Affirmation and Denial

         Turning away from false theology and its frequent concomitant, materia medica, years of faithful adherence to which have brought no practical benefit, many an honest seeker finds a stumblingblock in a misapprehension of the radical denials and affirmations necessary to mental work in Christian Science. "I cannot say my rheumatism is any better when it is not; much less that I have not any such thing when I know I have," declared one dear lady, who added, "Every time I make such statements my heart condemns me because I am telling an untruth."

         It will be readily admitted that no good can come from doing violence to one's sense of truth, but it should never be forgotten that the first essential to effective scientific mental work is the ability to distinguish between man in the image and likeness of God and the poor mortal counterfeit. For the true man, no good is too great to claim, in all humility and with the realization that this good is reflected from his Maker, to whom all glory should be given; whereas, every claim of the mortal counterfeit is to be steadfastly and consistently denied. On page 242 of Miscellany we find this invaluable instruction from our Leader: "Christian Science is absolute; it is neither behind the point of perfection nor advancing towards it; it is at this point and must be practised therefrom."

         In the attainment of this understanding, the illustration of dreamer and dream, used so frequently in our textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," is very helpful, referring as it does to an experience which is universal. A study of the citations on this subject, listed in the concordance to Science and Health and available for use at any Christian Science reading room, will elucidate the point. Everyone knows how unmistakably real to his dream-sense of identity both that identity and the events of the dream are. He may dream that he is crippled with rheumatism and in great pain, yet this sense leaves him immediately upon his awaking. He then realizes that he has the authority of truth to repudiate the whole experience; to say that it never happened; indeed, was not happening even while he was accepting it as the fact.

         Now would not these denials have been equally true had they been made at any point in the dream? Surely. It sometimes occurs that in the midst of a sleeping dream we become conscious that it is a dream, and our waking dates from that point of realization, though the dream may not end immediately. Sometimes one will strive to waken himself from a bad dream, and this striving has its effect, even if it seems to precipitate the evil denouement, causing tremendous confusion for the moment. The individual presently emerges into a state of normal consciousness, aware that he is unhurt, the recent ordeal having in no way altered his health, prospects, or relation to others.

         This experience, so familiar to everyone of us, bears to our daily waking life (which we are prone to consider the normal and real) the same relation that this so-called normal consciousness bears to the actual and spiritual condition of man in the image of God; so that rheumatism is no more the fact if according to material sense one has it today than it would have been had he dreamed he had it last night, and he has the same authority for repudiating it. Indeed, whatever does not measure up to the highest human sense of what is just, right, and good can always safely be treated in this way. It surely is not dishonoring the truth, when God is Truth, to disclaim rheumatism or any other disease or imperfection as part of His creation or plan, for no human parent would inflict such things upon his child. The Bible asks, "Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?" Again it declares of God, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." Christian Science gives the word of authority by which we can waken ourselves and others from the dreams of sense, whether painful or pleasurable, into the reality whose pure joy transcends the fairest of earthly dreams.

         Again, those who come to Christian Science from the bewildering mazes of psychology, mental science (so called), mesmerism, hypnotism, and the various modes of mortal belief which are but counterfeits of Christian Science, are usually confused by the teaching of these false systems concerning the power of suggestion. They find their spiritual perception obscured by the clinging belief that as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he." But until this thinking is established upon scientific understanding, it is merely self-mesmerism, harmful rather than helpful; though it may seem, up to a certain point, to produce the desired effect.

         One who was making a sincere endeavor to distinguish between the false and the true, being admonished as to the necessity for constantly denying error and affirming truth., inquired: "But when I am saying these things, am I not suggesting to myself that which I thereby come to believe? What is the difference between this and the system of thought which I formerly embraced?"

         The difference might be illustrated in this way: Suppose a child, starting out to learn the multiplication table, repeatedly affirms, either through his own mistake or the ignorant or mischievous suggestion of a companion, "Two times two are five, three times two are seven," and so on. He may for a time believe that he is making progress, yet his work will result in nothing but confusion in every problem where the wrong premise enters. His belief, confirmed by a thousand vain repetitions, will never advance him a step. Or, let us suppose that he makes no such mistake as this, but believes, and believes only, that two times two are four, three times two are six, and so on. He may commit to memory the entire list of tables prescribed, becoming letter-perfect, yet so long as he has no practical comprehension of their meaning, these also are but vain repetitions. Moreover his belief may be changed at any moment by a lapse of memory or a passing suggestion.

         Whereas, if the child begins by proving, in terms appreciable to his present knowledge, that by taking two counters two times he will have four counters, and by taking two counters three times he will have six counters, he will soon perceive in some degree the basic law, and thence advance intelligently, dispensing presently with the symbols. Then comes the value of repetition, confirming the truth he has already proved, and helping him toward truth not yet attained. His conviction, being based upon understanding, cannot be altered by any sudden sally of error, nor undermined by its more subtle attacks. In view of this, well might the wise man say, "With all thy getting get understanding."

         Any teacher knows how useless is a correct answer memorized without understanding. It is better than the wrong answer only because there is less to unlearn in the time of proving. On page 297 of the textbook we read: "A belief in Truth is better than a belief in error, but no mortal testimony is founded on the divine rock. Mortal testimony can be shaken. Until belief becomes faith, and faith becomes spiritual understanding, human thought has little relation to the actual or divine;" and on page 96, "Belief is changeable, but spiritual understanding is changeless."

         One who believes in the power of suggestion may vehemently affirm, "I am not sick; I can't be sick; I am well;" but without a reason for the hope that is within him, his suggestion is as a house built on the shifting sands of mortal opinion, liable at any moment to collapse. Only as he comes to know that he cannot be sick because man is the perfect likeness of immortal Life, Truth, and Love, can he intelligently affirm all good for himself and for others, with confidence and joy.


"Affirmation and Denial" by Ruth Ingraham
The Christian Science Journal, April, 1919

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