In this JSH-Online.com audio podcast, adapted for print, Christian Science practitioner Kurt Stark spoke with Audio Producer Rita Polatin. Kurt dives deep into Mary Baker Eddy’s statement “that man is the image and likeness of God, in whom all being is painless and permanent” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 414). He talks about how each one of us can demonstrate this spiritual fact in our everyday lives.
Rita: In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Keep in mind the verity of being,—that man is the image and likeness of God, in whom all being is painless and permanent” (p. 414). For someone who is hearing this statement for the first time and is feeling pain, it might sound startling. So from your study and practice of Christian Science, can you explain both why this is true and how can we experience this painlessness Mrs. Eddy is talking about?
Kurt: We know there are many people in the world who are desperate and are crying out in words similar to the prophet Jeremiah: “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed?” (Jeremiah 15:18). When facing physical pain or mental anguish it strengthens our hopes and our convictions to be reassured that there is a God who does hear our call for help. A verse in Psalms, which is a book from the Bible full of comfort for any sufferer, says: “O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me” (30:2). The statement that you read from Science and Health states another biblical truth that bases our health and our freedom from discord and disharmony.
A mind separate from the all-Mind, God, has to be totally supposititious.
This “verity of being” as Mrs. Eddy calls it, is the biblical statement that man is the image and likeness of God, who is Spirit. It follows then that real man—that is, God’s man—is spiritual, without an ounce of physicality to him. Another way to describe man’s real being is to say that man reflects God. And as such, man depends upon his source, God, for everything—for his life and his health. This is a radical statement that might test the credulity of someone who believes that man is totally material and depends on matter for his life. But this very wrong teaching that man is material and that matter is everything, is one that needs to be given up if we want to be freed from the pains of materialism. This freedom from physical and mental pain will only come through a correct understanding of God and man. That’s why we study the great truths found in the Bible.
Where does pain come from? How do you explain pain?
What we all feel so constantly is the false consciousness that pain and pleasure, life and intelligence exist in the flesh. That’s why it is so important to understand that consciousness—and not matter, as is generally believed—is basic to our experience. Our experiences are mental. They are the externalization of our thoughts. As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7), the Bible teaches. What we think in our hearts is to be dealt with in every difficulty we encounter in our lives.
We all need to take better care of our health by taking better care of our body of thoughts. Do we think the thoughts that come from the divine Mind, God? Or do we accept the thoughts of what Paul calls “the carnal mind” (Romans 8:7) and Mrs. Eddy names mortal mind? Mortal mind is not another mind. It is a term for anything opposed to God. Jesus describes it as the devil or a murderer, a liar with no truth in it, and a self-constituted lie. No one caused it or created it. A mind separate from the all-Mind, God, has to be totally supposititious. Therefore, it has no power over God’s image and likeness, man (see John 8:44).
Christian Science teaches that matter manifests nothing but a material mentality. Then to tackle the challenges of matter with its pains is to deny the reality of a mortal mind or mortal consciousness. Mrs. Eddy in characterizing mortal mind talks about “the self-inflicted wounds of selfishness, malice, envy, and hate,” and she adds “mad ambition” too. Then she refers to the “hallowed influences of unselfishness, philanthropy, spiritual love”—clearly expressions of the divine Mind (Science and Health, p. 462). To hallow means to make whole or holy. What is to be made whole or holy, free from pain and suffering? Isn’t it the human consciousness? It needs to be brought under the control of God, and when that happens the body will reflect this in order and normal functioning.
You see, the human mind needs to be emptied of its fears, its sordid interest in physicality, its enticements with sensuality. Seeds of fear and terror are sown in consciousness through newspaper reports of disease, through the Internet, through neighborly talk where physical symptoms are described, and through advertisements where the latest drugs and the latest dangers to your health are mentioned—and the fearful individual thinks: “Body, what will you do to me next?” not realizing that he has a choice of thoughts. He can accept the suggestions of a supposititious mortal mind, which argue for the reality of matter, or accept the ideas of divine Mind, God, which affirm the ever-presence of divine Spirit and are seen in health and holiness.
The body always responds to thought because the body expresses thought. We all know how a joyous thought is immediately made manifest on the face by a smile. And that joy is not just made manifest outwardly but also on the inward parts. Any healing or freedom from pain only awaits a change of thought, a corrected, spiritualized thought. Our thoughts need to be brought into conformity with divine Mind, God, and this is seen when we express the qualities of justice, mercy, goodness.
