Footsteps and Concessions

All things are possible to God – but not all things are possible to mankind at this stage of understanding, obviously. We constantly strive for perfection, but we must not make claims beyond what we are proving, or we shall discredit the work and invite disappointment. Yes, there are innumerable cases recorded and substantiated of the healing through Christian Science of diseases and conditions pronounced incurable by the medical fraternity. But we are not yet walking the water (S&H 323:13-18, 329:5-25). So Mary Baker Eddy speaks of the unfailing success of her doctrine when "applied under circumstances where demonstration was humanly possible." (S&H 147:7-13). Many of us today are convinced that we have seen the dead raised – but not the long-dead. We are not presumptuous, but base our practice on proof.

The competent practitioner would not, because of its severity, hesitate to take any case brought to him, for he knows full well that he can always achieve immeasurable good, alleviate pain and distress, and possibly demonstrate all that could be desired. One thing is certain: our point of view must be that we can always bring about, through our work, whatever is necessary humanly. Whatever has to be done can be done. Of that we are sure. Perfection is demanded of us, but only as we are able to reach it step by step (S&H 253:25-23). How soon the ultimate will be attained is not a matter of time, but a matter of understanding, and that may be rapidly found.

What are called the "human footsteps" are unavoidable aspects of our evolving interpretations of being. That these "steps" should be right is a matter of demonstration, of course. And, remember, you can only demonstrate that which is. There is nothing going on but Mind disclosing itself as that which is, Truth, and that's permanent. That means that there must be a truth to each human footstep. If you regard any action as a temporary expedient, you are putting it outside of Truth, good, and so making it totally evil. See that it is your sense or interpretation of the true action that is temporary, not the action itself. Get everything into Mind, Truth, good, and keep it there (Hea 7:8-13). That is your sole hope. Only by identifying it with good can you bring out the good of it. And you cannot do this without admitting that it is God, good, manifest, though called human activity.

Naturally, God isn't trudging from stage to stage, but your intermediate interpretations of spiritual being, prior to sabbatical realization, must exhibit those stages which are indispensable to your progressing sense of completeness, plausibility and feasibility. While acting up to your highest concept at all times, you can save yourself much heartbreak by not overreaching yourself. "Radical reliance on Truth" does not mean radical defiance of human requirements, but inner spiritual integrity (S&H 167:30-31). If that is maintained, the seemingly outward activities will be all right. Spirituality is subjective and is therefore neither dependent upon nor subject to the objective patterns of human activity. The outward doing is an aspect of the inward knowing. Conformity to finite standards neither promotes not retards spiritual progress. It doesn't touch reality at all (S&H 220:26-30).

Absolutely speaking, we are not doing anything, we are not bringing anything to pass and, least of all, are we creating anything. We are only perceiving, understanding, apprehending that which already and forever exists. Mind does not require time in which to do anything, nor process, because all the things of God, of reality, are now. If you have a goal to reach, know that you are already there. But don't consider the intervening developments in your experience as something going on outside of Truth, in belief, or your fear of their outcome will impair their meaning and value for you. Take your steps as they are given you to take, all the while keeping your eye on the only cause. Only by a right use of your present sense of things can you arrive at the absolute – never by fighting with your sense of reality. If you are really knowing that divine Mind is all there is to unfold, all that consciousness includes will be found both purposeful and successful.

You can learn to let Mind unfold for you without neglecting the demands upon you humanly. When we are told not to "outline," we are simply being cautioned not to visualize objectives materially and then insist that a satisfactory solution can appear in no other way. Speculating or forcing issues from a physical point of view is inimical to progress. But we cannot hope to avoid outlining. You couldn't walk across the room without outlining your course and type of locomotion (S&H 264:10-12). When Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus, he did not say, "If it is right, Lazarus will come forth." No, he seized upon the prerogative of Mind, the Mind which could know no death nor deterioration nor absence, and commanded, "Lazarus, come forth!" While you may not be able to imagine the proper functioning of an organ, you must positively declare its perfection, harmony and completeness before you can demonstrate it healthy. You cannot foretell the course of Mind as humanly perceived, but you can know its inevitable divinity.

It is far more important to know that right is, than to know what right is. In the measure that you affirm and know that right is, you will know what to do, and you are not then likely to ask yourself or anybody else what is the right thing to do or what is the wisest path to pursue in any event. There is nothing iffy about Science. What is right is, and there is no opposite. In all situations, the course you can discern is the right course, as you turn to Principle. Ifs and buts belong to mortal mind. The "good" of mortal mind is always relative; but you establish as your Mind the Mind that is immortal. God is not uncertain. Decisiveness is an intrinsic property of Mind, and you can therefore demonstrate it.

