Mary  Baker Eddy and the Neo-Vedantic Origins of Christian Science:
Its influence on New-Age thinking,  and fundamental misunderstanding



by Peter Holleran


   "The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand-fold."
           -   Aristotle


   It is by now a well-researched fact that the mind can affect the body. Since the late-nineteenth century a wealth of teachings have come out of the western tradition that collectively can be labelled under the banner of the “New Thought” movement. The Power of Positive Thinking, The Magic of Believing, Success Philosophy, Tony Robbins, a myriad of New-Age seminars, and Christian Science itself as an early, primary example are all based on the metaphysical idea that thought is a reality which can influence the physical dimension. In the nineteenth century this was the radical new idea. In the twentieth century modern physics went one step further making matter interchangeable with energy, which then became reduced to mere potentialities, which themselves were inseparable from consciousness. This type of thinking is now no longer controversial among those considering themselves intelligent and well-informed.

   Generally, however, the benefits desired and derived from the popular application of such philosophies still accrue in large measure to the ordinary personality. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, even for questors, if the ego is fully understood from all angles in its spiritual context. It is certainly better to be positive than to be negative. As Henry David Thoreau once said,

   “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

   What is generally meditated upon in these schools, however, is more or less still confined to the egoic-bodily-based dimension, reliance upon which does not always stand up against the often hard paradoxes of life. Thus, Christian Science, it may be maintained, remains essentially a more sophisticated form of “downtown religion,” despite the spiritualistic form of some of its arguments. What is a relatively valid practical idealism is made into an absolute one by the human ego. The results in life are sometimes beneficial, sometimes (as we shall see) disastrous, but almost always limited. Finally, in these schools the specific exercises of visualization and affirmation recommended are not usually engaged and acknowledged within a total path of self-understanding, or a sadhana of self-transcending spiritual practise, especially in relationship with a realized teacher, adept or master. This is certainly their greatest liability, however much good they may do within their limited sphere.

   Perhaps the fundamental questions to ask are: “As you think, so you become,” yes, o.k., but what “you” are you talking about - and is truth what you believe it to be?” As Sri Nisargadatta said: "You think you are a person who was born, has parents and memories, and will someday die. You are not." I have found myself pondering quotes like that while attending seminars on making money, and get a funny feeling inside. It is an artful dance to keep two sides of reality in mind at the same time. Not impossible, but difficult. One usually must stand aside to make room for the other.

   The purpose of this article will be to examine the origins, in particular, of Christian Science, the weaknesses in its metaphysical foundations, and its historical rationalizations, as an example of what may be found in similar groups and doctrines up to the present day. Who knows, it might even save you a few bucks spent pursuing a miracle cure or financial mirage touted by the next late-night TV or internet guru. But then, you can't take it with you, so go ahead, it will at least be a learning experience.

   The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, summarized her thoughts on spiritual philosophy in the following comments she made about the writing of biography:

   ”Our material, mortal history is but the record of dreams, not of man’s real existence, and the dream has no place in the Science of Being...Mere historical incidents and personal events are frivolous and of no moment, unless they illustrate the ethics of truth.” (1)

   To the Christian Scientist, God is the only reality, the world being an illusion. This appears at the outset to be very similar to the philosophy of Vedanta espoused by Indian sages, and, indeed, at an early phase in her work Mrs. Eddy acknowledged this very thing and even quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita in the 24th edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. As we shall come to see, however, there are major differences between the two doctrines, with profound consequences for day to day living.

   Mary Baker experienced a series of disappointments in life before she underwent the change of mind that led her to the formulation of Christian Science. After one year of marriage her first husband died of yellow fever in 1844. She was five months pregnant at the time. Never of good health, four years later she released her son to the care of the family nurse. She remarried to a man named Daniel Patterson who promised to take care of her and her child. He never intended to live up to his word, however, and let the child be taken to Minnesota where he was told that his mother had died. They were not to be reunited until the boy was thirty-four years old. She divorced and married a third time, to Asa Eddy, whom she was with from 1877 until his death in 1882.

