Six hundred years before Benedict's day, on the site of the cloister of Monte Cassino stood a temple to Apollo, and just below was a grove sacred to Venus.
Two hundred years before Benedict's time the Goths had done their work so well that even the walls of the temple to Apollo were razed, and the sacred grove became the home of wild beasts.
To this deserted place came Benedict and eleven men, filled with a holy zeal to erect on this very spot an edifice worthy of the living God. Here the practical builder and the religious dreamer combined. If you are going to build a building, why not build upon the walls already laid and with blocks ready hewn and fashioned!
The Monte Cassino monastery of Benedict rivaled in artistic beauty the temple that it replaced.
Man is a building animal, and the same Creative Energy that impelled the Greeks and later the Romans to plan, devise, toil and build, now played through the good monk Benedict. His desire to create was a form of the great Cosmic Urge, that lives eternally and is building in America a finer, better and nobler religion than the world has ever seen—a Religion of Humanity—a religion of which at times Benedict caught vivid passing glimpses, as one sees at night the landscape brilliantly illumined by the lightning's flash.
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The motto of Benedict was "Ecce Labora." These words were carved on the entrance to every Benedictine Monastery.
The monastic idea originated in the Orient, where Nature placed no special penalty on idleness. Indeed, labor may have been a curse in Asia. Morality is crystallized expediency, and both, as we are told, are matters of geography, as well as time.
And truth it is, that north of the Mediterranean idleness is the curse, not labor.
The rule of Benedict was not unlike that of the Shakers, for near every monastery was a nunnery. The association of men and women, although quite limited, was better for both than their absolute separation, as with the Trappists, who regard it as a sin even to look upon the face of a woman.
The thrift and industry of the Benedictines was worthy of Ann Lee and our friends at Lebanon. A man who works eight hours, with fair intelligence, and does not set out to make consumption and waste the business of his life, grows rich. Thoreau was right—an hour a day will support you. But Thoreau was wrong in supposing men work only to get food, clothing and shelter. To work only an hour a day is to evolve into a loafer. We work not to acquire, but to become.
The group idea, cemented by able leadership and a religious concept, is always successful. The Mormons, Quakers, Harmonyites, Economites, and the Oneida Community, all grew very rich, and surpassed their neighbors not only in point of money, but in health, happiness, intelligence and general mental grasp.
Brook Farm failed for lack of a leader with business instinct; but as it was, it divided up among its members a rich legacy of spiritual and mental assets. In family life, or what is called "Society," there is a constant danger through rivalry, not in well-doing or in human service, but in conspicuous waste and conspicuous leisure. The religious rite of feet-washing is absolutely lost, both as a rite and as an idea. In truth, "good society" is essentially predatory in its instincts. In communal life, or the life of a group, service and not waste is the watchword. This must be so, since every group, at its beginning, is held together through the thought of service. To meet and unite on a basis of jealous rivalry and sharp practise is unthinkable, for these are the things that disintegrate the group.
It is an economic law that a group founded upon and practising the idea of each member giving all, wins all. Benedict's idea of "Ecce labora" made every Benedictine monastery a center of wealth. Work stops bickering, strife and undue waste. It makes for health and strength. The reward of work is not immunity from toil, but more work—an increased capacity for effort.
De Tocqueville gave this recipe for success: Subdue yourself—Devote yourself.
That is to say, subdue the ego to a point where it gets its gratification in concentrating on unselfish service. He who does this always succeeds, for not only is he engaged upon a plan of life in which there is little competition, but he is working in line with a divine law, the law of mutuality, which provides that all the good you do to others, you do for yourself.
Benedictine monasticism leads straight to wealth and great power. The Abbot of the group became a Baron. "I took the vow of poverty, and it led to an income of twenty thousand pounds a year. I took the vow of obedience and find myself ruler of fifty towns and villages." These are the words which Sir Walter Scott puts into the mouth of an Abbot, who became a Baron through the simple law of which I have hinted. And in his novel of "The Abbot," Sir Walter gives a tragic picture of how power and wealth can be lost as well as won. Feudalism began with the rule of the monastery.
Benedict was one of the world's great Captains of Industry. And like all great entrepreneurs, he won through utilizing the efforts of others. In picking his Abbots, or the men to be "father" of each particular group, he showed rare skill. These men learned from him and he learned from them. One of his best men was Cassiodorus, the man who evolved the scheme of the scriptorium. "To study eight hours a day was not enough," said Cassiodorus. "We should copy the great works of literature so that every monastery shall have a library as good as that which we have at Monte Cassino." He himself was an expert penman, and he set himself the task of teaching the monks how to write as well as how to read. "To write beautifully is a great joy to our God," he said.
Benedict liked the idea, and at once put it into execution. Cassiodorus is the patron saint of every maker of books who loves his craft.
The systematic work of the scriptorium originated in the brain of Cassiodorus, and he was appointed by Benedict to go from one monastery to another and inform the Abbot that a voice had come from God to Benedict saying that these precious books must be copied, and presented to those who would prize them.
Cassiodorus had been a secretary of state under the Emperor Theodoric, and he had also been a soldier. He was seventy years of age when he came under the influence of Benedict, through a chance visit to Monte Cassino. Benedict at first ordered him to take an ax and work with the servants at grubbing out underbrush and preparing a field for planting. Cassiodorus obeyed, and soon discovered that there was a joy in obedience he had before never guessed. His name was Brebantus Varus, but on his declaring he was going to remain and work with Benedict, he was complimented by being given the name of Cassiodorus, suggested by the word Cassinum or Cassino. Cassiodorus lived to be ninety-two, and was one of the chief factors, after Benedict himself, in introducing the love of art and beauty among the Benedictines.
Near Monte Cassino was a nunnery presided over by Scholastica, the twin sister of Benedict.
Renan says that the kinship of Scholastica and Benedict was a spiritual tie, not one of blood. If so, we respect it none the less. Saint Gregory tells of the death of Benedict thus:
Benedict was at the end of his career. His interview with Totila took place in Five Hundred Forty-two, in the year which preceded his death; and from his earliest days of the following year, God prepared him for his last struggle, by requiring from him the sacrifice of the most tender affection he had retained on earth. The beautiful and touching incident of the last meeting of Benedict and his twin sister, Scholastica, is a picture long to remember. At the window of his cell, three days after her death, Benedict had a vision of his dear sister's soul entering heaven in the form of a snowy dove. He immediately sent for the body and placed it in a sepulcher which he had already prepared for himself, that death might not separate those whose souls had always been united in God.
The death of his sister was the signal of departure for himself. He survived her forty days. He announced his death to several of his monks, then far from Monte Cassino. A violent fever having seized him, he caused himself on the sixth day of his sickness to be carried to the chapel of Saint John the Baptist; he had before ordered the tomb in which his sister already slept to be opened.
There, supported in the arms of his disciples, he received the holy Viaticum, then placing himself at the side of the open grave, but at the foot of the altar, and with his arms extended towards heaven, he died, standing, muttering a last prayer. Such a victorious death became that great soldier of God. He was buried by the side of his beloved Scholastica, in a sepulcher made on the spot where stood the altar of Apollo, which had been replaced by another to our beloved Savior.
In the very year, and at the same time, that Justinian and Theodora were preparing the Justinian Code, Benedict was busy devising "The Monastic Rules." Benedict did not put his rules forth as final, but explained that they were merely expedient for their time and place. In this he was singularly modest. If one can divest himself of the thought that there was anything "holy" or "sacred" about these communal groups called "monasteries," and then read these rules, he will see that they were founded on a good knowledge of economics and a very stern commonsense.
