The Overcoming of Fear through Christian Science
It is difficult to tell of the experience which follows, but the student of Christian Science will readily see in it that acceptance of the truth made the overcoming of fear possible, even as in the case of disease, and that divine Principle is to be relied upon at all times.
While the Titanic was sinking, and during the whole time I was working at the boats, I held to the truth, thereby eliminating all fear. I do not pretend that any man can go down on a ship at midnight, in mid-Atlantic, and succeed in eliminating fear, without hard work. It was hard work, and yet the very conditions which existed on the port side were in themselves a demonstration of the workings of Truth, for not the slightest hitch occurred, and all boats were got away, the last one, which was a flat-bottomed collapsible, floating off the deck. Now it is proverbial that the last thing a sailor will think of is a life-belt; certainly no thought had entered my head of my own life-belt, and I was far too busy at the boats to leave them, even had I thought of it. And this is how I came to obtain my belt.
Murdoch had been appointed chief, I was first and Blair was second officer; in that rank we had joined the Titanic in Belfast. Shortly before we sailed from Southampton, Wilde, who was formerly chief of the Olympic, and who was to have been given command of another of the White Star steamers, which, owing to the coal strike and other reasons was laid up, was sent for the time being to the Titanic as chief, Murdoch ranking back to first, myself to second, and Blair standing out for the voyage. Now it will be seen why it was that Wilde, on wanting some articles which were received by the first officer in Belfast, came to me. I took him into the first officer's room and showed him where they were, and was on my way back on deck again when I heard Wilde say, "I am going to put on my life-belt." At that precise moment I was passing my own room door, facing which is a wardrobe, and on the top of this was my own life-belt. On hearing Wilde's remark, I instinctively looked into the room, reached for the belt, and put it on.
I now resumed my work at the boats, finally calling for men to follow me up on top of the officers' quarters to cut adrift the last boat, which was stowed there. This boat we had not time even to open up, so just hove her down to the deck from which we had launched the others. As I saw her slide over the edge of the quarters I turned and ran across the deck to the other side of the ship to see if anything further could be done. Looking down I could see that all material work was finished, so from where I was on top of the quarters and above the bridge, I faced forward and walked into the water. The sudden immersion in this penetratingly cold water for a few seconds overcame all thought, and I struck out blindly for the crow's-nest which is on the foremast and was at that time just above the water. In a couple of seconds I realized that the crow's-nest and all other material help was of the same value, and almost immediately I found myself drawn with great force against the grating covering the mouth of the forward blower, a huge ventilator leading down to the forward stoke-hold. In this position I went below the surface with the ship.
I want to emphasize strongly this point, that as soon as I collected my thoughts after taking to the water, I remember saying to myself, "Now, I'll see how much I have learned from Christian Science." A doubt never entered my mind as to the possibility of my surviving; in other words, of the ability of the divine power to save me. I think I can conscientiously say that with this thought all fear left me, and I commenced again to realize the truth of being. It was at this moment that I was drawn into the water, still realizing the truth, and while I was below the surface these words from the 91st Psalm came to me so distinctly that I seemed to realize their full import: "He shall give his angels charge over thee." Immediately, I think, I was thrown away from the blower, and came up to find a piece of wood in my hand which seemed to be attached to the top of the funnel by a wire. I remained still, while the water rushed past me carrying the people with it away from me. A second time I went down, still holding fast to the truth, and again came to the surface. My piece of wood was gone, but alongside me was the flat-bottomed collapsible boat which I had thrown down on the other side of the ship. This I laid hold of, but made no attempt to board it.
I want it to be understood that during this time in the water the fact came calmly and clearly that there was a divine power which could be utilized in a practical manner, and also it seemed perfectly natural to rely on this power with the spiritual understanding which is so often spoken of in the Bible, and which is explained in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mrs. Eddy. Now, with the sinking of a great ship like the Titanic, there was also the fear of suction to overcome, and at this time the forward funnel fell, throwing the boat, myself, and other survivors about twenty feet clear of the ship, so that of suction we felt nothing.
About thirty of us floated the remainder of the night on the upturned boat, and I could not overcome the intense cold experienced, yet when a man handed me a bottle of something that smelt somewhat like essence of peppermint, the thought of material means was nothing short of repulsive, and needless to say, it was not taken. At daybreak we found two life-boats floating near by, into which we were taken. I was the last member of the Titanic to board the Carpathia, and after interviewing her captain, discarded my wet clothes in favor of a bunk, in which I remained for about half an hour, and was not in bunk or bed again till we arrived in New York. Reaction or effects from the immersion-which I was confidently assured would take place-there were none; and though surprise has been expressed by very many, it only goes to prove that "with God all things are possible."
· Lieut. C. H. Lightoller, R.N.R.
Reprinted from The Christian Science Journal Vol. XXX, 10/1912, No. 7, p. 414.