A gazillion number of images is uploaded each day on social media, in networks in companies, universities, schools, institutions, churches, circles large or small. Shared individually in families, with friends - shared collectively on a massive scale within societies. The daily exposure to media has grown from 5.2 hours in 1945 to 9.8 hours each day according to a study by Media Dynamics in 2014, which adds to about the exposure of about 5000 brands and adds per day. As unimaginable as this number already seems to be: This number is exceeded substantially by the images that are uploaded in human consciousness each day - with or without the help of social media, movies or instagram. The images within thought that we perceive to be our daily experience but which are actually: Images. Our life's experience: A string of images in thought.
Recently I was awakened at night by a drastic image from a movie we had seen the other night. While I was wide awake and active in defending the purity and peace of my thought, a patient came to mind. He had been taking care of a friend, supported him in his declining health and accompanied him through his passing a few months ago. Now he was physically in very bad shape. It came to me very clearly to see the weight of those seemingly weightless images weighing heavily on his thought. The experience of another individual as the sediment of images in consciousness.
As I prayerfully took up this challenge, I saw more and more its scope for humanity and its spiritual dimension. And the case moved forward substantially, as I learned the following morning.
Our lives are built on the commandments, or they are built on nothing. And interestingly already about 3400 years ago, images play a key role within the relationship of God and man. The second commandment of the decalogue is: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing..." (Exodus 20: 4) This commandment reflects the absolute exclusiveness and oneness of God, Spirit, and demands that man not deviate from the adoration and experience of the oneness of being. This is truly not a demand but a prerogative. To me this commandment is saying: You don't need to come up with your own solutions, life a hurried, troubled life and live in the world of unpredictable illusions instead of spiritual reality. What a gift. Historically the second commandment might aim at something more concrete - that in monotheism no material image of an God is acceptable. But as Christianity and Christian Science lift everything a little higher, this commandment refers already to the images we hold in thought, the point before carving an image in stone. The views we cherish, the perspective we support, the focus we hold - what are we looking for?
I can see the scope of keeping the Second commandment, because it is paramount in attempting to keeping the First commandement: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20: 2,3)
So in 2017 we can with much joy and freedom and a spirit of adventure start acquainting ourselves with divine reality by learning to live the authority of pure thought. It takes courage to realize the pressure of images which lie like bodies "buried in its sands" - and the sea doesn't know about them. And not run away from them. Mary Baker Eddy analyses consciousness long before psychoanalysis will take up the importance of consciousness rather than experience, thou from a different basis. She shares a helpful strategy how to deal with those images. She writes in Science and Health on p. 87:
"The mine knows naught of the emeralds within its
rocks; the sea is ignorant of the gems within its caverns,
of the corals, of its sharp reefs, of the tall ships
that float on its bosom, or of the bodies which
lie buried in its sands: yet these are all there. Do not
suppose that any mental concept is gone because you do
not think of it. The true concept is never lost. (...)
How are veritable ideas to be distinguished from illusions?
By learning the origin of each. Ideas are
emanations from the divine Mind. Thoughts,
proceeding from the brain or from matter, are
offshoots of mortal mind; they are mortal material be‐
liefs. Ideas are spiritual, harmonious, and eternal."
Let us see that making an image of something is feeding on a concept of life separate from good. It seals thought from progress and improvement, creating "facts" and insisting adamently on something that really wasn't relevant in the first place. We have a right to live with ideas instead of illusions and to sweep thought from images which were not produced by us originally. The First Commandmen teaches us how this is to be done. So let our experience reflect the peace and authority which flow effortlessly from the one divine Intelligence which is the higher law for mankind. The supreme lawmaker enforces good and cooperation among people, in bodies, in our experience with divine reality. Let us be critical then with the image flood and powerful in taking a stand for a diviner view: For completeness, undecaying beauty, and health for all, and rejoice in those beautiful images which are revealed to our open thought day by day.
The truth is that only one image truly counts: We are made in "God's image, after His likeness". (See Genesis 1: 26, 27). This is the image we are to take seriously. This is what we are meant to be. And this is what others are asking us to honor in them. The purity and dignity of divinity in man - in a gazillion number of ways.
