Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1889)/11 Reply to a Critic
REPLY TO A CRITIC.
|Should a wise man answer with arguments of wind,|
|Or fill his bosom with the east wind? — Job.|
|As who shall say, “I am Sir Oracle;|
|And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark.”|
|Merchant of Venice.|
I SHALL not attempt to take up all the strictures on “Science and Health” (which my critic calls so vague), — strictures in which he condemns to oblivion that Truth which is raising up thousands from helplessness to strength, elevating them from a theoretical to a practical Christianity. He has quoted detached sentences or clauses, omitting their connections. Even the Scriptures, which grow in beauty and consistency from one grand root, would appear contradictory if subjected to such usage.
It is uncharitable to condemn a novelty before it is understood. The apostolic injunction is, “Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.”
In Science mere opinion is valueless. Proof is essential to a due estimate of the subject. Sneers at the application of the word Science to Christianity cannot prevent that from being scientific which is based on Divine Principle, demonstrated according to a given rule, and subjected to proper tests. So strong are the facts in support of Christian Science, that misrepresentation and denunciation cannot overthrow it. The apostle alludes to “doubtful disputations.” The hour has struck when proof and demonstration, instead of opinion and dogma, are summoned to the support of Christianity, “making wise the simple.”
In this unqualified condemnation of Mental Science, one may see with sorrow the sad effects of denying self-evident Truth. My critic ridicules the Science of Christian Healing; but he does this in the face of sacred history, and in defiance of the direct command of Jesus, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel;” to which command he added the promise, that his students should cast out devils and heal the sick. He bade the seventy disciples, as well as the twelve, heal the sick in any town where they should be hospitably received.
If Christianity is not scientific, and Science is not Christian, then we have no invariable rule of right, and Truth becomes an accident. Shall Scriptural authority be denied to that which works according to the Scriptures?
Christian Science has awakened the sinner, reclaimed the infidel, raised from the couch of pain the helpless invalid. It has spoken to the dumb the words of Truth, and they have answered with rejoicing. It has caused the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the blind to see. Who would be the first to disown the argument of good works, when our Master has said, “By their fruits ye shall know them”?
If I were teaching or practising pharmacy or obstetrics, according to the common theories, no denunciations would follow me, even if the treatment should cause the death of a patient. The people are taught to say Amen. Shall I then be smitten for teaching Truth as the Principle of healing, and proving my word by my deed? James said, “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”
The community in general is ignorant of my method. This makes it doubly unfair to impugn my motives and misrepresent my history, although without this cross-bearing I might not now be able to say, with the apostle, “All these things cannot move me.” The sick, the halt, and the blind look up to me with blessings, and Truth will not be forever hidden, by unjust parody, from the quickened sense of the people.
I am in constant receipt of letters, showing the good already accomplished by the publications which my critic would consign to oblivion. The following extract I copy from a letter of Colonel Letts, United States Minister to Hayti: —
I had become almost a confirmed infidel as to the truths of the gospel of Christ; but after reading “Science and Health” my eyes were opened, and now I can and do understand the beauties of the gospel of our Master. I never thought myself a very wicked man, until I attempted to learn of Science. I now find there is more in me to correct than I was aware of; but, when I conquer in one instance, the next step is easier. It is a fight for immortality, and I am determined to conquer, by the help of God. Reading your book has restored my health.
I sometimes wonder if Truth is rejected because meekness and spirituality are the conditions of its acceptance, while Christendom generally demands so much less.
Anciently the apostles, who were Jesus' students, — and Paul, who was not one of his students, — healed the sick and reformed the sinner by their religion. Alas for the error that allows words, rather than works, to follow such examples! To-day, whoever meekly and conscientiously presses along the line of gospel-healing is accounted a heretic.
Had my critic understood that Truth heals the sickness which error causes, he might in mercy have spared the invalid these misrepresentations.
