Heredity: Fact or theory?

Who did she think she was to say that? That was my indignant response to reading a statement Mary Baker Eddy made in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Heredity is a prolific subject for mortal belief to pin theories upon; . . .” (p. 228). 

Everything in me reacted to what felt at the time like a preposterous statement. All that I’d learned when I was working in the medical and science fields corroborated the view that heredity was no theory, but fact! Every medical form asks about the patient’s family history of certain diseases. And it’s commonly thought that if someone in that person’s family has or has had a condition, others in the family will have it, too. “Doesn’t this prove heredity to be a fact?” I reasoned. 

Well, after I calmed down a bit, I realized Mrs. Eddy was able to make that statement because she’d proven it in her own healing practice of Christian Science. Her experience had shown heredity to be a theory. I’d been reading Mary Baker Eddy’s writings on a regular basis to gain a better understanding of myself as a spiritual child of God. I’d been touched by Christian Science in a deep way—I’d been healed of a life-threatening medical condition (see “Diagnosed cancer healed,” Sentinel, January 8, 2001)—and was beginning to trust that Mrs. Eddy knew what she was talking about.  

Fast forward several months. I was in my car on the way home from work, feeling uncomfortable from a very itchy skin rash. It had been around for a few days, and it wasn’t going away on its own. As I wondered about the cause, it occurred to me that my mother had several times experienced the same skin condition. I was about to accept that as the cause of my problem when I recalled that statement about heredity quoted earlier. That stopped me in my proverbial tracks. If it is true that heredity is simply a “subject for mortal belief to pin theories upon,” then I didn’t have to suffer from something that my mother had had! 

Heredity couldn’t be the cause of my problem if it was just a material theory or supposition linking a condition to material lineage. I began to reason with what I was learning from the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them . . . . And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (verses 27, 28, 31). 

Heredity couldn’t be the cause of my problem if it was just a material theory. 

But then in the second chapter of Genesis, there is a description of another type of man, this one made from the dust of the ground. This is what Science and Health says about the nature of this man: “The second chapter of Genesis contains a statement of this material view of God and the universe, a statement which is the exact opposite of scientific truth as before recorded” (p. 521). 

Also, I’d been learning “the scientific statement of being” from Science and Health, which says in part, “All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. . . . Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual” (p. 468). So, whose child did I want to perceive myself to be—God’s, or my human mother’s? I realized I had a choice. 

I could see I was actually God’s, Spirit’s, spiritual image and likeness—not a material offspring of a material mother, but Spirit’s likeness. Spirit is incorporeal and completely good, so there is nothing in Spirit out of which to create matter, a material body, or any type of disease. Of course, humanly speaking, I was my mother’s child, but on a higher level, a spiritual level, I was God’s image and likeness. And I could claim that spiritual heritage, that only true heritage, as a present fact.

I could claim my spiritual heritage, my only true heritage, as a present fact.

The reasoning I’d been doing came to an end when I arrived home and it was time to make dinner and be with the family. As I was cleaning up the kitchen a couple of hours later, I realized the rash had completely disappeared. And I’ve never suffered from that problem again.

As I’ve continued growing in my understanding of these spiritual ideas, I’ve seen even more how what we believe and understand affects our health and well-being. And understanding that the true makeup of our being is spiritual qualities from God can make all the difference in realizing that it’s not natural, not our true heritage, to be susceptible to material ailments.   

In Mary Baker Eddy’s autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, she says of her own human lineage: “It is well to know, dear reader, that our material, mortal history is but the record of dreams, not of man’s real existence, and the dream has no place in the Science of being. It is ‘as a tale that is told,’ and ‘as the shadow when it declineth.’ The heavenly intent of earth’s shadows is to chasten the affections, to rebuke human consciousness and turn it gladly from a material, false sense of life and happiness, to spiritual joy and true estimate of being. 

“The awakening from a false sense of life, substance, and mind in matter, is as yet imperfect; but for those lucid and enduring lessons of Love which tend to this result, I bless God” (p. 21). 

Today, it’s rather trendy to buy a DNA kit or an ancestry package to discover what one’s family history is. But this history can never be the actual story of anyone. In reality, each of us is God’s own precious child, made in His, Her, image and likeness. We are spiritual and perfect, which was proven in my case when I was willing to consider the spiritual facts rather than accepting the theory of heredity. And, dear reader, you can do the same!

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