While investigating the idea of a dream-like reality, I stumbled across a belief-system known as “Christian Science”. Intrigued, I read the book that lays out its foundation — it was the last edition the author published, but the content seemed a little off-kilter. It turned out that the material in the book changed somewhat significantly throughout the different editions. So, I recently decided to read the 1881 third edition of Science and Health by Mary B. Glover Eddy (as she was known in that edition). The first two editions had substantial publishing errors, so that’s why the third edition was selected. I found the third edition much more suitable than the final edition I previously read.
The two primary sources for Christian Science are the Bible and Science and Health. I found the underlying concept interesting, that material existence is a fiction formed in our mind. And because of this, we are the sole cause of our suffering because sickness stems from an error in belief about the nature of reality. It is therefore within our power to heal the sick (including ourselves) by convincing the mind of its error and establishing within it a foundation of truth (that all things manifest based on belief alone). The ideas in the book overlapped well with my own developing philosophy concerning the dream-like nature of existence.
Whether true or not, I find the concept of willful health helpful in generating feelings of hopefulness. Am I sick? I am sick only if I believe it so — those so-called symptoms are manifesting from a misunderstanding. There is no intelligence, no life in matter as all that I experience here is generated by my mind. Popular opinion says we must rely on chance to determine our health, combined with a series of hygienic rituals, but in this scenario I simply trust in the goodness of life while fostering a positive attitude. Our story ends either way, why not select the most pleasant path?
I should also note that there might be some misconception that Christian Science entails praying over people — this is not true according to the primary source material. According to the book, health is established through the understanding that sickness is an error in belief — that’s it. And either it works for those in need — or it doesn’t. Either the belief in sickness is demolished and replaced with a belief in well-being or it’s not. If we believe ourselves sick, then by all means we should follow the practices prescribed by modern medicine.
As far as children are concerned, the author states that sickness manifests within them based on the beliefs of their parents — so if a child shows signs of illness, it’s the parents that contain the error. Under this belief system it seems reasonable then, that if a child is sick, the family must utilize conventional medicine as the parents proved themselves unable to prevent their error from transferring to the child. Likewise, because of the long-standing cultural tradition of vaccines and the widespread belief concerning their effectiveness, it seems reasonable to administer them to children as is currently prescribed.
In regards to the name “Christian Science”, it did seem odd when I first heard it, but makes sense to me now. The primary demonstration of Christian Science deals with healing the sick, and Jesus is known as a miraculous healer — the model by which to heal, unencumbered by physical limitations. And science is the systematic study of our world. The author actively experimented with healing until she developed a methodology that for her and adherents increased quality of life. The author also observed weaknesses within the accepted worldview of her time and found immaterial idealism to be a better fit.
And again, these are just my impressions after reading a particular book. But I do think such ideas about health are useful mental-constructs for ending health-related anxiety and for developing an optimistic attitude about the world we’re in. For our own serenity, we don’t have to believe ourselves subject to the whims of disease, we can instead believe in our power to achieve well-being through thought alone.