AMONG THE WORLD'S GREAT men and women—those who have brought about a shift in people's thinking and progress in the human condition—there are many whose names, and at least something of their story, are widely familiar. International leaders, philosophers, scientists, and religious figures take their place in the warp and weft of human history because of the benefits they have brought to civilization in general, especially their efforts toward a more peaceful order and improved health and well-being.
Some individuals bring about extraordinary change, yet their place in history is still to be fully recognized. One such figure is Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded the Christian Science movement—a movement of thought rather than people. Seeing deeply into the significance of Bible teachings, especially the words and works of Christ Jesus, Mrs. Eddy contributed—in fact, still is contributing through her writings to a profound and ongoing shift in humanity's view of reality. And this view continues to bring liberation from material limitation throughout the whole of human experience.
Although that may seem like a bold statement, many people have felt the power of Christian Science transform their lives and would readily agree with it. Consider an earlier historical development. The realization that the earth is not flat, but a sphere, liberated individuals from ignorance, fear, and cautious exploration. Even more momentous and far-reaching was Mrs. Eddy's realization, in the second half of the 19th century, that the substance of the universe is mental, not material. The divine Mind, the one God, is manifested through all infinity in ideas, not material objects, of which the highest ideas are men and women made perfect in the divine likeness, as the first chapter of the Bible's book of Genesis explains.
This would have remained a beautiful theory, had not this spiritually minded woman also perceived and proved that our thinking governs our experience totally. She explained that if we think out from a spiritual perspective, seeking to understand more of the nature of God and our relationship to Him, we can find answers to challenges of every kind, including sickness.
Mrs. Eddy spoke not only of Mind as a synonym for God, but also used the terms Principle, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 587). Most significant to her was the discovery that reasoning prayerfully to understand what these terms mean for the individual seeking healing or liberation from some limiting condition or situation, brings practical solutions.
Seeing the far-reaching nature of her discovery and its implications for the ultimate destruction of sin in the human consciousness, Mrs. Eddy was impelled by love for God and His creation. She gave many years to putting her ideas to the test in healing, and setting them down in writing.
I recall that my first real encounter with the name Mary Baker Eddy was through a university friend. Up to that point, I knew Mrs. Eddy had discovered Christian Science and founded the Christian Science movement. I also knew she had written a book called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. But that was as far as it went for several years. At that time I was treading the path of agnosticism, which my intellect told me was the most sensible position to adopt. I didn't need a faith, so I thought, and I certainly had no need of a book offering ideas I felt I couldn't grasp.
But a few years later, when my heart cried out to be released from a deep pit of depression and a prison of physical limitation after three miscarriages as a young wife, I was drawn to look more deeply into Science and Health. Desperate for something better than human reason could provide, I began—just began—to understand the ideas I was reading, and I was healed mentally and physically. I went on to have three boys, and I rapidly switched paths!
What drew me on (although at the time I could not have put it into words) was the prospect of "the consciousness of heaven within us—health, harmony, holiness, entirely apart from limitations..." These words come from a passage in which Mary Baker Eddy described the effect of Christian Science in a letter to a clergyman (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 118). My heart felt this promise, and my faith that God heals glimmered into existence. The great thing was, my intellect didn't suffer; it found plenty of occupation reasoning out from a spiritual basis.
But first and foremost was heart-healing—the reassurance that God is Love, and the source only of good; that He is forever near, without an opposite. That was the most significant idea I gleaned from my first acquaintance with Science and Health. This simple, yet all-embracing sense of the divine nature pervaded the book's pages, however deep and challenging its propositions might at times appear to me as a new reader. As I learned more of the life of the author, it became clear that her pure sense of God as Love had fueled all the love, devotion, dedication, and ceaseless effort that brought the book into being and guarded its development, as she constantly revisited and refined its ideas.
