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Chapter 4 – New Thought and Christian Science
“Born from the darkest ages
Of superstition is that ancient creed
That matter is the enemy of good,
Accursed and hateful, to the infinite;
For every atom is a living thought,
Dropped from the meditations of a God,
Its every essence of immortal love,
Of the incarnate Deity; and all
The inmost pulses of material things
Are mediums for the pulses of his will.”
THE adherents of New Thought conceive of the visible universe with its infinite variety of forms and colors, its manifold substances and elements, as the expression of cosmic or universal mind; as the product of a divine intelligence. Their philosophy teaches that all created things, from atoms to circling planets, the myriad forms of life, the budding tree, the bursting flower, all animate life and man, with his infinite faculties, are the manifested results of divine ideals. In other words, their conception is that these created entities, which we observe as the external and visible works of Nature, are the projected images from a pre-existing Divine Mind.
Or we might state the proposition in different language: that God first created the ideals, or images of all existing objects, and these ideals were afterward externalized as created forms in the visible universe. Carlyle said everything in Nature is a symbol–man himself is a symbol, the symbol of God.
The contest has been long and discordant between the advocates of idealism on the one hand, and those of materialism on the other, as to the origin of creation, life, and intelligence. The great issue has been whether there is an infinite creative intelligence, back of all Nature, all existing entities, as their efficient cause and calling them into existence, or whether the physical universe, and all living things thereon, resulted from some other cause.
The beginning of this century finds the advocates of the materialistic conception, with their strange ideas of creation’s origin, in the minority, and that minority constantly diminishing in the light of scientific investigation. Few are the recognized scientists who still speak of creation as having any other origin than a pre-existing divine intelligence.
On the other hand, the majority of eminent scientists and thoughtful philosophers, men whose useful discoveries are attracting the attention of the world, are outspoken in their declarations that back of all nature and all its manifested forms is an unseen intelligence, the divine cause of all existing things.
Even Professor Haeckel, the past master of materialism, concedes that “the two fundamental forms of substance, ponderable matter and ether, are not dead, and only revealed by extrinsic force, but they are endowed with sensations and will.”
It is difficult to conceive of sensation and will as existing separate and apart from intelligence. Wherever there is life, there is intelligence. In the various forms of animal life, and also in plant and vegetable life, if we but look we can observe an intelligence meeting and overcoming the difficulties and obstacles of environment. The tree planted among rocks hunts out the crevices to send its roots down to soil and moisture.
As ether is supposed to fill all the vast expanses separating the most distant planets, we may adopt Haeckel’s premises and arrive at the unanswerable conclusion therefrom, that a universal intelligence pervades the entire universe. From his conceded premises we may therefore reach the reasonable deduction that a mental force exists everywhere, and therefore that it is the cause of all existing life upon the globe. We may therefore adopt as a working hypothesis the conclusion that the entire visible universe and all created objects are the result and product of a universal intelligence.
”Ruling the rain and sun,
Giving the winds their laws,
Back of each battle won,
Back of each dream, each deed,
Back of the flower, back of the seed,
Stands the eternal cause.”
The idealism referred to here differs widely from an extreme or absolute idealism proclaimed by many as the theory of creation and it is desirable clearly to differentiate the two. New Thought does not agree with the absolute idealist, that nothing exists in creation but the ideal, and that all external Nature is only an illusion of the senses. The conception is that an ideal or image was first created in the Divine Mind, and into that image as a mold the divine energy was centered, and as a result created forms appeared in the visible universe. In other words, there was first an ideal or picture in the Divine Mind, and the object was created according to that divine ideal or image.
The first Biblical account we have of an idealism we find in Genesis, in the great account of creation. The author proceeds as follows:
“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field, before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew.”
Here is the declaration that every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew, had been created. If God created the plant before it was in the earth, and the herb before it grew, He must have created them as thought images or ideals in His own Divine Mind. They could not have been created elsewhere than in His own mind, if God was omnipresent and filled the universe with His presence.
