Practitioner and Patient

In becoming a public practitioner of Christian Science, one assumes a professional status which involves many things heretofore undreamed of. As in all other fields, he can profit by the experiences of his colleagues – not, of course, by imitation but by considering for himself the values set forth therein. To discuss the ethics, the conventions and the techniques of the profession, one's observations may be tinged with personal opinion, but much that can be said has to do with universal principles of unvarying import. There are features of the work upon which we may profitably confer.

Whether you become a public practitioner of Christian Science should never be a matter of personal decision, but one of scientific demonstration. Can't we all see eye-to-eye on that? Many who gave this no thought or assumed there was no problem, learned bitter lessons. There was the fondly-known Andrew J. Graham, who hung out his shingle under the most propitious circumstances, but had to wait nine months before anyone came to his office asking for help! Dr. Graham was a public figure of considerable stature, but it was not until after word-of-mouth advertising took root and spread that there was any harvest ("Autobiographical Notes," by Andrew J. Graham). That took time. Then there was the renowned Methodist preacher, Reverend Severin E. Simonsen, who rode into the field on a flaming chariot of favorable publicity, following Normal Class at Mrs. Eddy's invitation, only to mark time in an empty office for a year, a laborer without a vineyard ("From Methodist Pulpit into Christian Science," by S. E. Simonsen).

Like many others, these men withstood the corrosion of waiting and became highly successful practitioners. But they might have avoided this trying and profitless detour. As we advance in our understanding of Christian Science, people begin coming to us for help and they get it. When those coming to you in this way become so numerous as to require the major portion of your time and attention, you are a public practitioner of Christian Science and can safely announce yourself so. To repeat: you get into the practice by knowing that there is no sickness to be healed, for in this world of sick people the fact of health can appear only as people being healed. It need hardly be added that you can do invaluable metaphysical work whatever your profession. Do not leave your work, whatever it is, to go into Science practice; rather, let your work leave you, naturally, effortlessly, harmoniously. Then your sense of profession or occupation is being transformed, not obliterated (S&H 326:3-4, 182:1-4, Man 49:4-6).

Any practitioner worthy of the name knows enough to know that he does not depend upon people being sick for his livelihood. He knows that everything about his universe stems directly from and is sustained solely by divine Principle. But he also knows that this can be demonstrated in a practical manner. So the fact of divine sustenance may appear to be financial income from his professional practice or from any other source or sources. Meanwhile, it is his duty to see that each patient understands that, although God's work is without money and without price – that he cannot evaluate it in monetary terms – there must be right appreciation for what is done in his behalf. Where there is this appreciation there will be the evidence of it (S&H 354:18-20).

To an obligated client who bubbled that she knew not how she could ever show her appreciation, Clarence Darrow remarked: "My dear woman, ever since the Phoenicians invented money, there has been only one answer to that question!" Pretty blunt, but he has something there. What he is saying is that anyone who is sincerely appreciative will express himself in a manner mutually comprehensible. In order to have some standard that is generally acceptable, we are directed to establish fees comparable to those of reputable physicians in each community. Practitioners who do not abide by this rule are remiss in their duty to the Movement, are lowering the dignity of the profession and belittling the whole activity (My 237:16-18).

Naturally, the right kind of practitioner would make reductions and allowances wherever there is a legitimate need for that. In this world of misfortunes and inequalities, there are many worthy people who are both sick and poverty-stricken. Until their true heritage is humanly demonstrated, they obviously must be cared for, and so more than half of one's work is in the category of charity (S&H 365:11-14). Where one does extend a helping hand, he must make sure that there is a proper understanding of his gesture, so that his efforts are not taken for granted. All things have just the value for us that we concede them, and so Mrs. Eddy writes that the patient is more likely to recover who pays whatever he is able than he who withholds (Mis 300:29-32). "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." (II Corinthians 9:6). While no patient is expected to act beyond his proven means, it is evident that there is no gratitude where words are substituted for deeds.

