Chapter 1 – The Changeless Reality


W. John Murray
New Thoughts on Old Doctrines
Divine Science Publishing Co.
New York, N.Y., 1918


“Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
JAMES 1:17

When Jesus said, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee,” he set forth in very few words the great ignorance of the race concerning the most essential thing in the universe, which is “To know God aright,” for this is Life eternal.

Divine Science has come to emphasize the fact that in order to know God aright we must study, and meditate upon the essential Characteristics of deity. It is very evident that we have not known God aright, because we have not only not entered into Life eternal, but we have not enjoyed the peace and poise and power and prosperity to which we are told the “sons and daughters of God” are so richly entitled.


“O heavenly Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee!” Could it be that all who had gone before Jesus, and all who were living contemporaneously with Jesus, were so densely ignorant of the true character of God?

Is it not true that long before Jesus came, God was a household word all over the world? True, there were those called pagans who believed in many gods. Let us examine some of the beliefs about God. At best all the race has had are its peculiar concepts of Diety. No man hath known God at any time and continued to live as a mortal, and knowledge of God in the fullest sense of the word seems to be quite impossible. But this does not deter us from the incumbent necessity of investigating for ourselves what God must be in his essential characteristics.

When Abraham came out upon the great scene of spiritual action, he came out from a people who believed in many gods. His father, the Talmud tells us, was a manufacturer of gods. We say, “Imagine it! A maker of gods!” And we think that we [5] are so far removed from that phase of ignorance that we are not makers of idols, but if we examine the question scientifically, we find that we are just what the pagans were,—makers, manufacturers of gods.

In other words, your concept of God is not mine, and my concept of God is not the orthodox Christian’s concept of God, and the orthodox Christian’s concept of God is not the Hebrew’s concept of God at all. And so in reality we are makers of gods. Perhaps not of tin, of wood and of stone and golden gods, but gods nevertheless. He was a wise man and a great wit who said that “Ever since God had created man in his own image and after his own likeness, man had been striving to return the compliment.”

In the infancy of the race, in the attempt to return the compliment, men made God after their own image and likeness. They were brutal, carnal, material, and so they had a brutal and a carnal and a material God. If they wished to sweep a personal enemy out of the way, and had sufficient physical force, power, and strength to do it, [6] they did so, and so they measured the power of God by their puny, finite power, and said, “If we can remove one enemy out of the way, God can sweep an entire nation out of existence,” hence the cry, “O Lord God of Israel, destroy thine enemies from before thy face.” Men had the idea that His enemies were their enemies,—or rather that their enemies were His. So they cried out to this personal God that He might destroy His enemies from before His face, when as a matter of fact they were men’s enemies only, and enemies only in belief.

Thus men have begotten in the infancy of the race a personal God, the Hebrew Jehovah, a mighty potentate, a selfish, avaricious, cruel, malicious, wrathful and jealous God, and also a personal devil. In our infancy we had two persons, a personal God and a personal devil, and then we grew up into our youth where we began to change our views concerning God. We rose above the idea of personality connected with God, and substituted for a personal God and a personal devil, two great principles,—the [7] principle of good and the principle of evil. We felt that we had made some strides in our education. We rather smiled at the man who thought of God in terms of personality, and rather ridiculed those theologies which emphasized a personal devil with horns, hoofs and tail; we felt that we had grown tremendously. We could listen no longer to the doctrine of a personal God and personal devil.

Next we come to the approaching manhood of the race, where Divine Science brings to our consciousness the great mathematical fact that principle in order to be principle at all, can only be one. There cannot be two principles forever warring with each other. Thus in Divine Science to speak of God as Principle, a cold, abstract, mathematical term to apply to this warm and pulsating Presence which we had been taught to speak of as God in the past. Here we incurred the hostility and the antagonism of those who saw this divine Principle as a mere speck upon the great ocean of humanity, as a something that had come to torment but not [8] to educate them, and out of this came a great many discussions and dissertations.

I remember a very noted clergyman who, when he found that certain members of his flock, having exhausted the systems of materia medica, and having exhausted the power of their own prayers and their pastors also, began to turn to Divine Science for healing and for health. When the pastor discovered this departure from his pews of the most thoughtful people in his church, then discovered that it was only a question of time when the church would not be able to support itself, and he felt that he must protect his church against this emigration of his best people, he set himself the task of presenting to his congregation the subject of divine Principle in all the hideousness and ugliness of a distorted imagination.