Do not enter upon any undertaking with an if (S&H 422:31-32). Even when the step does not seem right, start with the silent and serene declaration that right is. Then any necessary change will come about in the situation. But when decision is required, do what you feel is right unhesitatingly, with the assurance that comes of the knowledge that perfection is the only law, whatever the appearance. Do not say, "If it is right, I will do it." Say, "Right is!" Then, when judgment has been clarified, take your step and every step to follow with the conviction that Mind's direction is unerring. Mind's communion is manifest in decisive action, for thinking is being and must appear as doing. Such doing does not always conform to the preconceived pattern, nor is it responsive to finite jugglery, mental or otherwise. But invariably the human doing of the Scientist is divinely guided in ways comprehensible to him.

To believe that divine leading comes through hunches, or urges of untraceable origin, is rank superstition. "Voices" are always suspect. Intelligence can only appear as rationality (S&H 223:21-22). God's guidance may come as driving convictions, arrived at logically, or as compelling circumstances. Principle demonstrated is all there is to judgment or circumstances. The outcome may not seem at the time to be what is the very best in the situation, but it will be seen so in retrospect, after further unfoldment has broadened the perspective (S&H 22:18-20). Always, the question of right human footsteps is to be solved scientifically.

All being mental, what you do depends upon how you are seeing things. You act necessarily within your current interpretation of being. You are obliged to proceed according to your sense of reality (S&H 444:4-19). But your progressive knowing changes that sense or interpretation progressively, so that what serves today may not serve tomorrow. You take what appear to be necessary human footsteps for the simple reason that they appear to be necessary. In the ratio that you understand all experience to be Truth disclosing itself, the more cumbersome and involved aspects of your interpretation, its grosser implications, fall away, so that you automatically dispense with the belief of intermediate processes and intervening expedients. Spontaneous being ensues without recourse to "artificial aids" in belief. "leaning on a material prop" merely means misinterpreting. There is actually no "prop" to be destroyed or done away with but, so long as the fact of sustenance appears to be a prop, there is a misinterpretation to be corrected through spiritual apprehension of reality.

You cannot abandon material expedients peremptorily; you must outgrow them. When it is said that we can eventually dispense with concessions and expedients, it is meant that a point will surely be reached where we no longer have to think of results as contingent upon any sort of material procedure or device. In proportion as you grasp the fact that your world is Principle manifest, the inbetweenness of finite means and methods ceases to be a part of your interpretation. The great thing is to see that while these concessions and expedients may be an essential part of your sense of Mind being, nothing whatever depends upon them. They are not the cause of your demonstration, but an incidental aspect or accompaniment. Let us then lay no unnecessary stress on the outward seeming, but rather endeavor to get at the inner reality.

But, you ask, does not progress depend upon refusing to make concessions? On the contrary, "until one is able to prevent bad results, he should avoid their occasion." (S&H 329:15-17). That's concession – and without it, your defiance of pressing demands upon you must prove so disruptive as to stifle the inspiration requisite for progress. If you will just act up to the very limits of your demonstrable understanding, you will progress with maximum dispatch. But plunging beyond your depth is unscientific and foolhardy. As for "taking a stand," that is not a matter of stubborn insistence but a matter of true realization lifting you above finite considerations (S&H 329:21-23). Such realization proves itself practically, and is not a mere retreat into fantasy. It is not a case of doing or not doing something; it is a case of conscious dominion.

Working as Mind, you will neither flee nor pursue seeming externalities, knowing that they are but your subjective view of being, transformed for the better as better understood. Fearing or hating what you term a temporary concession to human belief fixes it as a part of your interpretation of being, so that it is difficult to transcend it. Trying to do away with something gives you something to do away with, so perpetuating it as a problem unsolved. Refusing to take someone's hand who is trying to pull you out of the raging sea is not radical reliance on Truth but an ignorant demand that the Christ shall save you only in the way you imagine he should. If your escape from drowning is by a helping hand, that is your way of seeing good, God, manifest, is it not? (Mis 370:12-13). "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!" (Matthew 4:7).

