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Self-immolation: Purifying, not condemning, self
The crippling sense of guilt that had seemed to constantly accompany me began to lift, and I was able to make progress.
The writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, contain several references to a term that’s not exactly common today: self-immolation. The first of these comes as early as the first page of the first chapter of the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Here the author writes, “Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God’s gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind.” In the following chapter she states, “The atonement requires constant self-immolation on the sinner’s part” (p. 23).
One dictionary defines self-immolation as “a deliberate and willing sacrifice of oneself often by fire” (merriam-webster.com). Usually, when discussed in the news or in history books, the term refers to people literally setting themselves on fire, sometimes in protest. While I never thought that the intent of statements such as those quoted above was for people to literally set fire to themselves, in my younger years I struggled to understand these references to self-immolation. I equated them with self-condemnation, something I often dealt with. I had a tendency to beat myself up whenever I felt I hadn’t fully lived up to the standards set forth in the teachings of Christian Science.
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