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Remembering and forgetting

From The Christian Science Journal - May 16, 2012


God, the divine Mind of the whole universe, is all-knowing, and in fact, never forgets. Mind knows and has always known the spiritual facts and actuality of each of its spiritual expressions. 

But how does this spiritual fact of Mind as all-knowing relate to human remembering and forgetting?

The supposition that there is an intelligence apart from God claims that this intelligence exploded itself into a material universe, into which you, I, and everyone were born into matter and in which we look at everything from a material basis—from the standpoint of each of us having a mind apart from God that can remember and forget. But Christian Science, teaching the infinitude of God, redeems this false sense of things with the truth that there is one Mind and that each of us is the expression of this Mind.

But if there is only one Mind, doesn’t the bottom drop out of everyday human existence? No. Rather, everything that’s good humanly is supported and seen as more permanent as we understand the oneness of this Mind, the source of all good, and only good, while everything that isn’t good fades away as having no divine Principle sustaining it.  

Thus human memory—the capacity to remember details for example, such as the order of the downtown streets when you’re looking for an address or how to apply a complex mathematical formula—is actually sharpened as we realize that there’s one Mind. Mind supports the capacity to remember. On the other hand, the notion that anyone could become forgetful is negated, replaced by the truth that each individual is governed by the one Mind, which maintains individual faculties and functions such as memory. In fact, true memory has nothing to do with a brain, with body cells, or even with a computer hard disk. Memory is not matter that’s organized to record information. Thus, neither bodily injury nor technical malfunction can jeopardize memory. Both information and capacity are intact in God’s infinitude and governed by His laws.

Sometimes unwanted memories or images burden the human mind, and it may seem impossible to forget them. But these unwanted memories are not etched in the unerring divine Mind. Rather, they’re but passing images held in the human mind, which itself is a myth (never an originator or source of true thought). Happily, though, from bad experiences we can draw real spiritual facts and lessons.

When I was about 12 years old, I was playing hockey. At one point my face fell onto the skate blade of another player. I got stitches, and for decades was aware of a scar on my face. But I began to apply Christian Science to my memory of the situation. Instead of dwelling on what happened physically, each time I thought of the incident, I knew that right when the injury happened, I was actually spiritual and God-governed, and there couldn’t be a consequence for something that, in spiritual truth, hadn’t happened. As I prayed along these lines, the incident faded from memory as something that could affect me, and today there’s no sign of the scar. This same reasoning can be applied to negate the supposed results of any bad experience.

Each of us can sift the wheat from the chaff in our experiences, whether those experiences were last week or 50 years ago.

Each of us can sift the wheat from the chaff in our experiences, whether those experiences were last week or 50 years ago. No unhappy experience has been recorded in divine Mind. And because Mind hasn’t recorded it, we need not accept it as part of our consciousness, as part of our past, nor as a determiner of our present. Unless we make such a mental correction, any unhappy event in the past is an ongoing event in our present. Of course, if we thought or acted wrongly in the past, we need to deal with it on the same basis. Doing this leads us to make amends for wrong actions, and clears our path forward from their influence.

But if we can be freed from bad memories, what about happy memories? Human good known by the human mind echoes the divine good that is unchanging. The fact that God is all-knowing doesn’t negate human good, but helps us see that it is something to be grateful for and appreciated, because it hints at the even more beautiful good that is divine reality, which we can be conscious of here and now. As we grow spiritually, all human good becomes even better as we see that the basis for that good is unchanging Principle, while the bad aspects of human existence—the fear, regret, sin, conflict— fade from consciousness as having no hint of divine reality.

Sometimes the human mind misremembers or even creates memories. “Did that incident really happen, or was I told about it repeatedly and am I imagining that I had that experience?” Our knowing that the human mind is a myth, and neither a cause nor a creator since the divine Mind is the only Mind, frees the human mind from playing tricks on itself. 

What does all of this mean for the study of human history? While human history is not absolutely real, because God knows His creation as spiritual, we remember, for example, those who perished in the Holocaust or in the Rwandan genocide as a way of honoring those individuals in their real eternal being, as reflections of God. Further, such atrocities hold valuable lessons for us, as the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City and the Kigali Memorial Centre bring out. Both these museums emphasize that it’s important from a human standpoint not to forget evils that have occurred on the world scene nor to ignore the lessons gained from them. Ultimately, the human mind that commits, suffers from, and remembers evil is redeemed by the one Mind that is and knows its own goodness.

Another tendency to guard against is that the human mind sometimes forgets goodness. An example is that of Moses’ brother, Aaron. In chapter 32 of Exodus, when Moses is on Mount Sinai for a long time, Aaron feels pressured by the children of Israel into making a golden calf that then becomes the object of their worship (verses 1–4). You might ask “What was he thinking?!” He had gone into the wilderness to meet Moses, who had told him about God talking to him. He had seen how his rod had swallowed up the rods of Pharaoh’s sorcerers. He had seen the plagues visited upon the Egyptians and witnessed the parting of the Red Sea and the liberation of his people from the pursuing Egyptian army. Yet he seemed to forget all that.

Perhaps because of the human mind’s tendency to forget good, the Psalmist says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalms 103:2–5)

Perhaps, too, because of the human mind’s tendency to forget good, Mary Baker Eddy incorporated gratitude for good into the practice of Christian Science—everything from the chapter “Fruitage” in Science and Health, to having weekly testimony meetings in churches, to testimonies published in Christian Science magazines, to a yearly Thanksgiving service in Christian Science churches. Gratitude is remembering good, and an important help in shaping the progress of our experience today.

The Master, Christ Jesus, was often criticized for not keeping the Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). But he “remembered the sabbath” by being fully aware of and demonstrating God’s holy power to heal—on the sabbath day and every day. 

Having one Mind, as Jesus did, frees us from unhappy past experiences, and enables us to remember moment by moment God’s ever-present, always available goodness.


Lyle Young is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Ottawa, Canada. He now makes his home in Boston, Massachusetts, and Ottawa, and is a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors.

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