Cults, Ologies, Isms

"There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matthew 24:24). But fear not. If you have even the most rudimentary knowledge of Christian Science, and have it straight, you can't be misled by spurious doctrines in the name of Christianity or Science (S&H 27:26-27).

Because it has become the custom in church sponsored class instruction to discuss "the cults," a chapter on this subject is included herewith. Readers who have advanced beyond such considerations will recognize the ensuing discussion is really unimportant and certainly unessential to an understanding of Christian Science.

Not a few adherents of Christian Science, who think of their religion as a church instead of a science, have lost their perspective in a preoccupation with what they regard as deadly competition. The Boston churchbound naturally look with dismay upon the vastly more imposing development of religious organization by the church of Rome. And, having accepted the rudimentary proposition that everything is mental, they tend to attribute all their difficulties to an unseen opposition called "R.C."

So widespread is this view that it is traditional in orthodox class teaching to discuss at length the nature of "Romanism" and ways of combatting it mentally. In hushed voices and surreptitiously circulated papers, this obsession has grown into a cult in itself. Yet if the Christian Scientist is forever alone with his own being, as Mrs. Eddy avers, he is going to have to purge his own consciousness rather than attributing power to external influences and trying to offset the physical Rosary with a set of rigid mental beads for morning counting!

An interesting defection was that of John Valentine Dittemore, senior member of the Board of Directors of The Mother Church before his expulsion therefrom for incompatibility in 1919. Mr. Dittemore had won official favor in 1907, when he was Vice President of the Van Camp Packing Company in Indianapolis. Mrs. Eddy was then entangled in serious litigation and he volunteered to exert his influence as a national advertiser to get the magazines and newspapers to slant their news in Mrs. Eddy's behalf. After his quarrel with the Board in 1919, he joined forces with Mrs. Annie C. Bill of London, whom he had formerly refused to see, and together they set up a competing organization which they called "The Parent Church."

Mrs. Bill's claim to distinction lay in her "discovery" that the Manual of The Mother Church was rendered inoperative by the passing of Mrs. Eddy, since the author's written consent was expressly required before action could be taken under many of its provisions. She claimed that her discovery of this point entitled her to succeed Mrs. Eddy as Leader for the same reason that Mrs. Eddy's initial discovery gave her the leadership to start with. It wasn't unconvincing, and she and her consort enlisted a not inconsiderable army to support their "crusade." (Man 64-70, 78:6-15, 79:12-14, 82:6-9, 103:3-8, 104:9-11, 105:1-5, et al).

The danger of idolatry is strikingly shown here, for both these people began with the usual abject devotion to Mrs. Eddy personally, and then recoiled when they found out that the human Mary Baker Eddy was nothing like the creature their wishful thinking had preconceived (My 116:1-118:7). Soon they were taking issue not only with the author of "Science and Health" but with the book itself, until at last Mrs. Bill could see no inconsistency in combining materia medica with Christian Science practice! She held that the weight of majority opinion governed in human affairs, except when outweighed by an exceptional understanding of Christian Science; accordingly, she proposed that, rather than try to buck the tide, we avail ourselves of the force of collective belief to reinforce our own position in the handling of disease. This notion of cumulative power through common consent, it should have been obvious, was antipodal to divine metaphysics.

It is interesting that, before his passing in 1937, Mr. Dittemore, like the typical Roman Catholic apostate, recanted publicly and sought refuge in a return to the orthodox Boston pattern. The Dittemore-Bill chapter of Church history is recounted here not because it appreciably altered the trend of events, but because it illustrates the futility of artificial systems of metaphysics, whatever their inception. By his recantation Mr. Dittemore made it plain his desertion of Boston orthodoxy was not due to spiritual growth but to malcontentism. Another lesson this story teaches is that we cannot escape deep-seated indoctrination by any amount of rationalization.

At times prominent Christian Scientists have gone over to theosophy – such as the good Dr. Frank Riley. Transplanted by Madam Helena Petrovna Blavatsky from tropic India to the fecund soil of New York's drab Seventies, this exotic doctrine grew and blossomed with the magical rapidity of the legendary fakir's mango tree. Stripped of non-essentials, the teaching of theosophy is that of spiritual evolution. Beginning with a finite, physical man, it attempts to trace his climb from imperfection to perfection, from the material to the mental, from the mortal to the immortal, and conceives of this possibility through a series of seven stages or planes, from the intimate "astral" to a remote and somnolent "Nirvana."

