This morning I opened by favorite book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (my beautiful edition in dark blue leather with gilt edge), to continue with the Christian Science Advent Calendar, and I found the answer to the question "What is man?", question #14. I am in awe every time I read this text. It seems to me a little miracle that a book like this, with a text like this, exists on our planet. That it found its way into the memory of humanity, being read and studied side by side with the Bible. That a woman dared to write down those ideas, and persisted and persisted with resilience and an incredible love for God and humanity, until the ideas were printed to start their journey into the hearts of people on all continents, for 150 years now. I remember a moment when in was a teenager, still in High school, when I was sitting in our garden, with the book on my lap, and hoping that Mary Baker Eddy would know that the book had travelled farther than she ever did, translated into a language she didn't speak, healing and informing an individual like me she never met. She of all people knew and knows how to navigate the kingdom of heaven --- so I trust she knows.
When I open the door in the Christian Science Practice, when I answer the phone or read an Email, I meet naturally seldom individuals who want to know how I am doing - that is part of being in a service to humanity, and this is not the point. I meet with calls for help, problems to solve, challenges to overcome, sicknesses to heal - I encounter people bringing to me a physical diagnosis of incurability, life-long regrets, stubborn character flaws, relationship issues, an inability to love, writer's block, a devastating history of sexual abuse, mistreatment of women, infertility, being in love while not being loved back, addiction, financial lack, legal issues, sudden illness, job-related incapacity, the challenging transition from university into a first job or the equally challenging transition from the last job into retirement, slow learning, job related issues, suicide attempt, grief, family challenges, loneliness, a family asking for spiritual care for a dying family member, lack of purpose, consequences of accidents, ambiguity in regard to the next step, overexertion in caring for a loved one, breakdown of a parent because of a teenager which is a heroin addict, drawbacks in the job because you are gay, the flu etc.
I am amazed to see how quickly divine Love has always an answer, a first, intelligent, individual answer, which comforts and sets the heart and mind on a new path, a fresh perspective. Sometimes the solution, healing, release comes quickly, sometimes it takes time to walk the talk, to feel at home in the new world of goodness and care, to see the whole picture. The solutions, healings, the release and freedom always come, without exception. And that is because of the truth in Science and Health, which activates something in each one of us, which is the truth of being. The book doesn't invent something, it reminds us of what is inbuilt into us. It draws us out of narratives - beliefs and convictions - which we have been telling ourselves for such a long time that we see ourselves as mere listeners to these stories instead of as the story-tellers who we are, with a little help from a talking snake (see Genesis 2). We learn something new, which is the eternal truth of our completeness (see Genesis 1), and move forward. Life is turned into a graceful learning curve, from a material viewpoint to a spiritual perspective. And a learning curve it is, in which the ego must go and Christlike qualities will be put on as the only garment of individuality. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Miscellaneous Writings on p. 5:
"That man is the idea of infinite Mind, always perfect
in God, in Truth, Life, and Love, is something not easily
accepted, weighed down as is mortal thought with mate‐
rial beliefs. That which never existed, can seem solid
substance to this thought. It is much easier for people
to believe that the body affects the mind, than that the
mind affects the body."
When I study the answer to the question "What is man?" I am already prepared for this radical, revolutionary description by what I studied the previous two weeks. I have already learned about Principle and Love, about Spirit, Mind and Soul, about Life and Truth, about the scientific statement of being, about intelligence and substance being spiritual and untouchable by material sense, about the oneness of God and the non-existence of gods, about the singularity of Soul and the non-existence of souls, about the inability of creeds to move thoughts and lives forward and the ability of honest, consecrated efforts to meet the demands of the "Science of Soul". I also remember the history of healing in my family history with 100 years of Christian Science healing around - including healings from spinal meningitis, meniscal tear, broken elbow, toxemia, broken shoulder, tetanus, severed limbs, aftereffects of accidents, a lost sense of purpose. I saw joy restored, inner peace regained, children born at home without fussing, hope regained after tragic loss, stolen items given back, a lost voice found, I saw protection from crime, reconciliation realized, I saw womanhood strengthened and malehood redeemed. I am prepared:
"Man is spiritual and perfect; and be‐
cause he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so under‐
stood in Christian Science. Man is idea, the image, of
Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of
God, including all right ideas; the generic term for
all that reflects God's image and likeness; the conscious
identity of being as found in Science, in which man is
the reflection of God, or Mind, and therefore is eternal;
that which has no separate mind from God; that which
has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which
possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his
own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker."
