In studying Christian Science, I’ve learned the importance of knowing the difference between thoughts that come from God, otherwise known as divine Mind, and thoughts that seem to come from a different source. Christian Scientists understand that Mind, God, is wholly good. In our textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes that “God is Mind: all that Mind, God, is, or hath made, is good, and He made all” (p. 311).
However, there does at times seem to be another source of intelligence, often referred to by Christian Scientists as mortal mind, or the carnal mind. Mortal mind is the belief that there is intelligence in matter, and that a physical brain is the source of both the mental activity and physical action of every individual that has ever lived. As explained in Science and Health, “Usage classes both evil and good together as mind; therefore, to be understood, the author calls sick and sinful humanity mortal mind,—meaning by this term the flesh opposed to Spirit, the human mind and evil in contradistinction to the divine Mind, or Truth and good” (p. 114).
Under the rule of this belief in mortal mind, men and women are defined as creatures of completely material instinct and concerns, evolving under an ever-shifting set of material conditions that shape and define who they are. According to this doctrine, various influences, either good or bad, converge on individuals, and a person is subject to these influences, which form the sum total of their lives. Speaking to this belief, Mrs. Eddy wrote in Science and Health, “The illusion of material sense, not divine law, has bound you, entangled your free limbs, crippled your capacities, enfeebled your body, and defaced the tablet of your being” (p. 227).
I vividly remember a conversation I had as a teenager with my Christian Science Sunday School teacher about mortal mind. She showed me a passage in the book of Romans in the Bible that says, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God” (8:6, 7).
Enmity means hostility or opposition to something. So, I think this passage means that the so-called carnal mind is at variance with and opposed to God. The carnal mind would turn us away from God, whereas spiritual-mindedness turns us toward God. These two options are complete opposites. We can’t do both at the same time. Either we are aligned in thought with God, the true source of life and existence, or else we are subject to the carnal mind, and consequently, the various negative results that come with a belief in matter. God, good, doesn’t subject us to negative outcomes if we disobey Him, but a misapprehension of God and His infinite goodness leads one inevitably down a more difficult path.
This inspiration from God was like a light to me, dispelling the shadow of fear that had fallen over me.
Another favorite Bible passage of mine is from the twenty-third Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (verse 4). I’ve often thought of this passage at times when I’ve been fearful or in a situation that concerns me in some way. Because God is with me, I don’t need to feel afraid. I can walk with courage, knowing that my reliance on God brings with it complete, absolute protection from every shadow of death and fear.
Often in my prayers I like to combine the concepts from these two passages and think about them conceptually: 1) To be carnally minded is death; and 2) even if we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t have to fear evil, because God is with us. This leads me to think of this passage from the twenty-third Psalm in a slightly reworded form: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the carnal mind, I will fear no evil, because God, Mind, is with me, comforting me and protecting me from all evil.
Mankind might seem to be walking through this valley of the carnal mind, as we hear daily reports of infectious diseases, increased crime rates, and violence. Evil can seem abundant and widespread, and it is easy to fall victim to this belief. But this is giving in to carnal-mindedness. Through prayer and the cultivation of our spiritual sense, we come to understand that there is no problem too large or scary for us to handle effectively by turning to God, Mind, in prayer.
In Psalm 23, evil is referred to as a shadow of death. But the light of divine Mind, God, shining in our lives has absolute power to rule out any shadow that we might be facing. The Psalm goes on to say, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (verses 4–6). These words point to the sure blessings that come from complete reliance on God for protection in any circumstance.
An example of this in my life occurred a couple of years ago. I was having a meal with some friends at a restaurant, and I noticed something happening at the counter that made me feel very uneasy. A man had come into the restaurant and walked up to the front counter with his right hand clutching something in his coat pocket. He appeared very agitated, and he hit the bell for service repeatedly, asking loudly for someone to come to the counter. I looked out the window and saw that the car that had dropped him off was right outside of the front door, with a man behind the steering wheel. The engine was running, and the passenger-side door was still open. It seemed rather apparent to me that the man who had walked in was planning to rob the restaurant.
As he stayed at the counter, making a commotion and shouting for someone to come to him, he looked around and made eye contact with me. I held eye contact, and he narrowed his eyes, then looked back toward the counter and continued to loudly ask for someone to come over.
I felt a moment of fear; this was a pretty scary situation I had found myself in. I wondered if I should get up with my friends and leave the restaurant, but he was standing in front of the only door. Instead, I prayed. Ever since I was a child, prayer has been a natural response for me in any situation where I feel uncomfortable or afraid; so prayer was a natural step for me to take here.
In this situation, I prayed to know that man is not under the influence of a carnal mind, but is instead the perfect creation of God, wholly governed by that same God, Mind. God doesn’t bring any evil influence into our lives, and therefore this individual could not be under the influence of anything except Mind, God—and neither could my friends and I or anyone in the restaurant.
This inspiration from God was like a light to me, dispelling the shadow of fear that had fallen over me. As I prayed, the man looked around again, made eye contact with me one more time, and then briskly walked out of the restaurant and got into the car, which sped away. Throughout the incident (which occurred over the space of a minute or so), the man never took his hand out of his jacket pocket, which suggests to me that he may have had a weapon. I was especially grateful no one was harmed.
As I sat there reflecting on the situation, my girlfriend (who is now my wife) turned to me and asked if I had noticed the weird behavior that this man had been exhibiting. I told her that I had, and that I had been worried that he was going to rob the restaurant. She agreed with my concern, and told me that she had been praying, and I told her that I had been praying as well.
Christian Science offers us a unique way of life, focused on understanding God more fully and striving to have only one Mind, God, governing our lives. As we come to understand Him more completely, we find that we are immeasurably blessed and able to experience protection in the face of any circumstance, be it a physical threat, a temptation to give in to fear or discouragement, or a desire to sin. And turning to Mind enables us to bless others through prayer as well.
We don’t need to fear the valley of the shadow of death or mortal mind, because we know that God is with us, and through our spiritual-mindedness and turning to God, we have the victory—and that victory blesses all.