Controversy has whirled about Mrs. Eddy's use of the term "animal magnetism" from the beginning, and there are many who question the wisdom of including in "Science and Health," a book designed for all time, a chapter on that subject which they say was regarded seriously in her day but whose exponents are today declared charlatans. They hold that she likely gave undue emphasis to an issue played up in the newspapers of the period, exploited through the theatrical performances of professional mesmerists and dramatized in the lurid fiction – from DuMaurier's "Trilby" to Haggard's "She" and Lytton's "Zanoni" – flooding the village bookstalls. With its advocates discredited, they feel that the whole issue has been thrown into the limbo of popular mythologies.
Even her devoted pupil, Samuel Putnam Bancroft, said as late as 1920 that he considered this the most vulnerable feature of Mrs Eddy's teaching and that the very phrase "animal magnetism" raises for some of her followers a terrifying specter in place of the unreality so designated ("Mrs. Eddy As I Knew Her in 1870," by S.P. Bancroft). Only a misunderstanding could lead to such a result, according to Mrs. Eddy, for she obviously felt the discussion of animal magnetism an indispensable step.
In explaining animal magnetism, Mrs. Eddy has exposed the mechanism of mortal illusion and has implemented what might otherwise remain a detached abstraction. She did not coin the disputed expression, but borrowed it from those earlier explorers who glimpsed the great possibilities of direct mental influence but regarded it as inextricably bound up with materiality. A little excursion into recent history will make this plain.
The German physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, has experimented with magnets in the treatment of disease, on the theory that this mysterious force might possibly draw from the bodies of patients the offending elements of disorder. Little was known of pathological conditions in the Vienna of that dim day in 1774, and considerably less of the nature and workings of magnets. So it was not unreasonable, with the data at hand, for such an assumption to be entertained. Getting curative results first with the magnets, apparently, and then without them, Dr. Mesmer concluded that the human body exerted an invisible force of a similar nature, which might conceivably be controlled and utilized for the benefit of humanity. This animalistic influence gradually came to be known as "animal magnetism," and that is the only term in general use which properly ties in the concepts of materiality, mentality and influence so as to bring out its localizing, emasculating, personalizing nature ("Animal Magnetism Unmasked," S&H 100-106).
The genesis of the words themselves shows the propriety of our application. The word "magnetism" is from the Greek for lode-stone. The lodestone was a magnetic ore, common to Magnesia in Lydia, which was known from ancient times to exhibit the power of attraction for iron and some other substances. More than a thousand years before the Christian era, the Chinese made use of this unexplained property of magnetism in their direction finding device, the compass, with northward pointing needle. Electricity not having yet been discovered, this was not understood to be a galvanic phenomenon. Essentially, the word "magnetism" denotes invisible influence, and is so used in Christian Science.
"Animal," of course, refers to material organism in contradistinction to spiritual being. Man classified in the animal kingdom of matter is immediately invested with corresponding traits and qualities and headed down the road of surrender, deterioration, death. The animal concept of man would picture him as organically material and so subject him to every dire possibility that such a conviction would imply. All this within that concept, of course, for the concept of itself could do absolutely nothing. It would be the acceptance of that concept which would operate in one's experience to blight, to corrode, to sterilize.
Hence the conjoining of the two words. Animal magnetism is the influence of the belief that existence is material. The operation of the belief, by way of your acceptance, that living being is physical organism, would enslave you, hamper your every thought and act, consigning you and your universe to a helpless, hopeless, doddering demise. With man material, he would be at the mercy of every mundane threat, from the conditions of his own physique to the state of his material surroundings. Imprisoned in a finite shell and plunged into a hostile world, he finds himself living on borrowed time, with the only sure things death and taxes. In order to postulate anything apart from Mind, it would have to be thought of as a material presence, and so we see that the great dragon of the Apocalypse symbolizes the sum total of human error, embodied in the belief that substance, life and intelligence can be material (S&H 563:8-10).
Animal magnetism is the negative statement of spiritual being, and you will have an accurate description of it by reversing the scientific statement of being (S&H 468:8-15). It is the lie that says there is life, truth, intelligence and substance in matter, and that man is not spiritual, but material. It is the claim of sensation in matter, rather than in Mind, that would raise the belief of pain. It is animal magnetism which is manifest in pain (S&H 178:18-19). Fear is, in a certain sense, animal magnetism. When you endeavor to allay the fear of patients in all cases, you are seeing that fear can only be about yourself or others when thought of as human persons (S&H 411:27-28). This is no superficial anxiety, but is "the fundamental error of faith in things material; for this trust is the unseen sin, the unknown foe, – the heart's untamed desire which breaketh the divine commandments." (Ret 31:16-19).
