Earth. A sphere; a type of eternity and immortality, which are likewise without beginning or end.
To material sense, earth is matter; to spiritual sense, it is a compound idea.
Mary Baker Eddy
Science and Health, p. 585
On the wall of my study is a breathtaking picture of our planet as it appeared to astronauts on one of the Apollo space missions. How serene and ageless the earth appears when viewed from such a perspective, thousands of miles above it! It is beautiful and elegant as a jewel suspended against the darkness. Wispy clouds swirl over azure blue oceans and golden continents. From this perspective no wars, no poverty, pollution, or sickness, no ideological clashes, are apparent. To gaze at this image of silent beauty and serenity inspires an awe —a feeling of something unspeakably precious.
Below this photograph I have mounted the words printed below the title of this article—the spiritual definition of earth as it appears in the Christian Science textbook. This spiritual definition serves a manifold purpose for me. It reminds me to lift my thought to an even higher perspective of earth a God-inspired perspective; and it also awakens me to overcome aggressive fears that the earth will be devastated by the madness of nuclear holocaust.
When I read this definition of earth, I feel guided into a prayer of affirmation of the eternality of earth as God's spiritual creation. And a prayer of gratitude for the permanence of His love for His children, His spiritual offspring, to whom He gave dominion over the whole earth.
The textbook constantly opens up to us the true meaning of the Bible, including all its benevolent promises. Christian Science shows us that permanent security and well-being come from having and living in accord with a spiritually accurate concept of reality.
What is our present perception of earth? What do we believe earth to be? Does it seem merely a fragile geological formation? Is life on earth simply a fortunate "biological accident," which occurred because certain unique physical conditions happened to permit its evolution? Is earth nothing more than an immensely beautiful but relatively insignificant dot in a mind-boggling cosmos of many stars and galaxies?
Whatever we love, we must gradually and inevitably come to see in its real, pure, essentially metaphysical or spiritual nature. This is true regarding earth. Christ Jesus' concept of both heaven and earth was far more advanced than the views of those around him. He said: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" and "The kingdom of God is within you."Matt. 4:17; Luke 17:21 . The kingdom of heaven was so within Jesus, so at hand to his sense, that the divine perfection and harmony he saw were instantly felt by those who were receptive, and were evidenced outwardly in healing.
In the kingdom Christ Jesus discerned, there were no deformed bodies or minds, no lost, depraved, or grieving mortals. What sudden flashes of the kingdom must have been seen and felt by those around him! And his mighty, calm, and clear conviction of the kingdom at hand was and is being gradually felt as it gains momentum in the hearts of people today.
When we pray the prayer our Master gave us and say the words "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,"Matt. 6:10 . do we open our hearts completely to Jesus' revolutionary concept of earth mirroring heavenly perfection?
Mrs. Eddy yearned to understand what Christ Jesus taught and how he prayed. She yearned to understand the Principle behind his healing works. And this desire, this prayer, was answered in a way that not only helped her but provided a universal momentum toward the realization that God's kingdom is come on earth as it is in heaven. She was able to see that there is only one universe, the wholly good, spiritual universe created by God, as described in the first chapter of Genesis; that there are not two universes—one spiritual, perfect, and heavenly; another fallible, material and destructible. "Spirit," she writes, "is the only creator, and man, including the universe, is His spiritual concept."Unity of Good, p. 32 .
God's "man, including the universe," is radically different from the view mankind holds. But those who have experienced healing and regeneration in Christian Science know the power of a spiritual concept treasured and held to. They also know the falsity of the carnal or mortal mind and the powerlessness of its habitual attempt to belittle a spiritual truth—to deny the power of a "mustard seed." Jesus assured his followers that faith like a grain of mustard seed could remove mountains. Scientific conviction of the divine concept of earth can move mountains of rock like materialistic thought claiming to endanger life on this planet. To borrow another of Jesus' analogies, the true concept of earth works as a spiritual leaven in human consciousness, changing the properties of thought
The mustard seed of strong spiritual faith, nurtured by Christian love, is able to exchange the false concept of the material atom as substance—and of physical might as power—for the truth of spiritual substance and spiritual power. A mustard seed of faith in absolute spiritual truth, when made practical in loving deeds, has immeasurable, unfathomable power.
Among the words Jesus spoke in establishing the nature and power of his church were these: "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."Matt. 16:19 . What a strong statement of man's dominion under God's government! Surely we do not misconstrue its intent if we let it rouse us from the mesmeric notion that any so-called material power, such as the nuclear weaponry which in this century has been unleashed upon the earth, cannot be bound. Knowing that all power belongs to God gives us courage and insight to help ourselves and our world.
