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"Know God-Good as the only power there is!"
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism, Denounced.”
of November 25-December 1, 2019

Kerry Jenkins CS, House Springs, MO (314) 406-0041

Every time we get to study this Bible lesson topic there is an opportunity for us to discover some "modern" way that we can be tempted to participate in, or be duped by, any of these three evils: necromancy, mesmerism, and hypnotism. Necromancy, simply put, is the temptation to believe that we can derive some kind of helpful answers about the future from those who have died. Maybe we don't think this is something we are ever tempted to do, but do we ever look to the past with some kind of nostalgic desire to give us ideas about how we should proceed today? As a mom, it can be tempting to use skills I have gained with one child, to address the needs of another. This usually is not very helpful. But I have found that I can rely on the freshness of Mind to provide just the answers I need for today, for each moment, in every activity.

There is never a need to look to the past, for "how it has always been done", for some great person's view/ideas/methods. We can wholly trust Mind to unfold just the solution or approach or thought for every circumstance. This does not preclude reading for inspiration, works by other great thinkers, or people experienced in areas where we are not so expert. But it means that when reading or pondering other's ideas, we are listening for the freshest ways that those ideas can be implemented in our experience! Knowing that all good comes from Mind, helps us absorb and implement Mind's ideas wherever we find them!

Mesmerism and hypnotism are akin. Mesmerism was a concept popular in Mary Baker Eddy's (MBE) day. It referred to an idea that was set forth by Franz Mesmer, a German doctor who lived mostly in the 18th century and proposed that there was a natural energy that transferred between animate and inanimate objects. MBE mentions it as a study, on p.100 of Science and Health as an "animal magnetic fluid" that influences us to do things. I see this, in contemporary terms as the suggestion that we are influenced by chemicals in our body and brain. These can be hormonal, or other, but this is certainly a strong suggestion of influence in a variety of circumstances! The term or concept of animal magnetism was debunked in MBE's day, but she considered the idea important enough to address in a Bible lesson twice a year. By considering the "modern" implications of Mesmer’s “animal magnetic fluid,” we are able to free ourselves from enslavement to the suggestions of the influence of chemicals of any kind that could seem to influence us in a bad way.

Hypnotism is another kind of influence. It is a false influence on our thinking. It used to be a popular "parlor" trick to get a volunteer to submit to being hypnotized by a person proficient in this skill. They could be falsely influenced to think that they are doing any number of things that they are not doing at all—perhaps drinking chocolate milk from a water fountain, perhaps something more. Today it is used to help people to break addictions, and for other therapies. In any case, it is a submission of one mortal mind to another. While this can bring relief, there is another way for us to find relief from addictions, from trauma, from all kinds of mental and physical challenges. We can submit to the higher power of divine Love, divine Mind. Why be "fooled" into well-being when we can find our natural state of harmony through understanding God and Her creation, spiritual man?

Our Golden Text is our subject statement of the "awesome power" of God which overcomes all our "foes", whatever form they take—and certainly not necessarily in the form of people. The "right hand" of God is a common Biblical term that indicates the dominant, most useful power. (Sorry to all you lefties, it is merely a symbol!) The Responsive Reading leads us from the fear of the power of evil—enemies to our peace, well-being, health—to a rock-solid foundation of courage and trust in God as the only true power.

Section 1: When we put Good in our field of vision, the lie/evil disappears.

This section is really about how God is good and the only real. But I think it is helpful to think in terms of how we tend to wrestle with the appearance of life as a mixture of good and evil. Paul says it clearly in citation B3 when he states: "…what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want." (New Revised Standard Version of the Bible).

Our goal, if we want to avoid the confusion (B1) and frustration of trying to figure out what is true and powerful is to use "right reasoning" (S5). Since the Bible uses farming metaphors so frequently, we could try this as well. What if you were to plant some flower seeds in the middle of your lawn without preparing the soil in any way, just tossing some seeds on the grass. Would the flowers even sprout? Probably not. The grass is deeply rooted, already established as the dominant plant. Now, I'm not saying that grass is necessarily bad, just that, in this analogy, if we are trying to cultivate flowers, we have to plant them in prepared soil, keep the grass out, nurture them, and continuously do so. When we want to find more joy in our life, we have to think about what will bring more stable joy, and then truly put in the effort, take the steps, to cultivate that joy. If we reason through this process, when confronted with a lack of "flowers"/joy, it wouldn't be good reasoning to say "hey, there is nothing but grass here, why aren't there any flowers. It must be that flowers are impossible to grow, and I will never be able to have any." That is certainly the appearance of things, looking at that thick, green, lawn!