"The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus," and there is no Christian spirit where there is no humanitarianism (S&H 25:31-32). There are, as we all have seen, the calloused bigots and their dupes who would restrain the kindly philanthrophist, with the specious argument that charity robs the recipient of his individual demonstration. Jesus settled this with finality, O so long ago, with his beautiful story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). James brought the lesson home in his epistle, where he wrote that the fortunate cannot turn the unfortunate away with platitudes, but must demonstrate that there is no lack by actually feeding and clothing the poor (James 2:15-17). Mrs. Eddy insists that divine Love is humanly apprehensible in no other way than as human affection, manifest in charitable and sympathetic works (Mis 250:14-29).

This brings up the question of helping those who have not asked for help. Our Guide points out the impropriety of thrusting our work upon others, saying the Golden Rule can be trusted. What she warns against is the idle, perverse or aggressively manipulative attitude. "The abuse which I call attention to is promiscuous and unannounced mental practice where there is no necessity for it," she writes, for "If the friends of a patient desire you to treat him without his knowing it, and they believe in the efficacy of Mind-healing, it is sometimes wise to do so, and the end justifies the means; for he is restored through Christian Science when other means have failed." (Mis 282:21-25, 29-2). Right treatment is never personal intrusion, but the knowing of impersonal Truth. Treatment does not mean directing influences at people! It is healing realization achieved through purposeful endeavor. Nothing and no one can exempt us from the duty of rectifying, where we are thinking, every error cognized.

What is the responsibility of the practitioner exactly? His responsibility is always to know the Truth, so far as his advancing understanding permits, in every situation. That is all he can guarantee to do. If he does just this, he need have no regrets, whatever the ensuing evidence. Having given your all, you can be at peace; and if the healing from your work is not as satisfactory as you think it should be, you can still know that it is bound to be eventually. Where healing is not immediate, it indicates that there is more to be known and realized. Nothing else. You go on from there. But you can never excuse the practitioner by accusing the patient – or vice versa. That would be rank malpractice. Metaphysics, like charity, begins at home. If in belief you are the practitioner on a case, you have to handle the claim where you are thinking and as what you are thinking; conversely, if belief says you are the patient working with a practitioner, you are still alone with your own thinking. The situation is no different if you consider yourself an onlooker. Ultimately, you alone are always responsible for what you are accepting as consciousness. (S&H 495:1-2, Un 46:9-12, '01 20:8-9).

The unremitting demand upon you individually is that you adhere to the truth of being, whatever the current appearance. While doing this, you have no alternative to taking whatever measures humanly seem to you at the moment necessary or desirable. If your understanding seems to you inadequate to the occasion, you are going to have to call in a practitioner. The rule is simple and invariable: if you do not readily heal yourself, you should early call "an experienced Christian Scientist" that is, turn to demonstrable understanding in the only place where you can find it manifest, even if that understanding appears to be the private understanding of someone else (S&H 420:4-9). If you know that it is Mind to which you are turning, notwithstanding that there appears to be a person involved, the practitioner's work will prove equal to the need or else demonstration will bring about a change of practitioners.

An insidious suggestion is embodied in the misuse of the statement, "I must work out my own salvation," for the belief that you must personally accomplish the healing is fully as dangerous as believing that you are dependent upon someone else to accomplish it personally, so that you are deprived of essential help coming to you in the only form humanly comprehensible. It is evil in the guise of good which would have you decide you don't depend upon people and then stop there. Carried to its logical conclusion, such an argument would eliminate the need and value of even Jesus and Mary Baker Eddy, whose examples and precepts predicate your own progress.

Anyone grasping the merest rudiments of Christian Science knows that he does not depend metaphysically upon persons, but he is still obliged to seek understanding wherever and however he can find it. The tendency to ascribe divine realization to yourself or to another privately is detrimental to all progress and demonstration (S&H 506:5 only, 251:17-24). You can humanly give credit where it is humanly due while still knowing that all good is of God. Mrs. Eddy herself had metaphysical help constantly from her students, as related in the published Memoirs of Adam H. Dickey and also in the official biographies. No one has ever been able to segregate himself from his universe, and the fear that you are likely to become too dependent upon your practitioner fastens that very claim upon you.