Humanity was the same a thousand years ago that it is now. Benedict had to fight inertia, selfishness and incipient paranoia, just as does the man who tries to introduce practical socialism today. A few extracts from this very remarkable Book of Rules will show the shrewd Connecticut wisdom of Benedict. To hold the dowdy, indifferent, slipshod and underdone in their proper places, so they could not disturb or destroy the peace, policy and prosperity of the efficient, was the task of Benedict.
Benedict says: "Written and formal rules are necessary only because we are all faulty men, with a tendency towards selfishness and disorder. When men become wise, and also unselfish, there will be no need of rules and laws."
The Book of Rules by Benedict is a volume of more than twenty thousand words. Its scope reveals an insight that will appeal to all who have had to do with socialistic experiments, not to mention the management of labor-unions. Benedict was one of the industrial leaders of the world. His life was an epoch, and his influence still abides.
MARY BAKER EDDY
The chief stones in the temple of Christian Science are to be found in the following postulates: that Life is God, good and not evil; that Soul is sinless, not to be found in the body; that Spirit is not and can not be materialized; that Life is not subject to death; that the spiritual real man has no consciousness of material life or death.
—Mary Baker Eddy
MARY BAKER EDDY
Let the fact be here stated that Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of Christian Science. This woman lived long and well.
She was alert, earnest, highly intelligent, receptive. She was ever discovering. We know this because she put out a new message every little while, or modified an old one, having come in the meantime into a position to get a nearer and clearer view of the fact. The last edition of "Science and Health" is a different book from the first one.
Christian Science is not a fixed, formed, fossilized, ossified structure. Possibly it may become so. But the probabilities are it will grow, expand, advance. Life and growth consist in eliminating dead matter and evolving new tissue. The institution, commercial, artistic, social, political, religious, that has ceased to grow has begun to disintegrate.
Christian Scientists do not flee the world, renouncing and denouncing it. As a people they are well, happy, hopeful, enthusiastic and successful. I am fairly well informed on the history of all great religions. In degree I know the character of intellect possessed by the folks who make or made up their membership. And my opinion is, that no religion that has ever existed contained so large a percentage of intelligent people, competent, safe and sane, as does Christian Science. There is an adage to the effect that a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.
In the case of Mary Baker Eddy, the adage just quoted goes awry. Mrs. Eddy as long as she lived, retained the good-will of Concord, Boston and Brookline, where she chose to make her home. Very many of the leading men and women of each of these cities are Christian Scientists.
The Christian Science Church at Concord cost upwards of two hundred thousand dollars, and was the gift of Mrs. Eddy. Over the entrance, cut deep in granite, are the words, "Presented by Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science." As to the argument that the truths of Christian Science have always been known and practised by a few, Mrs. Eddy issued her direct challenge. In all of her literature she set out the unqualified statement that she was "The Discoverer and the Founder." She was never apologetic; she assumed no modesty she did not feel; she spoke as one having authority, as did Moses of old, "Thus saith the Lord!"
She entered into no joint debates; she did not answer back. This intense conviction which admits of no parley was one of the secrets of her power. For many years the Billingsgate Calendar was directed at her upon every possible occasion.
But Mrs. Eddy won out, and legislation and courts were compelled to whistle in their hounds. Your right to keep well in your own way is now fully recognized. Doctors are not liable when they give innocent sweetened water and call it medicine, nor do we place Christian Scientists on trial if their patients die, any more than we do the M. D.'s.
In fact, Mrs. Eddy influenced both of the so-called sciences of medicine and theology. Even those who are perfectly willing to deny her, and noisily discard her tenets, are debtors to her.
Homeopathy modified the dose of all the Allopaths; and Christian Science has attenuated the Hahnemannian theory of attenuations, it having been found that the blank tablet often cures quite as effectively as the one that is medicated. Christian Science does not shout, rant, defy nor preach. It is poised, silent, sure, and the flagellants, like the dervishes, are noticeable by their absence.
The Reverend Billy Sunday is not a Christian Scientist. The Christian Scientist does not cut into the grape; specialize on the elevated spheroid; devote his energies to bridge whist; cultivate the scandal microbe; join the anvil chorus, nor shake the red rag of wordy warfare. He is diligent in business, fervent in spirit, and accepts what comes without protest, finding it good.
Mary Baker Eddy lived a human life. Through her manifold experiences she gathered gear—she was a very great and wise woman. She was so great that she kept her own counsel, received no visitors, made no calls, had no Thursday, wrote no letters, and even never went to the church that she presented to her native town. Mrs. Eddy's step was ever light, her form erect—a slender, handsome, queenly woman. When she passed on, in December, Nineteen Hundred Ten, in her ninetieth year, she looked scarce more than sixty. Her face showed experience, but not extreme age. The day I saw her, a few years before her death, she was dressed all in white satin and looked like a girl going to a ball.
Her eyes were not dimmed nor her face wrinkled.
Her hat was a milliner's dream; her gloves came to the elbow and were becomingly wrinkled; her form was the form of Bernhardt. Her secretary stood by the carriage-door, his head bared. He did not offer his hand to the lady nor seek to assist her into the carriage. He knew his business—a sober, silent, muscular, bronzed, farmer-like man, who evidently saw everything and nothing.
He closed the carriage-door and took his seat by the side of the driver, who wore no livery. The men looked like brothers. The big, brown horses started slowly away; they wore no blinders nor check-reins—they, too, had banished fear. The coachman drove with a loose rein. The next day I waited in Concord to see Mrs. Eddy again. At exactly two-fifteen the big, brown, slow-going horses turned into Main Street. Drays pulled in to the curb, automobiles stopped, people stood on the street corners, and some—the pilgrims—uncovered.
Mrs. Eddy sat back in the carriage, holding in her white-gloved hands a big spray of apple-blossoms, the same half-smile of satisfaction on her face—the smile of Pope Leo the Thirteenth. The woman was a veritable queen, and some of her devotees, not without reason, called her the Queen of the World.
Some doubtless prayed to her—and may yet, for that matter. Mrs. Eddy was married three times. First, to Colonel George W. Glover, an excellent and worthy man, who was the father of her only child, a son. On the death of Glover, the child was taken by Glover's mother and secreted so effectually that his mother did not see him until he was thirty-four years old, and the father of a family.
Her second husband was Daniel Patterson, who was not only a rogue but also a fool—a flashy one, who turned the head of a lone, lorn young widow, who certainly was not infallible in judgment. In two years the wife got a divorce from him, on the grounds of cruelty and desertion, at Salem, Massachusetts. Her third marital venture was Doctor Asa G. Eddy, a practising physician—a man of much intelligence and worth. From him Mrs. Eddy learned that the Science of Medicine was not much of a science after all. Mrs. Eddy used to say that her husband was her first convert; certain it is that Dr. Eddy gave up his practise to assist his wife in putting before the world the unreality of disease. That he did not fully grasp the idea is shown by the fact that he died of pneumonia. This, however, did not shake the faith of Mrs. Eddy in the doctrine that sickness was an error of mortal mind. For a good many years Mrs. Eddy drove the memory of her two good husbands tandem, hitched by a hyphen, thus: Mary Baker Glover-Eddy. Many a woman has joined her own name to that of her husband, but what woman ever before so honored the two men she had loved by coupling their names! Getting married is a bad habit, Mrs. Eddy would probably have said, but you have to get married to find it out.
