Everywhere, every day, people are being told—and we are hearing on the news—that something or other is hopeless. The word hopeless is applied to relationships, the search for employment, physical and mental conditions, attempts to bring peace to inflamed parts of the world, the search for individual and collective justice, and so much more. The implication, of course, is that there is a situation, a problem, or a condition for which there is no solution.
Now, let me ask a question that might at first seem to have no link at all to the above: Is it possible to convince mathematicians, who are universally aware that they are working with an exact science, that there is a math problem for which there is no solution? And might one think it cruel even to compare the problems listed above to mere math problems?
Actually, it’s just the right kind of comparison, because Christian Science is a true and exact science. A Christian Scientist expects healing through prayer in the same way people expect to get the right answers in mathematics.
Like mathematics, Christian Science is based on provable facts rather than beliefs or superstitions. Therefore, it includes within itself the inevitability of a solution. In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “When numbers have been divided according to a fixed rule, the quotient is not more unquestionable than the scientific tests I have made of the effects of truth upon the sick” (p. 233).
Mathematics has a fixed principle and fixed rules. Christian Science has a fixed Principle (God) and fixed rules. The solution to a problem in either case might require persistence, discipline, and increased understanding, but it can always be found. Yes, always.
Mathematics includes laws of operation, and law signifies, among other things, predictability, dependability, and universality—something that operates everywhere, for everybody, all the time. You might say there is nothing more comforting, and less subject to hopelessness and fear, than working with a law that has fixed rules that anybody willing to learn the rules would be able to practice. In many different ways in the textbook, Mrs. Eddy defines and explains Christian Science as the law of God, the divine Principle of Christian Science.
Of course, it might seem as though thinking of God as Principle would make God appear distant and cold, but the sheer beauty of it is that this Principle, the impersonal Principle of this ever-operative law, is Love, the infinite Mother of all creation. St. John says in his first epistle, “God is love” (I John 4:16). Mrs. Eddy says in her Message to The Mother Church for 1902, “The energy that saves sinners and heals the sick is divine: and Love is the Principle thereof” (p. 8). There is really nothing odd or irreligious about seeing Love scientifically, impersonally, when we understand what Love really is. To say that Love is scientific and impersonal is not to comment on the warmth of Love but on the constancy of that warmth. It is to say that Love is unchanging, endless, impartial, unconditional, reliable, predictable, omnipresent, omnipotent, and universal. And what’s more, Mrs. Eddy refers to “legitimate Christian Science” in the textbook as “aflame with divine Love” (p. 367). So this Love that is perfect Principle is aglow with tenderness.
In the deepest sense, Christian Science is the Science of Love, the law of Love, and that’s the simplicity and purity of it. But oh, how the carnal mind—fearing the exposure of its nothingness—resists this comforting idea that God is an ever-operative divine Principle instead of a “comfortable” human person! Yet we must know Love as Principle—and man as the offspring of this Principle—to overcome the fear of finding ourselves in a hopeless situation. Because to think of God as a physical person, instead of the divine Principle, Love—and to think of man as a material personality, the offspring of flesh—really does nothing to dissolve the fear that attends hopelessness. In fact, this belief is the very root of hopelessness. The textbook explains, “If we pray to God as a corporeal person, this will prevent us from relinquishing the human doubts and fears which attend such a belief, and so we cannot grasp the wonders wrought by infinite, incorporeal Love, to whom all things are possible” (p. 13). Nothing is impossible, nothing is hopeless, to divine Love.
In all of human experience, what could be purer and more enduring than a mother’s love for her child? Yet in the face of death—the most hopeless situation mortal existence has to offer—mother-love is inadequate to meet the need. The great love of the mother whose son was being carried out on a bier at the gate of Nain couldn’t raise him from the dead (see Luke 7). But Jesus, who probably had never even met the boy, raised him up through his perfect realization of Love’s all-presence and power—of divine Love as the young man’s only origin and Life.
