The New Book — Fiat Lux
From Christian Science Journal, March 1891 by Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy
THE long-looked-for, much-coveted volume of SCIENCE AND HEALTH, that is to mark an epoch in the Christian Science movement, has at last appeared; and will be eagerly searched, studied, pored over, by every student among us. From this date forward, the thought of all true Scientists will mount higher, and there will appear correspondingly glorious results in the wide and practical field of demonstration; yet, a full understanding of the book will come only as the ripened fruit of years of study combined with faithful, daily effort to reduce its teachings to practice. No adequate idea of the treasures disclosed in this volume can be given in a single article, but a few points out of many will here be touched upon.
First: Why is a revised edition of SCIENCE AND HEALTH a necessity? Does not the issuing of a “revision” reflect upon former editions, as being faulty or incomplete? The present writer was queried only last summer upon this very point. One antagonizer of SCIENCE AND HEALTH , having heard that a new volume was anticipated — in fact was to be in press ere long — asked in tones suggestive of a sneer: “Can inspiration be added to or taken from? Who for an instant would think of adding to or subtracting from the sayings of Jesus? And did Paul or John ever think of getting out a ‘revised edition’ of their works?” To all of which was added the statement: “The early edition, that of 1875, was incomparably superior to any that has since appeared.”
The precise reply made is of little moment; but its substance is eminently germane to our present line of thought, viz: Inspiration is not a mechanical process of repeating mere words by rote, of rounding them up in just so many sentences and no more. It is not a lifeless force which can be caught and imprisoned in a word or a volume — as a taxidermist would stuff birds, always to present the same stiff, glassy appearance. It is, rather, the kaleidoscopic presentation of the beauty and wondrous power — not of some new truth heretofore unheard of — but of an eternally existing, spiritual Fact unfolding and forever re-unfolding itself to “eyes that see.” Were Paul, John, or Jesus to return again in the flesh to teach us the same glorious Truth taught in the long buried past, would either one confine himself to the same words, the same figures of speech, the same illustrations so well known to Bible students of to-day? Rather, would not each address himself faithfully to the task of clearing up difficulties, of removing doubts as to his precise meaning in certain passages and upon certain points that as yet seem obscure to our sense? A teacher of grammar even,— one who, year in and year out, is teaching class after class the same grammatical truths or facts — cannot, and does not, invariably repeat the same stereotyped expressions. Just in proportion as he combines the essentials of a teacher, in proportion as he embodies the essence of true teaching, will his illustrations and combinations of facts be accommodated to the needs of the learner, and attended with fresh impulses of discernment. In the days of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, when we sat at the feet of our teacher — days that we never shall forget! — did that teacher ever instruct two classes precisely alike? Did she employ a stereotyped form of words by which to convey to us her rich, inspired thought? Far from it! and thus, the new volume seems to take us back to the College, to gather up its fresh methods and inspired sayings, so that little stretch of the imagination is required to convince us that the teacher herself again is before us, though this time in impersonal form.
But the book itself: Is there anything new in it, does it contain any new facts and truths? No, and yes. Certainly there are no new facts or truths presented, because there are no new facts or truths to present. Truth is never new, and never old; but is eternally fresh and living, as the author herself explains. In this sense, could there be anything new in the new book — for was it not the Truth, and the Truth only, which was told before? Her revision has, however, extended the same ideas, and made them clear; so that SCIENCE AND HEALTH shall not be misunderstood and misstated. To find in the new volume some new, grand, hitherto unexpressed Truth, would of itself impugn the old. The student of the new, will find the landmarks of the old all untouched. God — as Spirit, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, All-in-all — is taught here. Man — as made in His image and likeness— still retains his place here. Creation— as a spiritual, eternal, glorious fact from centre to remotest circumference — also appears here. The Scientific Statement of Being, unchanged by so much as a letter, is here. Evil, “mortal mind” in the new edition, appears just as base and treacherous a liar as in the old.
All this, and more in the same vein, can be said; and yet, there is a sense in which do appear many new things. Many faces and angles never before seen are here presented to view; fresh modes or ways of bringing out practical facts are adopted, as for instance: on pages 360 to 366 inclusive; again, throughout almost the entire Chapter on “Teaching Christian Science” (Chap. XIII). Also, the opening pages of Genesis, and of the Apocalypse are studded with new thoughts. Nor are these the only pages whereon gleam gems not seen before; these are simply cited as conspicuous examples of interest to all readers, present or prospective, of the fiftieth edition of SCIENCE AND HEALTH , — as indicating the presence of new veins of gold which appear therein. The simple fact is, the thought of Scientists, all along the line, has mounted higher; and so treasures both new and old are given to us. Our teacher has complimented us. We can now be taken higher up toward the mountain top, until” we all with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.”
In regard to logical arrangement: The division of chapters is a marked improvement upon that of former editions. The chapter on Healing and Teaching has become two separate chapters, as it manifestly should; while Prayer and Atonement also, for the first time appear under separate caption. Imposition and Demonstration will hereafter be studied as Christian Science contrasted with Spiritualism; the logical arrangement being entirely subserved thereby. Many will miss the Platform of Christian Science as a distinct chapter, but it will be found at the close of the long chapter on Science of Being, where it properly belongs. The chapter on Marriage has been shortened; but, since the advanced Christian Science thought is preparing for it, the detached portions have been transferred elsewhere in a form which gives them added power. The contents of pages 411, 412, 446, 447, should be studied carefully. The chapter on Animal Magnetism also stands abridged; yet the missing thoughts reappear elsewhere in hints and suggestions whose practical value renders them of vital interest to all readers and students. Critical attention is called to the first chapter in the book, entitled Science, Theology, Medicine; especially to the ninth page, where the classification is not only scientific, but of such orderly arrangement as greatly to aid the learner’s memory.