In Eighteen Hundred Seventy-nine, Mrs. Eddy organized the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, and became its pastor. In Eighteen Hundred Eighty-one, being then sixty years of age, she founded the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, in Boston. For fifteen years she had been speaking in public, affirming that health was our normal condition and that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. From her forty-fifth to her sixtieth year she was glad to speak for what was offered, although I believe that even then she had discarded the good old priestly plan of taking up a collection. The Metaphysical College was started to prepare students for teaching Mrs. Eddy's doctrines.
The business ability of the woman was shown in thus organizing and allowing no one to teach who was not duly prepared. These students were obliged to pay a good stiff tuition, which fact made them appreciative. In turn they went out and taught; all students paid the tidy sum of one hundred dollars for the lessons, which fee was later cut to fifty. Salvation may be free, but Christian Science costs money. The theological genus piker, with his long, wrinkled, black coat, his collar buttoned behind, and his high hat, has been eliminated.
Mrs. Eddy was manager of the best-methodized institution in the world, save only the Roman Catholic Church and the Standard Oil Company. How many million copies of "Science and Health" have been sold, no man can say. What percentage of the money from the lessons went to Mrs. Eddy, only an Armstrong Committee could ascertain, and really it was nobody's business but hers.
That Mrs. Eddy had some very skilful helpers goes without saying. But here is the point—she selected them, and reigned supreme. That the student who paid fifty dollars got his money's worth, I have no doubt. Not that he understood the lessons, but he received a feeling of courage and a oneness with the whole which caused health to flow through his veins and his heart to beat with joy. The lesson might have been to him a jumble of words, but he lived in hopes that he would soon grow to a point where the lines were luminous.
In the meantime, all he knew was that whereas he was once lame he could now walk. Even the most bigoted and prejudiced now agree that the cures of Christian Science are genuine. People who think they have trouble have it, and it is the same with pain. Imagination is the only sure-enough thing in the world. Mrs. Eddy's doctrines abolish pain and therefore abolish poverty, for poverty, in America at least, is a disease. Mrs. Eddy's chief characteristics were:
First, Love of Beauty as manifest in bodily form, dress and surroundings.
Second, A zeal for system, order and concentrated effort on the particular business she undertakes.
Third, A dignity, courage, self-sufficiency and self-respect that comes from a belief in her own divinity.
Fourth, An economy of time, money, materials, energy and emotion that wastes nothing, but which continually conserves and accumulates.
Fifth, A liberality, when advisable, which is only possible to those who also economize.
Sixth, Yankee shrewdness, great commonsense, all flavored with a dash of mysticism and indifference to physical scientific accuracy.
In other words, Christian Science is a woman's science—she knows! And it is good because it is good—this is a science sound enough for anybody—I guess so! Christian Science is scientific, but not for the reasons that its promoters maintain. Male Christian Scientists do not growl and kick the cat.
Women Christian Scientists do not nag. Christian Scientists do not have either the grouch or the meddler's itch. Among them there are no dolorosos, grumperinos or beggars. They respect all other denominations, having a serene faith that all will yet see the light—that is to say, adopt their doctrines. The most radical among old-school doctors could not deny that Mrs. Eddy's own life was conducted on absolutely scientific lines. She never answered the telephone, never fussed nor fumed.
She hired big, safe people and paid them a big wage. She gave her coachman fifty dollars a week, and her cook in proportion, and thus secured people who gave her peace. She went to bed with the birds and awoke with the dawn. At seven o'clock she was at her desk, dictating answers to the very few letters her secretary deemed it advisable she should see. She had breakfast at nine o'clock—ate anything she liked, taking her time and fletcherizing. After breakfast she worked upon her manuscripts until it was time for the daily ride.
At four o'clock she dined—two meals a day being the rule. If, however, she cared to dissipate a little and eat three meals a day, she was not afraid to do so.
She knew her horses and cows and sheep by name, and gave requests as to their care, holding that the laws of mind obtain as to dumb animals the same as man. Dogs she did not care for, and if she ever had an aversion it would have been cats. Her servants she called "My helpers." Christian Scientists very naturally believe in the equality of the sexes. When girl babies are born to them they bless God, just the same as when boy babies are born. In truth they bless God for everything, for to them all is beautiful and all is good. Paid preachers they do not have; they do not believe in priests or certain men who are nearer to God than others. All have access to Eternal Truth, and thus is the ecclesiastic excluded. To eliminate the theological middleman is well, and as for the Church itself, surely Mrs. Eddy eliminated it also; for she never entered a church, or at least not more than once a year, and then it was only in deference to the architect. A Church! Is it necessary? For herself Mrs. Eddy said, No.
But as for others, she said, Yes, a church is good for those who need it. Mrs. Eddy was the most successful author in the world, or, indeed, that the world has ever seen. No other writer ever made so much money as she, none is more devoutly read.
Shakespeare, with his fortune of a quarter of a million dollars, fades into comparative failure; and Arthur Brisbane, with his salary of seventy-five thousand a year, is an office-boy compared with this regal woman, who gave fifty thousand dollars a year for good roads.
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The valuable truths and distinguishing features of Christian Science are not to be found in Mrs. Eddy's books, but in Mrs. Eddy's life. She was a much bigger woman than she was a writer. Emerson says that every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. Every great business enterprise has a soul—one man's spirit animates, pervades and tints the whole. You can go into any hotel or store, and behold! the nature or character of the owner or manager is everywhere proclaimed.
You do not have to see the man, and the bigger the institution the less need is there for the man to show himself. His work proclaims him, just as a farmer's livestock all moo, whinny and squeal his virtues—or lack of them. As a boy of ten I learned to know all of our neighbors by their horses. The horses of a drunkard, blanketless, hungry, shivering, outside of the village tavern, do they not proclaim the poor, despised owner within?
You can walk through the passenger-coaches of a train made up at a terminal and read the character unmistakably of the general passenger-agent. The soul of John Wesley ran through Methodism and made it what it was. The Lutheranism of Luther yet lives; Calvinism the same; and the soul of John Knox still goes marching on, carrying the Presbyterian banner.
Every religion partakes of the nature of its founder, until this religion is mixed with that of another and its character lost, as happened to the religion of Christ when it was launched by Paul and was finally fused with Paganism by the Roman Emperor, Constantine.
Christian Science is as yet the lengthened shadow of Mary Baker Eddy. Her own immediate, personal pupils are still teaching, and her life and characteristics impressed upon them are given out to each and all. Every phase of life is solved by answering the question, "What would Mrs. Eddy do?" Mrs. Eddy's ideas about dress, housekeeping, business, food, health, the management of servants, the care of children—all are blended into a composite, and this composite is the Christian Scientist as we see and know him.
The fact that Mrs. Eddy was methodical, industrious, economical, persevering, courageous, hopeful, helpful, neat in her attire and smiling, makes all Christian Scientists exactly so. She did not play cards and indulge in the manifold silliness of so-called good society, and neither do they. Indeed, that one thing which has been referred to as "the plaster-of-Paris smile," the one feature in Christian Science to which many good people object, is the direct legacy of Mrs. Eddy to her pupils. "Science and Health" says nothing about it; no edict has been put forth recommending it; but all good Christian Scientists take it on—the smile that refuses to vacate the premises. And to some it is certainly very becoming. Mrs. Eddy's self-reliant, silent, smiling personality has given the key to conduct for the hundreds of thousands of people who love her and revere her memory.
