Boston is no stranger to influential battles. Revolutionary ones in particular.
Today the city’s historical sites host millions of tourists. Wander the Bunker Hill Monument grounds or stroll past the Old North Church. Walk the Freedom Trail. If you’re roaming around the 50-acre Boston Common near its Tremont and Park Street border, look down the road to the Tremont Temple. Abraham Lincoln once spoke there. The first reading in Boston of the Emancipation Proclamation took place there. Charles Dickens read his famous Christmas Carol there.
It was there on March 16, 1885, that religious leader Mary Baker Eddy came face to face with a mostly hostile audience of around 2,500 people. It was a different kind of confrontation and required a different kind of counterattack.
If you’d been a member of Eddy’s church in that year, you likely would have seen and felt the heat of opposition as many of Boston’s clergymen mounted a campaign to condemn Christian Science and its founder through lectures, sermons, and printed propaganda. They wanted the small band of followers and students of Christian Science stopped in their tracks, and whatever aggressive influence these clergy could marshal through their pulpits and in various publications was fair ammunition.
Mary Baker Eddy’s ten-minute response to her critics, given in Tremont Temple that Monday morning, was a pivotal event. Few in attendance would have imagined the sweeping change in thinking that would follow.
Fourteen years later, in Tremont Temple, Eddy addressed 3,000 of her followers—people who had been healed through Christian Science and who had themselves become Christian healers. It was a larger audience than had attended that Monday morning lecture sponsored by her critics.
There was no secret to how she successfully dealt with malicious intent. The how-to is found throughout her publications and exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus. In one magazine article she explained it this way: “Evil is not something to fear and flee before, or that becomes more real when it is grappled with. Evil let alone grows more real, aggressive, and enlarges its claims; but, met with Science, it can and will be mastered by Science” (Miscellaneous Writings).
So much for passivity when faced with aggression.
It’s been well over a century since that tumultuous time, and there’s been a societal shift. Generational replacement is bringing with it a softening of religious commitment in Western society. If there’s a battle to be fought among religions these days, it’s with the common enemy of indifference. And it seems to be a quieter, more stubborn enemy.
It’s hard to reach hearts and change minds with transformative spiritual ideas if your audience is paying attention only to mortgage payments, work, smartphones, everyday life—anything but spiritual development. With the increase of indifference, one might wonder if the only option is more of the same. Why even bother doing something about it?
Because doing nothing is surrendering to the spell of indifference.
For someone who has experienced the vast dimension and power of divine Spirit, including its freeing effect of physical healing, indifference is unnatural. It is what Mary Baker Eddy described as “a mental haziness” (see The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 211).
Look deeper into Eddy’s description and you learn why a ho-hum attitude is also dangerous. She exposes it as a dormant state of mind “which admits of no intellectual culture or spiritual growth” for its victims. Strong words. Once you stop thinking about anything beyond ordinary human routine, mistakenly believing that life and happiness run on autopilot and exist apart from Spirit, you stop growing. Worse still, you find that the material world’s promises of future happiness and health have been grossly misleading.
This unseen, self-destructive influence, this “animal magnetism,” is “the highest form of mental evil,” according to Eddy. She warned: “A harder fight will be necessary to expose the cause and effects of this evil influence ….”
Wait a minute. A fight? What fight?
Anyone who’s been baffled by circumstances, upset by a bad relationship—or perplexed by indifference—knows what it means to struggle, to fight, to feel on top of things again. It’s a fight for peace of mind. A fight for clarity, for purpose, and for harmony. A fight to feel good again.
What makes the struggle tough is that we get so swept up in a mixed-up material world, perpetually feeling like its victims, that we ignore an utterly crucial fact of existence: the unquestionable presence and power of divine Spirit, God. To be willing to step back from our routine and be quiet enough to embrace the idea of Spirit’s allness brings inspiration as nothing else can.
It’s the nature of spiritual ideas to inspire; to energize us when we feel overtaxed; to reveal purpose where we feel adrift; to restore hope where we thought there was none; to comfort and heal.
When we’ve reached our limits, inspiration can break through the seeming wall with fresh opportunities. Our capacity to perceive more, to accomplish more, and to give more, is underpinned by spiritual inspiration.
Even a moment or two of such illumination awakens us to what we’ve been indifferent to—the pure goodness of the spiritual universe that’s here and the very real idea that we’re loved enough always to be included in it. It would be an evil intent to be persuaded to believe otherwise. There’s no better weapon against dull or hazy thinking than the clarity and empowerment such an idea brings. It reminds us of our dominion over indifference. And though these spiritual ideas may have gone unused up to now, they never truly left us.
With that change of view of existence, that correction in our own thinking, we’re in a better position to be a good influence for others who have temporarily surrendered to a mental haziness. There’s really no better way to break free from the spell.
Right now we’re able to pause and yearn for this better idea of Spirit’s presence. Therein is the seed of a revolution.
(originally published in The Christian Science Journal, January 2014)