(Science and Health, p. 475)
It takes a life to grasp every detail of the answer, but it is worthwhile the effort to understand it, to struggle with resisting convictions ("because I said so"), to quarrel with oneself instead of with others. In the course of history, eternal Truth never backed away from human conceptions, never shrank back from mortal narratives. And it never will. So can we change sides and move over to Truth's perspective? Can we make the shift from "mortal" to "man" and stop resisting its implications in our experience? In order to get real, I have to continue learning from and yielding to Truth. I love this question, "what is man", for this question is about all of us, it is about you and me. You are in for a treat.
It is no small matter to stay the course of unselfish living, to have effortless access to the soothing impact of divine Love, to find the stillness for the next step, to experience genuine healing.
Mary Baker Eddy has words of assurance for us:
"That tomorrow starts from today and is one day beyond it, robes the future with hope's rainbow hues. In the battle of life, good is made more industrious and persistent because of the supposed activity of evil. The elbowing of the crowd plants our feet more firmly. In the mental collisions of mortals and the strain of intellectual wrestlings, moral tension is tested, and if it yields not, grows stronger. (...) There is no excellence without labor; and the time to work, is now."
(Miscellaneous Writings, p. 339/340)
Christianity as Jesus introduced it, wasn't called Christianity originally. It was called The Way, I learned. I get from this: It is a practice, not an object of admiration. Jesus himself talks about life as a way:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it."
If you have no Bible background and are unfamiliar with this quote and can't make sense of "everlasting", think "continuous", and if "life" is too abstract, think "being". So living in sync with continuous being is living the good life - the real life, the only existence that truly is. It is here.
But, Jesus says, beware of the danger zone, the "wide gate", opening to a destructive path. The good life is to found only behind the narrow gate. Why is it narrow? How many ways are there to go wrong, how many chances to give in to "the elbowing of the crowd" (Mary Baker Eddy) and elbow back? Millions, of course. Because there is only one way to do it right. So what makes the gate narrow is, I find, its precision. We have to hit the mark. The "narrow gate" is a hand-forged master piece, because there are many wrongs, but only one right. The divine way.
Narrow is in its original meaning also another word for tailored - it is really fitting and clear, not restricting. It is narrow, because it is made FOR YOU. It feels right like a custom-made dress. Who are you truly, what defines your being? What is true individuality? The answer is specific and it is glorious. It is unlike the path of anybody else.
Difficult to find this gate and to travel this path behind it? Yes, says the couch potato, the poor little me, that can only understand a limited life-span. In order to find it, to daily and walk in it, I have pinpointed those small thoughts that lead me right into the danger zone in which it is impossible to life the real life. We can detect those thoughts quickly and know: "I am not going there. My thinking is private, it is the reflection of Goodness and intelligence, of generosity and humility. I will not let one of my thoughts be used to jeopardize the divine plan of justice, health, and peace for all." You will notice quickly that the danger zone is no fun, although it feels justified to stay there. The danger zone is really dangerous, not at all like Kenny Loggins' energetic "Highway to the danger zone, gonna take you right into the danger zone". The danger zone is hazardous, it erodes strength, takes away meaning, and makes healing impossible.
So now it is time: The curtain rises. Drum roll! Its time to present to you:
"The infamous d-a-n-g-e-r z-o-n-e."
Look around, behold its ugliness, its unnatural allure, see its bottom covered with sludge, beware of the tar on the side, look at the dust covering the walls, ash and cinder everywhere --- and hear what the voices hidden in its obscure recesses are whispering:
Quickly jump out of the danger zone, take a deep breath, take a bath in the sunshine of goodness - and make a healthy plan: Own your life and take responsibility. Get to know Good. Find the narrow gate and walk right through it up the good path. Note how it becomes wider at every step. You have avoided the danger zone, the ego cascade, thoughts recurring to your needs 24/7, the "me first" nightmare, the story of desperation. Discipline and love will keep you on the right track and will make your life complete, less lonely, boring, or stressful. It will teach you how to live the good life, the abundant life. Good, God, enables you to do your mental homework every single day and work within God's master plan for all.
Write something on your personal banner as you march on. Perhaps a poem? A spiritual idea? A Bible verse? A wise counsel? Or this hymn. It will boost your confidence, encourage you to stay alert - and keep you safe and sound out of the danger zone, complying with a divine standard. It is fixing you right in the middle of Love's comfort zone:
"Is the heart a well left empty?
None but God its void can fill;
Nothing but a ceaseless fountain
Can its ceaseless longings still.
Is the heart a living power?
Self-entwined its strength sinks low;
It can only live in loving,
And, by serving, love will grow."
(Poem by Elizabeth Charles, Hymnal #360)
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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