Early in the 16th century, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon journeyed from Puerto Rico to what is now northeastern Florida. Some historians say he was searching for a "fountain of youth." Others argue that he was merely looking for gold. But his search has come to symbolize humanity's quest for life's source.
Ancient and modern searchers are impelled by an imagination-firing concept that has fueled seekers, writers, and mystics for centuries, long before de Leon: that matter, in an ordinary or alchemical form, holds the secret to eternal life.
What besides modern fountain- mythmaking could persuade so many people to consume ever-expanding quantities of expensive bottled water? Why else do people go on pilgrimages to sacred springs or secular spas that offer rejuvenating or health-restoring effects? And isn't there a fountain-of-youthlike search behind cosmetics that promise healing or "antiaging, rejuvenating" effects on the skin?
These and other techniques may have their origins in a subtly pantheistic belief that the spiritual resides in, acts through, and blesses the material. The pantheistic concept holds that God, the infinite life-giving Spirit, needs and uses matter to create and sustain life. This line of exploration inevitably leads to a dead end.
Who doesn't yearn for a better and longer life? Or even for a more youthful outlook? But isn't the deepest yearning of all the desire to know Life itself – to know the living, breathing presence of God, and to live and enjoy the existence that this divine Life alone can give?
If you're a searcher, perhaps you're ready to consider a radically different proposition about life's source and eternal being. Its starting point is that God is all the Life there is, and that each son and daughter already has a perfect spiritual life as God's reflected image. We are as ageless as the one Eternal, as spiritual as our Spirit-source, as whole as the Soul that authors all creation, and as worthy of love as the Love that animates us.
But what about the body that appears to define existence? Isn't there "life" in organized organic matter? Yes, a kind of life – something like a faint copy of a masterpiece that the senses cannot begin to perceive, because spiritual being can't be discerned through matter.
About 350 years after Ponce de Leon, a Christian explorer bumped up against what she later called "the confines of mortal existence." She wrote: "I learned these truths in divine Science: that all real being is in God, the divine Mind, and that Life, Truth, and Love are all-powerful and ever-present; that the opposite of Truth, – called error, sin, sickness, disease, death, – is the false testimony of false material sense, of mind in matter; that this false sense evolves, in belief, a subjective state of mortal mind which this same so-called mind names matter, thereby shutting out the true sense of Spirit" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 108).
Mrs. Eddy's map for her journey? The Bible, "the chart of life" (p. 24). And she said, "When humanity does understand this Science, it will become the law of Life to man, – even the higher law of Soul, which prevails over material sense through harmony and immortality" (p. 311).
Jesus healed according to the laws of eternal Science, the truth of spiritual life. To a woman drawing water at a well, he said, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). The water of spiritual insight that Jesus offered is available in abundance to any searcher. It awakens us to real and permanent Life. It's no myth or mirage in the desert. Nor is the map leading to the Source someone's secret possession.
Fair warning, though: Drinking this water will have transforming effects. Like the woman at the well, you may find all that you thought life to be, exposed as worth little and ultimately illusory. And all that Life really is, opening to you, giving fresh purpose and strength.
With its healing waters, you can give Life-giving drink to yourself and others.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel (Oct. 13).