To accomplish this end, matter would have to be transmuted into Spirit. In his progressive steps, man is supposed to shed his human characteristics whereby we identify him, eventually merging with a great cosmic or universal mind. Naturally, this involves the destruction of the body and the absorption of individuality (S&H 551:12-16). With progress predicated upon experience, theosophy must explain how such evolution continues despite the interruption of death; and this does by the theory of reincarnation. That, in turn, inculcates vegetarianism – as a protective measure against eating one's fellow beings! Ambitiously, this Oriental concept of religious science proposes to embrace and to reconcile all the divergent religions, science and philosophies.

From this it is evident that Madam Blavatsky's cult would put mind into matter and then try to extricate it to achieve immortality (S&H 295:8-11). In this acme of pantheism lies a subtle fascination for those dabblers in metaphysics who shy at the Christian Science demand to "translate things into thought," because they fear that this might mean the loss of all that is tangible and desirable. The antidote, surely, is not to condemn theosophy, but to show that our idea is one of the redemption of all things, with the only thing abandoned being a wrong sense of things.

In its assumption that it is God-knowledge, theosophy reaches out beyond its fundamental thesis of pantheistic evolution into numerous fields, finding an affinity for all the phases of occultism and mysticism. "Occult" means hidden, and is descriptive of all the phenomena which are considered inexplicable by orthodox standards. "Mysticism" is the claim of blind communion, or religious experience without understanding. It is the contention of Christian Science that the "supernormal" phenomena of occultism belong in the category of the abnormal, and that in proportion as we turn to God as divine Mind, revelation dispels all mystery from religion (S&H 319:17-20).

"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord." (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Specifically, what are these allied arts of the nether world?

Telepathy, the transmission of thought from one mind to another without material means, is rendered impossible by the understanding that there is only one Mind (S&H 103:29-31). We do not "send" a treatment in Christian Science. We simply correct false belief where it is appearing – that is, at the threshold of awareness – on the basis that consciousness includes all. In treatment we never try to do anything to anyone; we simply know the truth, for that is all there is to anyone or anything (S&H 127:4-8).

Clairvoyance and clairaudience, by which some people are supposed to see and hear what is hidden materially without the use of the physical senses, is annulled by the understanding that the only Mind consciously comprises everything within the range of reality, precluding the possibility of other minds to peer or to meddle (S&H 83:25-32). Mind's clear-seeing and clear-hearing of itself is our "immortal Mind-reading." (S&H 95:13-18).

Occultism ensnares the unscientific thinker by surrounding its promises with an aura of mystery, and the serious study of the so-called magical arts cannot be taken up without conceding some validity to them at the expense of your spiritual and intellectual integrity. Glamor is not long a satisfactory substitute for the confidence of sound knowledge. In numerology, the assumption that power resides in the numerical value of letters and the like would surely dethrone indivisible Mind's omnipotent onlyness. And to subjugate the affairs of men to the whims of the stars, as in astrology, would be having effect turning upon effect rather than upon cause, so losing the divine government of creative Principle (S&H 122:29-10).

The old-school Christian Scientist was inclined to believe that any indulgence in fortune-telling would lay you open to its predictions, on the theory that you must be accepting its special claims as governing laws, but this view is largely obsolete today (S&H 297:32 only). The theory that the lines in a man's hand either control or indicate his fate, or that the shape of his head determines his nature and possibilities, is voided by the perception of man's wholly spiritual nature as the offspring of a spiritual God (S&H 429:12-14). But if you are still dallying with the palmists and phrenologists, you are traveling away from the Shekinah of Spirit. "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:31). The ancients evidently felt such pursuits unspiritual.

As for genuine prophecy, if the olden prophets did foretell evil events accurately on occasion, they must have seen them in the making humanly. However, in their ignorance of the true function of prophecy, they failed to forestall evil's unfoldment in human experience (S&H 385:23-25). If evil predicted was bound to be fulfilled regardless of anything we could do about it, salvation through Science would be a myth and Christianity a mockery. The only thing that is really inevitable is the unfoldment of good, and the recognition of this is productive of good in human experience. In prophesying good, we are taking cognizance of the already-facts which are sure to unfold eventually to human apprehension and in divine order (S&H 83:26-27). The truly prophetic attitude is anticipatory of good.

The "necromancy" of the Bible is the belief that power may be derived from disembodied spirits by those still living on this plane, implying an unholy alliance between the living and the dead. The word comes from "nekros," meaning dead body, and "manteia," divination. Isaiah asks why, when we are tempted to turn to the dead in behalf of the living, should we not rather turn unto God (Isaiah 8:19). Spiritualism is the belief that people can pass out of their material bodies and yet return to communicate with those who have not yet done so. Since man is never in matter, he does not pass out of it and therefore can hardly return to it (S&H 244:23-27, 289:27-29).

