The Science of Christian Science
A. A. Sulcer, M.D., C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
While greeting all who are Christian Scientists with the pleasure arising from sympathy of thought and aim and feeling, I shall address myself more particularly to those who are not of our number or belief, for I know that those who are already one with us will listen patiently to that which they have heard before for the sake of the possibility that others may find some objection removed or find a stimulus to search for themselves along the path which we believe to be the path of Truth. In fact, this is our real object. Yet I trust no one will suppose that I imagine for a moment that the entire subject can be compassed off-hand, or that I can so present it as to remove all the objections which may arise. It requires time to master that to which we are unaccustomed, particularly if the thing to be mastered is contrary to preconceived ideas.
We see the sun and moon rise, take their course in an apparent arch over our heads, and sink below the horizon; we saw them thus as children and we see them thus now, as undeniably as every untutored savage has seen them from the beginning. I well remember my incredulous astonishment when told that neither of these bodies does what it seems to do; that their apparent daily movement is an illusion of the senses. I remember my greater astonishment when, after having been taught that earth and moon moved in elliptical orbits, I was again told that they were elliptical only in their relation to the bodies around which they passed that their true paths were exceedingly long drawn out spirals and not ellipses at all. The statement that men could measure the diameters of these wondrous orbs, calculate their distances, determine their weights, overwhelmed me with unbelief. Where was the heavenly yard-stick which could be applied to such infinitudes? Who the magician to traverse the roadless space and apply the unit of measure if he had one? When geometry and trigonometry became familiar there was still a difficulty; we were on a body sweeping through space many times faster than the swiftest cannon ball, and at all times changing its distance from the sun; on a body revolving with great velocity upon its axis so that angles and base lines upon it must rapidly change their relation to the distance lines to be measured. How could such inconstant lines and angles ever be determined? The idea seemed preposterous.
But this was not the only series of problems which my young mind had to grapple, nor the only one requiring prolonged and earnest thought for mastery. Not only would it be impossible to learn but it would be impossible to present any new system of thought in a moment. Whole volumes are devoted to systems of economics, whole volumes to theology, whole volumes to metaphysics, because it would not be possible to clearly and cogently present them otherwise. Statements might be made which would cover most of the basic facts, but they would have to go unillustrated and unproved. To be shown to be probable, to be made clear and irrefutable, requires time much more of it than can be found in one short lecture. The grand harmony of truth in Christian Science, some of the outlines of which I wish to present to you, is no exception to the law that that which is best worth getting must be worked for. So different is it from accustomed lines of faith and thought that one anxious for others to listen to its gospel is sorely puzzled to know just how to approach and touch it in order to accomplish the most in the least time. I am conscious that in an attempt to tell you its truths and aims I must make statements sure to arouse objections which will at first seem as strong to the minds in which they arise as my objections to facts in astronomy and physics once seemed to me, but which I am equally sure, on honest and thorough investigation, you will find to be as baseless as they were. But I will do the best I can, and which is better, will point you to sources from which you may obtain answers to all your queries if you shall care to do so.
Contrary to the usual custom of Christian Scientists, I am going to talk to you for a few moments upon a most material basis, and by familiar illustrations show that even from the standpoint of the physicist appearances are always illusory; but I wish you to understand that when I refer to the teachings of physical science, or to the human machine from the standpoint of the physician, to disease, to the cure of disease, to failures to cure, I am not speaking from my own point of view. In order that we may thoroughly understand each other it is necessary that I should tell you at once why I refer to them at all in the way I purpose to do. It is often difficult for one not familiar with Christian Science readily to understand its Principle, even though in sympathy with it; it is vastly more difficult when there is lack of sympathy or when there is prejudice in the mind against it. It was so in my own case. I have noticed it to be the case with others, it is strictly philosophical that it should be so, for the difficulty does not lie in the subject itself: the subject is so clear that, centuries ago, we were told that "wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein:" but the difficulty lies in our own minds in the deceptive testimony of a mistaken sense, which "sees only what it believes and believes only what it sees." This false sense so overshadows the true sense, that until we can free ourselves from that cloud the truth seems foolishness. My first appeal to those who are not in sympathy with us will be through ordinarily accepted beliefs which I conceive to lie within their point of view a point of view which I conceive to be theirs because it was once mine and from that point of view I shall try to show that that which is now my own, that of which I hope to give some conception before I have done, is not so unreasonable or impossible as they may have been accustomed to suppose.
