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The young visitor was quite excited to tell his parents all that he had been taught during his first visit to a Christian Science Sunday School. He started to describe to them some of the things the class had discussed during the hour, adding that they also talked about someone named “Myrtle Mind”!
When a friend told me this many years ago, it reminded me of some of the early impressions I had as a young Sunday School pupil about the terms mortal mind and error, which appear in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. In hearing people use these terms I never believed the terms referred to a person, but it may not have been as clear to me at first that they didn’t refer to a thing, either.
Though Christian Scientists use these terms interchangeably, it’s helpful to consider the distinctness of each in sharpening the metaphysical work of Christian healing.
In answering the question “What is error?” in her book Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy explains it not only in a broad sense—”Error is the contradiction of Truth”—but in more specific ways as well, helping the reader to understand the subtle, deceptive nature of error. In one part of her explanation, for example, she says, “It is that which seemeth to be and is not.” This aspect of error, that it seems to be—that it asserts that something apart from the Truth exists and is self-acting—requires constant alertness in order to avoid being deceived.
Yet, we might wonder how can error, nothing, seem to be anything or do anything? How can something untrue ever appear to be cunning, evasive, frightening, harmful, stubborn, real?” To God, to the one infinite and divine Mind, it can’t!
But we often face the argument that the divine Mind isn’t the only Mind. We mistakenly believe instead that there’s another mind that believes there is more to existence that infinite Spirit, God, and His expression of pure goodness. This supposition, termed mortal mind, is itself an error, not an entity. Mrs. Eddy writes, “As Mind is immortal, the phrase mortal mind implies something untrue and therefore unreal; and as the phrase is used in teaching Christian Science, it is meant to designate that which has no real existence.” One way to identify error, then, is as a misconception, and mortal mind as a misconceiver.
It’s a false sense that holds and believes its own misconceptions to be true, real. Christian Science teaches people how they can prove that these misconceptions—for example, that we’re merely material creatures sandwiched between good and evil—are mental errors, not fixed facts.
This is a vital point as we consider the work of healing through prayer. We’re dealing not with an outside world of disorders and unchangeable conditions, but rather with a so-called mind’s own erroneous, material image of the world and of those in it.
To gain full dominion over error is to expose both the misconception and the misconceiver. Neither aspect of error abides in God, the one perfect Mind. If we go only so far as to identify sickness, for example, as an error (because man’s true selfhood is spiritual and whole), we’ve left unchallenged the belief that there’s an actual mind conscious of such conditions as reality. Leaving this point unchallenged is to remain conscious of the error — something seen and felt — which hinders our ability to heal. As the teachings of Christian Science point out: “To say there is a false claim, called sickness, is to admit all there is of sickness; for it is nothing but a false claim. To be healed, one must lose sight of a false claim. If the claim be present to the thought, then disease becomes as tangible as any reality.”
How do we destroy error? Through keeping our thought on the truth of being. An experience that made this clear to me occurred many years ago when a family member was feeling ill and asked me to pray for her. My deep desire was to prove that this person was, in truth, exempt from sickness because all that God made isn’t mortal and material but is instead the expression of life that emanates from God, good. I prayed for some time and felt that the illness was less formidable, less intractable than it first seemed, though the physical symptoms showed only slight improvement.
Before long, however, I found myself focusing more and more on the status of the symptoms. In effect, I was negating what I had previously been affirming about these claims of mortal mind, or error, as having no basis in fact.
This rule from Science and Health indicates where thoroughness is essential in the treatment of disease: “Whatever the belief is, if arguments are used to destroy it, the belief must be repudiated, and the negation must extend to the supposed disease and to whatever decides its type and symptoms.”
That was what I had missed – repudiating both the misconception (belief in the reality of disease) and the misconceiver (that which holds and defines such a belief). Man is entirely the effect of Spirit, not of matter, and no intensity of human thought makes that any more true than it always is. This brought great freedom to my prayer; I completely lost sight of the claims of stubborn physical symptoms and instead was filled with awe for what God, good, gives to man. It came as no surprise that the one who had been ill was completely well within an hour.
No supposition of error, no falsity, abides in a Truth-filled consciousness, either as a thing, a power, or a mind.
The rewards of spiritually advancing thought aren’t reserved for some future time but can be experienced in practical ways now—in happier, healthier, more productive lives.