The stigmatizing of error in these dramatic terms is designed to awaken students to its evil character and to keep them alert to the deadly potentialities which lurk in its oftentimes innocent-appearing exterior. It is like posting red danger signs on thin ice to warn unwary skaters. And this is most important. The slightest indulgence in materialism is the wedge which opens the way for all the ills that flesh is heir to. The only sin is the believing in a presence material, embodying within itself all hatred, envy, jealousy, malice, revenge, covetousness, lust, desire, and so forth. It includes at once every dread possibility, from disappointment to disaster.
Sometimes we have to be reminded that animal magnetism appears to operate through or as people and places and things. How else could anything appear to us? People-places-things is the language of present mentation, our mode or manner of thought or consciousness. But isn't this mortal mind again? Isn't mortal mind, after all, the claim of negation, limitation – hence materiality? Mortal mind and matter are one misstatement of infinite Mind (Un 35:20-22). What is that but material thinking, or animal magnetism?
Isn't this verily the anti-Christ? (Ret 67:9-12). Isn't finity the one opposition to the free unfoldment of divine Mind? Of course, it is. Precisely how does it operate? Certainly if evil came as evil it would be rejected peremptorily. It can only gain acceptance by way of deception, so that we say "error hides behind a lie." (S&H 542:5-6). This is the method of diversion, the way of suggestion. It is the establishing of a point by indirection, or gaining entry under the guise of something else. It is evil's serpentine way of insinuating itself into your experience. Mortal mind cannot operate openly, but only surreptitiously, through intimation. Its guises are legion, but its wickedness unvaryingly one.
This obliquity is typified today by nearly all our newspapers, which indulge shamelessly in what they dignify with the title of "propaganda." Under the subterfuge of "interpreting the news," data slanted and trends implanted, so that selfish interests are served to an extent undreamed of by the average reader. When you awake to such mental sleight-of-hand, you can almost see the rabbit being put into the hat! It is this same mechanism, in all of its subtleties, which the practicing Christian Scientist has to contend with in every problem which confronts him. If you are alert and informed, you have learned to discount and reverse much of what you read in your daily paper. In like manner, you spontaneously reverse and so correct what you scan in your workaday world.
The claim is never what it appears to be and, knowing this, you are not victimized. It may look like measles or bankruptcy but it is just Satan standing in the holy place of consciousness and calling himself whatever is most likely to deceive you. Now you can see through the disguise always. Whether Shakespeare speaks to you as Shylock or as Iago, you can still see that it is Shakespeare, can you not? Suggestion is the mortal-mind method of deception, which would beguile you into handling appearances only and so baffle you. Evil's variegated propositions are but passing shadows. Disposing of one suggestion without taking into account the suggestor, another suggestion stands ready to take its place. Your task is to unmask the suggestor, first, and then dispose of him.
To do this, you must understand that you do not originate evil, any more than you originate good. As the expression of God, as God being, you are not the origin of good, but the concrete manifestation or embodiment of good; similarly, you could not be the original evil which might appear as your own or yourself. You are never the perceiver, but the perception. You are always effect. Practically speaking, what this effect shall be is a question of whether you are accepting divine Mind as your Mind, with its benign unfoldment, or mortal mind as your own mentality, with its evil mentation (S&H 82:32-2).
Who is the author of the thinking you call yourself? As awareness, you are voicing whatever you are accepting as Mind. If man is God expressed, then God must be where I am expressing Him as I! I am the language of God, in which He is declaring His perfection or defining His nature in idea. The thing to do is to "let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." (Philippians 2:5-6). As Herbert Eustace so beautifully counsels: "Let this Mind be Mind to you which was Mind to Christ Jesus!" In this divine identification do you find your sovereign power to think and act rightly (S&H 393:12-15).
Is there an infallible way of detecting suggestion? If you know that Truth is liberating, you must admit that anything which would enslave you would have to be opposed to the divine government (S&H 225:2-4). That is your criterion. While you may find certain concessions temporarily expedient, you must know that any effort by others to control your thinking or dictate your attitudes, or any endeavor to "mold public opinion" (to accord with the molder's opinion, naturally!), however noble-sounding the phraseology used to put it over, represents the despotism of malicious mind. The power of Spirit is yours to combat successfully the intimidating evil, if you know it.
It may be said that all suggestion is mesmeric, for "mesmerism" is the accepted term for evil influence in operation from the standpoint of materialism. The name – after Mesmer, of course, who first called scientific attention to that phenomenon which he defined as a material mind-force – is utilized in scientific discussion when the grosser, physical side of human thinking is to be emphasized (S&H 484:21-24). On the other hand, we usually speak of evil influence as "hypnotism" when we wish to bring out the subtler, more mental aspect of mortal machinations (Mis 260:30-32). This latter term was coined from the name of the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos, by the English investigator James Braid, when progressive experience and study disclosed that there was nothing material about the strange effects observed by his predecessors, the "magnetizers," or "magnetists."