Nothing seems more real than the evidence given by our material senses indeed, we are often told that the basis of all we know or think or feel comes to us through them. Yet we neither see, hear, taste, touch, nor smell as those senses would make us think we do. Let us refer to several phases of this fact. A number of you have, before now, had some slight trouble with your ears, you may have heard whistles blow or bells ring when you knew there were no whistles whistling or bells ringing. The listening mind was in error, the thinking mind discovered it, and you decided the real cause was a mere disturbance of the nerves. Everyone is familiar with the visual distortion produced by the use of concave, convex, or uneven mirrors. The same body which appears short and broad before one, becomes tall and slim before another, and full of irregularities before a third, and the seeing mind, in each case, gets a picture of that which the thinking mind knows to be an error and non-existent. Spectacle lenses ground to remedy defects of vision produce abnormal pictures within the normal eye, and the eye itself is an optical instrument, the curves of whose walls and lenses are such that none of us ever get true pictures of the shapes of objects looked at. As with shapes, so with color. We are told that rays of light are carried to the sensorium through the nerve fibres especially adapted to respond to their differing vibrations; that when these fibres are perfectly adapted to their work the sense of color discrimination is wonderfully delicate, but that, in many cases, this adaptation is quite incomplete and the person is said to be color-blind. Probably to no two people whom we could select would the same object appear exactly the same in color, and it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of science that there are color waves whose vibrations are both above and below those our nerves are capable of responding to. Were we to stop right here it would be plain that no one sees an object in its complete or true coloring any more than one sees an object in its true shape. But, even at the risk of being tiresome, we will not stop here. From the purely scientific standpoint we are justified in saying that the whole idea of color as inherent in objects themselves is an illusion. What do physicists tell us is color? They tell us that it is all a matter of response to different rates of vibration; that if light comes to us from a body which we call red, it merely means that it has been reflected from a body the arrangement of whose particles and whose rates of vibration destroyed all the rays except those giving the sensation of red; that the object which we call red is not red at all. Again our senses have deceived us. Objects themselves do not have color, they merely affect light in such a way that they seem to have it. And yet further, if physicists are right in declaring that no two molecules or atoms touch each other, but are much farther apart than their own diameters, it is perfectly clear that when we look at solids and liquids and think we see continuous surfaces, we are deceived once more, for there are no continuous surfaces to see and to this not even our own bodies are an exception.
It would be equally easy to show the utter deceptiveness of the supposed information obtained through either of the five senses. And all this from the standpoint of the materialist. Mrs. Eddy very aptly presents the essence of this thought in a few quoted words added to her own when she says: "Has not the truth in Christian Science met a response from Professor Langley, the young American astronomer? He says that 'color is in us,' not 'in the rose' and he adds that this is not 'any metaphysical subtlety' but a fact 'almost universally accepted within the last few years by physicists.'"
The special point to be noted in all this is, that "things are not what they seem." And this can be shown to be true in an entirely different line of experiences. Hypnotized subjects see, hear, taste, touch, and smell that which in a material sense does not exist, obeying the suggestion of the hypnotist. Things, also, which men say do exist, give to the hypnotized subject impressions entirely different from those which would be received from them by the operator himself. Ammonia may become to them as free from pungency as the purest water, may be as sweetly fragrant as the odors of Araby, and water may knock them down as promptly as the strongest ammonia. Coffee may seem to them as lemonade, and milk as brandy, not only in its smell and taste but in its intoxicating effects, while whole glasses of brandy may be drank without the slightest quickening of the pulse or disturbance of the brain. Evidently, effects upon the so-called senses, in the case of the hypnotized subject at least, do not depend upon material agencies.
There are other and sad illusions made familiar to us by the insane, in whom we find every degree of aberration from some single, simple hallucination to complete alienation. You probably remember hearing of the man who imagined himself to be a kernel of barley and ran in wildest fear from every hen he saw lest he should be caught and eaten. It was real to him, as real as though he had been hypnotized, and pardon me for saying so as real as many of our own cherished beliefs.
It is clear both from a physical and psychological point of view that we cannot depend upon our experiences or upon our so-called knowledge as being safe indexes of the real; I have clearly shown many falsities of belief and impression, and it would be easy to show many more; yet the only application I now desire to make is this, and I make it with due respect for the feelings of every one: Do not be too sure that you know it all; do not too hastily condemn the statement that there may be unrealities which you still believe to be real, and truths which you have heretofore considered delusions.