This was God’s method of creation, first the ideal, then the ideal expressed as a visible form of creation. Thus in the first account of creation, found in the Hebrew Bible, we discover the declaration of an idealism. The idealism of the great Creator of the heavens and of the earth. Here is the first record that ideals or thought images preceded the external and visible forms of Nature. Every plant and every herb was first a thought, an ideal, and then became an entity in the visible works of God.
Later it was said: “The universe is the infinite utterance of an infinite number of thoughts from an infinite and thinking source.”
“There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, pre-exist in necessary ideas in the mind of God,” says Emerson.
It was said by Judge Troward :
“If we realize that all visible things must have their origin in spirit, then the whole creation around us is the standing evidence that the starting-point of all things is in thought images or ideas, for no other action than the formation of such images can be conceived of spirit, prior to its manifestation in matter.”
Listen to Carlyle:
“What is Nature? Why do I not name thee God? Art thou not the living garment of God?”
All that man has accomplished in his long history, from the stupendous monuments of architecture to systems of laws, governments, institutions, arts, and civilization itself, is the fruitage of thought, the result of ideals, which first found existence in mind only. All objective things first had a corresponding picture in mind and intelligence. The bridge first existed in the mind of the engineer, before it was objectivized in steel and iron. The sculptor saw the image of the perfect statue, before the marble was quarried from the hills. The locomotive was first a mental image, before it became a throbbing and panting expression of that ideal.
Men speak lightly of idealism, when everything in our lives and experiences is a standing evidence of its truth. We employ idealism, either consciously or unconsciously, in every act of life. Whenever we convert thoughts into deeds, ideas into action, carry plans into execution, or otherwise give expression to ideas, we proclaim the truth of idealism.
Thomas A. Edison says:
“Science is mostly imagination. It is by conceiving what might be, before one has seen the way to realize it practically, that scientists have been buoyed during the period of experiment.”
Ideals are the molds for events, the fore-runners for all accomplishment, and the predecessors of all completed things. The truth of our ideals is the real truth of human life.
New Thought is an idealism, as are all esoteric philosophies and religions, all religions that do not separate man from God. It is also progressive, because it recognizes by its fundamental principles and teachings that all healthful and normal ideals must change, expand, and develop, as the individual gains more light and truth, as he expands and grows. “We must realize that life is a voyage and we are sailing under sealed orders. We open our orders every morning and this allows us to change our course as we get new light.”
Progressive minds cannot live on the past. The ideals of one generation do not fit the next. Men outgrow fixed ideas and so-called finished philosophies and systems of thought, as the bird flies from the nest never to return. It is the law of growth, it is a fundamental requirement of the human mind. This propulsion is innate in mind it is the way of the soul.
New Thought is progressive and knows that permanent and fixed ideals do not exist. It may, therefore, be defined as an advancing, progressive idealism. Christian Science differs fundamentally from New Thought. While Christian Science is an idealism, it differs from the idealism of New Thought. It may properly be defined as an extreme or absolute idealism. Its interpretation of the account of creation, as set forth in Genesis and heretofore quoted, differs widely from that of New Thought. The authorities of Christian Science say that the only creation of the plants and herbs of the field, according to the account of Genesis, was in the Divine Mind. They hold that the plants and herbs referred to had no existence in matter and were never anything but ideas. Of course this could be the only conclusion of a philosophy or cult that declares matter to be an “illusion of the human belief.”
“Science and Health” sets forth the above account of creation from Genesis, and then proceeds to an interpretation and construction of its language as follows: “Here is the emphatic declaration that God created all through mind, not through matter; that the plant grows, not because of seed or soil, but because growth is the eternal mandate of Mind.”
From “Science and Health” we also read as follows: “The only realities are the Divine Mind and ideal. Mind is all and matter is naught. Spirit and matter cannot coexist, or co-operate; and one can no more create the other than truth can create error, or vice versa.” “Matter and Mind are antagonistic, and both have not place or power.” “Matter and mortal body are all the illusions of the human belief. Our corporal senses lie and cheat. They are five personal falsities and their evidence is to be disregarded.”
Here we have the unqualified declaration that the only realities are the Divine Mind and idea, and that matter is a falsity and that our corporal senses lie and cheat. There cannot be two constructions to this language, its meaning is unmistakable.
