Reality versus the Counterfeit

         In pursuit of her stupendous task of uncovering to the human consciousness the unreality of matter and contrasting this unreality with the reality of Spirit, Mrs. Eddy frequently characterizes as "counterfeits" the universe and man which are cognized by the material senses. The following quotation from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 837) is illustrative: "The visible universe and material man are the poor counterfeits of the invisible universe and spiritual man."

         Students of Mrs. Eddy's writings often marvel at her accurate use of words and her ability to choose from the many meanings which human usage has gathered around the same word, the one distinctive concept that best serves her purpose of making clear the spiritual idea. Her use of the word counterfeit is markedly characteristic of this keen selective quality, so much so that to gain an adequate and accurate sense of the fundamentally important teaching contained in passages of which the one quoted is typical, it is essential to acquire a clear, definite understanding of the metaphysical meaning of this term.

         At first thought the meaning seems quite obvious. One thinks of a counterfeit dollar bill, picturing it in thought as something which looks like a genuine dollar bill. Without realizing it there has forthwith been given to the counterfeit a certain sense of reality and substance. Unfortunately, in too many instances thought as regards the nature of the counterfeit stops at this point, with the result that right there begins the deception of the material senses which would cloud the understanding of what Mrs. Eddy means.

         One dictionary gives as the first meaning of the noun counterfeit, "That which is made in imitation of something, with a view to deceive by passing the false for the true." In her use of the word Mrs. Eddy never loses sight of the basic sense of deception, and he who would follow her revelation must always carry his concept beyond the point of superficial resemblance argued by the material senses to the perception of the deceptiveness which is inherent in the full meaning of the word. Returning to the counterfeit dollar bill with this clearer, fuller meaning in mind, it is evident that any resemblance which may seem to exist between the counterfeit and the genuine is entirely on the surface — a resemblance which deceives one who is ignorant but never one who knows. The trained sense of the expert handler of money instantly detects the spuriousness of the counterfeit and casts it out.

         Thus, although the deceiving and deceived material senses would argue that there is a likeness between the counterfeit dollar bill and the genuine, the truth is that they are diametrical opposites. The genuine dollar bill is something; the counterfeit is nothing. The genuine is good; the counterfeit is bad. The genuine is a real dollar bill; the counterfeit is so unreal that it is no dollar bill at all. It has no legitimate existence, and therefore it is ruthlessly destroyed, so that even material sense, which is inclined to believe somewhat in its reality, sees it no more. The genuine dollar bill has value, but no one believes that one hundred cents of real value has disappeared when the counterfeit dollar is no more; no one experiences even a sense of loss except the unfortunate person who was deluded into believing that he possessed a dollar when he had only a counterfeit. Even he has suffered no real loss, for his false belief about the worth of the counterfeit could not give it actual value.

         Furthermore, it is seen that together with the sense of deception inherent in the word counterfeit there is also the meaning of oppositeness to, in quality and nature. That Mrs. Eddy recognized this and included it in her concept of the word, is indicated in the following quotation from the definition of Adam: "Life's counterfeit, which ultimates in death; the opposite of Love, called hate" (Science and Health, p. 580). It is plain that a counterfeit of life, which ultimates in death, is the opposite of that Life which is eternal; and the added explanation of the counterfeit as "the opposite of Love, called hate," makes the point still plainer. Therefore, when Mrs. Eddy declares that "the visible universe and material man are the poor counterfeits of the invisible universe and spiritual man," she is stating in unmistakable and comprehensive terms the eternal truth that any resemblance which material sense may argue as existing between "the visible universe and material man" and "the invisible universe and spiritual man," is inherently deceptive and illusionary; that in reality the two are diametrical opposites in nature and quality — the one bad, the other good; the one causeless and without principle, the other the eternal effect of the creative, intelligent, divine Principle called God.

         The efforts of material sense to instill and perpetuate a pseudo-science of correspondences between the illusions of mortal belief and the realities of spiritual creation are as insistent as its efforts to maintain the reality of matter itself. But no one who understands Mrs. Eddy's use of the word counterfeit can for a moment be led astray by so false an argument, however plausible or satisfactory it may seem to be at its first presentation. Its plausibility is superficiality; its satisfaction is subtlety. When Mrs. Eddy says counterfeit, she means counterfeit; she never means counterpart. She is always consistent with the proposition definitely stated in the following quotation: "Anatomy and theology reject the divine Principle which produces harmonious man, and deal — the one wholly, the other primarily — with matter, calling that man which is not the counterpart, but the counterfeit, of God's man" (Science and Health, p. 148).

         The relation which the beliefs of matter — "the visible universe and material man" — bear to the ideas of Spirit — "the invisible universe and spiritual man" — is the relation which darkness bears to light, a negative to a positive, an absence to a presence. One would never dream of studying darkness in order to learn about light. On the contrary, one knows that as he learns the nature and laws of light he gains greater and greater dominion over darkness; he realizes that he might study darkness forever and the only result would be the tragedy of losing even the little light that he has, as the fishes of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, are said to have lost their sense of sight through constant living in the dark. So also one might investigate, analyze, and explore "the visible universe and material man" throughout the ages (and material so-called science has committed this awful blunder) and find not a hint of reality.

         The wise Christian Scientist does not waste his time with counterfeits in his pursuit of the genuine. He is endeavoring to reach beyond the illusions of sense and grasp to some extent the realities of Spirit. He is learning what it means to be the man of God's creating — to be intelligent, loving, to "overcome evil with good." He is experiencing the notable achievement that his clearer perception of spiritual reality does not spoil him for practical human living, does not make him impatient or out of tune even with "the visible universe and material man," but enables him to understand the one and to help the other more effectually than he ever could before. Because he knows that matter is the counterfeit of Spirit, he, like the expert handler of money, is consistently lessening the danger to himself and others of having the unreal foisted upon him as the real.


"Reality versus the Counterfeit" by Lewis C. Strang
Christian Science Sentinel, October 13, 1917

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