Christian Science, like other radically advanced and unfamiliar teachings, has been met with hostile opposition on every hand. It has been assailed by grossest misrepresentation, bitterest satire, and merciless ridicule. Those who have practised it have been brutally maligned, branded as criminals, prosecuted in the courts. Yet the reasons for this enmity will not stand analysis. The real cause lies in the tendency of human nature to distrust that with which it is not familiar, especially in religion and in the treatment of the sick. This has been particularly illustrated in the history of Christian Science. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, of chronic cases continually defy the "regular practitioners" (though nothing was ever more irregular than their practice), who not only fail to cure but even to relieve. If death comes to one of the unfortunates, and some physician of the "old school" who has previously inspected the tongue, felt the pulse, and looked wisdom as doth the owl, writes the mortuary certificate, the public rolls its eyes heavenward, bows to the will of God, announces that everything has been done which can be done, and praises the powerless medical attendant for keeping the patient alive so long. But if, as often happens, the sufferer comes to realize the worthlessness of the efforts of the Ζsculapian and calls in a Christian Scientist, and, to the surprise of his friends, recovers, it is suddenly found that there was no real sickness in this particular case and that he would have gotten well anyway unwittingly agreeing, for once, with the Christian Scientist who also declared that there was no real sickness. But if the patient, unable to emancipate himself from his beliefs and fears, should follow the same course he would inevitably have taken under his old physician, there is no end to the vilification of those who ministered to him. The difference is not in the fact of death, for statistics will bear me out in saying that a larger percentage of the cases recover under Christian Science than under medical treatment, but in the one case public prejudice has been followed and in the other it has not. That is the difference.
And right here let me tell you a little story in regard to the regularity of the "regular" practice. Some years ago, perhaps fifteen of them, I don't remember exactly, and a slight variation from any of the figures will not mar the illustration, the New York World sent out a reporter, I think it was the famous Nellie Bly, to test the exactness of modern scientific diagnosis and treatment, and particularly to compare the work of the homoeopathic and allopathic schools. She visited and wrote to twelve of the most celebrated physicians of each school, allowing each person to suppose himself the only one consulted, and making to each the same statement of symptoms. Some of the allopathists did not give a diagnosis; some diagnosed, and of these all differed. The twelve homoeopathists all diagnosed the case alike. By the allopathists twenty or more prescriptions were given some physicians sending two or three and of all these, I believe, no two of the first given prescriptions were alike, although out of the twenty odd two or three did duplicate each other. Of the twelve homoeopathists eleven prescribed exactly the same thing, and the World very aptly asked which of these schools had the best right to be called regular.
During an experience of nearly a quarter of a century in medicine I more than once lost faith not only in my own skill and that of my confreres, but in the claims of the therapeutic agents at our command. When I most needed my remedies they failed me utterly. In the moment of extremest necessity they were a mockery and a farce.
There are many troublesome facts quite familiar to the most regular of the regulars. Temporary cures are being made by every conceivable kind of irregular treatment in apparently as large a percentage of cases as can be brought in evidence by the "old school."
The case of a cure by the mere introduction of a thermometer into the mouth of a patient who mistook it for the curative agent is a matter of undisputed record; the cure of warts by mysterious manipulations is beyond doubt and familiar to all; the cure of hypnotized patients by the mere holding of drugs in the hand has been demonstrated over and over again. Yet, despite the efforts of regulars and irregulars, of honest doctors and of quacks, victims multiply. The hundreds of thousands of physicians and nurses eagerly sought by countless patients, the multiplication of drug stores and sanitariums, the rush for better climates, the thousands of patent nostrums offering to cure all and really curing none, all testify to the need of better methods to cure. Physicians have been seeking from earliest ages to find the causes of disease and to find the remedy. Every day gives birth to some new theory; every day sees some new elixir trumpeted forth with assurances of its absolute effectiveness in certain lines, and each day some vaunted theory or panacea is cast aside. But, meanwhile, the invading hordes of disease, in ever-increasing numbers, go on unchecked with the march of death.
