Throughout his life, Christian Science practitioner and teacher Michael Seek has taken an active interest in world affairs—from politics to economics to sports. At an age when other kids were reading fairy tales, he was reading articles in The Christian Science Monitor, which his mother had translated into German for him. As a teenager, he subscribed to various newspapers, became editor of his high school magazine, cofounded a youth magazine for young Christian Scientists (which continued for over 20 years). Later, he studied media both in the US and Germany, and is presently the managing editor of Der Herold der Christlichen Wissenschaft.
Michael began our conversation by telling me about a special spiritual concept that has meant a lot to him from an early age.
MICHAEL SEEK: From childhood on, I was interested in the Christ. My Sunday School teachers, and my parents, who were both Christian Science practitioners, gave me a number of explanations. Today, after many years, I see that these answers make perfect sense. However, at that time I understood only little pieces, which left me unhappy because I felt they sounded only like nice theories.
Then, one day while in high school, I went from my home in West Berlin to East Berlin. During the time of the wall between East and West, you had to pass through a checkpoint. Together with an experienced Christian Science practitioner, I was to visit church friends in the East. He was in front of me in the line, and I realized that the East German guards were asking him questions in an unfriendly, aggressive manner. (Of course, we had to hide the fact that we were going to see a group of Christian Scientists in the East.) The practitioner whispered to me: "The Christ will tell you what to say." I do not know why, but this was an eye-opener for me. All my doubts, all my questions about how the Christ communicates were gone. I just felt happy and secure. And I had this thought: Although it is definitely a tense situation here in this checkpoint booth, I feel so calm, almost relaxed, as if sitting in a comfortable chair. And I had this thought: Now I am curious what the Christ will tell me. Good, it is not up to me what to say.
Since the guards had found a Der Herold der Christlichen Wissenschaft in the pocket of my friend, they immediately asked him questions about the reason for his visit. And somehow I felt (I did not hear him perfectly) that he was giving good answers without lying or cheating.
Then I was called in. I was ready for anything—but I had no outline about what I would say. Here was the first question of the guard: "Michael, you are wearing a very nice T-shirt. Did you buy it in West Berlin?" Yes, I said I had. A few more questions along that line followed. No other questions, just very superficial small talk, and then I could leave the booth. They did not even see the German Christian Science Quarterly I had in my pocket to give to our East German friends.
When we met again after leaving the checkpoint, I said to my practitioner friend: "Hey, the Christ is really funny. Such an unexpected move—no hard questions, nothing that could have brought us into trouble." And my friend replied: "I guess you got what the Christ is: a strong message for our daily activities, sometimes far from human outlining. And quite often full of surprises."
And, you know what? This was the moment from which I really loved the Christ. It is always a reliable message, very precise and adequate to a particular situation—and, yes, full of surprises. I love to surprise my friends, my colleagues, my family with little gifts, because I enjoy surprises. So the Christ is pretty close to my way of thinking and doing.
JEFFREY HILDNER: Let's unpack that word Christ. Just in layman's terms, what does it mean?
Well, you know, I have many friends who belong to different denominations and who take their faith seriously. We have a mutual respect for each others' understanding. Now, to be clear, none of them thinks about God in terms of a wise old man sitting on a cloud. They do have meaningful, valid perceptions of God. And they enjoy what I can say about Mary Baker Eddy's definition of God as Soul, Life, Spirit, Truth, Love, Principle, Mind. I really see a mutual admiration about how beautifully God can be explained and understood. But quite often the question jumps in: How does God relate to a day-to-day decision I have to make? What has God, who is Spirit, to do with the money I earn and that ends in my wallet?
Mrs. Eddy made it clear that there is a communication going from that divine Source to human understanding. She says: "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" [Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 332]. For me, the crucial words here are "voicing" and "to the human consciousness." A voice, by definition, is something you hear. If the voice were silent, it would be no voice at all. So I would not hear anything. And "to the human consciousness" means very personally directly to me. To me in my present situation, no matter if I am happy, afraid, active, tired, energetic, shy. No matter if I am religiously oriented or if I have based my life pretty much on matter. The voice is always loud and strong and clear enough that I am going to hear it. If I need tender words of encouragement in a desperate situation, it will meet me in an appropriate way. And if I need what the Bible calls a chastisement, then that will happen. And this "voice" comes to me in words I understand. Ultimately there will be no way to say: Oh, sorry, I did not understand God's word. If I only speak German, this divine message will not come to me in French, and no English speaker must be afraid to miss the message, because it might come to them in Spanish. That won't happen. I can't tell you what a gift it is to humanity that this divine message will be understood by every human consciousness.
When reading the newspapers, I do have the thought, whenever a story deals with dictators or criminals or simply people who failed in doing their job, that it is so good to know, even if some individuals close to these people might not dare speak up, the Christ does it—directly, convincingly, and for as long as it is needed.
