Everybody's familiar with signs. Signs are everywhere and they serve many different purposes. Some give direction, others warning, still others instruction. Signs advertise and try to persuade. They're so common, people hardly even notice them. But there are signs that don't appear in the usual way. They're vital to human welfare, and people need to take notice of them. These signs come from God, and their purpose is to give, among other things, confidence, guidance, and foresight. They keep people safe when they obey them.
The ancient Hebrew leader Moses found two such signs in the desert, and his obedient response to them enabled him to accomplish Herculean tasks that have had a profound effect on human history. His depth of spiritual understanding enabled Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, lead them through the Red Sea, and feed them for forty years in a desert wilderness. He instructed them and formulated rules for their social advancement. He received and recorded the Ten Commandments—laws that have largely shaped Western civilization. But before he could accomplish these remarkable tasks, he had to be prepared for his mission. And the two special signs that instructed him provide a timeless lesson for everyone.
Understanding God's law leads to healing.
Moses was alone in the desert when he had his first encounter with the voice of divine wisdom. There wasn't much in that barren land to sustain him, so he was forced to lean completely on God. And that's when his instruction began. He was told by God to drop his shepherd's staff on the ground. And when he did, it turned into a snake. See Ex. 4:1–8 .
Moses' first response was uncontrolled fear, and he ran from the hypnotic projection. But that same divine impulsion, which was to become his constant companion as the voice of Truth, told him to go back and pick up the snake in what could have seemed like a dangerous way—by the tail. He was being instructed to go against all human logic, to put down his personal will, and to recognize the divine will. Moses was obedient, and the snake became a staff again. It seems clear that his fear of an evil power and of the sovereignty of matter yielded to an understanding of God's law and present care. That was sign number one, and the foundation for Moses' spiritual progress.
The next sign was more dramatic. God told Moses to put his hand on his chest under his cloak. And when he withdrew his hand and looked at it, it was covered with the dread disease, leprosy. God then told Moses to repeat the action, putting his hand under his garment again, and the hand was quickly restored to normalcy. That was sign number two. Thus Moses learned a lesson. He must have realized that sickness was, in fact, an illusion, the result of a false concept of the human mind, and not actually a condition of matter. Sign two was the outcome or outgrowth of sign one. Freedom from the illusion of sickness was, for him, the result of an initial freedom from the illusion of a destructive evil force. Then the Bible records the purpose of the instruction: "... if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, ... they will believe the voice of the latter sign."
Since the cure of leprosy was such a dramatic and believable sign, why did God "waste time" instructing Moses with the first sign—that is, with the staff and snake? It seems clear that the timeless laws of healing (the second sign) are experienced more fully as one comes to grips with the illusion of a power apart from God (the first sign).
It's certainly possible that Moses was startled by what he saw in the first sign because he had not yet understood the hypnotic nature of evil. He had to gain the balance between neither ignoring evil's hypnotic suggestions nor fearing them.
Jesus, too, had a preparatory experience with these two special signs at the beginning of his ministry. He came to grips with the hypnotic illusion of evil—and then he went on to fulfill the promise of the second sign in healing. See Matt. 4:1–11 .
When he was in the wilderness, he faced several subtle temptations (termed in the Bible "the devil"). For Jesus, the real danger wasn't the temptations. The danger was that he might be hypnotized by them, and then respond to them. But Jesus met those temptations through the Word, or law, of God.
In thinking about this further, I've realized that the substance of matter is made from the same "stuff" from which dreams are made—solidified thought. The link between matter and thought might be likened to the different states of ice and water. As ice is the solid state of water, so matter is the solid state of thought. To have pure ice, one must have pure water. To get rid of muddy ice, one must get rid of muddy water. Jesus put it so clearly when he said: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Matt. 6:22. When thought yields to the fact that there is only one divine Mind, or God, that thought becomes imbued with good, and no phase of evil can lodge in it. Goodness then permeates every facet of one's life.
Jesus' own example was the supreme and timeless proof of the realness of good and the unrealness of its opposite. His divine origin—being born of a virgin—gave him unique authority to explain creation. His daily teaching and healing ministry, the shattering of the whole theory of death as the end of life by his resurrection and ascension, were evidence of the practicality of the two signs. Knowledge gained from the first sign—of the powerlessness of evil—strengthens one in accomplishing the second sign.
Jesus' disciples followed him in his healing work. But his example is for everyone. He taught that all of us are the sons and daughters of God, and that this timeless spiritual truth, lived, enables everyone to follow him today, healing sickness and reforming character.
Healing becomes spontaneous when thought penetrates to the unreality of evil, and reaches the understanding that evil is not only separate from good, but is entirely outside the one and only universe of ever-present good—therefore, it's nowhere. God, supreme intelligence, knows all. He is infinite, omnipresent, totally good. So there is no outside to His totality. He knows only Himself and His own perfection. So evil must be unknown, and can seem to appear only as hypnotic illusion—that which looks as if it is, but actually isn't.
The two marvelous signs shine clearly through the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Its author, Mary Baker Eddy, discovered the timeless spiritual laws taught by Jesus. She proved them practical today in uncovering the false, hypnotic nature of evil, and in healing the sick. She writes: "Science both neutralizes error and destroys it. Mankind is the better for this spiritual and profound pathology." Science and Health, p. 157.
This was illustrated very clearly when a friend of mine explained how the two signs brought him encouragement during a difficult time. A growth appeared on his face and developed over many months. He became so focused on it that he felt everyone was looking at the growth. As his fear increased, he thought of Moses' first response to the snake. My friend recognized that fear is never actually about the moment one is presently experiencing. Rather, fear is about what the next moment can do or bring. And he began to see that divine Love is at hand every moment to dispel fear.
Divine Love is at hand every moment.
Then the quiet thought came to my friend, "Face the illusion and see that it's not true. Be obedient and take it by the tail as Moses did. Handle the fear that it can have a course, timetable, or law. Resist the temptation with the assurance that God's law is effective, as Jesus did. Refuse to be hypnotized into believing the illusion that what you see is true, and you will find that what is true you will see."
The hypnotic nature of evil became more apparent to him. The only formation could be the formation of good. For molecules to form on their own, in an unruly, destructive way, would be for the government of a loving God to cease. But my friend knew that the eternal law of God, operating as and through the Holy Ghost, or divine Science, was the real development and could only evolve normalcy. And that which evolves normalcy must at the same time dissolve abnormalcy.
Now he could say about the growth with assurance, "Although I think I see you, I know you're not there." A mirage appears to be, but isn't. It would have been helpful for my friend to simply understand that the growth was unnatural. But he wanted to go beyond that and realize that the growth was unreal under the law of divine Love, or God. And if it was unreal, it could only seem real as a hypnotic projection.
The first sign—the hypnotic nature of evil, its unreality, and the present availability of divine law given to Moses and Jesus—became apparent to my friend. Then the second sign of physical healing soon followed, and the growth rapidly dissolved.
Every recognition of spiritual reality, of the allness and goodness of God, and of man and woman as His perfect expression or creation, is coincident with our daily experience. That's because everything good is eternal, existing now and forever. My friend's freedom from fear was the result of his recognition of God as divine Love, and as All. The coincidence was evident as physical healing.
The two signs naturally go hand-in-hand. The recognition of the first proves the practicality of the second. The practicality of the second proves the divine authority of the first.
James Spencer is a teacher and practitioner of Christian Science in Brookline, Massachusetts.