But if we are reasoning rightly, we have to think about ourselves as farmers. How would a farmer grow flowers? Would he just throw seed on top of a lawn? Of course not! Flowers are not impossible, neither is joy. But we have to look to spiritual sense for our joy, and then tend and practice seeing that good around us. This process truly causes evil to disappear from our experience. We may not see nothing but "flowers"/joy in our day to day. But I can promise a deeper awareness of these flowers and of joy as we practice this discernment, cultivate those flowers!

We have been working to get a portion of our yard to yield to native plants, little patches of prairie. This is a challenging process. Many non-native species seem to proliferate. In particular, fescue is a robust grass that tends to take over from the native flowers and grasses that we have planted. Two years ago, in the spring we used a chemical that killed the fescue. So, last spring I had a much more open "canvas" if you will, in which to get more flowers and grasses that we wanted to fill in without having to work so hard to uproot the fescue. The result was that this summer the small patch of prairie that we diligently worked on, was a riot of color most of the summer. If, next spring, I do nothing to this patch of prairie, it may have a return of non-native species. I have to continue to cherish and cultivate those species that I want to grow there. Check out Paul's exhortation in citation B3 for how it is that if we do this, "walk in the Spirit", that is, continue to move forward, progress in our love for and discovery of God, we won't be confused or fooled by those things that don't bring joy and beauty into our lives.

In short, we cannot simply deny the existence of error, or evil (in this analogy, fescue). We must also replace it with what is truly joyful (native plants) and lovely. And just to top off the analogy, I want to point out that the word "native" here means that it is something naturally growing here, it is the normal and natural thing—the qualities that Paul lists as "fruit of the Spirit" are the "native" qualities in each of us, the ones that are planted in us by God, that God tends and recognizes. We can recognize them too!

Section 2: Ignorance, superstition, idolatry—these spring from false concepts of God.

Manasseh was a child when he began ruling Judah. He was influenced by the many prevailing beliefs around him to picture God as a being that would require us to sacrifice our children to Him, and also that there would be many gods to worship, each one being responsible for his or her own part of human existence. Here we have that same human reasoning, rather than "right reasoning" that starts with an all-good, omnipotent, and all-knowing God.

Human reasoning tells us that we are distant, separated from God and from the kind of works Jesus did, by time, by spiritual understanding we think we lack, intellectual capacity, or some such limitation. Also, this reasoning would say that one God cannot oversee all the details of human existence. We need a god to oversee crops, a god to oversee health, one to oversee the weather, etc.

Christian Science helps us understand God as the rule of divine Love, the law of a God of Spirit who governs with Love and consistent good. Spirit is not the great conductor of human affairs, weather, health, finances. Spirit is the law of harmony, it is the constant light that we see when we are using our spiritual discernment in all things. There is no mingling of another power with omnipotence, or all-power! We might be tempted to regard tragedy or challenges in life as "evil power", but we can counteract this appearance with the knowledge that these evils are but the result of "popular and false notions" about God (S9). These ideas about evil derive from the human mind. They are built on the evidence of our five senses (S10). And they are confusing, as it states in this citation and in the previous section in citation B1.

When we feel far from God, when we are struggling with some false appearance of evil in our lives, we can always "humble" ourselves, as Manasseh did in citation B5. This process of humbling simply means that we recognize that God is governing, is in control. We are looking to one Mind for our information.

At times most of us feel overwhelmed by responsibilities. We can feel a sense of anxiety, frustration, panic, or maybe depression. If we try to reason our way out of this with our human mind, we can sometimes tell ourselves the right things, "this is not a life or death situation", "my college admissions does not actually depend on my getting an A on this paper", "my performance in this basketball game will not change the revolution of the earth". These statements are certainly true, but do they actually heal us of overwhelming anxiety/depression/fear/frustration and so on? Only when we turn to the omnipotence and omnipresent goodness of divine Mind/Spirit/Love do we open our thought to the solutions to these uncomfortable and inharmonious feelings. I was feeling very overwhelmed at one time with my work, homeschooling my boys, caring for my mom. I got to the point where I was experiencing debilitating headaches regularly as well and they were making my days even less productive. When I stopped trying to call on the "god" of health for the headaches, the "god" of accomplishment for help with getting my work done, the "god" of time to make more of it….I found a solution to this problem that not only made a solid hour and a half more time in the day, but also organized it in such a way that things were far more efficient and productive. Not surprisingly, the headaches became significantly less frequent. I can't say I've never had another, but when I do, I know to open the door of my thought to the God of all good, who governs with Love, spacious harmony, and joyful endeavor!

