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We closed our last chapter with a confession and an appeal a confession of the incompleteness of our answers to the questions suggested by the fact of evil, and an appeal for patience in recognising that that incompleteness is inevitable, having regard to our constitutional limitations. “There is,” as Newman said, “a certain grave acquiescence in ignorance, a recognition of our impotence to solve momentous and urgent questions, which has a satisfaction of its own.” {1] That, however, is an attitude to which all will not resign themselves. If a knot cannot be unravelled, their one idea of what to do is to cut it; if evil cannot be explained, it can at any rate be denied. Thus we find a distinguished living essayist, with a large constituency of cultured readers, writing as follows:

The essence of God’s omnipotence is that both law and matter are His and originate from Him; so that if a single fibre of what we know to be evil can be found in the world, either God is responsible for that, or He is {120] dealing with something He did not originate and cannot overcome. Nothing can extricate us from this dilemma, except that what we think evil is not really evil at all, but hidden good.

If the views of Divine power and responsibility set forth in this book are true if, i.e., we are justified in having recourse to a theory of Divine self-limitation it will be clear that Mr. Benson’s “dilemma” is, to say the least, overstated; but were that dilemma as desperate as he depicts it, it has strangely escaped him that his suggested mode of extrication is more desperate still. For what he asks us to do is quite simply to abdicate our judgment in respect of both physical and ethical phenomena not merely to withhold our decision upon this or that particular occurrence, but to admit in general terms that evil is only apparent and not real. But see to what such an admission commits us: if we have no grounds for saying that evil is evil, we can have no grounds either for saying that good is good; if our faculties are incompetent to diagnose the one kind of phenomena accurately, they cannot be any more competent to diagnose and deliver reliable verdicts upon the other kind. It is quite a mistake to think that by getting rid of the reality of evil we preserve or affirm the more emphatically the reality of good; if we confidently pronounce our experience of evil an illusion, what value can there attach to our finding that our {121] experience of its opposite is a fact? Such is the Nemesis which waits on remedies of the “heroic” order.

Nevertheless this particular remedy seems to be enjoying a considerable popularity at the present time; indeed, in discussing some aspects of the doctrine which affirms the “allness” of God, and the allied one of Monism, we have already seen that where these are professed, evil must be explicitly or implicitly denied. This denial is common to the various confused movements all of them the outcome of a misconceived idealism which under the names of “New Thought,” “Higher Thought,” “Joy Philosophy,” “Christian Science,” etc., etc., find their disciples chiefly amongst that not inconsiderable section of the public which has been aptly described as dominated by a “longing to combine a picturesque certainty devoid of moral discipline with unlimited transcendental speculations.” All these cults combine a vague optimism with an extravagant subjectivity; all would have us believe that so far from things being what they are, they are whatever we may think them to be; all with one accord treat evil in its various manifestations as unreal, and maintain, as it has been neatly phrased, that “the process of cure lies in the realisation that there is nothing to be cured.” The attraction of such a doctrine for that large number of persons who dislike strenuous effort either intellectual or {122] moral is easily accounted for. Evil as a fact is not conducive to the comfort of those who contemplate it how pleasant to be told that it exists only in disordered imaginations; the sense of sin has always interfered with the enjoyment of life what a relief to learn that it is merely a chimaera; pain is grievous indeed what benefactors are those who teach us how to conjure it away by the simple process of declaring that there is no such thing! A creed promising to accomplish such desirable objects could be sure of votaries, if proclaimed with sufficient aplomb; here, we may surmise, is the main explanation of the welcome given to those monistic ethics to which we referred in an earlier chapter, and of the vogue of so-called “Christian Science,” which invites consideration as the most typical and important of a whole group of movements.