Why should one refuse to investigate my method of treating disease? Why support the popular systems of medicine, when perchance the doctor is an infidel — when he loses the ninety-and-nine patients, while I cure the hundred? Is it because allopathy and homœopathy are more fashionable, and less spiritual?
My critic complains: “She professes to have God for her Life, or Soul, and to be His idea;” but he should have added, that I claim this to be the normal and healthy condition of mankind; and that I so claim because the Scriptures say that God made man in His own image, and after His likeness. I therefore venture to think that God's likeness is not found in matter, sin, sickness, or death. I have the authority of the English language, and of Scripture, for saying that Spirit and God mean the same; and it is evident that the likeness of Spirit cannot be material. When the omnipotence of God is preached, — His absolute government, and no other, — our sermons will heal the sick.
My critic says, “The mind that contradicts itself neither knows itself, nor what it is saying.” It is no small matter to know one's self; but in my publications there are no contradictory statements, — at least none which are apparent to those who understand my arguments sufficiently well to pass judgment on them. One who understands my system can heal the sick on its Principle, and this practical proof is the only evidence of understanding Christian Science.
There are various methods of treating disease which are not included in the wide-spread systems; but I know of but one — the Science that Jesus gave us, and that one I would present to the whole world.
Until my critic is able to test a system, according to the rules which disclose its merits or demerits, it would be well to observe the divine precept, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Anybody, able to perceive the incongruity between God's ideal and poor humanity, ought to be able to discern the distinction that I make between man as God's ideal, made in His image and likeness, and the mortal and material Adam.
The apostle says, “If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” This idea of human nothingness, which I preach, enrages the carnal mind, and is the chief objection of my critic.
I never wrote or dreamed of “educating the idea of God, or treating it for disease,” as my critic infers. I am sorry to say that he confounds man with Adam. When I speak of man as made in His image, I by no means refer to sinning, sick, and dying man. My ideal man, in God's likeness, is very different from my critic's.
My critic says, “She calls sin, sickness, and death nothingness, and then tries to cure nothing.” Here he is right; but he should understand that while arguing the nothingness of error, I do so for the purpose of bringing out the great somethingness of Truth, — health, harmony, and holiness. Therefore my method is not “fraught with falsities painful to behold.”
My critic must admit that discord is no thing. I name it error (because that is the nearest to nothing) and I doctor it with Truth. I do this as one would waken the dreamer from a nightmare. Note that to awake from a dream, and know that it is a dream, is for the dreamer to be relieved of the terror under which he has labored, and to be cured immediately. So when a sufferer is convinced that there is no pain, because matter is nonexistent, how can he possibly suffer longer? Do you suffer the pain of tooth-pulling when you are under the influence of nitrous-oxide gas? Yet the tooth and the operation and the forceps are unchanged.
My critic, dreaming that matter and error are something, needs to be wakened, so as to behold their nothingness. Then sickness and sin would disappear to his vision. The right would appear to be the real, and the inharmonious the unreal. He would see that discord is indeed the nothingness which he chides me for talking about, and which I neither honor nor fear.
Medicine virtually admits the nothingness of hallucinations, even while treating them as disease; and who objects to this? Ought we not, then, to laud any cure effected by making the disease appear to be — what it really is — an illusion?
Here is the difficulty, that generally it is not understood that one disease is just as much a delusion as another. It is a pity that the medical faculty and scholastic theology have not found this out, for Jesus established this fact, when devils were cast out and the dumb spake.
Am I irreverent towards sin? Do I impute too much to God, when I ascribe to Him almighty Life and Love, — but deny his co-operation with evil, because I have no faith in any other power but God's, and cherish small respect for any other claim?
I try to eliminate from mortal mind what, so long as it remains in it, will show itself in forms of sin, sickness, and death.
I have never supposed this century would present the full fruits of Christian Science, or that sin, sickness, and death would not continue for centuries to come; but this I do aver, that, as a result of my teaching, old age and decrepitude will not come as soon, — that already health is restored and longevity increased by it. If such are the present fruits, what may not the harvest be, when justice shall be done to this Science?