The question of personal interdependence is never an issue with you if your thinking is conscientiously referred back to Principle and borne out in demonstration. A patient and a healer and an onlooker, there things are all in the realm of finite belief, wholly incidental to your evolving and involuntary interpretation of divine being. Recognizing this, you will not become sidetracked by something small that is wrong about something big that is right. As idea, you are unalterably one with Mind, but as a human being you must be practical and reasonable, emerging gently from matter into Spirit as the result of spiritual growth unhampered by willfulness (S&H 329:7-23, 485:14-17). Turning to Principle, the ordinary restrictions of human thought necessarily give way to the divine unfoldment, and the result is an improved condition all around.

You will not be held by the terrors of the night nor yet by the pestilence that walketh at noonday if you really know that it is His grace which is sufficient unto thee. Wisely, the First Aid Handbook of the United States Office of Civilian Defense begins with this statement: "Horror and its kindred sensations are caused by helplessness; when we have the power and knowledge to deal with horror, it disappears."

Traditions and unwritten customs quickly establish themselves in any human activity, and you must not be straightjacketed by any of them, for your own sake and for the sake of the Movement. Don't waste time with the don'ters. Sometimes they will be most convincing with their "It just isn't right action!" – even though this has no more authority behind it than their own substitution of precedent for Principle. If you are not wary, you will be yielding your sovereignty to the point where you will actually hesitate to recommend or to read to your charges anything not approved by tradition or officialdom. Now, after all, you do not have to have everything pre-digested for you, do you? If you are to keep your conversation in heaven, you are going to have to rely upon demonstration rather than upon habit or decree. There can be no progress where initiative is banned. Our books explain that, under scientific dispensation, healers become a law unto themselves – though not to each other – since whatever is of Mind, being "imbued with this Science of healing, is a law unto itself, needing neither license nor prohibition." (No 8:19-13, Ret 87:17-23, Mis 260:28-30, Mis 303:6-16). The Christ cannot be legislated.

Not infrequently, you will be told we never give advice. "Never" covers a lot of territory. To be cautious about advising is a good general rule, but advising cannot always be avoided. It is a curious commentary that those who shout loudest "No advice!" are not at all backward about telling patients and colleagues what to do and what to do without. The simple truth is that, with Principle and not persons your guide, demonstration will continuously correct your course and keep you on an even keel. In human experience, you do not have a choice between total right and total wrong, but always have to weigh the circumstances of the moment and then proceed with what appears best (Mis 289:8-11, 288:13-15). The basic requirement is that you gain the Christ consciousness and help others to gain it. With that ideal uppermost, you will not go far astray.

When a patient pleads for specific advice, he must be made to understand that we cannot work out a belief along the lines of belief (S&H 62:22-26, 326:3-4). Our demonstration must be made without reference to the beliefs about it. If it is a matter of judgment which is involved, it would seem that the best demonstration would be to have divine wisdom unfold as right decision on the part of the patient. But this is not always so.

In the case of a labor strike, it is necessary for you to know which side is right in order to handle the case intelligently. If you have been called in by the employer, you must be sure he understands that we are not in the business of manipulation, for he must be prepared to accept whatever demonstration brings forth. He is entitled to expect justice demonstrated, but he is not entitled to be the final judge about how that must appear. You do not undertake to decide and then prove which side is right – if either (S&H 454:22-23). You endeavor to prove that Principle, good, does govern. Then, with a truly open-minded attitude on all sides, what develops will prove to be both right and satisfactory (S&H 1:11-14).

