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SEE THROUGH THE DECEPTIONS OF EVIL
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on:

“Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism Denounced”
May 23—29, 2022

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Godfrey, Illinois
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com / (630) 830-8683; cell/text (630) 234-3987


INTRODUCTION

In Sun Tzu’s classic, The Art of War he writes, “…it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” Understanding one’s enemy is a key to victory. Jesus called this enemy “a liar” and Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer, and Founder of Christian Science (and the author of the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) calls this enemy “animal magnetism.” Christian Science doesn’t avoid evil or fear it. It exposes evil by seeing through its deceptions.

In the Golden Text we have the promise that God will destroy “the face of the covering cast over all people” (Isa. 25:7). What is the veil that is spread over the nations? Commentators offer several views on this, but it seems to me that given the context of our Lesson topic, Albert Barnes’ (1798-1870) interpretation is most useful for us. He writes, “It is probable that … the veil over the nations here is to be understood as expressive of the ignorance, superstition, crime, and wretchedness that covered the earth”.

Lots of times we get worried about dark plots, fearing that something wicked is working in the shadows. The Responsive Reading cautions us to resist jumping to conclusions. God will bring everything hidden to light. Interestingly, in context, Paul is the one being judged. He is telling those judging him that their opinion doesn’t matter, because God is the only true judge. The kingdom of God isn’t about words; it’s about power. Not mere human force, but divine power. (I Cor. 4:5, 20).

Paul’s ministry isn’t hidden or dark. He is saying, “If our message seems obscure, it is so only to those who are already lost in darkness. The eyes of unbelievers are blinded by the gods of this world whom they serve”—New Revised Standard Version—(II Cor. 4:4)

He goes on to explain that as Christians, our weapons have spiritual power to destroy the embedded lies that are the foundation of material thinking. (II Cor. 10:4). JB Phillips translates it like this: “Our battle is to break down every deceptive argument and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).

This Lesson is a seminar on how to see through lies and deception with the power of spiritual insight.


SECTION 1: PUT ON THE ARMOR OF LIGHT

In our modern world filled with communications media of every kind, it’s difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood. This has been an ongoing challenge for Christians from the beginning. John warns us to not believe every spirit, “because many false prophets are gone into the world” (cit. B1—I John 4:1). The modern equivalent is, “Don’t believe everything you see or hear.” And Paul warns the Romans to “cast off darkness” and “put on the armor of light” (cit. B2—Rom. 13:12).

Arthur Peake (1875-1929) frames these words with a surprisingly modern twist: “Christians must be up and dressed not for night-life but for battle…” That’s an interesting way to put it. Are we stepping into the night for a party? Or are we ready to challenge those enemies in the shadows? There is a definite urgency in Paul’s call to action. Centuries earlier Moses is credited with a similar call to the children of Israel with no less urgency: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…” (cit. B3—Deut. 30:19). Both the Old and New Testaments see the uncovering of evil as an issue of life and death. How seriously do you take this warning?

I’m betting most of us, especially those who live in relative comfort, are pretty relaxed about the warning to watch out for evil thinking. We usually don’t pay attention to things until they directly affect us.

Echoing the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, often uses darkness and light as analogies for evil and good. Part of the first citation from the textbook, is a case in point. “Divine Science, the Word of God, saith to the darkness upon the face of error, “God is All-in-all,” and the light of ever-present Love illumines the universe” (cit. S1—SH 503:12-15, 24, 28).

It has been said that looking for error is like trying to find a shadow with a flashlight. Wherever you point the light, the darkness disappears. That’s because light is a presence, and darkness is an absence. This is an important distinction because people tend to think of evil as a presence. But it’s not. In reality, God, good, is the only presence. That’s why evil has neither reality nor power despite appearances. In citation S2 (cit. SH 103:18-23 (to 1st .)) the author defines “animal magnetism” as a “specific term,” not as an actual entity. It’s only a belief that evil is as real as good. The important thing to remember is “This belief has not one quality of Truth.” If evil has no Truth, what is it? A lie! So don’t believe it. The fog may look like it can hide the sun, but the sunlight burns through it. Evil has no power to hide good either (cit. S3—480:31-2).


SECTION 2: ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?