Drugs are useless and are only resorted to because to the world's blinded sense there seems to be nothing better; and today I most unhesitatingly aver, as I review the past with its drawn battles and its defeats by disease and death, that I greatly doubt if doctors can, by the mere administration of drugs, cure anybody of anything. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, after years of professorship in Harvard Medical College, that if all the drugs at our command were cast into the depth of the sea it would be the better for man but worse for the fishes; and, if it were the proper thing for me to do, I could fill up almost this entire evening's talk with just as forcible denunciations as that of Dr. Holmes, from scores and hundreds among the most eminent practitioners and teachers the medical profession has produced. Medicine is a conspicuous failure. The world has sought in vain a remedy for material ills through material laws and means. Every veteran in medicine knows that the influence of the physician himself is no small factor in the cure; his mere presence at the bedside of the patient who trusts him often producing an immediate and most perceptible change for the better. The result can be attributable only to the effect upon the mind of the patient. Every practitioner also will acknowledge that however strong he may think the influence of bodily conditions upon the mind, the mind has at least a reciprocal influence upon the body. Numberless cases are authenticated of the mind both producing and curing abnormal conditions. Hair suddenly turns gray through fright, and, per contra, people who thought they could not walk have, under some great excitement, been able to run with the fleetest. Thought and habit write themselves in the face. Pure spirituality and petty meanness are delineated with equal certainty and clearness, and the markings are not merely of the face, they enter into the very fibre and attitude of the man. A continual contemplation of sensual gratification quickly shows itself to the practised observer in the generally lowered tone of the bodily functions, and, indeed nothing so tends to physical destruction as intense immorality of thought and action, and nothing so tends to build up, to give power of endurance, perfect physique, and clear brain, as a broad, strong, cheerful, fearless mind, of unsullied purity and spiritual aspiration. All of these things are familiar not only to medical men, but to the laity; yet, but acknowledge them and you have paved the way for the broadest possibilities. We have in such case, and quite outside the supposed range of Christian Science, found proof of one of its basic doctrines; that immorality or wrong thought of any kind is a breeder of disease: and that the highest conditions can be attained only as we free ourselves from impurity and error.
Not only have we found that nature as it presents itself to our senses is an illusion, but even in these distorted forms we are brought into contact with but a part of what exists, for there is a range of facts and powers beyond their direct perception. In illustration of existent yet unseen potentialities one of the Upanishads relates that a father whose son was frivolous and sceptical, commanded him to bring a fruit of the sacred fig-tree. "Break it," said the father; "what do you see?" "Some very small seeds," replied the son. "Break one of them; what do you see in it?" the father again asked. "Nothing," answered the son. "My child," answered the father, "where you see nothing there dwells a mighty banyan-tree." The fact that spirit has been utterly beyond the most delicate metrical device, and that it has eluded the magnifying glass, the retort, and the spectroscope, has been deemed sufficient to consign the nature, the power, the very existence of Spirit, to the region of the "unknowable;" but data are multiplying which lead even radical materialists to wonder whether that hypothetical region may not be triumphantly invaded; and, even if not, the conviction is growing that infinity of knowledge, wisdom, and will exist, and are super-physical though the man, befogged by false and temporal mortal conceptions, may not be aware of them.
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We have approached our subject from two directions and I trust have found something in each to reward us for the attempt. I now wish to appeal to another class of minds, or possibly to your own from a different standpoint.
Centuries ago a babe was born who, while yet a lad, astonished wise men by a wisdom greater than their own. In his manhood were shown such loftiness of character, such poise of mind, such power over disease and death and things physical, as to mark him indeed as "one having authority;" such grandeur of benevolence and love, such purity of soul, such mastery of things spiritual, such at-one-ness with the Father, that countless millions have accepted him as Divine. Yet few save those nearest him in the least understood him in his own time, and it is certain that until recently, the true meaning of his sublime teachings has been hidden from even the most devoted amongst the multitudes who have tried to serve him. It is equally certain that in our own day, upon a spirit surpassingly rare in its power of penetration, its comprehensiveness, its strength and dignity, its loving sweetness, its moral exaltation, was bestowed the gift of interpretation. Every Christian Scientist will know at once that I refer to the Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy.
