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.
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.