Mrs. Eddy was a rare good listener. She did not argue. Once upon a time, indeed, she was guilty of waving the red flag of wordy warfare; but the passing of the years brought her wisdom, and then her only answer to impatience was the quiet smile. As for eating, her table always had enough, but it stopped short of surfeit; the service was dainty, and all these things are now seen in the homes of Christian Scientists. Always in the home of a good Christian Scientist the bathroom is as complete as the library, and both are models of good housekeeping, seemingly always in order for the inspection committee.
Mrs. Eddy did not say much about hot water, soap and clean towels; but the idea, regardless of the non-existence of matter, is fixed in the consciousness of every Christian Scientist that absolute bodily cleanliness, fresh linen and fresh air are not only next to godliness, but elements of it. All of which you could never work out of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" in a lifetime of study, any more than you could mine and smelt the Westminster Catechism out of the Bible.
The vital truths of right living come to us as a precious heritage from the character of this great woman. She, herself, perhaps may not have known this; but before she wrote her book and formulated her religion, she lived her life. Her book was an endeavor to explain her life, and as her life grew better, stronger and more refined, she changed her book. Her book reacted on her life, and the person who got the most good out of "Science and Health" was Mary Baker Eddy herself.
"Science and Health" is mystical and beautifully human. The author's oar often fails to catch the water. For instance, she tries to show that animal magnetism, spiritualism, mental science, theosophy, agnosticism, pantheism and infidelity are all bad things and opposed to the science of "true being."
This statement presupposes that animal magnetism, infidelity, theosophy and agnosticism are specific entities or things, whereas they are only labels that are clapped quite indiscriminately on empty casks or full ones; and the contents of the casks may be sea-water or wine, and are really unknown to both mortal and divine mind, whatever these things are. Theosophists like Annie Besant, Spiritualists like Alfred Russel Wallace, Agnostics like Huxley and Ingersoll, are very noble and beautiful people. They are good neighbors and useful citizens.
"Science and Health" is an attempt to catch and hold in words the secrets of an active, honest, healthful, seeking, restless, earnest life, and as such is more or less of a failure.
Our actions are right, but our reasons seldom are.
Christian Science as a plan of life, embodying the great yet simple virtues, is beautiful. "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" does not explain the Scriptures. The book, as an attempt to explain and crystallize truth, is a failure. It ranks with that great mass of literature, written and copied at such vast pains and expense, bearing the high-sounding title, "Writings of the Saints."
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All publishers are familiar with inspired manuscripts. Such work always has one thing in common—unintelligibility. Good literature is lucid to the average mind. In fact, that is its distinguishing feature. We understand what the man means. No able writer uses the same word over and over with varying sense. Alfred Henry Lewis and William Marion Reedy use the mortal mind, and their work is understandable. You can sit in judgment on their conclusions and weigh, sift and decide for yourself. They make an appeal to your intellect.
But you can not sit in judgment on "Science and Health," because its language is not the language we use in our common, every-day intercourse with one another. It speaks of Christ as a person, a principle, a spirit, a motive; as "Truth"; as one who was born of one parent or no parents; who lived, died, or never lived, never was born, and can not die.
Metaphysics is an attempt to explain a thing and thereby evade the trouble of understanding it. You throw the burden of proof on the other fellow—and make him believe he does not comprehend because he is too stupid. This is not fair!
Language is simply an agreement between people that certain vocal sounds, or written symbols, shall stand for certain ideas, thoughts or things. Inspired writers string intelligent words together in an unintelligent manner, and thereby give the reader an opportunity to read anything into them that his preconceived thoughts may dictate. Metaphysical gibberish is a rudimentary survival of the practise of reading to the people in a dead language. The doctors continue the plan by writing prescriptions in Latin.
I once worked in a studio where the boys scraped their palette-knives on a convenient board. One day we took the board out and had it framed under glass, with a double, deep-shadow box. We gave it the best place in the studio and labeled it, "A Sunset at Sea—an Impression in Monochrome."
The picture attracted much attention and great admiration from certain symbolists. It also created so much controversy that we were obliged to take it down in the interests of amity.
To assume that God inspired the Scriptures, and did the work so ill that, after more than two thousand years, it was necessary to inspire another person to make a "Key" to them, is hardly worthy of our serious attention. If God, being all-wise, all-powerful and all-loving, turns author, why does He produce work so muddy that it requires a "Key"?
Individuals may use a code that requires a "Key," because they wish to keep their matter secret from others. There may be for them a penalty on truth, but why Deity should write in a secret language, and then wait two thousand years before making the matter plain, and then to one single woman in Boston, is incomprehensible. What the world wants now is a Key to "Science and Health." In reading a book, the question that interests us is not, "Is it inspired?" but, "Is it true?"
Mrs. Eddy's ranks are recruited almost entirely from Orthodox Christianity. On page six hundred eight of "Science and Health," pocket edition of Nineteen Hundred Six, a lawyer gives testimony to the good he has gotten from Christian Science, and explains that he has long been a member of the Episcopal Church. He is delighted to know that he has not had to relinquish any of his old faith, but has simply kept the old and added to it the new.
This explains, in great degree, the popularity of Christian Science. People cling to the religious superstitions into which they were born. Mrs. Eddy's recruits were not from theosophy, spiritualism, agnosticism, unitarianism, universalism or infidelity. You can't give a freethinker a book with a statement of what he must find in it.
He has acquired the habit of thinking for himself.
Mrs. Eddy had no faith in Darwin, Spencer or Haeckel. She quoted Moses, Jesus and Paul to disprove the evolutionists, sat back and smiled content, innocently unaware that citations from Scriptures are in no sense proof to free minds. All of the Bible she wished to waive, she did. The cruelty and bestiality of Jehovah were nothing to her. Her "Key" does not unlock the secrets of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, nor does it shed light on the doctrines of eternal punishment, the vicarious atonement, or the efficacy of baptism as a saving ordinance.
Explanations about mortal mind, divine mind and human mind, citing specific errors of the human mind, with a calm codicil to the effect that the human mind has no existence, are not what you might call illuminating literature. The stuff is simply "inspired." Mrs. Eddy was very wise in not allowing her "readers" or followers to sermonize or explain her writings. These writings are simply to be read. And so the hearers sit steeped in mist and wrapped in placidity, returning to their work rested and refreshed, without being influenced in any way, save by the soothing calm of forceful fog and mental vacuity.
The rest and relief from all thought is good. The related experiences of Christian Scientists are the things that convince and carry weight, not "Science and Health." "Science and Health" was made to sell. It was not given to you to be understood: it was to be bought and believed. If you doubt any portion of it, at once you are told that this is the work of your mortal mind, which is filled with error. Good Christian Scientists do not try to understand "Science and Health"—they just accept and believe it. "It is inspired," they say, "so it must be true—you will know when you are worthy to know."
And so we see our old friend Intellectual Tyranny come back in another form, not with cowl and cape, but tricked out with feminine finery and jewelry and gems that lure and dazzle. There is one thing quite as valuable as health, and that is intellectual integrity. To say, "Oh, 'Science and Health' is certainly inspired—just see how old Mrs. Johnson was cured of the rheumatism!" is not reasoning.
