Millions of unprejudiced minds – simple seekers forTruth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert – are waiting and watching for rest and drink. Give them a cup of cold water in Christ’s name, and never fear the consequences.
– Mary Baker Eddy, from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
I’ve started reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy again. This is probably the fourth time I’ve read this book. I get something different out of it each time I read it – I come upon lines that, for whatever reason, I never noticed before and that leap out at me and grab my attention. It’s like going on a treasure hunt.
This time what is jumping out at me is the sheer audacity – the unabashed chutzpah – of the book’s author. She doesn’t beat around the bush. She doesn’t try to sugar-coat what she believes to be Truth. She doesn’t write what she believes will make her popular. She doesn’t try to appease anyone else’s ego or try to make her book more palatable to the cynical or worldly. There is a kind of innocent, almost child-like, honesty in her words. I like her. She writes, “The author has not compromised conscience to suit the general drift of thought, but has bluntly and honestly given the text of Truth.” And she ain’t kidding.
She first published Science and Health in 1875 – almost 140 years ago – and when you think about what the world was like in 1875 – what most religious folks believed at that time, what most scientists believed, what the common thought was regarding spiritual healing – I cannot help but admire the courage it must have taken to publish a book that pretty much went against most peoples’ most cherished beliefs. Her thoughts were progressive then, and they are still progressive today. She writes about atomic power, space travel, evolution, and what today might be classified as ideas found in quantum physics. She went against the common religious beliefs of her day with her thoughts on eternal damnation, heaven, an anthropomorphic god, the story of Adam and Eve, and atonement.
Regarding an anthropomorphic god, Eddy wrote: “The word anthropomorphic, in such a phrase as ‘an anthropomorphic God,’ is derived from two Greek words, signifying man and form, and may be defined as a mortally mental attempt to reduce Deity to corporeality. The life-giving quality of Mind is Spirit, not matter. The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.” (Holy shamoley! Can you imagine how well THAT passage must have flown in a society in which women didn’t even have the right to vote, yet!)
Regarding heaven and the idea of God sending her children to a place of eternal damnation, Eddy wrote: “Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind…” and “It would be contrary to our highest ideas of God to suppose Him capable of first arranging law and causation so as to bring about certain evil results, and then punishing the helpless victims of His volition for doing what they could not avoid doing. Good is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins.” (Even today you’ll find people in “civilized” countries who believe that God sends his own creation to a place of eternal, torturous “time-out” – can you imagine how Eddy’s ideas about heaven and hell must have been received by the general population 140 years ago?!)
Eddy several times referred to the story of Adam and Eve as an “allegory”, she wrote, for example: “In the Scriptural allegory of the material creation, Adam or error, which represents the erroneous theory of life and intelligence in matter, had the naming of all that was material.” (In 1875 the story of creation and Adam and Eve was interpreted as a literal happening by most Christians. Her thoughts about the book of Genesis might have been considered heresy by some. Actually, her interpretation of Genesis might still be considered heresy by some.)
And regarding the atonement and the belief that Jesus died for our sins, Eddy wrote: “ATONEMENT is the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. His mission was both individual and collective. He did life’s work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals,- to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility.”
Yeah. I am not at all surprised that there were – and still are – people who got all ruffled and riled up by her views. The close-minded, the arrogant, pompous, stodgy and self-righteous, were alive then, just as they are today. They can be found in every group (ahem, even, I am embarrassed to say, amongst those who call themselves “Christian Scientists”). But I don’t think Eddy was at all worried about what those people thought of her. She wrote her book for the other ones – the open-minded, the humble and the honest.
In the spirit of Christ’s charity, as one who “hopeth all things, endureth all things,” and is joyful to bear consolation to the sorrowing and healing to the sick, she commits these pages to honest seekers for Truth.
– Mary Baker Eddy, from the preface to Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures