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Human Hypotheses
FRANK H. SPRAGUE

 
         Whenever a fresh revelation of Truth is voiced to the world, the carnal mind, or material consciousness, seeks to put the new wine of spiritual inspiration into the old wine skins of limiting formulas and paralyzing dogmas. So subtle and gradual is the reactionary process that the transition from a spiritual to a material standpoint takes place almost unconsciously. No great religious movement of the past has escaped this fate; all have yielded, to a greater or less extent, to the persuasions of material sense and forfeited their essential spiritual quality and redemptive power. This deplorable result has been due in part to the tendency to interpret the new tongue of spiritual revelation in terms of materiality. Thus it was that, after a brief season, the healing, regenerating gospel proclaimed to mankind by Jesus of Nazareth and his earlier followers was sacrificed to barren theories and banal creeds based on varying interpretations of the New Testament writings, until religion became a thing of belief rather than of demonstration.

         The vital element of Christianity had, therefore, to be rediscovered and reinstated in human experience by one whose thought was spiritual enough to pierce the clouds of traditional theology and apprehend spiritual reality anew. In order that the Science of Christianity might be rendered available for all human needs, its Discoverer, Mrs. Eddy, was led to embody the truth of her revelation in a textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." These steps, momentous in themselves, were but preliminary, however, to more comprehensive developments in the evangelization of human concepts. In the problems and contingencies which arise along the way, the serpent, material sense, following close upon the heel of the woman, is ever ready to establish the belief of reversal by taking advantage of human shortcomings. Hence the temptation which besets Christian Scientists to put faith and spiritual understanding again under bonds to speculative hypotheses and dogmatic opinions, thereby defeating the end of Christian practice. Because of the lucidity of thought and exactness of diction which characterize our Leader's writings, any uncertainty as to the truth she teaches is inexcusable. With faithfulness in their study of the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings they will see the falsity of all materialistic hypotheses and hold so faithfully to the spiritual significance of the Scriptures as to avoid the contentions of opposing sects which have too long darkened religious history.

         In the application of spiritual truth to human conditions we are confronted with the necessity of dealing with situations in which Spirit and matter seem, to mortal sense, to meet on common ground. Now, as of old, the serpent suggests that man's eyes will be opened by eating the fruit "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;" in other words, by reasoning from a material sense of existence." From this quasimetaphysical standpoint there appears to be a connecting link or point of coincidence, as it were, between the belief that life is structural and organic and the truth of being. The suppositional reign of error begins with the suggestion that a multitude of finite minds capable of thinking and acting on their own account are the offspring of Mind. From the erratic position of finite sense the universe seems to consist of material objects until a better understanding shows that matter is a mental concept externalized. Thereupon the human mind, or finite sense, follows up its false logic by intimating that these mentally material objects or images of thought derive their origin, directly or indirectly, from the divine Mind; and when the fallacy of this contention also is exposed by Christian Science, the suppositional false sense which fathers the spurious world order suggests that each articulate mortal concept or object cognizable therein stands for or typifies a particular spiritual entity of God's creating. The acceptance of this, like any other speculative hypothesis, is liable to be fraught with grave consequences. The supposition that a systematic relationship, analogy, correspondence, or parallelism exists in some fashion between the realm of physical concepts or so-called material phenomena and the world of spiritual realities has given rise to various philosophical and religious tenets, among which Plato's scheme of "ideas" and Swedenborg's doctrine of correspondences are typical examples.

         In contradistinction to this trend of thought, Christian Science teaches that the record of God's spiritual creation in the first chapter of Genesis, and the allegory dealing with the spurious, conceptual world of the senses in the second and succeeding chapters, are logically irreconcilable. Whence comes the suggestion, then, that the creatures and objects which Adam is represented as naming and classifying correspond or tally, in any definite and categorical sense, with the spiritual identities whose order and classification are unfolded in the Elohistic account? In the words of Mrs. Eddy in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 513): "Spirit diversifies, classifies, and individualizes all thoughts, which are as eternal as the Mind conceiving them." Does the simulated intelligence of mortal mind put forth a replica or counterfeit presentation, the details of which coincide with or follow out the divine scheme of creation?

         It will be readily acknowledged that the erratic course of suggestion in dreams, delirium, or the trance state does not conform to the calculus and categories of divine intelligence. On what ground, then, can it be argued that the differentiated articulate forms of matter or objects of sense which constitute the natural world, so styled, — the waking stage of the Adam dream, — adhere to the line of Spirit's diversification, classification, and individualization of ideas? Have we not the same warrant for classifying incongruous, hideous, or baneful manifestations which appear in the waking dream of mortals as the misconceived offspring of a disordered sense, without a correlative in truth, that we have for so regarding phenomena of a similar nature which appear in the phantasmal realm of dreamland? Mortal mind, simulating the creative prerogative of divine Mind, presumes to mold and fashion matter after its own models no less surely in the processes and formations of nature and the human body than it does in the plastic arts and music. Because it is not an eternal, spiritual reality but a mutable concept of mortal mind that is manifested to the senses in the guise of physical objects, it is not difficult to see why the Kantian hypothesis that there exists behind the phenomenal appearance a "thing in itself" failed to justify itself and was discarded by later exponents of the idealistic school of philosophy.

         In the effects observed in a kaleidoscope it is impossible to trace a systematic connection between the illusions which appear and reappear in the constantly changing round of phenomena presented to the eye and the objects which make the illusions possible. This holds good with regard to number and relationship as well as form, color, and other phenomenal distinctions. Can we then hope to comprehend or gauge spiritual things by peering through a screen or lens of matter? How can the vision of spiritual reality appear by a theoretical transfiguration of material forms and objects? Must we not, rather, turn entirely away from material suggestions in order to see spiritual reality? "We cannot fathom the nature and quality of God's creation by diving into the shallows of mortal belief," says Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science (Science and Health, p. 262). Mortal man is prone to make unto himself not only physical but mental likenesses of what he imagines to be the form and fashion of spiritual ideas. This exercise, be it ever so well-meaning and seemingly innocent in its way, begets a spirit of idolatry which sooner or later seeks satisfaction in the worship of material concepts and theories, as the history of dogmatic theology shows.

         In his illustration of spiritual truth by metaphors and parables drawn from nature, we do not find that the great Teacher ever hinted at any relationship between the objects of sense and the ideas of Spirit. When we turn from Principle to consider speculative hypotheses, the mist of materiality begins to rise before our vision and obscure our spiritual sense. Recognizing full well the tendency of the human mind to follow after doctrinal theories, our Leader, with keen foresight, sought to safeguard the cause of Christian Science and save the pure word of truth from adulteration, by ordaining the Bible and Science and Health as the only preachers for the denomination, thereby excluding human opinions and private interpretations from the public services, and providing, as the explanatory note in the Quarterly declares, "a sermon undivorced from truth, uncontaminated and unfettered by human hypotheses, and divinely authorized."

 

"Human Hypotheses" by Frank H. Sprague
Christian Science Sentinel, February 15, 1919


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