I remember very distinctly one of this man’s most telling points. He said, “These Divine Principle people have destroyed God. They have reduced God to a principle. ‘They have taken away the Lord and we know not where they have laid him.’ [9]They are a godless people. They have reduced prayer to bold, brazen affirmations. They consider themselves equal with God. Not only are they unscientific, but they are not Christian, and I warn you against identifying yourselves with them.”

This was some years ago. Happily the pulpit is becoming more tolerant with the idea that Divine Scientists “have reduced God to a principle.”

But Divine Science has not reduced God to anything, and it cannot reduce God because it proposes to do the very opposite to that. The purpose of Divine Science is to magnify the Lord, and if we do anything with the Lord, it is that we exalt him. We exalt God to the Principle of all principles, to the whole. This is not a reduction, but an exaltation of God.

But we must know what we mean when we use the word principle, and if our clerical friend had taken the time and the pains to do what so very few intelligent men ever do,—because they assume that they know the meaning of all words that they use,—if [10] he had taken the time and the trouble to look up in the dictionary the term principle, he would have seen that it is one of the very finest synonyms that one can use for God.

What does principle mean? I have with me the definition of the word “principle” as it occurs in the Standard Dictionary so that you will know that I am not giving you my own definition:

Principle, “a source or cause from which a thing proceeds, a power that acts continuously or uniformly; a permanent or fundamental cause that naturally or necessarily produces certain results on all occasions.”

This is the definition of principle as it occurs in your Standard Dictionary. “A source from which things proceed, a cause, a changeless reality.” Can you give a more comprehensive title to God than this? The Only Source, the Only Cause, the Only fundamental Reality! The one great all-controlling omnipresent Principle of Being.

If we were Hebrews, we would say, “The God of the Universe.” If we were orthodox Christians, we would say, “The Father of [11] all mankind.” But because we are striving to be philosophical Christians, and Christian philosophers, we say the Principle of Being.

At first, of course, it is cold and abstract because it was not a term that was used in our older order of religious teaching, but when it is scientifically explained, I am sure that you will agree that no better phrase can be used for the God of the universe, or Father of all mankind, than the Principle of Being.

We have said that there are not two principles in the universe, a principle of good and a principle of evil. If Principle exists at all, it must be One, and this Principle cannot be dual in its operations. That is, it can not be good on one side of its being and evil on the other.

Only a few days ago I read a prayer by one of the most intelligent men we have in this country, a devotee of universal peace. He was talking to God as he might talk to an ordinary man. He said, “Oh, Lord God, we ask thee in all thy clemency and tenderness and affection to intercede with these conflicting [12] nations to bring peace instead of war; to change the hearts of men so that love will take the place of hate and anger and malice.”

He went on with this marvelous prayer,—a very good prayer under the old thought, but not at all consistent with our text from James the Apostle. James says that God is not a variable God, and that with him there “is no variableness neither shadow of turning.” God is “the same yesterday, today and forever.”

We are asking God to do for the nations what the nations alone can do for themselves. Is it rash to say that God cannot prevent man from committing a sin if he is bent upon committing it?

It is a necessity of the old theological dogma, that man is a free moral agent, that God, in bestowing upon man the distinguishing characteristics of mind, bestowed upon him, free moral agency. He gave to him will and domination and then left it to man to exercise these according to his own judgment, discretion and wisdom, or lack of it.


And so man in the exercise of these God-given faculties, wherever he is cooperating with divine Principle, is living in love and health and harmony, and not in pain, sickness, disease and death; and wherever he has worked in opposition to the rules growing out of divine Principle, he has sown the seeds of unhappiness, misery, ill health and death itself.

Therefore the responsibility rests largely,—may I say altogether and exclusively with man?

There was a time when we felt that we could sin up to the very last minute, and then by our tearful petitions and aided by the accumulated prayers of our friends, we might ask God to remit the penalty due to our sins. Death-bed repentance we called it. Some of us had very little faith in it.

The only destruction of sin there can be is not so much the remission of the penalty due to it according to Law, as it is in the reformation of the sinner himself. There is a law back of sin. You cannot sin without suffering, and we cannot sin up to the last [14] moment and then ask God to push us unceremoniously into the arms of Abraham. It is not consistent with law. It is not consistent with love, not even the love of God itself.

When we speak of God as Principle, while at first it grates harshly upon the ear, we see presently that it is far more loving than our old concept of God. Sometimes we are asked, “How can I pray to a Principle?” I think that this is one of the most common questions that is asked of the student of Divine Science. How can I pray to a Principle? It seems almost impossible to pray to a Principle.

In music, in mathematics, you don’t pray to the principle of these, do you? How do you acquire musical knowledge, how do you acquire mathematical proficiency?