It is safe to assume that all of you are familiar with the every-day teachings regarding the Christ. It is also safe to say that the majority of you believe in his life, in his so-called miraculous works, in his at-one-ment with the Divine. Assuming this, I wish to ask one question: What do you conceive to have been the means employed when he made men well, physically and spiritually? Whatever it was, it was effective. And the question is not a sacrilegious one, it is not a profane attempt to pry into the infinite mystery, or to step unbidden into the Holy of Holies, for not only did Christ in his Love and infinite Goodness sweep away the shadows caused by false conceptions, and invoke the overwhelming power of the Divine, but he most distinctly taught that such works were the natural heritage of those who truly believe. In Matthew, 21, Jesus says: "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." And Luke, 10:17, 19 reads, "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying. Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said, . . . Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you." But even a stronger statement does he make in John, 14:12, when he says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." And here I wish you to note particularly that he is not confining his remarks to his apostles, to the twelve so intimately associated with him, but he speaks to seventy. Not only does Christ assert that his followers can cure, if they are his followers, but in another place he distinctly avers that they are not his true followers if they cannot do these works. In Mark, 16, commencing with the 17th verse, he says, "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
A constant stream of healing flowed from Christ's presence during all the years of his ministry; he encouraged his followers to believe that they could do the same works, he asserted positively that they could do greater, and they went about preaching the good tidings and healing most successfully. Again I ask, What do you conceive to have been the means employed? Surely you need not find it difficult to answer. Did not Jesus always refer the healing power to the Father? "I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works." But how did the Father do it? And neither is this a sacrilegious query. It can be given all the answer necessary to our purpose by merely saying that it was through his reflection of the cleansing and healing Spirit, the divine Principle, who is the Father of all. And physical health and the power of bestowing it, or rather, the power of removing the shadows of seeming ills, seemed to be the natural and invariable accompaniments of true belief. And I wish to repeat right here that all the cures wrought by Christ were wrought wholly through the power of divine Love. Right here, in this simple statement, lie all the secret and the whole doctrine of Christian Science. We believe not only that the divine Love, Light, Life, is the true bath of perfect health, but that it is within the reach of all who can set aside their false beliefs and with perfect reliance upon the Divine promise come into the Light, and that no real and permanent cures, no perfection of body or mind, can ever be attained without it. The New Testament is not alone in this idea it is as old as God, and was given to men as long ago as His word. He said in Exodus 15:26, that if the Israelites would keep His commandments He would keep them free from the diseases that afflicted other nations. All through the Old Testament we are taught that man should look to God for healing and for all temporal blessings, and that they should obey His law in order to preserve their health. We read in the last verse of the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
In the history of King Asa is a plain intimation that a man has a choice between doctors and God when he is sick, and Asa is an object lesson of the mistakes men make in seeking unto doctors instead of unto God. The Psalms are replete with promises of healing to those who wait upon the Lord. The ninety-first Psalm is particularly rich in assurances of complete protection to those who trust in God. It is pre-eminently a "Christian Science Psalm."
It is not in the least strange that of all the schools which have attempted to heal the sick and make life better worth living, Christian Science should be the most successful; the strangeness lies rather in the fact that so many ages should pass before those who were studying the sacred texts should have found their meaning, their literal application. The founder of Christian Science showed her true greatness in taking the life of the Great Healer, the only Physician who never made a failure, who never lost a case, who always perfectly and instantly cured, as a key to the true treatment of disease.
I have already said that a statement of our beliefs is almost certain to arouse objections in the minds of those unfamiliar with our teachings, and I also frankly stated that I did not wish you to suppose I imagined for a moment that I could remove all those objections in a brief talk like this. I am, however, going to refer to two or three points which have been brought up so many times that I am sure they may occur to some of you now present.
It has often been claimed that Christian Science is merely the successful but unwitting practice of hypnotic suggestion. We deny it emphatically, and think we can show you points of essential difference. Hypnotism in its apparent design (whatever may be its true working) has the human being for the basis of its power; in it the human mind of the operator attempts to meet and deal with claims of disease; it is a case of one mind controlling another, and, as Carol Norton puts it, "the patient yields up the sacred right of individual self-government; he thus becomes voluntarily or involuntarily, controlled by the human mind of a person." Hypnotism has no thought of God in it; in Christian Science no thought of human power attaches; the human will is ignored and man turns alone in confidence to God, the sole and Infinite Good, and is made whole through the conscious realization of the healing and redeeming power of divine Love. Yet it is not faith cure, for faith cure looks upon God as one aside, one upon whom we have no real claim, one who so delights to please His Son that He is willing to do us favors for that Son's sake if we ask in faith. Christian Scientists believe that we may in our own divine right, and not by faith alone but through the understanding of the perfect Principle and Science of healing as demonstrated by Jesus and revealed to the world through the teachings of Christian Science, cast off diseased and sinful thoughts and beliefs and come into our heritage of health. We as truly believe God to be kind and loving as do the sincerest advocates of faith cure, but we do not consider ourselves as outsiders to whom crumbs are tossed by the All Powerful as the rich give crumbs to the beggar. We take God at His word; we believe we were truly made in His image; that our apparent diseases and all the manifestations of a perverted mortal sense are false and temporal, and that our Father has given us the power of rising above them and of realizing our share in His infinite perfections.