   In 1866 she discovered the science of metaphysical healing she was to name Christian Science. For twenty years she had been trying to trace all physical effects to mental causes, both as a patient and an assistant to a prominent mesmerist. She searched through various systems, in particular homeopathy and magnetic healing, to find the roots of disease. Nothing satisfied her, and after the loss of her parents, husband, son, and her health, she faced despair:

   “The trend of human life was too eventful to leave me undisturbed in the illusions that this so-called life could be a real and abiding rest. All things earthly must yield to the irony of fate, or else be merged into the infinite Love....Previously the cloud of mortal mind seemed to have a silver lining, but now it was not even fringed with light....The world was dark..” (2)

   A fall on an icy road left her near death, a victim of a spinal injury and concussion which the medical science of the day was unable to treat. She read a passage from the Bible, however, in which Christ healed a man afflicted with palsy, and she purportedly had a miraculous, spontaneous recovery.

   “Thus it was when the moment arrived of the heart’s bride to more spiritual existence. When the door opened, I was waiting and watching; and, lo, the bridegroom came! The character of the Christ was illuminated by the midnight torches of the Spirit. My heart knew its redeemer...agnosticism, pantheism, and theosophy were void. Being was beautiful, its substance, cause, and currents were God and His idea. I had touched the hem of Christian Science.” (3)

   She then withdrew from society for three years to “ponder my mission, to search the scriptures, to find the Science of Mind.” The first edition of Science and Health was published in 1875, and the Christian Science Journal was started in 1883. Her essential philosophy had four tenets: one, God is All; two, God is Mind and God is Good; three, matter does not exist; and four, death, sin, evil, and disease do not exist.

   ”All consciousness is Mind and Mind is God. Hence there is but one Mind, and that one is the infinite good.” (4)

   ”I believe in matter only as I believe in evil, that it is something to be denied and destroyed to human consciousness, and is unknown to the Divine.” (5)

   “The less consciousness of evil or matter mortals have the easier it is for them to evade sin, sickness, and death - which are but states of false belief - and awake from the troubled dream, a consciousness which is without Mind or Maker.” (6)

   The Christ for Mrs. Eddy was in truth a principle or Divine power of which she felt Jesus was the most perfect embodiment, but which all men could come to know. If one banishes from his mind all thought of duality, divisiveness, differentiation, disease, sin, and imperfection, these things will cease to exist and one will realize the One Mind or God which is forever free of all limitations. The Soul, moreover, is divine or spirit:

   ”Soul is sinless and immortal, in contradiction to the supposition that there can be sinful souls or immortal sinners.” (7)

   The only required discipline for the Christian Scientist is to be ever vigilant in holding to the belief, or more properly, the consciousness, of infinite perfection. To grant any attention to imperfection, or matter itself, is to delay the course of healing and wholeness. And now we see the practical consequences of this apparent version of the perennial philosophy:

   ”I beheld in ineffable awe our great Master’s purpose in not questioning those he healed as to their disease or its symptoms and his marvelous skill in demanding neither obeidience to hygienic laws, nor prescribing drugs to support the divine power which heals.” (8)

   There is a big assumption here that the master Jesus never spoke of health laws or hygiene, which a wealth of evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls would now contradict. Nevertheless, disregarding that argument for the moment, for the Christian Scientist, according to Mrs. Eddy, faith is the true healing force, but it is a faith that must not even acknowledge the existence of that which is to be healed, ie., sickness or disease. For one would then actually be concentrating on the negative (disease) while hoping for the positive (health). This faith required is profound and not the usual possession of the ordinary man. Mrs. Eddy admits that it takes a real crisis before one can move into this disposition for real:

   “..until he awakes from his delusions, he suffers least from sin who is a hardened sinner. The hypocrite’s affections must first be made to fret in their chains; and the pangs of hell must lay hold of him ere he can change from flesh to Spirit, become acquainted with that Love which is without dissimulation and endureth all things.” (9)

   “The only conscious existence in the flesh is error of some sort - sin, pain, death - a false sense of life and happiness. Mortals, if at ease in so-called existence, are in their native element of error, and must become dis-eased, disquieted, before error is annihilated.” (10)

   This sounds like solid spiritual reasoning, and in a like manner she distinguishes the common variety of ‘faith-cure’ from the more spiritual cure she felt was achieved through the method of Christian Science:

   “Why are faith-cures sometimes more speedy than some of the cures wrought through Christian Scientists? Because faith is belief, and not understanding; and it is easier to believe, than to understand spiritual truth. It demands less cross-bearing, self-renunciation, and Divine Science to admit the claims of the corporeal senses and appeal to God for relief through a humanized conception of His power, than to deny these claims and learn the divine way - drinking Jesus’ cup, being baptised with his baptism, gaining the end through persecution and purity.” (11)

   There is so much good in these thoughts of Mary Baker Eddy that one finds it difficult, at the outset, to find fault with her. The conception of a Divine Mind as the One Reality, the rejection of the notion of eternal heaven or hell for the individual soul, the recognition that each person must gain insight into his essentially dis-eased condition before spiritual conscious can awaken, that a crisis of faith may precede true healing, the understanding that the consciousness of perfection is a higher healing force than the egoic faith of the mortal mind, all of these were a great advance over the dominant religious thinking of her time. Her service was to help people who were ready to move away from the materialistic view that dominated nineteenth-century thought.

