When my family was young, one day I found my home in anguish. The children were complaining, one of them was ill, my wife was too, the mood in the home was gloomy, and I was depressed. I prayed for each individual’s recovery, but with no success.
Then I pondered Jesus’ instruction “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered” (Mark 3:27, New Revised Standard Version). I hadn’t bound the “strong man” yet; thus the continued suffering, I decided.
So, I changed the focus of my prayers. Instead of praying for the recovery of certain family members, I prayed to understand the wider truth of God’s ever-present and unassailable control over our home. God was the “strong man” of our home, I declared, not any suppositional malicious mind operating undercover. I better understood that evil had no place, power, or presence to occupy in our living quarters, and that God was the only influence over our collective health and well-being.
The effect was dramatic. Everyone recovered their health rapidly. Gloom lifted, attitudes brightened, and sickness vanished in short order. Our home was a happy place once again.
I learned a valuable lesson from this experience—namely, that trouble is not always what it appears to be. When suffering, disease, and conflict arise, the trouble may seem to have a physical cause. But that may be a shortsighted conclusion. There may be a deeper claim of evil that needs to be discerned and addressed prayerfully. Like a child feeling sick and not wanting to go to school because he fears facing a bully that has been abusing him, the real issue with this child is not the sickness. It’s fear of the bully. To succeed in spiritual healing, we have to face the “bully,” or “strong man,” as Jesus explained. And the bully is not necessarily the disease, strife, or calamity that yells for the most attention.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, coined a phrase to define the bullying effect of evil. She called it “malicious animal magnetism.” It designates the multitude of ways evil works, hidden and overt, to stop, destroy, and prevent health, life, and peace from being the norm. It can be very subtle, like in my home experience, where no outward evidence of malice was apparent but the effect was obvious once recognized. Or it can be blatant, like in acts of revenge, slander, curses, and murder, suicide bombings, campus shootings, terrorists’ attacks, and hackers on the Internet. There are plenty of opportunities in the world today to put down the claims of malicious animal magnetism!
If you’re living a peaceful life and rarely encounter barefaced malice, you might be tempted to think, “I don’t need to concern myself with animal magnetism. It’s not a relevant subject for me to pray about.” But this type of conclusion would be a mistake. The advertisement of malicious acts occurring around the globe is so widespread and commonly heard today that fear of evil happening randomly, unexpectedly, and inevitably is prevalent in public thought. Anyone who is a member of the public, whether living a peaceful life or not, needs to address metaphysically the fears of malice held in popular thought in order to protect themselves and others from it, just as I learned in my home.
As ominous as the claims of malicious animal magnetism appear to be, it is not a power to fear. It’s a sinister attitude of the carnal mind, to be exposed and proved unreal. As Jesus Christ taught, the devil is a liar (see John 8:44). No matter what form evil takes, it’s never a reality. It’s a lie, but a lie needs to be recognized and exposed to be proved powerless. And the claim of malicious animal magnetism to plot, plan, organize, and execute suffering in the lives of innocent victims is one of those lies.
Mrs. Eddy learned from experience that you cannot ignore the bloated and egotistical claims of evil to seek out and destroy good people and their worthy works. In her chapter “The Apocalypse” in Science and Health, which draws upon John’s vision of warfare between good and evil that is graphically illustrated in the book of Revelation, she describes that aspect of evil which claims to pursue a victim. She writes: “The serpent is perpetually close upon the heel of harmony. From the beginning to the end, the serpent pursues with hatred the spiritual idea” (p. 564). And also, “The Revelator sees that old serpent, whose name is devil or evil, holding untiring watch, that he may bite the heel of truth and seemingly impede the offspring of the spiritual idea, which is prolific in health, holiness, and immortality” (p. 563).
That evil is “holding untiring watch” and pursuing the spiritual idea “with hatred” is a sobering prospect to consider. Jesus Christ faced the “untiring watch” of malice. Many of the Pharisees and other enemies were constantly plotting his demise. They didn’t like him. They didn’t like his teachings. They saw him as a threat to their status quo. Under the manipulation of jealousy, envy, and fear, they sought to exterminate him, to end his life and ministry.
But Jesus was not afraid of his adversaries. He knew how to respond. When faced with Pilate’s threat “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” Jesus replied, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:10, 11). Jesus did not retreat in terror, cower in fear, or tremble at Pilate’s threat. He knew that his life was preserved forever in divine Spirit, and there wasn’t anything the ignorant ruler could do to harm him. The Bible shows how Jesus faced all malicious claims of evil throughout his ministry with the same attitude: “You have no power over me.” The credibility of this stance was immortalized when he walked out of the tomb alive after his crucifixion.
