The Christian Scientists
The marriage between Science and the Bible, brought about by Mary Baker
Eddy, has given birth to a most prosperous sect. In this amalgam, the
Christianity is not of the purest, and the Science appears rather in
the form of the negation of its own principles; but so great is
humanity's desire for the union of revelation and experience that
believers crowd from all parts to range themselves behind the hew
There is something almost disconcerting in the ardour and devotion of
Mrs. Eddy's followers. Truly, in the success of Christian Science we
see one more proof of the ease with which a new religion can be started
if, in addition to faith, it concerns itself with man's earthly welfare.
The founder of the sect was a clever woman. Well aware of the power
and fascination of the mysterious, she exploited it with a profound
understanding of the human heart. She mingled the realities of life
with the mysteries of thought, and the sun of her revelations is always
veiled by intangible clouds. From her gospel one might cull at random
scores of phrases that defy human understanding. "Evil is nothing, no
thing, mind or power," she says in _Science and Health_. "As
manifested by mankind, it stands for a lie, nothing claiming to be
something." And again--"Mortal existence has no real entity, but saith
'It is I.'"
The nonsensicalness of her phraseology can find no comparison save in
the inconceivable chaos of her teachings. She goes so far as to imply
that the supreme effort of a woman's spirit should suffice to bring
about conception. Jesus Christ having been conceived of the Holy
Ghost, she suggests that man should follow this example, and renounce
the lusts of the flesh. "Proportionately as human generation ceases,
the unbroken links of eternal, harmonious being will be spiritually
discerned"--and in another place, "When this new birth takes place, the
Christian Science infant is born of the spirit, born of God, and can
cause the mother no more suffering."
In the explanations of the Bible given in her _Key to the Scriptures_
we are told that when we come upon the word "fire," we are to translate
it as "fear," and the word "fear" as "heat"; while we must remember
that Eve never put the blame for her sin upon the serpent, but, having
"learnt that corporeal sense is the serpent," she was the first to
confess her misdeed in having followed the dictates of the flesh
instead of those of the spirit.
Like all prophets and saviours, Mrs. Eddy was crucified during her
lifetime. She had to engage in a continuous struggle with the envy and
jealousy of those who sought to misrepresent her teachings and bring
her glory to the dust. But she was far from being an ordinary woman,
and even in childhood seemed to be marked out for an exceptional
career. At the age of eight, like Joan of Arc, she heard mysterious
voices, and her mother, who was of Scottish origin and subject to
"attacks of religion," remembered the story of the Infant Samuel and
encouraged her to speak with the Lord. But Mary was alarmed by the
voices, and wept and trembled, instead of replying to them like a good
About her forty-fifth year, however, being in the grip of a serious
illness, she did hold converse with the Lord, who told her how she
might be cured. She listened and obeyed, and was cured. This was her
"great initiation." She then retired from the world, and spent several
years engaged in meditation and prayer, while her study of the Bible
revealed to her the key to all mysteries, human and divine.
The deductions of her philosophy are often characterised by an
astonishing naïveté. "God being All-in-all, He made medicine," she
tells us; "but that medicine was Mind. . . . It is plain that God does
not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus
would have recommended and employed them in His healing."
She frequently makes use of ingenious statements whose very candour is
disarming, but she had considerable dialectical gifts, and can argue
persuasively, especially against spiritualism. In _Science and Health_
she violently denies the authenticity of spiritualistic phenomena, "As
readily can you mingle fire and frost as spirit and matter. . . . The
belief that material bodies return to dust, hereafter to rise up as
spiritual bodies with material sensations and desires, is
incorrect. . . . The caterpillar, transformed into a beautiful insect,
is no longer a worm, nor does the insect return to fraternise with or
control the worm. . . . There is no bridge across the gulf which
divides two such opposite conditions as the spiritual, or incorporeal,
and the physical, or corporeal."
In the confusion of precepts and principles championed by Mrs. Eddy
there are sometimes to be found thoughts worthy of a great
metaphysician. Her teaching, when purified from admixture, does at any
rate break away energetically from all materialistic doctrines.
Her literary output was considerable, for in addition to her gospel,
_Science and Health_, she wrote _The Concordance of Science and
Health_, _Rudimentary Divine Science_, _Christian Science versus
Paganism_, and other works, including some verse.
The Christian Science churches, with their adherents, who number more
than a million, are spread all over the world, each having an
independent existence. They are found chiefly in the United States,
England, Germany, and the British Colonies. The number of "healers"
exceeds several thousands, for the most part of the female sex. In
France the first "Church of Christ, Scientist" has been founded in
Paris, in the Rue Magellan, under the name of Washington Palace.