   Though she chose to interpret her views solely in Christian terms, using the Bible as her scriptural source, it is a fact, however, that many of her ideas were influenced by the philosophies of India. As mentioned, in the 24th edition of Science and Health she admitted the harmony between Vedanta philosophy and Christian Science. Swami Abhedananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, wrote:

   “Mrs. Eddy quoted certain passages from the English edition of the Bhagavad-Gita, but unfortunately, for some reason, those passages of the Gita were omitted in the 34th edition of the book, Science and Health...if we closely study Mrs. Eddy’s book, we find that Mrs. Eddy has incorporated in her book most of the salient features of Vedanta philosophy, but she denied the debt flatly.” (12)

   “In the later editions of Science and Health, the 8th chapter was entirely supressed...perhaps to show that the founder of Christian Science did not draw the water of truth from any other fountain than the Christian Bible..But Mrs. Eddy herself was fully aware that the truths she claimed to have discovered were discovered and taught by the Hindu sages and philosophers centuries before Jesus the Christ appeared on earth.”(13)

Swami Abhedananda’s fellow monk, Swami Vivekananda, while in the United States was even more outspoken:

   “They are Vedantins; I mean they have picked up a few doctrines of the Advaita and grafted them upon the Bible. And they cure diseases by proclaiming ‘Soham, Soham’, ‘I am He!! I am He! - through strength of mind...The Christian Science is exactly like our Kartabhaja sect: Say, ‘I have no disease’, and you will be whole; and say, “I am He’ - ‘Soham’ - and you are quits - be at large. This is a thoroughly materialistic country. The people of this Christian land will recognize religion only if you can cure diseases, work miracles and open up avenues to money; and they understand little else. But there are honerable exceptions.” (14)

   It is a fact that much of the the popularity of Christian Science was due to stories of success in producing cures from disease, but that in itself, of course, is not proof of the truth of the philosophy itself . As it works out in practise, it is essentially idealistic and a denial of common sense (to which the Christian Scientist would undoubtedly agree) and yet here is where the Vedantin is distinguished. For the Indian version of the God-Is-One philosophy is not contrary to anything and allows relative levels of reality. If absolute faith in the perfection of the Divine precluded human responsibility and human means of medical treatment, then none of the great masters who we can read about would ever have availed themselves of modern forms health care, or even biblically recommended use of certain herbs, etc. Yet this is not the case, nor do true spiritual teachers advise their disciples to ignore the obvious and forsake what is in their power to effect because of the belief in the inherent perfection of the Divine. The “perfection” that Christian Science believes in, therefore, is an idealized conception of perfection, created by the mind. It does not allow room for the dualities of pleasure and pain, life and death, health and sickness, good and evil. Of course, it tries to deny that these even exist, but simply to deny that something exists does not make it vanish into non-existence. Swami Abhedananda further explains the difference between the two positions of Christian Science and Vedanta:

   ”By these words (unreal, maya, illusion) Vedanta philosophy does not mean negation, but means phenomenal or relative existence, or reality conditioned by time and space...Christian Science absolutely negates the existence of maya or phenomenal appearance like the vijnananavadin Buddhists landing in subjective idealism, which is quite contrary to Vedanta, as expounded by Sankara and his followers...Christian Science, by denying the existence of matter and mortal mind, denies the existence of the phenomenal world and reduces it into nothingness. This reminds us of conclusions reached by some of the nihilistic philosphers of India and Europe...This difficulty does not arise in Vedanta philosophy, because it does not deny the existence of matter, mind, and everything that are on the phenomenal plane...Christian Science taking its stand on the Bible, cannot clarify most of its doctrines backed by reason and science. So if we compare the liberal doctrine contained in the Christian Science with those contained in Vedanta, we find the Christian Science does not see any harmony between the absolute Truth and the scientific truths discovered by so-called mortal mind, but Vedanta, on the contrary, sees perfect harmony underlying all laws and phases of Truth which human minds have discovered. Christian Science is notably uncharitable towards everything not sanctioned by its founder, while Vedanta philosophy declares that truth is universal and can not be monopolized by any man or woman of any country.” (15)

