Error

We hold that if Spirit is, it must be infinite and therefore All (My 357:22 only). But appearances certainly belie the facts, don't they? If, as working metaphysicians, all we were concerned with was infinite Mind infinitely manifest, there would be no occasion for Christian Science practice – which is the application of divine Truth to human experience (S&H 127:15-16). However, the obtrusive evidence of something contrary to spiritual being is constantly before us, so that the inescapable demand is incessantly pressing us for action, defensive and offensive (S&H 234:26-27). What are we going to do about it? What can we do about it?

Are we going to leave it there, with the fatuous statement that everything is perfect – when the evidence of universal perfection is so conspicuously absent? So long as there appears to be anything unlike or besides immutable Spirit, joyous Soul, perfecting and harmonizing Principle, there is assuredly something required of us of a practical nature. We cannot sidestep the urgent need for some intelligently directed endeavor to establish divinity in our present experience in place of the evils inherent in materiality.

Of the thirty billion persons estimated to have been born since the dawn of history some six thousand years ago, no responsible leader had proposed any concrete system for meeting this fundamental issue until the advent of Mary Baker Eddy, in this century of sound films, winged transportation, multicolor television – and, yes, cynicism. True, Jesus utilized some sort of a redemptive system successfully, but the record does not show that he left a workable explanation of it. "It was not the time," perhaps – meaning that the thought of the day possibly was not prepared to grasp his teaching and hand it on down to us. His example, of course, has remained an inspiration, an incentive and a clue.

But no orthodox religion has offered to stand upon its own works right here in present experience. They have always, one and all, offered nothing more than to prove themselves in some dubious future beyond the grave. Turning to the philosophies, with their ideal worlds of underlying metaphysical realities, we learn that none has made so bold as to put itself forward as the panacea. Dealing as they must with the self-defeating human mind, they have found themselves helpless to alter this hard world of physicality which would enclose us, to all appearances. Lastly, the sciences when summoned to mankind's side admit frankly that their studies treat of effects only, leaving the final solution of all problems untouched. Lamely, and with a faint hint of skepticism, they leave salvation "to the metaphysicians."

This is the very point of radical departure for the religio-scientific philosophy of Christian Science, for Mrs. Eddy proposes a method for bringing the principles of being down out of impractical theory into the realm of practical demonstration or proof. "The Word made flesh" is God-with-us, or Immanuel, and it could be of no tangible value to us unless it did reach us where we are at the moment, in belief or otherwise (S&H 144:27-29). Failure on the part of many of her followers to see this and to make it plain to others, has contributed to the general impression that we are starry-eyed dwellers in wishful thinking. Let it be reaffirmed often that Christian Science does not provide an escape into private worlds of imagination, but a practical means of facing and solving the problems of human existence, and so establishing God's will on earth as it is in heaven. If it didn't do this, it would be another empty hope, a snare and a delusion no better than the perennial ologies and isms.

Viewed from the seat of Spirit, there is only one creator and one creation, and this creation is perpetually unfolding because of the nature of its prolific Principle (S&H 502:29 only, 507:28-2). But the acknowledgment of this fact does not give you license to lie down and just let anything unfold, good or bad, illusorily or actually! From the very inception of our Movement, our footsteps have been dogged by the tempting argument that, if all is good, there is nothing for us to do, which is summarized in the specious plea: "Let God do it!" Such a passive attitude abandons the initiative to evil – so long as there is the claim that such a thing persists (as it blatantly does right now) – and so invites disaster. Christian Science rules out the do-nothing policy.

One of Mrs. Eddy's own lieutenants, John Willis, once gave a convincing editorial in the Sentinel to the effect that our attitude should be the passive one. The ink was hardly dry before his teacher published a vigorous refutation of his thesis, under the same title, "Watching versus Watching Out." And so important was the matter regarded that the Editor was directed to print an apology to follow the next issue (Sentinel, Vol.8, pages 40,56,72). Mrs. Eddy's statement is reproduced in "Miscellany," in which "a negative watch" is denounced as no watch at all (My 232:9 to 233:27).

This question is worth exploring.

We contend confidently that the fact of spiritual Being is the truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the truth. We know this as the result of scientific reasoning, we apprehend it through intuition and we prove it through practical demonstration. Yet here we are, painfully cognizant of a material existence in trouble. The inevitable decision, in view of what we know of spirituality as basic, is that this physical experience must be untrue, illusory, insubstantial. So we call it "a lie." But that doesn't seem to do away with it. It is like labeling twice-two-is-five "a mistake" and then just leaving it there. Nor is there anything to be literally destroyed. The twice-two-is-five must not be destroyed, but redeemed – through finding that it is really twice-two-is-four.

