Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/June 1889/Is Christian Science a Craze?
By JOSHUA F. BAILEY.
THE impression is quite general that Christian Science is merely a captivating theory; that its text-book, “Science and Health,” is a collection of ingenious opinions — relating mainly to the cure of physical disease by imaginative means — that appeal especially “to persons of a highly religious and highly emotional nature.” It is also confounded with “faith-cure” and “mind-cure,” and alleged abuses and malpractice occurring under these and other irregular forms of mental healing are heralded as “another Christian Science case.” It is credited with contemning observation and induction, and, by consequence, natural science; with making man “a part of God,” and with various fanciful pretensions about sickness and death, and the unreality of matter.
A writer in the April “Popular Science Monthly” succeeded in committing all these errors and offenses against exactness of statement — besides others that space forbids the enumeration of — in less than four pages of the “Monthly.” After having in this small compass misstated the doctrines and pretensions of the true school of Mind-healing, demolished his own misstatements, and all the false systems as well, this writer, with a strange disregard of sequence, devotes six pages to argument and instance in favor of mental healing, and — most surprising of all — administers what Christian scientists consider a well-merited rebuke to the M.D.s for not giving the public the benefits of this “pleasant and inexpensive medicine that cures in some cases where drugs fail,” “shortens the term of sickness and lightens its pains in many other cases," and, “furthermore, has no injurious incidental effects.”
There is really no excuse for such misrepresentation of Christian Science; for it has a text-book, “Science and Health,” universally recognized as the exponent of its doctrines and methods. When called in question, it is entitled to be judged on authorized statements, and not on those of speculators in public credulity, on newspaper gossip and public rumor. This text-book says: “Systems of so-called 'mind-cure' are as truly material as the prevailing systems of medicine. They have no relationship with Christian Science”; and of “faith-cure,” “Faith is belief, and not understanding. Belief is virtually blindness when it admits truth without understanding it. If truth is admitted, but not understood, it may be lost, and error may enter through this same channel of ignorant belief.”
So far from not trusting observation and induction, “Science and Health” is a record of experiments in Mind that satisfy the most exacting rules for the use of these guides in investigation, and that extend over many years. Its statements are absolute and demonstrable in the same sense and by the same methods as the propositions of geometry. Every line of this book was written from demonstration, by which is meant experiment in the sense the word carries in natural science. The author first worked out the principles of healing in Christian Science on herself, after she had been condemned by medical science. Then, through nine years more, she worked out the rule of the operation of truth in the constant, public practice of healing "all manner of diseases," physical and moral.
This practice covered thousands of cases. Her history through these years, and the almost twenty that have succeeded them, has been one of silent endurance, in reliance on God, of mockery and persecution, often—in the earlier times—of hunger and cold. Suffering worse than martyrdom, daily repeated, has set its seal upon her work.
Here is her own declaration as to the method pursued in working out her discovery:
"The point to be determined is. Shall Science explain all cause and effect, or shall these be left open to mere speculative thought?. . . In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless. Proof is essential to a due estimate of the subject. . . . I have set forth Christian Science, and its application to the treatment of disease, only as I have discovered them. I have demonstrated the effects of Truth on the health, longevity, and morals of men through Mind. . . . I have healed hopeless disease, and raised the dying to life and health, through the understanding of God as the only life. . . . The sick, the halt, and the blind look up to me with blessings."
To the truthfulness of the most surprising of her declarations many certificates are published in "Science and Health" from persons of unquestioned character, and have stood fourteen years unchallenged. Hundreds of others have been published during the seven years past, and the publication continues monthly in the "Christian Science Journal," with the names and addresses of writers, and thousands more are at the free disposition of any inquirer for truth.
The laws or formulæ of Christian Science are given in "Science and Health" so plainly that any person of average intelligence can repeat the results obtained by the author. These results have been and are being repeated by multitudes of persons, who testify publicly to the fact that they have proved them to be invariable.
Prima facie, then, the pretensions of Christian Science are not absurd. They are entitled to fair and candid examination, conducted as it would be in the case of any other alleged science, under its own canons of procedure, subject to the laws of observation and induction that govern all investigation. The validity of its conclusions must be allowed to rest on the proofs of conformity to these scientific tests.
The charge that Christian Science contemns natural science is as unfounded as that it disregards observation and induction. It is said in “Science and Health”:
Learning is useful if it is of the right sort. History, observation, invention, philosophic research, and original thought, are essential to the growth of mortal mind out of itself, error. The tangled barbarism of learning we deplore — the mere dogma, the speculative theory, the nauseous fiction.
If natural science says one thing more clearly than another, it is this: that law is everywhere, and that there can be no exception to it. Natural science denies miracles, if by a miracle is meant any variation from the regular order of divine cause and effect.