Let us examine the language found in Genesis, which “Science and Health” quotes as the authoritative declaration of God’s plan of creation. Translated into modern thought, it says that God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. This language assumes that the plant at some time was in the earth, and that the herb at some time grew. If the divine idea was the only creation and if the plants and herbs had no existence except as ideas in the Divine Mind, it would be a pertinent inquiry to make, why it was necessary that the plant should be in the earth at all or that the herb should ever grow. If the distinguished author of Genesis conceived of creation as an idea only, and not as a material or external reality, it is difficult to understand or assign any reason why he made any allusion to the earth at all, for the earth, then as now was either matter or an illusion of the senses.
Then the author of Genesis records that God made the earth and the heavens. Are we to understand that when God made the earth He was creating an illusion of the senses only? If the earth was an illusion of the senses only, why was it necessary to refer to it or mention it at all, in the great account of creation? If there was nothing bur a divine ideal, the great author might have been content to describe the ideal only, for that alone would be a correct and truthful account of creation.
Was so much of the descriptive account as refers to the earth the product of mortal mind and mortal thought? Was the author of the great event in error? These observations are not made with a view to exhibiting a critical attitude toward Christian Science, but to make plain its fundamental principles and clearly show the line of cleavage between it and New Thought.
If we give the usual and customary construction to the language employed in “Science and Health,” it conveys the unmistakable meaning that nothing exists in creation but ideas, and everything is mind. Christian Science may, therefore, be well defined as an extreme or absolute idealism.
We are told in the foregoing quotations from “Science and Health” that “Spirit and Matter cannot coexist or co-operate; and one can no more create the other than truth can create error, or vice versa.” The inquiring mind is inclined to ask why? Are there any premises to support the statement, or is it a mere dictum?
The author no doubt uses spirit in the sense of mind and as a synonym thereof, because she says mind is all. If we assume that matter has no existence and is only an illusion of the senses, then it follows as a logical conclusion that mind cannot coexist or co-operate with matter, because matter is nothing and hence that mind cannot coexist or co-operate with nothing.
But if we concede that matter is an existing reality, what then? Cannot mind coexist or co- operate with it? Is there not a coexistence and co-operation of mind and matter in all we see and observe in the universe? Is not every work of art the co-operation of mind and matter? What is the statue, or the canvas, but the result of mind co-operating with matter? Are they not executed ideals? What about our bodies? Did not mind build them? Are they not the result of the coexistence and co-operation of the two? Is not the body the temple of the spirit?
Sir Oliver Lodge observes that “Life is not energy, but it is the director of energy and matter. Mind determines, life directs–the material and energetic universe is dominated and controlled by these agencies.”
According to the statements of “Science and Health” and the recognized tenets of the philosophy of Christian Science, our five senses that administer to our daily wants and pleasures through life are not trustworthy or to be believed, but lie and cheat and delude us constantly. By the teachings of its philosophy our sense of taste, by which we find enjoyment of the delicious foods Nature has spread before us; our sense of smell, by which we catch the exquisite fragrance of the rose; that of touch, by which we feel the warm hand-clasp of a friend; our sense of hearing, by which the soul is lifted up to God through the immortal symphonies of the masters; and the eye, which reveals to us the unspeakable beauties of Nature, the marvelous works of creation, and betrays the innermost secrets of the soul, are five falsities and delusions.
New Thought cannot accept this philosophy. In man’s struggle through the evolutionary processes of creation, to his present physical and mental stature, it took millions of years to bring these five senses to their present degree of perfection, and they cannot be discredited by the bare declaration that they are false. Whoever makes the declaration that the senses are falsities and delusions, relies upon evidence which only the senses can furnish.
As we take a survey of Nature with its infinite variety of forms and beauty, we cannot conceive of these objective realities as nothing, or illusions. If we must discredit the eye, must we blot out of consciousness the magnificent panorama of Nature, the bright galaxy of the stars, the landscape with its in expressible beauty, the towering mountains and verdant valleys, the glories of the dawn, the mellow glow of sunsets, and man himself, as falsities and delusions, because the eye reveals them?