A misconception of nothing is impossible. So, instead of disregarding the misconception, we are obliged to correct it. Not only must there first be the truth before there can be a lie about it, but – to get down to a final offset – the lie must be seen as the truth itself misstated. This is the knowledge of error that must precede that understanding which disposes of error, and illustrates the necessity for "telling the truth about the lie." (S&H 252:8-10, 448:9 only). Otherwise, how could you correct the lie? With what would you reach it? If you had the lie existing side by side with the truth, even as a supposition, you would have error in deadly, discouraging parallel with Truth, as persistent and indestructible as Truth itself.

Again, to say that an error has no relationship to the truth is to isolate it beyond repair. No, it must not be dignified as an entity (No 16:11-14). Right where the error appears – and where is that but at the threshold of consciousness? – right where the error appears, exactly there must the truth be proven the sole reality. According to Hosea, "In the place, where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God." (Hosea 1:10). In like vein, our latter-day Prophet argues that Jesus must have been conscious of spiritual man where belief would place material man (S&H 476:32-2).

This is not an effort to localize the divine idea in space, for when it is said exactly where the material object appears to be, right there is the divine idea to be found, it is by no means implied that the divine idea is "out there" at a distance. Where does anything appear except at the point of mental observation? The infinite here of consciousness is where the divine idea appears. That it seems to be external to thought is only part of the illusion that says it is also finite or corporeal. You are never confronted with anything spatially, for it can only come to you as your own present cognition. It is your awareness with which you are always dealing, and that is not outside.

That is why we must admit that matter, as a proposition, is Mind misstated (Mis 174:2-3). A misstatement, being an erroneous mental declaration, is misleading so we must not make the pantheist's mistake of judging the nature of Mind from the appearance called matter. Matter is infinite Mind considered as finite, localized, physical, moribund. This perishable sense of the imperishable would "rob Mind, calling it matter," to use our Leader's arresting words (S&H 251:31 only). In granting that matter must be Truth's negative, we must keep in mind the fact that, being a misrepresentation, matter reveals nothing but indicates much. To understand that matter is substance in error is to see that Spirit is substance in truth, and so to translate substance back into its original form, which is pure Mind (Ret 57:17-18). This is not the spiritualization of matter, but the dematerialization of thought (No 10:21-26).

It might be well to define the word "negation" scientifically. It means truth presented negatively, or in obverse.

The amusing story of the chicken thief suggests itself in this connection. Heard rummaging in the henhouse, he was challenged with, "Who's there?" Hoping that his ebony complexion would blend sufficiently with the night to camouflage him, he called back, "Ain't nobody heah, boss!"

When I say, "I am not here," I am proclaiming my presence in obverse, or negatively, and in so doing am inadvertently exposing my presence. In like manner, the negation called matter is proclaiming Mind in obverse, or shadowing forth Mind negatively. The negative rightly analyzed always serves to bring out the truth. The mechanism of this analysis is elucidated by the modern guessing game, in which a player is required to name an object previously selected in secret by his companions. Permitted to ask any question answerable in the simple negative, he can arrive unerringly at what the thing is not, from which it becomes evident what the thing would have to be.

Christianly scientific handling of evil must reveal the presence and nature of divinity from the implications of opposite appearances, we find (Un 36:6-9). With practice we gain ever greater facility for following the shadow back to its source, so as to see what is being shadowed forth negatively as error, matter. Error declares Truth by reversion for the simple reason that error is Truth itself in its negative aspect (Mis 218:5-6). To apprehend that "evil and all its forms are inverted good," reverses the negation, so enthroning Truth exclusively (Un 53:2-3). This is a crucial operation. After this has been called to your attention, you will find that it is hammered at throughout our books, there being scarcely a page which does not bear some reference to reversal or reversion, negative or negation, invert or inversion, or something else to that end.

In denying good, the acknowledgment is being made that there is good to be denied. Examining the various guises of evil, it is necessary to understand that the false, correctly interpreted, declares the truth. "The wrath of man shall praise Him!" (Psalms 76:10). That is why the successful practitioner does not turn away from error; instead, he turns it, reverses it, so establishing what is appearing in his present experience as the very expression of God. Materiality recognized as the inverted image of spirituality, is automatically reversed, so that spirituality alone remains (S&H 572:10-11).

