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Discerning Infinite Presence

From the May 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal

The sun sinks slowly into the horizon, revealing warm tones of pink, orange, and red. Eventually it disappears, only to return the next morning, bringing new rays of light.

Sometimes, it's easy to forget that, in spite of its beauty, the sun's movement across the sky is nothing more than a deception. There was a time, however, when virtually everyone was deceived by the illusion that the sun travels around the earth. The world had no basis for believing otherwise—that is, not until the early 17th century, when Galileo proved Copernicus's theory that the earth travels around the sun. Galileo's find is one of many examples in human history that prove that what the eye beholds can be illusive, and that a scientific fact holds precedence over appearance.

Interestingly, though, one has to go further back in history to find more telling accounts about the advancement of human knowledge, accounts that reveal the origins of the spiritual development of human thought. The Bible contains enough information to be viewed not only as an extraordinary record of episodes, but also as a source of inspiration. The Biblical prophet Jeremiah indicated that the universe is filled with one infinite Being who is the same throughout all space and for eternity. Jeremiah records God as saying, "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" Jer. 23:24. These comforting words have profound implications. They allude to the infinity of heaven and earth—the whole universe—entirely governed and occupied by the one single Principle, God Himself.

How can one experience the divine infinity that Jeremiah speaks of, that presence of God that the eye can't see? For some people, the answer lies in believing that God exists. But what about knowing or understanding the nature of God? One can do this by mentally turning in another direction, a direction characterized by a willingness to view God not as a remote or supernatural being, but as a reality that is spiritual.

Mary Baker Eddy found spiritual reality to be provable. Through her own healing experience and her investigation into the Bible, she found that the Christianity Jesus taught could be practiced today, and heals the sick the way it did in his time. That it's a system of principles anyone can apply when willing to reason spiritually and take a step beyond merely believing in God.

So how does one reason spiritually? First, a degree of trust in what is not seen is conducive to admitting the existence of this spiritual reality. Regarding this trust, which many call faith, Mrs. Eddy wrote: "Faith is higher and more spiritual than belief. It is a chrysalis state of human thought, in which spiritual evidence, contradicting the testimony of material sense, begins to appear, and Truth, the ever-present, is becoming understood." Science and Health, p. 297. This "chrysalis state" is the threshold where one's reasoning begins to evolve and leads into a fuller understanding beyond what the mere act of believing can offer. In this fuller understanding, God is found to be an infinite presence, not a supernatural or distant being. And this understanding indicates a science.

Christ Jesus' recognition of the existence of the reality that is totally spiritual accounts for those instances when he surmounted material conditions, such as when he walked on water, restored health and well-being to many, and overcame death itself. This was, in essence, the Science of Christianity—the Science that Christ Jesus knew. The way to understand this Science lies in recognizing the spiritual reality as the basis from which to reason and pray. Anyone who is willing to become acquainted with the system of spiritual reasoning that Jesus knew can find that it has a beneficial effect on human conditions.

The appearing of Jesus was accepted by many as the awaited Messiah sent by his heavenly Father, as announced in the Old Testament. So Jesus did not refer to himself as God, but as one whose Father was God. In fact, when his disciples asked him how to pray, he taught them a prayer that unites all people through this same Father. Declaring who the Supreme Being is—the Father of all—this prayer begins with the words "Our Father."  See Matt. 6:9–13 . 

Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "The Christ was the Spirit which Jesus implied in his own statements: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life;' 'I and my Father are one.' This Christ, or divinity of the man Jesus, was his divine nature, the godliness which animated him." Science and Health, p. 26. So the Christ, as Mrs. Eddy revealed, is not confined to the figure of Jesus and his ministry 2,000 years ago. The Christ is the voice of good, forever telling human consciousness about the spiritual reality of God's presence. This explains why Jesus' works were not miraculous events, dependent on his personal power. Rather, they were the result of his expression of the Christ, the highest nature of each son and daughter of God as He created them. And the action of the Christ is able to awaken the spiritual nature of anyone, even today. The divine origin of this Science—namely, God Himself—has existed forever.

The Christ points to the divine reality spoken of in Science and Health: "There is but one way to heaven, harmony, and Christ in divine Science shows us this way. It is to know no other reality—to have no other consciousness of life—than good, God and His reflection, and to rise superior to the so-called pain and pleasure of the senses." Ibid., p. 242.

