FOR THOSE WHO LIVE NEAR THE COAST, fog is a common occurrence. When the mist rolls in, sometimes it's so thick you can't even see across the street. Familiar landmarks such as light posts, fences, passing cars are obliterated. Obliterated—or just hidden from view? Of course the fog doesn't change the landscape or wipe it out—it just obscures it.
The nature of fog has been a helpful metaphor in my experience as a Christian Scientist. Often when I'm praying about a problem, I feel that I can't quite get clarity. I'll ask, What is going on here? What is the truth, the reality, the way God sees this situation—this "landscape"? And then come the questions: Why can't I see more clearly? How can I get rid of the "fog" that obscures God's view?
Often we've allowed subtle inaccuracies to creep into our thought that weigh unknowingly against healing. This is the fog of limited sight—we're not seeing through the fog, but letting it obscure our view. If we include latent errors in the metaphysical basis of our prayers, our vision will continue to be fuzzy. As Mary Baker Eddy pointed out, "... an error in the premise must appear in the conclusion" (Science and Health, p. 167). How do we know if and when our premise is false? If we feel uncertain, or sense a lack of crystal-clear clarity when we pray, we can take that as a clue that we've inadvertently let some error into our thinking.
For example, someone might think, I know there is no matter. Science and Health makes that clear in "the scientific statement of being": "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual" (p. 468). This is an unambiguous and correct statement of truth. But could we be entertaining an underlying, undetected belief that even though there isn't life, truth, intelligence, or substance in matter, matter does still exist? It just doesn't have these qualities of life, truth, or intelligence! This is the fog. A silent, subtle argument weighing against the powerful, active truth of our being. But how powerful can it be to declare that Spirit, God, is all, and yet hold in thought the belief that there is also matter? That there is something to "do" to matter? That puts us in a position of asking Spirit to come and fiddle around with a material situation and then it can go back to being Spirit! How important to keep uppermost in our prayers what Science and Health reminds us: "Throughout the infinite cycles of eternal existence, Spirit and matter neither concur in man nor in the universe" (p. 319).
The mist of dualistic thinking
In order to fight against mortal-based resistance to the validity of that statement, it's important to look at our basic concepts about matter. Sometimes I find it helpful to write down what I think matter is. In other words, to define it for myself. Later when I look up references to matter in Mrs. Eddy's writings, I can see just where I'm off the mark. Here are some of her terms to describe matter: claim, mortal illusion, belief, error, false view, nothing, unreal. She is telling us in no uncertain terms that matter doesn't exist. But why doesn't matter have a reality? Since God is All-in-all, there can't be any room in that allness for anything unlike God, Spirit. Gaining a clearer grasp of this fact increases our spiritual understanding and results in more effective prayer. Understanding this, the mist of dualistic thinking—that Spirit and matter both exist—disperses, leaving one grand truth for us to live in our daily lives: The universe is entirely Spirit-created—whole and healthy.
Another misconception that can cloud prayer is the belief that our problem is "all in our own thinking." That's when we find ourselves in a search for whom we're harboring resentment against, or what false picture we've let in, or where we have allowed some thought to go astray. Though Science and Health states that standing "porter at the door of thought" is essential (p. 392), going on a witch hunt to determine "what's wrong" is a totally human endeavor. An endeavor that keeps us in the fog because we're searching for a material or human cause to a problem. One of the fundamental truths in the practice of Christian Science is that evil and disease are causeless. Why? Because in the only reality there is—the reality of Spirit's universe—there is just gorgeous beingness. Just harmony—God and perfect creation, including each of us. Given these facts, our Scientific prayer starts from this premise: "The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea,—perfect God and perfect man,—as the basis of thought and demonstration" (Science and Health, p. 259). Note that this passage doesn't say ... perfect God and imperfect man trying to become more perfect!
