Fern Lodge Talk May 24, 2012 by Diana Davis Butler, C.S.
Good afternoon! It has been such a privilege to metaphysically support Fern Lodge this month, and I’m so grateful to be here with you today. Since I have been in the public practice, I have had the opportunity to work with nurses at different facilities, and I must tell you, my respect and love for all of you and the work you do is boundless. You are our “foot soldiers” – the front line of our Movement. And I know how difficult it can sometimes be to deal with the pictures mortal mind presents on a daily basis. Yet, you do it with grace, dominion and such a sweet sense of love. Before I get started with the talk, I wanted to share something I found that made me smile, and I thought you would enjoy.
As you may know, Gilbert Carpenter spent time in Mrs. Eddy’s household and was a teacher and practitioner of Christian Science. He compiled 500 what he called “Watches” for practitioners from his many years in the healing practice. This one is in regards to nursing:
“WATCH that you hold a right concept of what it means to be a Christian Science nurse. He or she should be one who can bring to a patient a bright expectant thought of good, and its immediate effect in healing the sick. Hence no nurse should be expected to stay on duty day and night, nor to continue on a case too long, since it becomes difficult to hold one’s bright and expectant faith, if one is forced to be in contact with the evidence of the error, and the despair of the patient for too long periods.
A Science nurse should not be one who sits in the room all day reading Science and Health. He or she should not be afraid to be compassionate and human, caring for the simple needs and demands of the patient. They should be able to prepare food in attractive and appetizing ways, since so often one of the problems with a patient is eating. It is often necessary to tempt the patient with a small quantity of attractive food several times a day.
Mrs. Eddy was highly indignant with Science nurses who were clumsy and inefficient in the sick room,— according to Adelaide Still, who was her maid. Sometimes she would remark concerning such a one, “She is good for nothing except to be a practitioner,” implying that the one in question knew how to bring the arguments of Science to a patient, but had never made the demonstration to apply his or her understanding to the simple human needs.”i
So, as a practitioner, when I learned I was to give this little talk, I began praying to see what I could possibly say that would help you do what you do so well. What came to me surprised me, and for a little bit puzzled me as well. It was “handle spiritualism.” Spiritualism? I don’t know about you, but my immediate response to that word conjures up visions of séances, dark rooms with candles, crystal balls – you know, like the T.V. show Medium or Ghost Whisperer. Somehow, I don’t think any of that is going on here! But the message was clear, so I began to really examine it. Of course, Mrs. Eddy felt this topic was important enough to devote a full chapter to it in Science and Health. While I love the many wonderful, helpful truths in that chapter, I had also just assumed the title was meeting a belief that was popular in “her day”, but not as relevant to us. But as I began to think about it, I realized Mrs. Eddy’s vision was light years beyond “her day”, so obviously this was a pretty lame explanation.
Still, while there are many who do subscribe to these beliefs and we should be aware of that, there must be a deeper meaning to “handling spiritualism” that will bless our living of Christian Science and make us better healers. So what is the root of spiritualism? Why was it so important to distinguish its beliefs as opposed to Science, that she was inspired, even directed, to write a 30 page chapter entitled “Christian Science vs. Spiritualism” and place it 4th in the chapters of the Christian Science textbook? And, more to the point of the immediate need, how does all this relate to Christian Science nursing? Well, in the first paragraph I found this sentence, “The testimony of the corporeal senses cannot inform us what is real and what is delusive, but the revelations of Christian Science unlock the treasures of Truth.”ii Isn’t that a wonderful summary of what a Christian Science nurse (and for that matter all who are involved in the activities of this facility, including patients and their families) is working to demonstrate every moment of every day? “The testimony of the corporeal senses cannot inform us what is real and what is delusive, but the revelations of Christian Science unlock the treasures of Truth.”iii We see these “treasures” actively expressed as a loving touch, a pillow rearranged, a family member comforted, and ultimately in healing – the revelation of the spiritual perfection, health and freedom of man that has never been interrupted for a second, regardless of how loudly and persistently error would try to proclaim otherwise.