Herein Christian Science is in a line with natural science. Christian Science devoutly believes the wonderful works performed by Jesus, but affirms that his so-called miracles were in accord with the highest law; that they proceeded from the divine Principle of him, which is the Christ or anointed imperial humanity. Miracles are impossible in Science. The highest manifestation of Life or Truth is divine — not supernatural or preternatural, since Science is nature explicated.
The rational claims of natural science against the authority and mere belief of dogmatic theology have all been anticipated and formulated in “Science and Health.” The comparison of “The Devil-Theory,” in the editor's table of the April “Monthly” with the following passage from the chapter “Imposition and Demonstration,” will illustrate this identity of attitude:
God, or good, has not created a mind susceptible of creating evil, for evil is the opposing error, and not the truth of creation.
As I understand it, the only evil, or devil, in the universe is made up of such erroneous beliefs as these: that man is a compound of both mind and matter; that a wicked mind can exist in a material form, and both form and mind can be created by the Divine Mind; that God is the author of sin, sickness, and death; and that Mind can be an entity within the cranium, with power to sin ad libitum. In other words, Satan is not a person but an illusion. A lie is the only Satan there is, as results prove. All the discords of earth are lies, and falsehood can not proceed from Truth. In and of itself discord is a falsity. It does not represent the fact relative to God or man.
To give the merest outline of the Principle and rule of Christian Science, as laid down in “Science and Health,” would require a volume. Some of the phenomena and workings of human consciousness, and conclusions from the standpoint of Christian Science, can only be briefly referred to in the space at command.
Man may be defined as a state of consciousness, and the condition of consciousness constitutes the individuality. Consciousness is related to two distinct classes of phenomena. One of these classes embraces the impressions derived from or received through the five personal senses, and constitutes what is called material or physical life. These are all summarized in the word matter. In the technology of Christian Science they are termed “beliefs” of matter, and are treated as inhering in a supposed subject termed “mortal man” or “mortal mind,” and are said to be cognized through material sense. This is the consciousness of life in matter, or life in the material body, and in Christian Science is termed the “false consciousness.”
Besides this consciousness or sense of material life, or life in the body, there is another sense or consciousness of Truth, Love, beauty, expressed in the word God, or Spirit. The impressions of Spirit not only do not come to us through the personal senses, can not be cognized by material sense, but they are contrary to this sense, are the opposites of the phenomena of material sense. They are distinct or obscure, just as the individual is immersed in or withdrawn from the objects of material sense, and the impressions derived from them.
Because these two states of consciousness are opposites, they are destructive of one another: as one is increased, the other is diminished; they are precisely represented in the action of light and darkness — as one advances, the other recedes. Every human individuality is the battle-ground of these opposing forces; the scale is at every instant inclined more strongly to the one or the other, and the true history of the individual and of the race — the only history — is the record of this struggle.
In the uninstructed consciousness, and on this mortal plane of existence, the beliefs and fears that are the inseparable concomitants of material sense, or the belief of life in matter, predominate; beliefs of good or ill are connected with all the elemental and other conditions that make up the material environment; with every act of the material man; with every article of food, drink, or apparel; with the function and operation of every organ of the body; with sleep and wakefulness, and every condition that can be named. In their train is the countless array of disease, envy, jealousy, malice, hatred, covetousness; every condition of thought that lust, appetite, and the nameless brood that develop and are propagated as earthly life advances — these are the shadowy attendants that haunt the consciousness of material man — the penalty attached to the false sense of life in matter.
Does progress in wisdom, gained from personal sense, emancipate man from this terrible thralldom? To the contrary, the more knowledge he gains, relative to these conditions and influences, the more laws he finds himself subject to — a subjection that the savage, untutored man is free from. In the words of “Science and Health,” “Man hath sought out many inventions, but he hath not yet found that knowledge can save him from the dire effects of knowledge.”
The character of this personal or material sense or so-called consciousness, and the doctrine of Science concerning it, are stated in these graphic words from the text-hook of Science:
Personal sense defrauds, lies, cheats, will break all the commands of the Mosaic Decalogue, to meet its own demands. How, then, can this sense be the channel of blessings or of understanding to man? How can man, reflecting God, be dependent on such material senses for knowing, hearing, seeing? Who dare say that the senses of man can be at one time the medium for serving sin, and, at another, for communion with God?
An affirmative reply would contradict the Scripture, for “the same fountain sendeth not forth sweet and bitter waters.”
The so-called senses of matter are the only source of evil or error. Science shows them to be false; since matter has no sensation, and no organic construction can give it hearing and sight, or make it the medium of Mind.
Outside of the material sense of things, all is harmony. A wrong sense — of God, man, and creation — is nonsense, or want of sense. Belief would have the material senses sometimes good and sometimes bad.