And so thought by thought, deed by deed, we begin to express our Christly selfhood, the man of God’s creating. Christ Jesus gave us the supreme example of a Christly consciousness. Christian Science teaches how to demonstrate this Christly consciousness as man’s true mentality, thereby subduing the mortal mentality that is the cause of pain and suffering. This brings healing.
Let’s turn to the Bible then and talk about how Christ Jesus dealt with pain.
Jesus always dealt with any issue he faced through prayer. Right at the beginning of his ministry we read that he was baptized and “praying, the heaven was opened.” Here we see the true result of genuine prayer. It always opens the heavens, spiritual reality, to us. Then the Bible states that Jesus heard the voice from heaven saying: “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21, 22). What Jesus realized was the divine order of being, the coexistence of God and man, Father and Son, forever one. This divine order of being, or “verity of being” as Mrs. Eddy also calls it, signifies the end of all disordered being with its pain and suffering. Jesus proved this spiritual order of being in his ministry again and again by healing the sick, raising the dead, and saving the sinner.
Jesus showed us the way out of mortality, out of material-mindedness with its pains and miseries.
The Bible reports a number of incidents that involved pain and suffering in Jesus’ experience. And he always faced them through prayer, being conscious of the verity of being that man is the likeness of God. The Bible tells us that at times Jesus spent all night in prayer (see Luke 6:12).
There was the experience in Gethsemane. The Bible simply recounts: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). It is hard to believe that Jesus ever did not pray earnestly. So if the going gets challenging with us, we can remember our Lord and Master’s fervent prayers and also pray more fervently, knowing that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Then there was the cross. Jesus refused to take a drink of wine offered to him right before he was crucified (see Mark 15:23), given with the intent of being helpful, because it was an anesthetic to dull his consciousness. Jesus needed to stay awake to the fact that God was his Life. He was his own physician on the case, and he needed to pray. Mrs. Eddy, hinting at the hatred he had to meet and how he dealt with it, says of Jesus: “The power of his transcendent goodness is manifest in the control it gave him over the qualities opposed to Spirit which mortals name matter” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 199).
Jesus is the Way-shower for all who desire to follow him. He showed us the way out of mortality, out of material-mindedness with its pains and miseries. And this was done through spiritualization of thought, the elimination of material concepts and their replacement with the truths of being. Jesus worked out his salvation by vigorously denying the belief of life in matter from beginning to end, from birth to the ascension.
Do you have an example from your own life of healing pain?
Yes, I do. Early on in my study of Christian Science I was confronted with severe abdominal pains, which lasted for several days. To me it felt like an eternity. And I was getting afraid. One evening, as I was pacing the floor in my room and praying as best as I understood, it came to me like a flash of light that I was simply dealing with wrong thought. The supposed trouble and the pain were not in a fleshly body. They were in mortal mind, the mortal mentality that is the opposite of God, the divine Mind. I was confronted with some mortal-mindedness that made itself manifest in physical pain, but the difficulty was never a physical condition. It only appeared this way. It was a wrong standpoint of thought, a faulty viewpoint, a misperception of a spiritual fact that I needed to deal with. That was my moment of going into the sanctuary of prayer and acknowledging God’s all-power and ever-presence in my thought and life. This correct spiritual standpoint had an immediate effect on my mind and on my body. The fear stopped and the pain completely vanished too. Mrs. Eddy tells us that such a result is to be expected. She states in the Christian Science textbook: “Whatever guides thought spiritually benefits mind and body” (Science and Health, p. 149).
We must make sure that we don’t confuse Godlike thought with positive thinking. The human mind that has caused the trouble in the first place does not have the capability to get out of its own limited, negative thinking. To do so we seek recourse to the divine Mind, God, the only real consciousness and the source of all true intelligence. To think rightly means to think spiritually, to think like Jesus who embodied the Christ mentality.
It is only right for me to say here that there have been other occasions in which I have felt pain. Many of them involved kitchen accidents! But each time you overcome the illusion of the flesh and its disorders you are gaining a stronger conviction of God’s presence and of God’s ability to preserve His man.
What about persistent pain or discomfort? What helps heal that?
If pain is persistent, we can know that the truths God supplies to our consciousness are ready to transform us. In fact, those truths constitute a veritable army of salvation for us, saving us moment by moment from some wrong concept and compelling us to let go of old ways of thinking. Mrs. Eddy says: “When a sufferer is convinced that there is no reality in his belief of pain,—because matter has no sensation, hence pain in matter is a false belief,—how can he suffer longer?” (Science and Health, p. 346).
