Academics and spiritual progress

A Christian Science perspective.

Humanity is constantly asked to go along with the assumption that good is limited. For example, in the field of academics, study and learning are considered essentially material processes dependent on the limited human intellect.

Consequently, some pupils are considered capable and others aren’t; some have their place in the world through what academic success can bring, and others are expected to be left out of good. Yet when we turn from a merely materialistic view and open thought to a spiritual sense of good, we can see academics in a different way and begin to prove the unlimited potential of each individual.

The Age, a newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, recently ran an article on one of the top performing secondary schools in the 2011 state exams in Victoria. The school is based on the principles of Christian Science, and the article quoted Principal Sholto Bowen as saying: “We are creating a sense they are all part of a team and not trying to beat [one another]. We are not trying to actually beat other schools.” The article went on to explain, “Mr. Bowen said the school believed that every child expressed the infinite intelligence of God.”

Christian Science shows how, rather than having separate personal minds, each individual is a unique expression of the one divine Mind. Both student and teacher benefit by turning to the one Mind, the source of all right ideas. The grip of the belief in a limited mortal mentality is loosened as we begin to understand God as the source of our being.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote: “Academics of the right sort are requisite. Observation, invention, study, and original thought are expansive and should promote the growth of mortal mind out of itself, out of all that is mortal” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 195). If our motive in studying and learning is to “promote the growth of mortal mind out of itself,” this opens our thought to infinite possibilities for glorifying God and serving our fellow man.

What’s needed to promote good in this way is not a personal intellect that believes it is separate from God, but the expression of qualities and capacities innate to all of us as the sons and daughters of God, such as discernment, perspicacity, comprehension, intuition, creativity, and love. Letting the one Mind direct our study and learning brings clarity to a subject, revealing underlying principles and the relationship between ideas, and showing us how to follow constructive ideas rather than getting bogged down in distractions.

The Bible records that when Jesus was 12 years old, he astonished others by his ability to converse with religious leaders in the temple in Jerusalem (see Luke 2:46, 47). Jesus understood his relationship with the one Mind. His life illustrated the Christ, which is described in Science and Health as “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332).

This “divine message” is actually present with each of us, enabling us to discern more of spiritual reality. In academics, the Christ enables us to grasp the relevance of the subject in terms of the good it can promote. For example, a history lesson might deepen our appreciation of why policies based on ethics and morality are ultimately more successful than those based on selfishness; learning about other cultures can help us embrace people with a more expansive love; mastering mathematical concepts can have practical usefulness in our lives; the arts are a way of sharing inspiration as well as developing the discipline required to realize a creative vision in a particular art form. Whatever in the subject hints at the wholeness, integrity, order, beauty, wonder, and love of Deity is worth pursuing.

In considering what kind of academic path to take, pupils can let Love inspire in them the desire to be of genuine service to others and contribute to humanity’s growing out of material limitations. Letting God guide, it’s natural to experience enjoyment and fulfillment that can come from education. And such an approach helps dispel the illusion that the potential for academic achievement is the privilege of some, but not of others.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.