Outsiders sometimes misunderstand important points of Christian metaphysics. There may be occasions when we insiders also fail to grasp adequately those same points. In fact, the more clarity and exactness Christian Scientists bring to their own perception of spiritual truths, the more they will help dissolve the mistaken views held by others. It's often easier to think in terms of straightening out the other fellow. It's a little harder when we realize that the first need is to get things perfectly straight in our own thought.
We really can't afford to take familiar truths in the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings for granted. The books need to be pondered—plumbed for the fullness and preciseness of their meaning. For example, what impact is made on us when we consider the fact that matter is unreal? Do we just have a vague sort of feeling that the objects around us, even the physical body itself, fall short of representing true substance? Or worse, do we perhaps move right on past such a concept, assuming that its significance belongs to the future? We can't very honestly expect humanity to perceive without study what we ourselves, even with study, still need to take hold of more fully.
Divine Science does teach unreservedly that matter must disappear in the presence of Spirit. But without explanation and application such a concept would be little more than theoretical to the Scientist and at least puzzling to the newcomer. What do we actually mean by the term "matter"? Are we thinking of the disappearance of objects around us—a bucket of paint, a piece of rope, a bag of potatoes? If so, we're floating in clouds of theory way beyond our present practice. And yet there is something very practical, very immediate, about the present dissolution of matter.
To the Christian metaphysician who is pondering the nature of reality, matter isn't so easily defined simply as physical items — neat little packages measured in liters, meters, and kilograms. "Matter" is actually a term that implies narrowness, confinement, limitation; it suggests a consciousness of existence that is bounded by walls of restriction. In a word, matter is mortality. And the so-called substance that we usually think of as matter, to the extent it is subject to sudden or eventual deterioration and change, mainly symbolizes a state of finite thinking.
And so when we consider the unreality of matter, we're actually pondering the fact that man's true existence as the expression of immortal Spirit is limitless, boundless; our real being perpetually develops within God's infinite goodness—it isn't circumscribed by doubt or ignorance, anger or envy. We are rejecting matter when we repudiate the belief that our true life is built around such terminal concepts. We're challenging constrictive material sense itself—not merely various objects that material sense would always represent as mortal.
When we feel God's presence—experience spiritual joy, purity, integrity—we aren't losing a sense of substance; we are actually gaining a more expanded and substantial and permanent basis of existence. Real being, individual consciousness, is shaped by unrestricted qualities of God. True form, color, substance, outline, are the expression of boundless Spirit; they are not contained within the fences of mortal mentality. "Spirit and its formations are the only realities of being," our Leader, Mrs. Eddy, explains. "Matter disappears under the microscope of Spirit." Science and Health, p. 264.
If one accepts matter as genuine substance, then, of course, it may seem frightening to consider relinquishing it. When one comes to realize that matter isn't some kind of reality independent of consciousness but is essentially the projection of limited thought, he will be forced to reexamine his reservations about letting go. Not that he'll automatically be glad to part with mental restrictions. People aren't easily persuaded to relinquish their imprisoning views. Mortal mind, by nature, fears the infinite because immortality, by definition, signals the demise of all belief in mortality.
But once we see that the disappearance of matter actually means the disappearance of limited thinking—of fears and impurities and willfulness—a whole new world (even a new heaven and earth) starts opening up to us. We begin more fully to understand Christ Jesus, his mission, his message, and how he was able to heal.
To some extent Jesus' very birth broke away from matter — from confining mortal concepts about man's origin. He grew to fully understand that man is not made up of limits; he is not a collection of genes bounded by the past or held within the worldly borders of illness, immorality, death. Christ Jesus recognized man's original, limitless nature as the image, even the representative, of God, divine Mind. He saw this fact with such clarity that the boundaries of illness and sin, of arrogance and death, gave way. His conviction of God's allness brought down opposing mental barriers. The Bible describes the healing effect of breaking through those false limits of matter-based thinking: a lame man walked; a child was restored to health; multitudes were fed; a sea was calmed.
Even today, as we yield to the expansiveness of Spirit, such restrictive beliefs as disease or sin, evil of every kind, break down. Matter—that is, the expression of limited and false mentality—dissolves. We experience liberation. For instance, fear gives way to the security of divine Love; spiritual vitality replaces apathy; enlightenment crowds out ignorance.
For the student of divine metaphysics, matter is daily disappearing. The flesh (cramped material-mindedness) falls before spirituality. "Limitations are put off in proportion as the fleshly nature disappears and man is found in the reflection of Spirit," Retrospection and Introspection, p. 73. writes our Leader. A regeneration takes place in which Christly consciousness replaces a material sense of identity. And what is the ultimate lesson offered by the Master? Was he showing us how finally to become very happy, healthy, lovable mortals? Why, of course not; he was leading us to our full salvation—out of mortality entirely.
Jesus demonstrated completely the fact that all matter, all restrictive belief, finally disappears as we fully demonstrate man's perfect expression of omniscient Mind. Man doesn't disappear. Substance doesn't disappear. Limits disappear. They come to an end because God is unbounded and man is His likeness. When Jesus ascended he gave irrefutable evidence that true being is altogether free of matter.
You and I can daily cut back the shrubbery of mortal belief that would hedge us in. Even the most modest healing is a destruction of evil; it is evidence of God's presence as described by the Psalmist, "He uttered his voice, the earth melted." Ps. 46:6.
Even now we can give genuine meaning to the metaphysical truth that matter disappears in the light of Spirit. And finally, through spiritual regeneration and scientific healing, we will rise above all limited thought; we will reach our own ascension.