Chapter 7 – Is Disease Real, or Apparent?

Chapter VII
W. John Murray
The Realm of Reality
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1922.

“It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.”
–John 6:63

[75] In dealing with the reality or unreality of disease, the first thing to be established in the mind is the sense in which we are to use the word “reality.” It is destined in various ways, so that it is difficult to understand in what sense one is privileged to use it. One may speak of a mirage as a real illusion, for such it is, but the definition of the word “illusion” discloses the fact that it means that something which seems to be real is not real. Alluding to a real illusion is like speaking of a true lie, and yet the lie may be real as a lie, but when it is discovered to be a lie it is seen to have no truth in it; therefore the only reality about it is the suffering it has caused, and this would never have been if all concerned had known it as a lie. A lie would hurt no one if no one accepted it as truth. Even the liar would not tell his lie if he knew that no one would believe him, and so we see that it is not the lie which hurts, but the belief in it.

[76] If we can accept the definition of the word “real” in its philosophic sense as that which is insusceptible of discord and decay, dissolution or disintegration, we will have a sense of reality which admits only that which is perfect and permanent. According to Plato’s idea, the real is the ideal, of which the materialist’s real is a more or less imperfect representation to the sense. The real, as we know it through the senses, is in a constant state of change, but, as science reveals it, it is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” To the senses the distant mirage is as real as the adjacent landscape, and far more attractive when one is thirsty and the adjacent landscape offers no promise of relief.

As the word “real” is susceptible of so many meanings, so is the word “apparent.” Seeking to establish the guilt of a man charged with a crime, a prosecuting attorney may say, “It is apparent from all the circumstances that the accused is guilty,” but the use of the word “apparent” in this connection may leave room for doubt in the mind of a juror who may want something more than the apparent upon which to convict the accused. Another sense in which the word is used shows that it is not synonymous with the real or actual as when one, speaking of the length or weight of an object about which he has only a general idea, says, “It is apparently about three feet long.”

Probably one of the simplest ways to define these words would be to say that the word “real” [77] is “that which is,” while the word “apparent” is “that which appears to be.” It is in this way that the exact sciences use them. Therefore we are not taking liberties, as some might imagine, with the English language, when we use them in this sense in analyzing the subject of disease. To our senses disease is all too apparent and too disagreeable for us to say that it does not exist on the plane of the particular or objective. We say, with the most material man, that disease is one of the most apparent things in the world of sense, but we do not agree with the materialist that the world of sense is the only world, for we know what he does not know about the world of sense, we know that it is only apparent, while he believes it to be real.

If we accept the definition of the word “real” as that which is insusceptible of disintegration and dissolution, then it follows that the world of sense cannot be classified under this heading, for no matter how apparently beautiful it is, or how apparently permanent it is, it is evanescent and transitory. “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” The best that can be said of the apparent world is that it is an inverted image of the real world of ideas which John the Apostle saw with the eye of his mind when he said, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” The first heaven and first earth is that which becomes apparent [78] to our senses, the new heaven and the new earth is that which becomes real to our science, so that no matter how apparent imperfection is, we know that perfection reigns supreme.

When Jesus said, “Judge not according to appearances, but judge righteous judgment,” he was giving advice, which if it had been acted upon from that time to this would have averted all sin and disease in the individual and all war among nations. It was ever the design of the Master to elevate human consciousness above the plane of the senses to the perception of Truth. He well knew what so many of our foremost scientists are learning today concerning the unreliability of the senses. The science of optics reveals how unreliable is the sense of sight. For centuries it was believed that the sky which arches overhead was a solid body, and it remained for the science of optics to reveal that what appears to be a solid blue dome is nothing more nor less than the appearance that the atmosphere assumes when human vision has reached its limit. If it were possible for us to travel in the direction of what appears as the sky we should find it to be just as far away as ever, and if it were possible for us to travel to the uttermost boundary of space we should discover in practice what the science of optics has discovered in theory, namely, that there is no sky at all, as a thing in itself. A sky appears to [79] be there, but what actually is there is boundless space.