Yet spiritualism is not wholly false. "When the Science of Mind is understood, spiritualism will be found mainly erroneous." (S&H 71:21-22). What's true about it? It is right when it says man is immortal, and it is right when it says that this fact can be proven here and now (My 297:18-24). But Christian Science reveals incontrovertibly that there is only one plane – namely, the indivisible plane of consciousness – so that man must be now and forever on this plane. That his seeming absence is only an illusion makes possible our demonstration of his presence as "resurrection" – not as ectoplasmic materialization (Un 63:7-11).

We do not deny that extraordinary phenomena occur at spiritualistic seances. It is just that we interpret such manifestations from a different standpoint than do the spiritualists. Because we recognize that the human mind is necessarily engaged solely with its own beliefs, we interpret these weird occurrences not as signals from another world on this plane, but simply as vagaries of human belief operating on this plane (S&H 86:29-30). Where physical trickery is impossible, we feel that the spectral visitations must be accounted for as self-deception on the part of the observer. But we certainly agree with the spiritualist's contention that man's immortality is demonstrable. Witness the raising of Lazarus, and others.

Coupled with spiritualism is the claim of mediumship, or the belief that the departed communicate through someone living on this plane, called a "medium." Now if Mind is all there is to man and is omnipresent, it does not require any conductor or instrument of transmission (S&H 78:17-19). There is no inbetweenness to Mind. Even the Christian Science practitioner is not a channel of good (S&H 72:30-32). Jesus appeared as the Mediator because he got himself out from between God and man so that Mind itself would be manifest right there. Mediumship belongs to the relative, material sense of things.

Oddly enough, all the religious denominations teach spiritualism after a fashion, and they all set up their mediumship as priestcraft and oracle. Let us be sure that we do not do the same thing in a subtler form, through accepting humanly elevated officials as divinely ordained. "Truth communicates itself," and we do not have to canonize saints to intercede for us! (S&H 85:31 only). As people, we are not God-crowned – not any of us, individually or collectively. There is no hallowed location on earth where the spirit of the Lord is concentrated, and there are not personal agents through whom the divine Esse is piped to the less privileged. We can give human credit where it is due without impugning God's omnipresence (My 117:22-24).

False theology makes of everything a moral issue and, being unable to prove itself here, promises a reward or penalty beyond the grave. Naturally, those church members who are unable to differentiate between church and religion must think of themselves as sanctified, so that the pride of priesthood becomes the scourge of the ecclesiastical world (S&H 270:22-23). Any church may wield a beneficial influence in its community, or it may act as a breeding spot for bigotry and intolerance. Nor can any denomination cast the first stone! To exempt yourself by saying that yours is not a denomination, does not make you God's chosen people. There are no class distinctions to the truly spiritual minded. These universal tendencies creep into every church, and you only convict yourself when, like the Pharisee of Jesus' parable, you thank God that you are not as other men are (Luke 18:9-14).

As Christian Scientists, we are convinced that we have found the Christ. But it would be most presumptuous to think that this would give us a monopoly on good! Authenticated healings have been brought forth by all the cults and denominations, and we should joy unreservedly in anything good. You may call them faith cures, but you must admit the impulsion behind every good is divine. The thing about blind faith is that it must always be characterized by the instability and capriciousness peculiar to the human mind, but what would we do without it before we find the Truth? (S&H 253:32-33, 444:7-12). Meanwhile, whether it be the touch of a robe or that of a scalpel which we find indispensable to our sense of healing it is not a matter for condemnation but of salvation.

No blame accrues to the advocate of materia medica, for he is conscientiously following the only path which appears open to him. Of course, that phase of material medicine which "in belief" is experimental is obviously risky "in belief," but it would be unscientific not to recognize that wherever medical practice is developed according to the essential requirements of the human concept, they are unquestionably effective and dependable at that level. The "law of medicine" is simply the way in which the nature of human thinking is apparent in medical matters, and is therefore operative as law until scientific understanding displaces misunderstanding (belief). The nature of the human concept determines the direction of material phenomena.

