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Renewal and life's real substance

From the January 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal

As there is none beside Him, and He is all good, there can be no evil. Simply uttering this great thought is not enough! We must live it, until God becomes the All and Only of our being.
—Mary Baker Eddy, No and Yes 

The concept of Substance plays a vital role in everything we do or think. It relates to our health, our daily needs, our love for each other, and our happiness. If we see our substance in material terms, it can be variable and limited. Even when things are going along well, there is always some degree of uncertainty connected with it all. But if we can see our substance as derived from God and already included in our spiritual identity, then these limitations and difficulties disappear.

Jesus pointed to this truth of our being. He told us to look to God, Spirit, as our true substance. He said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). Was he saying to ignore all that the material senses are telling us about substance? No, I believe that Jesus was doing something far more radical—leading us to lift ourselves entirely out of the material view. 

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy amplifies this understanding when she says, “Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul” (p. 269). In viewing life this way, we’re far from ignoring the “objects of sense” around us—we’re translating them into mental perceptions. 

But Christian Science doesn’t stop at just seeing the material as a mental phenomenon. It takes us further by exchanging these materially mental perceptions for the ideas of Soul, the only ideas that are divine and eternal.

God-based, not matter-based

Christian Science shows that everything we experience is actually mental—even though to the five physical senses, and from the standpoint of everything we’ve been educated to believe, it appears to be material. This Science shows how to replace these materially oriented mental impressions with ideas that show forth God’s nature. It does this by identifying God as the basis of all true being, the very Soul of existence. Soul, a synonym or name for God, is also divine Mind, the source of every true idea. We can look to these God-based ideas as being permanent and ever available. They constitute the true substance of our health and happiness, and are the answer to our every need. I see the entire history of the Bible as the account of the human search for substance—answered by looking to God as the continuing source of our true identity and the ideas that includes.

In addition to God being Soul and Mind, another synonym for God is Love. This Love cares for every element of its precious creation, for you and for every individual. Love is the actual substance of your thoughts. And as you see that divine Love is the very substance of your thinking, every thought in consciousness conveys a feeling of being loved and being provided with everything good. In human terms, the thoughts may appear as housing, food, clothing—as needs being supplied. But their solidity and permanence aren’t in matter. Nor does good originate in persons. It is individualized as the reflection of the infinite Love that is God.

We don't have to outline just what form the healing of difficulties will take. In fact, we can't humanly project a specific form of substance.

Every manifestation of this Love, from the smallest deed to the most productive global activity testifies to God’s nature and existence. These indications of God open our eyes to the infinite range of Love’s ideas and show us the Life that is immortal—enduring and indestructible. And what if these manifestations of Soul do not seem to be appearing? Then we need to draw on the ever-presence of God as our Life, Love, and Mind to free us from the concept of substance as affected by time or any other limiting factor.

Substance is constant, continuous

Let me give a very simple example of how seeing substance as Spirit—instead of matter—solved what appeared as a material problem. A girl I know, who was in middle school at the time, was required to have a physical examination in order to play volleyball. The doctor said she had a kidney infection and therefore could not participate without medication. The girl’s mother began praying to see God as the only creator, and that His creation had to be forever pure and perfect. She realized that God, as Mind, controlled all functioning and conditions—and matter did not. She prayed to know that matter, being a false concept of substance, had to submit to the correct concept of substance as spiritual and harmonious. The girl was reexamined, and there was no infection.

When this same girl was much younger, she’d had a different physical problem that led her mother to look up the word kidney in the dictionary. This girl had beautiful red hair that is often identified with having a bad temper, and happened to be giving vent to this temper at the time. The mother was surprised to find that one of the common definitions of kidney in Webster’s Dictionary referred to “temperament.” She knew that a child of God could only reflect Mind’s calm, consistent action. And so she turned to her little girl and said, “You are God’s perfect child. This has always been true, and it is true at this moment.” So powerful was the mother’s realization of this fact that both the temper and the condition disappeared.

What had actually taken place in both these instances? Had a material condition changed? That’s the way it appeared. But what was really happening? The eternal fact of this girl’s true spiritual substance had been sufficiently realized, so that what appeared as an imperfect material condition was seen as non-existent. 

The actual status of our identity doesn’t change. God as perfect, intelligent Mind could not conceive of His idea, man, as being anything other than His perfect likeness, expressing His nature. By acknowledging this, we eliminate whatever misconception attempts to obscure our spiritual being—our true substance—and this shows forth as basic needs being met in our experience. We don’t have to outline just what form the healing of difficulties will take. In fact, we can’t humanly project a specific form of substance. Divine Mind has conceived the eternal ideas that make up God’s creation, and is continuously bringing them forth. Ultimately these are the ideas that will prevail over human beliefs, until apparent imperfections yield to a more harmonious view of substance.

Our only being: not "ours" alone

A true view of substance opens the way to throwing off any limitations whatsoever, including ones related to employment and finances. I recall what a difference this made for me when I had just moved to a city where I knew no one. My purpose in moving there was to enter the public practice of Christian Science healing. After a year, I had made a little progress in establishing this work, but it was slow. One evening, I found myself sitting in my room at the YMCA—out of money and feeling very alone. I thought of my friends who were progressing professionally and enjoying life. As I continued to think about this and pray, I suddenly gained a different view of substance. I realized that in reality I could never have more than I had right at that moment. I included all the ideas of Mind, and I couldn’t have more than all. Now, I was seeing the substance of my assets and my companionship in spiritual rather than material terms.

The next day, I didn’t have any more money and no wonderful companionship had developed. But my life was different. I felt infinitely rich. I felt filled with every thought that God was imparting to me. I was able to accept this as my eternal, unlimited substance. I also saw that I could activate these spiritual ideas in productive and healing ways. As I did so, my life and my usefulness continued to expand. I didn’t need to think about what I had or didn’t have. I had only to think about what I could give and express spiritually. Then all that was needed for fulfillment in my life would appear in a natural way. I won’t say I never had to challenge feelings of limitation again, but I could regard them as a demand to see more of the presence of spiritual substance and grow further in my trust and understanding. 

As I was knowing this for myself, I was then able to know this true substance for others as well. One major insight in helping others was the understanding that there is just one infinite expression of God, which we know generically as man. On the material level, it looked like I was surrounded by a lot of separated, mortal personalities, each with his or her own life, body, possessions, and problems. But I was able to see that all of this was a mistaken view of man’s substance as Spirit’s idea, the infinite manifestation of God as Mind. I saw that infinite manifestation as my true identity, and realized that as this infinite, individual reflection of Mind, I included an awareness of every idea that Mind conceives. I also realized that just as I couldn’t be deprived of the awareness of my identity—my substance—neither could anyone else. 

This coincides with a principle of mathematics. For example, I can be aware of the number seven and use it, but that doesn’t deprive anyone else from using the number seven. We are all unified in our use of the number seven, but still retain our distinct identity in using it. In the same way, we are each expressing God completely, uniquely, and distinctly. This mutual awareness of Mind’s totality unifies us—while preserving the infinite diversity of God’s manifestation. 

True substance is the right identification of what we are as the reflection of God—Mind, Love, and Spirit. Then, the limiting suggestions of life as controlled by the physical senses and false education are effectively replaced by the continuing revelation of the abilities, beauties, joys, and abundance that are the nature of God’s creation. The appearing of this substance will never stop, but expand to the perpetual glory of God and His precious expression, you and me, now and forever.

Charles Ferris is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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