We repeat that the nature of the Christian Science appeal largely explains the rapid spread of this cult. Christian Science is quite unlike other religions in this, that while they promise at most salvation an intangible boon Mrs. Eddy promises her followers health, relief from bodily pain and sickness, and thus addresses herself to a universally and urgently felt want. A merely spiritual message may fail to obtain listeners; but to state the truth baldly a person need not be particularly spiritually-minded in order to be drawn towards Christian Science. The natural man would much rather {123] be made well than made good, and a creed which professes to be able to do the former will touch him in his most sensitive part. Certainly, this was one of the difficulties of Christ’s public ministry, viz., that the people flocked to Him to be cured rather than to be taught. But while He declined to place the emphasis on His works of healing while He left Capernaum by Himself before sunrise in order to escape the importunities of the mob, and refused Peter’s request that He should return thither with the words, “Let us go elsewhere into the next towns that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth” Christian Science addresses its sure appeal to man’s material nature. The contrast is significant.

And yet the true essence of Christian Science is not “faith-healing” in the ordinary sense. It does not say, e.g., “Here is a case of genuine, unmistakeable rheumatism or consumption, but faith is able to dispel it”; on the contrary, it says, “This alleged rheumatism or consumption is a mere illusion, a phantasm of the imagination; and the way to be cured is for the ‘patient’ to discover his mistake. There are no maladies there are only malades imaginaires.” Mrs. Eddy states in plain words that “Mortal ills are but errors of thought” {2]; it is from this point of view that Christian Science as a system has to be approached and understood.


With the fantastic exegesis of Scripture on which this creed professes to be based, we are not directly concerned; else something might be said of the method of interpretation which is to be found in the official text-book of the movement a method which sees in the serpent the symbol of malicious animal magnetism, which identifies the Holy Ghost and the New Jerusalem with Christian Science, and the little book brought down from heaven by the mighty angel with Mrs. Eddy’s own magnum opus, Science and Health. As Mr. Podmore drily remarks, “In these holy games each player is at liberty to make words mean what he wants them to mean”; at the same time, these grotesque and arbitrary constructions are not precisely calculated to inspire the confidence of balanced minds.

Let us, however, turn at once to the fundamental axioms of Christian Science:

(1) God is All in all.

(2) God is Good. Good is Mind.

(3) God, Spirit, being all, nothing is matter.

(4) Life, God, Omnipotent Good, deny death, evil, sin, disease.

In other words, Christian Science begins and, for the matter of that, ends with the categorical statement that the one and only Reality is Mind, Goodness, God, all three of which terms it uses synonymously and interchangeably. So much being granted, the rest follows “in a concatenation according”; the {125] possible permutations are many the result is always one. God is All: hence, says Mrs. Eddy, “All is God, and there is naught beside Him”; but God is Good, and as He is All, it follows that All is Good; and if all is good, there can be no evil. Again, Mrs. Eddy propounds the following three propositions: God is Mind; Good is Mind; All is Mind; therefore, once more, all is good, all is God, and there can be no evil. Or, to introduce another variation God is All, and God is Mind; therefore Mind is all; therefore there is no matter. Grant the Christian Science premises, and there is no escaping the Christian Science conclusions.

But do we grant these premises do we grant Mrs. Eddy’s fundamental pantheistic assumption of “the allness of God” {3]? We have shown again and again why we do not; and with the rejection of the basal tenet of Christian Science the superstructure follows. But now let us show how all Mrs. Eddy’s juggling with words, all her assertions of the goodness of all and the allness of good, do not help her to get rid of evil. Granting for argument’s sake that Mind is the only reality, then the test of reality must be this that something exists in or for a mind; in so far, {126] then, as evil, pain, and so forth exist, as Christian Science tells us, “only” in some mind in so far as “disease is a thing of thought” {4] evil, pain, disease, etc., must pro tanto be real, nay, the most real of realities, for where except in mind could they exist? And even if we can successfully annihilate them by denying their existence, whence did they come in the first place? From “malicious animal magnetism”? But if God is All in all, and All-good, what is that malicious animal magnetism which is somehow not God and not good? Does not this whole tangle serve yet once more to illustrate the futility of that doctrine of Divine allness which we have seen successfully masquerading as Divine immanence?