So how would error use the beliefs of spiritualism to obscure or block that revelation of Truth? I doubt that anyone here believes that the “spirits” of those who have passed on can return and communicate with those still here, or somehow influence or possess them, either for good or ill, which is the basic tenant of spiritualism, so perhaps we need to look deeper into the root ideas underlying those beliefs. Have we really outgrown them, or have they simply changed their costumes and returned under a different guise?
Mrs. Eddy says: “The age has not wholly outlived the sense of ghostly beliefs. It still holds them more or less.”iv I thought it might be helpful to examine some of these “ghostly beliefs.” She also says, “ Socalled spirits are but corporeal communicators.”v What are the “corporeal communicators” of our day? What influences do we accept, fear, even unwittingly allow, to govern our thoughts and actions? One doesn’t need to look far to see that we are constantly bombarded with false suggestions, some overt and others more subtle.
Let’s just spend a few minutes to examine three that are so prevalent and aggressive today that we almost have learned to either overlook them, or cower before them in the corner holding the “Scientific Statement of Being in front of us like a movie character fending off a vicious vampire with his cross, rather than truly understanding their nothingness and inability to influence God’s man – the ONLY man.
First, we’ll take a look at the varied influences of the mass media, in general and specifically in relation to the so-called medical laws of health. Second we’ll touch on the atmosphere of hate being generated in the name of entertainment. And lastly, we’ll examine the emphasis on aging and its inevitable result in death – and how to deal with it by following Jesus’ example.
You can’t turn on a radio, television or even computer without realizing that the fear of disease is being marketed aggressively, successfully and relentlessly under the guise of “health laws”. We could do the entire afternoon on this topic, but no worries – I’m only going to touch on it. The selling of disease and the fear of it is even being recognized by medical authorities as becoming a “self-fulfilling prophecy” in cases that they cannot explain physically or really understand. You can Google “nocebo effect”, ” – basically the discovery that if you advertise a “new” disease people will develop it. It has been dubbed “placebo’s evil twin. You’ll find some interesting articles about this, and doctors don’t really understand what is going on. Of course, as Christian Scientists we do understand what’s going on. “Mortal mind sees what it believes as certainly as it believes what it sees. It feels, hears, and sees its own thoughts.”vi
And I suspect, in addition to rolling our eyes, shaking our heads, and fast-forwarding through the ads, most of us are alert to daily, consciously deny and annul this supposed power of error by actively acknowledging that there is NO “medical mind” alias “mortal mind” – there is only one omnipotent Mind, which is thinking the thoughts of everyone on the planet – and that Mind cannot be mesmerized. The one impersonal evil called mortal mind, (and masquerading as “the masses” or “minds many”) is nothing, has no identity, no source and no medium in which to operate, because all is Spirit, not matter.
Have you, however, considered the more subtle and not-so-subtle, far-reaching ripples that stem from these fearful suggestions? It begins with a re-emergence of an old theological premise – predestination. We all thought that one was dead and buried, but it has returned with a vengeance, cleverly disguised as genetics or heredity. Our DNA, it solemnly pronounces, predetermines almost everything about us, including what diseases we will experience. For good or ill we have inherited a map of our possibilities, and we cannot change the route. Are we consciously recognizing and denying this false claim? I love to think of DNA as “Divine Nature Appearing” and to quickly agree with it as my adversary. Yes, we ARE predestined! We are predestined, hard-wired even, to spiritual perfection and immortality. As the Bible promises we have a “goodly heritage.”vii
There is a wonderful statement in Science and Health. It reads, “Material man is made up of involuntary and voluntary error, of a negative right and a positive wrong, the latter calling itself right.”viii This took on a deeper meaning for me when it was pointed out that in the medical world a negative is a positive. If you are tested for something, a negative result means you don’t have it and that’s good. This made is very clear that by subtly changing health into the absence of disease, error is trying to make itself real. It cannot do it! Light is not the absence of darkness – darkness is the absence of light! Why does this matter? Because light is something – and darkness is nothing. Health is real – and disease is unreal! Because health is the something, disease cannot replace it or interfere with it, but health eliminates disease. And health is a quality of Spirit – an attribute of God, therefore ever-present. Error doesn’t want us to remember that. But we cannot be fooled or influenced by these illusive suggestions – we have the mind of Christ.