And it has given the scoffers excuse for calling it woman's logic. Such reasoning is on the plane of, "Why, Jesus must have been the only begotten son of God, born of a virgin, for if you don't believe it, just see the hospitals, orphan asylums and homes for the aged that Christianity has built!" Mrs. Johnson was surely cured of the rheumatism all right, but that does not prove that Mrs. Eddy is correct in her claim that Eve was made from Adam's rib; that agamogenesis is a fact in Nature; that to till the soil will not always be necessary; that human life in these bodies will have no end; and that an absent person can poison your health and happiness through malicious animal magnetism; or that a good person can give you absent treatment and cure your indigestion.
I agree with Mrs. Eddy as to the necessity of eliminating a medical fetish, but I disagree with her about religiously preserving a theological one. I have read "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" for twenty years, and I have also read the Scriptures for a much longer period. Also, I have lived in the same house for many months with very intelligent Christian Scientists.
And after mature consideration I regard both the Scriptures and "Science and Health" as largely made up of the errors of mortal mind. My intuitions are just as valuable to me as Mrs. Eddy's were to her.
My conscience is quite as sacred to me as hers was to her. And in being an agnostic I object to being classed as blind, stubborn, wilful, malicious and degenerate.
We should honor our Creator by cleaving to the things that seem to us to be true, and not abandon the rudder of our minds to any man or any woman, be they living or dead. Let us not be dishonest with ourselves, even to rid us of our physical diseases. As for health, I have all of it that Christian Science ever gave or can give. I have no "testimony" of healing to relate, for I have never been sick an hour. And I think I know how I have kept well. I make no secret of it. It is all very simple—nothing miraculous.
My knowledge of how to keep well is not inspired knowledge, save as all men are inspired who study and know the Laws of Nature. Health, after all, is largely a matter of habit.
* * * * *
Back of the reading-desks, in the "Mother Church," at Boston, are quotations from Paul and Mrs. Eddy, side by side. But the quotation from Paul, which is behind the desk of the woman reader, is not this: "Let women keep silence in the churches."
Mrs. Eddy believed the Scriptures are all true, word for word. Yet when she quoted Paul she picked the thing she wanted and avoided all that did not apply to her case. Personally, I like the plan. I do it myself. But I do not believe the Scriptures are inspired by an all-wise Deity. So far as I know, all books were written by men, and very often by faulty, human men at that. Mrs. Eddy's "Key" does not unlock anything; and she did not try to unlock any passages except the passages that seemingly had a bearing on her belief. That is, Mrs. Eddy believed things first, and then skirmished for proof. This is a very old plan. Says Shakespeare: "In religion what damned error but some somber brow will bless it and approve it with a text, hiding the grossness thereof with fair ornament." Let no one read "Science and Health" in the hope of finding in it simple and sensible statements concerning life and its duties. They are not there.
I append a few quotations, and in mentioning the page I refer to the pocket or "Oxford" edition of Nineteen Hundred Six. On page one hundred eighty-three of "Science and Health" I find, "The Scriptures inform us that sin, or error, first caused the condemnation of man to till the ground, and indicate that obedience to God will remove this necessity."
Mrs. Eddy evidently believed that work is a punishment, and that the day will come when God will remove the necessity of farming and making garden. Can a sane person reply to such lack of logic?
On page five hundred forty-seven is this: "If one of the statements in this book is true, every one must be true, for not one departs from its system and rule. You can prove for yourself, dear reader, the Science of healing, and so ascertain if the author has given you the correct interpretation of Scripture."
This is evidently inspired by Paul's quibble, "If the dead rise not from the grave, then is our religion vain." Lincoln once referred to this kind of reasoning by saying, "I object to the assumption that my ambition is to have my son marry a negress, simply because I am struggling for emancipation." Mrs. Eddy may heal you, but that does not prove that her interpretation of Scripture is true. Because this happens, that does not necessarily follow. Neither, because a thing precedes a thing or goes with a thing, is the thing the cause of the thing. On page five hundred fifty-three is this: "Adam was created before Eve. Herein it is seen that the maternal egg never brought forth Adam. Eve was formed from Adam's rib, not from a fetal ovum."
In reading things like this in "Science and Health," let us not be too severe on Mrs. Eddy, but just bear in mind that such silly superstitions and barbaric folklore are yet officially believed by all orthodox clergymen and members of orthodox churches. You can accept a belief in Adam's fall and the vicarious atonement and still make money and have good health.
Page one hundred two: "The mild forms of animal magnetism are disappearing, and its aggressive features are coming to the front. The looms of crime, hidden in the dark recesses of mortal thought, are every hour weaving webs more complicated and subtle. So secret are its present methods that they ensnare the age into indolence, and produce the very apathy on this subject which the criminal desires."
This passage reveals the one actually dangerous thing in Christian Science—the fallacy that one mind can weave a web that will work the undoing of another. This is the basis of a belief in witchcraft, and justifies the hangings at Salem. On page one hundred three I find this: "As used in Christian Science, animal magnetism or hypnotism is the specific term for error, or mortal mind."
"It is the false belief that mind is in matter, and both evil and good; that evil is as real as goodness, and more powerful. This belief has not one quality of truth or good. It is either ignorant or malicious. The malicious form of animal magnetism ultimates in moral idiocy. The truths of immortal mind sustain man; and they annihilate the fables and mortal mind, whose flimsy and gaudy pretensions, like silly moths, singe their own wings and fall into dust. In reality there is no mortal mind, and consequently no transference of mortal thought and will-power." Page five hundred two: "Spiritually followed, the book of Genesis is the history of the untrue image of God, named a sinful mortal. This deflection of being, rightly viewed, serves the spiritual actuality of man, as given in the first chapter of Genesis. When the crude forms of human thought take on higher symbols and significations, the scientifically Christian views of the universe will appear, illuminating time with the glory of eternity."
I append these two passages simply as samples of "inspired literature."
Any one who tries to understand such printed matter is headed for Bloomingdale. You must leave it alone absolutely or else accept it and read it with your mental eyes closed, mumbling it with your lips, and let your mind roam like a priest reading his breviary in the smoking-apartment of a Pullman car. The question then arises, "Was Mrs. Eddy sincere in putting forth such writings?"
And the answer is, she was most certainly sincere, and she was certainly sane. She was an honest woman. But she was not a clear or logical thinker, except on matters of finance and business, and consequently she did not give forth a clear expression when she essayed philosophy. In order to write lucidly you must think lucidly. Mrs. Eddy had no sense of literary values. She was absolutely devoid of humor, and humor is only the ability to detect a little thing from a big one—to perceive a wrong adjustment from a right one.
Style in literature is taste. But the lack of style, taste and humor is general in mankind. The world has produced only a few great thinkers, and one of them was Darwin, a name which Mrs. Eddy mentioned in "Science and Health" with reproach. Great writers are even more rare than great thinkers, because to write one must have the ability not only to think clearly, but the knack or technical skill to use the right word, the luminous word, and so arrange, paragraph and punctuate them that your meaning will be clear to average minds. To say that Mrs. Eddy was not a thinker nor a writer, is not an indictment of the woman, although it may be a reflection on the mental processes of the people who think she was.
To say that there are two million people reading Mrs. Eddy, also proves nothing, since numbers are no vindication. Over a hundred million people have kissed the big toe of Saint Peter in Rome.
And surely the Roman Catholic Church contains a vast number of highly educated people. The things you do not know, you do not know. And Mrs. Eddy, knowing nothing of literary style, knew nothing of literary art. Her prose and her poetry are worse than ordinary. All inspirational poetry I ever read is rot, and all inspired paintings I ever saw are daubs. Mrs. Eddy should not be blamed for her limitations.
