Aspirin and the 91st Psalm and a Most Uncomfortable Read

We may or may not have an operation, we may or may not take a pill, we may or may not observe religious rituals, but whatever we do (or don’t do) does not affect us either for good or for ill. – from Christian Science Re-Explored by Margaret Laird

I asked a friend why she liked to repeat the Ninety-First Psalm when she was in trouble. She replied that it gave her comfort. She did not realize that the comfort it gave her was the same kind of comfort that an aspirin tablet gives. There is nothing wrong about this if transitory comfort is important to us, and there are times when it may be. But Enlightenment is the real Comfort that we feel in our belief of comfort. The comfort that comes from reading the Bible or from tranquilizers is an abstraction, or belief of comfort, which can easily turn into discomfort. The comfort we need when we are in trouble does not lie in words but in Science, the discernment of spiritual facts, since being is Spirit. Unfettered by nice-sounding, comforting words on which to lean, the Scientist moves to a new dimension of awareness, unfamiliar but exciting and self- fulfilling. – from Christian Science Re-Explored by Margaret Laird

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I just finished reading Margaret Laird’s book, Christian Science Re-Explored, and found it wonderfully uncomfortable. I found myself questioning concepts I’d always just accepted as true. Margaret Laird’s book “stirred the waters” of my thought and helped me re-think my beliefs about Christian Science, and look at it in a new way. And that’s not a bad thing. I can’t say that I accept as “true” everything Laird writes – but I get the sense that Laird would have been really disappointed if I did. In fact, one of the big themes in her book was the idea that we should never just blindly accept what any “authority” tell us is the Truth – that individual freedom to explore new ideas, and question old and accepted ones, is something to be celebrated, not squelched. Laird writes: “…the man of imagination…does not regard another’s point of view as needing either rejection or acceptance. He recognizes that dissent is often more creative, more stimulating to original thinking, than consent. This does not mean dissent from the standpoint of right or wrong, but dissent from the standpoint of a view of Reality other than one’s own. Often a viewpoint that differs greatly from our own will do more to stoke the furnace of imagination than one with which we agree. The acceptance of another’s point of view as right, or the rejection of it as wrong, would interfere with our own individual creativity.”

I’m still processing the thoughts presented in Christian Science Re-Explored – the author’s thoughts regarding The Bible, organized and institutionalized religion, Ecclesiasticism, Christianity, and the “technique” of “affirmation and denial” were really interesting to me.

Laird believed that if Christian Scientists use Christian Science as just another health care system – a method for healing some ailment – it’s no  different than any other system for treating disease. She writes: “He who prays with a goal in mind is not being the prayer of understanding or unconditioned Love…” and “Christian Science is not a technique or an argument by which we try to remove that which is objectionable to become something man already is but sees as a goal… He who professes Science, ‘declares the Truth’ as if it were an intellectual tool, a means to an end, will find desires unfulfilled, hopes unrealized, goals unattained. If our goals are unattained, it is because goals are on our mind rather than Science or self-fulfillment.” Laird writes: “The Christian Scientist who is Science gives treatments entirely from the standpoint of no goal, no result, no consequence or effect.”

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy assures us “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.” In Christian Science Re-Explored, Margaret Laird refers to what she calls “compensations” as the forms, or mediums, that appear for meeting our human need: “Compensations on the human belief-level—food, air, exercise, sleep, and perhaps the ministrations of a physician— must be identified with and as Love. Their use must not be deplored or seen as obstacles in the path of demonstrating Health, Wealth, Happiness. The fact is that Love supplies the human need in the language of individual discernment. Compensations become obstacles only when the vision is too clouded to identify them with Love. The deplorable is never the use of the compensation, but the ignorance which would separate the compensatory image from Love. Love is the existence of everything contributive to well-being on the human belief-level.”

Laird asks, “Can you imagine Mind, Life, Principle, Truth needing to grow in grace or to sacrifice itself? Then why should man, whose existence is reflection, need to grow in grace or practice self- sacrifice?” I think she asks a really good question there. Starting from the standpoint of man and woman already perfect – reflections of Love, Mind, Life, Principle, Truth – how could we possibly improve or get better? In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The great truth in the Science of being, that the real man was, is, and ever shall be perfect, is incontrovertible; for if man is the image, reflection, of God, he is neither inverted nor subverted, but upright and Godlike.” Eddy writes: “The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, – perfect God and perfect man, – as the basis of thought and demonstration.” Laird believed that to experience true healing one needed to start with the Absolute – perfect God and perfect man. She quoted her Christian Science teacher, Bicknell Young, as saying, “Let absolute Science be your one and only standpoint, for Christian Science is the only Science of Being and therefore the only standpoint from which to be. Give them (patients and seekers) the real, the absolute Science; then they will understand and not have to relearn—and not be confused. Explain from the standpoint of perfection; live from the standpoint of perfection . . . because ‘Perfection is gained only by perfection.’ Perfection is one and absolute. It is always its own protection, blessedness, bliss, and progressive unfoldment. . . .”

