Christian Science by Mark Twain
It was a night of anguish, of course-at least, I supposed it was, for it had all the symptoms of it--but it passed at last, and the Christian Scientist came, and I was glad She was middle-aged, and large and bony, and erect, and had an austere face and a resolute jaw and a Roman beak and was a widow in the third degree, and her name was Fuller. I was eager to get to business and find relief, but she was distressingly deliberate. She unpinned and unhooked and uncoupled her upholsteries one by one, abolished the wrinkles with a flirt of her hand, and hung the articles up; peeled off her gloves and disposed of them, got a book out of her hand-bag, then drew a chair to the bedside, descended into it without hurry, and I hung out my tongue. She said, with pity but without passion:
"Return it to its receptacle. We deal with the mind only, not with its dumb servants."
I could not offer my pulse, because the connection was broken; but she detected the apology before I could word it, and indicated by a negative tilt of her head that the pulse was another dumb servant that she had no use for. Then I thought I would tell her my symptoms and how I felt, so that she would understand the case; but that was another inconsequence, she did not need to know those things; moreover, my remark about how I felt was an abuse of language, a misapplication of terms.
"One does not feel," she explained; "there is no such thing as feeling: therefore, to speak of a non-existent thing as existent is a contradiction. Matter has no existence; nothing exists but mind; the mind cannot feel pain, it can only imagine it."
"But if it hurts, just the same--"
"It doesn't. A thing which is unreal cannot exercise the functions of reality. Pain is unreal; hence, pain cannot hurt."
In making a sweeping gesture to indicate the act of shooing the illusion of pain out of the mind, she raked her hand on a pin in her dress, said "Ouch!" and went tranquilly on with her talk. "You should never allow yourself to speak of how you feel, nor permit others to ask you how you are feeling; you should never concede that you are ill, nor permit others to talk about disease or pain or death or similar nonexistences in your presence. Such talk only encourages the mind to continue its empty imaginings." Just at that point the Stuben-madchen trod on the cat's tail, and the cat let fly a frenzy of cat-profanity. I asked, with caution:
"Is a cat's opinion about pain valuable?"
"A cat has no opinion; opinions proceed from mind only; the lower animals, being eternally perishable, have not been granted mind; without mind, opinion is impossible."
"She merely imagined she felt a pain--the cat?"
"She cannot imagine a pain, for imagining is an effect of mind; without mind, there is no imagination. A cat has no imagination."
"Then she had a real pain?"
"I have already told you there is no such thing as real pain."
"It is strange and interesting. I do wonder what was the matter with the cat. Because, there being no such thing as a real pain, and she not being able to imagine an imaginary one, it would seem that God in His pity has compensated the cat with some kind of a mysterious emotion usable when her tail is trodden on which, for the moment, joins cat and Christian in one common brotherhood of--"
She broke in with an irritated--
"Peace! The cat feels nothing, the Christian feels nothing. Your empty and foolish imaginings are profanation and blasphemy, and can do you an injury. It is wiser and better and holier to recognize and confess that there is no such thing as disease or pain or death."
"I am full of imaginary tortures," I said, "but I do not think I could be any more uncomfortable if they were real ones. What must I do to get rid of them?"
"There is no occasion to get rid of them. since they do not exist. They are illusions propagated by matter, and matter has no existence; there is no such thing as matter."
"It sounds right and clear, but yet it seems in a degree elusive; it seems to slip through, just when you think you are getting a grip on it."
"Well, for instance: if there is no such thing as matter, how can matter propagate things?"
In her compassion she almost smiled. She would have smiled if there were any such thing as a smile.
"It is quite simple," she said; "the fundamental propositions of Christian Science explain it, and they are summarized in the four following self-evident propositions:
1. God is All in all.
There--now you see."
It seemed nebulous; it did not seem to say anything about the difficulty in hand--how non-existent matter can propagate illusions I said, with some hesitancy:
"Does--does it explain?"
"Doesn't it? Even if read backward it will do it."
With a budding hope, I asked her to do it backwards.
"Very well. Disease sin evil death deny Good omnipotent God life matter is nothing all being Spirit God Mind is Good good is God all in All is God. There do you understand now?
"It--it--well, it is plainer than it was before; still-- "
"Could you try it some more ways?"
"As many as you like; it always means the same. Interchanged in any way you please it cannot be made to mean anything different from what it means when put in any other way. Because it is perfect. You can jumble it all up, and it makes no difference: it always comes out the way it was before. It was a marvelous mind that produced it. As a mental tour de force it is without a mate, it defies alike the simple, the concrete, and the occult."
"It seems to be a corker."
I blushed for the word, but it was out before I could stop it.