The Christian Science leader denounced the established churches and
spared them no criticism, and her doctrine contained a seed of truth
which enabled it to triumph even over its own lack of logic and
The world, submerged in matter, either denies spirit or turns away from
it. Mrs. Eddy exalts the power of spirit above that of matter, the
universal goddess, by means of statements which are heroic rather than
Matter does not exist. God is all, and God is spirit; therefore all is
spirit. Matter is not spirit, but is a fiction which only exists for
those who persist in believing in it against the evidence of facts. As
matter does not exist, and is only a lie and the invention of Satan,
the body, which we see in the form of matter, does not exist either.
The suffering caused by the body is simply an "error of mortal mind,"
for since the body does not exist, there can be no such thing as bodily
suffering. Therefore instead of concerning ourselves with the healing
of the supposed body, with the prevention or cure of pain and
suffering, we must go straight to spirit. Spirit is perfect, and the
thought of pain or disease can have no place in it. Let us then leave
the curing of our bodies, and seek to rectify our spirits.
Doctors and surgeons, on the contrary, follow the errors of centuries
in concerning themselves with the body, and causing it to absorb drugs
which, having no connection with disease, can neither cure nor relieve
it. "Mind as far outweighs drugs in the cure of disease as in the cure
of sin. The more excellent way is divine Science in every case. . . .
The hosts of Aesculapius are flooding the world with diseases, because
they are ignorant that the human mind and body are myths."
A follower of the "true doctrine," according to Mrs. Eddy, is never ill
for the simple reason that he does not believe in the body or in any of
its infirmities. If he should be overtaken by illness, it is because
his spirit is ill, and his faith not sufficiently pure.
From this results a very simple method of healing. The "healer" merely
seeks to re-establish the faith of the sufferer, and to convince him of
the non-reality of his illness. No medicine is given, the treatment
consisting of thoughts and suggestions from _Science and Health_.
Christian Science healers need to have a robust and unshakable faith,
for if they do not succeed in their task it is because their own spirit
has been infected by doubt.
Mrs. Eddy declared that our concrete and practical age required, above
all, a religion of reality; that men could no longer be content with
vague promises of future bliss. What they needed was a religion of the
present that would end their sufferings and procure for them serenity
and happiness on earth. The title of "applied Christianity" has been
adopted by Christian Science, which advises us to make use of the
teachings of Jesus in our daily life, and to reap all the advantages of
such a practice. We have need of truth "applied" to life just as we
have need of telegraphs, telephones and electric apparatus, and
now--say the Scientists--for the first time in man's existence he is
offered a really practical religious machinery, which enables him to
overcome misfortune and to establish his happiness, his health, and his
salvation on a solid basis.
The Scientists claim to have recourse to the same spiritual law by
means of which Jesus effected His cures, and they declare that its
efficacy is undeniable, since all Mrs. Eddy's pupils who use it are
able to heal the sick. One may suggest that Jesus performed miracles
because He was the Saviour of the world. Mrs. Eddy replies that
statements are attributed to Him which never issued from His lips; that
He said (in the Gospel according to St. John) that it was not He who
spoke or acted, but His Father; and stated elsewhere, that the Son
could do nothing of Himself. Also that Jesus never sent His disciples
forth to preach without adding that they should also heal. "Heal the
sick," was His supreme command. And that He never counselled the use
of drugs or medicines.
The healing of the sick, according to Mrs. Eddy, was one of the chief
functions of the representatives of the Church during the first three
centuries of Christianity, her subsequent loss of importance and power
being largely due to the renunciation of this essential principle.
Healing is not miraculous, but merely the result of a normal spiritual
law acting in conformity with the Divine Will. The leader of the new
"Scientists" explains that Jesus had no supernatural powers, and that
all He did was done according to natural law. Consequently everybody,
when once brought into harmony with spiritual truth, can accomplish
what He accomplished.
Some of Mrs. Eddy's statements have an undeniable practical value. For
instance, she attacks "fear" as one of the chief causes of human
misery, and declares that it is wrong to fear draughts of air, or wet
feet, or the eating and drinking of certain substances--and wrong,
above all, to fear microbes.
But exaggeration is always harmful. The total suppression of fear
would mean the suppression of often necessary and desirable
precautions. In order to succeed, however, a religion has need of the
absolute, for conditional truths are not likely to impress the public;
and the founder of Christian Science was well aware of this.
Health, according to the Scientists, is truth. In order to enjoy
existence, we must live in the truth and avoid sin, and ultimately
death itself will disappear, being entirely superfluous. Jesus said
that whoso believed on Him should never see death, and He would not
have said this if death were necessary for salvation. Therefore
believers are taught that humanity will in time conquer sickness and
death, and that this blessed consummation will be reached when human
beings attain to the heights of the Christian Science "gospel," and are
guided by it in all the thoughts and actions of their everyday life.