Science sustains with immortal proof the impossibility of any material sense, and defines these so-called senses as human beliefs, whose testimony can not be true of man or his Maker — of whose reality, or immortality, the senses can take no cognizance. Nerves have no more sensation, apart from what belief bestows upon them, than the fibers of a plant. Mind alone feels, sees, tastes, smells, and hears; therefore these faculties continue when organization is destroyed. Otherwise the very worms could unfashion man. If it were possible for the real senses of man to be injured. Soul could reproduce them in all their perfection; but they can not be disturbed, since they exist in Soul.
“Science and Health” gives plain, practical rules by which the origin and classification of all the objects or images appearing in consciousness can, first, be instantly recognized; and, second, can be dealt with understandingly and on their merits. It thus simply affirms that states and conditions of consciousness can be gradually and progressively controlled and changed from fear and suffering to happiness and serene confidence. It teaches how to eliminate from consciousness, how to destroy all objects that are opposed to harmony, through the cultivated understanding of Truth. The operation of this understanding results in gradual elimination of material sense, and beliefs of matter that are its concomitant, from the individual, and thus from the race, consciousness. The improved state of consciousness thus resulting is what constitutes “Christian Science Mind-healing.”
Hundreds of thousands of persons, found in every city, town, and village, are living this Science. They have destroyed, individually, and in the measure of their several understandings of Science, the beliefs and fears of matter, and have come into a state of measurable, relative health and harmony. That all who enter the Science can not demonstrate on themselves and others with the same or with uniform success, is no more an argument against its Principle and Rule, than is the fact that few can follow the calculations of Leverrier an argument against the existence of the planet Neptune, or the truth of mathematics that pointed it out. Because every school-boy or college graduate does not work his way into the calculus, or reach the demonstration of the highest problem of geometry, shall we deny the exactness and value of mathematics, and throw away our Euclid and the arithmetics? To the contrary of such reasoning, would not the pretension that the results of Christian Science could be brought out arbitrarily, and in disregard of established facts and laws of consciousness, be a demonstration of its unscientific character?
Now, as to the question of reality or unreality of matter and its beliefs, especially of sickness and sin: evidently, if the objects opposed to harmony can be destroyed or kept out of any individual consciousness, such objects will — to this individual — have ceased to exist. If he can keep out any one or a number of such objects, just in so far approach is made to the state of absolute harmony, that is wholeness or health.
Christian Science admits the reality of the phenomena of matter — as defined above — to material sense, and it teaches the destruction of this sense, through the operation of Truth understood; but it demonstrates, by such destruction, that it is a false sense, and that it is unreal in this — that it has neither Principle nor permanence.
The exercise of the healing power in Christian Science is no mystery. It is explained in “Science and Health” as follows:
“A mental state of self-condemnation and guilt, or a faltering and doubting trust in Truth, are unsuitable conditions for healing the sick; if lost yourself in the belief and fear of disease, and ignorant of the mental remedy, you fail to use the energies of Mind in your own behalf, you can exercise little or no power for others' help.”
“To succeed in healing you must conquer your own beliefs and fears as well as those of your patients, and you must rise daily into higher and holier being; by the spirit of Truth and Love you manifest, you will heal the sick. . . . Science makes no concessions to persons or opinions. One must abide strictly by its rules, or he can not demonstrate its Principle. . . . We approach to God or Life in the ratio of our spirituality and fidelity to Truth; and in that ratio we are able to discern the thoughts of the sick and the sinful that it may heal them.”
The power of healing goes up and down with the moral condition of the healer, and this so completely that the Scientist knows his position and power in Mind, from day to day, with, the same certainty and precision that the mariner knows the position of his ship on the ocean.
"Science and Health" describes the operation of Christian healing in these words:
Hence the doctrine "Truth is the universal medicine of sin and sickness"; both have their origin in error, in ignorance; the antidote to error is Truth, to ignorance is understanding; and the question of reality or unreality is summed up in the words "Sin and sickness have just as much reality as you give them—and no more."
The nature and scope of healing in Christian Science are further set forth in these words:
It will be seen that Christian Science is the Science of Life; its text-book says: "Its anatomy is mental self-knowledge, and consists in the art of dissecting thoughts, in order to discover their quality, quantity, and origin; it teaches when and how to probe the self-inflicted wounds of malice, envy, and hate; how to secure the hallowed influences of unselfishness, philanthropy, spiritual love, and the government of the body, both in health and sickness; its ontology is the nature and essence of all being—Mind, and its essential qualities; and on these primary elements my system of mental healing is based; its pharmacy is moral, and its medicine is intellectual and spiritual for physical healing."