We have people who may be reading the Journal for the first time—perhaps this is their first encounter with Christian Science. Could you take a moment to explain how Jesus gets folded into the mix—how Mary Baker Eddy differentiated between Jesus and the Christ and why Christian Scientists typically refer to him as Christ Jesus?
When people know me in person, maybe for years, they might believe what I say about the Christ. But my reputation is limited to a manageable number of people, relatives, friends, patients, students, colleagues. This is nice, but definitely not enough. And, of course, that is true for most people. To prove that this universal divine message really translates into day-to-day activities and decisions, there must be an absolutely certain example that millions of people can relate to. A person, well-known, widely respected, and with a record of examples that make his life a model for everyone. This person is Jesus.
One thing we can all learn from his life and ministry is that there's difference between fact and opinion. For example, as a factual point, I understand the true, God-given, pure, and eternal identity of man. However, opinion creeps in when I or anyone thinks of an individual as weak, sick, old, angry. The Christ, one can say, tells us the facts about man despite the opinions of many people. For instance, in the book of St. Matthew in the Bible, we find a report about a man with a withered hand. Imagine how many opinions might have been around him: The hand is incurable, this is too late to be healed, probably other healing methods already have failed and, as an extra point to make it even more confusing for the people present, it was the Sabbath, when no work could be performed.
The Christ is always a reliable message, very precise and adequate to a particular situation—and, yes, full of surprises.
Did Jesus address all these opinions one by one? No. Did he fear to offend the opinions of the others? No. Did he put his opinion over theirs? No. He disregarded all opinions and just restored the spiritual, eternal fact of the man's identity and perfection by saying: "Stretch forth thine hand." And the result? "It was restored whole" [see Matt. 12:13]. Even in a literal sense, Jesus showed all those present the fact—a healthy hand. And simultaneously, he showed that all the opinions were useless.
Jesus exemplified the Christ, often in contradiction to commonly held opinions—instead presenting the divine facts of each situation. And still today, his example is convincing. The understanding of this unity of the individual man Jesus with his divine nature, the Christ, is available to billions of people through the Bible. Mrs. Eddy made it clear that we owe endless gratitude to Jesus' demonstrations, and she encourages each of us to put the Christ into action in our own lives. And we do this whenever we leave behind opinions about everything—whether politicians, the economy, various groups, or even the body—and replace them with correct, spiritual facts.
Well, Michael, let's backtrack a bit now—let's go back to your story and pick up where you left off. So you had this profound spiritual insight or epiphany about the Christ some time ago....
Yes, well, I realized during that incident at the guard crossing between West and East Berlin just how important it is to build our decisions—and our perceptions—on the Christ, what Mary Baker Eddy called "... the divine idea of God outside the flesh" [Science and Health, p. 482]. First, this can save you a lot of time. For example, that day with the guards, all these questions about "what if this or that happens" or "what should I do in case of ..." were gone. And yet I felt secure, I knew that there would be a good answer, a helpful solution. And I count on that confidence, I rely on that insight, still today.
At the beginning of my public healing practice, I was invited to speak to a youth group of Christian Science Sunday School pupils. The subject of the evening was about the Christian Science practice. It was planned to have these meetings on two consecutive Thursdays. On the first Thursday, they asked me: "What would you do if a patient called with the message, saying he or she has had a heart attack. What would you say?"
My honest answer was: "I do not know today. I have never thought about such a question before. But if it happens, I will rely on the Christ." From the faces of these young people, I could almost read their thoughts. They were disappointed. Probably they felt that I was delaying a helpful answer. One said: "This sounds pretty weak."
And I said, "This is pretty strong."
Now, this was Thursday night. On Saturday morning my telephone rang. A woman was asking me to pray, because her husband had suffered a heart attack. She asked if I could help. "Of course," I said. And I shared with her some ideas, but while speaking to her, I also listened to the voice coming to my own thought. What I heard was so comforting—it stressed God's demand that we shall live, and it definitely had a strong healing message. She called back twice that day, and in the evening her husband was up, feeling well, and the next day everything was perfect.
So, the next Thursday at the youth group, I was able to refer to their question from the week earlier, and they all rejoiced in the wonderful example of how the Christ truly does provide all we need.
You know, this fact is so important today. With all the financial challenges around the world, with terrorism, oppression, violence, and the ongoing devaluation of women in so many countries, it is easy to feel lost, helpless, frustrated. And, yet, the Christ includes much more, and most important, it communicates much more to us than what we perceive with the physical senses.
What can people do to better perceive the Christ?
Even this answer will be conformed to every individual by the Christ. But I guess there are a few helpful basics that make it easier:
• Be humble. If we follow the Lord's Prayer, we accept the premise: "Thy will be done." And we simply cannot add, "But please, make Thy will be done only according to my expectations."
• Be silent. I once attended a meeting of about seven people, and an important decision had to be made. All of the participants had major opinions, both pro and con. Very interesting, very confusing, very time-consuming. So many options, so many unclear consequences. Suddenly one person said, "Can't we be silent for a moment?" We were, and after a minute or so, I said, "We can postpone the whole thing, because it is not the right moment, even though the idea itself sounds great." This was the solution, and a year later the whole issue was solved in less time, with less concern, and with great success.