Many people who are great in certain lines labor under the hallucination that they are also great in others. Matthew Arnold was a great writer, and he also thought he was a great orator.
But when he spoke, his words simply fell over the footlights into the orchestra and died there. He could not reach the front row. Most comedians want to play Hamlet, and all of us have heard girls attempt to sing who thought they could sing, and who were encouraged in the hallucination by their immediate kinsfolk.
Mrs. Eddy thought she could write, and unfortunately she was corroborated in her error by the applause of people who, not being able to read her book, kindly attributed the inability to their own limitations and not to hers, being prompted in this by the suggestion oft repeated by Mrs. Eddy, herself. The resemblance of Mrs. Eddy's thought to that of Jesus was never noticed until Mrs. Eddy first explained the matter. Mrs. Eddy was by no means insane. Swedenborg was a civil engineer and a mathematician. He wrote forty books that are nearly as opaque as "Science and Health." If you write stupidly enough, some one will surely throw up his cap and cry "Great!" And others will follow the example and take up the shout, because it is much easier, as Doctor Johnson affirmed, to praise a book than to read and understand it. The custom of reading to a congregation in a dead or foreign language, which the listeners do not understand, has never caused any general protest from the listeners. The scoffers are the only ones who have ever noticed the incongruity, and they do not count, since they probably would not attend, anyway.
Next to reading from a book written in the dead language, is to read from a book that is unintelligible. To listen to such makes no tax upon the intellect, and with the right accessories is soporific, restful, pleasing and to be commended. If it does not supply an idea, it at least imparts a feeling. Mrs. Eddy's success in literature arose from the extreme muddiness of her thinking and her opacity in expression.
If she had written fairly well, her mediocrity would have been apparent to every one; but writing absolutely without rhyme or reason, we bow before her supreme assurance. The strongest element in men is inertia—we agree rather than fight about it. We want health—and health is what Mrs. Eddy gives to us—therefore, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" is the greatest book in the whole world. Sancta simplicitas! Why not, indeed!
* * * * *
People turn to Mrs. Eddy's book for relief just exactly as they formerly went to the doctor for the same reason.
In addition to bodily health, Mrs. Eddy gives joy, hope, worldly success; and even superior minds, seeing these practical results of Christian Science, move in the line of least resistance and are quite willing to accept the book, not troubled at all about its medieval reasoning. In Ungania is a very great merchant who, not content with having the biggest store in the Kingdom, aspires to the biggest University. The fact that the higher criticism is to him only a trivial matter, and really unworthy of the serious attention of a busy man, simply reveals human limitation.
The specialist is created at a terrific cost, and that a person will be practical, shrewd, diplomatic and wise in managing the buying public and an army of employees, and yet know and love Walt Whitman, is too much to expect. This keen and successful merchant, an absolute tyrant in certain ways, has his soft side and many pleasant qualities. Why any one should ever question the literal truth of the Bible is beyond his comprehension.
He is convinced that "Leaves of Grass" is an obscene book, never having read it; yet he knows nothing about the third, eleventh and thirteenth chapters of Second Samuel, having read the Book all his life. He has a pitying, patronizing smile for any one who suggests that David was a very faulty man, and that possibly Solomon was not the wisest person that ever lived. "What difference does it make, anyway?" he testily asks. If you work for him you have to agree with him, or else be very silent as to what you actually believe. We often find an avowed and reiterated love for Jesus, the non-resistant, going hand in hand with a passion for war, a miser's greed, a lust for power and a thirst for revenge.
There may be a prating about righteousness while the hand of the man is feeling for his sword-hilt, and his eye is locating your jugular. The Ten Commandments are all rescinded in war time. The New York "Evening Post" noted the peculiar fact that nine out of ten of the delegates at The Hague International Peace Conference were theological heretics. As a rule, Orthodox Christians stand for war, and also for capital punishment. How do we explain these inconsistencies?
We do not try to: they are simply facts in the partial development of the race. Why millionaires should patronize the memory of Jesus is something no one can understand, save that things work by antithesis. Mrs. Eddy was of the same shrewd, practical type as the merchant prince just mentioned. She was the greatest woman-general of her day and generation. She possessed all the qualities that go to make successful leadership.
She was self-reliant, proud, arrogant, implacable in temper, rapid in decision, unbending, shrewd, diplomatic—and a good hater.
At times she dismissed her critics with simply a look. No man could dictate to her, and few dared make suggestions in her presence. To move her, the matter had to be brought to her attention in a way that led her to believe that she had discovered it herself. And of course all the credit went to her. In all Christian Science churches are various selections from her writings, and beneath every one is her name. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me!" is the one controlling edict breathed forth by her life and words. One of her orders was that whenever one of her hymns was announced, always and forever it must be stated that it was written by Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy. Always and forever, the "student" giving testimony refers, in terms of lavish praise and fulsome adulation, to "Our Blessed Teacher, Guide and Exemplar, Mary Baker Eddy." God Almighty and Jesus occupy secondary positions in all Christian Science meetings.
Mrs. Eddy is mentioned five times to where they are once. And I would not criticize this if Mrs. Eddy had but regarded Jesus as simply a great man in history and "God" as an abstract term referring to the Supreme Intelligence in Nature. But to her, God and Jesus were persons who dictated books, and very frequently she was careful to explain that her method of healing was exactly the same as that practised by Jesus. Side by side with His words are hers. Passages from the Bible are read alternately with passages from "Science and Health." If both were regarded as mere literature, this would be pardonable, but when we are told that both are "sacred" writ, and "damned be he who dares deny or doubt," we are simply lost in admiration for the supreme egotism of the lady. To get mad about it were vain—let us all smile. Surely the imagination that can trace points of resemblance between Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy and Jesus, the lowly peasant of Nazareth, is admirable. Jesus was a communist in principle, having nothing, giving everything. He carried neither scrip nor purse. He wrote nothing. His indifference to place, pelf and power is His distinguishing characteristic. Mrs. Eddy's love of power was the leading motive of her life; her ability to bargain was beautiful; her resorts to law and the subtleties of legal aid were all strictly modern; and the way she tied up the title to her writings by lead-pipe-cinched copyrights reveals the true instincts of Connecticut.
This jealousy of her rights and the safeguarding of her interests were among the emphatic features of her life, and set her apart as the antithesis of Jesus.
There is one character in history, however, to whom Mrs. Eddy bore a close resemblance—and that is Julius Caesar, who was educated for the priesthood, became a priest, and was Pope of Rome before he ventured into fighting and politics as a business. Mrs. Eddy's faith in herself, her ability to decide, her quick intuitions, the method and simplicity of her life, her passion for power, her pleasure in authorship—all these were the traits which exalted the name and fame of Caesar.
The inventor of the calendar ordered that it should be known as the "Julian Calendar," and it is so called, even unto this day. Once Carlyle sat smoking with Milburn, the blind preacher. They had been discussing the historicity of Jesus. Then they sat smoking in silence. Finally, Tammas the Techy knocked the ashes out of his long clay t. d. and muttered, half to himself and half to Milburn, "Ah, a great mon, a great mon—but he had his limitations!" The same remark can truthfully be applied to Mrs. Eddy. And about the only point that Jesus and Mrs. Eddy have in common is this matter mentioned by Carlyle.