Well, dang. I already have 1154 words in this post – 1163 now – oops! 1166! It’s probably time to wrap this baby up: Margaret Laird’s book may or may not represent “Truth” – there were parts of it that were troublesome for me – but it was also wonderfully stimulating for me – got me thinking and questioning and looking at ideas anew. And I’m always glad for that opportunity.

 

***

Radical reliance on Truth has been interpreted inconsistently as the non-use of medicine. Scientific healing power has nothing to do with sickness but with ever- present self-fulfilling Health or Wholeness as one’s self. You may need a Christian Science treatment, a pill, a hospital or an institutional church for your personal identity. But, whatever the need, you have only to look out from your own Mind, God, to see that need supplied in discernible form. – from Christian Science Re-Explored by Margaret Laird

Christian Science is not practiced in words (incantations) or in deeds, but in understanding. – from Christian Science Re-Explored by Margaret Laird

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10 thoughts on “Aspirin and the 91st Psalm and a Most Uncomfortable Read

  1. I have started reading Laird, but not finished it, so I am interested in your assessment. As with you, I found some statements uncomfortable, but I have learned when I read anything with ideas (read opinions) I can sift what I believe from what I don’t and then can ponder the rest to see where I am with it.
    This: “Laird believed that if Christian Scientists use Christian Science as just another health care sy
    stem – a method for healing some ailment – it’s no different than any other system for treating disease. She writes: “He who prays with a goal in mind is not being the prayer of understanding or unconditioned Love…” and “Christian Science is not a technique or an argument by which we try to remove that which is objectionable to become something man already is but sees as a goal… He who professes Science, ‘declares the Truth’ as if it were an intellectual tool, a means to an end, will find desires unfulfilled, hopes unrealized, goals unattained. If our goals are unattained, it is because goals are on our mind rather than Science or self-fulfillment.” Laird writes: “The Christian Scientist who is Science gives treatments entirely from the standpoint of no goal, no result, no consequence or effect.” particularly interested me because I have had this feeling unarticulated for quite some time. There are many practitioners (including my teacher…which is very uncomfortable for me) who
    have jumped on this bandwagon lately and it disturbs me.
    So I will continue reading because after-all, “the time for thinkers has come,” and I believe it helps our spiritual growth.

  2. Hi Karen. Really enjoying your blog, which I just learned about recently, and I love your first book – one year I bought quite a few copies of the paperback and gave them to my children and other CS relatives for Christmas. 🙂 I didn’t know there another, but now I’m looking forward to reading that too, when I have some time. But — and I’ll just apologize in advance for what I know is going to be a very long reply 😦 — this Laird book that you’re talking about really bothers me. Now, I didn’t read the whole thing. I only read what can be seen in the preview on amazon.com. But I think there is enough in that preview to see where she’s coming from. And it’s not all bad – in fact, like you, I feel like it makes some really interesting and thought provoking points, and many points that I can’t argue with. In fact, a good example is one you talk about: needing to start with the absolute Truth in order to realize healing. The quote from Bicknell Young that expounds on that point, too, is dead on. She also rightfully objects to some aspects of what might be called the culture of CS, those aspects of “doing” CS that don’t necessarily reflect the teachings – reading or reciting passages sort of mechanically in order to make oneself feel better, sort of like one would take a pill to ease pain, for instance. I think she makes some good points about how problematic those kinds of behaviors can be. But my problem is with the stance she has against some of the actual teachings of Mrs. Eddy.

    For instance, she conflates God and man in a way that Eddy never did. Laird says God is all and so man is God – what?? Eddy says all is God *and God’s infinite manifestation.* God is all and man is the reflection and expression of all that God is. No, Mind, Life, Principle, Truth – God, in other words – does not need to grow in grace or sacrifice Himself, but the mortal, limited views and ways of thinking that mortals entertain need to be put off in order for the spiritual sense of being to be understood and experienced. Growth in grace simply means recognizing more fully God’s infinite love for man and the implications of being the expression of Love. Growing in grace is simply recognizing one’s part in the “infinite progression [that] is concrete being” (Mis Wtgs 82). We are not God, but we are God’s offspring and idea, and that is more than enough to realize and demonstrate.

