Mortal Mind

When you reach the point where you know that all the errors appearing must be truths misread, you begin to realize the futility of handling appearances alone. Stopping with effects, you would fail to handle the underlying cause, so that it is like fighting the hydraheaded monster who shows another head or two for every one you cut off. To recognize that Truth perverted becomes the creator of error, is to imply a perverter (Mis 293:22-23). A wrong sense of something indicates that there must be a wrong see-er, does it not? You may have to first recognize the devil's lies as lies, in order to see who's talking, but your work is not done until you have disposed of the devil himself. The fundamental claim is that there is someone or something to misapprehend or misrepresent divinity, and this claim is uncovered by the analysis and exposure of the lie as such (S&H 405:1 only, 189:18-21).

Bicknell Young students have an amusing little device for getting at this point. Perplexed by some trial or tribulation, they say to each other, "What made the baby cry?" Borrowed from a story, this question highlights the basic error and exposes the culprit, for those who share this example:

Back in the days when testimony meetings were held on Fridays instead of Wednesdays, a woman told one evening of riding in the day on a street car and being compelled to take notice of a crying baby in the arms of a passenger across from her. Both appeared to be suffering greatly, and she was obliged to deny the evidence of her senses. She closed her eyes, she said, and tried to know the truth. As soon as she had regained her composure she opened them. She saw that the baby had stopped crying and was quietly content, while the mother appeared to be entirely relieved, too. In those days the meetings were more informal than now, and the Reader, Mr. Kimball, said from the platform, "What made the baby cry?" Walking home from church that night, Mr. and Mrs. Young discussed that question and concluded that the thing that heard the baby cry was the same thing that made the baby cry: namely, mortal mind. Mortal mind is always the culprit, and our analysis of the appearances must always uncover mortal mind as the basic claim (S&H 218:1-2).

Again, to say that an error is only a belief is to admit a believer; and until you dispose of the believer, you are going to have either this troublesome belief or some other before you. You can't alter the image in a mirror without getting at the thing imaged forth. Effect can be influenced only by way of its cause. The claim in every last instance is that there is an evil cause or believer, and so you are obliged each time to analyze the effect to uncover the fundamental error as the claim that there is an evil thinker and that this mind is yours. In human experience, this analytic approach must precede the realization of Mind as infinite and divine, inclusive of all reality and exclusive of all evil (S&H 447:20-29, 412:18-20).

It may be superfluous to again reiterate that matter does not taste, feel, hear, smell, see or think, so matter cannot be the complainant. Doesn't the claim always come to you as, "I see a sick man," or "I see myself as sick, or material, finite, limited?" What is this I? Surely the divine Mind cannot know or experience anything contrary to its own infinitely flawless and harmonious nature. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." (Habakkuk 1:13). What is this other I or ego which seems to interpose itself? The claim that there is a conceiver or experiencer of evil is the claim we name "mortal mind," and it is the root at which we must lay the ax, or the evil will but sprout forth in another form for us.

Having laid down the principle that any negation must be predicated upon a positive, we must abide by that. Mortal mind, then, would have to be immortal Mind in negative aspect, would it not? As usual, we must see that the lie is the truth declared erroneously, in order to make a correction and find the truth in the place of the lie. Exactly how are we to dispose of mortal mind? By finding it to be immortal Mind negatively presented. We have adequate authority for this in Mrs. Eddy's unassailable statement that "matter and mortal mind are one, and this one is a misstatement of Mind, God." (Un 35:20-22).

Picking up from that "state of mortal thought, the only error of which is limitation," you begin to experience the liberation that is transfiguration (S&H 585:21-22). But until you have entirely erased the last persistent vestiges of finite thinking, you have not fully and finally identified yourself with and as the Mind which is infinite and divine. Absolutely speaking, this is your starting point and your goal (S&H 275:6-12). You cannot afford to think of yourself as a finite, human being with a private mind, reaching out for the infinity that such a sense of being could never embrace. You must boldly mount the glorious, high throne of Spirit, and from there survey the reality of all things, if you would appropriate your divinely ordained dominion. There is no other way for you.

Right about here is where evil plays its trump card. "What about me?" it says, and if you are not thoroughly alert, you are again caught in its coils by that very question (S&H 555:6-12). Error is real enough from the standpoint of error – but it is real only from an erroneous standpoint (S&H 210:28-29). Only error demands an explanation of error. In the light of Truth, it does not exist. Mortal mind is not an entity, something in and of itself, and any effort to account for it as something apart from or outside of Truth, serves only to perpetuate it in your experience (S&H 399:23-25). Error as a thing can only be explained by explaining it away, and this is possible only on the basis of Truth, and by Truth.