The more a man studies, the more convinced he becomes that reason is more reliable than the senses, especially if reason works from the inside out, instead of from the outside in. The most necessary part of the individual is that to which none of his senses testifies, and yet nothing could convince him that he is devoid of it. Neither sight nor hearing, touch nor taste nor smell bears testimony to the existence of the mind of man, but despite this lack of sensible evidence man knows that he has a mind, for otherwise how could he think? Indeed how could he take issue against those very senses, when reason, a purely mental faculty, assures him that their report is not true?

Is it not an accepted truth that the most important things in the world are those to which the senses do not testify? How important is the atmosphere to the continuance of physical existence! We can live longer without food or water than without air, yet none of our senses testifies to its existence. We may say we feel it when it blows on our cheeks. What we actually feel is motion or vibration. Scientists tell us that we do not see color in a rose, for the simple reason that there is no color there. All color and all sound is the result of vibration. “The tympanum of the ear, with all the auditive apparatus, is as unknowing of the nature and cause of sound as the wall is in the case of the echo, [80] and this is true of the rest of the organs of sense,” says a noted scientist.

Now, despite all the scientific proof of the unreliability of the senses, is it not strange that so many people will reject whatever is not supported by their false testimony? It is only fair to state, however, that there is a steady improvement going on, for there are more persons today who are ready to reject the testimony of their senses when these senses conflict with science than there were in the days of Copernicus and Galileo. Perhaps the most grievous charge we can lay at the door of the senses is the charge that they do not testify to the greatest Truth, but the senses never evidence Him. If we desire to know anything about God it is to reason we most appeal.

Helen Keller, despite her great handicap, knew that God is. When she was able to understand her friend and teacher, who developed a system of communication independent of the senses, she was told about God, and the girl, who could neither see, hear, nor speak, made it plain to her friend that she knew all about Him, but not by the name which the teacher used. Intuition, that inner sight, which is not dependent on the optic nerve for its existence or continuance, had assured her of the reality of that to which the most perfect senses in the world would never testify.

He only is a philosopher who knows that the visible world with all that it includes is a mental picture. The world exists for us as the representation [81] of our own states and stages of consciousness. Rob us of consciousness, and our world disappears. Rob all men of consciousness, and the world, as we view it, would collapse, for where there is no mind to perceive a world there is no world to be perceived. Swedenborg declared that God creates the visible world through man, according to pre-existent patterns. Plato seems to have taught that the visible world is a more or less poor reproduction of the archetypal universe of Ideas, which Ideas antedate the so-called material world and will survive its discontinuance. In Plato’s philosophy, moral or spiritual beauty is the only real beauty, of which all physical beauty is so much copy or imitation.

We have some idea of Plato’s conception of Reality when we look at a work of art. We stand enraptured before a landscape or a portrait. They seem so true to life that we feel the spirit behind and in them. It is in some such way that the spiritual philosopher regards the material world. He does not sneer at it, any more than we disregard a work of art simply because it is not the real thing. The spiritual philosopher is able to appreciate all the beauties of the external world because to him they suggest those rarer and more eternal beauties of the spiritual universe; therefore he, in a sense, is able to live in two worlds at the same time. It is as if a man stood upon the soft turf of a beautiful meadow, surrounded by the most gorgeous scenery, while an artist was putting the finishing touches on a canvas [82] depicting the scene. The man might look from the beauty of the natural scenery to the beauty of the painting on the canvas, that is, from the real to the imitation, without losing for a moment his ability to distinguish the one from the other.