All this is so beautifully exemplified in Jesus' application of divine law. He did not cavil over forms and procedures. He did not heckle the woman who could only conceive of her healings as coming through the touch of his robe. He knew that the touch of a robe – or the touch of a scalpel – would have to be in the realm of belief, but he nevertheless said, "Go in peace!" He was accepting health as her natural state, notwithstanding her mistaken notion of how it came to her. He did not say that she would have to retrace her steps or that she had relinquished her innate spirituality. Such concessions facilitated the establishment of the gospel light, and he made them in many fields (S&H 56:4-6). He did not evade taxes, so long as they were required of the citizens, but procured the legal tender apparently from a fish's mouth. He did not disdain material clothing, so-called, but wore himself the seamless robe – the most expensively luxurious garment that could be purchased in that day. Even after his resurrection from the tomb, when the disciples were plying him with questions about that event, he asked, "But have ye any meat?" and then went on to eat broiled fish and the honeycomb which they gave him (Luke 24:34-43).

You would not deprive the cripple of his crutches until you could prove that the crutches were an unnecessary gross sense of support or sustenance. If support can only be seen as a crutch just now, thank God that you are able to see support any way. Metaphysically, you understand that idea must be sustained, and the thing that sustains idea is its Principle, whatever this may look like from where you stand. Meanwhile, our sense of need, to be met, must be met according to our sense of it.

If a crutch is our sense of being provided for and we can't see it any other way, we can be unreservedly grateful that we are seeing the fact of sustenance, however dimly and incorrectly. No matter what the form of perception at the moment, we can improve our interpretation of divine provision only by ascertaining the underlying fact more clearly – never by trying to tamper with the appearance directly. To be dogmatic about such things is stupid and cruel. As human beings, we all see things differently and, as Scientists, our job is strictly to achieve and help others to achieve an understanding of Truth and not to dictate human procedures.

No one is immune to the pull of old habits of thought, and nothing is gained by regrets and recriminations. One of Adam H. Dickey's students came upon him as he was donning a pair of spectacles for reading. "Oh, Mr. Dickey," she thoughtlessly exclaimed, "do you wear glasses?" He laughingly countered, "Yes, I wear my error on my nose; where do you wear yours?" You do not campaign against spectacles (S&H 444:7-12). Mapping events humanly is not conducive to the demonstration of divinity. As you come to understand that vision is Mind's awareness, you no longer think of sight as involving glasses. Until then, your glasses may be an essential aspect of your current interpretation of Mind seeing. Observe that students who inveigh against glasses do not inveigh against eyes, per se. That is inconsistent, for both represent the interpretation of the mental as physical.

The necessities of belief remain necessities until you prove that they are no longer such in belief. This does not delay, and assuredly cannot thwart, your progress toward the absolute. One thing that could retard the ascending thought would be for you to engage in controversy over them or see in them something to be defied. That would dethrone the infinity of good. This is particularly noteworthy in the province of dentistry. When you are consulted, as you will be, about fillings and extractions, what are you prepared to think and say? In her famous open letter on the subject, the Founder of the Christian Science movement proclaims to the world that we do not refuse to abide by the usages of men – except in instances where such usages definitely offend conscience (Boston Herald, Dec. 2, 1900; Sentinel, Vol 3, p 217; Journal, Vol 18, p 593). She says, moreover, that if a doctor is called in, it is wise to cooperate with him fully, so as not to raise the belief of confliction. There could be no mistake about her position or her unassailable logic herein. This letter settles the propriety of Scientists wearing dentures.

Granting that a dental cavity is no more than a belief, it is still not something static or arrested which, if let alone, will grow no worse. It is a claim of progressive decay, which means that if the deterioration is not checked it will continue on to the total destruction of the tooth involved. If your awareness includes a dental cavity, you have already accepted and are entertaining unwittingly the belief of increasing disintegration. Of course the claim can be met without recourse to material expedients – and I have myself seen such demonstrations – but it is not being met from a purely metaphysical standpoint unless you have concrete evidence as a restored tooth. Your textbook instructs you to deliberately sidestep difficulties and disasters if you cannot forestall them entirely (S&H 329:15-17). Since everybody knows that a filling does check the ravages of decay, the occasion for bad results can be avoided through having the tooth filled without undue delay. Why should this keep you from eventually proving that there never was a cavity and therefore that there never was a filling? (No 24:25 only).