To the beginner in Christian Science, this issue is the most difficult of all to understand. The desire to account for error, to trace the origin of evil and then to dwell upon that supposititious origin, is as strong with him at this stage as is his need to understand Truth. Yet a mistake cannot be corrected from within its own false premise. Supposing the young student of arithmetic should insist upon an explanation of twice-two-is-five, before agreeing to go on to twice-two-is-four. He would be stymied, wouldn't he? Only at the point where he grasps twice-two-is-four can he explain away twice-two-is-five. Absorbed in error, he could never apprehend the truth; grasping the truth, he is no longer concerned with error. "Even the Lord is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil any more." (Zephaniah 3:15).

Carrying our rather inaccurate analogy a little further, let us suppose you have told your arithmetical pupil that the mistake can only be attributed to ignorance. In answer to his inevitable inquiry, you would have to admit that ignorance is literally nothing. The perversity of the human viewpoint is such that he would probably seize upon your admission as an excuse to do nothing. As a conscientious teacher, you would have to admonish him that, for all practical purposes, ignorance is very much something and enough of a something to prove a fatal handicap to his mathematical career unless frankly faced and taken care of. Starting from the position of the ignoramus – as every human being on earth must – there is ignorance to be dispelled by striven-for understanding.

As a temporary expedient, you might find it wise to remind your charge that you cannot account for something that does not exist. There is no way of explaining nothingness. When, where and how did twice-two-is-five begin? It never did begin. It never was (Mis 45:23 only). Nothingness is suppositional, and when you begin to understand somethingness, thought will no longer be engaged with supposition. You will never account for a wrong note on the piano by pounding on it; only by playing the right chord is it "explained," or done away with as a problem. You cannot apprehend Truth by contemplating error. The final explanation of error is that it has no explanation, and the sooner you quit trying to explain it, the sooner will you understand it (S&H 472:20-21).

Asking why error exists implies that it does exist as an actuality, and from that standpoint it is impossible to perceive that it cannot really be. The attitude that demands an explanation of the non-existent excludes the understanding of existence. You will never understand nothingness so long as you try to account for it as somethingness, whether in belief or otherwise, for "error" is simply a name for nothing. Mathematical understanding is not achieved through trying to explain the errors, but only by seeking the truths. Automatically thereby the errors are explained away, so that you are no longer handicapped by them. Finding God as All leaves nothing else to explain. There may be an intermediate period when you are conscious of both Truth and error, but you cannot climb up out of this while preoccupied with the error (S&H 259:32-6).

Error would have to be actual in order to be explicable. Truth can be explained; error can only be explained away. Being the negation of that which is, error can only be explained through demonstration – through the demonstration of that which is, of course. "Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isaiah 2:22). As you can see that you cannot and need not account for that which is essentially unreal, you will have done with this hypothetical view of existence and can let thought be engaged rather with the naturalness of divinity.

A lie has only the substance which it borrows from the truth it misrepresents, and to follow that back is to end up with the truth alone. The lie has no independent existence. It can appear only in the realm of falsity as a misreading of true phenomena. Visible only as misperception, it can appear to you and demand an explanation of itself only from the illegitimate, inconsistent, irrational viewpoint of supposition. In the field of human belief, we are involved with opposites, but we cannot dally there. Our practical analysis on the basis of what we know to be Truth, takes us step by step up out of the pit to where the supreme realization of Spirit is possible which must exclude now and forever every whisper of evil. If this were not so, Christianity would be a mockery and Science a delusion.

Every man is equipped with the vision which will enable him to escape the boundaries of finite mentation. But he cannot do that so long as he, like Lot's wife, fixes his eyes longingly on positions outgrown and permits himself to become crystallized saltlike in a preoccupation with the finite view (S&H 323:32-4). As you advance in your understanding, you are becoming ever more conscious of the divine Presence and, conversely, ever less conscious of the claim of an evil presence. Exactly in proportion as you attain this divine sense or realization must the erroneous sense fall away, until at last you reach a point where you are not only disinterested in evil, but it ceases to exist for you, in belief or at all (Un 4:9-15). The diminishing concern with evil at each upward footstep reassures, encourages and convinces you of ultimately attaining divinity – the summit of Spirit, where error is unknown and unknowable (No 30:18-20).

Meanwhile, in teaching Christian Science, we are compelled to speak of certain unrealities as if they were realities, since we have no alternative but to address thought where we find it. We unavoidably talk about "mortal mind," since all people are obviously confronted with something best described by that title. We speak of the horizon as though it were a thing to be crossed, don't we? And yet we know that "horizon" is no more than a descriptive title for a nonentity. Why we even base our navigational bearings on the equator, although the line around the middle of the earth is no more than a convenient fiction. Contemporary physics regards space, time and even gravity as illusions of human observation; but space, time and gravity have served as frames of reference for practical planning and successful activity these centuries. Likewise, "mortal mind" is but a name for the myth which we will eventually dispense with, but which for the nonce is a working hypothesis that aids us to get our metaphysical bearings (S&H 126:2 only).