"A--wonderful structure--combination, so to speak, of profound thoughts-- unthinkable ones--um--"
It is true. Read backward, or forward, or perpendicularly, or at any given angle, these four propositions will always be found to agree in statement and proof."
"Ah--proof. Now we are coming at it. The statements agree; they agree with--with--anyway, they agree; I noticed that; but what is it they prove I mean, in particular?"
"Why, nothing could be clearer. They prove:
1. GOD--Principle, Life,
"I--well, I seem to. Go on, please."
"2. MAN--God's universal idea, individual, perfect, eternal. Is it clear?"
"It--I think so. Continue."
"3. IDEA--An image in Mind; the immediate object of understanding. There it is--the whole sublime Arcana of Christian Science in a nutshell. Do you find a weak place in it anywhere?"
"Well--no; it seems strong."
"Very well There is more. Those three constitute the Scientific Definition of Immortal Mind. Next, we have the Scientific Definition of Mortal Mind. Thus. FIRST DEGREE: Depravity I. Physical-Passions and appetites, fear, depraved will, pride, envy, deceit, hatred, revenge, sin, disease, death."
"Phantasms, madam--unrealities, as I understand it."
"Every one. SECOND DEGREE: Evil Disappearing. I. Moral-Honesty, affection, compassion, hope, faith, meekness, temperance. Is it clear?"
"THIRD DEGREE: Spiritual Salvation. I. Spiritual-Faith, wisdom, power, purity, understanding, health, love. You see how searchingly and co- ordinately interdependent and anthropomorphous it all is. In this Third Degree, as we know by the revelations of Christian Science, mortal mind disappears."
"No, not until the teaching and preparation for the Third Degree are completed."
"It is not until then that one is enabled to take hold of Christian Science effectively, and with the right sense of sympathy and kinship, as I understand you. That is to say, it could not succeed during the processes of the Second Degree, because there would still be remains of mind left; and therefore--but I interrupted you. You were about to further explain the good results proceeding from the erosions and disintegrations effected by the Third Degree. It is very interesting; go on, please."
"Yes, as I was saying, in this Third Degree mortal mind disappears. Science so reverses the evidence before the corporeal human senses as to make this scriptural testimony true in our hearts, 'the last shall be first and the first shall be last,' that God and His idea may be to us-- what divinity really is, and must of necessity be all-inclusive."
"It is beautiful. And with what exhaustive exactness your choice and arrangement of words confirm and establish what you have claimed for the powers and functions of the Third Degree. The Second could probably produce only temporary absence of mind; it is reserved to the Third to make it permanent. A sentence framed under the auspices of the Second could have a kind of meaning--a sort of deceptive semblance of it-- whereas it is only under the magic of the Third that that defect would disappear. Also, without doubt, it is the Third Degree that contributes another remarkable specialty to Christian Science--viz., ease and flow and lavishness of words, and rhythm and swing and smoothness. There must be a special reason for this?"
"Yes--God-- all, all--God, good God, non-Matter, Matteration, Spirit, Bones, Truth."
"That explains it."
"There is nothing in Christian Science that is not explicable; for God is one, Time is one, Individuality is one, and may be one of a series, one of many, as an individual man, individual horse; whereas God is one, not one of a series, but one alone and without an equal."
"These are noble thoughts. They make one burn to know more. How does Christian Science explain the spiritual relation of systematic duality to incidental deflection?"
"Christian Science reverses the seeming relation of Soul and body--as astronomy reverses the human perception of the movement of the solar system--and makes body tributary to the Mind. As it is the earth which is in motion, While the sun is at rest, though in viewing the sun rise one finds it impossible to believe the sun not to be really rising, so the body is but the humble servant of the restful Mind, though it seems otherwise to finite sense; but we shall never understand this while we admit that soul is in body, or mind in matter, and that man is included in non-intelligence. Soul is God, unchangeable and eternal; and man coexists with and reflects Soul, for the All-in-all is the Altogether, and the Altogether embraces the All-one, Soul-Mind, Mind-Soul, Love, Spirit, Bones, Liver, one of a series, alone and without an equal."
"What is the origin of Christian Science? Is it a gift of God, or did it just happen?"
"In a sense, it is a gift of God. That is to say, its powers are from Him, but the credit of the discovery of the powers and what they are for is due to an American lady."
"Indeed? When did this occur?"
"In 1866. That is the immortal date when pain and disease and death disappeared from the earth to return no more forever. That is, the fancies for which those terms stand disappeared. The things themselves had never existed; therefore, as soon as it was perceived that there were no such things, they were easily banished. The history and nature of the great discovery are set down in the book here, and--"
"Did the lady write the book?"
