Christian Science by Mark Twain
"Hungry ones throng to hear the Bible read in connection with the text- book of Christian Science, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker G. Eddy. These are our only preachers. They are the word of God. "Christian Science Journal", October, 1898.
Is that picturesque? A lady has told me that in a chapel of the Mosque in Boston there is a picture or image of Mrs. Eddy, and that before it burns a never-extinguished light. Is that picturesque? How long do you think it will be before the Christian Scientist will be worshipping that picture or image and praying to it? How long do you think it will be before it is claimed that Mrs. Eddy is a Redeemer, a Christ, and Christ's equal? Already her army of disciples speak of her reverently as "Our Mother."
How long will it be before they place her on the steps of the Throne beside the Virgin--and, later, a step higher? First, Mary the Virgin and Mary the Matron; later, with a change of precedence, Mary the Matron and Mary the Virgin. Let the artist get ready with his canvas and his brushes; the new Renaissance is on its way, and there will be money in altar-canvases--a thousand times as much as the Popes and their Church ever spent on the Old Masters; for their riches were poverty as compared with what is going to pour into the treasure-chest of the Christian- Scientist Papacy by-and-by, let us not doubt it. We will examine the financial outlook presently and see what it promises. A favorite subject of the new Old Master will be the first verse of the twelfth chapter of Revelation--a verse which Mrs. Eddy says (in her Annex to the Scriptures) has "one distinctive feature which has special reference to the present age"--and to her, as is rather pointedly indicated:
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet," etc.
The woman clothed with the sun will be a portrait of Mrs. Eddy.
Is it insanity to believe that Christian Scientism is destined to make the most formidable show that any new religion has made in the world since the birth and spread of Mobammedanism, and that within a century from now it may stand second to Rome only, in numbers and power in Christendom?
If this is a wild dream it will not be easy to prove it so just yet, I think. There seems argument that it may come true. The Christian- Science "boom," proper, is not yet five years old; yet already it has two hundred and fifty churches.
It has its start, you see, and it is a phenomenally good one. Moreover, it is latterly spreading with a constantly accelerating swiftness. It has a better chance to grow and prosper and achieve permanency than any other existing "ism"; for it has more to offer than any other. The past teaches us that in order to succeed, a movement like this must not be a mere philosophy, it must be a religion; also, that it must not claim entire originality, but content itself with passing for an improvement on an existing religion, and show its hand later, when strong and prosperous--like Mohammedanism.
Next, there must be money--and plenty of it.
Next, the power and authority and capital must be concentrated in the grip of a small and irresponsible clique, with nobody outside privileged to ask questions or find fault.
Next, as before remarked, it must bait its hook with some new and attractive advantages over the baits offered by its competitors. A new movement equipped with some of these endowments--like spiritualism, for instance may count upon a considerable success; a new movement equipped with the bulk of them--like Mohammedanism, for instance-- may count upon a widely extended conquest. Mormonism had all the requisites but one it had nothing new and nothing valuable to bait with. Spiritualism lacked the important detail of concentration of money and authority in the hands of an irresponsible clique.
The above equipment is excellent, admirable, powerful, but not perfect. There is yet another detail which is worth the whole of it put together and more; a detail which has never been joined (in the beginning of a religious movement) to a supremely good working equipment since the world began, until now: a new personage to worship. Christianity had the Saviour, but at first and for generations it lacked money and concentrated power. In Mrs. Eddy, Christian Science possesses the new personage for worship, and in addition--here in the very beginning--a working equipment that has not a flaw in it. In the beginning, Mohammedanism had no money; and it has never had anything to offer its client but heaven-- nothing here below that was valuable. In addition to heaven hereafter, Christian Science has present health and a cheerful spirit to offer; and in comparison with this bribe all other this-world bribes are poor and cheap. You recognize that this estimate is admissible, do you not?