    And another huge issue I have is her effort to describe Christian Science as, fundamentally, not Christian by claiming Jesus and the Bible to be irrelevant to the practice of Christian Science. How can it make any sense to do that? Yes, God’s man is not in need of saving but humanity is not demonstrating perfect God and perfect man at this point and so is still in need of the example that Jesus set for us. She doesn’t seem to understand that the teachings of CS are contained in the Bible or that Truth can be and is revealed to individuals through their inspired readings of the Bible as well as of Science and Health. And she seems to feel that Mrs. Eddy, as well, only got it right some of the time. It seems like she’s calling the actual teachings of Christian Science just another partial revelation of Truth and HER book the final authority. She is, imo, trying to rewrite and revise the teachings of Christian Science but then co-opting the name and trying to call this new philosophy or theology or “Science” of hers the actual Christian Science when, in fact, it is not Christian Science at all, even though it includes some of the teachings.

    Bottom line, I like to see someone giving so much thoughtful consideration to the teachings of Christian Science, but I don’t need Margaret Laird to tell me what Mrs. Eddy got right and what she (supposedly) got wrong. I’ll just stick with MBE, thank you very much!

    • Merry – I love your spunk!!! 🙂 And I think you’ve expressed yourself really well here, too. Like you, one of the problems I had with Laird’s book was the way she seems to take the Christianity out of Christian Science – I was wondering why she bothered to still call it Christian Science, you know? I think you expressed this thought really well when you wrote: “another huge issue I have is her effort to describe Christian Science as, fundamentally, not Christian by claiming Jesus and the Bible to be irrelevant to the practice of Christian Science. How can it make any sense to do that? Yes, God’s man is not in need of saving but humanity is not demonstrating perfect God and perfect man at this point and so is still in need of the example that Jesus set for us.”

      Thank you so much for responding to my post and in such an articulate and thoughtful manner!

      Karen

  3. I left a response, got a message it was a duplicate and then nothing showed up! Technology at it’s finest! 🙂
    Anyway, I started to read Laird’s book. It was indeed uncomfortable although I have learned to read around stuff in books I know is wrong or don’t believe. Laird, however, became more than that and as I read I realized why she was no longer affiliated with CS as such. It is indeed a new exploration. I do like her take on the using S&H and/or CS like a pill…I know people who do that.
    I have a problem with questions like, “Laird asks, “Can you imagine Mind, Life, Principle, Truth needing to grow in grace or to sacrifice itself? Then why should man, whose existence is reflection, need to grow in grace or practice self- sacrifice?” As a student of CS that has been answered for me many times. Man does not, man does. It does not have to do with MLPT needing to grow. It has to do with bringing us mortals closer to God, us gaining understanding. Same reason we read our lessons, study S&H, go to church, strive.
    In the end I did not finish the book and trashed it (not wanting to influence others erroneously).
    maggiemaye is really Pam, BTW.

    • Hi, Pam!
      I know – this is not a comfortable book, is it? 🙂 Every now and then I feel the need to go beyond what’s comfortable for me – sort of step back and look at my beliefs from the “outside”, if that makes any sense. Laird’s book helped me do that, for sure. I think it’s good to be able to step back and question our beliefs, now and then – Mary Baker Eddy felt that a blind, unquestioning belief was a hindrance to us. “Understanding” God, Love is the key to transformation and healing, I think – and when I read a book like Laird’s – whether I agree or disagree with the ideas in it – it seems to help clarify, for me, my own thoughts and beliefs regarding God and man.

    • Things have been busy around here, little kids, a life and all that good stuff. 😉 I looked it up on Amazon – I may invest the $3 on the ebook and add it to my growing “list of ebooks to read on my phone in all my spare time”… also found Twain’s “Christian Science” for FREE so that is getting added as well!

  4. Enjoyed reading your post Karen. Haven’t read Christian Science Re-Explored so can’t comment. But am reading “We are the world we walk through.” Enjoy reading how religious writing and religious thought influences our lives. As a child i was taught and believed in a White Jesus thus White God. Writings such as Laird’s are helping me awake to a higher truth. The language confuses me at time but everyday I am discovering my true nature.

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