Is it not by conforming to the principle, by understanding its rules and working according to them, that you solve your problems in music and mathematics? It is identically the same in metaphysics,—identically the same in true religion. For it is [15] only as we understand the Principle of Being, acquaint ourselves intelligently with its rules, that we can do what Paul the Apostle said we must do—“work out our own salvation,” not with fear and trembling, but with love and courage.

It is only as we become intelligently acquainted with God as the Principle of the universe, that we can acquaint ourselves with these rules that naturally grow out of the Principle, and then begin to solve our own problems. Because I take it, that this is the work of every man in the world. He is not to have God solve his problems for him, but is to solve his own problems according to the Principle.

Is the principle of mathematics less loving because it places its whole self, its undivided self, as a servant of the child who is studying arithmetic, or at the service of the accountant who is working out some great mathematical problem, or of the engineer who is doing some very delicate work according to its rules? Is the principle of mathematics less loving, less generous and [16] of less usefulness because it permits the student of it to solve his problems on any plane of mathematical experience with infallible exactitude? Certainly not.

Is the Principle of Being, which men call God, less loving because it enables man everywhere and anywhere to work out his own salvation according to its rules? Is it less loving because it is not a personal God and more or less capricious?

Let us consider the difference between the old thought God as person, and the New Thought God as Principle. The old thought of God as person, leads us into this peculiar belief, that if it were the will of God and we pray with sufficient intensity and earnestness, certain discomforts, diseases, depressions and discouragements might be taken away out of our lives. We talked to God as if he were a person situated somewhere in a far-off realm, surveying the world as the monarch of all he had created, and then we asked him to remove some terrible calamity from our lives, and, if we were very good, sometimes,—almost invariably, [17] we ended our prayer with, “if it be thy will, Oh, God.”

It [would be] presumptuous to ask him to do it if it were not his will, so we finished our prayer with that petition, “if it be thy will, Oh, God.”

And I submit it to you to analyze your own experiences, and to ask yourself how many times when you have prayed that prayer with all the earnestness of your soul, with all the intensity of your desire to be freed from something inimical to your interests or health,—I ask you how many times you believed that your prayers to a personal God were really answered?

How often have you consoled yourself with the belief that perhaps it were not best for you to have good health, perhaps it were not best for you to be freed from the clanking chains of poverty, perhaps it were not best for you to live at all,—and so you have tried to reconcile your condition with this concept of God.

Over here another man without any prayer at all is perfectly well, perfectly [18] healthy, perfectly strong and prosperous, while here you pray and petition, and beg and whine almost, to God and yet you go on in the same old way! I ask if you have had very many answers to prayers along these lines?

Then is it wrong, so unchristian to substitute divine Principle for a personal God, if by understanding this divine Principle, we can solve our own problems? Does this mean that we should cease praying altogether? Oh no, no, not at all. It merely means that we change the character of our prayers.

The prayers of Jesus were not the prayers of John the Baptist. The prayers of Jesus were so wholly unlike anything that had ever gone up before his time, that we wonder what mysterious power there was in them, because they always bore results. Did he stand at the tomb of Lazarus and pray silently, and call for Lazarus to come forth? Lazarus came forth. But before he came forth Jesus said to those who stood by, “The Father hath heard me,” and he addressed his [19] heavenly Father and said, “I thank thee, Father, that thou has heard me, for I know that thou hearest me always.”

Why was Jesus so sure, why was he so confident that God heard him always? Why is the expert mathematician so sure, so confident of the principle of mathematics, that it will support him whenever he co-operates with its rules? Because he has tried it. He has tested it. He knows it is unerring. He never thinks of accusing the principle of mathematics for any error that he may make personally. It never occurs to him to trace the errors on his ledger to the principle of mathematics. To him it is the most unerring thing in the world. And so it was with Jesus; it never occurred to him to trace the death of Lazarus to God. Other men might have thought that it was the will of God, and that for some wise and inscrutable purpose of his own God had taken this wonderful youth from these two marvelous women, his sisters. Men might think that, but not so with Jesus.

The one fixed idea in the mind of Jesus [20] was simply this. It is not the will of my Father that any one should die, but rather that he should be converted. Ever and always before the mind of Jesus was a great fixed fact, and that fact was based upon the immutable Principle, the Principle of Life itself. Jesus understood the definition of principle. He understood it to mean “cause, source, origin, that from which things proceed,” and he also understood it to mean that it was without “variableness” or “shadow of turning.” In other words, that it was the same “yesterday, to-day, and forever,” and because it was the Life Principle, it had no death thought in it. Because it was the Life Principle it only recognized things like Itself. If men departed from Principle and followed the bent of their imaginations and reaped consequences for so doing, that could never be traced to God.