Now, just as the picture on the canvas is a poor representation to the senses of the natural landscape, so the natural landscape is a poor reflection on a higher plane of that “better country” of the mind whose “maker and builder is God.” And lest we delude ourselves into thinking that this better country is something we can see only after we die, it might be well to state that it is that Realm of Reality, or Kingdom of Heaven within, of which Jesus spoke, and to which we have only to open the inner eye of the understanding in order to perceive. If any ordinary person can appreciate the painting of a landscape while realizing that it is not the real landscape, that same person, with just a little more enlightenment, might easily appreciate that what he calls the real landscape is just a good picture to his mind of that more lasting beauty of the spiritual universe. We know that the painter’s canvas will not last forever, and, in like manner, we are persuaded that the material world, which Schopenhauer called a “disordered dream of humanity,” will one day be lifted, as is a curtain at a theater, so that we may see what is back and behind all that is so apparent and, to the spiritually ignorant, so deceptive.

[83] The end of the world, which has been predicted so often, may not come to pass as many have prophesied, all of a sudden and in bulk, but gradually and a little at a time. The end of the world is now being interpreted as that gradual decrease of materiality which is to so thin the veils from before the faces of mankind that what cannot be seen, while those veils of materiality obscure the view, may be plainly discernible. The new heaven and the new earth are not going to be created, for that was done in the Beginning; they are going to be revealed, much as anything else will be revealed when the thing which conceals it is removed. That which obscures the Real is the apparent. The apparent or material world and the knowledge of this is the first step in the direction of that Dominion which God has promised to them that love Him.

Somewhere I have read that Herbert Spencer once said that, “What is real is permanent, what is not real is not permanent;” but this is only an echo of what Paul said nearly two thousand years ago when he declared, “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” If we can accept Spencer’s declaration that what is real is permanent it will help us to take a new view of disease that will be of great service. If disease is real, then it is permanent; but we know that in most cases it is not permanent, for it comes and goes, while God goes on forever. The fact that disease is not [84] permanent proves that it is only apparent, and the knowledge that it is only apparent, and therefore unreal, in the truest sense of this word, confers upon the knower the power to overcome it.

One great truth about Reality is its persistency. This is why God and the things of God will stand forever, while the things that are not of God will disappear when man knows they are not of God and says to them what Jesus said, “Get thee hence.” The knowledge that disease is only apparent and not real has a practical side. For Jesus to know the truth concerning this important point was for him to apply this Truth in the healing of the sick. Our consideration of the question, “Is disease real or apparent?” should not be in the form of an idle and useless speculation; rather should it be for the purpose of becoming acquainted with such facts as will stand us in good stead in the moment of trial and tribulation.

Humanity is divided in thought on this point. Today the majority believe in the reality of disease, just as in Galileo’s day the majority believed the earth was flat; but belief does not make real a thing which cannot be real, no matter how apparent it is. Take two children, one of whom believes in the reality of a ghost, and the other who believes in nothing of the kind; which of those children will be most free from fear and consequent misery? Consider two men, one who believes in the reality of disease, and the other who knows that it is only an appearance due to [85] some wrong mental attitude, and which of these men is the more likely to recover from it?

We may easily know whether disease is real or apparent by asking a very simple question of our own sanity. Is God the author of it? If God is the author of it, it is real, and therefore incurable; if God is not the author of it, then it is only apparent and therefore curable, and the more quickly this fact is accepted and emphasized. It will help us to demonstrate this truth if we remember that just as a photograph is not the flesh and blood man, so the flesh and blood man is only a representation to the senses of that real man or spiritual entity which lives, and moves, and has his being in God where he is exempt from disease.

When this truth about man is more generally known we shall no longer judge after appearances. We shall see ourselves as the perfect expressions of Him in Whom is no disease, and to Whom disease is unknown. We shall treat disease as the wise man treats any other illusion, and it will flee from us. We shall regard it as a mirage of the carnal mind, an appearance without actuality. The apparent will vanish and the real will take its place, just as apparent darkness takes its leave at the approach of light.

Chapter 8

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The Realm of Reality
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