Overcoming by Obedience
From Addresses by Martha Wilcox
It is only by obedience to truth that all error of belief can be overcome, and since we cannot be obedient to the truth unless we understand the truth, we therefore overcome by being obedient to our understanding.
In the sixteenth chapter of St. John we find a most amazing declaration from Jesus Christ concerning his own individual victory in overcoming. He was the victor in the greatest contest that has ever taken place in the history of the world.
This was a mental contest of which he said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus meant that he had overcome within himself the entire material concept of man and the universe. This, Jesus considered the climax of his demonstration.
Jesus also considered it of paramount importance that each individual should overcome the material concept of his individual world, or each individual should translate man and the universe back into Spirit. (S&H 209:22) Mrs. Eddy says, “The material senses and human conceptions would translate spiritual ideas into material beliefs” (S&H 257:15), and these misconceptions must all give place to the spiritual facts at hand, and this is accomplished through obedience to our highest concept of truth.
Christ Jesus made it very plain that the individual overcoming of the false concept of his world is most essential. We find that Christ Jesus emphasized this fact in his revelation to St. John.
And if we want to truly estimate the rich heritage that is bequeathed to the individual who overcometh, we should read and ponder what is written by St. John to the seven churches throughout Asia. No one can understand what is written to these churches and not feel that it is worthwhile to make the effort to be obedient, and thereby overcome the material concept of the world. The reward offered to the seven churches is climaxed in the first one; namely, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Rev. 21:7)
To the evidence of the material senses, the world that Jesus lived in, is as much in existence today as when he left it; the same hills, lakes, mountains, and valleys are here. Jesus made no attempt with dynamite to obliterate matter; he used no physical force or human will power; he left the world in physical outline the same as when he entered it, but he overcame it.
Jesus overcame a counterfeit sense, a false mistaken sense, the material concept of that which is a spiritual fact at hand, and the only fact at hand. Even before Jesus’ demonstration of this conquest in overcoming, as manifested in his ascension, he had overcome a matter-sense of the world. He walked on the water, he fed the five thousand, he obtained tax money, he passed through the walls.
Our present world is not outside of us, but is our mode of consciousness and is constituted of all men and all things. Our world and all that comprises it is mental and spiritual now, and we only need to have a correct sense of it.
Mrs. Eddy says, “Material sense defines all things materially, and has a finite sense of the infinite” (S&H 208:2), and it is the overcoming of this carnal mind or this so-called material sense of man and things that is the overcoming of the world.
This spiritual mental ascent above the finite and material sense of persons and things was made within the realm of Jesus’ own consciousness, and this same spiritual ascent must be made within the realm of every individual’s consciousness.
God’s creation has always existed as His infinite visible reflection, man and the universe. This is the only creation, the creation that we are seeing today, even though we see it through the lens of material sense, or through a glass darkly, and call it matter. Mind, God, evolves and reveals His numberless ideas that express Him. God reveals Himself as man, His greatest idea, for man is “the compound idea of God, including all right ideas.” (S&H 475:14) Man completely manifests the Infinite Creative Mind.
In the beginning all creation was good, perfect, harmonious and eternal, and so it remains today; for what could change it, since it is God expressed, and God is omnipotent; then why, when all is good and very good, does there seem to be the process called overcoming?
The Scriptures state that “there went up a mist from the earth” (Gen. 2:6), which means that reality always seems to have its shadow in unreality, and this unreality claims reality for itself. In this respect it counterfeits the real.
So-called mortal mind stands as the opposite and negative of the Mind that is God, but it is suppositional and without basis of fact. Jesus calls it a liar from the beginning. So-called mortal mind translates Mind’s ideas in conformity with itself and calls them things, or objects of matter.
What we see as objects of matter is the human mind’s misconception of the spiritual facts at hand; in other words, matter is just the human mind’s way of regarding real creation.
Spiritual facts appear to the human mind to be matter, and matter is false appearance only. The trouble is, that mortals deal with appearance only and not with the spiritual facts or with things as they are. Therefore the so-called mortal man, through enlightenment and obedience to his understanding, must overcome his misconceptions of man and the universe.
So-called mortal man is the sum total of the material thoughts that make up supposititious consciousness or a material self-hood; but Mrs. Eddy teaches that there is no self-hood apart from God, because God and man are coexistent as one Being; and if there is no self-hood apart from God, then the self-hood present here must be God, no matter how it appears.
Enoch proved this. Enoch saw no evil, or sin; he saw the appearance called matter, and even death, as the formless mist that flees or dissolves before the light of the sun. He so focused the penetrating rays of omnipotent truth upon his seeming material self-hood, that it dissolved and vanished from human view. By so doing, Enoch lived and moved and had his being in God, and experienced the consciousness of eternal life. Thus must all mankind do to live.