Failing to appreciate this, the dull student always charges the alert student with pantheism – with putting Mind into matter. It is quite the other way around. Ours is to put matter into Mind, redeeming everything by translating it back into Spirit. Jesus' mission on earth was to do just that (Mis 74:15-17). No one is likely to call that pantheistic who is not himself so earthbound as to be incapable of performing such spiritual translation. He who perpetually warns you of pantheism is the sure victim of his own materiality (Ret 73:19-21). And that's no idle paraphrase! Such a so-called Scientist would try to substitute for substance some indescribable abstraction, a substanceless shadow as inconceivable as a vacuum and just about as satisfying!

There is a school of thought which maintains that nothing is real which we mundane beings can see. They overlook Mrs. Eddy's statement that we, as mortals, do have a perception of spiritual man – imperfect though it may be (S&H 258:25-26, 513:7-10). Also, her assertion that there is more to mortal man than appears on the surface, because he couldn't appear as a mortal unless he first existed spiritually (S&H 267:19-25). His characteristics, even as we see them, indicate spiritual qualities, and the right understanding of them establishes their divinity. Doesn't Paul say the same thing? "The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." (Romans 1:20). That is why the question of spiritual causation is so important to the human being; the understanding of it must correct and transform our present sense of things, bringing about progress (S&H 170:22-24).

The newcomer to Christian Science is inclined to set up a dualism, for as soon as he learns that the spiritual reality differs so radically from the material appearance, he is likely to think of the appearance and the reality as two irreconcilable entities. Yes, he dubs one of them "suppositional," but he's still stuck with it. The only way he can ever get rid of the false concept is to understand that it is not a thing itself, but a true something seen falsely (S&H 257:15-17). Then it is resolved into the celestial. But to say that "it is only a belief" is to admit all there is to it, because that is exactly what it is; it must be lost sight of as a belief through apprehending the truth of it (S&H 270:7-10).

Because this ubiquitous suggestion of parallelism would frustrate any endeavor to demonstrate absolute Christian Science, we must say enough here to scotch it. Mrs. Eddy wrote very little if anything about "counterfeits" in her early works, and she lays but slight stress on that figure of speech in her present books. She uses the expression only to emphasize that what appear to be separate material things must be distinct aspects of Mind's unfoldment materially misapprehended (Mis 60:23-6). A particular lie must be the misrepresentation of a specific fact. Some of her less prudent followers, however, have gone very much further than she evidently intended to go, and so we find many students who have sets of things on both sides of a mental ledger marked "Real & Unreal." To make it worse, we are confronted with a zealous effort to perpetuate a spiritual (real) man and a material (unreal) man, side by side.

In order to lie, you have to have something to lie about; but this doesn't make two (Un 21:7-9). You say that the material universe is a falsity. The important point, though, is to see what it is a falsity about, for without a spiritual reality there could be no counterfeit sense of universe (S&H 247:19-21). Without truth, a lie could not impose itself, even in belief. Because "the reverse of error is true," an error must always indicate a truth (S&H 442:18 only). But we must remember that the false sense is not a creator, but an indicator, or we shall be led astray. On the other hand, Truth does not imply its suppositional opposite. If it did, you could never rid yourself of the serpent at your heels. Truth implies nothing other than itself (Mis 14:21-23). From the standpoint of that which is, that which is not is inconceivable and impossible. It could be only from an erroneous viewpoint, in the realm of supposition, that Truth could appear negatively as falsehood.

There is one statement often made which, if not correctly understood, ultimates in a deadlock, for from it may be inferred a perpetual parallel of evil with good, an interminable conflict, an indissoluble contradiction. It is this: "Underlying and behind every material object is a divine idea." In a certain sense, this is true; but we cannot afford to stop with that relative observation. Mrs. Eddy warned about this from the start, writing that "the fact is not behind the fable, but is all, and there is nothing beside that." (S&H 3rd Edition, 22:15-16). And she was reiterating this thought in her final revisions: "The Science of Mind excludes opposites, and rests on unity." (Ret 75:18-19).

Such dualistic views inevitably result in an effort to bring an unreality into accord with a reality, or else in an attempt to get rid of something. A discouraging prospect indeed! The fundamental discovery of Christian Science was the allness of God, and the gist of its practical application lies in the recognition of God in all things. Our books show unequivocally that a false sense must be of a truth, and that anything therefore which appears to be wrong would have to be a wrong sense of a right something – a sense to be corrected, not a thing to be destroyed or, on the other hand, brought into harmony with some hidden pattern. "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (I Corinthians 15:53).