When advice is urgently sought by a patient, you will just have to do the best you can with the situation, without accepting any responsibility beyond your effort to establish divine realization. As your work progresses, you will find less and less demand on you for personal guidance which transcends the personal sense all around. But there can be no arbitrary rules imposed about what you can say in the sanctity of the consulting room. If rule there be, it is that you yourself seek guidance within, alone with Principle – meanwhile helping your patient to do the same as far as he is able. If the suggestion is that your patient is unresponsive, handle that suggestion away. Get rid of the unresponsiveness, not the patient! Does evil say you are incompetent? Handle that as false suggestion, instead of resigning yourself to it. But never take refuge in the unchristian sophistry that says, "It's all in the other fellow's consciousness!"

Reports are an essential feature of the practice. How early you may expect the patient to call back, or how frequently, depends upon the situation. If the symptoms are violent and alarming, you might say, "Let me hear promptly regarding any turn of events." To an advanced student you could say, "Telephone me in a little while if you do not feel that we are getting the upper hand as we should." The usual thing is to instruct your patient to let you have a report the next day. Sometimes they do not see the purpose of reporting, and fear to "voice error." According to our books, we avoid the idle or malicious recitation of evil, since that would tend to confirm it, but we are required to take cognizance of and handle errors specifically (No 8:6 only, S&H 448:9-11). The patient must see that an unhesitant report indicates confidence in the practical dependability of Christian Science. That you are advertised before the world in the Journal, the telephone directory or otherwise, as a Christian Science practitioner, is not only an acknowledgment that there are sick people in the world, but – what is far more important – that you recognize they can be healed.

Every practitioner has had many instantaneous healings, but he has also had many cases not so readily met. Some continue for hours, days, weeks or even months before yielding to the work. Understanding this, you are neither discouraged nor nettled, and you learn to handle chronic cases with sufficient poise and skill to eventually meet them. It is so often said that the Master healed everything instantly, but this does not accord with the record. In his own home town, he did not many mighty works (Matthew 13:54-58). In the singular account of the man born blind, his first treatment enabled the man to see dimly. A second treatment was required, after which the man saw clearly (Mark 8:22-25). Judas unquestionably received his Master's fullest attention over a long period, but never responded to the healing Christ which Jesus represented. Think on these things, and you will find strength to go on up the rugged path (S&H 22:13-20, 329:5-31, 254:2-8, 426:5-11).

The double injunction of the Master, "preach the gospel and heal the sick," is echoed and re-echoed by our Leader. Notwithstanding this, sometimes one's right to teach is challenged on legalistic and ecclesiastic grounds. How can you get around Mrs. Eddy's assurance that "the student who heals by teaching and teaches by healing, will graduate with divine honors, which are the only appropriate seals for Christian Science"? (Mis 358:4-6). Anything said on metaphysics to enlighten is obviously teaching, and who is to say how systematic, how specific or how general such teaching is to be? Of course, by the very nature of the case, the ordinary practitioner's teaching is largely individual. And, if he is a member of The Mother Church, he is not permitted to teach groups without official sanction (Man. Art xxvi).

The reason for this institutional restriction is that no organization could long endure which permitted the setting up of independent groups within it. The early history of the Movement and Mrs. Eddy's available correspondence bring this out unmistakably. Outside the organization, of course, the Church Manual does not apply, and so the nature and extent of one's teaching is determined entirely by individual demonstration. In any event, teaching is inextricably bound up with the healing. While metaphysical work is silent, wherever one talks with is patients, the work is that of instruction clearly.

Differences of presentation may be regarded mainly as vagaries of the human drama which should serve only to remind you the more of the infinitude of Mind. Whatever has meaning to you will not return unto you void but will prosper in the way whereunto you send it. Whatever glimpses you can give to others of what of infinite Life is appearing to you are all to the good surely. In any case, you must freely express Truth in whatever ways seem intelligent to you.