The proposition "all is Mind, there is no matter," is fundamental in Christian Science, but, as above intimated, it is not, as superficial critics allege, a bald denial of the phenomena of material sense. In its methods the truth of this proposition is demonstrated or proved by the annihilation of the alleged unreality. The affirmation of the absolute supremacy of Mind is not stated as a theory, but is accompanied by plain rules, comprehensible to any fair intelligence, by which this supremacy can be verified in an endless progression. This authority over the supposed conditions of matter was first completely demonstrated by Jesus. It is the Science of the life of Jesus, in its supremacy over matter and its beliefs of sin and sickness, that is set forth in “Science and Health.”
No one knows, or can learn, any more of this Science than he has demonstrated — that is, lived. The students of natural science will not find unreasonable the declaration of an humble beginner in this Science, that no one is entitled to sit as a judge on it who has not either gone through with the demonstrations as set forth by its Founder, according to her directions, or until he can show by experience that when the rules of the Science are followed the results are not invariable.
This position was forcibly stated in a review of it that appeared the year following the publication of “Science and Health,” as follows: “Why do you assail her for individual opinions and beliefs? That is not the ground she occupies. She declares that what she states is not her own. It is Science left subject to proof, based upon Principle, governed by given rules, the demonstration whereof she leaves for you. It is for you to decide whether it is Science or not: now who can answer that question who doesn't understand Science?”
Enough has been said to show that healing in Christian Science is very different from the fanciful representation given of it by the writer in the April “Monthly.” Physical healing is a necessary and useful incident, not a factor, in the scheme of Christian Science. The operation of the healing power is as clearly defined and as tangible in consciousness, just as amenable to law — vastly more so to one reasonably well instructed — as are the phenomena involved in the operation of natural law on the plane of visible effects.
The writer in the April “Monthly” could not tell its readers what Christian Science is, precisely because it is Science, and can not be learned or picked up by curiously turning over the leaves of “Science and Health,” from odd paragraphs in the daily papers, or from the loose gossip that circulates in the lower atmosphere of human thought.
For the ungenerous and unworthy statements reflecting on the personal character and motives of the founder of Christian Science, these words of hers from the great text-book of Science shall make the only answer:
“In founding this system of ethics and medicine I have labored for principle, not for personality. Others can not take my place, even if willing to do so. I therefore remain at my post, working for the generations to come, never looking for a present reward.”
“I have clung to Truth most closely in the hour of its trial. The weapons of mortal selfishness, envy, ambition, and hatred that have opposed, have often pierced the human heart, but ‘none of these things have moved me.’ . . . Twenty-two years I have planted and watered ‘in labor and travail, working day and night.’ ”
“Hoping all things, enduring all things — in the spirit of Christ's charity — ready to bless them that curse me, glad to bear consolation to the sorrowing and healing to the sick, I commit these pages to honest seekers for Truth in this age and to posterity.”
As to the reflections of the same character on the tens of thousands of devoted students who are laboring to spread the glad tidings she has brought, to alleviate and, finally, to destroy the supposed ills of humanity — real to sense, but not to Truth — they are left to the judgment of those who have followed these few words, so unworthy of their great theme.
It is proper to refer to the declaration of the signs of “decadence” of Christian Science. Its founder began in 18G7 with a single student. Since that time she has taught nearly four thousand, the number increasing every year — not to speak of the pressure for admission to her classes of hundreds she is obliged every year to refuse. “Science and Health” had an insignificant sale during the years following its publication in 1875. But this, too, has steadily increased yearly, until it has reached a sale of forty thousand copies. A large proportion of the students from the classes of its author have become healers and teachers, so that, while for obvious reasons no exact statistics of their number can be given, it is certain that some hundreds of thousands are to-day “in” Science — that is, living, according to their several understandings, the “Life that is Spirit.” Among those who receive “Science and Health” as a revelation of divine Truth are many of the most gifted and honored men and women not only in this country but in England.
Christian Science is no “craze.” The readers of “The Popular Science Monthly” will judge for themselves whether the words of its founder are words of soberness or of delusion. She says: “I have never supposed this century would present the full fruits of Christian Science, or that sin, sickness, and death would not continue for centuries to come; but this I do aver, that, as a result of my teaching, old age and decrepitude will not come so soon — that already health is restored and longevity increased by it. If such are the present fruits, what may not the harvest be when justice shall be done to this Science?”
Christian Science claims to be the Science of sciences; it takes up without hesitation the challenge, “The true science of mind-cure must explain all the phenomena of mental healing” and voluntarily lays itself under the further obligation to account for all mental and all supposed material phenomena whatever. It is this, and all of this, or it is nothing. Aut omnis, aut nullus, is the motto on its shield, is its word to humanity. Though the brow of divine Science is star-encircled, its feet are upon the earth, and health, harmony, and holiness are the gifts it brings to men.