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Mental health beyond the brain

From the September 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal


It seems that mental health has become fragile and tenuous for many people, without lasting relief in sight. Many have come to expect a deterioration of their mental faculties with age or as the result of accident or disease. When people receive a diagnosis of a mental health condition for themselves or for a loved one, it can leave them feeling hopeless or as if they just have to live with it, usually with the aid of medications.

Yet in recent years some medical professionals have questioned the claim that the brain governs our capacity to think intelligently and clearly. Dr. Michael Egnor, a professor of neurological surgery at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, challenges widely accepted beliefs about the brain. He wrote: “I’m a neuroscientist and professor of neurosurgery. The mind-brain question haunts me. Neurosurgeons alter the brain on a daily basis, and what we find doesn’t fit the prevailing view that the brain runs the mind as computer hardware runs software.

“I have scores of patients who are missing large areas of their brains, yet who have quite good minds.… [One is] a normal junior high kid who loves to play soccer. Another patient … is an accomplished musician with a master’s degree in English” (firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/06/a-map-of-the-soul).

When my uncle was a young man in the Air Force, my grandmother received a call from the military hospital saying that he had contracted spinal meningitis. They had done everything they could to treat him, but the treatments had failed and he was now in a coma. The medical staff said that even if he came out of the coma, he would remain in a vegetative state because of what they felt the disease would do to his brain. That was on a Friday.

My grandmother immediately called a Christian Science practitioner who was also a military chaplain and asked him to visit my uncle and pray for him. Their prayers affirmed that since God is the only true Mind and Life, and man is God’s image and likeness, then my uncle’s mental capacity could not become diseased, nor could it deteriorate. Also, they knew that man is never unconscious, because the divine Mind is never unconscious. So the practitioner’s prayers acknowledged that it was natural for my uncle to hear God speaking to him, awakening him from the dream of disease and death. By Tuesday my uncle was out of the coma, and he soon went into therapy and then into training. He flew many flights after that, completely healed.

Clearly, then, there’s a way of understanding that the nature of mental health is not precarious, and that no situation is hopeless. Mary Baker Eddy’s discovery of Christian Science over a century ago does more than question the belief that the brain holds the key to intelligence; it provides the spiritual reasoning that enables us to understand the entirely mental and spiritual nature of our existence.

Christian Science, or the divine Science of Christ, which Jesus proved, has revealed that there is only one creative intelligence—Spirit, God, infinite good—and that this Spirit is the one infinite Mind governing all in complete harmony. The highest ideas of God are His sons and daughters, the “male and female” of His creating, as described in the first chapter of Genesis. Herein is this comforting message of hope: As divine Mind’s expression, our mental faculties can never be lost or diminished, since they are spiritual and therefore unassailable. The one infinite divine Mind and its expression, man, cannot deteriorate, become confused, or malfunction. As God’s reflection or manifestation, we can never lose our ability to think clearly and harmoniously. 

As my uncle’s experience illustrates, this teaching is not theoretical. God is the ever-present, tender Father-Mother Love, which embraces, sustains, and maintains each one of us in peace and harmony. And we can prove this in our own experience as we come to understand that all reality is spiritual and thus harmonious. 

These truths are proved throughout the Bible, especially by Christ Jesus. Jesus demonstrated that mental health is natural to us as God’s reflection, or expression, and can never be interrupted, diminished, or lost. Once he encountered a naked, violently insane man. The man seemed to be suffering from many different mental disorders, including a self-hatred that caused him to cut himself with the stones in the tombs, where he resided all by himself. People had tried to control him with chains, but he always broke them.

Jesus addressed and denounced the evil spirits—the claims of mental imbalance and dysfunction, depression and fear, anger and hatred. He distinguished between God’s man, who is always harmonious and whole, and the false sense of man as a material body governed by a material mind or brain. He saw the man in this story through the lens of spiritual perfection, as God sees each of us, and he rejected the false picture, ordering the evil spirits out of the man. The man was completely healed. When people came to see what had happened, they saw the man clothed and in his right mind (see Luke 8:26–36).

Each one of us is created in the divine image and likeness, spiritual and good; and God blesses us and causes us to prosper. The book of Job in the Bible says, “There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (32:8). And what God gives us can never be lost (see Ecclesiastes 3:14).

God’s expression of peace, balance, and harmony in each of us can never be disturbed by physical or mental trauma.

This is true for every single one of us as the eternal reflection of divine intelligence. It is impossible to be separated from our source, the one divine Mind. In the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, Mind is defined in part as “not that which is in man, but the divine Principle, or God, of whom man is the full and perfect expression” (p. 591). And the answer to the question “What is man?” includes: “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements.… The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit.… [Man is] that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker” (p. 475).

Mrs. Eddy, a devout follower of Christ Jesus, spoke from experience, having restored people’s mental health in a wide variety of cases. Once, a man who had escaped from a mental health institution entered the boarding house where she was living. He raised a chair when she came into the room, but when she looked upward in prayer, he put it down. She said to him, “You have no disease of the brain.” 

Mrs. Eddy wasn’t suggesting that the man had been misdiagnosed medically. Rather, she understood that the infinite divine Mind never creates, causes, nor allows disease; therefore, the manifestation of Mind has never been diseased. The man was completely healed from that point on. Mrs. Eddy saw him sometime later, and he was married with children, living a normal life (see Yvonne Caché von Fettweis and Robert Townsend Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, pp. 83–84).

The Bible assures us, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7). Some definitions of sound include entire; not defective or diseased; undisturbed; not enfeebled by age or accident; perfect (see Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language). God’s expression of peace, balance, and harmony in each of us can never be disturbed by physical or mental trauma. God never loses control of us. Each of us can enjoy greater mental peace as we come to know God, Spirit, divine Love, as the only Mind governing us.

These verses from a favorite hymn sum up the truth about our mental health:

Eternal Mind the Potter is,
   And thought th’ eternal clay:
The hand that fashions is divine,
   His works pass not away.
Man is the noblest work of God,
   His beauty, power and grace,
Immortal; perfect as his Mind
   Reflected face to face.

God could not make imperfect man
   His model infinite;
Unhallowed thought He could not plan,
   Love’s work and Love must fit. 
Life, Truth and Love the pattern make
   Christ is the perfect heir;
The clouds of sense roll back, and show
   The form divinely fair.
(Mary Alice Dayton, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 51)

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