   The world as maya or illusion does not have transcendental existence (paramarthika satta), but it does have relative existence (pratitika satta), and, prior to self-realization, it may be considered a presumption to assume otherwise. Even in sahaj samadhi, with the full realization of “emptiness”, within and without, the so-called emptiness is not the “nothing” of Christian Science but the “fullness” of reality. As pointed to in the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”. Everything does not vanish “into the soup”, such that disregard of human needs is appropriate. Enlightened masters grant the body its due and do not demand supernatural cures or healing power, although undeniably spontaneous cures do occur through their (often unknowing) influence, such as in the classic example of the woman who touched the hem of Christ's garment and that have occurred in the company of Ramana Maharshi and other saints and sages.

   The debate about whether or not a realized soul feels pain has been going on for thousands of years, or about as long as the debate over videha-mukti versus jivan mukti (whether there is absolute liberation only after death or while alive). The positions of the realizers are contrasting and always paradoxical. Maharshi said:

   "A jnani is as indifferent to death as to life. Even if his physical condition should be the most wretched, even if he should be stricken with the most painful disease and die rolling on the ground, shrieking in pain, he remains unaffected. He is the jnani." (16)

   Avalokitesvara, in the Heart Sutra, proclaims:

   "Thus, Sariputra, all things having the nature of emptiness have no beginning and no ending. In emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no discrimination, no consciousness itself. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no skin, no mind. There is no sight, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no mental processes, no objects, no knowledge, no ignorance. There is no ending of objects, no ending of knowledge, no ending of ignorance. There is no enlightenment, nor path to enlightenment: no pain, no cause of pain, no ending of pain. There is no decay and no death. There is no knowledge of enlightenment, no obtaining of enlightenment, and no not obtaining of enlightenment.
   Why is there no obtaining enlightenment? Because enlightenment is in the realm of no 'thingness,' and in No-Thingness there is no personality to obtain enlightenment. As long as a man pursues enlightenment, he is still abiding in the realm of consciousness. If he is to realize enlightenment, he must pass beyond consciousness, beyond discrimination and knowledge, beyond the reach of change or fear. The perfect understanding of this, and the patient acceptance of it, is the highest wisdom, the essential heart of wisdom. All Buddhas of the past, present and future having attained the highest Samadhi, awake to find themselves realizing the heart of wisdom."
(17)

   It might be said that the arguments in teachings like Christian Science assume a reality for the ego which can only be possible for one who has transformed and transcended the ego. Even then it fails to understand that the divine grace may not grant physical perfection (health, happiness, wealth) to the personality or bypass the laws of karma in the case of anyone who merely believes that should happen. The divine grace works towards the spiritual realization of the being, not strictly personal comfort. Where in Christian Science is there emphasis on spiritual practise, reorientation of the character, physically, emotionally, mentally, and morally, and inquiry into the nature of the self? Where is there room or recognition of the transforming influence of a true spiritual master, if such a one can be found? Where is there, most importantly, in this or in any similar teaching or path, the ultimate doctrine of the unreality of the self, and the reality of emptiness, the void, or no-self? Not the reality of no world, no body, no mind, or no sense of self, but the fundamental truth of Vedanta and Buddhism, the reality of no separate, independently existing self - which alone transcends the realm of opposities, perfection/imperfection, health/illness, pleasure/pain, and birth/death? Of course, there isn’t, such things were unknown to nineteenth-century America, and so the practitioner of Christian Science, New Thought, or various New-Age philosophies is left to struggle to achieve a perfect faith with his ego by rejecting or re-interpeting a universe which insistently intrudes upon his consciousness. He never wakes up from the dream because his path essentially is to dream the perfect dream.

   Another misunderstanding in the argument of such teachings is that they often assume that the finite human mind is the sole creator of its experience. What about the Cosmic or Universal Mind, or World Mind as termed by Paul Brunton? Our primary task as spiritual aspirants as given by the ancient wisdom is to attune our individual hearts, minds, wills, and souls with that greater Mind, "God", within which we “live, move, and have our being,” to surrender all to the sole reality which IS, and not to assume micro-god status through a trick of thinking or belief. One can say that it is all ones own dream, or, as Ramana Maharshi termed it, "a manifestation of the Self", but the Self for Maharshi, as pointed out by Adyashanti, was realing his way of naming or describing that which is no-self! In other words, it is not merely a personal dream that one can or should manipulate by mere thinking or visualizing. The question is not so much whether to do so is wrong, but rather, is it the Truth? It may appear to be for a while, until one is buffetted by the winds of karma and drawn up short, his faith sorely tried.

