Moral Briefs – Chapter XXXV – Christian Science

cover of the ebook 'Moral Briefs' by Father John Henry StapletonA recently discovered sin against the First Commandment is the worship of Mrs. Eddy, and it is commonly called Christian Science. This sacrilegious humbug was conceived in the brain of an old woman up in New Hampshire and, like the little demon of error that it is, it leaped forth, after a long period of travail, full-fledged and panoplied, and on its lips were these words: “What fools these mortals be!” Dame Eddy gets good returns from the sacrilegio-comic tour of her progeny around the country. Intellectual Boston is at her feet, and Boston pays well for its amusements.

It is remarkable for an utter lack of anything like Christianity or science. It is as Christian as Buddhism and as scientific as the notions of our early forefathers concerning the automobile. It is a parody on both and like the usual run of parodies, it is a success.

The average man should not attempt to delve down into the mysterious depths of mind and matter which form the basis of this system. In the first place, it is an impossible task for an ordinary intelligence; then, again, it were labor lost, for even if one did get down far enough one could get nothing satisfactory out of it. The force of Eddyism lies in its being mysterious, incomprehensible and contradictory. These qualities would kill an ordinary system, but this is no ordinary system. The only way to beat the Christian Scientist is to invite him to focus all the energy of his mind on a vulgar lamp-post and engrave thereon the name of the revered Eddy – this to show the power of mind. Then to prove the non-existence of matter, ask him to consent to your endeavoring to make a material impression on his head with an immaterial hammer.

Of course this is not what he meant; but what he did mean will become by no means clearer after the wearisome, interminable lengths to which he will go to elucidate. The fact is that he does not know it himself, and no one can give what he does not possess. True philosophy tells us to define terms and never to employ expressions of more than one meaning without saying in what sense we use them. Contempt of this rule is the salvation of Christian Science, and that is where we lose.

Yet there is something in this fad after all. Total insanity is never met with outside state institutions, and these people are at large. The ravings of a delirious patient are often a monstrous mass of wild absurdities; but, if you question the patient when convalescent, you will sometimes be surprised to find they were all founded on facts which had become exaggerated and distorted. There is no such thing as pure unadulterated error. All of which is meant to convey the idea that at the bottom of all fraud and falsehood there is some truth, and the malice of error is always proportionate with the amount of truth it has perverted.

The first truth that has been exaggerated beyond recognition is this, that a large proportion of human diseases are pure fiction of morbid imaginations, induced by the power of the mind. That such is the case, all medical men admit. Thus, the mind may often be used as a therapeutic agent, and clever physicians never fail to employ this kind of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy is therefore no more the discoverer of the “malade imaginaire” than Moliere. When you distort this truth and write books proclaiming the fact that all ills are of this sort, then you have Eddyism up to date. Mrs. Eddy gathers her skirts in her hand and leaps over the abyss between “some ills” and “all ills” with the agility of a gazelle. Yes, the mind has a wonderful power for healing, but it will make just as much impression on a broken leg as on a block of granite. So much for the scientific part of the theory.

The method of healing of Jesus Christ and that of the foundress of Christian Science are not one and the same method, although called by the name of faith they appear at first sight to the unwary to be identical. There is a preliminary act of the intelligence in both; there is the exercise of the will power; and a mention of God in Eddyism makes it look like a divine assistance. To the superficial there is no difference between a miracle performed at Lourdes by God at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and a “cure” effected by the Widow of New Hampshire hills.

Yet there is a wide difference, as wide as the abyss between error and truth. In faith healing, God interposes and alone does the healing. It is a miracle, a suspension of the ordinary laws of nature. Faith is not a cause, but an essential condition. In Christian Science, it is the mind of the patient or of Mrs. Eddy that does the work. It is God only in the sense that God is one with the patient. Mind is the only thing that exists, and the human mind is one with the Mind which is God. Then again this cure instead of being in opposition to the normal state of things like a miracle, itself establishes a normal state, for disease is abnormal and in contradiction with the natural state of man. Mental healing, according to this system sets the machine going regularly; miracles put it out of order for the moment. Christian Science therefore, repudiates the healing method of Jesus by faith and sets up one of its own, thereby forfeiting all title to be called Christian.

Being, therefore, neither Christian nor scientific, this new cult is nothing but pure nonsense, like all superstitions; the product of a diseased mind swayed by the demon of pride, and should be treated principally as a mental disorder. The chief, and only, merit of the system consists in illustrating the truth, as old as the world, that when men wander from the House where they are fed with a celestial nourishment, they will be glad to eat any food offered them that has a semblance of food, even though it be but husks and refuse. Man is a religious animal; take away the true God, and he will adore anything or everything, even to a cucumber. However limited otherwise, there is no limit to his religious folly.