Bible citation 4 (Joel 3:14) seems to simply tell us that if we’re making a decision, God is available to guide us. And so He is, but this little passage has a deeper context, since the prophet is speaking during the midst of a locust plague. Joel saw this plague as representing an upheaval of the normal course of events, portending a day of judgment. His words are another call to alertness and readiness for action! Citation B5, is also warning that poverty will come if you spend your time sleeping (cit. B5—Prov. 6:10, 11). An ongoing theme in this Lesson is the need to be awake and alert. Don’t get too comfortable. Ecclesiastes continues the warning. Just as unwary birds and fish are captured when they aren’t aware of the danger, when men are lazy, they too, are vulnerable to attack. However, even if an entire city is asleep, one person who’s awake and alert, can save that city (cit. B6—Eccl. 9:12 as, 14, 15 (to ;)). It’s not like we aren’t given a warning. Citation B7 from Proverbs assures us, even if we’re asleep, wisdom is crying out in the streets to help us. Anyone who listens will be safe (cit. B7—Prov. 1:20, 33 whoso).

Often when trouble arises people feel that they have no choice in the matter. But the fact is, we always have a choice. The textbook says it’s not the threat, but the decision we make about it that determines the outcome (cit. S4—SH 392:22). The next three citations are warnings given over a hundred years ago that are even more true today. We need to pay attention—to “earnestly…consider”—what’s influencing us (cit. S5—SH 82:31-2). Being asleep is not going to give us an accurate picture of things. We have to open our eyes and exercise our spiritual sense (cit. S6—SH 95:28-32).

Some might think that the warnings in Science and Health are a bit alarmist, and we don’t really have to be that watchful. Well the book points out that this is one of the methods of evil—to get us to underestimate the danger (cit. S7—SH 102:16-29). Now, understand, this evil element called “animal magnetism” is as we’ve learned, only a term; but if we believe it—that’s where the danger lies. If you believe a lie, everything you do from that point forward is flawed. Read these citations carefully and take heed. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be afraid. Stay awake.

Christian Science shines a light on evil and reveals its lies (cit. S8—SH 104:13). We have to remember that evil is only a deception and an unreality (cit. S9—SH 207:9-10). This section closes with a solid reminder that we never need to yield to evil suggestions. We have the inalienable right to make our own choices and follow God’s guidance (cit. S10—SH 106:7). “Inalienable” means something that cannot be justly or legally taken from us—it’s non-negotiable. So exercise those rights and choose God.


SECTION 3: ACT WITH DISCRETION

In the next two sections we have a case study illustrating the benefit of being alert to the methods of evil.

It begins with Christ Jesus’ warning: “Take ye heed, watch and pray” (cit. B8—Mark 13:33).

Then we consider Nehemiah. He is serving the king and has received news that the walls and gates of his home city are in ruins. Noticing Nehemiah’s uncharacteristic sadness, the king inquires about it. Nehemiah doesn’t jump the gun and go on and on about the gates and walls. Instead, he brings attention to the disrepair of his family graves. This is a very wise approach because according to the scriptural account, the king halted previous attempts to rebuild the walls and gates. Nehemiah says just the right thing, and he’s granted permission by royal decree, that he may travel to Jerusalem and commence the work.

Then Nehemiah makes another wise move by not actually revealing the details of his commission. He waits for just the right time to divulge his plan, and only to his compatriots. So they begin the work. When local officials hear about it, they at first brush it off and ridicule the plan. They characterize it as an affront to the king, but Nehemiah, holds firm and places his trust in his God. He boldly claims his authority from God and dismisses his detractors’ claim to have power. (cit. B10—Neh. 2:1-5 Now, 8, And the, 11, 16, 18-20).

Once the walls are up and they start working on the gates, the Scriptures say his three chief detractors become “very wroth.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible provides further insight into the meaning of the word “wroth” revealing how heated the situation has become. It means: “To grow warm; to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy;–be angry, burn, be displeased, fret, grieve, wax hot, be incensed…” We can see that this is no casual disagreement. Tempers are flaring. The detractors decide to attack and fight Nehemiah, but he and his fellows pray, keeping a watch day and night. When the three hear that their plans are discovered, they stand down, and the work continues.

All the emphasis on watching might seem like a big assignment for us. But Science and Health includes “prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation” as “God’s gracious means” for advancing the Christianization and health of mankind (cit. S11—SH 1:6). Rather than toilsome tasks, these tools are gifts from God that enable us to see through the plots of the carnal mind. Unlike many spiritual thinkers, Mary Baker Eddy wasn’t afraid to expose error (cit. S12—SH 570:30). Why do we complain about the work we have to do? It’s a gift that we’re able to do it. These truths sustain us, and destroy the flimsy lies of mortal mind (cit. S13—SH 103:25-7).

Also included in citation S13 is the reminder that “in reality there is no mortal mind.” Equally important is the fact that there is “no transference of mortal thought and will-power.” This is because there is only one Mind—God. Evil thoughts and aims have no origin. They are lies from a liar. The only true thoughts are the thoughts that come to us directly from God.