Instead of tenaciously defending the supposed rights of disease, while complaining of the suffering it brings, would it not be wiser to abandon the defence; especially when, by so doing, you can improve your own condition, and that of other people as well.
You must expel matter to make room for Spirit. You cannot serve both God and mammon at the same time; but is not this precisely what you are trying to do? Who will admit with Paul, that “the flesh warreth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh”?
My critic writes: “To verify this wonderful philosophy, she says, all that is mortal or discordant hath no origin, existence, or reality.” He then adds: “Hence, if there is anything to be doctored, it is God. Alas for an age when such darkness can be put before the world as wisdom, and find minds so irrational as to immerse themselves in it.”
I sympathize with my critic's despair, but beg that he will consider the signs. They come as of old. Preaching the gospel to the poor, healing the sick, casting out demons, evils. If, indeed, my system takes away his gods, — sickness, sin, and death, — remember it is Christ, or Truth, that destroys them, in proof of their nothingness.
The rabbins say, as in Palestine, that by doing such things we “dishonor the law.” I reply that I have the gospel, and that my Master annulled material law by healing contrary to it. I shall follow my Master's example. As far as in me lies, I shall make nothing of material law. My essential points are that Life cannot die, that God is not the author of sickness.
I cannot agree with my critic in his inference, that, if my theories are correct, there is nothing left but God to doctor. Neither shall I deem that is chaos or darkness which restores an essential element of Christianity, — namely, apostolic healing; for Science is the light shining in darkness, which the darkness comprehends not.
The difficulty of conveying Divine Science accurately to human thought lies in this — that physical terms must be used, which yet must be metaphysically understood. The English language, like all other languages, is inadequate to the expression of spiritual conceptions by material terms. In the spiritual sense of my subject lies the elucidation of it; and this sense you must gain, in order to reach my meaning. Hence arose the Scripture prophecy concerning the apostles, “They shall speak with new tongues.”
I understand Substance to be Spirit, while my critic believes it to be matter. He thinks of matter as something, and almost the only thing, and of the things that pertain to Spirit as next to nothing, or as very far removed from daily experience; while I take exactly the contrary view.
Speaking of the things of the Spirit, yet dwelling on a material plane, I must generally use material terms. Mortal mind does not at once catch my meaning; and can only do so as thought is educated up to spiritual apprehension. To a certain extent this is equally true of all science, even that which is wholly physical.
Few understand all our Master's sayings, as recorded in the New Testament; yet those sayings are both true and important. All have not grown into that stature of “manhood in Christ Jesus” which enables them to interpret his spiritual meaning. If it were otherwise they would know how Truth casts out error and heals the sick. His words were the offspring of his deeds, both of which must be understood. Not comprehending the works which his words explained, those words are blind.
“The Word was made flesh.” Divine Truth and Love must be seen and felt by mortals, before the Science that declares them could be demonstrated. Hence their embodiment in the blessed Jesus, — that Life-link which forms the connection through which the real reaches the unreal, Soul rebukes sense, and Truth destroys error.
In Jewish worship the Word was materially explained, and the spiritual sense was unperceived. The religion that sprang from half-hidden Israelitish history was scholastic and void of healing power. The Master often refused to explain his words, because it is difficult for a material age to apprehend spiritual Truth. He said: “This people's heart hath hecome gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn from their ways, and I should heal them.”
Where my critic loses faith in God's power to heal the sick, I cannot follow him. Neither can I heal, if I plant myself on his material platform.
I became a member of the Orthodox Congregational Church when a child. Later, when I was an invalid, my own prayers failed to heal me, and so did the prayers of my faithful friends. When I discovered the spiritual sense of the creed, the Science of Christianity, it was to me a present help. It was the living, palpitating presence of Christ, or Truth, that healed me.