Naturally. it is essential that we distinguish between the truth of being and the erroneous sense of it. We cannot properly think of man as a material object and then call that the spiritual idea. Nevertheless, we must understand that this which is appearing must be the divine idea, even though finite sense would reverse this appearing and call it mortal man, or material body (S&H 507:28-2). Whatever the material misinterpretation, that which is appearing remains the divine idea, unfallen. We may speak of "counterfeits" for convenience's sake, but let us not get the impression that there are originals and duplicates. In Science, the counterfeit not only presupposes the genuine, but must be the genuine misapprehended. The spiritual reality may not be as you see it, but it is all there is to appear (S&H 502:29 only).

Bluntly, the human concept is the divine idea as it appears to you (S&H 589:16-17).

Suppose you were to see a modern painting, of the abstract type, for the first time and, failing to grasp the import, you were to say – as is too often done! – that you could do better than that without a single lesson. Failing to perceive any relationships between mass and color, or seeking a literal representation of some recognizable object in it, you would likely find it a meaningless conglomeration, without any pretense to pattern or purpose. Then suppose you returned, after a period of art study and experience, to again view the same painting, and found therein a soul-satisfying play of color and light, expressing high inspiration. It would remain the same painting, unchanged, and you would be the same observer. And yet, in a manner of speaking, it would a new painting and to you a real work of art. You could recognize it in its every detail as the same painting, but you would see it differently. Now if you were inclined to dualistic expressions, you would say that the painting was perfect all the way through, but that you had been looking at a false concept of it, and that it was this counterfeit which you disliked. You would most likely add that the counterfeit had been destroyed so that it no longer hid the original. But are there two paintings, a genuine and a counterfeit? They are not two, but one.

As figures of speech, such things may be all right. But when they are carried over into the discussion of pure metaphysics, they cease to be innocuous similes and prove definitely misleading. Learn to discard such relative expressions as "counterfeits" and "antecedents" after they have served their purpose as steppingstones, and go on to see that this daub of materiality called "the universe" is really the spiritual creation, imperfectly seen. The mis-seeing is not a thing, but reality in negative aspect. "For he [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us." (Ephesians 2:14).

The handy expression "in reality" is legitimate in explaining Christian Science, but it should be restricted entirely to the realm of explanation. The use of it in your own thinking when endeavoring to demonstrate Science betrays the notion on your part that there is something else besides reality. It indicates and inculcates an obstructive belief in dualism. Don't declare that man is all right in reality, as though he were all wrong in belief. If you do, it means the belief exists for you. You can only demonstrate that which is – and what are you demonstrating but that the divine fact alone is present? Only from the viewpoint of error is there a false concept to be destroyed, and the erroneous position you must relinquish entirely in order to apprehend the Truth.

It is always the mountain we see through the mist. No matter how dim and distorted it seems, it is still the mountain we see, in spite of the mist (S&H 299:26-30). Is a stone spiritual? you ask. From the human standpoint, no. But in its true nature it must be. To obliterate the material sense of stone would be only to have it reappear in the spiritual sense thereof (Mis 27:27-2). So it is with all things. But you do not substitute a divine idea for a material object. There is no material object. To resolve things into thoughts and then exchange the objects of finite conception for the ideas of Soul, you have to see that what you mistake for material objects must be mental concepts which, in their turn, would have to be misconceptions of divine verities (S&H 123:12-15, 269:14-16). How else is "man's real existence to be recognized here and now? (Mis 30:14-15).

The correct interpreting of what is visibly appearing is the reversal that is redemption. You do not destroy twice-two, even as five; you save it – by finding it to be four. You do not give up, but gain. All that you forsake is the mortal sense of things, never the things themselves. You do not dispose of mortal man, you redeem him – by finding that he is immortal, despite appearances. If you are not spiritual man now, you will never be. Then know thyself! (And that doesn't mean morbid introspection; it means discovering your divine selfhood to be your only selfhood).

As you advance in Science, you come more and more to reverse spontaneously, so that there is less and less of a process about it.

You reject the negative for the positive with ever less labor, just as the practised photographer, studying the inverted image on the viewing-screen of his camera, composes his pictures without confusion or hesitancy. No longer deceived by optical inversion, he perceives his subject as right-side-up (S&H 111:14-18). In a very similar fashion, you automatically reverse your dream universe as you awaken in the morning, to find it mental instead of material. It doesn't cease to be thereby but simply takes on a new meaning for you. And effortlessly.

Because you cannot entertain two contradictory views at the same time, when you see the misstatement as Truth misstated, it can only be Truth to you. There need be no sense of struggle, as the characteristics of divine Truth displace the blighting connotations of materiality.

Alexander Pope was not without spiritual perception when he wrote:

All nature is but art unknown to thee;

All chance, direction which thou canst not see;

All discord, harmony not understood;

All partial evil, universal good.