Still another form of fog—an undetected deterrent to spiritual clarity—is entertaining the belief that other people's thinking can actually bring us harm, by means of what is called malpractice. Sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking that malpractice is something truly dangerous. Yet the foundation of Christian Science teaching is that there is only one Mind. Where, then, could there be a mind that commits malpractice or a mind that is subject to malpractice? Nowhere. Are we accepting a power apart from omnipotence, apart from the one—and only—Mind? So then what is malpractice? Mrs. Eddy defines it, in part, as "a bland denial of Truth" (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 31). And one dictionary defines malpractice as "any improper, negligent practice; misconduct or misuse." Since it's clear that evil is the opposite of good—and good, the presence of God, is everywhere at all times—we can see that malpractice is, in fact, only the supposititious opposite of good, or right thinking! Evil is not a real power. It isn't an influence. It can have no effect on good. It cannot prevent healing. It is nothing. Period. But the nothingness of malpractice must be understood.
Martha Wilcox, an early student of Mary Baker Eddy, recalled in her reminiscences some of Mrs. Eddy's teaching on malpractice, and specifically these instructions: "She showed me that because mental malpractice is mental, the only place that I could meet it was within what seemed to be my own mentality and the only way that I could meet it was to give up the belief in a power and presence other than God or Truth. ... She showed me that this seeming-within enemy could never harm me if I were awake to the truth and active in the truth" (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 197, 200).
This is the fog. A silent, subtle argument weighing against the powerful, active truth of our being.
Drawn to the unobstructed view
Considering this counsel, it's important for us to know how to recognize fear and other negative tendencies that might be latent in thought. How does one do this? Examine thought. Watch what comes to thought when we pray and what might distract us. Listen for divine guidance. Pay attention to the content of our conversations. Be open to learning. In my own case, without exception, whenever I've sincerely desired spiritual growth, the errors I've been harboring in thought have always been uncovered, and I've found whatever answers I've needed right there.
For example, a few years ago, my neighbors accused my husband and me of lying and illegally using community property. There seemed to be a great deal of hatred expressed, and we felt under attack. As I examined my own thinking, I realized that I was not afraid of the hatred—I was afraid that the neighbors could take away our enjoyment of our home. The situation I needed to face wasn't about them and their thinking—it was about my own fear. And I knew I had to deal with the fear prayerfully until it was gone. I realized that God could only bless and that nothing could rage against the good that is God-bestowed. I stayed with the fact that over the years, my husband and I had prayed earnestly to really understand that home is a spiritual idea. It exists in consciousness and cannot be violated or threatened. Therefore our home could only remain intact, undisturbed, and protected. Soon the entire situation was resolved harmoniously and even included a note of apology from the neighbors, regretting their behavior toward us.
How important it is to start rightly in the effort to heal—to start with a clear, consistent view, with no mist in sight. We do this by acknowledging the perfection of God, which includes each one of us. By embracing in thought the allness and completeness of God's entire spiritual creation. By reveling in the wholeness of the universe and understanding that we are part of this incomparably perfect state of being. I find it helpful to let truths like this come naturally to consciousness. As I let thought rise, I find I can stop formulating thoughts "myself," and as I listen, I become aware of Truth revealing itself. This is a sacred place of knowing, of being, and of witness. This is "the secret place of the most High," as Psalm 91 says. In this holy place there are no problems to solve, no disease to heal, no evil or sin to get rid of. This is where healing happens, not because we try to "apply" these truths to a situation, but because anything other than truth—whatever form or name evil takes—simply fades from consciousness and disappears because it is no thing.
In this place of Scientific awareness of the divine, there is no mist. If we have been thinking that it's our fault that we have a problem, that our thinking is somehow "bad," then we're claiming that there's a mind apart from God. And if we think our situation is somebody else's fault, we're still separating ourselves from God and all the good that Spirit imparts. Because, in fact, there is no separate mind to think incorrectly. No one can have a mind that is responsible for any evil. And we're not responsible for what comes to the door of consciousness—just for what we do about it.
Keeping these truths at the forefront of our prayers, each of us can count on being inspired, guided, and increasingly effective in our metaphysical growth. There will always be opportunities to see through the fog, and if we are sincere, the truths we seek will be revealed to us. This is a joyous adventure that adds depth and breadth to everyone's spiritual resources, providing ever more beautiful views of Spirit's universe. This clearsighted, unobstructed view provides the most deeply satisfying prayer—and it bears fruit in sure and consistent healing.
Deborah Huebsch is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from San Juan Capistrano, California.
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