Let us test the worth of these speculations in yet another way. Christian Science declares evil to be non-existent, illusory, an “error of thought.” But that which is true of a species must be true of all its genera; if all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, it follows that Socrates is mortal; if evil as a whole is nonexistent, that which applies to the general phenomenon must equally apply to each and all of its manifestations. But error is undoubtedly a form, and even a serious form, of evil; from which it would follow that if evil is not real, error is not possible and in that case one opinion is as good as its opposite, and black and white are only different {127] descriptions of the same thing. But if that is so, if one thing is as true as another, we shall conclude that, e.g., the rejection of Christian Science is no more erroneous than its affirmation. Will Christian Scientists acquiesce in that inference? And if they will not, by what means do they propose to show that it is not a legitimate deduction from their own axiom, the unreality of evil? If error is a real fact, evil must be so to that extent; on the other hand, how can it be an error to believe that evil is real, if error, being an evil, must itself be illusory?

But it is time we turned from our examination of the principles of Christian Science to their application. So far as the wholesale declaration of the illusoriness of physical evil the ravages and tortures of disease is concerned, the implicit belief extended to the pretensions of this creed to master all such ills is proof, if proof were wanted, of the success which rewards those who act on the maxim, “de l’audace, toujours de l’audace!” Given the right kind and amount of faith, we are assured, Christian Science treatment will prove effective in a case of double pneumonia, or compound fracture, or malignant tumour, without the assistance of the physician above all, without “drugs,” which are pronounced taboo by Mrs. Eddy; “and that,” to quote Mr. Podmore again, “is a postulate which can never be contradicted by experience, for failure can always be {128] ascribed as it is, in fact, ascribed by the Christian Scientist to-day to want of faith or ‘Science’ on the part of the sufferer.” Nothing could be more entirely simple or unanswerable: if the patient improves or recovers, the credit goes to Christian Science; if he gets worse or dies, the unfortunate result is debited to his lack of faith. The only thing Christian Science fails to answer is, as we have already seen, the preliminary question, viz., what caused the disease or at any rate the semblance, the malignant hallucination of disease in the first instance. If God is all and all is God; if God is Mind and there is nothing but Mind; if all therefore is mind and all is good whence in a good Mind comes even the hallucination of pain and evil? “The thoughts of the practitioner,” says Mrs. Eddy, “should be imbued with a clear conviction of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God; . . . and hence, that whatever militates against health . . . is an unjust usurper of the throne of the Controller of all mankind.” {5] But if God is omnipresent, His presence must be displayed in the disease; if He is omnipotent, how can there be a usurper on His throne? If He is All, how can there be aught beside Him? These are points on which we wait in vain for enlightenment from the Boston mysteriarch.


We shall be told, however, that whatever flaws there may be in the theory of Christian Science, this cult could not possibly have obtained its vogue if it were all promise and no performance; and as a matter of fact, testimonies to the curative effect of the treatment abound, furnished by those who say they have been restored to health by these methods, and as convincing as such testimony can be. We use the latter phrase advisedly; it is impossible to read these documents without being convinced of the entire good faith of the writers in relating what they themselves believe to be true; it is impossible not to be convinced by the perusal of their accounts that cures of some sort took place: the one thing of which it is possible to remain quite unconvinced is the fundamental contention of Christian Science, viz., that there was no disease to be cured. Speaking quite generally, if one is going to be impressed by testimonials there is of course, no patent pill of respectable advertising power which cannot produce such by the wastepaper-basketful; and perfectly sincere and unsolicited testimonials, too. What these prove, however, is neither that the patients have been cured of the particular diseases they may name and in the diagnosis of which they may very likely be mistaken nor above all that it is the taking of a particular preparation to which they owe their cures; they prove the enormous power of suggestion and auto-suggestion, in {130] virtue of which many ailments yield to the patient’s firm assurance that by following a certain course he will get better. Everyone knows that a manner which inspires confidence, a happy blend of cheerfulness and suave authority, is of at least equal value to a physician as his skill and diplomas; and it is probably true, approximately at any rate, that a man can no more be cured of a serious illness unless he believes in his curability, than he can be hypnotised against his will. But between the recognition of such a fact, and the description of a cancer as an obstinate illusion, or a crushed limb as an “error of thought,” there is just the difference which separates sanity from extravaganza.