Because pieces of iron could be magnetized by stroking them with the lodestone, the mesmerists practiced a stroking or massaging technique on their patients, on the theory that they were imparting an animal magnetism from their own healthy bodies to the victims of disease.
Question: Is it true, as often charged, that Mrs. Eddy included such physical manipulation in the practice of Christian Science in its pioneer period?
Answer: The possibilities of thought were so little understood when Mrs. Eddy launched her bark that the mental treatment of disease without the accompaniment of some sort of visible, physical procedure was inconceivable to most students and patients. Pure metaphysics seemed so abstract and vague that they found it impossible to focus thought effectually without some objective human activity. In a sincere effort to emulate Jesus in his healings, the "laying on of hands" was accepted as a literal deed rather than a figure of speech (See Appendix, pp. 296-297).
So in the manuscript from which she taught her first class, Mrs. Eddy wrote: "Rubbing has no virtue only as we believe and others believe that to get nearer to them by contact, and now you would rub out a belief, and this belief is located in the brain. Therefore, as an M.D. lays a poultice where the pain is, so you lay your hands where the belief is, to rub it out forever. Do not address your thoughts for a moment, though, to their body, but make yourself the Soul to destroy this error of life, substance and sensation in matter, to your own belief, as far as in you lies, so that your patient may be conscious of the effect of Soul on him, for this Principle brings harmony with it and destroys the error of sense" ("Mrs. Eddy As I Knew Her in 1870," by S. P. Bancroft).
Her attitude was simply one of "suffer it to be so now." (S&H 56:4-6). And it seemed safe enough at first to permit this concession to the human demand for a visible symbol. However, a series of disastrous experiences with students and patients who were unable to dissociate physicality from this practice, convinced her that the manual gesture was not a harmless concession, but a fatal compromise. Therefore, over the stubborn protests of some of her pupils, she positively forbade this physical manipulation as a part of Christian Science practice. This caused her the loss of several valued supporters and the vicious enmity of others.
Few have been the prohibitions demanded of us by our Leader, for the concern or duty or right of the Christian Scientist is not to dictate human action, but to awaken the Christ consciousness (S&H 329:22-23). If we do this in any case, the ensuing human action will be in accordance with divine Principle, infinite good, right. After the primitive phases of the practice, with their physical manipulation and personalized treatment, had been outgrown and largely forgotten, few were the decrees issued to the Field touching directly upon truly metaphysical questions. It is significant that one of these relates to the more mental side of the same issue, in that the students under Mrs. Eddy's personal jurisdiction were forbidden to "learn hypnotism." (Man 53:15-22).
Because hypnotism is the antipode of Christian Science, the serious study of it would confuse the average student of spiritual metaphysics and, if associated in any way with the Christian Science movement, would discredit us all in the eyes of the world (S&H 448:23-25). That does not excuse us from taking cognizance of the claims of hypnotism in order to nullify it scientifically (S&H 446:31-32). The counterfact relative to any error is required to offset that error, and this necessitates an analytical consideration of the claim to be disposed of (S&H 233:28-29, 412:18-20) (At least that is the relative approach and it certainly is the orthodox procedure).
The bringing about of the mesmeric trance is no longer a mystery. Dr. Braid showed that the abnormal mental state, called hypnosis, could be induced artificially through fixing the attention and limiting physical action, so that one's awareness of his surroundings would be temporarily lost through absorption in a single dominating thought or subject. From this it is plain – despite the denials of those who would invest the practice of hypnotism with a certain respectability – that one may be hypnotized without volunteering for it (S&H 583:26-28). Anyone would be subject to this despotic control, theoretically, if a sufficiently subtle line of suggestion could be devised to circumvent his defenses. Only by recognizing these essential aspects of hypnotic phenomena can you be on your guard and alert to its hidden workings. Just denying it wholesale, by generic title, with no discernment of what you are up against specifically, would be woefully ineffectual. Laughing it off as "just imagination" betrays a dangerous ignorance, for hypnosis is a distinct phase of aberrant mentation, and hypnotic suggestion is operative in human experience wherever it is not recognized and summarily dealt with.
The momentary condition of abstraction or deep attachment, occasionally experienced by us all, is a miniature hypnosis and illustrates the whole mechanism. Something can be learned from the fact that the narrowing of the field of awareness in preoccupation does not arise where one is actively engaged in some normal pursuit. Mrs. Eddy, accordingly, urged upon her followers a vigilant attitude of watchful alertness. "What I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch!" was Jesus' shrewd admonition (Mark 13:37). It is of passing interest that Rudyard Kipling depicted his character Kim fighting off the blandishments of the Hindu fakirs by repeating to himself a simple mathematical formula, with the evident object of disengaging his attention from their devices of fascination.