Then, of course, there is the matter of food. Its influence begins before birth. Did Mom eat the wrong things? Did she (gasp) drink coffee while pregnant? Are we eating the right things now in the right amounts? Is our food polluted and/or without nutritional value? Can it cause – you can pick the “disease de jour” to plug in there. Further, the newest plague in America seems to be obesity – overindulgence in foods that are without substance. Isn’t this simply sensualism, or pleasure in matter, being taken to extremes? Are we steadfastly proclaiming for temperance and man’s natural satisfaction with Spirit? You may have read of Calvin Fry, Mrs. Eddy’s long-time secretary, when after a long night of prayer over some problem Mrs. Eddy called him and had him write down a statement Mind had given her. Months later, a salesman approached her about having a silver Christian Science spoon made. (These were apparently popular at the time.) She loved the idea and said she knew just what to put on it and asked Calvin to fetch the sentence she had dictated those months ago. Well dear Mr. Fry had not filed it like he usually did. But he was steadfast! He mentally declared that animal magnetism could not make him lose one word God had given Mrs. Eddy. With that firm declaration he went right to the drawer where he had laid the statement. It read, “Not matter, but Mind satisfieth.”ix Are we living that truth?
On the other end of the scale – wide spread hunger at home and abroad – are we actively knowing that Spirit is constantly supplying infinite abundance – true substantial abundance – that blesses and does not disappoint – to all Her children, regardless of geographic location? If not, we are still believing in the “ghost” of materialism and that unfortunately opens the door of thought to all of its suppositional baggage. The spiritual fact is that food does not regulate the life of man. It cannot influence our health, and error cannot make us believe it can. As we realize this great fact, our intake, elimination, balance, etc. will manifest human normalcy – and we will see that in those we care for as well.
What about the suggestions that we live in a stressful world and that stress can quite literally kill us? There is too much to do and too little time to do it. We have huge needs and few resources. And on, and on. I don’t remember where I saw this little statement, but I thought it was pretty cool. It read, “Instead of telling God how big your problems are, you need to tell you problems how big your God is.” We know this! Do we do it? Do we make it a point (moment by moment, one thought at a time) to stay in the perfect, reliable now where God is ALL. Do we constantly dialogue with God as we go through our busy days? “Ok, Father, I’m listening – what would you have me do now?” It takes less time to listen for the angel message that will direct your next step then it does to think of all the things you need to be doing and don’t have time to do. Those angel messages almost always come as quiet intuitions in our own thought. The trick is learning to hear them, and then being obedient to them. Often they don’t follow the human mind’s idea of what makes sense, but they always bless far more than our little plans could ever do. Are we careful to truly see and rejoice in the good God is bestowing on us every moment – to let the “divine energy of Spirit”x move us forward with grace? These simple, yet profound, steps literally exorcise the “spirits” of discouragement, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed – and they bless all those we contact with the one spirit of Christ.
Once you begin to look for the subtle influences, (and I know you’ll discover many more than those I’ve mentioned) it is really quite fun to recognize them and dismiss them as false. And this brings me my second topic: the aggressive media influence of opinion, fear and hatred. It seems mortal mind wants to keep us distracted tilling its soil of human opinion – which is usually hateful, fearful, ignorant, and/or violent. It is impossible to completely escape, although our dear Christian Science Monitor is a wonderful oasis. Mrs. Eddy wisely said, “In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless.”xi Wow! That one brought me up short. (I was a political science major, so you can imagine I had some pretty strong opinions about many things.) But then, isn’t “my opinion” just another way of saying “personal sense”? When I saw that, I realized I didn’t need to have an opinion about everything. And I began to consciously watch what thoughts I was entertaining – and being entertained by. I began to stop the mental gossip of sympathizing with error’s scenarios, criticizing others, being offended by so-called slights or differing opinions. After all, personal sense is all that reacts with fear, doubt, anger or hurt and personal sense is mortal mind’s false claim to have an identity. We have God given dominion not to give it ours or anyone else’s in our own consciousness – but we have to exercise that dominion. It was tough at first, but as I persisted, it became so clear that it really doesn’t matter what “I” think, it only matters what God knows. And I can trust what Mind is knowing, being, doing. It is always peaceful, abundant in grace, pure in quality, and blesses all. Love doesn’t play favorites, and no one is left out. There is a newfound peace from this view that makes it worth the effort to attain it. I’ve dropped many opinions. Now I see that I need not to have an opinion about ANYTHING – but I must confess, that one’s a work in progress!