"Yes, she wrote it all, herself. The title is Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures-- for she explains the Scriptures; they were not understood before. Not even by the twelve Disciples. She begins thus-- I will read it to you."
But she had forgotten to bring her glasses.
"Well, it is no matter," she said. "I remember the words--indeed, all Christian Scientists know the book by heart; it is necessary in our practice. We should otherwise make mistakes and do harm. She begins thus: ' In the year 1866 I discovered the Science of Metaphysical Healing, and named it Christian Science.' And She says quite beautifully, I think--' Through Christian Science, religion and medicine are inspired with a diviner nature and essence, fresh pinions are given to faith and understanding, and thoughts acquaint themselves intelligently with God.' Her very words."
"It is elegant. And it is a fine thought, too--marrying religion to medicine, instead of medicine to the undertaker in the old way; for religion and medicine properly belong together, they being the basis of all spiritual and physical health. What kind of medicine do you give for the ordinary diseases, such as--"
"We never give medicine in any circumstances whatever! We--"
"But, madam, it says--"
"I don't care what it says, and I don't wish to talk about it."
"I am sorry if I have offended, but you see the mention seemed in some way inconsistent, and--"
"There are no inconsistencies in Christian Science. The thing is impossible, for the Science is absolute. It cannot be otherwise, since it proceeds directly from the All-in-all and the Everything-in-Which, also Soul, Bones, Truth, one of a series, alone and without equal. It is Mathematics purified from material dross and made spiritual."
"I can see that, but--"
"It rests upon the immovable basis of an Apodictical Principle."
The word flattened itself against my mind in trying to get in, and disordered me a little, and before I could inquire into its pertinency, she was already throwing the needed light:
"This Apodictical Principle is the absolute Principle of Scientific Mind- healing, the sovereign Omnipotence which delivers the children of men from pain, disease, decay, and every ill that flesh is heir to."
"Surely not every ill, every decay?"
"Every one; there are no exceptions; there is no such thing as decay--it is an unreality, it has no existence."
"But without your glasses your failing eyesight does not permit you to--"
"My eyesight cannot fail; nothing can fail; the Mind is master, and the Mind permits no retrogression."
She was under the inspiration of the Third Degree, therefore there could be no profit in continuing this part of the subject. I shifted to other ground and inquired further concerning the Discoverer of the Science.
"Did the discovery come suddenly, like Klondike, or after long study and calculation, like America?"
"The comparisons are not respectful, since they refer to trivialities-- but let it pass. I will answer in the Discoverer's own words: 'God had been graciously fitting me, during many years, for the reception of a final revelation of the absolute Principle of Scientific Mind-healing."
"Many years. How many?"
"All--God, God--good, good--God, Truth, Bones, Liver, one of a series, alone and without equal--it is amazing!"
"You may well say it, sir. Yet it is but the truth This American lady, our revered and sacred Founder, is distinctly referred to, and her coming prophesied, in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse; she could not have been more plainly indicated by St. John without actually mentioning her name."
"How strange, how wonderful!"
"I will quote her own words, from her Key to the Scriptures: 'The twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse has a special suggestiveness in connection with this nineteenth century.' There--do you note that? Think--note it well."
"But--what does it mean?"
"Listen, and you will know. I quote her inspired words again: 'In the opening of the Sixth Seal, typical of six thousand years since Adam, there is one distinctive feature which has special reference to the present age. Thus:
"'Revelation xii. I. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven--a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.'
"That is our Head, our Chief, our Discoverer of Christian Science-- nothing can be plainer, nothing surer. And note this:
"'Revelation xii. 6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God.'
"That is Boston. I recognize it, madam. These are sublime things, and impressive; I never understood these passages before; please go on with the--with the--proofs."
"Very well. Listen:
"'And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. And he held in his hand a little book.'
"A little book, merely a little book--could words be modester? Yet how stupendous its importance! Do you know what book that was?"
"I hold it in my hand--Christian Science!"
"Love, Livers, Lights, Bones, Truth, Kidneys, one of a series, alone and without equal-- it is beyond imagination for wonder!"
"Hear our Founder's eloquent words: 'Then will a voice from harmony cry, "Go and take the little book: take it and eat it up, and it shall make thy belly bitter; but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey." Mortal, obey the heavenly evangel. Take up Divine Science. Read it from beginning to end. Study it, ponder it. It will be, indeed, sweet at its first taste, when it heals you; but murmur not over Truth, if you find its digestion bitter.' You now know the history of our dear and holy Science, sir, and that its origin is not of this earth, but only its discovery. I will leave the book with you and will go, now; but give yourself no uneasiness-- I will give you absent treatment from now till I go to bed."