Paul talks about the law as the schoolmaster bringing him to Christ (see Galatians 3:24). A schoolmaster can be tough, and pain can seem a tough schoolmaster at times. We need to ask ourselves the question: What is the lesson to be learned? What mortal convictions do I need to forsake? Am I more convinced of matter than of Spirit? Is my love for God getting deeper and purer? Affliction never leaves us where it found us. It purifies and elevates us. And God’s love, manifested through the Christ, is always with us to support and heal. Perhaps we are more interested in finding relief from pain than in looking for healing through a changed consciousness. This might be delaying healing. Let’s give up materialism for spiritual-mindedness seen in faith and trust in God “who healeth all thy diseases” (Psalms 103:3).
The Christ is the full expression of God and is present right where the poor mortal counterfeit claims to be.
It is a joyous mental activity to separate the material senses from us. They are not now and never were part of our true identity. Only material consciousness or corporeal sense experiences material conditions. Real God-given intelligence is an integral part of our true selfhood, and intelligence cannot be tricked or hypnotized into accepting falsities. We can and need to confront the lie of a mortal, suffering selfhood with Christly authority, the authority of an honest heart. Mrs. Eddy says: “We must realize the ability of mental might to offset human misconceptions and to replace them with the life which is spiritual, not material” (Science and Health, p. 428).
We strive to perceive man’s individuality in Mind, not in matter. To the degree that we are believing in the false claims of pain or pleasure in matter, we are not letting the Savior in. We are not identifying with “the only begotten Son” (John 1:18), the true idea of spiritual sonship. We continue to identify with mortality. Instead, freedom comes in sacrificing the false mortal sense of self on the altar of God. The daily rising or ascending of thought above material mentality is what brings healing. As long as we seem to have a material body, there is work to be done, and it’s joyous work. Pouring truth into consciousness from a loving motive washes away the belief in the reality of matter. With the belief goes also the sense of suffering and any inharmony. For they are inseparable from the belief.
God has supplied us with every right idea needed to defeat a materialistic thought. I always go back to the simple spiritual fact stated in the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (verse 1). I shall not lack the understanding that I need. I shall not lack the know-how to pray successfully. I shall not lack the inspiration. I shall not lack the Christly power that is unafraid. I shall not lack the love that turns me to God. There is plenty of food for thought in that one statement. Every spiritual fact is a spiritual law that governs our experience. We are able to be governed by spirituality instead of by materialism, alias mortal-mind suggestions.
The Bible has the healing Christ saying to every suffering heart: “Surely I come quickly” (Revelation 22:20). There is no delayed Christ or insufficient Christ or inconclusive Christ. The Christ is the full expression of God and is present right where the poor mortal counterfeit claims to be. The Christ reveals your and my true selfhood. “The Christ is here, all dreams of error breaking,” says a hymn (Rosa M. Turner, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 412, © CSBD). The Christ is awakening you and me to the Christ in us, the spiritual realization that all is well.
Many people know and love the verse in the book of Revelation that says there will be no more pain (see 21:4). What is that verse talking about?
John the Revelator was in exile in the penal colony of Patmos after having endured, according to tradition, persecution and torture. His prayer opened to him the heavens and he saw the new heaven and the new earth in which there was no more pain or death. This new heaven and new earth was not a new creation. It was simply the original heaven and earth that God has created as described in Genesis, chapter one. John’s consciousness had been purified to such a degree, rid of dualism—the belief in matter and Spirit—that he perceived what was divinely true. He saw the true order of being, the coexistence of God and man, as right now present. Mrs. Eddy in commenting on this passage is at her most tender when she states: “This is Scriptural authority for concluding that such a recognition of being is, and has been, possible to men in this present state of existence,—that we can become conscious, here and now, of a cessation of death, sorrow, and pain. This is indeed a foretaste of absolute Christian Science. Take heart, dear sufferer, for this reality of being will surely appear sometime and in some way. There will be no more pain, and all tears will be wiped away. When you read this, remember Jesus’ words, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ This spiritual consciousness is therefore a present possibility” (Science and Health, pp. 573–574).
You see, what every follower of Christ seeks to obtain is not simply physical freedom from the oppressive physical senses, as important as this is. The true recompense for our prayer in overcoming the materialistic, ungodlike arguments of pain and suffering is the consciousness of God’s presence, the consciousness of man’s unity with the Father.