We cannot bring out the practical proof of Christianity, that Jesus required, while error is as potent and real to us as Truth, and while we make a personal devil and a personal God our starting-points; especially if we consider Satan as a being coequal in power with Deity, if not superior to Him. Because such starting-points are neither spiritual nor scientific, they cannot work out the spiritual and scientific rule of Christian healing, which proves the nothingness of error by the all-inclusiveness of Truth.
Our Master declared that his material body was not Spirit, evidently considering it a mortal belief; whereas the Jews took a diametrically opposite view. To Jesus, not materiality, but spirituality, was the reality of man's existence; while to the rabbi, the spiritual was the intangible and prospective, if not the unreal.
The Israelites centred their thoughts on the material, in their attempted worship of the spiritual. To them matter was Substance, and Spirit was shadow. They thought to worship Spirit from a material standpoint, but this was impracticable. They might appeal to Jehovah, but their prayer brought down no proof that it was heard, because they did not sufficiently understand God as able to demonstrate His power to heal, — to make harmony a reality, and to make discord the unreality.
If my critic had a child who was frightened at imaginary ghosts, and sick in consequence of her fear, would he say to her: “Ghosts are real. They exist, and are to be feared; but you must not be afraid of them”?
The child, like the adult, ought to fear a reality that can harm him, and which he does not understand; for at any moment she may become its helpless victim. But instead of increasing the fear of his child, by declaring ghosts to be real, merciless, and powerful, thus watering the very roots of the child's timidity, would he not assure the child her fears were groundless, that ghosts are not realities, but beliefs, and that these beliefs are erroneous and human?
In short, he would tell her not to believe in ghosts, for there are no such things; knowing, if he destroys her belief in their reality, her terror will depart and her health be restored; because the objects of her alarm will vanish into nothingness, no longer seeming worthy of fear or honor. To accomplish a good result, it is certainly not irrational to tell the truth about ghosts.
The scientific real is the sensuous unreal. What seems real to sense is unreal in Science. Personal sense and Science have ever been antagonistic; and will so continue, till the testimony of the senses yields entirely to Science.
How can a Christian — having the stronger evidences of Truth, which contradict the evidence of error — think of error as real or true, either in the form of sickness or sin? You admit that Truth is God, and that God is omnipotent; and certainly Truth should destroy error.
We have not outlived the age of ghostly beliefs. All of us have them, more or less. We have not yet reached all reality.
All that is real is eternal. Perfection underlies reality. Without it, nothing is real. All things will continue to disappear, until perfection appears and reality is reached. We must give up the spectral at all points; or we shall continue to suffer from the nothingness of superstition, until we gladly give up all belief in it. When we learn that discord is not real, because it is not immortal harmony, we are ready for progress, “forgetting those things which are behind.”
The grave does not banish the ghost of materiality. So long as there are supposed limits to Mind, and those limits are assigned to man, so long will ghosts continue. Mind is limitless. It never was material. The notion of bodily minds is a mortal belief, — yea, a ghost; and Jesus is the authority for this assertion. The Principle of Being is spiritual and immortal; and from this it follows that whatever is laid off is the ghost of some unseen reality. Our material beliefs can neither demonstrate Christianity, nor apprehend the reality of being.
Are my protests against the notion of material Life, Substance, or Intelligence “utter falsities and absurdities”? Why then does my critic obey the Scripture, and war against “the world, the flesh, and the devil”? Why does he invoke the divine aid to enable him to leave all for Christ, Spirit, — using my phraseology, but not practising what he preaches? My words find their immortality in deeds, for their Principle heals the sick and spiritualizes humanity.
On the other hand my critic offers no proof, and gives none, of the ability of Christ to heal the sick. He thinks it enough that his barren and desultory dogmas should be in accordance with the traditions of the elders, who have set their seals thereto.
Consistency is seen in example more than in precept. Inconsistency is shown by words without deeds, which are like clouds without rain. If my words fail to express my deeds, God will redeem that weakness, and out of the mouth of babes He will “perfect praise.” “The night is far spent,” and with the dawn Truth will open the spiritual senses to hear and speak the “new tongue.”