In handling the constant appearance of contention presented by our dear mass media, as well as in individual cases where there seems to be a conflict involved, I have found Mrs. Eddy’s advice most helpful. “We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, —determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is, unless the offense be against God.”xii
This brings me to my last area of discussion – that of the aging process which ends inevitability in death. We all see it everywhere. It begins with the “terrible twos” and ends with “senior moments”. (Do you ever use that expression when you forget something? Be alert to what error is trying to get you to accept.) In between there are irresponsible teenagers, pressured thirty-somethings, those in mid-life crisis, and the downhill slide into senior citizenship (euphemistically called the “golden years”) and of course, death. Face it, according to popular belief we all have a terminal disease – it’s called life. And that should alert us to the spiritual fact that the false belief we really need to handle is that of birth into matter – where it is all supposed to “begin”. Yet, Mrs. Eddy affirms of man “Never born and never dying …”xiii
Still, we seem to be here so how, you might ask, does this negative sense of aging relate to spiritualism? Well, it hit me one day that the belief of age is nothing more than a fancy presentation of astrology. Astrology? Just so. Astrology tells us the movement of the planets dictates man’s experience. Age is the belief that the movement of the earth around the sun pretty much dictates man’s potential, experience and decline. Therefore, it is nothing more than a universally accepted superstition!
But, at least to me, it seems pretty difficult – dare I say impossible – to completely ignore what mortal mind is so blatantly screaming on every side. And, like each of you, much of my practice must deal with the beliefs of aging on some level. It is wonderful to claim “I am an ageless immortal being” – and we all should – every day, many times each day if possible – and we can claim it for each other too. But frankly, that isn’t enough. And I know that every time I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. So I asked God, “How am I supposed to look at this belief from my present understanding? I mean, it looks like I’m on this train that has entered the tunnel of “senior citizen” which won’t let me off and I know there is a cliff at the end called “death.” I’ve seen others go right off of that cliff. What am I supposed to do with that?”
God is so good! Love’s gentle answer didn’t come all at once, but it did come and it has been such a life-changing message for me. Of course, my job is to continually remind myself of it and put it into practice, but that’s so much fun. Now I’m speaking in the first person, because that is how it came to me, but I know this really is true for everyone. What came to me was the realization that I really am a divine idea held perfect in Mind. I am looking out from Mind to its own infinite consciousness, or universe – and because that Mind IS infinite, it is ever unfolding Itself to Itself as me. My identity is a fixed fact in eternity! I was never born into matter, so of course, I cannot die out of it! This mortal dream may seem to begin and to go on, and it may seem to end, but I’m not in it – and I can trust Love to lead me out of the sense that I am – through Life, not death. I wake each day with the joyous expectation that Mind is revealing to me something of Itself that I haven’t seen before – and it is glorious! It fills me with wonder, not dread. Let’s remember our leader’s wise admonition: “Life demonstrates Life.”xiv
I know that we all have had to deal with the appearance of a dear one “passing on”. We use that expression rather that “dying”, and it is certainly more accurate, but we need to be certain we are not just replacing the words, while thinking “dying”, but really identifying the thought behind it as a transition, not an end. In spite of the so-called evidence of the senses, there simply is no death, no death process, and nothing to fear! We know this – and we need to know that we know it in the face of the mesmerized picture that seems so real. Are you aware that there is an entire syndrome of “grief” proscribed by error? It is another of those ugly influences that comes in under the guise of sympathy and comfort – evil masquerading (and quite effectively, I might add) as good. Its basis is the one evil – the belief of life in matter – and there is no good or comfort in it. Be alert to this lie! This does not be we need to ignore the human need – not at all. We can hold each other, while we cry over the seeming loss of a loved one. We can be good, empathetic listeners. We can be, like Jesus was, compassionate – and although we may not yet demonstrate to his level by raising the dead, we can mentally refuse to accept the lie of death on any level, right while we are humanly comforting each other. Mentally embracing all those involved in this transition in the love of Life, recognizing that this mortal IS putting on immortality, and consciously affirming the ever-presence of Life, regardless of the picture error is presenting – all of this done silently and consistently, while physically embracing each other in tender arms of support and care – will do much to thwart error’s design and lift us a step higher in our spiritual journey towards the demonstration of eternal life.