To whom does Bellamy's "Nationalism" appeal? Necessarily to the few: people who read and dream, and are compassionate, and troubled for the poor and the hard-driven. To whom does Spiritualism appeal? Necessarily to the few; its "boom" has lasted for half a century, and I believe it claims short of four millions of adherents in America. Who are attracted by Swedenborgianism and some of the other fine and delicate "isms"? The few again: educated people, sensitively organized, with superior mental endowments, who seek lofty planes of thought and find their contentment there. And who are attracted by Christian Science? There is no limit; its field is horizonless; its appeal is as universal as is the appeal of Christianity itself. It appeals to the rich, the poor, the high, the low, the cultured, the ignorant, the gifted, the stupid, the modest, the vain, the wise, the silly, the soldier, the civilian, the hero, the coward, the idler, the worker, the godly, the godless, the freeman, the slave, the adult, the child; they who are ailing in body or mind, they who have friends that are ailing in body or mind. To mass it in a phrase, its clientage is the Human Race. Will it march? I think so.
Remember its principal great offer: to rid the Race of pain and disease. Can it do so? In large measure, yes. How much of the pain and disease in the world is created by the imaginations of the sufferers, and then kept alive by those same imaginations? Four-fifths? Not anything short of that, I should think. Can Christian Science banish that four-fifths ? I think so. Can any other (organized) force do it? None that I know of. Would this be a new world when that was accomplished? And a pleasanter one--for us well people, as well as for those fussy and fretting sick ones? Would it seem as if there was not as much gloomy weather as there used to be? I think so.
In the mean time, would the Scientist kill off a good many patients? I think so. More than get killed off now by the legalized methods ? I will take up that question presently.
At present, I wish to ask you to examine some of the Scientist's performances, as registered in his magazine, The Christian Science Journal --October number, 1898. First, a Baptist clergyman gives us this true picture of "the average orthodox Christian"--and he could have added that it is a true picture of the average (civilized) human being:
"He is a worried and fretted and fearful man; afraid of himself and his propensities, afraid of colds and fevers, afraid of treading on serpents or drinking deadly things."
Then he gives us this contrast:
"The average Christian Scientist has put all anxiety and fretting under his feet. He does have a victory over fear and care that is not achieved by the average orthodox Christian."
He has put all anxiety and fretting under his feet. What proportion of your earnings or income would you be willing to pay for that frame of mind, year in, year out? It really outvalues any price that can be put upon it. Where can you purchase it, at any outlay of any sort, in any Church or out of it, except the Scientist's?
Well, it is the anxiety and fretting about colds, and fevers, and draughts, and getting our feet wet, and about forbidden food eaten in terror of indigestion, that brings on the cold and the fever and the indigestion and the most of our other ailments; and so, if the Science can banish that anxiety from the world I think it can reduce the world's disease and pain about four-fifths.
In this October number many of the redeemed testify and give thanks; and not coldly, but with passionate gratitude. As a rule they seem drunk with health, and with the surprise of it, the wonder of it, the unspeakable glory and splendor of it, after a long, sober spell spent in inventing imaginary diseases and concreting them with doctor-stuff. The first witness testifies that when "this most beautiful Truth first dawned on him" he had "nearly all the ills that flesh is heir to"; that those he did not have he thought he had --and this made the tale about complete. What was the natural result? Why, he was a dump-pit "for all the doctors, druggists, and patent medicines of the country." Christian Science came to his help, and "the old sick conditions passed away," and along with them the "dismal forebodings" which he had been accustomed to employ in conjuring up ailments. And so he was a healthy and cheerful man, now, and astonished.
But I am not astonished, for from other sources I know what must have been his method of applying Christian Science. If I am in the right, he watchfully and diligently diverted his mind from unhealthy channels and compelled it to travel in healthy ones. Nothing contrivable by human invention could be more formidably effective than that, in banishing imaginary ailments and in closing the entrances against sub-sequent applicants of their breed. I think his method was to keep saying, "I am well! I am sound!--sound and well! well and sound! Perfectly sound, perfectly well! I have no pain; there's no such thing as pain! I have no disease; there's no such thing as disease! Nothing is real but Mind; all is Mind, All-Good Good-Good, Life, Soul, Liver, Bones, one of a series, ante and pass the buck!"