In short, that which is of truth in Christian Science is not peculiar to it; while what is peculiar to its teaching, the denial of the reality of shattered legs, wasted lungs, diseased spines, etc., is not true. The power of mind over body, the possibility of healing certain diseases by suggestion, is not the discovery of Mrs. Eddy; the assumption on the other hand, that all diseases are susceptible to such treatment is characteristic of the school of which she is the latest and best-known representative only it is false. “All physicians of broad practice and keen observation realise that certain pains may be alleviated or cured, and that certain morbid conditions may be made to disappear, provided a change in the mental {131] state of the patient can be brought about. . . . It does not require special learning to build up a psychotherapeutic practice based upon the observation of such cases; and the Christian Science healers, narrowly educated and of narrow experience, have done just this thing, resting upon the theory that the mental influence of the healer is the effective curative agent. It is easy to see how a development of this theory would lead to the assumption that all kinds of diseases may be curable by mental influence emanating from a healer, this leading to the practice of the so-called ‘absent-treatment,’ with all its follies and dangers.” {6] When it is added that the Christian Science healer is a professional person, and that the cost of “absent-treatment” may come to as much as ten dollars an hour, we need say no more about the “dangers” alluded to.{7] That the quasi-religious formulas of Christian Science may prove extremely effective in bringing about such a change in the mental state of certain patients as will cause pains {132] to be alleviated or cured, and morbid conditions to disappear, one need have no hesitation in believing; moreover, as the medical author just quoted acutely observes, it is quite possible that some patients would not be cured unless they were “allowed to believe that their cures are due to some mysterious or miraculous agency.” But even such an admission does not mean that Christian Science does more than apply the principle of suggestion, increasing its efficacy by utilising the religious faculty of the patient; nor, above all, does it give countenance to the root-contention of the creed, viz., that pain and disease are unreal. Once more, if mind be the only reality, then pain, seeing that it can only be experienced by a mind, is real in exact proportion as it is intense.

It might seem unnecessary to add anything more to what has been said in refutation of the claims of Christian Science so far as physical healing is concerned; but one or two very simple considerations will complete our case without greatly detaining us.

In stating categorically and without qualification that “mortal ills are but errors of thought,” Mrs. Eddy seems to have overlooked two classes of patients to whom it would be somewhat difficult to apply this sweeping generalisation. We wonder, for instance, how this theory could be made to cover the large category of infantile ailments. How, we are {133] entitled to ask, would Christian Science deal with the teething-troubles which attend babyhood? Is it seriously suggested that a feverish, wailing child is merely the victim of an hallucination and how would the Christian Scientist undertake to convince him of his illusion? On the face of it, such an enterprise does not look hopeful. But further, it so happens that human beings are not the only sufferers from pain and sickness; animals are subject to diseases, and often to the same diseases as men. We disclaim all intention of treating the subject otherwise than seriously but if a man’s rheumatism is an illusion, what causes the same affection in a dog or a chimpanzee? And if an embrocation may be used with good effects in the latter case, why may it not be used in the former? We need not press these questions; they will serve as they stand to show once more how this whole pretentious philosophy about the unreality, the imaginary nature, of pain breaks down as soon as we subject it to simple tests. So also with the Christian Science attitude towards “drugs,” the prescribing of which Mrs. Eddy places in the same category as the denial of God.{8] An obvious comment suggests itself: If drugs cannot cure, it follows that they cannot hurt; will some adherent to this teaching show his consistency in the faith by swallowing a small, but sufficient quantity {134] of oxalic acid? And so, finally, with Mrs. Eddy’s singularly futile question, “As power divine is in the healer, why should mortals concern themselves with the chemistry of food?” {9] Without unkindliness, one feels tempted to reply that this kind of language will begin to be convincing when Christian Scientists show their readiness and ability to sustain life on substances chemically certified to be without nutritive properties.