When our textbook tells us to “Stand porter at the door of thought” (cit. S14—SH 392:24 Stand (only)), this means that we can’t see through enemy’s plans if we’re asleep. We have to notice where our attention is. If we aren’t noticing, we aren’t knowing ourselves, and the enemy will find a way to infiltrate our thinking. Once we’re aware of the enemy’s intention, we can stop it immediately. We expose and denounce it—but we never believe it. (cit. S15—SH 447:20-22). To see through the lies to what’s really going on, we have to drop all belief in what the material senses are saying (cit. S16—SH 428:8).


SECTION 4: “YOU CAN’T TOUCH THIS!”

The opening citation in this section is the bottom line: “God will bring every deed to judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (New Revised Standard Version, B12—Eccl. 12:14). Whatever is going on, it can’t bypass God. It will be exposed.

Now, part two of Nehemiah’s story. The three antagonists—Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem receive news that the only work left on the wall is to finish the gates. They decide to try another tactic—to lure Nehemiah away from the work and hurt him when they have him alone. Nehemiah is alert to their ploy and sends a message saying he is too busy working to meet them. Once the wall is finished, the enemies, as the Bible says, are “much cast down in their own eyes”.

Science and Health confirms that evil can only go as far as we permit it (cit. S17—SH 234:31-3), that we can cast it out or reject it before it comes in. Again, we have to be present and pay attention to what error is up to. The author of Science and Health requested that her students purchase the latest edition of the textbook when she added this important sentence: “Christian Scientists, be a law to yourselves that mental malpractice cannot harm you either when asleep or when awake” (cit. S18—SH 442:30). Yes—even when we’re awake the tempter is wheedling its way into our thinking. Hence, the warning to overcome evil with good “at all times, and under all circumstances” (cit. S19—SH 571:15). Additionally, the key to victory is to “Know thyself.” Like Sun Tzu says, if we don’t know ourselves, we will be in constant peril because we won’t be able to distinguish an intruding thought from our own.


SECTION 5: PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR THOUGHTS

The key to victory is watching your thinking. If your attention is on good things, you will bring those things into your experience. If your attention is wandering aimlessly, you will be less likely to distinguish between helpful thoughts and dangerous ones. As simple as that sounds, it’s not always easy to keep the intruders out.

The psalmist is well aware of this, and he prays for a clean heart (cit. B14—Ps. 51:10). It should be noted that the Hebrew word for “create” is the same one that is used in Genesis 1–to begin from nothing. That means the psalmist is praying to begin again from scratch. Of course, the psalmist knew that keeping his thoughts clean was something he couldn’t accomplish on his own, so he asks God for help in Ps. 141:3 (cit. B15). He also asks God to set a watch over his speech. Jesus cautions that evil proceeds out of the heart, implying that we need to guard against allowing evil any place within us (cit. B16—Matt. 15:19, 20 (to :)).

Lest we doubt that God will help us, Malachi assures us God will “rebuke the devourer” and protect us. Interestingly, the New Revised Standard Version translates “’devourer” as the “locust.” Do you recall the passage from Joel in Section 2 that mentioned the locust plague as a natural disaster? They weren’t kidding. We might think the locusts were like our periodic cicada appearance in North America, but the locust plague was more like the one in the U.S. during the 1870s. It was so bad that the sky was black with them, and they ate the clothes right off your body since the clothes were generally cotton. It was an unlivable situation. Many people, including my wife’s great-great-grandparents, left Kansas because all they had—their crops, their clothes, and their supplies—were eaten by this voracious insect. So when Malachi says God will save us from the devourer, that’s quite a promise!

We know that we have to keep our thoughts clear to recognize the good, and in Galatians we have the promise that keeping our thoughts on the fruits of the Spirit protects us from the intruding thoughts that lead to trouble (cit. B18—Gal. 5:22 the, 23). It follows the basic rule that light and darkness, good and evil, cannot occupy the same space.

There is an aphorism: Every “Yes” is a “No” to something else, and vice versa. The closer we are to goodness the farther we are from error (cit. S20—SH 213:11). The textbook tells us that if we understood our natural condition to be blessed and holy, we would more intentionally take up the work to live that way. But the deeper we are in erroneous thinking, the greater the resistance will be (cit. S21—SH 329:26 If). In citation S22 (cit. SH 484:21-24 Animal), we see an example of how the carnal mind works. First, it claims that error is not only voluntary, but sometimes involuntary. And then it mentions a “negative right and a positive wrong” (cit. S23—SH 491:7-11). If that might seem paradoxical, it means doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and doing the wrong thing with a good intention. In reality there is no downside to good. If we’re watching and listening, we won’t involuntarily be fooled into the wrong action. We’ll do the right thing for the right reasons at the right time.