When I first began thinking about this talk, this line was in our weekly lesson, from Luke’s description of the crucifixion , “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”xv Now, we’ve all read that line many, many times – and I have always just thought “he died.” But this time I got a different sense of it. Clearly, he didn’t “die”, as the resurrection and ultimate ascension proved. So what did he give up? What ghost? Could it be the “ghost” of life in matter, sustained by matter, governed by material laws and subject to death? I love this idea. Jesus was the way-shower. He successfully “gave up the ghost” and it had nothing to do with death. And so can we – moment by moment, thought by thought! And that is what each of you is helping everyone you care for do. And as we give up that ghostly belief, we see it as healing – sweet, pure and assured.
I think I’m about out of time here, so in summary, we’ve talked about handling modern spiritualism by being alert to the aggressive suggestions of health laws, so-called, and the fears associated with them; refusing to entertain or be entertained by pictures of hatred, anger, and division; and replacing the superstitious beliefs associated with age with the glorious unfoldments of infinite Mind, including giving up the ghost of mortality.
I’d hope you’ve found something in these ideas that you can take with you to bless you and all those you serve. I’d like to leave you with a little prayer for Fern Lodge and each of you. This is something I believe found in the Blue Book, or Divinity Course, that was purportedly used by Mrs. Eddy’s workers in her household. Unfortunately, I noted it some years ago, before I learned the wisdom of recording exactly where I found things I liked enough to write down, and I haven’t been able to relocate the exact reference, so it isn’t included in the footnotes.
“This is God’s spiritual household. Nothing can enter it to annoy or disturb. Nothing can enter it to manifest sin, sickness or discouragement, for God, good, fills this household with a perfect love and peace and governs every member of it. There can be no will-power, obstinacy or animal magnetism to darken the atmosphere of my home, for God does in very deed dwell on earth with men, and governs every event. There is no evil condition of thought that can argue or suggest, or make a law to dominate or control me, or intimidate me, or crush me, or bring any evil to pass upon me, or shut out of my consciousness any good. There is no law of failure —want, poverty, lack or limitation. There is no law but the divine law, which is plenty, abundance, harmony and dominion. No mortal mind or minds, good, bad or indifferent, individual, collective or universal, no mediumship can touch me, or anyone within the radius of my thought this day, for God, good, governs every member of this household with perfect peace and love. If you but knew the infinite capacities of your being, the sublimity of your hope, the grandeur of your outlook, you would let error kill itself. It comes to you to give it life, and you give it all the life it has.”xvi
Thank you, it has been a joy to be with you today!
ii 500 Watches, Gilbert Carpenter #377
ii Science & Health w/Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy p.70: 2-5
iv ibid. p. 353:13-17
v ibid. p. 72:9 only
vi ibid p. 86: 29-31
vii Ps 16:6
viii S&H p.491:7-9
ix We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, amplified edition p.328-329
x S&H p. 249: 6
xi ibid 341:11 only
xii Misc. Writings, MBE 224:11
xiii S&H p. 258:27
xiv ibid p. 305: 7 only
xv Luke 23:46
xvi 500 Watches, Gilbert Carpenter, page 62
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