Sin should become unreal to every one. It is in itself inconsistent, a divided kingdom; and I rejoice to have found this out.
Then my critic should be charitable. If my sentences appear inconsistent, he should try and learn what they mean. I dispose of the charge of inconsistency by giving something practically better than words. As for sin and disease, I talk them up to talk them down; and I name them in order to unname them, and show their nothingness.
Will my judge decide on the relative value of two theories: one that heals; and the other, which denies the first, but cannot heal?
That my statements are “absolutely false, and the most egregious fallacies ever offered for acceptance,” is but my critic's opinion, wholly owing to his misunderstanding both of the Principle and practice of Christian Science, and his consequent inability to demonstrate that Science. Without this understanding, no one is capable of impartial or correct criticism; because demonstration and understanding are God's harmonious and immortal keynotes, proven to be such by the sick who are cured and by sinners who are enlightened.
Strangely enough, we ask for material evidence in support of spiritual existence; when these realms are so antagonistic that the material must disappear before the spiritual can be attained. This material existence affords no evidence of spiritual existence and immortality. Sin, sickness, and death do not prove man's entity or immortality. Discord can never establish the facts of harmony. Matter is not the vestibule of Spirit.
Jesus reasoned on this subject practically, and controlled sickness, sin, and death from the basis of his argument. Understanding the nothingness of material things, he spoke of flesh and Spirit as the two opposites, — as Truth and error, not contributing in any way to each other's happiness and existence. He said: “The same fountain sendeth not forth sweet and bitter water,” and, “You cannot gather grapes of thorns.” Even Paul asked, “What fellowship hath Christ with Belial?”
My censor would have an eternal copartnership between error and Truth. Will he admit that God is incapable of sinning, — as I certainly believe? Then how could God make man capable of sin?
Did God create man, who is called material, out of Himself, Spirit? Did evil proceed from good? Did God commit a fraud on humanity, and make man capable of sin, in order to condemn him for it? Would my critic call it wise and good, to create the primitive and then punish its derivative?
Can evil be derived from good? Impossible! Was there original self-creative sin? Then there must have been more than one Creator, more than one God. In common justice we must admit that God will not punish man for doing what He created him capable of doing, and knew, from the outset, that man would do. God is “too pure to behold iniquity.” You sustain Truth by condemning a lie.
Jesus said of personified evil, that it was “a lie, and the father of the lie.” Truth neither creates a lie nor the capacity to lie. If we would only relinquish the belief that God makes sickness, sin, and death, or that He makes man capable of suffering on account of this trio, we should begin to sap the foundations of error, and ensure its destruction; but if we dignify mortal mind with the creativeness and authority of Deity, how dare we attempt to destroy that which He hath made?
History shows that this arbitrary and unjust sense of Deity originated in what is termed mortal mind. As there really is no mortal mind, you see that this wrong notion about God originated in a false supposition, not in Immortal Mind, and is fading out; that it is a false claim, eventually disappearing, according to the teachings of the Apocalypse.
If the opposite of God is as real as He, there must be two supreme powers, and God cannot be all-powerful. Can Deity be omnipotent, while another strong and sinful being is self-creative? Is Life really God, as the Scripture saith? And, if so, can Life, or God, enter matter? And can matter drive Spirit hence, beating Omnipotence at every point?
Is the woodman's axe, that destroys a tree, superior to Omnipotence? Can a leaden bullet deprive a man of Life? If Mind is at the mercy of matter, then matter is omnipotent.
Such doctrines are “confusion worse confounded.” If two statements contradict each other, one must be null and void. Is Science thus contradictory? Christian Science, rightly understood, coincides with the Scriptures, and sustains logically every point it presents. Otherwise it would not be Science, and could not present its proofs.
Christian Science is not made up of contradictory aphorisms, nor of the inventions of those who scoff at God. It is the calm, clear verdict of Truth against error.
When the evidence of the existence of Spirit, or Soul, is palpable to spiritual sense only, and not cognizant to the five personal senses, — and yet you aver that these senses are indispensable to man's existence or entity, — what becomes of the Ego when matter disappears?