I love a quote from Shakespeare that Mary Baker Eddy included at the beginning of her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Could this really be true? Is thinking all that matters? Even at Christmas prep time when there seems to more material stuff than ever around? Does everything really come down to our motives?
For me, the answer is “yes.” And that’s how I’ve come to understand my relationship with “material stuff”—whether it’s an object, or an activity where I choose to spend my time.
Lets take one example, like playing the piano. The thought behind this activity could be focused on diving deeper into the meaning of art and life itself. It could be viewed as an opportunity to increase concentration, to improve on individual talents, or to bless others with beauty. On the other hand, playing the piano could also be about impressing an audience, or about pursuing wealth, recognition, or fame.
Maybe this example seems a silly, because it’s pretty obvious that only the right motive carries with it the perseverance to achieve true excellence - on the piano and in life. But it does point to the importance of the thought that guides our actions and decisions. Collecting songs or wristbands, following fashion trends, moving up levels in a computer game, learning to make the best chocolate ice cream ever—all these can be individual ways of expressing more of the Love that is Life, more of the supreme intelligence of divine Mind that is everywhere and all-in-all. Each endeavor calls on us to use our spiritual qualities, making it a training ground for spiritual progress. And if we answer this call, we find opportunities at each turn to express the infinite qualities of Love and Life in individual ways. The motive will propell us forward.
But, if we let our individuality become secondary to selfishness, or personal satisfaction, the same pursuits will take on a different hue. In the worst of cases, we end up in something that Mary Baker Eddy called “the ditch of nonsense.” (Miscellaneous Writings, 1883-1896, p. 230). Thankfully, she gave us a way out through this guideline: “Enjoying good things is not evil, but becoming slaves to pleasure is. That error is most forcible which is least distinct to conscience. Attempt nothing without God’s help.” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 197)
As I think about this passage, it helps me take the question of motives to a higher level. In fact, I think, the best measure of the worth and purity any pursuit is not just whether it is blessing others, but whether it is also helping us learn something more about Truth, God. Whether it is impelling us to bow in all humility before something so much bigger and wiser and so much more creative than we are. With God, divine Love, at the center of our lives, we are moving towards an upgrade in spirituality and a downsizing in material stuff. Simply because spirituality is so much more authentic and real. We are able to make good and wise and unselfish choices and see more clearly how everything can turn into something sparkling and meaningful—and even revelatory.
Who says that Christmas expectancy can't be enriched by a learning curve? Learning and Christmas? Do they go together? I think yes. Christmas is about learning that goodness is real. That divine Love is real. That all men are worthy, whole, spiritual, free. That creation is so packed and rich with goodness, that only Love could have done this. The Christ is loving each one of us as if he has nothing else to do. Christmas is all about humility and listening. As Art Fettig said: "Some businessmen are saying this could be the greatest Christmas ever. I always thought that the first one was."
So you might like to look at this Christmas time from the perspective of the shepherds, with an attitude of quiet anticipation. Following a heavenly message of peace and moving towards Bethlehem, where in a modest stable Jesus Christ was born. Moving towards Bethlehem step after step after step.
What my family has been doing for the last Christmas times is to cultivate this attitude of quiet anticipation. We take a special part of the Christian Science textbook and ponder it each day. The chapter "Recapitulation" is comprised of 24 Q&A. We ponder one Q&A each day of December prior to Christmas. You need for it the Bible commentary "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, which you can get here. Candles might shine brightly, there might be hot tea, cookies, Christmas decorations, holiday lights, Lebkuchen, an Advent wreath - all the magnificent ingredients to brighten the Christmas prep time. Advent mornings are wonderful.
The chapter "Recapitulation" serves me as a self-instruction course preparing my thought, I love to learn more about Christianity by learning more about the Science of Christianity. Although the word "Christmas" does neither occur in the Bible nor in the chapter "Recapitulation". The 24 sections in the chapter serve me as 24 steps, they help me to approach the deeper meaning of Christmas. The "course overview" can be found here, you might call it "The Christian Science Advent Calendar."
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and as a writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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