. At first, they were puzzled.
I explained to them about superstitions and how some people believe that the number 13 is an unlucky number—to the point where many high-rise buildings don’t even have a 13th floor. “But,” my grandson declared, “they’re fooling themselves. It’s still the 13th floor no matter what they call it!”
This got me thinking more broadly about what makes up a superstition. I noticed one thing that they have in common, and that’s an “if … then” equation. “If you live on the 13th floor, then you’ll have bad luck.” Or, “If a black cat crosses your path, then you’ll have a terrible day.” I began to wonder if many other assertions from the human mind based on “if … then” equations might qualify as superstitions of a sort—that while I might not believe in black cats or 13th floors bringing bad luck, was I still falling for superstitious beliefs in more modern ways?
For instance, did I still have a latent concern that if I was near somebody with cold symptoms, then I might catch a cold? Or did I believe if my ancestors had certain temperament traits, then I would have those as well? Or did I believe that if I prayed and studied Christian Science faithfully in the morning, only then would I have a good day?
These assertions, I realized, were based on factors and variables that might indeed allow for the reality of both good and evil, and this was contrary to what I had learned to be the truth in Christian Science.
Christian Science, based squarely on the teachings of the Bible, had taught me that reality is based on what could be described as a “since … then” equation—indicating that there are no variables of chance and circumstance and no duality of good and evil in its premise or conclusions. Beginning in Genesis we read, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (1:31). We get the sense of God saying, “Since I am the only creator, and I am All, then all is good, like Me.”
A theme in the Bible is the self-declaration of God in the first person, such as: “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me” (Isaiah 45:5). I especially appreciate the way God reveals Himself to Moses in the first person as “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In his conversation with God, Moses is still voicing all kinds of fears with “if … then” equations at their root. Although the Bible account doesn’t set up his concerns as “if … then” scenarios, it’s helped me to consider that at the root of the fear may have been this: “What if the people don’t believe that You have sent me to lead them?” and “What if I can’t overcome my public-speaking problems?” But Moses is divinely assured that “I will be with thy mouth” (Exodus 4:12). He eventually realizes that since God is the great I am, he will succeed.
The Bible emphasizes God’s omnipotence, and the New Testament in particular is filled with declarations of His generous, loving nature, including the following: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). And in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, it says: “It is not well to imagine that Jesus demonstrated the divine power to heal only for a select number or for a limited period of time, since to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good” (p. 494). The spiritual truth at all times is that there can be no exceptions to one infinite God who is all good.
Superstitions, then, can be seen as a direct denial of the allness of God. Far from being just harmless and silly beliefs, they can be addressed as pernicious mental suggestions that there is another creator, another cause and another effect. The entire mission and ministry of Christ Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven, or God’s good government, is always here, always at hand, and always within our consciousness now and always.
The Apostle Paul said: “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:22, 23).
A modern translation of the Bible renders the words “too superstitious” as “extremely religious” (J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English), and Paul was calling out what could be called the most basic religious superstition of all: the false notion, which is still widely accepted today, that God is ultimately unknowable and that we have to accept God as a mystery. From that premise, we might also resign ourselves to the presence of evil and believe that bad things just happen, sometimes even accepting them as “God’s will.” Paul challenged this when he explained that we literally live and move and have our entire existence in Love’s allness, and therefore there is no untoward and superstitious “if … then” equation. There is no good unknown in Mind.
Some years ago when one of my grandsons, Collin, was in grade school, I got a call from his mom early in the morning. She asked if he might come to spend the day with me while she was at work. She explained that he was showing symptoms of a contagious disease that was going around his school. The parents had received a note brought home by their children the day before; it indicated that over 60 percent of the children were out of school, and that the condition was highly contagious.
I happily agreed to have Collin come over, and we had a wonderful, quiet day. The first thing we did was read the Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly out loud. I don’t remember the specific ideas that we read, but I am sure we talked about how safe he was as God’s child, and how all the other children were cared for in God’s allness as well. Then we put puzzles together, made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and watched a movie.
When his mom picked him up, he was perfectly well and happy. But that evening as I was getting ready to make dinner, I began to feel the symptoms of this condition myself. I sat down immediately and just turned my thought to God in a listening kind of prayer. What I heard was my own “since … then” reassurance.
“I am 100 percent perfect so you are 100 percent perfect.” I realized that this was a direct statement from God, Mind. It was a specific challenge to the claim that disease could carry with it a statistical necessity through a supposed law of contagion. The “since … then” absoluteness of God’s 100 percent perfection and my spiritual perfection as God’s reflection triumphed over the claim of random, variable, circumstantial evil.
I spent just a few moments accepting and rejoicing in this spiritual fact of invariable perfection for all, got up from the chair completely free from any symptoms, and went about my evening. Also, my daughter told me later that the contagion had abruptly stopped and the children were quickly back in school.
We can quickly detect any superstitious “if … then” propositions and see that they are unspiritual beliefs that have no authority; they are not of God. We can draw strength, then, from seeing them as no more a law, and therefore no more believable, than superstitions about black cats or 13th floors. And best of all, we can turn to God for the thundering voice of Truth that is forever proclaiming, “Ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45).
We are perfect and harmonious because God is—and that’s that!
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