SECTION 6: SILENCE THE LIAR WITH SPIRITUAL POWER, NOT HUMAN WILL

Although, it may seem like a “no brainer” that it’s better for us to fill our lives and thoughts with uplifting, healthy, healing ideas, there still remains the constant temptation to be fascinated with the darker side of the human condition. Violent video games, films, books and stories of evil powers tend to make an evil thing look glamorous and enticing. So we need reminders to pay attention to what we allow into our lives, our bodies, and our thinking. Paul does just that in his letter to the Romans, who incidentally weren’t known for their clean living. Paul had been shepherding the Christian community in Rome like eager parents watch their children growing up. He wants nothing but the best for them, hoping that they will be experts in goodness, and inexperienced in evil. Paul encourages his readers with the promise that they will soon see a demonstration of how God will reduce the enemy to nothing. (cit. B19—Rom. 16:19 I would, 20 (to 2nd period).

The Lesson includes an account of Jesus doing just that. (cit. B20–Luke 4:14, 33-36). Jesus meets a person who has “an unclean devil.” His violent behavior boasts superiority over Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t get lured into a conflict. He easily rebukes the devilish spirit, and though it leaves its victim in a violent manner, the man possessed is not harmed. In those days, unexplained irrational behavior was thought to signal possession by a devil. In modern times we might call it insanity, or severe mental illness. Like the locust plague, the picture of such illness can seem very real and powerful. Honestly, it’s rarely easy to face, but we can see through it.

Jesus knew that all appearance of evil is false belief (cit. S25—SH 79:17 (only)). Notice that Jesus didn’t cast out evils by exercising his personal power over them. This isn’t a battle of wills. No, Jesus allowed the Christ to do the speaking. Human methods only muddy the waters. (cit. S26—SH 332:9-11 Christ).

The textbook is careful to underscore that the healing power of Christian Science is not one human mind overruling another one. In fact, that method would actually be animal magnetism. But that’s not it. Healing is “the operation of divine Principle” shining the light of Truth on the situation and chasing away the darkness as a shadow would disappear if we used a flashlight to find it (cit. S27—SH xi:1-4, 9-14). The practice of Christian Science has nothing to do with human will-power or animal magnetism. It does not employ a wrong method for a right reason. It’s the allness of God revealing the nothingness of evil (cit. S28—SH 442:16-18). Healing involves raising our thought above the problem. In The Art of War Sun Tsu says, “In military operations, what is valued is foiling the opponent’s strategy, not pitched battle.” The same rule applies here. We aren’t fighting a real opponent with our wisdom or intelligence. Through our realization of the omnipotence of divine Mind, we foil the opponent’s plans by realizing there is, in reality, no opponent to fight (cit. S29—SH 400:18-22, 26-28).


SECTION 7: VICTORY IS ASSURED

This Lesson finishes with the promise that the devilish accuser that claims to entice us is cast down by the healing Christ (cit. B21—Rev. 12:10 Now). No matter how much pain and struggle we experience, God will “wipe the tears from [our] eyes” (cit. B22—Rev. 21:4 (to :)). When we’re in trouble, it may seem that the challenge is too formidable for us to overcome. But even though we can’t do it ourselves, we can take comfort knowing all things are possible to God.

Throughout the Scriptures, God’s power over evil is likened to the power of light over darkness (cit. B23—I John 1:5). Just as there is no darkness in light, there is no evil in God. As light is a presence and darkness is a seeming absence of light, so God is the only presence and power, before whom the darkness flees.

Notice that the tone of Science and Health isn’t pensive or merely hopeful. It’s authoritative and includes complete expectation of victory. Again, Sun Tsu in The Art of War makes a poignant observation: “The victorious general wins first, then seeks battle. The defeated general goes to battle and then seeks to win.” Mary Baker Eddy operates as the victorious general—sure that Truth destroys what we seemed to have learned from error and brings to light our real existence as a child of God (cit. S30—SH 288:31-1). In addition to her unwavering expectancy, she attends to her listeners’ challenges with tender care, offering us sweet assurance as she moves us to see what we thought was impossible is indeed possible to God (cit. S31— SH 573:29). All we have to do is claim it! (cit. S32—SH 227:24-26).


GEMs of BIBLE-BASED application ideas from COBBEY CRISLER, EVAN MEHLENBACHER, CAROLYN HOLTE and others has been posted and sent. Check on CedarS INSPIRATION website or in your email  if you have  SUBSCRIBED FOR IT HERE.


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