Progress and human nature
IN a year punctuated by the remembrance of World War II, people sometimes wonder about progress. Has humankind grown more able to establish genuine global harmony since that conflict? Is human nature even capable of progressing out of the self-interests and small-mindedness that lead to terrorism and violent confrontations? Progress, at some periods simply assumed to be ongoing, today seems less automatic, perhaps barely possible. Actually, the answer to questions about mankind's progress ought to rest on a more substantial base than the clinical tabulation of the dark and bright elements of human nature evident to the eye. When we ask spiritual sense, a faculty we all innately possess, about the prospects for progress, we find abundant grounds for hope. Spiritual sense assures us that God, divine Spirit, and not the divergent wishes of millions of finite minds, governs the universe, and that His universe--the only one there reall y is--is held in perfect order. Therefore the progressive appearance of Spirit in the course of human events is certainly possible; it is in fact the imperative unfolding of God's own law. Of course, if man were really that creature seen by the physical senses--a personal ego with intermittent flashes of altruism--we might reasonably doubt that even his sincere efforts to outgrow self-oriented drives and fears and to stabilize relationships on earth could be ultimately effective, given the flaws in his own nature. But this is certainly not the Bible's inspired view of man. Describing man as the image of God, the Bible reveals that he is wholly formed of Spirit; he is not that half-angel, half-animal, admired but also distrusted, by reflective observers. His spiritual selfhood is glimpsed in the noble qualities we see in the human spirit--in a broad, compassionate outlook; in the ability to appreciate the good in individuals and nations. Because such qualities originate in God, they have permanence, whereas the de mands of a finite ego, however insistent, have no such substance. From time to time people have speculated that the human race might be ``improved'' only by a bizarre manipulation of behavior or the engineering of genes. Or they have believed improvement to be impossible until a remote end time miraculously changes human character. But as the real nature of man is understood, progress for mankind becomes a natural and present possibility to which we can direct wholehearted spiritual effort. It is attainable because the good in human nature is upheld by divine law, whi le evil can claim identity only so long as it is undetected and unchallenged. This isn't to say that progress is automatic or without cost. Christ Jesus had no illusions about humankind. He called the devil, or carnal mind, both a liar and a murderer in its relentless attempts to oppose the truth.1 But he also showed, in healing the sinful and demented, how normal it is for moral integrity and mental balance to move to the forefront of human thought. To him such good was not far off, requiring a time span before progress could be seen, but just at hand. He said: ``Say not ye, T here are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.'' 2 When the carnal mind surrenders even slightly to the universal, healing Christ, spiritual power enters human experience --making, for example, obvious forms of enslavement and despotism, once commonly practiced, increasingly unacceptable to most people. Our prayers--anchored in a perception of God's supremacy and of the true nature of man--can also expose as illegitimate the carnal mind's subtler tyranny, which says that part of human nature must always work against the moral and spiritual quickening that can make peaceful relationships on earth possible. Mary Baker Eddy3 writes: ``Being is holiness, harmony, immortality. It is already proved that a knowledge of this, even in small degree, will uplift the physical and moral standard of mortals, will increase longevity, will purify and elevate character. Thus progress will finally destroy all error, and bring immortality to light.'' 4 It is our privilege to participate in the great spiritual adventure of our time--bringing God's law of progress to light in today's events. 1 See John 8:44. 2 John 4:35. 3 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 492.