I said that hypnotism in its apparent design has the human being as the basis of its power, but does anyone know its true method of operation? Physicians and hypnotists attempt to talk learnedly of cure by "suggestion." It is easy to call the unknown by a name and then delude one's self with the idea that the problem is solved; but, as a matter of fact, how much more does a doctor know of the real modus operandi of the cure after he has rolled the word suggestion from his mouth than he knew before? Suppose, indeed, that he does hypnotize a patient, and that while the patient is under hypnosis the doctor "suggests" that some pain with which the patient claims to have been afflicted will not be there when he is brought out of the hypnotic condition. And suppose that when he is brought out the doctor's words prove true, and that the pain has disappeared does the doctor's saying that it was done by suggestion clear away the mystery? Does it explain anything whatever of the how of the cure? Does it show just what happened after the suggestion was made anything of the process in pursuance of which the pain disappeared? Not a man of them can explain how anything is cured by suggestion. Not a man of them knows anything more about what actually takes place than he knew before he ever heard that he could cure by suggestion. It is a mystery as unfathomable to each of them as the mystery of the universe itself. It has been discovered that something can be done, but nothing has been discovered as to how it is done absolutely nothing of the real operation and of the law involved. It has been given a name, but no one really knows what the name truly means. The fact merely hides behind the name, that is all.
Yet I believe that the Christian Scientist has the key to it, and one clear in its simplicity. Completely and absolutely root out fear of and belief in evil, and man, from his very nature, must be well; there is no ill in him when he is truly himself. In the case of hypnotic suggestion he is, to a limited extent, amenable to the removal of such beliefs as he is told do not exist and hence he is relieved, temporarily at least, of the particular result of mortal belief which disturbed him. Yet it is not necessarily a permanent cure; it is not a cure of other false conditions; it is not an elevating of the man into his perfect spiritual heritage; and hence, in spite of the partial removal of the diseased condition, he is not where a perfect understanding and a truly spiritual trust in the divine Allness would put him. Complete and permanent cure must come from an understanding of and obedience to the divine Law of healing.
A letter received some time since brings out a point which was a stumbling-block to its writer, and as I have his permission to use it, I will here refer to it and to a part of my reply as the readiest way to bring both sides of the proposition before you. He writes, amongst other things,
"I am very much interested in Christian Science and have studied it deeply for some time, but there are things which bother me and stand in the way of entire acceptance. . . . To my observation and experience from a material standpoint, some statements of Science and Health explaining certain phenomena seem to be entirely wrong which, if wrong, is a serious thing for the Science. The seeming difficulty is this: I have known of cases here where persons have died from what they and the doctors thought was one kind of disease in a certain internal organ, and a post-mortem examination revealed a different disease of and in another organ. Now Science and Health says, p. 193, 'A belief fulfils the illusive conditions of belief;' and p. 410, 'Whatever is cherished in mortal mind as the physical condition is imaged forth on the body,' and p. 76, 'Belief produces the results of belief;' and there are many similar passages which I will not quote. . . . Now, if all is mind and the body merely its substratum, its subjective state, all conditions of which are produced by the mind through belief, how can things happen as in cases just referred to? I know of a man who died of what the doctors said was cancer of the stomach, and it was found out afterwards that his stomach was not diseased. The only thing wrong was a slightly enlarged liver which could not have killed him. Another man also had what was diagnosed as cancer of the stomach; his stomach was examined and no cancer found. If beliefs hold such sway as Science and Health states, how can the clay in the hands of this autocrat potter escape from being moulded according as is the belief in all cases?"
This is quite a clear statement of what occurs to a great many minds at a certain stage of inquiry and therefore one which should not be ignored by the Scientist. While, in many cases, the connection between causative thought and its result is easy to trace, there are others in which it is not so easy yet we believe the connection to be not the less certain. I will give you a part of my answer to the query:
"First, as Christian Scientists, we believe that in reality there are no material laws as that term is usually understood, but that Mind is absolute.
"We believe that every claim of illness is the result of belief in so-called mortal law, itself a product of mortal mind, and that death itself is a result of such belief.
"While the patient's belief in some specific malady may often produce that malady, we do not believe that the mortal belief which produced a malady, say a cancer, must necessarily have been a specific cancerous belief held by the victim, by the physician, or by any single individual. We believe it might come from either of these sources or from ancestors, from friends, from enemies, or from the sum-total of human beliefs according to our connection with or exposure to them.
"From the case cited I can draw a particularly apt illustration of a popular misconception, and at the same time show the lack of connection not only between the diagnosis and the supposed cancer, but even between the final belief of the patient and the supposed cancer.