The demonstration of Christian Science in your everyday living brings about "what is nearest right under the circumstances." If you did not live according to what you call human standards, you would find yourself in conflict with your world. Dentistry means care of the teeth. Properly understood, that won't involve trouble of any sort. It is customary nowadays to have your teeth cleaned and checked at least once a year, and if you are hesitant about consulting a dentist, it is patent that you are believing substance to be evanescent matter and that you are accepting corroding disease as a real power. Declining the services of dentistry, then, would not protect you but would invite difficulties. Thrusting a claim from view unhandled, tacitly confirms it so that you become its victim (S&H 446:31-32).

All of us have observed those pseudo-metaphysicians who risk the loss of their sight by refusal to wear glasses which relieve their eye-strain before they have proven that there is no optical weakness, as well as those who neglect badly needed dental work without the evidence that there is no such need. This mistaken idea of Christian Science demonstration is reminiscent of an anecdote. Wrapped up in a discourse on the unreality of time, it is related that Judge Samuel Greene forgot the clock and only at the last minute thought of his train departure. As he and his friends hurried into the station, the Judge sprinted ahead of his party and managed to board the train which was just pulling out. "Demonstration, Judge! Demonstration!" chortled the ladies with the fluttering handkerchiefs and satisfied smiles. But Judge Greene was on the wrong train!

Let's be sure we're on the right train before we call it demonstration!

Prior to the establishment of Utopia, your demonstration might appear as your finding an honest and competent dentist, who then does the indispensable work successfully and painlessly, and at a price within your means. That is why Mrs. Eddy can say that God, when intelligently appealed to, will lead you into the right choice of a physician (Hea 14:9-17). Fear not; the dentist puts no mortal-mind law on you (as is sometimes averred). No error can stand in your experience without your consent (Mis 83:12-17). Then to what extent would you follow the dentist's advice? Well, if you were convinced your dentist was both sincere and efficient what could you do but respect his expert opinion? However, if you felt dubious about his diagnosis or proposed procedure, you would surely consult other reputable dentists to check on the reliability of his opinion before submitting to his work or accumulating a large bill.

This does not imply that experimenting is desirable, or even justifiable. It means living a normal life according to normality as humanly understood, abandoning such pattern only as it is actually transcended through steady and evident growth Spiritward (S&H 485:14-17). The practice of Science, you see, requires a great deal more than the simple knowledge that Mind heals, as our Leader says. In a vital paragraph, she mentions that "in proportion as a physician is enlightened and liberal is he equipped with Truth, and his efforts are salutary." (Hea 14:9-17). In hospital cases, you will have to know the Truth for the doctor and the nurse as well as for the patient, for all are part of the picture. This is not combining materia medica with Christian Science, by any means; it is bowing temporarily to the necessities of belief, until they can be proven otherwise through your untouched and steadfast knowing.

You are not authorized nor justified in dictating human arrangements for your patients, and you will encounter cases deserving of your attention in which civil ordinances and state laws enforce provisions and restrictions. For instance, in obstetrics, the presence of a registered doctor does not take the case out of God's hands for you, if you know that. Although the event appears to be human, it can be understood as divine and so demonstrated as harmless, useful, beautiful, can it not? Whatever the doctor says, you can know that creation is ever appearing, but that this appearing is not something coming out of something else. You can know that expansion is a property of Mind, and that the appearing is directed, governed and controlled by divine Principle, so precluding mispresentation, premature or delayed action, infection. That which is unfolding is, properly understood, the immaculate conception. Recognizing that man (effect) is never a creator (cause), but reflects God by being creation, does not release you from the duty to establish the divine facts about all that is appearing in your world. What is appearing is always divine Mind as idea, even though mortal sense would invert the appearing and call it a material body (S&H 507:28-2). Without admitting as much, how could you possibly protect your patient from the dangers ordinarily associated with an accouchement? Our textbook states just this (S&H 463:5-20).

An episode from one of Mrs. Eddy's classes, recorded by Rev. James Henry Wiggin and authenticated by my friends of the household, illuminates the question of unavoidable concessions (Georgine Milmine Biography, p 339). "What if I find a breech presentation in childbirth?" asked a pupil. "You will not, if you are in Christian Science," replied Mrs. Eddy. "But if I do?" persisted the questioner. "Then send for the nearest regular practitioner," was our Leader's sage advice. This of course, is no more than a concrete example of what our book teaches (S&H 401:27-3).

