" 'Meteorite' Crash Breeds Mass Hysteria." This headline, originally from www.space.com, caught my eye recently. I'd been following this story about the supposed meteorite that hit near a remote Peruvian town because there were reports of noxious fumes that were causing illness. It was one of those eye-catching stories that show up from time to time.
Following the dramatic headline, the article reported: "Some health officials suggest that the symptoms described by the locals, the large number of people reporting symptoms, and the apparently rapid spread have all the hallmarks of a case of mass hysteria." One health official in a nearby city said, "Those who say they are affected are the product of a collective psychosis." Collective psychosis, mass hysteria? Is that a viable conclusion?
Actually, it is. From studying and practicing Christian Science, I've learned that fear is the root of disease. Clearly, the fear that surrounded the impact of the meteor – if exaggerated by gossip and maybe local news stories – could easily lead to a collective expectation that there would be a bad effect. The more people became fearful and shared their fear, the more other people would be inclined to accept this situation as real, powerful – and a danger to them, also. As the saying goes, it's not rocket science to predict what would happen next.
Yet, mass hysteria and illness do not necessarily have to happen next. Jesus' ministry provides us with the guidance we need to stop fear of disease or any other trouble. During his ministry, he helped people see that they were God's perfect ideas, always under divine Spirit's care and love. It follows then that we don't necessarily need to become sick. Mary Baker Eddy, the author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," wrote: "If man is governed by the law of divine Mind, his body is in submission to everlasting Life and Truth and Love" (p. 216).
Having a body in submission to Life, Truth, and Love, or God, is to be spiritual and to be influenced only by God, good. So when we're faced with sickness, hysteria, or reports of contagious disease, we can turn away from the mass fear and focus on what God is telling us about His perfect creation. If a loved one or co-worker is affected by the illness or fears getting it, we can be a "rock" for that individual, refusing to fear or to believe that disease is inevitable.
We do this by watching our thoughts, rejecting any hint that the disease has a foothold, or that even though we don't have it yet, we will need to do so. Right now, each of us is loved by God and provided with the power to resist both fear and mass hysteria. Our substance is divine Spirit, and we can include only spiritual qualities and tendencies. This rules out fear, including the fear of disease.
The Bible presents many examples of the power of right thinking. During a battle between Israel and Syria, the king of Syria sent troops to capture Elisha and his servant. At one point they were surrounded by the enemy army, and the servant, looking at their predicament, asked Elisha what to do. The prophet replied, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." Elisha prayed for his servant, and the young man was able to see that "the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (II Kings 6:8-17).
Elisha could have yielded to fear. But instead, he acknowledged that which was at first invisible to the servant: the presence, power, substance, and law of God. This conviction helped the young man see the help right at hand – and also safely brought the two of them through the experience.
We, too, can refuse to be mesmerized. By looking to God and away from the fear and hysteria, we can discern God on the scene and know His presence, power, substance, and law, and feel it and see it in action.