Other equally enchanting prospects are conjured up, like mirages in the
desert, before the dazzled eyes of Mrs. Eddy's followers. Making use
of the ancient conception of angels, she teaches that such beings are
always close at hand, for angels are "God's thoughts passing to man;
spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect." "These angels of His
presence . . . abound in the spiritual atmosphere of Mind."
Thus Christian Science is seen to be a religion of health, longevity
and happiness, the fruits of spiritual action; a religion which denies
both the theoretical and practical existence of matter.
There are, however, occasions when the invocations of "science" prove
powerless to deal with rebellious matter. But this does not embarrass
Mrs. Eddy. She considers that her doctrine is in advance of the age,
and that men themselves must progress in order to rise to its level.
Their spirits will then become pure and perfect, and matter will have
no more power over them. Man will be able to live quite differently,
for hygienic conditions--even those considered most indispensable--will
no longer be of any importance.
One of the most irresistible attractions of Christian Science lies in
its declaration that it will be possible at some future time to
overcome death--a dream that has been known in all epochs. Yet, for
all our love of life, how unprofitably we squander it! Our normal life
could be prolonged to a hundred and fifty, or even two hundred
years, but we have stupidly imposed upon ourselves an artificial
barrier which we scarcely ever surpass!
Mrs. Eddy knew well what charm the possibility of destroying the "King
of Terrors" would add to her doctrine, and she made effective use of it.
We may note that the idea of overcoming death can be traced back for
some three thousand years or so. Hermes, the "Thrice Greatest One,"
taught that only "by error" had death become installed upon our planet,
and that nothing in the world could ever be lost. "Death does not
exist; the word 'mortal' is void of meaning, and is merely the word
'immortal' without its first syllable." He taught further that the
world was the second God, immortal and alive, and that no part of it
could ever die; that "the eternal" and "the immortal" must not be
confused, for "the eternal" was God Uncreate, while the world which He
had created and made in His own image was endowed with His immortality.
Hermes also suggested that it was only necessary to send our bodily
sensations to sleep in order to awake in God and rejoice in immortality!
There was a close relationship between Hermes, the Essenes of Egypt,
and St. John, the author of _Revelation_. Indeed, if we search
carefully, we find that the Gnostics of every school believed in the
possibility of banishing death from the earth.
"Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never
thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of
water springing up into everlasting life." (St. John iv. 14).
And what superiority over the claims of Mrs. Eddy is shown by Hermes,
when he declares that in order to reach the spiritual worlds we only
need to free ourselves from sensation!
Unsuspected sources of inspiration, as yet unutilised, abound in the
writings of the Pythagoreans, the Essenes, and even the Neo-Platonists.
The creators of future religions are likely to draw much water from
these wells, but Christian Science can lay claim to be the first to
have made use of the mysticism of the past in a practical fashion, so
that its adherents rejoice in the prospect of endless life, even as did
the visionaries of former ages.
When one examines the doctrine closely, its lack of originality becomes
apparent. The idea that matter does not exist has had numerous
protagonists in the realms of philosophy, and is ardently defended by
Berkeley. In the dialogues of Hylas and Philonous, the latter speaks
of the "absolute impossibility" of matter, which has no existence apart
from spirit. But Mrs. Eddy succeeded in giving this purely
metaphysical conception a concrete value in the affairs of every-day
She opened the first _School of Christian Science Mind-healing_ in 1867
with one student; towards the end of the century her followers numbered
close on a hundred thousand; while to-day the "Mother Church" can boast
over a million adherents, to say nothing of its financial resources.
Without doubt suggestion is the basis of the miraculous cures which are
the pride of Christian Science, but the prophetess and her followers
have always denied this. As Jesus ignored the power of suggestion,
they also must not only ignore it, but wage merciless war upon it.
They deny both suggestion and matter, while making use of each--but
neither the use of suggestion nor the doctrine of the non-existence of
matter could alone or together have procured for the new sect its truly
phenomenal success. That is due largely to ingenious methods of
publicity, on the most modern lines (and is not advertisement itself
one of the most effective forms of suggestion?). When one miraculous
cure after another was announced, money flowed in, and Mrs. Eddy made
use of it to increase the numbers of believers. Adapting herself to
the mentality of her hearers, or readers, she demanded large fees for
the manifestations of the "spirit" which was incarnated in herself and
her helpers, and left behind her when she died, an immense personal
fortune, and hundreds of prosperous churches. "Matter" does not seem
to be altogether negligible, even for pure spirits who do not believe
in its existence, and consider it an invention of the devil!