There are not two kinds of reality, one to be overcome and the other to endure forever; but it is through the understanding of truth that we overcome the misconception of the one and only self-hood, here and now.
We do know what is to be overcome, even the false material concept of man and the universe. We know how to overcome it, even through the understanding of, and obedience to, truth. We know where the overcoming must take place, even in human consciousness. But one thing remains; when are we to do the overcoming?
We are to do the overcoming at the very instant that error confronts us. We must begin right where we are, and right where error confronts us, to overcome the material, erroneous sense. We do this by being obedient in our thinking and living, to the spiritual sense of the thing at hand.
There seems to be a natural tendency on the part of human beings to ignore the present, and look to what is believed to be the more important things of the future, when we should make our decisions and take our stand for the truth of reality at that instant. Present opportunities must be improved if we are to reap the reward of the faithful and inherit all things.
Daniel could not wait until he got out of the lions’ den to do the knowing and living of the truth; he had to do it right now, right then and there; but if Daniel had not been living in obedience to the reality, or truth of men and circumstances, before he was put in the lions’ den, he might not have fared so well at the time.
If we think rightly at all times, and under all circumstances, there is little danger that we shall act wrongly when under pressure. We may act without deliberation at times, but essentially our actions will be right; but if we think wrongly and harbor thoughts of envy, hatred, revenge, dishonesty, passion, sickness, etc., we are not going to act rightly now or next week, or at any time, until we change our thinking and standard of living. Why is this so? Because right thinking is not a matter of habit, but is a matter of reflecting the Divine Mind. Right thinking is not an activity of the human mind at all, but right thinking is scientific activity, and scientific thinking reflects the activity of the Divine Mind. It is only as we reflect the Divine Mind that wrong or unscientific thinking can be overcome.
Let us consider David and Goliath in their presentation of scientific and unscientific thinking. Twice each day Goliath had successfully defied the host of Israel by mesmerizing them into thinking that he, a personality, was invincible. Goliath’s display of preparedness, size and power possessed their thinking entirely, and “they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” (I Sam. 17:11)
But evil’s representation of itself as size, power, or frightfulness, whether in the guise of a man or beast, held no terror for David, because his thinking was scientific thinking, the reflection of Mind, and such thinking permitted of no suggestion of any presence or power besides God.
How large was Goliath, really? How much to be feared, when such a small missile as a little round stone, understandingly wielded, could destroy him. It was not a giant the hosts of Israel feared, but it was their misconception that almighty power had its source in a giant. Through their wrong thinking, they saw the power of life and intelligence in person, and this wrong thinking controlled both armies for forty days.
Are we really aware of how much of the time we give power to life and intelligence in persons, weighing and fearing what personal man will think or say or do unto us? This is all unscientific thinking, and we should overcome it by the reflection of the thinking that is the activity of the divine Mind. In Christian Science, there is no personal self-hood; the only self-hood is God, and every individual man reflects Him.
What needed to be destroyed in order to liberate the host of Israel was the mesmeric suggestion wielded by the carnal mind; David did not become a victim of the malicious suggestions sent out morning and evening by Goliath, but he said, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” (I Sam. 17:37)
And when carnal mind bragged of its power, and dominion, and displayed its great weight, and size and solidity, David remained obedient to the truth in his thinking. David’s divine insight enabled him to overcome the carnal mind. His direct blow of true understanding aimed at error’s forehead, or the false claim of intelligence in matter or person, was sufficient to win the battle.
The realization of the dominion and influence of right scientific thinking is the first step away from the misconceptions that man can be governed by chance or circumstance or environment, or any of the various forms of matter or evil. Man, God’s idea of Himself, is governed in his entire action by God, and by nothing else.
David did not hesitate or fear to go out to meet Goliath, because he acknowledged no place where God’s law is not in operation. He knew that God, alone, is supreme in Heaven and in earth.
And the Davids of today, we who do the will of God, need not fear to go forth and fight for the right, and there comes the abiding sense of joy and satisfaction only as we are faithful in the performance of every work to which we are called.
No one can hold to a position outgrown. There is always higher work for each and every one of us when we have faithfully and lovingly performed our present duty. This was true of David who, after carefully attending his sheep, was at length called upon to administer the laws of the nation; and as it was with David, so it is with us.
Overcoming means nothing else than the gaining of further good.