One more question: Why are the words, rather than the remarkable works, of prophet and apostle quoted for people's instruction? When history records the lives of great and good men, their acts are considered paramount to their sayings. Deeds are what we strive most to emulate.
My critic says: “Rest assured that whatever possible effect Mrs. Eddy may have on the sick, it is by making them believe that she has a wonderful power from the Holy Spirit to remove disease.”
Does my critic wish to be understood as meaning that the members of a church have half the faith in a woman, whom they never met, that they have in their pastor? Let any clergyman try to cure his friends by their faith in himself. Will that faith heal them? I will take the same cases, and cure will follow. Is this the result of their faith in me, rather than in their pastor? I have healed infidels, whose only objection to my method was that I believed in the Holy Spirit, while they did not.
I honor Christianity wherever it is found; but when shall we arrive at the goal that word includes? From Puritan parents I received an early religious education. In childhood I often listened with joy to these words, falling from the lips of my sainted mother, “God is able to raise you up from sickness;” and I pondered the meaning of that Scripture I so often quote, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
The conclusion is not valid, that I must be a Spiritualist or a medium because I am not a materialist. I never was a Spiritualist; and have always understood that the phenomena of Spiritualism came from the power of mortal mind over mortal mind, on this earthly plane of existence.
My critic and I are like two artists. One says: “I have spiritual mind-pictures indestructible and glorious. When others see them as I do, in their true light and loveliness, — and know that these pictures are real and immortal, because having a divine basis, — they will find that nothing is lost, and all is won, by a right estimate of what is real.”
The other artist replies: “You wrong my experience. I have no mind-pictures except material ones. True, the canvas renders my pictures imperfect and destructible; yet I would not exchange mine for yours, for I made my own, and they are not shockingly transcendental.”
Dear reader, which mind-picture shall be real to you — the material or the spiritual? Both you cannot have. You are bringing out your own ideal. This ideal is either temporal or eternal. Either Spirit or matter is your model. If you try to have two models, then you practically have none. Like a pendulum in a clock, you will strike the ribs of matter, and be thrown back and forth, swinging forever between the real and the unreal.
Hear the wisdom of Job! —
|Shall mortal man be more just than God?|
|Shall man be more pure than his Maker?|
|Behold He putteth no trust in His ministering spirits,|
|And His angels He chargeth with frailty.|
|What then are they who dwell in houses of clay,|
|Whose foundation is in the dust,|
|Who crumble to pieces as if moth-eaten?|
|Between morning and evening they are destroyed;|
|They perish forever, and none regardeth it.|
|The excellency that is in them is torn away;|
|They die before they have become wise.|
To show my critic that such theories as mine do not seem absurd to some of the wisest men of modern times, let me close this reply with an extract from the devout William Ellery Channing, who was admired and followed as the foremost Rational Christian of his time. Though by no means adopting these views as his own, he was thoroughly fair in his estimate; and in his sermon on The True End of Life, preached fifty years ago, he spoke as follows: —
The philosopher, indeed, in studying the Soul, has not only discerned that it is distinguished from the fluctuating forms of matter, by its power of apprehending immutable Principles, but he has often been led to question whether anything really exists in the universe, beyond Mind and Spirit; whether matter and the body have any substantial being; whether apparently external nature be not an actual creation of our own thought; or, in other words, whether, in believing in an outward world, we do anything more than ascribe reality to our own conceptions. Thus, from the very dawn of philosophy, there have been schools which have held that the material universe has no existence but in the mind that thinks it.
The critic, whom I have thus answered, has passed on from this world. He was a man rightly honored in the New Church, of which he was a distinguished pillar. In justice to his memory it should be here added, that I afterwards met the reverend father in the company of mutual friends, and “we held sweet converse together.” Without quoting verbatim his kind and generous words to me and about me, it is enough to say that he referred to our kinship of spirit. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” and kind.