How graphically all this brings out the tricky seductiveness of mortal mind! And how patent it is that the method of deception can never be utilized in the name of good. The Jesuitical attitude that the end justifies any means is not for us. With the discrimination born of Christian Science, you need not, you cannot, ever resort to mental manipulation. Weird stories are frequently heard of misusing the powers resident in an understanding of Christian Science, but this is impossible. This that is predicated upon communion with God could include no potentialities for harm. All there is to divine metaphysics is the demonstration of that which divinely is. Science makes no provision for bringing forth that which is not, but only for exposing it as a claim of nothingness in the light of ascertainable somethingness. Our treatment is never an attempt to change people, but designed to bring out the truth about them as they already and forever are divinely.
The method of Christian Science is not to manipulate thought so as to produce a preferred belief. It is, quite the contrary, a process of enlightenment whereby the eternal verities of being are revealed. Mark this. We haven't gotten very far in metaphysics if we think our goal is to bring about a better belief through holding to a divine fact. We are warned at every turn not to rely upon belief, for belief is always deceptive, vacillating, fugitive and, in the long run, futile (S&H 297:7-9 See also "Principle and Practice," by Mary Baker Eddy in the Sentinel, Vol 20, page 10). We are not engaged in the fabrication of beliefs, but in the establishment of facts. We demonstrate, through direct apprehension, that which is already true – and which may prove to be decidedly unlike anything we could have anticipated.
The general endeavor of the New Thought movement, to bring our present experience into accord with some underlying pattern, to synchronize divinity and humanity, is not the way of Christian Science. And the teaching of the Unity branch of mentalism, that a pictured thing or situation if held to strongly enough will be externalized for us as a new reality, is a far cry from Mary Baker Eddy's original doctrine.
Question: Do these various schools of thought spring from a common root?
Answer: Yes. Followers of the magnetic healer, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, and his champion, Rev. W. F. Evans, rallied around the standard of Mrs. Eddy's pupil, Emma Hopkins, at the time Mrs. Hopkins turned from her editorship of the Christian Science Journal to expound her own statement of metaphysics across the country. Holding classes in the key cities, she wound up her tour in a blaze of publicity at San Francisco. Out of this cross-country crusade finally emerged Charles Fillmore, who late fathered "Unity" with headquarters at Kansas City, and also others who spearheaded various phases of the same movement. The sincerity of these people is not to be questioned, but it is imperative it be thoroughly understood that their teachings represent a basic departure from fundamental Christian Science – even though their terminology is confusingly similar. The only thing we all have in common with each other is the claim to heal by mental means. But they mean something quite different by that than we do.
As we see it, the New Thought would enthrone the human mind as God, because it postulates minds influencing minds to the end of making the mortal like the immortal. "In Tune with the Infinite" is their theme song. They accentuate planes of thinking, from the material through the mental to the supra-mental or spiritual. While declaring mind infinite and indivisible, they hypothecate many semi-independencies or "centers" to explain the reciprocity required for the working of their system. The Unity school emphasizes the supposed power of concerted thought – which would necessarily involve minds many. This is clearly incompatible with our concept of Mind and its Science.
It is not meant here to cast aspersions on the New Thought. The foregoing discussion is intended to show the deep cleavage between their thesis and that of Mary Baker Eddy. Their right to seek heaven in their own way is undisputed and, if we are at all Christian, we shall be happy to leave the final reckoning to that Day of Atonement when we shall all truly be one in Christ (S&H 54:29-1, No 8:19-13, Mis 224:11-30).
John W. Doorly, foremost European lecturer on Christian Science, in speaking of the temptation to condemn all who do not agree with us, writes the author (for publication): "The trouble in all these things is, I feel, that we try to make the other fellow think in exactly the way we think, and it cannot be done. The other fellow is free to present metaphysics in the way it appeals to him. Let us be earnest in season and out in declaring the onlyness of the spiritual, but let us grant the right of the individual to attain to this in his own way. Then we will be on safe ground. I read your book, 'Christian Science Class Instruction,' when it first came out and enjoyed it very much. Of course I could see you were not approaching the subject in the same way I was, but I was quite happy about this. Someone else may approach it in another way and with equal value. There is no ultimate to the revelation and translation of infinity. Such a thing is impossible. Each one of us is doing his individual bit, but the subject is infinite and it will take infinity to reveal it. Mrs. Eddy said she did not consider what she wrote twenty-five years earlier the best guide for a present student, and twenty-five years from now they may have a grasp of the subject that you and I do not today dream of. Such inspired writings as those of Isaiah and Paul and Mrs. Eddy, as well as of others to come after – and, indeed, every progressive step – will take their rightful place in the development of the spiritual idea. These footsteps in the understanding and demonstration of reality will never be eradicated and will always remain individual."