The following are opening remarks made at an interfaith presentation in Castro Valley, CA
In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, makes a compelling statement. She writes:
“Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe. He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause.”
For Eddy, this was not merely her opinion but an undeniable truth informed by her Christian faith as well as her (in her words) “practical,” even “scientific,” application of what the Bible – particularly the healings of Jesus – revealed to her of humanity’s unfailing relationship to the Divine, to God.
Nevertheless, to this day – more than 150 years after her discovery – Eddy’s pairing of the terms “Christian” and “Science” continues to be met with everything from curiosity, to confusion, to derision and disdain.
This is why I thought it might be helpful to explain a bit about the “how and why” of Eddy’s choice of words, and then share some of what it means for me personally to be a student of Christian Science.
I’ll start by reading an excerpt from Eddy’s autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection (pp. 24-25), which describes how her discovery came about. She writes:
"It was in Massachusetts, in February, 1866... that I discovered the Science of divine metaphysical healing which I afterwards named Christian Science. The discovery came to pass in this way. During twenty years prior to my discovery I had been trying to trace all physical effects to a mental cause; and in the latter part of 1866 I gained the scientific certainty that all causation was Mind, and every effect a mental phenomenon."
(I should mention that Eddy’s use of the word “Mind” in this context is not a reference to the human brain but rather to that singular divine Mind she identifies as God.)
Getting back to Eddy’s story, she continues:
"My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury caused by an accident, an injury that neither medicine nor surgery could reach, was the falling apple that led me to the discovery [of] how to be well myself, and how to make others so.
"Even to the homœopathic physician who attended me, and rejoiced in my recovery, I could not then explain the modus of my relief. I could only assure him that the divine Spirit had wrought the miracle — a miracle which later I found to be in perfect scientific accord with divine law.
"I then withdrew from society about three years, — to ponder my mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind that should take the things of God and show them to the creature, and reveal the great curative Principle, — Deity.
"The Bible was my textbook. It answered my questions as to how I was healed; but the Scriptures had to me a new meaning, a new tongue. Their spiritual signification appeared; and I apprehended for the first time, in their spiritual meaning, Jesus’ teaching and demonstration, and the Principle and rule of spiritual Science and metaphysical healing, — in a word, Christian Science."
Nine years after Eddy’s accident, she published Science and Health – a book that would undergo many revisions before its final edition in 1910, the same year that Eddy died. This book is intended to be studied along with the Bible and includes the three basics of Christian Science theology, including…
The nature of GOD, which, in addition to divine Mind, as I just mentioned, Eddy defines as divine Principle, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love; as all-powerful, all-knowing, always present; and as both Father and Mother.
The nature of MAN as the image and likeness or reflection of God or Spirit.
And the nature of EVIL, which Eddy describes as anything that would deny the allness of God or good – including sin, disease, and death – that is ultimately overcome with Truth.
The book also explains the manner in which healing happens – mental, physical, emotional, and otherwise – based on the many examples we’re given in the Bible.
Eddy writes: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy” (SH 476).
Now, when people ask me why I’m a Christian Scientist, I usually mention three things.
First and foremost, I love what Christian Science teaches me about God and my relationship to Him – about God’s unyielding love for His creation.
Second, the sense of confidence it gives me – at times, even a sense of fearlessness – when confronting all sorts of challenges.
And third, the many healings I’ve experienced over the years – healings that have included not only mental and physical improvement, but moral and spiritual regeneration as well.
I’ll share just one of these healings since it’s the most recent and easiest to recall.
One afternoon, for no apparent reason, my knee became quite swollen and very painful, making it difficult to walk and impossible to drive my stick-shift car.
During a moment of prayer – and it really was just a moment – what came to mind was the phrase, “no schism in the body.”
For most, that probably sounds like a pretty obscure thought. For me, it felt more like divine encouragement to find this passage in the Bible – very close, it turns out, to where the apostle Paul speaks about the metaphorical “body of Christ.”
“For the body is not one member, but many,” writes Paul. “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him" (I Cor 12:14:18).
As I read this, I realized that a group of office mates I was having difficulty working with were actually meant to work together, divinely ordained and empowered to carry out whatever tasks God, divine Mind, had given us to do.
Within a very short time, my knee was completely back to normal. No rest. No painkillers. Just a small yet potent dose of the Christ – a term that Mary Baker Eddy defines as that “divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (SH 332). There was also noticeable improvement in my attitude toward my colleagues – a more Christly attitude, if you will – and, shortly thereafter, an equally noticeable increase in our ability to work together.
I might add that my reason for not seeking medical help for my knee wasn’t because anyone told me that as a Christian Scientist that wasn’t an option, as is often assumed, but because I’d been healed so many times before solely through my reliance on prayer – a practice that, at least for me, isn’t so much about asking for God’s love as it is learning to love, as was illustrated in the example I just shared.
In Science and Health, Eddy writes: “Christian Science differs from material science, but not on that account is it less scientific. On the contrary, Christian Science is pre-eminently scientific, being based on Truth, the Principle of all science” (SH 123).
Regardless of your spiritual or religious background, I would imagine that everyone here today has experienced – in some way, shape, or form – the kind of healing that I just described; a moment when you realize that your life is governed by something other than human circumstance or a physical body; a moment when you feel that much closer to the Divine.
We may use different words to describe this kind of experience, but it’s something we can all be grateful for and expect to see more of throughout our lives.