   This reality, or relative reality, of karma, including unfructified karma from past lives, is not so easily dismissed by the ‘power of positive thinking’, however useful that may be for ones future destiny, which it most probably is, i.e., “as you think, so you become”. By aligning their (borrowed) teachings solely with the Bible, however, Mrs. Eddy and her followers are forced to deny the concepts of reincarnation and karma - but just because a few old men at the point of fist-fighting chose by majority rule at the councils of Nicea in 325 A.D. (see Madame Blavatsky's take on this) and Constantinople in 553 A.D. to eliminate these ancient doctrines from the official teachings of the Church does not mean they are false. A similar situation almost occurred after the death of the Buddha, wherein it has been stated by one source that the chief reason for calling a first council to bring an end to doctrinal disputes was the overhearing of a conversation by Mahakassapa, chief disciple of the Buddha, in which an aged monk Subhadda openly said to other monks:

   "Do not grieve, do not lament. We are happily rid of the Great Sramana (Buddha). We used to be annnoyed by being told: 'This beseems you, this beseems you not.' But now we shall be able to do whatever we like, and what we do not like, we shall not have to do." (18)

   Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and the ancient dharma was not totally undermined and altered as it appears to be with Christianity.

   Brunton writes:

   “The greatest limitations of these cults, whether Christian Science or new Thought, is their refusal to admit any limitations at all. They would part the universe from God’s control and put it under their own.” (19)

   "New Thought and Christian Science should correct their errors, for some of the things which they label as "negative" may not be so at all. It is divine love which sanctions losses, sicknesses, poverty, and adversities. They are not to be regarded as enemies to be shunned but rather as tutors to be heeded. Through such blows the ego may be crushed and thus allow truer thoughts to fill the emptied space. Even pleasure and prosperity may deal a man worse blows than the so-called negatives can deal him if their end effect is to close the mind's door to light." (20)

   “The New Thought or Christian Science claims, where correct, are true only of the adept, for he alone has fully aligned himself with the Spirit.” (21)

   Many new-age seminar leaders teach that the root cause of all physical ailments is negative thought and feeling. That there is some basis for a connection is undeniable. Even so, many of the greatest Masters to have graced this planet in the past century succumbed to the dreaded disease cancer. Are we to suppose in their case this was simply a result of negative thinking or emotion? That seems unreasonable. Thus, by this example also the one-dimensional explanations of many of the "positive affirmationists" are exposed as incomplete or inadequate.

   Because such believers are not usually engaged in an actual self-transcending process, aligned with true spiritual sources and doctrines oriented towards reality itself, their activity generally remains that of egos thinking about God, assuming perfection, but not actually being in contact with such at a profound level. They imagine an absolute perfection and then look for its manifestation in the phenomenal world. When it is not found, a crisis of disillusionment is inevitable. This idealism, although seemingly admirable and in some cases even useful, can create a form of immunity from life and the lessens of experience, which is not merely unprofitable but an example of anything but a scientific attitude. Again, PB writes:

   “Their total optimism is immune to the shocks and disturbances, the thrusts and disappointments of experience. It sees only what it wants to see: not the world in which it actually has to live, but the one in which it would like to live. The lessons of suffering are not assimilated; each adverse experience leaves them exactly where it found them.” (22)

   As Andrew Patterson writes, in The Religion of the Reality Makers,

   "In its wisdom, the authentic part of ourself, the "I" that is truly the reality maker, does not always do it to fulfil our dreams and desires. Sometimes it does it in a way that drags us, kicking and screaming, to the altar of authenticity, where we can learn to sacrifice who we think we are and what we think we deserve. This is authentic spiritual awakening."