"The distinction between mere opinion and causative belief is clear. You will note that in this case, as in nearly all cases, certain symptoms had developed before the physician was summoned.
"When he came, he, as usual, proceeded to the diagnosis. Certain abnormalities seemed to him to mean cancer, but this was a mere opinion as to an already existing abnormality. Whatever it was it was there before. His present opinion evidently and most emphatically could not have been the cause. Neither could any opinion formed after a supposed condition had presented itself be a cause of that condition and this would of course include opinions of the patient. Evidently the real cause was more remote. It is equally evident that in most cases the seeds of abnormal conditions are mental states existing prior to the apparent ones, and they, therefore, become exceedingly difficult definitely to trace, and may altogether elude the superficial observer. Do not misunderstand me as endeavoring to show that opinions both of physician and patient do not have much to do with the patient's recovery, for they do. 'But that is another story.'
"Not only is it evident that we should not be too ready to judge a case from the apparent application or non-application of mere opinions or recent beliefs, but it should be remembered that we are not isolated creations; the entire universe is inter-related each part with the other; we are not merely what would appear to be our individual selves, but we are interwoven with the great whole. In a way we respond to every impulse, and particularly to our immediate environment. Thus it is that we as Christian Scientists lay great stress upon the environment of our patients; why we seek to have them surrounded by Christian Scientists firm in the understanding of the nothingness of disease, rather than that they should be in constant contact with those entertaining false beliefs, and in consequence filled with fear.
"Thus it is that ancestors, friends, enemies, even strangers and the 'sum-total of minds' contribute to bring about any and all conditions, and the belief nearest our perception may not be the belief responsible for the specific condition.
"Again, it is not necessary that specific forms of disease should be thought out in detail in order to produce them. It is enough that certain mental states are followed by certain physical ones; given the preponderating mental influence, the corresponding physical result must follow.
"Amongst all beliefs it is evident that the most widespread, the most deeply rooted, must be that most likely to control. The one universal belief and the one most deeply seated is that of death; hence, in apparently threatening cases, all other beliefs are likely to be overshadowed by this one overwhelming belief, and consequently whatever the seeming difficulty, and no matter what an autopsy may show, the death note may be sounded and the victim expire regardless of the character of the minor beliefs.
"Yet, as the Christ Mind is perfect, as we are privileged to enter into and receive the sweet fruits of that perfection, we believe that not only disease, but even death, shall eventually yield to right thinking, to at-one-ness with the Divine; and we further believe that in our demonstrations a larger percentage of cures can be urged to show its power, even under the imperfect efforts of the present, than can be shown by any school of medicine.
"Science is all-powerful, but we must master our fears, grasp fully the Christ principle, and bring ourselves into harmony with the Divine before we can put the fear either out of our own minds or out of the minds of our brothers. When we believe and live the Perfect Life we shall do the perfect work. Christian Science teaches that this is possible, and appeals to Jesus' own words to support it: 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.'"
Christian Science teaches that God is the only Life, Substance, Soul, Intelligence, in the universe, including man. That man the real, not the seeming man, with his false claims to reality is an emanation of the Divine, partaking of the Divine nature, as a ray of light is a part of, and may be followed to its home in, the sun, from which it emanates. It teaches that God is Love, and that man, being Love's idea, is privileged to the perfection due to his origin and to the attainment of true at-one-ness with him.
When the Christian Scientist asserts the non-existence of certain apparently evident manifestations in man's moral and physical nature and in his surroundings, he does not, if sufficiently advanced in his studies, mean quite what he is generally supposed to mean. To illustrate: You are walking along the street with the glare of the electric light behind you; before you is a shadow as visible to the passer-by as you are yourself, and it moves as rapidly and as truly as yourself, and, in a sense, is as much a fact as yourself, yet is it something or is it nothing? Is it existent or non-existent as a substance? There it undoubtedly is, yet, just as undoubtedly it is absolutely nothing. It is rather the mere absence of something; and that which is lacking is light.
We believe that the one All-Good, the divine Mind (not forgetting that the real man is His idea, partaking of the parent of whom it is a part), is the only permanent reality, and that mortal manifestations, although seemingly accompanying it in some of its phases, are not its necessary adjuncts, are not a part of it, but that they are illusions; that they are no more real than shadows; that like shadows they must inevitably disappear when flooded with the true Light of the Divinity which cures all disease. To say that mortal mind has false claims and yet to say it has no existence, is no more a contradiction than to say that you have a shadow and yet immediately affirm that the shadow is absolutely nothing only the absence of something.