The superior shrewdness and the keen business instinct of Mrs. Eddy are seen in the use of the words "Christian" and "Science." The sub-title, "With Key to the Scriptures," is particularly alluring. And the use of the Oxford binding was the crowning stroke of commercial insight. Surely Mrs. Eddy must command our profound respect. She was undoubtedly a very great business genius, to say the very least.
* * * * *
When John Henry Newman became a Catholic, he gave as a reason for his decision that he had found no place in literature or art to rest his head. His reward for not finding a place in literature or art for his head was the red hat.
Let the followers of Mrs. Eddy take comfort in that their great teacher had plenty of high precedent for believing that Adam was created by fiat, and Eve was made from his rib, all the fiat being used; that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and it obeyed, even when the order should have been given to the earth; that Lazarus was raised from the dead after his body had become putrid; that witchcraft is a fact in Nature; and that children can be born with the aid of one parent a little better than in the old-fashioned way—parthenogenesis, I think they call it.
These inconsistencies of absolute absurdity, existing side by side with great competence and sanity, are to be found everywhere in history.
Mrs. Eddy excited the envy of the medical world in her demonstration that good health and happiness are the sure results of getting rid of the doctor habit; but they got even with her when she said that virgin motherhood would yet become the rule, and tilling of the soil would cease to be a necessity.
Saint Augustine thought, as did most of the early Churchmen, that to do evil that good might follow was not only justifiable, but highly meritorious. So they preached hagiology to scare people into the narrow path of rectitude.
Chapman, Alexander, Torrey, Billy Sunday and most other professional evangelists believe in and practise the same doctrine.
The literary conscience was a thing known in Greece, but only recently, say within two hundred years, has it been again manifest, and as yet it is rare. It consists in the scorn and absolute refusal to write a line except that which stands for truth.
The artistic conscience that refuses to paint for hire or model on order is the same. Wagner, Millet, Rembrandt, William Morris and Ruskin are examples of men who were incapable of anything but their highest and best creative work, and refused to truckle to the mercenary horde. Such men may be without conscience in a business way. And a person may be absolutely moral in all his acts of life, except in writing and talking, and here he may be slipshod and uncertain.
Mrs. Eddy was beautifully lacking in the literary conscience, just as much so as was Gladstone when he attempted to reply to Ingersoll in "The North American Review," and resorted to sophistry and evasion in lieu of logic. Absolute truth to Gladstone was a matter of indifference—expediency was his shibboleth. Truth to Mrs. Eddy was also a secondary matter; the only things that really mattered were Health and Success. Health and Success are undoubtedly great things and well worthy of possession, but I wish to secure them only through the expression of truth. If you gag my tongue, chain my pen and cry, "Believe and you will have Health," I would say, "Give me liberty or give me death!" Christian Scientists ask you to buy Mrs. Eddy's book, "Science and Health."
When the volume is handed you, you are promised health and success if you believe its every word; and if you don't, you are threatened with "moral idiocy."
It is the old promise of Paradise and the threat of Hell in a new guise. As for me, I decline the book.
* * * * *
Stephen Girard was a great merchant who had a great love of truth; but if he had been in a retail business, his zeal for truth might have been slightly modified.
As a rule, the world of humanity can be divided into two parts: the practical men and the searchers for truth. Usually the latter have nothing to lose but their head. Spinoza, Galileo, Bruno, Thomas Paine, Walt Whitman, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, are the pure type. Then come Theodore Parker and Ralph Waldo Emerson, crowded out of their pulpits, scorned by their Alma Mater, pitied by the public—yet holding true to their course.
And lo! they grew rich; whereas, if they had stuck close to the shore and safety, they would have been drowned in the shallows of oblivion.
On the other hand, we find in, say, the directorate of the Standard Oil Company, many men who are zealous members of the orthodox churches, giving large sums in support of the "gospel," and taking an active interest in its promulgation. All of them say, with the late Mr. Morgan, "My mother's religion is good enough for me." So here we get practical shrewdness combined with minds that, so far as abstract truth is concerned, are simply prairie-dog towns.
These men belong to a type that will cling to error as long as it is soft, easy and popular. Most certainly these men are not fools—they are highly competent and useful in their way. But as for superstition, they find it soothing; it saves the trouble of thinking, and all their energies are needed in business.
Religion, to them, is a social diversion, with a chance of salvation on the side. Inertia does not grip them when it comes to commerce—but in religion it does. Lincoln once said that there was just one thing, and only one thing, that God Almighty could not understand: and that was the workings of the mind of an intelligent American juror.
Herbert Spencer says that Sir Isaac Newton was one of the six best educated men the world has seen. He was the first man to resolve light into its constituent elements. Voltaire says that when Newton discovered the Law of Gravitation he excited the envy of the scientific world.
"But," adds Voltaire, "when he wrote a book on the Bible prophecies, the men of science got even with him." Sir Isaac Newton defended the literal inspiration of the Scriptures and was a consistent member of the Church of England. Doctor Johnson was unhappy all day if he didn't touch every tenth picket of the fence with his cane as he walked downtown.
Blackstone, the great legal commentator, believed in witchcraft, and bolstered his belief by citing the Scriptural text, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"—thus proving Moses a party to the superstition. Sir Matthew Hale, Chief Justice of England, did the same.
Gladstone was a great statesman, and yet he believed in the Mosaic account of Creation, just as did Mary Baker Eddy.
John Adams was a rebel from political slavery, but lived and died a worthy Churchman, subsisting on canned theology—and canned in England, at that.
Franklin and Jefferson were rebels from both political and theological despotism, but looked leniently on leeches and apothecaries. Herbert Spencer had a free mind as regards religion, politics, economics and sociology; yet he was a bachelor, lived in the city, belonged to a club, played billiards and smoked cigars. Physical health was out of his reach, and with all his vast knowledge, he never knew why. All through history we find violence and gentleness, ignorance and wisdom, folly and shrewdness side by side in the same person.
The one common thing in humanity is inconsistency. To account for it were vain. We know only that it is.
* * * * *
The very boldness of Mrs. Eddy's claims created an impetus that carried conviction.
The woman certainly believed in herself, and she also believed in the Power, of which she was a necessary part, that works for righteousness. She repudiated the supernatural, not by denying "miracles," but by holding that the so-called miracles of the Bible really occurred and were perfectly natural—all according to Natural Law, which is the Divine Law.
And the explanation of this Divine Law was her particular business. Thus did she win to her side those who were too timid in constitution to forsake forms and ceremonies and stand alone on the broad ground of Rationalism.
Christian Science is not a religion of fight, stress and struggle. Isn't it better to relax and rest and allow Divinity to flow through us, than to sit on a sharp rail and call the passer-by names in falsetto? May Irwin's motto, "Don't Argufy," isn't so bad as a working maxim, after all.
All Christian denominations are very much alike. Their differences are microscopic, and recognized only by those who are immersed in them. Martin Luther only softened the expression of the Roman Catholic Church—he did not change its essence.
Benjamin Franklin declared that he could not tell the difference between a Catholic and an Episcopalian. But Christian Science is a complete departure from all other denominations, and while professing to be Christian, is really something else, or if it is Christian, then orthodoxy is not.
Christian Science strikes right at the root of orthodoxy, since it divides the power of Jesus with Mary Baker Eddy and affirms that Jesus was not "The Savior," but A Savior.
This is the position of Thomas Paine, and all other good radicals. Christian Science places Mrs. Eddy's work right alongside of the Bible. No denomination has ever put out a volume stating that the book was required in order to make the Bible intelligible. No denomination has ever put forth a person as the equal of Jesus. This has only been done by unbelievers, atheists and free-thinkers.
