Throughout history there have been instances where what was thought to be a reality turned out to be an illusion, such as when it was discovered that the Earth is not flat or that the sun does not revolve around the Earth. In both cases, people believed in a misconception for many years because of what they had been told and what the physical senses were telling them. In fact, some people were terrified to sail far out into the oceans, because it was believed that at some point they would reach the edge of the Earth and plummet over a precipice.
Of course, once it was discovered the Earth is round, such people were no longer afraid to sail the seas. This illustrates two basic points about illusions: 1) They are not real; and 2) Because they are unreal, they do not need to be feared.
In the latter half of the 19th century, visual illusions became a topic of much interest. At the same time, the discovery of Christian Science in 1866 by Mary Baker Eddy was also beginning to capture the public’s attention. Christian Science was presenting spiritual insights into the healings that Christ Jesus accomplished, as recorded in the Bible. From a metaphysical standpoint, they could be seen as convincing evidence that sickness is an illusion, rather than a reality.
One such healing occurred when Jesus noticed a man who had a withered hand. All the other people who were gathered around saw this man and took the deformed hand as being a completely real condition. However, the Christ, Jesus’ spiritual nature, enabled him to look past the outward picture of a withered hand to perceive the man from a spiritual standpoint. It was in that uplifted view that Jesus beheld the perfect sense of this man as created by God. And his spiritual view of this man’s divine perfection broke the illusion and resulted in the man’s hand being restored, much to the amazement of the crowd who witnessed the instantaneous healing.
In order for one to understand how disease may be seen as unreal, some knowledge of divine metaphysics is required. Metaphysics refers to those ideas that go above and beyond the physical. As used in Christian Science, it’s an explanation of reality as spiritual, based on reasoning that begins with God, accepting God, infinite Spirit, as the creator and governing force of the universe.
The first chapter of the Bible states that “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). From this metaphysical standpoint, one can naturally conclude that because God made everything very good, and disease is not good, disease must not have been made by God. Based on this spiritual premise, Mrs. Eddy wrote, “We learn in Christian Science that all inharmony of mortal mind or body is illusion, possessing neither reality nor identity though seeming to be real and identical” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 472–473).
Once disease is seen as an illusion, it is understandable that fear goes away, because there is no reason to be afraid of something that is unreal and non-existent. If a child is fearful that there’s a monster under the bed, that fear can quickly be dismissed when the parent checks under the bed and assures—and even shows—the child there is no monster. So, in every instance when any problem such as a sickness is correctly identified as a misconception, any fear associated with that misconception or illusion must disappear. By the same token, because such illusion and fear are inevitably one, when fear is eliminated, the unreality of an illusion becomes plain.
There will be no more fear of sickness, just as there is no fear of falling off a flat Earth.
Just because Christian Science teaches that disease is not the reality it appears to be, does not mean that its followers don’t recognize and acknowledge that health is a great concern among the human family, and needs to be dealt with. Christian Scientists are dedicated to eliminating suffering. In a prayerful way, they take up the challenge each day of addressing the world’s fears and ailments.
In a world where disease is believed to be very real, for one to suggest that it may not be real but only an illusion would most likely be thought of as absurd. Yet tens of thousands of examples of healing based on this spiritual understanding have been collected in the Christian Science magazines like this one for nearly 140 years.
For an example of this healing through Christian Science, a number of years ago I began to suffer from symptoms that included swelling, pressure, and pain in my head. At first, the problem felt evident in only a couple of places, but after a couple of weeks, the symptoms had spread over my whole head.
During this time, I did my best to treat myself through prayer and spiritual reasoning, but the problem persisted, and I became fearful that I might be suffering from a condition that could be life-threatening. Just as the withered hand of a man Jesus healed looked and felt so real, the swelling and pain sure seemed very real to me.
One night, I was unable to sleep. Based on what I had proven in my life on previous occasions, I felt that if I could overcome the fear, it would allow for a greater peace of mind. A thought filled with fear is not helpful in any situation; whereas a calm and exalted thought promotes harmony and health. So, I persisted in my prayers for peace.
That night something wonderful happened. Above the mental shouts of pain and fear, I heard what the Bible describes as the “still, small voice” of God. Its message to me was crystal clear. It identified and addressed an underlying fear that death would separate me from my wife, Katie. The message was that life—mine, Katie’s, and everyone’s—continues forever. When I received this assurance, the fear I had been feeling immediately disappeared. At the same time, all the sensitivity and pain I had been experiencing instantly vanished. Within a day’s time all the swelling and pressure were gone, and they have never returned. The physical picture, which had looked and felt so real, had totally changed.
Over the centuries, people have believed the Earth was flat, the sun revolved around the Earth, and disease was real. The first two of those long-held illusions have been corrected. So, what’s to say the third belief—that disease is real—won’t also someday be corrected as the result of spiritual progress and divine revelations, more so than through medical breakthroughs or more powerful medications? I cherish the vision of a time when the world will awaken to the spiritual fact that disease is an illusion, not a reality.
My favorite part of this vision of a world with no disease is that there will be no more fear of sickness either, just as there is no fear of falling off a flat Earth. In today’s world the fear of sickness is rampant. But every step of progress in the destruction of fear, through a realization that disease is an illusion, blesses humanity beyond measure.
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