PETALUMA, CA, Feb. 6, 2017 – Mention the word “despotism” to most people and it will likely conjure up stark images of political, military, or religious suppression and aggression, both past and present. And yet, as important as it is to confront such evil whenever and wherever it appears, the repression that appears in our own thinking remains an even more insidious enemy.
“Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task,” writes Christian reformer Mary Baker Eddy. “The despotic tendencies, inherent in mortal mind and always germinating in new forms of tyranny, must be rooted out through the action of the divine Mind.”
There is not a person on this planet who has not felt, to a greater or lesser extent, the effects of mental slavery – that fear-based outlook on life that keeps us from living in accord with our better, more inspired, instincts. And yet, it would appear that we are far more inclined to resist some outward injustice – as valid as that may be – than we are that deceitful inner voice, forever insisting that whatever is standing in the way of our progress is somehow insurmountable.
The effects are myriad – discouragement, hopelessness, and so on – but felt perhaps most palpably in the form of disease. “Disease is a thing of thought manifested on the body,” asserts Eddy, “and fear is the procurator of the thought which causes sickness and suffering.”
I recall a time a decade or so ago when my back and leg became gripped with pain, the result, I soon discovered, of a herniated disc in my spine. I could barely get in and out of bed and had trouble walking. A typical response, I suppose, might have been to pick up some pain medication at the local drugstore, stay off my feet, and simply wait it out. As helpful as that might be for some, I chose instead to pray.
Although there are times when I have reached out with a heartfelt, “God help me!” with some expectation of getting better, the prayer in this instance required a deeper understanding of God’s presence and power to change both my mental and physical condition. It was more a matter of being consciously open to whatever God or divine Mind, to use Eddy’s term, had to tell me about my spiritual identity. As it turned out, what I heard had nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my relationship with others.
As I was praying, I could see that I had become fixated on the deep political divide at that time, and the all-too-frequent evidence I was seeing of this in my own experience – the heated discussions, the posturing, and so on. Mostly, though, it was the persistent anxiety I felt about bringing up certain topics of conversation for fear of creating an uncomfortable situation for others and myself.
That was part one of my prayer – being receptive to what this divine Mind I was praying to and with was revealing to me about the real source of my discomfort. Part two was the vastly more uplifting realization that the divine Mind was something shared by one and all, and that human opinion, no matter how divergent, didn’t have the power to separate me from my family and friends or cause me to care for them any less. The next thing I knew, the pain in my back and leg had completely subsided and has never returned.
If I had to distill this victory over inner/mental slavery down to just one word, I would have to go with love – love for God and love for my fellow man demanding to be expressed in the midst of so much fear and division. Was this love something I forced on myself? Hardly. As it says in the Bible, “We love because he [God] first loved us.” Love is our most natural inclination, and our surest defense against any and all forms of tyranny.
Eric Nelson writes about the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs. Continue the conversation on Facebook.