Christianity is at last attacked in its own house and by its own household. It is thoroughly understood and admitted everywhere that there are two kinds of Christianity. One is the kind taught by the Nazarene; and the other is the institutional variety, made up of denominations which hold millions upon millions of dollars' worth of property without taxation, and parade their ritual with rich and costly millinery.
The one was lived by a Man who had not where to lay His head; and the other is an acquirement taken over from pagan Rome, and continued largely in its pagan form even unto this day. Christian Science is neither one nor the other, and the obvious pleasantry that it is neither Christian nor scientific is a jest in earnest. Christian Science is a modern adaptation of all that is best in the simplicity and asceticism of Jesus, the commonsense philosophy of Benjamin Franklin, the mysticism of Swedenborg, and the bold pronunciamento of Robert Ingersoll. It is a religion of affirmation with a denial-of-matter attachment.
It is a religion of this world. Jesus was a Man of Sorrows but Mary Baker Eddy was a Daughter of Joy.
And as the universal good sense of mankind holds that the best preparation for a life to come, if there is one, is to make the best of this, Christian Science is meeting with a fast-growing popular acceptance.
The decline of the old orthodoxy is owing to its clinging to the fallacy that the world's work is base, and Nature is a trickster luring us to our doom. Mrs. Eddy reconciled the old idea with the new and made it mentally palatable. And this is the reason why Christian Science is going to sweep the earth and in twenty years will have but one competitor, the Roman Catholic faith.
Orthodoxy, blind, blundering, stubborn, senile, is tottering—the undertaker is at the door. Indeed, the old idea of our orthodox friends that they were preparing to die, was literally true.
The undertaker's name and business address attached to the front of many a city church is a sign too subtle to overlook. Not only was the undertaker a partner of the priest, but he is now foreclosing his claim. Christian Science is not final. After it has lived its day, another religion will follow, and that is the Religion of Commonsense, the esoteric religion which Mrs. Eddy herself lived and practised.
As for her believers, she gave them the religion of a Book—two Books, the Bible and "Science and Health." They want form and ritual and temples.
She gave them these things, just as doctors give sweetened water to people who still demand medicine; and as if to supply the zealous converts, just out of orthodoxy, their fill of ecclesiastic husks, she built fine churches—churches rivaling the far-famed San Salute of Venice. Let them have their wish! Paganism is in their blood—they are even trying to worship her!
Let them go on and eventually they will pray not in temples nor on this or that mountain, but in spirit and in truth, just as did Mrs. Eddy, one of the world's most successful women.
* * * * *
Christian Science is orthodox Christianity, minus medical fetish and the fear that a belief in sin, sickness, death and eternal punishment naturally lends, plus the joy of a natural, healthy, human life. The so-called rational Christian sects preserve their Devil in the form of a Doctor, and Hell in the shape of a Hospital.
My hope and expectation is that Christian Science will become a Rational Religion instead of a one-man institution, or a religion of authority, such as it now is. Its superstitious features have doubtless been strong factors in its rapid growth—serving as stays or stocks to aid in the launching.
But now, the sooner the ship floats free the better. Christian Scientists, being men and women, can not continue to grow if fettered with an Index Expurgatorius and mandatory edicts and encyclicals. That which binds and manacles must go—the good will remain.
Christian Science brings good news, and good news is always curative. Mrs. Eddy animated her patients with a new thought—the thought of harmony, the denial of disease, and the affirmation that God is good and life is beautiful. The animation thus produced is in itself the most powerful healing principle known to science. Life is born of love. Joy is a prophylactic. Christian Science comes to the "student" as a great flood of light. His circulation becomes normal, his muscles relax, the nerves rest, digestion acts, elimination takes place—and the person is well.
Fear has congested the organs—love, hope and faith place them in an attitude so Nature plays through them. The patient is healed. In it there is neither mystery nor miracle. It is all very simple.
Let us rid ourselves of a belief in the strange and occult! The Christian Science organization is an expediency. It is an intellectual crutch. The book is a necessity. It is a scaffolding. Yet he who mistakes the scaffolding for the edifice is a specialist in scaffolding.
Truth can never be caught and crystallized in a formula. Also this: truth can never be monopolized by an "ite" or an "ist." Eventually the label will be eliminated with the scaffolding, and the lumber of ritual and rite will have to go.
We will live truth instead of talking about it. Among Christian Scientists there are no drunkards, paupers or gamblers. Also, there are no sick people. To them sickness is a disgrace.
Orthodox Christians get sick and gratify their sense of approbation by receiving pastoral calls and visits from the doctor and neighbors. The biblical injunction to visit the sick was never followed by Mrs. Eddy—she always decided for herself just what injunctions should be waived and what followed.
Those which she did not like she interpreted spiritually or else glided over. The biblical statement that man's days are few and full of trouble, and also the assertion that man is prone to wickedness as the sparks fly upwards, are both very conveniently glossed.
Christian Scientists know the rules of health, just as most people do; but what is more, they follow them, thus avoiding the disgrace of being pointed out. They have made sickness not only tabu, but invalidism ridiculous.
When things become absurd and preposterous, we abandon them. Unpopularity can do what logic is helpless to bring about. The reasoning of Christian Scientists is bad, but their intuitions are right.
While denying the existence of matter, no people on earth are as canny, save possibly the Quakers. A bank-balance to a Christian Scientist is no barren ideality. It is like falsehood to a Jesuit—a very present help in time of trouble. Sin, to them, consists in making too much fuss about life and talking about death. Do what you want and forget it. Quit talking about the weather, night air, miasma.
Knowingly or unknowingly Christian Scientists cultivate resiliency. They are proof against drafts and microbes. Eat what you like, but not too much of it. Be moderate. Christian Scientists get their joy out of their work. This is essentially hygienic. They breathe deeply, eat moderately, bathe plentifully, work industriously—and smile. This is all sternly scientific. It can never be argued down.
No school of medicine has ever offered a prophylactic equal to work and good-cheer, and no system of religion has ever offered a working formula for health, happiness and success equal to that launched by Mrs. Eddy. The science of medicine is a science of palliation.
Christian Scientists avoid the cause of sickness, and thus keep well.
There is no vitality in drugs. Nature cures—obey her. In this matter of bodily health just a few plain rules suffice. And these rules, fairly followed, soon grow into a pleasurable habit. Fortunately, we do not have to oversee our digestion, our circulation, the work of the millions of pores that form the skin, or the action of the nerves. Folks who get fussy about their digestion and assume personal charge of their nerves have "nerves" and are apt to have no digestion.
"I have a pain in my side," said the woman who had no money to the busy doctor. "Forget it," was the curt advice. Get the Health Habit, and forget it.
This is the quintessence of Christian Science. Your mental attitude controls your body. Happiness is your health. There is no devil but fear. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
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SO HERE ENDETH "LITTLE JOURNEYS TO THE HOMES OF GREAT TEACHERS," BEING VOLUME TEN OF THE SERIES, AS WRITTEN BY ELBERT HUBBARD; EDITED AND ARRANGED BY FRED BANN; BORDERS AND INITIALS BY ROYCROFT ARTISTS, AND PRODUCED BY THE ROYCROFTERS, AT THEIR SHOPS, WHICH ARE IN EAST AURORA, ERIE COUNTY, NEW YORK, MCMXXII