Section 3: Don't be fooled by "personified evil" (S16).

This idea that evil often takes the form of 'someone'—in the case of citation B8, the devil—is so important to understand in order to find our freedom from the effects of such a suggestion. When we really struggle with hurt or anger, it often involves other people. This is the suggestion that there are multiple minds that conflict with one another, and have separate egos or personalities that strive with one another. It would appear to be a powerful counterforce to Love, wouldn't it? When we can remember that evil is impersonal, that is, it is the suggestion of evil that seems to attach itself to a person so that we give it legitimacy, then we can recognize it for the lie that it is. I know this sounds silly! Why would seeing evil as an impersonal, lying suggestion, rather than people or a person make any difference in its power? Because, God is the only power.

When we base our sense of things on there being another power, we are basing our feelings on a lie. Also, when we detach evil from a person, we find ourselves feeling more loving, less critical, and far more able to maintain a sense of peace. Evil is not a person, it is like a mask that they are wearing, it has no part of who they are. By removing that "mask" from them, we are left holding a "mask"… how angry/hurt/resentful can this mask make you?

A couple of years ago a customer of my husband decided suddenly that he was unhappy with the price he was getting for his trees. My husband recommended that he call other sawmills and see what they would pay for the material, as he knew that he was getting the customer the highest value for his trees. After finding that the prices were already the highest, and the customer was still unhappy, my husband suggested bringing in a third-party professional in his industry to look over the work and assess its quality and the value. The third-party consultant determined that the work was excellent, the price fair, but this did not satisfy the customer.

Long story short, my husband decided to withdraw from the job without being able to recoup his investment in the work that he had done. The customer then hired another logger, who ultimately paid him the exact same amount that my husband had promised, only this logger was able to profit himself from the work already done by my husband. For a time, I really struggled with the apparent injustice of this. How could this customer be so unfair and take the weeks of work that my husband had done, and paid his employees to do, and, essentially steal from us? This is certainly one kind of reasoning! But as I prayed for a better sense of peace, it became suddenly very clear that I was looking at this man as a source of evil, somehow separate from Love's creation. In terms of this week's subject, I was being mesmerized or hypnotized by a sense of personified evil.

As I saw the evil as something separate from this man, as impersonal, all the anger, hurt, and injustice just melted away. I felt confident that we could never be harmed by a lie. Love is governing justly, always. I may not always see the evidence of this divine justice with my eyes, but the unhappiness of feeling unjustly treated had vanished with this impersonalization. There is good evidence that just losing a sense of peace is truly the evil that needed healing. When we carry around a feeling of victimization, it blinds us to the true and only power of divine Love.

Section 4: The law of Love heals, while human law allows for injustice.

I'm sure the ruler of the synagogue in citation B10 thought he was upholding divine law by scolding Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. But isn't his view of divine law based on a false concept of a God who would withhold good from any of His creation? Jesus knew, as the ruler did not, that every idea is worthy of health and wholeness. This ruler had a concept of God as a man-like being that made rules that need to be followed without regard to their spiritual purpose.

Jesus made it his mission to elevate our understanding of God and of the laws of God/Love. He took important religious law, such as the Ten Commandments and brought them to new heights (see Mat.5:17-28). Other Jewish law, such as "an eye for an eye", was elevated/spiritualized in his Sermon on the Mount to ideas such as "…if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also: and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well…" Mat. 5:38-40.

We probably can all agree that the Ten Commandments were a spiritual advancement. Mary Baker Eddy says: "Moses advanced a nation to the worship of God in Spirit instead of in matter…" (SH p. 200:4). But, that doesn't mean that we are not supposed to constantly listen to God for how to obey these laws in the most spiritually elevated way!

The Christ always brings freedom. In this story, Jesus points out that the rules of Love could not possibly afford more rights to animals on a Sabbath day, than to a person of faith in their synagogue! Divine law supports health, inspiration, progress.

