In this Sentinel Watch podcast, adapted for print, Jenny Sawyer talks with Beth Packer, a Christian Science practitioner from Berry, New South Wales, Australia. To hear the podcast, visit sentinel.christianscience.com/youknow.
Jenny Sawyer: We’re going to be talking about oneness. And how understanding more about it can lead to more effective healing. Our guest today is here to tell us more, starting with an experience she had that helped her get a clearer grasp of what oneness really means.
Beth Packer: Some friends and I were visiting a friend of ours who lives on the beautiful south coast of Australia, in the mountains on a goat farm. Over an evening—since it was spring—the baby goats were born in the paddocks. It was our job to go out and find the babies and the mothers and bring them into the barn so that they were safe and warm overnight.
As we were doing this, we found all the mothers, and we found all the babies except one. Search as we could, we just could not find this darling little creature anywhere. It was getting dark and it was getting cold, so it was wise for us to go inside. But the thought of leaving this dear little thing out in the forest or the paddocks, unfound and by itself, just didn’t sit well with me.
So just as the sun was dimming, I thought, “I don’t know where this little one is, but God knows.” I just turned straight to God, wholeheartedly to God. God knew where it was. And I knew that. Immediately, the response in my thought was, “If I know, you know.” I knew that was God. It wasn’t my thought. It was my at-one-ment with the divine Mind—the divine consciousness.
It wasn’t like God was telling me something and I was going off and doing it. It was that I was utterly at one with God.
Without even changing where I was looking, I saw the baby goat in front of me. We took it in and it was safe.
That message, “If I know, you know,” has resonated with me from that time on. Because it wasn’t like God was telling me something and I was going off and obeying or doing it. It wasn’t that at all. It was that I was utterly at one with God. I was conscious of what God was conscious of. Father-Mother God had never lost sight of His dear little ones—not one of them.
This taught me to recognize God’s voice in my thinking. It carried with it such a weight of oneness, of this tender relationship, this tender unity, with God, probably more than I’ve ever felt at any other time. It was precious to me.
I’d love to delve into the meaning of some of what you’re talking about. Maybe you could share a little bit about what you’ve learned about God, through your study and practice of Christian Science, that had you turning to God in the first place.
Well, growing up in Christian Science, you just have this sense that God is always with you. And it’s because good is always with us. God and good are synonyms. All the way through the Bible God is seen as good.
So I grew up knowing that the good that was with me was God with me. The Bible says that God is love. So I grew up knowing I was loved. And if I was loved, it was God. God knew me and God loved me. It was a constant comfort to grow up with that tender thought. It is with you everywhere you go, particularly in the hard times. Often as a teenager, I would think, “Well, at least God knows me and loves me.” And it did get me through difficult times.
So when you turned in prayer to God, in this moment of seeking the baby goat, the thought that came to you was, “If I know, you know.”
It was not thinking about God, but thinking—that is, yielding to—God’s, divine Mind’s, thoughts. And that’s a divine state of consciousness in which we do find this sense of God and what that term means. It’s not “What do I know?” but “What does God know?”
And I think that’s what we’re really bringing out here. What is that term God? What does it mean to me? It’s a bit like understanding the principle of mathematics. If you understand that correctly, you get your sums right.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, brought out that God is Principle. God is law. The law that governs life. And, we actually know that law underpins every action and makes life work rightly. The Bible tells us that Love is the law. Love makes life work rightly. But it is a law. It is constant, dependable, invariable, and provable. Mary Baker Eddy brought out that aspect in her discovery of the Science of Christianity. And this is utterly invaluable because it’s so transforming to our own life and brings such assurance. God’s love for us is as dependable as math. And that’s something that I have always endeavored as much as I can to rely on in all moments.
I’m really interested in what you were bringing out just before your discussion of Principle. Understanding the nature of our relationship to God is going to be the basis for the things that we go on to talk about. So what is the nature of this relationship?
Well, Christ Jesus said it perfectly. He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). And that underpinned his successful healing career. It’s true for us as well. What I try to do, as I said before, is not think, “What do I know?” but “What does God know?” And that’s getting me out of the way, because the human mind is full of beliefs and fears, hopes and dreams. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. But to get out of the way and simply ask, “What does God, Love, Principle, know?” is having that consciousness which is divine. It’s like immersing ourselves in the principle of mathematics. We’re going to understand how it works and get our sums right.
The Bible is showing us that with tenacity, faithfulness, inspiration, holiness, we can prove that we are at one with God.
What that goat incident did for me was so important. It meant that when good, clever, or bright ideas come, I recognize that it’s not me thinking them up, but the result of being at one with God, with Truth, with Love, with this Mind that is Principle. If any clever or bright idea comes to me, I recognize it as from God. I don’t claim it. I recognize that I’m at one with God at those times. It makes me feel so close to God.