We are to give proof that our kingdom is not of this world. To do this we must first order our thinking and our conversation, and go forth to meet the mental foe, firmly resolved to overcome, by obedience to truth, whatever in human consciousness is unlike perfection.
Christian Science is revealing to us the Godlike qualities which made man the divine character of the Christ; and instead of supinely waiting for God to do something, we should do something ourselves to attain this divine character. Christian Science teaches that we must be doers of the word if we are to receive the further good that is in store for us.
Now for a while, let us consider some of the natural tendencies of mortal mind which should be overcome, and which can be overcome by obedience to our understanding of truth. One of the most subtle temptations which turns thought from the straight and narrow way leading to further good, is the desire to be exalted above others, and this human desire should be overcome.
We often receive satisfaction from having privileges which others are not permitted to enjoy; and even though we may have opportunities which are denied others, any exultation in which we indulge, only makes it more difficult to accomplish the greater overcoming which is expected of us, and which is required of us. We should not think of ourselves as superior to others who render just as effectual service, but in positions that mortal mind considers of less importance. It is never the position we occupy, but the overcoming in individual consciousness that is of consequence.
Again, the temptation to be satisfied with human recognition and appreciation often prevents the honest striving for the things of Spirit, which is so essential to continued progress in further good.
There is but one road to enduring success, either for the individual or for the race; that is for each one of us to be faithful in the use of that which has been entrusted to our keeping, not regarding the relative importance according to the human estimate of our work or position as compared with that of others. The faithful worker is rewarded, not according to material views or compensation, but according to spiritual law; and since this is true, the faithful is always sure of his reward.
In every righteous endeavor, we are to consider no high and no low, but recognize and appreciate every honest effort wherever seen. To bless another and not possess another should be the motto of every one who has caught a glimpse of love, and only unselfish service is accepted as proof of love. If we wish to gain the health and peace which Christian Science offers, we do not seek these blessings for ourselves alone. Such an attitude of thought would prevent us from rising higher than the mere letter of Christian Science.
If we were to see a man overcome with cold and perishing in the snow, how quickly we would go to the rescue, but are we that divine Love that will go to the rescue, when we see another overcome by resentment, greed, vindictiveness, hate, or jealousy?
On such occasions we can silently reflect the warmth of Divine Love, until his heart feels the gentle warmth of Love, and he is roused to express the activity of the life that is love.
Opportunity awaits us hourly to manifest that love which is impartial and reaches out to all mankind. Such love is the gift of God, a reflection of that love which includes all of its ideas, and tenderly and impartially protects them.
Again, among the obstructive forms which mesmeric influences assume are indifference, apathy, and fear of human opinions. We cannot be a Christian Scientist and be half-hearted, or idle, or let our thought be influenced by the consideration of what people think.
When truth becomes the lodestar of our thought, the trust and confidence of our fellow man is assured. Meanwhile it is well to dismiss all anxiety in regard to our motives being intelligently viewed, or our achievements or difficulties sympathetically appreciated. We should recognize that the human mind at the best is incapable of accurate judgement, and we should see to it that all our actions are the result of waiting upon God for directions.
Jesus gave us the method of procedure in overcoming for all ages. He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) To deny oneself meant to Jesus the denial of mortal material self-hood; and if we heed the Master’s admonition and deny ourselves daily, it will soon be apparent that the human will, with all its aggressiveness and insufficiency, is losing its seeming influence, and that the Divine Mind with all its power and peace is governing.
We should strive daily to realize that there is no mortal material self-hood at all; that each individual is the reflection of Mind, of Life, Truth, and Love. This is really all the me and you there is, and this true and only self-hood is coexistent and co-eternal with God.
When we really deny ourselves, we forget ourselves and all mankind materially, and remember only the image and likeness of God. In this way is Christian Science healing wrought.
The Christian Science doctrine of the unreality of matter does not teach that matter represents nothing at all, but it teaches that matter is a material misconception of a true conception or a true idea held in Divine Mind. And the so-called human is the subjective or the externalized object of his own thinking, and, being a mere effect, he changes and alters with every alteration of his mind, which is projecting or causing the effect.
Jesus had so destroyed the human or carnal mind by this simple process of denying himself, that is, denying his own materiality, that when a leper approached him on the way to Capernaum, his own spirituality or the Christ, rejected the lie of sick matter, and recognized only the idea of Divine Mind.
The real man, the image and likeness of God, was a purely spiritual idea, incapable of sin, disease and death. Knowing this, Jesus knew that he was not placing his hand on leprous matter, since all his spirituality was capable of recognizing as real, was the image and likeness of God.
And Jesus could not understand this truth, and be obedient to it in his thinking, without destroying the specific lie or misconception presented to him, that of a leprous man, in the only place where it claimed to exist, in the human mind.