Mrs. Eddy poured her heart into writing Science and Health because she herself had felt, in a very profound sense, the love of God, and been healed by it. As a child suffering from a raging fever, she was instantaneously healed as her mother told her to lean on God's love. Later, in her 40s, she was healed, through turning to God, of the near-fatal effects of an accident. And soon after that, she found herself free of the frequent bouts of ill health from which she had suffered up to that point. Seeking to know how this had happened—how to heal as Jesus did—she came to see how to make her growing understanding of God as infinite Life and Truth and Love practical in healing others of all kinds of disease. Although family and friends forsook her while she spent long hours and three years writing Science and Health, she kept on because she longed for this healing method to be accessible to everyone, everywhere.
Other elements of the Christian Science movement—the publication of numerous other books by Mrs. Eddy, the founding of a Church and of a Publishing Society producing periodicals and a newspaper, and the institution of a Board of Lectureship sharing healing ideas around the world—all sprang out from the powerful vision enunciated in Science and Health. And these elements point right back to the book's priceless text, just as Science and Health points right back to another priceless text, the Holy Bible, which was Mrs. Eddy's main source of inspiration.
The motive of my earliest labors has never changed.
It was to relieve the sufferings of humanity
by a sanitary system that should include all moral and religious reform.
-Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, p. 30
Only through what Mary Baker Eddy herself described as "a heart wholly in protest and unutterable in love" could Christian Science, its founding text, and the movement's orderly development, have come into being. Opposition from family, clergy, academics, medical practitioners, the press, and disaffected students dogged her footsteps all along the line, causing her untold agonies, which she described at one time as "difficulty, abnegation, constant battle against the world, the flesh, and evil,..." (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 134). But through the power of the very ideas that were going out to heal others, Mrs. Eddy overcame every obstacle and established the Christian Science movement on a firm and lasting foundation.
Through each word she wrote, each move she made, her heart spoke—a heart that yearned for humanity to know the spiritual, mental, and physical freedom springing from understanding the presence of God as infinite, all-embracing Love. This Love blots out fear and reveals the true nature of creation, and of men and women made perfect in God's own image. The seeking heart, weary with the world or with personal difficulties, turning to Mrs. Eddy's writings, is first met by the touch of Love, inspiring hope and pointing the way to healing through a more spiritual view of existence.
"If we would open their prison doors for the sick," she wrote in Science and Health, "we must first learn to bind up the broken-hearted" (p. 366). Where the heart of divine Love meets the heart of the seeker, as it does through Science and Health, this gentle binding takes place, and hope and faith well up, whispering the possibility of healing and pointing the way to it. This is what animated and motivated Mrs. Eddy as she saw the truth of our eternal, unbreakable relationship to God, and how to prove it. This is why her book heals; why her teachings drew countless grateful individuals to embrace Christian Science—and still do.
"Those who look for me in person, or elsewhere than in my writings, lose me instead of find me," she wrote in that same letter to a clergyman mentioned earlier. Does this mean that the details of her human life are of no relevance to her readers? Not at all. If an understanding of her life is sought, without putting her on a pedestal, but in confirmation of the divine authority with which she wrote, this constitutes a useful study and a clear encouragement for the individual striving to make these ideas practical in his or her own life. Accurate information about Mrs. Eddy increases the recognition of and gratitude for her expression of divine Love and Truth. "My life," she wrote, "consecrated to humanity through nameless suffering and sacrifice, furnishes its own proof of my practice" (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 350).
The depth and breadth of the explanation of the nature of God in Christian Science, and the wealth of practical instructions for proving the divine nature in healing, filled Mary Baker Eddy's heart and impelled her life work. Her place in history as the discoverer of the spiritual laws that underlie the practice of Christian healing, and as the one who placed them on a firm foundation, is established. It will be acknowledged more and more widely as individuals recognize their spiritual freedom to think as God impels them to think, and to experience the resulting harmony. Mary Baker Eddy's life and ideas need to be known. The human heart demands it.
FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC
To hear Lesley Gort speak on this topic, tune in to Sentinel Radio during the week of December 12-18,2009. For a listing of broadcast locations and times, go to www.sentinelradio.com. To purchase a download of this radio program, #950, on or after December 12 go to www.sentinelradio.com and click on Audio Download Store.
Lesley Gort is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. She lives in Stockport, near Manchester, England.
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