Just a moment. Look at it this way. The falling apple meant to Sir Isaac Newton a power of attraction exerted between objects, proportional to their distance. Today physicists reject that thesis in toto, explaining gravity as "a distortion in the space-time continuum," with the "law of gravity" no more than a mathematical formula for giving the acceleration of a moving body. Notwithstanding that the old view of gravity as a force is now invalidated, its proponents were enabled to successfully design and operate their complex machinery on the basis of gravity as a force. There had to be a point from which to orient thought with relation to gravitational phenomena. Even so, in the practice of Christian Science, we treat the problems of human experience as if they were the products of a hypothetical mortal mind. Only so do we find it possible to orient ourselves with regard to the seeming. As Mr. Kimball used to say, "it" acts like a personal devil and must be handled accordingly!

As a scientific designation, "mortal mind" characterizes the claim which we are obliged to consider in order to correct our current interpretation of existence. As we progress, it may become valueless to us, but right now it remains a useful expression to cover something wholly within the sphere of falsity, and demonstrably so. From the belief side of the question, it is the basic claim that must be dealt with in a practical and vigorous way. The attempt to disregard it would be a tacit admission of its pretentions to reality. Failure to recognize it as a claim only subjects you to its pernicious influence, since it is the claim of an evil, active presence which will handle you if you don't handle it (S&H 234:26-27, Mis 284:25-28).

It is patent that the claim there is evil has not been disposed of so long as there lingers the faintest evidence of evil in our universe. Granting this, the question is: What can be done about it? Perhaps it might be well first to see why we call this claim that evil is by the particular name "mortal mind," and then to look into its nature somewhat in order to analyze it away or resolve it into its native nothingness.

If infinite good is immortal Mind, then finite evil could most appropriately be termed mortal mind. That there could be a consciousness of evil, or evil consciousness, would imply that consciousness is evil, since all experience is indisputably mental, whether evil or good (Un 8:5-8). Ultimately, the claim is that Mind is not infinite and divine, but that it is finite and evil. To reduce this to its final essence, the claim is that perfect Mind can unfold negatively as imperfect matter, finite rather than infinite in every aspect, hateful instead of loving in impulsion. The greatest evil, being the suppositional opposite of the highest good, would be the reversal or negation of everything that is good – the claim of evil presence, action, power (S&H 368:1-2).

The claim that Mind is not divine, is the claim of evil intelligence, consciously directed malice, preconceived perfidy (S&H 282:26-27). If you can be persuaded that error is merely inert ignorance, you are already its victim. The postulated opposite of omniactive Principle is not by any means passive ignorance. It is a claim of active evil. It certainly does menace you in your human experience, and you must make no mistake about that! The claim is that it will take the initiative if left to itself (S&H 446:31-32, My 210:19-11, S&H 234:26-27). The negation or negative appearing of irresistible Love is aggressive hate. The reverse of benign Mind would be malicious mentality.

But let's not build up a straw man just to knock him down. What we are driving at is simply the practical necessity for handling aggressive mental suggestion away instead of naively ignoring it. Its appearance is our acceptance of it, hence it remains for us to actively reject it (Man 42:4-7, 84:2-3).

All evil experiences must be understood as malpractice. Not the result of malpractice, but malpractice itself. "Mental malpractice" means wrong mental practice, and that includes all evil thinking. The claim that there is a malpractitioner is, therefore, the claim that there is mortal mind. Then we are never dealing with malpractitioners as persons, places or things, but with the evil mentation of mortal mind. If we are far enough along in our Science, it is malpractice which we handle in each and every case – and that is an impersonal proposition, as you can readily see. It is still a little confusing to say that a malpractitioner is being handled by mortal mind; it is more scientific to say that what you call a malpractitioner is only the way in which mortal mind, as the only malpractitioner, appears. That is why you can safely affirm that malpractice has no channels, mediums or instruments, in the absolute sense.

This false consciousness, or negation of God, is the supreme spiritual wickedness in the high places of consciousness, in the Pauline sense. It seems rather important to get clear on the fact that this negation of infinite good, though multiform in appearance, is necessarily single. This opposer of good is the evil one or the one evil in its ubiquity (My 130:15 only). This is not hard to grasp when you consider that there is but one ignorance, no matter how many forms it assumes. Doesn't your individual thought appear to be a whole crowd of thinkers often in the night dream? And the movie film is not multiplied when its projected image increases from one character to a multitude. Never be dismayed by error's claim to magnitude or multiplicity, for illusion is a state of thinking, not things.