How are we longer to enjoy the wonders Nature has spread before us, when we are continually reminded that they do not exist, but are only falsities and illusions of the mind? Such a philosophy will blight the finer sensibilities and the imaginative faculties of man. It will retard and prevent the development of those qualities in man which embellish, ennoble, and enrich his life.
Nature is man’s great teacher. It sets God’s symbols constantly before his eyes. They are here to teach and instruct. When philosophy teaches that the senses which convey Nature’s meanings to man are falsities, then Nature ceases to be man’s teacher and instructor.
The senses are the windows of the soul. Shall we close them, because they do not admit all the light, or shall we open them wider, that they may let in more light? We cannot improve the senses, with the adverse suggestion that they are delusions and falsities.
Instead of discrediting them, let us encourage, unfold, develop, and refine them, until man with his enlarged susceptibilities, shall see beauty where the vision is now clouded, and hear melodies and harmonies that now beat upon unresponsive ears.
“The senses are the ministers of love,
The senses are the oracles of truth,
The senses the interpreters of law,
The senses, the discoverers of fact:
They hold their court in beauty and in joy
On earth and in the spheres where angels dwell,
And through the senses God reveals himself,
And through the senses, earth is taught from heaven.”
Carlyle says: “Rightly viewed, no meanest object is insignificant; all objects are as windows, through which the philosophic eye looks into infinitude itself.”
Christian Science occupies the position of the extreme or absolute idealist. Materialism represents the extreme opposite view. Their conceptions are, respectively, that of the abstract on the one hand and the concrete on the other, of the unconditioned and the conditioned, of the absolute and the relative. Judge Troward in speaking of the two conceptions says: “They are not opposed to each other, in the sense of incompatibility, but are each the complement of the other, and the only reality is in the combination of the two. The error of the extreme idealist is in endeavoring to realize the absolute without the relative. and the error of the extreme materialist is in endeavoring to realize the relative without the absolute.
“On the one side, the mistake is in trying to realize an inside without an outside; and on the other, in trying to realize an outside without an inside. Both are necessary to the formation of a substantial entity.”
Christian D. Larson has ably expressed his views on the denial of matter, as follows: “To deny matter, and mean it, is impossible. To deny the existence of matter, you must refuse to act as if it did exist; that is, you must not use matter in any shape or form, because to do so would be to contradict with your hands what you affirm with your mind.
“If matter actually was an illusion, you would simply be perpetuating that illusion if you accepted matter in any form whatever. Those who deny matter deny it only as a mental concept.They deny matter in the abstract, but accept it in the concrete–from greenbacks to roses.
“But matter exists only in the concrete, it does not exist in the abstract, therefore to deny it in the abstract and accept it in the concrete is to accept it where it does exist and deny it where it does not exist. Then wherein do we find the denial? It simply is not there and what appears to be such a denial is nothing but a useless process of thinking; a process that moves in a circle, which brings the mind back to matter whenever it claims to get away from matter.”
New Thought does not lay claim to more than a few rays from the great divine source of light, or that more than a fragment of truth has been discovered. It advocates, however, the infinite unfoldment and the possibilities of man, and that he will constantly reach and comprehend more truth and advance into a closer relationship with God. It sees truth everywhere, and knows that the avenues leading to its divine citadel are infinite in number.
Christian Science seems to have fallen into the error of its orthodox predecessors in believing that it has made discoveries heretofore unknown, and that it possesses knowledge exclusively conveyed by its teachings. It recognizes but one road leading to truth, and that the one pointed out and circumscribed by the rules of its organization.
Thus, in “Science and Health,” its author, after recounting the acts of divine revelation to her, says: “Christian Science is indivisible. There can therefore be but one method in its teaching. From the Infinite One, in Christian Science, cometh one principle and its ideas; and with this one principle come scriptural rules and their demonstration, which, like the Great Giver, are the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”
It is unfortunate that religious organizations have so often become imbued with the idea that God has smiled exclusively upon them and vouchsafed to them peculiar and particular revelation, not accorded the rest of mankind. Truth cannot be institutionalized, limited, or defined. Whenever an organization attempts to corral truth, it is plainly evident that it has discovered only a small portion of truth. Christian Science has not yet discovered that dogmas are not religion and creeds mean spiritual death.
