Christian Science

Christian Science by Mark Twain.

I was raised a Christian Scientist.

Yes, that is an oxymoron.

I was taught that the world - the material world - is not real, but an illusion.

I could live with that - lots of smart people (Plato comes to mind) have thought that over the centuries.

The part of Christian Science that drove me crazy was that the idea that the illusion was an illusion too and was in fact an impossiblity, and that by realizing that, any disease would instantly vanish.

If that makes any sense to you, by the way, then your ability to hold opposing concepts in your mind simultaneously is very well developed. Or you are crazy - more likely the latter case.

Various attempts at healing me over the years were failures. For instance, I got Chicken Pox as a kid. After much praying, it went away over the same time period as for everyone else that had Chicken Pox and didn't do a lot of praying.

I had acne in high school. I went to a "practitioner" - that's a person that can see the Truth with a capital T in spite of the supposedly non-existent illusion that surrounds us. I went once or twice a week for a year or two.

Eventually my acne cleared up, at about the same rate as for other kids that had acne like mine and didn't go to a practitioner once or twice a week for a year.

Most disappointing, on the practitioner front, was that my practitioner was really fat and the wife of another practitioner who later went on to become the president of the Mother Church in Boston. So these were supposed to be really whiz-bang practitioners.

The link is to a book by Mark Twain who had some choice comments to make about Christian Science. In particular, Mark Twain says that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy was so massively edited as to become another work not really written by Mary Baker Eddy.

There are also stories that Mrs. Eddy stole the original idea from a guy named Phineas Quimby which I personally believe. As the work (Science and Health) was modified and edited it came to make less and less sense - not that Quimby’s stuff made a lot of sense to begin with. Still, he at least stuck to his guns – that the world is an illusion – a dream (or a nightmare) – that we can modify any time we want if we would only realize our power to do so. Mrs. Eddy had to go a step further and say that the illusion could never exist. Somehow realizing the illusion was an illusion that couldn't exist would be the truth that sets you free.

I can tell you it is very hard to grow up in a family that doesn’t believe in physical reality. It’s a perfect environment for the most horrific denial. Anything that goes wrong is just an “error in perception” and should be denied and cast out with great forcefulness. And if that doesn’t fix things, then you didn’t do it right, so repeat until you get it right.

I gave it all up when I was about 22. My older brother Tom gave it up too. My younger brother Tim believes in it in spite of a knee injury that has never healed. My father still believes it even though his wife (my mother) of many years died a miserable and horrific death from cancer which remained untreated until she wasted away over a period of a year and a half. My older sister Marilyn still believes in it even though her husband felt a little strange at dinner one night and died within a few minutes.

Overall, Christian Science is a shrinking religion, primarily because members of the church have a good chance of dying from a lack of proper medical care.

To be sure, there is truth in Christian Science. Not every ailment needs a doctor. If people would just calm down then about 1/3 to 1/2 of all disease would vanish.

But it is that other 2/3rds or 1/2 that can kill you.

It’s important to distinguish between the stuff that your mind – your brain – which is the largest generator of chemicals and hormones and what-not in your body – is screwing up – and the genuinely physiological problems; it is diagnosing the difference that requires true skill.

As for me, I am left with a deep sense of the mystery of life. I believe there is much more to the world than what we can sense directly. I believe there are principles that guide the universe. I'm with Einstein - the amazing thing isn't that there are principles that guide the universe - the amazing thing is that we can understand them.

And deep down I believe reality is an illusion - but an extremely detailed and very powerful one - and if one loses one's respect for reality then one is going to suffer the consequences.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.