   The ego can never be understood if it avoids experience and its obvious lessons, or interprets all experience as a product of it’s own thinking, before finding out if that is actually so. As the Roman philosopher Epictetus once said, “no man can begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.” To deny the law of recompense or the law of opposites in this world, especially before transcending the ego, therefore, is an error. The Christian Scientist, or hopeful New-Ager, would have life be all good, all health, all love and light, all beautiful, before realizing the transcendental condition that alone offers and authenticates such a truth. Even so, there is still pain. Zen Master Bankei said:

   “Caught up in the suffering of attaching to your illness, you start thinking one thing or another: ‘I ought to be well by now. Maybe the medicine’s not right; perhaps the doctor’s no good...’ and so on. Clinging to the [hope of] recovery, you switch the Buddha Mind for anguished thoughts so that illness besetting your mind becomes worse than the original sickness. It’s as if you’re chasing after something that’s running away. Even as you gradually do recover your [physical] health, the mental sickness of chasing after [it] is gaining the upper hand. That’s what’s meant by attaching to things and making yourself suffer.

   At the same time, it there’s anyone who tells you he can undergo not only illness but every kind of suffering without feeling any pain, that fellow is a liar who still hasn’t realized the marvelously illuminating dynamic function of the Buddha Mind. If there’s anyone who tells you he feels absolutely no pain at all, I doubt if he knows the difference between feeling pain and not feeling it. there’s simply no such thing as not feeling pain....So just go with the illness, and if you’re in pain, go ahead and groan! But, whether you’re sick or not, always abide in the Unborn Buddha Mind”
(23)

   Melvyn Wartella goes a little farther and gives an example that would put anyone to the test. While agreeing with Bankei, that ideally one can divorce suffering from pain, he suggests further that one can separate pain from perception:

   “We will experience pain in various forms as long as we are living in a physical world. Suffering is more from the belief we can escape from it than from the conditions we claim to be suffering under. The body needs to know when there is a malfunction, a cut, burn, etc., in it. We would not have survived to evolve without that protection. However, when the ego image arose in the mind, it not only felt it was in control, but that it needed to get away from pain in any form. The suffering is in the feeling there is someone to escape.

   Some years ago, I needed to have three teeth filled. I thought it would be interesting to put my insight into suffering to the test. Two of the fillings were of average size, the third was large. I told the dentist not to use any pain medication. I just remained aware of what was taking place with out naming it as pain or anything else. I was not surprised when it was quite comfortable. There was sensation, but without trying to escape, it was not suffering.”
(24)

   To that I say, go for it! Anthony Damiani, in philosophical terms, explained pain and suffering in this way:

   “We have a very intimate connection with our body, and until our time is over with that body we will experience the states that the body has to go through. This body is part of the world, part of the whole circuit, and the changes that are going on in the cosmos change the body. There is always a reaction, and in order to experience the World-Idea the soul must identify with that body. Do you think Nature went through all this trouble of developing this wonderful brain so that you could say, “No, nothing doing”? That’s how the soul finally becomes aware of itself, through the experiences it gets through body after body....

   The Buddhists say everything is illusion. But they don’t say that about pain. They say suffering is real. They don’t try to minimize it, it is real. As a matter of fact, that is one of their cardinal doctrines. Life is suffering. And the sooner you find that out, the better.

   ....pain is real. It’s part of the World-Idea and even the sage has to know pain. Even the Buddha died in pain - after eating some food that was poisoned or bad. But you have to remember, a sage’s experience of pain isn’t like yours. When we have pain, we feel that the self is completely negated. If I get into pain, for example, I feel like God abandoned me, left me to my own devices. I know nothing but a denial of my self. A sage doesn’t experience the denial of the self, but he will experience the pain.

   There are some schools of thought, like the positive thinking schools, who say that pain or evil doesn’t exist. Those people are crazy. After all, that’s one of the ways in which the ego gets instructed. You will notice that when a person is in pain he becomes humble. Ordinarily he is not humble. Get a little pain and you’ll learn humility fast. But let the pain go away, and the arrogance comes back.”
(25)

   Christian Science would make of man a God conceived in man’s image. Its assertion of what should be, even as ones everyday experience and observation dictate otherwise, carried to its extreme becomes spiritual arrogance and is destined to lead to disappointment, sooner or later - which is actually a good thing. For if one, because of such idealistic attachment to a perception of how things should be, cannot simply observe how things are in fact, including his own feeling, reactivity, and egoity, how can he ever come to spiritual understanding or knowledge? In the final analysis, the belief system of Mary Baker Eddy in its most strict form is an opiate that serves to quell the arising of any discomfort before it has a chance to reveal its hidden meaning. It prevents true observation and self-understanding, cornerstones of any spiritual discipline. Christian Science presumes upon God to take care of what are most commonly human responsibilities (although, in fairness, some of the more irrational Hindu saints and yogis have acted in a similar manner). There also appears to be a denial of any divine influence in the evolution of man’s faculty of intelligence.