I do not mean that that was exactly the formula used, but that it doubtless contains the spirit of it. The Scientist would attach value to the exact formula, no doubt, and to the religious spirit in which it was used. I should think that any formula that would divert the mind from unwholesome channels and force it into healthy ones would answer every purpose with some people, though not with all. I think it most likely that a very religious man would find the addition of the religious spirit a powerful reinforcement in his case.
The second witness testifies that the Science banished "an old organic trouble," which the doctor and the surgeon had been nursing with drugs and the knife for seven years.
He calls it his "claim." A surface-miner would think it was not his claim at all, but the property of the doctor and his pal the surgeon--for he would be misled by that word, which is Christian-Science slang for "ailment." The Christian Scientist has no ailment; to him there is no such thing, and he will not use the hateful word. All that happens to him is that upon his attention an imaginary disturbance sometimes obtrudes itself which claims to be an ailment but isn't.
This witness offers testimony for a clergyman seventy years old who had preached forty years in a Christian church, and has now gone over to the new sect. He was "almost blind and deaf." He was treated by the C. S. method, and "when he heard the voice of Truth he saw spiritually." Saw spiritually? It is a little indefinite; they had better treat him again. Indefinite testimonies might properly be waste-basketed, since there is evidently no lack of definite ones procurable; but this C. S. magazine is poorly edited, and so mistakes of this kind must be expected.
The next witness is a soldier of the Civil War. When Christian Science found him, he had in stock the following claims :
These claims have a very substantial sound. They came of exposure in the campaigns. The doctors did all they could, but it was little. Prayers were tried, but "I never realized any physical relief from that source." After thirty years of torture, he went to a Christian Scientist and took an hour's treatment and went home painless. Two days later, he "began to eat like a well man." Then "the claims vanished--some at once, others more gradually"; finally, "they have almost entirely disappeared." And-- a thing which is of still greater value--he is now "contented and happy." That is a detail which, as earlier remarked, is a Scientist-Church specialty. And, indeed, one may go further and assert with little or no exaggeration that it is a Christian-Science monopoly. With thirty-one years' effort, the Methodist Church had not succeeded in furnishing it to this harassed soldier.
And so the tale goes on. Witness after witness bulletins his claims, declares their prompt abolishment, and gives Mrs. Eddy's Discovery the praise. Milk-leg is cured; nervous prostration is cured; consumption is cured; and St. Vitus's dance is made a pastime. Even without a fiddle. And now and then an interesting new addition to the Science slang appears on the page. We have "demonstrations over chilblains" and such things. It seems to be a curtailed way of saying "demonstrations of the power of Christian-Science Truth over the fiction which masquerades under the name of Chilblains." The children, as well as the adults, share in the blessings of the Science. "Through the study of the 'little book' they are learning how to be healthful, peaceful, and wise." Sometimes they are cured of their little claims by the professional healer, and sometimes more advanced children say over the formula and cure themselves.
A little Far-Western girl of nine, equipped with an adult vocabulary, states her age and says, "I thought I would write a demonstration to you." She had a claim, derived from getting flung over a pony's head and landed on a rockpile. She saved herself from disaster by remembering to say "God is All" while she was in the air. I couldn't have done it. I shouldn't even have thought of it. I should have been too excited. Nothing but Christian Science could have enabled that child to do that calm and thoughtful and judicious thing in those circumstances. She came down on her head, and by all the rules she should have broken it; but the intervention of the formula prevented that, so the only claim resulting was a blackened eye. Monday morning it was still swollen and shut. At school "it hurt pretty badly--that is, it seemed to." So "I was excused, and went down to the basement and said, 'Now I am depending on mamma instead of God, and I will depend on God instead of mamma.'" No doubt this would have answered; but, to make sure, she added Mrs. Eddy to the team and recited "the Scientific Statement of Being," which is one of the principal incantations, I judge. Then "I felt my eye opening." Why, dear, it would have opened an oyster. I think it is one of the touchingest things in child-history, that pious little rat down cellar pumping away at the Scientific Statement of Being.