But it is not its denial of physical evil that makes this and allied movements a real menace; dissent as we may from the Christian Science theory of bodily illness, and deplore as we must the fatal results of which we read every now and again when a patient has been persuaded to substitute the Christian Science “healer” for the trained physician these results concern, to put it rather bluntly, no one but the sufferer and his immediate friends. But when we remarked that the natural man desired to be made well rather than to be made good, we were not merely thinking of one side of Christian Science teaching; we were bearing in mind that the author of Science and Health declares the illusoriness of pain only as part of the illusoriness of all evil, moral as well as physical. Christian Science explicitly denies the reality of sin: and that denial follows with inexorable logic from its first principle that {135] God is All, and All is Good. And here rather than in the material domain lies the danger we have to face; this is the side of Mrs. Eddy’s doctrine which, the moment it is attractively presented to, and grasped by, half-educated and unstable minds, will, we fear, exercise a fatal fascination over large numbers. For one person who will seriously persuade himself that there is no matter, or that his sore throat is imaginary, there will be a number to welcome the good tidings that what they had hitherto regarded as sin wears in reality no such sinister complexion that, as Mrs. Eddy openly states, what seems “vice” is to be explained as “illusions of the physical senses.” That is precisely what every sinner would like to believe. “I have done that, says my memory. I cannot have done that, says my pride, and remains obdurate. In the end, my memory gives in.” So wrote Nietzsche, keenly and cynically observant of his kind. As a matter of fact, men would give almost anything to be able to convince themselves that they “have not done that” not necessarily from pride, but in order to be rid of shame, of remorse, of self-contempt; will not many of them only too eagerly accept this fatal anodyne when it is offered to them in the pretended name of religion?

We have but one comment to urge, one protest to make. It has taken long ages to develop and heighten man’s sensitiveness to {136] the distinction between good and evil; we say with the most solemn emphasis that anything calculated to dull that sensitiveness, to wipe out that distinction, to drug the conscience, is nothing less than a crime of high treason against humanity. Better call evil an unfathomable mystery, so long as we also regard it as a dread reality, a foe we must conquer or be conquered by; but to solve the problem by denying its existence, to get over the fact of evil by declaring that all is good that way not only madness but moral disaster lies. Let us at least understand what this doctrine is, which is being so energetically pressed upon us to-day; and if we see the direction in which that ill-digested pseudo-revelation is likely to lead those who consistently accept it, let us meet this insidious propaganda with equal energy and better arguments. Our first and simplest duty in dealing with the specious doctrine which asserts that evil is “not-being” a mere illusion which, like the idols spoken of by the Apostle, is “nothing in the world” is to point out promptly and uncompromisingly that whatever such a reading of the facts may be, and from whatever quarter it may be offered, it is not Christian, but at the furthest remove from Christianity. Shall we be told that “the question is not whether these opinions are dangerous, but whether they are true?” We reply that we are well aware that truth is the highest expediency; but we are not {137] acquainted with any other test of the truth of an opinion save this whether and how it works. If a speculative theory, when carried into practice, should appear to make straight for pernicious results, in what intelligible sense of the word can it be “true”?

It is the immense merit of Christianity that it has spoken out with no uncertain voice upon this subject; it has never sought to minimise or explain away the fact of moral evil; on the contrary, it has consistently pointed to the true nature of sin, by connecting it vitally and causally with the sacrificial death of the Son of God: tanta molis erat (if we may slightly vary the immortal line) humanam solvere gentem. A gospel which lightly dismisses this terrible reality, and seeks to hide its hideousness behind a rose-coloured mist of fine words, such an emasculated gospel is not a message of life, but has the answer of death within itself. That in the past, in a doctrine such as that of man’s total depravity, the fact of sin has been over-emphasised, may be readily granted; but in the present all the symptoms indicate that the peril we have to meet is its under-emphasis. Against this whole tendency we must resolutely re-assert the Christian standpoint and attitude. Christianity is that religion which affirms in unfaltering accents the reality of evil but it sets over against it the greater Reality of atoning Love; it proclaims unsparingly the sinfulness and deadliness {138] of sin, but offers us the victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O Timotheus, guard your trust, and eschew the irreverent empty phrases and contradictions of a mis-called ‘Science,’ professing which some have missed their true aim in regard to the faith.