   Christian Science touches upon the higher philosophy at many points, but upon close examination remains vague and lacks metaphysical clarity. Such vagueness, unfortunately, gets passed on to its followers. Sant Kirpal Singh wrote:

   ”..the line between healing through auto-suggestion and hypnotic suggestion, and healing (as Christian Science claims) through the power of Truth is not always easy to draw...But of one thing one can be certain: that even if the cures effected by Christian scientists spring from a spiritual source, the agents are not it conscious masters, are not in direct and conscious contact with the higher power, but act as its unconscious instruments.” (26)

   One more note: very few among those who profess to be Christian Scientists practise, or are capable of practising, at the highest level. The majority of its adherents, moreover, like those in most formal religions, have only a superficial familiarity with both its basic tenets as well as its origins. And for the naive, the trusting, and those needing to believe, this type of faith can be dangerous. I have in hand an article from People Magazine exploring the controversial subject of “faith deaths”, in particular the case of 11 year-old Wesley Parker, who died of diabetic coma because his parents threw away his insulin after an evangelist prayed and said that God had healed him. “We wanted to believe,” said the boy’s father. When a urine test showed up positive (indicating spilled sugar and thus a need for insulin), it was interpreted as a ‘test from Satan’. Finally, when the boy died, his father’s first reaction was, “Nothing to get excited about. He’s going to rise from the dead.” Later, when the shock of the event hit them, the parents confessed, “Many times we’ve prayed, ‘Lord, why couldn’t we have learned another way that this kind of faith is wrong, that it’s not really faith at all, but presumption?’” (27)

   No teacher is without his or her detractors, and for better or worse Mary Baker Eddy was no exception. Nearly all the significant events of her life have been contested, and not without some reasonable evidence. Mrs. Eddy began studying with the mesmerist, Phineas Quimby, in 1862. Although he presumably restored her to health and she once held him in high esteem, she later came to repudiate any indebtedness to his name. Quimby’s written work, the so-called Quimby Manuscripts, contain many parallels to Science and health. Indeed, two biographers attest that Mrs. Eddy borrowed heavily in the writing of her book:

   “We may say at once that, as far as thought is concerned, Science and Health is practically all Quimby.” (28)

   James Henry Wiggins, literary advisor to Mrs. Eddy, reported to his executor, Livingston Wright, that the manuscript of Science and Health that was presented to him for editing was so poorly written, grammatically incorrect, with numerous passage contradicting previous passages, and many errors in historical and philosophical references, that he felt it needed to be written over again from scratch. (29)   Mrs. Eddy said that except for a few corrections it was complete the way it was. Since she made it Church policy to have any revisions require sanction by the Leader, after her death no changes or reformation of her doctrine has been allowed, and the Church is very authoritarian. Commentaries and lectures on the teaching are not a part of group meetings; instead, readings of Mrs. Eddy’s works are given, and her writings are generally taken as sacrosanct. This is little different from any “custodial” religion, in the words of one writer, where belief is a large part of the doctrine.

   Mrs. Eddy’s famous accident and conversion experience have also been called into question. Dr. Alvin Cushing of Springfield, Massachusetts, the physician who attended her in 1866, testified in a sworn affidavit on August 13, 1904, that he never said her injury was incurable, nor did Mrs. Eddy ever say or intimate that on the third day of her illness she miraculously recovered through the same healing power employed by Christ. (30)

   In her later life her followers resisted facing the inevitable facts of pain, decay, and death, and shielded her from the eyes of the public. Ill health overtook her, however, as Buddha said was the fate of all, which she nevertheless insisted on attributing to “malicious animal magnetism” from her enemies. Mrs. Eddy began to use morphine when metaphysical healing did not work, and some have said that she was addicted to the drug. (31)   [Without going into names, there have been more than a few present day gurus of note whose lives appear to have followed or degenerated along much the same course as exemplified by the rationalizations surrounding Mary Baker Eddy over one hundred years ago. For their devoted followers the assumed "perfection" of the master, unfortunately, covers alot of shortcomings or sins. Much of the problem, with the consequences of lost time and wasted lives, would be avoided if the word "perfection" were thrown into the trash bin, for in the world of human beings, there is simply no such thing]. Mrs. Eddy justified her actions in the following manner:

   ”If from an injury or from any cause, a Christian Scientist were seized with pain so violent that he could not treat himself mentally - and the Scientist had failed to releave him - the sufferer could call a surgeon who would give him a hypodermic injection, then, when the belief of pain was lulled, he could handle his own case mentally.” (32)

   What she seems to be saying here is that if you really need Christian Science, it is not practical to use it, and that the only way to get rid of the "belief in the pain" is to first get rid of the pain itself!