Prayer: the way to feel God's presence

If the divine presence is the only reality that exists, just as the Christ is always revealing, then prayer can be defined as the means by which to know and feel this all-encompassing presence. It keeps one from being fooled by information taken in by the physical senses. When the starting point of prayer is acknowledging God, or "Our Father," as the Principle, or law, that governs His infinite universe, one is starting out from the very basic fact that God is the source of all existence. This prayer that acknowledges an infinite spiritual reality includes cultivating the habit of looking away from the material scene—not in an effort to ignore problems, but as an affirmation and acceptance that the spiritual realm is the only reality. It's infinite and already perfect. And not only does infinity reach to the remotest corners of the universe, but it's as close as the air we breathe.

An effective way to begin praying, then, is to acknowledge that harmony is already established, because it cannot be absent if God's presence is infinite. The Principle of all being, God, is the basis of spiritual reasoning, as Science and Health indicates: "The universe, like man, is to be interpreted by Science from its divine Principle, God, and then it can be understood ..." Ibid., p. 124.

This is why discernment is key to praying scientifically, which allows one to feel the divine presence. It's a discernment between fact and that which is deemed to be fact, that is, between the spiritual reality and the material appearance. The spiritual reality and the material appearance never coincide, since the first is real and is all that exists. The latter must therefore be a deception, even though, from what one sees on the surface, the scenario seems to be exactly the other way around. But the mental activity of knowing these spiritual facts lifts one's consciousness to the realization of the divine reality as the only reality.

If one is willing to reason from the basis of God's ever-presence, one can silence anything that doesn't correspond with divine presence or represent God's perfection. Mrs. Eddy underscored this when she said: "Perfection underlies reality. Without perfection, nothing is wholly real." Ibid., p. 353. This indicates that God is incapable of creating anything destructive to His own infinitude. It's why scientific prayer does not involve asking God to improve or correct His universe, but acknowledges God's work as already perfect.

The way to understand Christian Science lies in recognizing the spiritual reality as the basis from which to reason and pray.

Getting past barriers

What is it, then, that sometimes prevents humanity from experiencing the harmony characterized by God's perfection? It can't be anything factual, if true facts are good and spiritual. It must be a wrongly held notion, a supposition that another power exists, one that doesn't come from God. But in God's infinitude, any destructive entity that would seem to act against harmony is impossible, because infinity, or God's own spiritual presence, cannot be invaded by a power coming from outside. There is no outside to infinitude. The very hypothesis of the existence of outside forces contradicts the concept of infinity. Therefore, whatever intends to disrupt the peace of God's government of His universe is a form of superstition. But this superstition can dissipate when one consciously acknowledges God's total presence.

The realm of God's reality is coherent. It cannot be the stage for conditions that exist contrary to one another, such as infinity and finiteness, eternity and time, spirit and matter, perfection and imperfection. When one begins by conceptualizing God's presence as good and all that really exists, it becomes only natural to question whether conflicts and disturbances really have a place in this divine presence. The ground where they seem to come together is the deceiving picture, like the sun moving across the sky. The only way to avoid the consequences of things that seem to happen in this picture is refusing to be daunted by them, and acknowledging only the spiritual reality. This is the awakening out of a hypnotic state, and it reveals that what seemed to be happening was not going on at all. Arriving at this point in prayer restores health and well-being. And in essence, arriving at this point is arriving at the starting point, where God's reality was and is all that ever existed.

The spiritual reality—unchanged

Centuries ago, when Galileo's discovery of the sun's centrality was finally accepted, where did the change occur? Nothing new had happened. The only difference was that a fact previously unknown had been proved true by science.

With regard to the irreversible nature of spiritual facts, Mrs. Eddy wrote: "The spiritual reality is the scientific fact in all things. The spiritual fact, repeated in the action of man and the whole universe, is harmonious and is the ideal of Truth. Spiritual facts are not inverted; the opposite discord, which bears no resemblance to spirituality, is not real." Ibid., p. 207. The universe is, in fact, filled with God and His creation, as the prophet Jeremiah said. And if reality has no empty spaces, because God in His allness inhabits every part of it, this one reality is impregnable, unassailable by any other power.

As this fact becomes clearer to one's consciousness, one will realize that it is safe to walk in the paths of the spiritual reality of God's presence, because throughout the innumerable avenues of infinity, there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing harmful, nothing opposing the reality of good. At every point, God's infinite, harmonious peace is the only thing that stands.

Heloísa Rivas is a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in Boston, Massachusetts.

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