A guest post written by Alan Galt from Carlsbad, California
A central but challenging principle for many students of Christian Science is the concept that matter and the material body are unreal. A cherished statement from the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, begins with the radical declaration, “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter.” Critics sometimes pounce upon this passage and cite it as self-evident proof that the convictions held by Christian Scientists are “off the wall.” After all, they argue, the testimony of the physical senses is so real as to be irrefutable. I have encountered such arguments in conversations with friends, when teaching Sunday school, and even in my own thinking. I have prayed to understand this core principle and to be able to explain it better to others. And unexpected insights have come to me from experiences with my computers.
My first personal computer came bundled with a dot-matrix printer – that amazing machine whose print head darted back and forth, projecting and retracting pins at just the right instant to strike an ink ribbon and create letters and graphics as the page advanced. A fan of mechanisms and devices, I found it fascinating. But after some time, the print quality declined: parts of letters became distorted, or failed to print altogether. I diagnosed the problem from my handyman’s experience: some of the print pins must be sticking, but I had no idea how to fix them. I was tempted to try a drop of oil, but couldn’t figure out where to apply it.
So I took the printer back to the dealer, along with examples of the distorted printing, and said – proud of my diagnostic skills – “I’ve got a hardware problem!” The technician took a quick look at my printouts and pronounced, “You’ve got a software problem.” The malfunction was not mechanical, but was caused by corruption in the data – the “intelligence” – controlling the printer. The solution was quick and simple, and didn’t involve an oilcan. In retrospect, I saw that my false diagnosis had been much like the widely held belief that a part or organ malfunctioning in the human body can be repaired by applying a medicinal corrective – a “drop of oil,” when the real need is to correct the thoughts that govern the body. That insight has often come back to me since: physical challenges are not “hardware” (bodily) malfunctions, but “software” (mental) errors, and must be corrected in our thinking.
That experience was reinforced some time later as I unpacked a new and much more powerful machine and connected the various hardware components. I had great expectations for this computer: it would speed my working capacity greatly and facilitate tasks that had been out of reach before. But as the new hardware configuration was taking shape, it came to me with great clarity that this marvelous new computer was inherently inert. Even plugging it in and turning it on would not bring it fully to life; that would depend on loading the software that would control and enable its performance. In just the same way, I saw again, the human body is inert without the influence of Mind, and its performance is governed directly by the quality of thought that controls it.
No oilcans, no wrenches or screwdrivers. What we most need is to maintain our mental “software” at the highest quality possible!