   When her third husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy, died of organic heart disease in 1882, she told the newspapers that the real cause of his death was ‘mentally administered arsenic’ that had been transmitted by their adversaries. (33)   Finally, a close associate of hers, Adam Dickey, reported the following astounding conversation in his memoirs. Close to death, Mrs. Eddy said to him:

   ”If I should ever leave here, will you promise me that you will say that I was mentally murdered?”

   To which Dickey replied, “Yes, Mother.” (34)

   "If I should ever leave here?" Who did she think she was - Sri Aurobindo?! He, too, in a similarly manner as proposed by some, and debated by other new-age fringe characters sought to conquer death by perfecting a yoga of immortality, but got old and died like everyone else. As Ramana Maharshi said, "When the meal is over, the leaf plate is thrown away". Or, as Paramhansa Yogananda similarly remarked, "When the wisdom dinner has been eaten from the plate of life, one may break the plate or keep it: It no longer matters." (35) In conclusion, Christian Science and other such New Thought and even New Age schools can, because of their idealism, prevent one from moving beyond the presumption of the egoic self. Hard thinking, pondering, considering, examining, feeling, and even being frustrated with the paradoxes of bodily life throw the ego into bold relief where it can be seen, understood and its separative hold released. To avoid this ordeal (as mere “mind” schools often seem to promise) is to suffer the life one would idealistically deny. To affirm and presume the principle of perfect health and wholeness is a good first step. But one must then make use of any available ordinary means to asist the physical and etheric dimensions of the being to balance, purify and rejuvenate themselves by conforming to the laws of nature associated with those dimensions, and even then, one may or may not achieve total success. As the saying goes, "keep it real."


1. Mary Baker Eddy, “Retrospection and Introspection,” Prose Works other than Science and Health (Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1953), p. 21
2. Ibid, p. 23
3. Ibid
4. Ibid, p. 56
5. “Unity of God”, p. 50
6. Ibid, p. 53
7. Ibid, p. 42
8. “Restrospection and Introspection,” op. cit., p. 26
9. “Unity of God”, p. 56
10. Ibid, p. 57-58
11. “Retrospection and Introspection,” op. cit., p. 54
12. Swami Prajnanananda, The Philosophical Ideas of Swami Abhedananada (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1971), p. 164
13. Complete Works of Swami Abhedananada (Calcuttta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, ), Vol. 2, p. 223-234
14. Letters of Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1986), Sept. 25, 1894, a letter from New York to his brother disciples
15. Swami Prajnananda, op. cit., p. 165-166
16. David Godman, The Power of the Presence, Part Three (Boulder, Colorado: Avadhuta Foundation), p. 125).
17. source unknown
18. H. Kern, Manual of Indian Buddhism (Delhi, 1970); quoted in Kanai Lal Hasra, History of Theravada Buddhism in South-East Asia (New Delhi: Munshiran Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd., 1982), p. 25
19. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1987) Vol. 11, 8.41
20. Ibid, Vol. 7, Part I, 5.145
21. Ibid, Vol. 11, 8.5
22. Ibid, 8.63
23. Peter Haskel, Bankei Zen (New York, New York: Grove Press, 1984), p. 62
24. Melvyn Wartell (www.friendsofreality.org - Q&A)
25. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 54-55
26. Kirpal Singh, The Crown of Life: A Study in Yoga (Delhi: Ruhani Satsang, 1970), p. 232
27. People, May 16, 1988, p. 137-138
28. Ernest Sutherland Bates and John V. Dittemore, Mary Baker Eddy: The Truth and the Tradition (New York: Knopf, 1932), p. 156
29. Ibid, p. 267
30. Ibid, p. 112
31. Ibid, p. 41-42, 151, 445
32. Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, edition unknown, p. 464
33. Bates and Dittemore, op. cit., p. 219
34. Ibid, p. 504-505
35. Swami Kriyananda, Conversations with Yogananda, (Nevada City, California: Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2004), p. 133