Mary Baker Eddy faced similar malice when she presented Christian Science to the world. Some who did not agree with her teachings wanted her silenced. She received death threats over the years. Her more vicious enemies were not content to go their way and leave her alone. They mentally and physically worked to stop her. But she learned how to effectively deal with the malice of mortal mind. She learned not to fear it, but to take it straight-on and neutralize it through the all-powerful divine Love she worshipped.
One time a would-be assassin slipped into her home and made his way to her office. She recounted that before he entered the room, she became aware of impending danger and felt impelled to lock her door. But she decided cowering in fear wasn’t going to be a permanent solution. She left the door open and waited to face her foe. The man entered the room, pointed a gun at her, and was met with a response of “You cannot shoot” (Yvonne von Fettweis and Robert Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, p. 301). His arm dropped helplessly to his side, and he left. His evil intent was instantly disarmed. Eddy did not ignore the man. She did not pretend that he didn’t exist. She faced her foe with absolute confidence in the power of Love to protect her and stop him. She took the right steps and won a victory for righteousness.
And this is where all serious Christians must end up in dealing with the aggressive claims of evil. The lies must be countered, handled, and proved unreal. It is foolish to ignore them. It is unwise to pretend that they don’t exist or pooh-pooh them as imaginations of the paranoid. We can apply Eddy’s statement “Mankind must learn that evil is not power” (Science and Health, p. 102) to all arguments of evil, including the crafty presumption that it can plot, plan, and cause harm. Evil is not a counter-power to God. It is not another power in the universe that we have to contend with. It is a lie to be seen as untrue. This truth must be understood and demonstrated to realize and experience its promise of freedom.
Just as David faced Goliath without wincing (see I Sam., chap. 17), we must face the claims of malicious animal magnetism fearlessly. David knew God was in control. He did not run in the other direction. David did not ignore the giant’s threats. David did not pretend that Goliath didn’t exist. David ran to meet Goliath, and cast his stone into Goliath’s most vulnerable spot, a soft spot on the forehead, and toppled him to death. Metaphorically, Goliath is symbolic of evil intent and purpose, of all the claims of malicious animal magnetism. We can find the same “soft spot” of malicious animal magnetism when we face our Goliaths. The soft spot is animal magnetism’s claim to power. Malice does not have power. For all its blather, parade of ego, trumped-up threats, loud screaming and yelling, and wailing and gnashing, it is a deception of the largest magnitude. In the face of divine Truth, it crashes into everlasting oblivion.
So when a menacing voice asserts, “Someone is malpracticing me and causing me harm,” don’t buy into evil’s premise that it can injure you. It cannot. The possibility of harm is only a suggestion, not a truth.
When thought whispers, “I am about to get ill and grow worse,” don’t accept the premise that an irresistible underlying cause of disease exists.
When figures cause us to shout, “My church is in decline,” and the human mind justifies it with, “My church is in decline because of resistance and hatred of truth in the world today,” don’t agree with the starting point of error’s logic that evil has power to halt the advance of Truth and deny its healing effect. Know that evil cannot put God’s church into decline and that it has no power to sap a spiritual construct of vitality and strength.
If while analyzing your finances you hear, “I have no money and am headed for the poorhouse,” don’t nod your head yes with the implication that lack is inevitable and pain required. Wake to the truth that God has infinite resources with which to bless you, and that they are present now. Know that evil is not a prophet and that it does not outline your economic future.
The claims of malicious animal magnetism can be successfully conquered with an understanding that God is the one Mind governing the whole universe, and that within this Mind there are no destructive powers or influences. All is good. In divine Mind, there is no evil operative, no malicious mastermind, no ruthless tyrant, no Mafioso-type organization, no hidden lawless agents working undercover, and no enemy to fear. “There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed” (Luke 12:2), Jesus promised. Understanding God’s omnipresent goodness and its exclusion of all evil exposes the fallacious claims of malicious animal magnetism, drives them into a grave of no return, and precludes harm.
Eddy wrote, “To infinite, ever-present Love, all is Love, and there is no error, no sin, sickness, nor death.” And in further explaining the demise of evil into its native nothingness, she continued, “Against Love, the dragon warreth not long, for he is killed by the divine Principle. Truth and Love prevail against the dragon because the dragon cannot war with them” (Science and Health, p. 567). Malicious animal magnetism is the dragon that divine Truth and Love kill and prove powerless. Armed with Truth, the alert Christian soldier can march forward in confidence that through the Christ, every claim of animal magnetism can be met and mastered. Each of us can fearlessly face any malicious attitude of evil with the declaration “You have no power over me!”
Evan Mehlenbacher is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Richland, Washington.