A few weeks ago the news lit up with physicist Stephen Hawking’s most recent statement about God. He told the British newspaper The Guardian that heaven is a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Though the famed physicist’s longstanding skepticism about the existence of a higher power didn’t come as a surprise, what did surprise me was the instant flashback I had to the moment I came upon Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” for the first time. I opened the book at random, and my eyes fell upon a word that, like Mr. Hawking’s “fairy story,” would be considered somewhere in the realm of fantasy. It was the word “ghosts.” But Mrs. Eddy was using the word in a profoundly different way – to shine a light on God, not away from Him.
Here’s what it said: “[C]hildren should be told not to believe in ghosts, because there are no such things. If belief in their reality is destroyed, terror of ghosts will depart and health be restored” (p. 352). A few paragraphs later, she added, referring to God as the divine Mind: “So long as there are supposed limits to Mind, and those limits are human, so long will ghosts seem to continue. Mind is limitless. It never was material.”
With that simple but atom-smashing idea, I delved into the exploration of "Science and Health," and was soon to find out what true “heaven” is. It is not a hereafter. It is a here now. A present, palpable reality that each one of us can experience firsthand.
Since "Science and Health" is a book based on spiritual laws that bring the teachings of Jesus alive in a way that makes healing a present reality, its author didn’t stay long on the subject of ghosts. But the point she was making there and throughout her book is that material laws are not what drive the universe. In fact, we live in a universe of Spirit – and this Spirit fills all space.
On page after page, Eddy points us to what real heaven is – not a locality, not a place (to believe in or not believe in), but the divine, continuous activity of God, Mind, in consciousness. This consciousness is ours to claim. It is the Mind that looks out from Truth, from a standpoint of limitless good. She made it crystal clear that when we reason out from the physical senses, we have already accepted a narrowly defined world, because we’ve been led to believe we could actually be outside a Mind that is infinite. This acceptance of materiality is the source of sickness, sin, and other challenges in our lives. But through the study of Christian Science it’s possible to lay to rest these “ghosts” – dark and powerless beliefs fed by fear – that (1) there is no God, or (2) there is a God out there somewhere, but for now we’ve been separated from Him.
Though I was far from a child in age when I first read that “children should be told not to believe in ghosts...,” I thought it remarkable that Eddy put it precisely that way, because I felt supported and nurtured exactly as if I was a child – with my innocence and purity already established in Mind, but needing to be felt, to pave the way for embracing such a new and radical viewpoint.
As evidence of her conviction on this point, Eddy put her understanding into practice and was not only a successful Christian healer but also able to teach others to heal. She invited us to know and claim this healing, this heaven, for ourselves and for the world. She saw that this element of healing had been lost shortly after Jesus’ time, and all those centuries later her deep love of the Bible impelled her to bring it front and center for humanity. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” says the Gospel of Luke (17:20), which gives us potent guidance as to where our real peace (and place) can be found – included in Mind, not observing it, or trying to evaluate it, from “outside.”
In her writings, she never promised a heaven that is far off, but one we can live in and prove now. Naiveté and blind faith have no part in Christian Science. Rather, the demand is to see the universe and its rules as subordinate to divine law – and then live out from that premise, as Jesus did. For me, nobody said it better than Eddy who, when referring to Jesus, wrote, “He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause” (“Science and Health,” p. 313).
This is an invitation to live a life full of faith, love, healing, and heaven. Right now. And that’s no fairy tale.
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