So Jesus interpreted the will of God according to divine Principle, and not according to the Jehovistic idea of God. It never occurred to Jesus that God could cause victory to perch upon the banner of one army [21] over against the contending army. And yet within your recollection and within mine, we have seen armies separated only by a very narrow river, in the dusk of evening when firing had ceased, whose chaplains knelt in prayer asking God that he might vouchsafe victory to their respective armies. Could God answer both? Impossible! That is always the trouble with going to a personal God.

Indeed, when we think of a personal God, we think of a capricious, vacillating Deity, who for some reason of his own, is going to confer a blessing upon one and a curse upon another.

During the Civil War this happened with us, but it happens anywhere where men have this idea of God. One man prays for rain, another for sunshine. Surely a personal God can not answer affirmatively both of these prayers, because they are so diametrically opposed the one to the other.

Do we not see that we have had a very feeble,—dare I say foolish concept of God? Have we not as the wit said, been striving [22] from the beginning of all time to return the compliment, and to make God in our own image and likeness?

And what are we as we understand ourselves? Vacillating, changeable, now loving, now hating, never the same from one day to another. Now protesting our undying devotion, and tomorrow as jealous as can be, changing with every moment of time. What difference does it make if we have many gods, or one God of many moods? None at all.

In order to have one God scientifically, we must have divine Principle which knows no change, which sendeth no evil into the experience of man, which does not send sickness, nor poverty, pain nor perplexity; which is always the same, sending forth the qualities of its own nature.

That is why Jesus used the sun as the simile or symbol of God. It causes its rays to fall upon the just and the unjust alike. It glints into the hospital cot, into the prison cell, into the palace, into the hovel,—anywhere where men will permit it, there it radiates [23] for us. So it is with the great universal Principle, which is God,—there is no place where it is not. All we have to do is to lift the shade. The Esquimaux can work according to it, the Frenchman, the Italian, the Swede,—all can work with it as with the principle of mathematics.

And one of the great beauties about it is that we cannot exhaust it. Every one can be using this Principle, solving his own particular problems with it, without exhausting it.

Is it then reducing God to a principle? Is it a reduction of God at all? Is it not rather an exaltation of God that makes Him immeasurable, omnipotent, omnipresent?

These are questions we must submit to our sane thought. Divine Scientists are intelligent. If they were not intelligent, they could not be Divine Scientists. There is some difference between them and other followers. In other churches we may accept, but in this we cannot unless we investigate thoughtfully and prayerfully the very secrets of being itself. It requires intelligence [24] to do that. Non-intelligent men may be healed by it, but to be a Divine Scientist it requires intelligence to understand it, and we can never understand it until we realize that God is Principle, and that in calling God Principle, we have not reduced God in the slightest degree. On the contrary we have done just what the Psalmist said,—we have “magnified the Lord.”

What does the word “magnify” mean? I used to think in my old religious belief, that to magnify the Lord meant to praise God. The word “magnify” does not mean praise at all.

Again we are forced to look it up in our dictionary, because as I said before, we use so many words without realizing what they actually mean. We take it for granted that we know because they are in such common use, and as we use them every day, we conclude naturally that we understand them. If a man should say to you, “Do you know what ‘magnify the Lord’ means?” you would say, “Certainly, of course, Praise the Lord.” “Magnify” means, to make big.


In Divine Science we understand this requirement of the Psalmist, “magnify the Lord,” to mean that you should make God, this Divine Principle, so big that there is no room in the universe for anything but God, and so evil is non-existent; no matter how real it seems to be. We treat evil just as we treat errors in mathematics. Not as realities but as departures from principle, as the mistakes that men make in trying to solve the problems of life. We never think of attributing them to God. It never occurs to us.

Outside of Divine Science, every evil and catastrophe we can explain in no other way, we say, “It is God’s will,” don’t we? Of course we do. Divine Science is the great enlightener. It has come to rub the sand from our eyes and to pull back the curtain and reveal this great Principle, and in the light of these truths we are to save ourselves.

Because, after all, that is what we are called upon to do. It sounds like a harsh statement to say that God will never save us. It is a sweeter statement to say that God has [26] always saved us. For in the mind of God man does not need saving, for there we are as perfect as on the day he brought us into being. All this seeming imperfection has grown around us, and is nothing more nor less than the incrustation of error that we have indulged in, that we have believed in as Truth, and now comes the law of God to us and looses us and sets us free.