• Be ready. Sometimes the thought is: Oh, this is a big issue. It will need a lot of prayer, and a lot of patience, until we see the light at the end of the tunnel. And probably a lot of people might agree and say, "Yes, I really know what you mean." But one thing is clear: The Christ is not like the recording on a business telephone that always plays the same message: Please wait. There might be situations where waiting is exactly the right thing. But there are many more cases where a quick—and reliable answer is possible. Are we ready to accept the message?
• Be courageous. That does not mean to be a daredevil. I remember how a student in my Christian Science association once intended to change jobs. She had two options. One day she came to my office and showed me a long list of about 40 or 50 items, either in favor of or against the two possible jobs. I had such compassion for her. So much work, so many options, and still no decision. Since she knows me quite well, I said frankly, "I admire how much time you spent to write that list. And I wonder how much more time is needed for you to come to a decision." At first, she felt a bit offended, and asked, "Well, what would you have done?" I answered, "I would have taken only half the time and listened to the Christ instead." You should have seen her face! It immediately turned from anger to joy, from earnestness to happiness. And she said, "Now I know which job I will accept. Thanks for helping me."
Is it not wonderful that we have a reliable source of intelligent, useful guidance to show us what is required? This divine source always helps in family situations, in resolving financial matters, in business life, in church affairs, or simple things such as driving a car or planning a trip. And certainly when a physical healing is needed. We can just sit back and be grateful that there is this permanent, spiritual, unfailing guide that always knows precisely what we need better then we know ourselves.
Since I am very much interested in politics and journalism, Mrs. Eddy's book Pulpit and Press is of special interest to me. One newspaper article reprinted in that book reported on interviews conducted with some of the early Christian Scientists about their faith. One person said, "The power of Christ has been dormant in mankind for ages," adding, "... and it was Mrs. Eddy's mission to revive it. In our labors we take the Christ as an example, going about doing good and healing the sick. Christ has told us to do his work, naming as one great essential that we have faith in him" [p.72].
If I need tender words of encouragement in a desperate situation, the Christ will meet me in an appropriate way.
I sometimes smile when I read the word dormant in this context. It reminds me of my cellphone. It is dormant for hours. There is no light on, I hear no sound, the display is black, as if it has been turned off. And then I receive a call. The phone rings, the light comes on, the display is colorful, it shows the nice background picture I have saved on the screen. And sometimes I even see the number of the caller. All this happens within less than a second. There is no long process involved. It is just active.
Doing good, healing the sick, giving comfort to a neighbor, supporting and encouraging a friend, all can also happen within seconds. We don't need to take months and years until we make up our minds. All these qualities that the world needs today are instantly available. They might be dormant, but they do exist. And they exist in everybody's heart. Not only in those of Christian Scientists. And this fact also includes intelligent, quick solutions when anyone is in need or in danger.
Here is an example. I had been living in a six-story apartment building. There was a lift to the floors, and three apartment doors on every floor. These doors had no names on them, and since you were always using the lift, you did not see many people who lived in the building. Altogether there were 18 apartments with similar doors, all in the same color. Nothing to distinguish one from the other. One morning someone knocked heavily on my door. I rushed to open it, and there stood a woman with tears in her eyes, trembling from fear. Without saying anything, she pushed me aside, came in closed the door. It was easy to realize that something terrible must have happened. I asked her to sit down and offered her something to drink. I asked her to tell me what had happened. She related a rather cruel description of what had happened to her over the last 30 minutes in her apartment. Somehow she had gotten out and run up the staircase and knocked at one of the doors.
I asked her why she had come to my door. "Do you know me?" I asked. "Do you know what I do for a living?" She did not know. She said she was full of fear, with no clear thought, but then, she said, "I felt that this is the door where I would be helped." So I told her about my being a Christian Science practitioner, about the power of prayer, and of the protection we live under through God's love.
Later she told me that she lived on the first floor of the same building. I had never seen her before, and I still do not know her name. But a few days later she came back to thank me for the wonderful talk we'd had about God. You see, she did not know anything about the Christ, she had—seemingly—no clear thought about what to do. And still, she felt the power of the Christ to go to the one door where help was surely available. I assume all the other apartments were empty, because people were at work. So I could see so clearly that the healing, protecting, guiding message is always active, always loud enough to break through despair and fear. And the Christ, this divine influence in human consciousness, does not judge according to denominations, readiness, or education. It touches and guides the human heart and guides people to do exactly the right thing. I think we owe Mary Baker Eddy immense gratitude for reviving this influence. It is a gift to the whole world.
Throughout all generations both before and after the Christian era, the Christ, as the spiritual idea,—the reflection of God,—has come with some measure of power and grace to all prepared to receive Christ, Truth.
–MARY BAKER EDDY
Jeffrey Hildner is a senior writer for the Journal. He also is creative director of the Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel.
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