There is a page about another good child--little Gordon. Little Gordon "came into the world without the assistance of surgery or anaesthetics." He was a "demonstration." A painless one; therefore, his coming evoked "joy and thankfulness to God and the Discoverer of Christian Science." It is a noticeable feature of this literature--the so frequent linking together of the Two Beings in an equal bond; also of Their Two Bibles. When little Gordon was two years old, "he was playing horse on the bed, where I had left my 'little book.' I noticed him stop in his play, take the book carefully in his little hands, kiss it softly, then look about for the highest place of safety his arms could reach, and put it there." This pious act filled the mother "with such a train of thought as I had never experienced before. I thought of the sweet mother of long ago who kept things in her heart," etc. It is a bold comparison; however, unconscious profanations are about as common in the mouths of the lay member ship of the new Church as are frank and open ones in the mouths of its consecrated chiefs.
Some days later, the family library--Christian-Science books--was lying in a deep-seated window. This was another chance for the holy child to show off. He left his play and went there and pushed all the books to one side, except the Annex "It he took in both hands, slowly raised it to his lips, then removed it carefully, and seated himself in the window." It had seemed to the mother too wonderful to be true, that first time; but now she was convinced that "neither imagination nor accident had anything to do with it." Later, little Gordon let the author of his being see him do it. After that he did it frequently; probably every time anybody was looking. I would rather have that child than a chromo. If this tale has any object, it is to intimate that the inspired book was supernaturally able to convey a sense of its sacred and awful character to this innocent little creature, without the intervention of outside aids. The magazine is not edited with high-priced discretion. The editor has a "claim," and he ought to get it treated.
Among other witnesses there is one who had a "jumping toothache," which several times tempted her to "believe that there was sensation in matter, but each time it was overcome by the power of Truth." She would not allow the dentist to use cocaine, but sat there and let him punch and drill and split and crush the tooth, and tear and slash its ulcerations, and pull out the nerve, and dig out fragments of bone; and she wouldn't once confess that it hurt. And to this day she thinks it didn't, and I have not a doubt that she is nine-tenths right, and that her Christian- Science faith did her better service than she could have gotten out of cocaine.
There is an account of a boy who got broken all up into small bits by an accident, but said over the Scientific Statement of Being, or some of the other incantations, and got well and sound without having suffered any real pain and without the intrusion of a surgeon.
Also, there is an account of the restoration to perfect health, in a single night, of a fatally injured horse, by the application of Christian Science. I can stand a good deal, but I recognize that the ice is getting thin, here. That horse had as many as fifty claims; how could he demonstrate over them? Could he do the All-Good, Good-Good, Good- Gracious, Liver, Bones, Truth, All down but Nine, Set them up on the Other Alley? Could he intone the Scientific Statement of Being? Now, could he? Wouldn't it give him a relapse? Let us draw the line at horses. Horses and furniture.
There is plenty of other testimonies in the magazine, but these quoted samples will answer. They show the kind of trade the Science is driving. Now we come back to the question, Does the Science kill a patient here and there and now and then? We must concede it. Does it compensate for this? I am persuaded that it can make a plausible showing in that direction. For instance: when it lays its hand upon a soldier who has suffered thirty years of helpless torture and makes him whole in body and mind, what is the actual sum of that achievement? This,.I think: that it has restored to life a subject who had essentially died ten deaths a year for thirty years, and each of them a long and painful one. But for its interference that man in the three years which have since elapsed, would have essentially died thirty times more. There are thousands of young people in the land who are now ready to enter upon a life-long death similar to that man's. Every time the Science captures one of these and secures to him life-long immunity from imagination-manufactured disease, it may plausibly claim that in his person it has saved three hundred lives. Meantime, it will kill a man every now and then. But no matter, it will still be ahead on the credit side.
[NOTE.--I have received several letters (two from educated and ostensibly intelligent persons), which contained, in substance, this protest: "I don't object to men and women chancing their lives with these people, but it is a burning shame that the law should allow them to trust their helpless little children in their deadly hands. "Isn't it touching? Isn't it deep? Isn't it modest? It is as if the person said: "I know that to a parent his child is the core of his heart, the apple of his eye, a possession so dear, so precious that he will trust its life in no hands but those which he believes, with all his soul, to be the very best and the very safest, but it is a burning shame that the law does not require him to come to me to ask what kind of healer I will allow him to call." The public is merely a multiplied "me."--M.T.]