Let me illustrate this point by sharing a small but decisive turning-point experience I had many years ago, which woke me up to the difference between helpful human personality and the Christ, the spiritual idea of divine Love that is the only “saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23).
I was 19 and heading off by ship for my junior year abroad in Paris. A few days before the ship docked, I became very ill. I was barely conscious and could hardly think beyond knowing that God was my Life. I was sharing a cabin with a total stranger, a young woman who was on her way to Switzerland to study. Yet with remarkable selflessness, this woman cared for me until we arrived at port, and by then I was able to gather my things together and get the boat train to Paris.
Nothing is impossible, nothing is hopeless, to divine Love.
When I arrived in Paris, I headed for the home of the Christian Science family I was to live with that year. Soon after my arrival, I awoke in the night with the same problem I’d been dealing with on board ship. I called out for a member of the family, who immediately picked up the phone to call a local Christian Science practitioner. Within a few moments, my room seemed filled with the most brilliant light, and I was instantly and permanently healed.
When I attended church for the first time the following Sunday, I met the faithful practitioner who’d healed me. I still vividly remember that watershed moment. The practitioner was rather staid and very reserved. There was no personal impression of warmth. But I saw a deep love in her eyes as she looked at me. Oh, what a lesson! The healer had been—and is in every case—the Christ, the spiritual idea “aflame with divine Love,” not someone’s warm or cool human personality.
Looking back at this experience, I see that the first individual, the woman on board ship, helped me at the human level of compassion and unselfish care—very needed and much appreciated. But human goodness—goodness believed to derive from the so-called human mind—still includes the belief that matter and evil are real, while Christian healing requires the understanding of two fundamental facts: the unreality of matter and evil, and the sole reality of God, good.
The second individual, the Christian Science practitioner, helped me at that elevated spiritual level, where good is understood to be real and evil unreal. The practitioner saw, with spiritual sense, right through the mesmeric illusion of a sick mortal, to my true, spiritual selfhood. And this correct view healed me.
Christ Jesus healed all manner of physical, mental, and moral conditions, and it’s comforting to remember that most of these conditions were considered hopeless. And all of his healings prove that health is not a condition of matter, which has to be restored to matter, but is the natural state of man as the spiritual idea of perfect Mind.
In our Lord’s sacred Sermon on the Mount, he describes God as utterly impartial and impersonal Love—that is, you could say that he uses language that identifies Love as a fixed Principle when he explains that our Father “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” And he requires of us the impartial and impersonal love that will identify us as the children of our heavenly Parent. “Love your enemies,” he explains, “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44, 45).
Looking at the conflicting elements in the world—and looking into our own hearts—we might rightly conclude that nothing is more difficult than loving and blessing one’s enemies and doing them good. If one is blinded by anger, injustice, and bitterness, the task of loving and forgiving one’s enemies might seem illogical, unjust, and unreasonable—and yes, even hopeless. We ask ourselves why we should even bother.
But we must bother. When we accept the scientific basis of forgiveness—the allness of Love and the nothingness of evil—the logic of Jesus’ teaching, and the unspeakable blessings that come from obedience to this teaching, emerge. The sins of anger, bitterness, and resentment, which hide our perfect selfhood as Love’s likeness, are seldom conquered overnight. But the humble willingness to do it puts us on the road to hope and healing. Working, striving, battling to bring thought, bit by bit, into accord with the perfect Love that knows no evil, no discord, no partiality, no injustice, no limitation—and therefore, no enemy—brings healing, the practical proof of the allness of Love and our coexistence with this Love on earth as in heaven.
The truth is that until we accept the fact of Love as a fixed Principle and start to live Love as a fixed Principle, we won’t feel the nothingness of evil and the end of hopelessness. But as we do it, the illusion of material life and intelligence will seem progressively less real to us.
It isn’t possible, when the facts are honestly considered, to think of metaphysical healing as anything but a real and practical Science—the unfailing law of the divine Principle, Love. Leaning on this impersonal divine Principle that meets all human needs dispels hopelessness.
Barbara Cook Spencer is a Christian Science practitioner in Brookline, Massachusetts.