Medicinal powers are not resident in drugs, but in the mind conceiving them (S&H 157:24-25). Yes, we may call medicine systematized superstition, and liken its empirical conclusions to the astrologer's arbitrary interpretations of appearances, but we do not deny that it is often accompanied by desirable results. How else could it be, with the human mind dwelling within its own interpretation of existence? Nor would we deprive anyone of the comfort, confidence and aid which he, at his point of understanding, can find only in physical medicine (S&H 365:7-14). Our duty and our privilege is to lead thought forward so that it will of itself find stable and enduring anchorage in divine Principle. This never involves forcing an issue or compelling a choice. Ours is not to dictate human action, but to know spiritual Truth. You may rest assured that when people actually perceive that Christian Science can heal anything, and heal it surely, perfectly and permanently, they will resort no more to material medication.

The hosts of Aesculapius are today reaching over into psychiatry, to keep pace. It is helpful to see that psychology is the study of the human mind according to itself. You should be able to size up psychological values more accurately than the psychologist, for his observation is from the standpoint of mortal mind, and a fountain can rise no higher than its source. You have the advantage of a detached perspective from outside mortal mind's self-imposed limits (S&H 403:14-16, 262:24-26). Divine intelligence demonstrated uncovers all the psychological quirks of self-deception. We may not be familiar with the medic's term "catharsis," but we did anticipate him in the technique of detecting and bringing to the surface the offending errors of human thinking (S&H 447:20-29).

Psychoanalysis is mental dissection, and while it must be admitted that Sigmund Freud has laid bare the carnal mind in all its mechanistic sterility, we still know that happiness does not lie in disillusion but in revelation. "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (Romans 8:6). We did not have to wait for the Viennese sage to show us the need to overturn and overturn until that state of mind comes whose right it is to prevail!

Psychiatry would convince you that Christian Science is just a form of escapism, whereas it is practicality of the most realistic sort (S&H 346:6-15). "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:15-17). We do not close our eyes to evils, but face them frankly as problems to be solved – if we know our Science. Every genuine metaphysician knows that the ostrich attitude defeats demonstration. We do not merely try to create a Polyanna attitude of fatuous cheer, but our metaphysical work is predicated upon the necessity for beneficial changes in what is generally regarded as the outside, physical world of humankind.

We may call "rationalization" by the name of justification, but we recognize that it must be spotted to be surmounted. We are not so naive as to suppose that calling wrong right will make it so (My 235:1-13). Jesus indicated this. "Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." (Matthew 23:26). We may not be familiar with the term "projection," but we are familiar with that universal tendency to ascribe to others our own failings, and we know as well as the next man that it must be unmasked to be mastered. "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." (Romans 2:1). And we take protective cognizance of the intrinsic urge to relegate all opponents to the status of mortal mind! "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). These things are not new; nor is the mental purification springing from their recognition new.

Are you staggered at the odiousness of carnality, its unexpected variety and menacing stature? Do not fear the inroads of the denominations, the cults, the isms or the ologies (S&H 563:3-7). Unless you are thinking of religion as an organization, you will not believe Truth really threatened. As a human being, if you are sticking to your own knitting, you are finding the Christ and helping others to find the Christ. Doing this, you can confidently leave the outcome of your work to the fiat of the Almighty. If you have actually found divinity through Christian Science, its obscuration by any form of always-transient belief will not ruffle you. What difference does it make if the mirage assumes a new name or no name at all? We have examined some of these schools here not because they are competitive, but because it is useful to bring out the subtle deviations which must confuse the promiscuous reader.

As far as deviation is concerned, it must be recognized that there are as many versions of Christian Science as there are Christian Scientists! Anyone who knows many practitioners closely or who has access to full transcriptions of the leading teachers is well aware there is more disagreement on basic doctrine inside the church organization – with its secretive practices – than there can be on the outside where free discussion precludes this.

The views of each individual are bound to be colored by his own background, as well as modified by study and experience. Every progressive scientific thinker must be advancing in his understanding and improving in his application all the time. Mrs. Eddy was unremittingly at revision, having issued 430 editions of "Science and Health," in many of which changes of fundamental importance were made. A study of the various editions shows definite trends toward which she was driving before their interruption with her death in 1910. For instance, the highly personalized treatment set forth in the early days and described in "Miscellaneous Writings" (220:4-15). evolved through research and experiment to the total impersonalization prescribed in the final edition of the textbook. Similarly, the mental retaliation against malpractitioners advocated in early editions was abandoned with the later recognition that "in Science there is no transfer of evil suggestions from one mortal to another, for there is but one Mind." (S&H 496:2-3 in). Thus mental assassination was gradually relegated to the dark ages, from whence it originally came.

In what has Christian Science teaching been undeviating? From the beginning, we have all joined on Mrs. Eddy's unswerving theme that divine law can be invoked humanly through a scientific approach to the All-in-allness of God (good) as Mind.