We don't have to be overwhelmed by what may appear to be vast amounts of work to be done in this world in order that a more heavenly sense may reign. We have grace for each day, and we work through Spirit's power and impulsion. In divine reality there is no material force to hold an ultimatum over our heads. Divine Love is here and always ready.
We can prayerfully neutralize the belief that destruction of the earth would effectively get rid of the idiocy of immorality and evil; or that the destruction of the earth would be the last judgment and punishment of mankind for its mistakes. The total destruction of all evil, error, and hatred doesn't require the destruction of what appears to be a physical earth any more than the destruction of leprosy or palsy requires the destruction of the human body.
In Christian Science, healing requires a new outlook, a radically fresh view of the nature of creation, which gives a healthy impetus to the body. Through moral and spiritual regeneration, the belief that life is material, vulnerable, or evil yields to spiritual understanding. Science and Health says, "As material knowledge diminishes and spiritual understanding increases, real objects will be apprehended mentally instead of materially."Science and Health, p. 96 . In this way, the home we now call "earth" will be seen as it was defined at the beginning of this article—as "a compound idea."
Jesus didn't just preach a future-world salvation that wrote off the people's present pressing needs. It was always regeneration and healing that he showed to those who wanted to understand God and their own identity, their purpose for existing. Jesus unequivocally denounced evil and sentenced it to destruction. When condemning wrong practices and selfishness, he didn't mince words. But his ministry was to redeem, not destroy, the earth's inhabitants.
He separated evil from man and lifted thought above the mortal view. He showed man's real nature, his spiritual perfection as the idea of God. God's purpose is never to destroy His creation but to heal our blindness to it. There is absolutely nothing in Christ Jesus' teachings, taken in their full context, to support the notion that the destruction of anything of genuine value would please our heavenly Father-Mother or fulfill any divine purpose.
Jesus said: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."John 3:16, 17
Salvation goes on as evil is destroyed. The destroying of the sense of evil by Spirit's allness and goodness, understood and demonstrated, takes place not in a material body or in a material universe but within us—within the conscience and consciousness of each and every one of us. As we find the kingdom of heaven within us, and demonstrate what we understand, our views of earth become better. We express more love, more safety. We grow to appreciate the genuine beauty and security of Soul.
Through spiritualization of thought and daily Christian discipleship, "a new heaven and a new earth" appear to us more clearly; and we have the Revelation of John to lead the way for us here. "I saw a new heaven and a new earth,"Rev. 21:1 . John said. And he described a heaven and earth with no death, sorrow, crying, or pain. The student of Christian Science wishing to get a firmer grasp of the indestructibility of the true heaven and earth will want to study Mrs. Eddy's chapter "The Apocalypse" in the textbook.
That Christians can grasp and demonstrate John's vision was a very real possibility to Mrs. Eddy, and she certainly encouraged that hope.
Perhaps the first step is to let divine Love cast fear out of us. We can begin by letting the spiritual facts regarding heaven and earth be strongly established in us. The scientific translation, in the textbook, of the two lines of the Lord's Prayer quoted earlier, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," reads: "Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present" and "Enable us to know,—as in heaven, so on earth,—God is omnipotent, supreme. "Science and Health, pp. 16-17 .
The inevitability is that we will find the new—the real—heaven and earth dawning more clearly in our consciousness (individually and collectively) and feel its evidence in our lives and bodies.
The true facts of God, man, and the universe are native to the heart of man. These facts will become more widely felt, understood, and accepted. If the spiritual concept of earth seems to come to us gradually, we can still trust that we will be provided a logical continuity in our sense of ourselves and our world. While we are working out a progressively spiritual view, there can be no sudden gap where we are lost, lacking a tangible concept of what we need.
There will continue to be shifts of thought toward more spiritually based reasoning. Though struggles may seem to accompany this growing, we can rejoice and be filled with God's promise.
Ours is a very special age. And living in this time of spiritual discovery, we can live free from fear and ignorance as the children of light. We can look below the surface of human events to witness a dawning, an awakening to the beauty and harmony of the spiritual universe, in which there is no beginning and no end.
Patiently and courageously working to establish in consciousness the kingdom within, we, our children, and all people will begin to see it "in earth, as it is in heaven." Eventually, we must all, together, recognize earth clearly, in all its heavenly glory.
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