I had another sweet little incident I’d like to share. It was at home. Every morning, I like to be quiet and do my study and prepare for my day. My husband knows this, and brings me breakfast so that I can just remain there for a while longer. Every day I say “Thank you” to him. But one day I said, “Thank you, God, for this good man.” The thought that came back immediately was, “No, Beth, that’s Me, God, loving you.” And it helped me recognize that goodness, love, kindness, is God in action. And we are that action.
A word that keeps coming to mind is the word source. It’s always been a really helpful way to understand this concept of oneness. Once again, it puts God in the center of things, and we see the expression of love in many different ways in our lives. But ultimately, the source is always divine Love rather than the individual, limited sense of, I express love this way, and that person has their way. And that person over there maybe is expressing a little less love.
One quality I want to touch on in relation to that idea of source is health, because I think we may struggle with a feeling of separateness like, “I have my own body, my own life. My body can go off and experience illness or whatever.” And that really runs counter to this idea of oneness that you’re talking about. From what you’re saying, we could say that health has its source in God. And because we are one with this divine source, then we must have this steady, stable, constant source
I’m wondering if there is a particular physical healing you might have to share that helps demonstrate that for our audience?
There was a time where I developed what seemed to be sciatica. And it was so extreme that I was starting to not be able to walk very well. I was in a lot of pain.
As a practicing Christian Scientist, I was treating it with the truth. I knew that in every place truth was still true. Was there a place where God was not loving me? There is a Sunday School saying: Is there a spot where God is not? There isn’t. So right where I was feeling pain, I was endeavoring to replace that with true ideas. Right where the body was screaming pain and difficulty, I’d say, “No, God is there because God fills all space and Truth is there.” But at one point I said, “How come this hurts so much if all the good things I’ve been praying with are true?”
The thought that came was in the form of a question. And it said, “Beth, can you prove a place or even feel a place where error exists? For example, where two plus two equals three—can you show or prove a place where that error, that mistake, actually exists? Can you show evidence of it? Can you actually feel evidence of something that is not true?” And I thought, “I can’t do that. That is actually impossible for anyone to do.”
Even if I really believe that two and two equals three or that the Earth is flat, there is actually no evidence of it because it isn’t true. It’s the wrong idea of what’s true.
Truth is perfectly functioning and harmonious. You don’t even have to know the full extent of the truth. You simply have to know that the truth is true. No matter what you believe or don’t believe, you can’t change the truth and you can’t show evidence of a mistaken way of thinking about things.
The moment I accepted that logic, I was healed instantly. The problem just stopped. Which really shows how much of what we’re experiencing and accepting for ourselves is thought. And, as Jesus taught, the truth, when known, does make us free (see John 8:32).
Thank you for sharing that, Beth. The thing that was striking to me about it was that someone could look around at the world and say, “Well, I see all sorts of errors, mistakes, things that are going wrong.” But you were clearly relying on a different perspective.
To me, there’s a very strong theme through the Bible. It says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18, New International Version). I use a math analogy a lot because I find it to be something we can all understand. It is logic. If we miscalculate, we get the answer wrong. If we start with a wrong idea, we’re going to end up with wrong conclusions.
There’s not much use in going back and thinking, “Why did I think that?” The solution lies in going to the principle of mathematics and working till we better understand it. Then, never again are we going to experience that inharmony.
The whole time that we thought two plus two equals three, even the whole time, it was still four—the truth is in place. And truth is the only thing that is happening, the only thing that’s governing. The discordant experience is not actually reality.
We only have what’s true, scientific, and logical. And when we clear away the fears, the illogicalities, the preconceptions, the human history, we get to what is true.
Across thousands of years, in the most extreme situations, the people in the Bible were relying on a spiritual force, something nonphysical. They were turning from the physical to the Principle of life—to the Truth of life, to God. They were proving that God, Principle, was bringing healing and saving experiences into their lives. In fact, there’s not really anything that we’re going through now that people didn’t go through in biblical times and come out victorious. That’s why, to me, the Bible is so immeasurably relevant today. It’s showing us that with tenacity, faithfulness, inspiration, holiness, we too can prove that we are at one with God. Absolutely. Constantly.
Beth, what would you say to someone who feels like, “Well, you’re good at listening to God. But when I try to listen to God, I don’t hear anything.”
You hear that comment quite a bit, or “I don’t feel close to God.” I think it’s when we identify right ideas or wrong ideas as our own that we feel separate from God. We’re claiming them. But when we recognize that every good idea we have is from God, as we said, every right motive, then we feel close. Even when we keep our house tidy, or we drive lawfully, or we are kind, all those things are expressions of God. We are the expression of God being good, Love being loving, Truth being honest, and Principle being orderly.
It is absolutely impossible for us to be separated from God. I know my sister always says to me, “I know myself when I know only God’s thoughts.” I think that’s a lovely way to feel or to regain that sense of closeness to God.