The honest student of Mrs. Eddy's writings knows that no individual or group has a monopoly on Christian healing and teaching, and is not tempted to arrogate to himself or his group any priestly privileges (S&H 141:10-23). He respects Christianity wherever found and learns to toil in his own vineyard (S&H 359:18-20). He is well aware that nowhere does either Jesus or Mrs. Eddy say anyone can escape his constant obligation to heal the sick, preach the gospel and raise the dead, as far as possible to him. The invariable rule is to give a cup of cold water in the name of Christ, fearing never the consequences – whether human belief places the giver within or without organization. How could any of us ever be deprived of the ability – nay, the duty – to go on healing and teaching? Mere belief in any form, whether called organized or unorganized, has neither right nor power to intrude upon such holy work (S&H 54:29-1). It is outlining in grossest materiality to say that Truth can come only through a particular instrument, organization or otherwise.

When the busybody rushed to tell Moses that Eldad and Medad were prophesying "out of bounds," Moses rebuked him for his envy, adding, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets!" (Numbers 11:16,17,25-29). Eons later, when John told our Master that his disciples had reprimanded someone for casting out evils in his name because the healer was not a member of their society, Jesus said: "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me; for he that is not against us is on our part." (Mark 9:38-42). And when the disciples would have cast down fire on the nonconformists, Jesus murmured sadly, "Ye know not what manner of Spirit ye are of!" (Luke 9:54-55).

The ethics of Christian Science practice are not unlike those of the other legitimate and respectable professions. With a basic attitude that is humanitarian, you need not be reminded that what is said to the practitioner must be held as sacred as if told to God. Intelligence will provide decorum, and reverence will be manifest outwardly as true and impressive dignity – a dignity that would never stoop to dramatizing yourself or your profession. Spiritual poise will extend to every last detail of your daily conduct, without any self-conscious striving for propriety. A worthy practitioner could never meddle in the affairs of either his patients or his colleagues (Mis 287:31-12). Understanding that mortal mind sees what it believes, he does not go searching for evils of any sort, but leaves the uncovering of error to Truth (S&H 86:29-30, 542:5-9, 19-21).

It is not alone the ever-changing circumstances which prevent your settling on inflexible means and methods, but the fundamental fact that your problems inevitably advance with your advancing understanding. When confronted with something new and disconcerting, consider this. Then you may find that it is not an evidence of apathy on your part, but of progress. The pupil in arithmetic, after mastering addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, becomes aware of problems heretofore unsuspected. He becomes "fraction conscious." At such a point, instead of yielding to resentment and its resultant confusion, he should rejoice that he has reached a place where he can handle the greater things (Mis 85:25-31, 221:3-10).

As the metaphysician, you must recognize in your advancing problems your own progress, and be grateful that your very consciousness of evils as problems to be solved, shows your capacity to cope with them. You could not see them as errors in your experience if you were not first aware, at least intuitively, of the Truth which exposes them. The problems can never be beyond your ability to solve them, for the errors uncovered cannot exceed the Truth you know which uncovers them. A comforting and sustaining thought, withal scientific.

There are occasions when the negation appears to stress the truth even more than the simple assertion of fact would. My statement that twice-two-is-four might pass without notice, while I cannot whisper twice-two-is-five without rousing the mathematician's militant challenge. To the genuine Christian Scientist, the presentation of substance as matter but serves to accentuate its essential spirituality. An erroneous claim can only awaken the real student to what he knows and compel him to apply it (S&H 266:10-12). Thus the onslaught of evil must be understood as the pressure of Truth's apprehension forcing you higher, so that it can only come as what best serves to promote your growth. Tribulations mastered are character builders.

If Christian Science is genuinely scientific, its logic must prove inescapable and its work irrefutable, so that it can know no competition. Truly scientific thought recommends itself to acceptance and spreads itself without organized effort – as shown by mathematics or any other science. Genuine science must be operative forever everywhere, and operative independently of class, color, creed or human institutions. The honestly scientific attitude allows such freedom of speech, press and religion as must inevitably discredit and weed out illogical conclusions and unworkable methods. To paraphrase the Scripture we have always so piously quoted: If this teaching be of Science, no opinion can overthrow it, but if it be mere dogma, it cannot stand.