Our study in this lesson of these three "evils" lead us to the conclusion in this healing account that we can easily become confused or tangled up in a too human understanding, or clinging, to rules that are meant to elevate us spiritually. One fun example of this came in an experience I had in a small church where I was a member some years ago. We wanted to put on a truly public lecture, but found that almost where ever we held it and whoever we tried to invite, it was usually attended by church members alone, with a few spouses or regular church attendants. We began to ask ourselves questions about what would cause us to want to attend something like a religious talk if someone invited us. (It was hard to imagine wanting to do this). Of course, we addressed the human mind's seeming resistance to the idea of spiritual healing, all the suggestions of these evils that we are addressing in this Bible lesson.

After many deeply prayerful meetings and prayer on our own, we came together and determined that one of the most current ways in our community that we tended to gather was for potlucks. We discussed this idea with our lecturer, with an eye toward Mary Baker Eddy's statement in her Manual of the Mother Church, that lectures should usually not have a social gathering afterward, in order to encourage/allow people to ponder the message in quiet afterward. We cherished this idea and decided that perhaps a potluck beforehand would not harm the spiritual intent of that rule.

We spent some amazing time walking our respective neighborhoods, sharing copies of Science and Health and inviting our neighbors to the potluck and talk. The final interesting aspect was the neighborhood venue that we chose. It seemed perfect in every respect. It was a large, beautiful log building that was used as a restaurant, bar and community hall on weekday evenings. On Sundays it was used by a local Baptist church. When we contacted the owners, they were delighted to have us use this venue, but the only catch was that the bar had to remain open simultaneously with the gathering. Well, that seemed pretty odd in conjunction with a Christian Science lecture!! We mentioned this to the lecturer, and as we suspected his first response was a pretty hard "no". The bar was one corner of a pretty vast space, however, and as we kept praying about it, this seemed still like the most public venue for our purposes. After discussing it again with the lecturer, he agreed that maybe this was what Jesus did when he preached to the broadest public who was interested. Who knows who would be there to hear this healing message. And so, we held it there.

It was the most "public" lecture that I have ever attended. Not a huge number of people, but more newcomers than church members! There was one man at the bar, and he was the only one who asked a question, respectfully, and out of interest. It was a deeply inspiring experience where we were all searching for the most spiritual understanding in that time and place of divine law, rather than just doing what we had always done. While human sense of law certainly helps when it reflects good, it is a divinely spiritual sense of law that truly sustains and blesses.

Section 5: Christian Science reveals to us the goodness and power of God, the nothingness, powerlessness, of evil.

We don't often get this interesting account of Philip and Simon, citation B13 in our Bible lesson. Simon embodied all those evil activities mentioned in the title of this week's lesson. Yet, here it is emphasized that he was persuaded by the Christly activity of Philip to abandon his practice of witchcraft, etc. in favor of following Philip!

Every one of us has the "soul-sense" (S25) that can help us discern the true nature of spiritual power. Man has a natural attraction to good. It is false "material theories" that can "paralyze" this natural attraction to Spirit (S24). False theories can seem to benefit us in certain ways. But, they always seem to come with a heaping helping of "side effects" that are undesirable.

When we yield our mental government to anything besides God, we find ourselves at the mercy of whatever prevailing and popular theory rules the day. While material solutions can provide relief, only the all-goodness of God includes every aspect of our wellbeing, bringing us an understanding of our complete wholeness. Christian Science healing brings inspiration and joy, assurance and peace, along with physical and mental health. And, as it says in citations S24 and S29, we do this one step at a time towards good, as well as by throwing "weight" into the "right scale". This is completely doable!

We don't have to achieve that which is intangible to human thought. God's power and goodness is revealed in small and conscious steps toward goodness.

Section 6: We don't need to be afraid, we have the mighty weapons of Truth that defeats evil.

Paul encourages us that our weapons are ones of God/Spirit in citation B16. These mental weapons can defeat temptation of every sort. The evils of hypnotism and mesmerism, the suggestions that we have to rely on steps we took in the past, these can all yield to the brilliant "weapons" of Love and Truth that melt away the perceived power of these influences.

Nothing but God has power. We can sharpen our mental skills of spiritual discernment and start to see the God that is all-Good, all-power, and all-presence. This God leaves nothing in the hands of theories, guesses, or false, human power or human justice. Instead we begin to glimpse, one step at a time, the "awesome" power and "majestic triumph" mentioned in our Golden Text, as we grasp these divine weapons that are at our disposal from a Spirit that we know as Love.

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