Censorship is not in harmony with the spirit of the age, nor with the true idea of religious growth and development. The soul cannot be nourished on prepared and canned spiritual thought, nor a commercialized religion. The soul is limitless, and each demands its own spiritual food. Why this exclusiveness? Why set bounds to the universal demands of the soul? Why not encourage the soul to press on to greater truths?
Why limit worship to two books? Is not truth recorded elsewhere? Has an Emerson or a Whitman no message of light to the struggling soul?
No system can satisfy the soul. Its aspirations are as boundless as the universe itself. At last it must find its light from within.
With all that we hear about a universal religion and religious tolerance, the world still groans under a burden of sectarianism and exclusiveness. As long as organizations contend that their system is complete, that they have all the knowledge, that they have found the perfect way, so long will the world be dominated by creeds which separate man from man and which have been among the most fruitful sources of all his wrongs.
History should be scanned carefully, before laying claims to exclusive knowledge or to the sole discovery of truth. Did not Pythagoras say, twenty-five centuries ago, that God was all in all, as all great thinkers have ever done? Did not Bishop Berkeley and others teach the philosophy of absolute idealism? Have not mental and spiritual healing been practiced with more or less success, as far back as the records of man extend?
The advocates of New Thought do not attach much importance to special revelations to the particular few. It believes that God is revealing Himself to man at all times and has been so revealing Himself in all ages, and he whose mind is attuned to the harmonies of truth can hear and understand these revelations.
Walt WhitmanSays: “I find letters from God dropped in the street–and every one is signed by God’s name, and I leave them where they are, for I know that whereso’er I go, others will punctually come, forever and ever.” New Thought believes with Walt Whitman, that man can forever find letters from God, and that others will punctually come, forever and ever. It accepts truth wherever it may find it. It looks upon completed systems, revealed theologies, and fixed cults, as already in senile decay.
Christian Science has performed a most valuable service to man; it has broken over creeds and dogmas which stood as barriers in the path of man’s progress. It has shown man a new way. Its danger lies in building around him a new barrier higher than the one he has surmounted.
The world is less ready now than ever before to concede a monopoly of divine wisdom to any philosophy, theology, institution, or cult. While institutions continue to discourage, restrict, and forbid the widest search for truth in every byway and avenue that open to the mind, so long will they retard its growth and hold the individual in bondage to their edicts. So long as they limit their adherents to the mental and spiritual food prepared and seasoned in their own theological kitchens and limit them to such interpretations as they place upon accepted writings, so long will they remain spiritually inert and stagnant. Instead of spiritual growth, development, and progress, there will be arrested growth, spiritual and moral decay.
Institutions that still continue to practice medieval methods are out of harmony with the progressivism of the twentieth century. They have not caught the spirit of truth or the temperament of the age. The Roman Catholic Church still sways its weapon of authority over the wills and consciences of man. Encyclicals are promulgated in Rome against what is called modernism. What is modernism but the God-given right of man to think but a free and unobstructed pathway over which the soul may travel? Think of six hundred priests at one time in one cathedral, holding up their hands and taking a solemn oath that they would not teach modernism! It means that they would not claim the right of man to think for himself; that they would not teach an immanent or indwelling God, but a distant God requiring priestly mediation between Him and man. It is a spectacle for thought and consideration. Why all this concern? Why place this ban on man’s thinking? Truth is its own defense. It is only error that is in danger. If an institution is built on the divine rock, how can modernism undermine the foundation or batter down her walls?
Men can grow only as they are mentally and spiritually free, only as they break away from the limitations that institutions attempt to set to their progress. What slavery is so debasing as spiritual servitude? Yet think of the millions who are under this bondage,–men who do not dare think except as they have been told, men who dare not read except what has been duly censored by those exercising spiritual authority.
Let us open the windows of the soul and let the light in, and then as the Gentle Master said, “The truth shall make you free.”
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