Sometimes I think the ordinary man,—and I am an ordinary man,—is very much like a hyena in a cage, the door of which he thinks is locked, and he is walking up and down behind it with ceaseless regularity, desiring to get out, but believing he is locked in. That is just where we are, we desire to get out of our sins, inclinations and sorrows, and believing we are locked in, we have to remain where we are. Then science comes and says, “You are not locked in at all. The way of egress is open to you. Put your hand upon the gate and pull it towards you, and walk out into the freedom of God.” Realize your oneness with the infinite Wisdom. Affirm it. Do not ask God to do [27] something for you that you can do for yourself. Do not petition God to save you when He has already placed within you the potentialities of your own salvation. God won’t do it for us. God has done all he can for us. He has given to us power and light and intelligence to do the thing ourselves.

Can we ask more of God than this? He has given to us the very life of His life, the light of His light, the wisdom of His wisdom, the intelligence of His intelligence. What more can we ask? Unless it be a mythical heaven,—which we do not want.

What we want is to know that God is here, that the kingdom of heaven is within us. That is what Divine Science has come to reveal to us; and if it has given to us the Principle of Being instead of the God of the Hebrews, or the Father of all humankind,—if it has given to us the Principle of Being that is within us and only awaiting our own expansion and utilization, then I ask you if it has not given to us all, all!

It has not robbed us of a single thing except the things we do not need and do not [28] require,—fear, discontent, ignorance. Our ignorances we are perfectly willing to be shorn of. Our ignorances are only like Samson’s locks, the signs of foolish, physical strength. They do not mean anything. What have they ever done for us except to plunge us into misery, unhappiness and disease and death itself?

Then, again, let us think of the nearness of this Principle. It is in us now. When we thought of God as a personal God, was it not always a distant personage? Was it ever as near as hands and feet, as a poet has expressed it? Whenever you thought of God was it not a symbol that you were afar off, and that you felt God was far away? You do not have to look off into the distance to find the Principle of Life. It is within. We turn the gaze inward and find the Principle of Life there at work, and if it is not there at work, then we are dead indeed. If the Principle of Life is not at the very center and heart and core of your being, where [29] is it? Is it some hidden, concealed, mystic energy that is working within you? That is what we believe in Divine Science.

It is not a something that is working or operating upon us, or outside of us, but something that is welling up within us like a well-spring of life. That is what Jesus meant when he told the Samaritan woman what he was and said, “If thou hadst asked me for the water of life, I would have given it to thee, and if thou hadst drunk of the water, thou wouldst never have thirsted again.”

We know that “the water of life” that we draw with a bucket has to be continually replenished, but this “water of life” that Jesus spoke of is the understanding of God, it is constant communion with the invisible Force within us.

The Principle of Being,—I like the phrase—philosophical, mathematical, abstract, cold, pulseless, inanimate to the unthinking—a veritable flood of Life to those who grasp its real meaning—a great working Principle, a something that we cannot [30] be separated from a single moment and live. It is very God of very God.

Then have we, I ask you in closing, have we reduced God? Simply because we speak of God as Principle, does this reduce God? Does it not rather magnify God? Does it not rather exalt him above the plane of all personality, and make him the great universal Reality, which is neither he, nor she, but It?

You cannot speak of God as he or she unless you speak of It as He and She both, the masculine and feminine Principle of the universe. Combining the courage, the strength, the power, the mastery and domination of the masculine with the love, the tenderness, the sympathy and the compassion of the feminine in One, the one universal Principle, sexless, neither he nor she, but It, is perceived as the one Father-Mother God.

The Principle of Being is nearer to us than that personal God we believed in yesterday; the Principle of Being is that invisible Force that is working within us for richness of life, for health, for strength, for [31] peace, for power. We can no more be separated from it than a smile can be separated from a face and left out in space, or a sunbeam can be separated from the sun and left standing as a solitary entity! It can no more be done.

Man is ever one with the Principle of Being, God is ever one with us as we sit at home or walk abroad, yea verily, “In him we live and move and have our being.”

Now we can understand why it is nearer than our hands and our feet,—because it is the very thing by which we live. It is the very thing by which we move. It is the very thing by which we breathe. Separation from God is impossible.

Take with you, I beg of you, this thought, and if it seems cold to you, and if it seems abstract and harsh to you, think over it soberly, carefully, and then compare it with your personal God. And remember that Divine Science does not repudiate, does not belittle Deity.

If it repudiates a capricious, a wrathful, and a jealous God, it does not repudiate [32] God, it merely repudiates these attributes, these qualities, as not having anything to do with Deity; and it gives back to us the Principle of Life and Love and the Principle of Success.

Chapter 2

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New Thoughts on Old Doctrines
Table of Contents

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