Gone from the human mind, it was gone, not only for Jesus, but for the leper, and the priest to whom the leper was to go and show himself. Jesus, in short, had known the truth; and the truth had destroyed the lie or misconception and set the leper free. Jesus saw the perfect man where sinning mortal man alone was visible to those about him, and this healed the sick. This exemplifies the simplicity of a Christian Science treatment. No Christian Scientist, be he student, reader, practitioner, can do more than have his thinking true, the truth about God and man; and this conscious Truth as one’s own mind overcomes or rejects any mental presentation that is not true.
True protection lies not in outward circumstances but in spiritual thinking, and it is won through our ceaseless struggle to think God’s thoughts and be Christlike.
The students of Christian Science realize the importance of rejecting suggestions that old age will curtail activity or diminish the power of certain moral faculties. One not awake to the truth of being may let in such suggestions and brood over them until they are made manifest in his experience. Mrs. Eddy warns against this when she writes, “The wrong thought should be arrested before it has a chance to manifest itself.” (S&H 452:5)
Christian Science proves that quick rejection of disturbing, morbid thoughts, fearful, apathetic, selfish thoughts, prevents their taking effect in one’s experience; and by keeping their thoughts fixed on God, Truth, Christian Scientists are able to experience divine preservation, peace, harmony, happiness, useful activity, and to assist in bringing continual satisfaction to their loved ones and friends. Health, harmony, happiness, useful activity, success are within the reach of all who will begin to use their useful capacities in constructive spiritual thinking and activity. These things are within the reach of all who overcome the misconceptions of man, by obedience to the truth of being.
Mrs. Eddy gives the following instructions, “We must realize the ability of mental might to offset human misconceptions and to replace them with the life which is spiritual, not material.” (S&H 428:19)
In overcoming by obedience, we should clearly understand that our problem is never one of overcoming persons and conditions outside of ourselves, but our problem is to overcome within ourselves the false belief that the source of power and action is in a person or condition.
The prevalent tendency is to place the source and origin of power and action in personality, or conditions, instead of in God and in this present time. Certain personalities appear to be wielding great power and influence and domination. But Mrs. Eddy, in her college classes said, “There is no personality, and it is more important to know this than to know that there is no disease.”
What appears to the human mind to be a powerful and active person, a veritable Goliath, is in fact individual man expressing the power and action of the ONE GOD-MIND.
There is no personal self-hood. The self-hood that is present here is God-Mind in mental, spiritual manifestation or man. Each individual here is the mental, spiritual showing forth of the one self-hood, God.
We do not have to overcome evil persons, or evil conditions, in order to be liberated from our problems, but we liberate ourselves by overcoming the mesmeric suggestions wielded by the carnal mind; that man is a person and is the cause of evil conditions.
We, like David, should not be mesmerized by evil presentations, even though it presents the appearance of great power, activity, domination, war, etc. Much of the time, even Christian Scientists are giving power to the Goliaths of today, when we should be using the small round stone, or true understanding, to destroy the mesmerism of life and intelligence in matter.
When erroneous mental pictures seem to confront us, we should realize the necessity of overcoming them instantly. Mrs. Eddy says, “Error comes to you for life, and you give it all the life it has.” (From an old Journal)
To overcome any error that seems to confront us, we realize that it is a mental suggestion only, and then replace the suggestion with the truth or spiritual fact. The wrong mental or evil suggestion can be overcome by the right mental or true thought because right thinking is the activity of the Divine Mind, present as the action and power that is truth and life. Right thinking is never the activity of the human mind, but right thinking is always Divine Mind in action, and is supreme power. Christian Science proves that quick rejection from consciousness of disturbing, morbid, fearful, selfish thoughts prevents them from taking effect in one’s experience.
As we realize the dominant influence of right scientific thinking, we overcome the misconceptions that we can be governed by chance or circumstances or any form of evil. Our protection from all seeming evils, lies in spiritual thinking. As we rise to higher realms of thought, we automatically transcend evil conditions.
Our present world is not outside of us; it is a mental world, a state of consciousness, and we, like Jesus, are to overcome the entire mental concept of it. Overcoming is always a mental contest within the consciousness of the individual; a contest between our understanding of the spiritual fact that God is All, and the belief in the misconception that evil is presence and power.
Our enemies are purely mental. They are our human thoughts and fears, our misconceptions of man as personal, and our universe as material. Our spiritual ascent above the finite material sense of a personal self-hood, and a material world, is made within the realm of our individual consciousness. We overcome only by obedience to the truth of being.