It is the claim of consciousness as evil which is the devil standing in the holy place, scanning the earth with jaundiced eye. Embracing the finite sense of the universe, it can only deceive by coming as "I." Isn't the claim always that you can't help interpreting erroneously the divine creation and government? Isn't the claim always, I am in need, or I see an accident, or I cannot understand? If you say I am a corporeality, or I cognize a material universe, thought can be as material as pig iron! But it can only come as I. Mortal mind could only gain acceptance surreptitiously, by claiming to be you. You would not for a moment be deceived unless it came to you garbed as I (S&H 210:25-28).

If you can be induced to accept mortal-mind suggestions as your thinking, the devil's wicked design is fulfilled. Your salvation lies in seeing that you are not the evil thinker, for you are constantly at the standpoint of effect, both in belief and in fact. The practical thing is to repudiate the evil thinking as your own or yourself (Ret 67:1-25). If you don't, existence must continue to be to you material and afflictive, for such mentation would pervert everything and drag you down from the pinnacle. "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth within me." (Romans 7:20). The belief and the believer are inseparably one, as the claim of evil cause with its effect, but it is your business to see that this one is not you (My 242:3-10).

Watch out that you do not entertain the frustrating suggestion that the only mind you know is self-evidently finite, limiting, human, and that it can no more escape its intrinsic limitation than can the human eye view itself. This is an impasse only from the belief side. It is for the very reason that man's Mind is God, that he cannot be held in subjection. It is the claim of mortal mind which would victimize you, and you must turn on evil suggestion as Jesus did: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44). As long as it can operate undetected as I, it appears as your own thinking or believing, and comes with wicked intent. Don't stay there wrangling, though, or you will soon become convinced that mortal mind is, after all, your nemesis. The escape? As always: to recognize the evil as inverted good and so to right it. "Agree with thine adversary quickly." (Matthew 5:25).

The stigmatizing of mental suggestion as aggressive is of such vital moment that Mrs. Eddy made it one of the very few definitely metaphysical requirements in the Manual. If mortal mind can ingratiate itself as something innocuous, it will lull you into apathy and so subjugate you (S&H 102:20-23). But it stands as an evil animus, the negative appearing of true action, the divine impulsion coming as directed hate rather than intelligently intentioned love. This vicious motivation would rob you of your peace and joy and satisfaction, if you let it, for that is its nature and purpose. To naively disregard the claim is to subject yourself to its ravages in belief (S&H 446:31-32).

All wrong thinking, or malpractice, is malicious essentially – even though it may come in the guise of good – since the one malpractitioner is evil. While this may appear to you as person or persons (yourself or others) malpracticing, do not be deceived by the language or form of expression utilized by mortal mind. Malpractice can only be where there is the belief of malpractice, for it is wholly belief. No disease or disaster is ever the result of malpractice; it is the malpractice (S&H 411:24 only). A false belief is not the outcome of wrong thinking; it is wrong thinking which appears as belief. Malpractice is not the cause, but the result. And where is that but where its evidence arises? Are you accepting it, either as your own personal belief or as your belief that someone else believes it and indulges it? In a way, everything that is not of God would have to be malicious mental malpractice, wouldn't it?

In order to usurp the throne of Divinity, mortal mind claims to match the Supreme Being at every point, but negatively. For unerring, free and constructive thought, it presents chaotic, inflexible, disastrous mentation. Instead of the infinity of flawless Spirit, it is manifest as decadent matter. It would displace Soul with gross sensuality, Life with death, Truth with error and Principle with vicious mentality. The character of mortal mind is in every way contrary to that of immortal Mind. Mortal mind, by the very nature of the case, would have to be finite, restrictive, afflictive, disruptive, inharmonious, deceitful, perfidious, constantly declaring imperfection in opposition to the perfection of being (S&H 252:16-8).

The claim of mortal mind would operate to deprive you of everything worth-while and desirable. And until you do away with mortal mind as something – through establishing divine Mind as the only Mind of you – mortal mind is active in belief as your thinking, embodying as it does all that is finite and material. After all, isn't matter essentially just limitation? Isn't it reality outlined finitely in duration and extent? Yes, matter and mortal mind are one and the same thing. This is readily enough understood with regard to your night dream, in which unadulterated mentation is called matter; but the same point is not so readily accepted with regard to the so-called waking experience. It can be, though, and must be, in order for you to gain your dominion.

When assailed with the claim that your Mind is finite, material, mortal, counter that with the confident assertion that this that is Mind unfolding as your consciousness must be infinite, spiritual, divine, and that it cannot unfold negatively as anything else but itself and in accord with its divine nature. To see that evil mind and all its forms are divine Mind inverted – but divine Mind – is to rectify the inversion, and to find yourself truly alone with God, and all the hateful aspects of mortality fading away. "This is Life eternal" – and this is divine Mind. Appropriate your heritage through your God-given authority (S&H 325:2-5).