Great discretion and even greater compassion is demanded of the practitioner. You will be summoned to patients in hospitals, and you must be prepared to recognize something divine about those hospitals. Any humanitarian endeavor or institution signifies the presence of the Christ idea. At such times, the trite statement that material medicine can't do any good is always at tongue's tip; but the important thing to see is the materia medica is powerless to harm. Be thankful for the comforts and conveniences made available through the kindly ministrations of doctors and nurses, for Love alone provides such things. Mrs. Eddy wrote Mary Beecher Longyear that Christian Scientists should establish greater facilities for philanthropic and charitable activities, and that practitioners could well exhibit better qualifications for practical purposes. "This latter lack in students of Christian Science," she concluded, "is a great hindrance to our Cause and it must be met and mastered." (Sentinel, Vol 19, p 110).

It goes without saying that the Christian Science practitioner is neither technically equipped nor legally permitted to diagnose physical ailments or recommend physical treatment of any kind. And it is well to remember that advising a patient to discontinue medication, to have an operation or to refrain from having an operation, may be construed as falling into these categories. Your business is, under the law, to keep your patient in your prayers, not to keep his physical activities under your direction. The requirements of the law on this score are plain. You can "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" and still maintain your inner integrity as a metaphysician.

Whether you call in a surgeon to set the bone in your broken leg, depends entirely upon whether you are demonstrating that there is no need for such manual aid. If you can't see (demonstrate) that there is nothing out of place, in belief or at all, then its being in place is going to have to appear to come through the practiced fingers of a surgeon. On the other hand, if it is evident that you are making concrete headway with your "purely metaphysical" work, then you are justified in going along that way. Where surgery proves necessary, it will be exactly right if you will but recognize that this is your unavoidable way of seeing Mind in action. Then you can properly and confidently say that the only operation is the operation of divine Mind.

When we give aid to each other humanly, the step itself is not anything at all of itself but is simply our current sense of good unfolding. Such aid can prove of lasting value only as it is understood to be simply a clearer vision of Truth. Human events should always be interpreted divinely; then they are established as something divine and permanent rather than something human and temporary. The final results do not spring from our human footsteps, but from our metaphysical work, and the footsteps are merely incidental to our seeing of good proven in the place of evil. No finite acts are of any significance in themselves. What matters is our reason for undertaking them and what we anticipate from them.

In falling back on physical devices and finite maneuvers, our success through radical reliance on Truth is jeopardized only to the extent that our concession is prompted by unfaithfulness instead of necessity. What we rely upon "materially" is entirely a question of what we are relying upon mentally. You are going to continue to turn to whatever you believe most helpful, and that is the only sound attitude. But what you believe most helpful will constantly change as you apprehend more and more of spirituality. You always act from the standpoint of practicality, while thinking (insofar as you are able) from the absolute. You are obliged humanly to abide by human requirements, but your knowing – to the extent that it is actual realization – will alter the requirements.

As for the course you pursue humanly, you may be sure that you can enjoy your adventures and prove in them your intelligently free activity. When you take a step, you must proceed from that point. Surmises as to what might have happened if you had done otherwise are useless. The simple fact is that you have done thus and must go on making decisions, for which decisions all the infinite intelligence of Mind is yours. Practically speaking, you will have to go ahead in your own way. All you can do is the best you know, always working out afresh what is good to you.

In any sort of an undertaking, you are divinely led in the measure that you actually identify yourself with infinite Mind, and so cease thinking of yourself as having a private Mind apart from others. Then Principle's leading must come practically, in the only way it can, as your being shown the way unmistakably in terms of your own comprehension. Wisdom must appear in the way that is suited to your needs. The knowing that a thing can be done comes to you by way of the so-called human footsteps as yet required according to your present view. Clearly, this is no abandonment of Principle, but is rather the most radical reliance on Truth, since your reliance on principle is contingent upon your apperception of Principle. Complying with your concept of isness, acting within the obvious limits of your demonstrated understanding, does not prevent your knowing the Truth ever more clearly and so eventually arriving at the absolute.

Never desert to your Ivory Tower. Your equilibrium as a metaphysician can be maintained in no other way than by putting your Science constantly to the test. Demonstration is the criterion always, with the practice your balance wheel. Knowledge must be found within but verified without, in human experience.

In closing this chapter it might be well to note that becoming a practitioner is a matter of demonstration, not authorization. Even those listed in the Christian Science Journal must first be successful practitioners, then they can apply for listing. In this country no human authority, ecclesiastical or judicial, can license or prohibit prayer for the sick. Our Movement has fought this issue through all the courts, establishing irrefutably the full freedom of the individual in this field, regardless of his color, class, creed or organizational affiliations.