The position of the Christian Scientist upon this point may be made a little clearer to you, may seem a little less like a contradiction to you, if you will note Mrs. Eddy's definition of mortal mind and remember when you hear the term used that this is the sense in which we use it. Remember, then, when you hear a Scientist speak of something as belonging to mortal mind and then saying that mortal mind has no existence, he merely means that it is a temporary, delusive, and false sense, and not real or belonging to real Mind, which, to him, is quite a different thing. Disputes which might well be avoided are often waged upon a mere misunderstanding of the meaning attached to terms.
If, as we were anciently told, man was created in God's image, and if, as we are also told, God is Spirit, and if we believe the sacred word, we cannot escape from the conclusion that that part which is our true self must be an expression of the Divine nature, and have within it the power of perfection as well as of immortality; and this logical conclusion we have already found to be in accordance with the positive declaration of Christ himself. And since God is Spirit everywhere present, and not a physical body in a limited space, it is equally logical to assert, as we do, that our seeming self is a false and temporary self and not the permanent and real individuality. We may also fully understand how it is that it is our privilege to do the works which were done of old; why, also, we can invoke the perfection of divine Goodness, why we claim that the Divine is all that there is which is real, and why we claim that these sayings which seem so inconsistent to the unthinking and uninformed are based on the soundest reasoning.
In closing I wish to call the attention of those of you who are Christians to this fact: there is no other means of spreading the gospel so efficient as through the Christ-healing. It is the direct operation of the Spirit of God upon the individual in the only way in which many of the millions of suffering humanity can be reached. Man's spiritual consciousness can be awakened when he sees the effect of this healing power of Truth upon his diseased body. When he has been made free from pain and sickness, and has recovered from death through gospel means, he is in the best possible state of mind to receive gospel truth from the one who has shown him the source of healing. This has been made manifest in the wonderful growth of the Church of Christ, Scientist. In 1867, Mrs., now Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy, started her first class in Lynn, Mass., with only one pupil. In 1881 she opened the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in Boston. Now her acknowledged following numbers a million and are to be found in nearly every country on the globe. They have established over four hundred churches and societies, and have erected a large number of houses of worship, and every one has been paid for before it was dedicated, and was paid for by voluntary contributions. Mrs. Eddy's own church has a membership of over fourteen thousand. The church edifice was erected at a cost of more than $200,000. No other people are more zealous in their religious efforts, none are happier in their beliefs, none are healthier, more buoyant, more hopeful than they, and they one and all revere the pure, the unselfish spirit of their Founder and Leader.
Is Christian Science a fad, is it a new-fangled teaching, born of fanaticism and subversive of true Christian faith and life? Are its adherents blind enthusiasts? We are told that there are one hundred and forty different religious denominations in the United States, and that for the whole body of Christians the number would be materially increased. All these are praying, "Thy kingdom come," all basing their faith upon the word of God, but differing enough in the interpretation of that word to constitute widely differing lines of faith and action. Christian Science also vindicates its teachings and practice by an appeal to the word of God, though it seeks not to build upon the ruins of any other denomination, to reap where it has not sown, or to gather where it has not winnowed. But its mission is among men, it has a message of love to the world, and in Christ's name proclaims it. It goes to the pool of Bethesda, and beholds a throng of those who are sick, blind, lame, and withered, many of whom for thirty-and-eight years have continued in their sickness. It does not ask what church they are members of, if any; it does not ask if they are rich or poor, but it saith unto each, "Desirest thou to be made well?"
To the many weary and heavy-laden ones it saith,
Is thy path so rough, O pilgrim,
Passing on thy way through life;
Deep the sorrows that beset thee,
Great the burdens, wild the strife?
Though the path of life be weary,
Though the goal of rest be far;
Set thy whole heart to endeavor,
Turn thy soul to yon bright star.
From the toiling, from the striving,
There at last shall come release;
One shall bring thee past the hill-crest,
Home unto His plains of peace.
I have only one word more to say; I promised to point you to sources from which you might obtain an answer to all your queries should you become sufficiently interested to care to do so. I point you to the works of Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and particularly to "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," in which you will find the richest treasure you ever delved for. Sincerely trusting that you will avail yourselves of the opportunity to obtain this treasure, I close, thanking you for your kind and patient attention.
[Published in The Christian Science Journal, November, 1899. The statement quoted above from Carol Norton is contained in his lecture Christian Science: Its Religion, Healing, and Philosophy.]