Again: Every student familiar with former editions will remark upon the change made at the heading of chapters, viz: the substitution of Scripture texts for quotations from classic authors; which better adapts the Work to maintain the place it holds in sacred writings. The marginal side-heads occurring throughout the volume, merit a special word of praise; ably aiding, as they do, the search for passages to which speedy reference is desired. By means of these, the eye quickly detects the page-topics, without the expense of time required to hunt laboriously through the body-text. Moreover those who have found the Index of previous editions inadequate to meet all requirements, will be rejoiced by the copious Topical Index of the Fiftieth Edition. Herein is made, not only ample reference, but double and even treble reference to the same passage, under separate headings; by which is greatly enhanced the value of an Index to a Work of this profound character. There is here neither time nor space to compare citations, nor is it necessary to do so; since every earnest student will do this for himself, individually: moreover, such a citation would be in direct violation of our Teacher’s repeatedly expressed wishes and instructions, embodied in Editor’s Note Book of the JOURNAL for January last. It cannot escape notice of the student, however, that a great transformation of passages has taken place; so that a system of paging will not serve, as heretofore, for a guide to preceding editions. Forty pages of new matter are added, and yet this is far from an adequate statement; since throughout the entire volume there is scarcely a page that does not bear traces of the fresh touch of the master-hand of the author. Though favorite paragraphs and expressions reappear, they have nearly all been retouched, until they glisten like burnished gold.
“Is not the new SCIENCE AND HEALTH intended to be the teacher for the future, thus to do away with incorrect teaching, and the oral instruction of human teachers?” Again: “Is it chiefly designed for Primary, or better fitted for Normal and Obstetric students?” These are questions constantly being asked; questions that are perhaps natural, and yet, if the writer mistake not, they are idle questions also. The Work is intended for all ages, grades and classes; for the child just beginning to prattle, and for the aged grandsire; for the novitiate just entering upon the study of Christian Science, and for the student who has made, as human language expresses it, the greatest advance. Without wishing to establish any dictum, the writer cannot refrain from giving expression to his conviction that this volume gradually will supersede all teaching, in the technical sense of the word; and further, that it will prove great gain for the Cause of Truth when that day arrives. Attention is specially called to what is said on page 440, in the paragraph beginning with line nine; — in fact, this entire chapter merits profoundest attention.
While, as before stated, this volume is for all grades and classes, it is but pertinent to say that the most conscientious painstaking and experienced student will advance fastest. There can be no imperative law laid down regarding John’s Gospel, Paul to the Hebrews, or Revelation, to the effect that these are only for advanced Christians to study. Certainly they are for all learners — no hedges are put around them to keep any away; yet, who does not know that the experienced miner will more readily and directly delve to those subterranean depths containing the precious veins of gold! So it will be with the new volume; and we shall very soon come to realize that we have in hand a golden key with which to unlock the Treasure-house of the Bible. The author expresses it as “treasures of Truth first thrown by revelation into her grasp, and now adjusted to be more readily seen.”
In closing, a few general observations are worthy a place.
1st. Every careful student will discover that the new volume is pre-eminently a book of the Spirit. This is not to intimate a lack in the letter; but, to claim that the conscientious student of the new SCIENCE AND HEALTH cannot long remain in the letter merely. He will be taken cut of that into the unfolding glories of Truth. Especially will he be led to a realization that, to be a genuine Christian Scientist, Love must become the sole law of his being — its beginning and end. The letter is all expressed — otherwise the book could not be what it should be — but it does not appear as a skeletonized system of abstract doctrine. It is clothed in radiant grace and loveliness which cause us to forget its presence as mere letter — and, indeed, is it not time we turned our attention higher! In truth, the evangelistic spirit of this new SCIENCE AND HEALTH is its crowning merit. Christian Science becomes something for practical, every-day life; thus, more and more will it be recognized as being — not a mere theory — but a life of individual goodness and Truth.
2d. This new volume continues to be a rebuke to the personal senses and, as such, will prove no more acceptable to the sensualist than have former editions; in fact, it must prove less so, since it takes us upon higher ground. Hence, if any have been anticipating a treatise that should prove a bridge between the seen and the Unseen, between sense and Soul, which would render Christian Science more concordant with the testimony of material sense, or its exactments less severe, they are doomed to disappointment. Christian Science in the new volume explains nothing to carnal or mortal mind to gratify its curiosity, or to render easier a compliance with its mandates: instead, the book will be found to be arrayed against all error, and it will not be surprising if even in us many errors that hitherto have been smouldering are now, by its perusal, aroused to hostility. “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts,” is a sentiment which will find practical exemplification in the mind of many of us on rising from study of the new Work.
3d. The new SCIENCE AND HEALTH will prove, to many, an invitation to the wedding feast. “Write , blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Happy, indeed, are they who having on the wedding garment come — and come as to a feast spread for all; a feast where Understanding, Truth, Joy, and Love nourish and sustain our fainting senses.
4th. A practical suggestion or two regarding study of the new edition: In the first place, do not attempt to dispose of the earlier editions. Some are asking, “Can we be permitted to exchange?” Probably not; but you do not want to do so, even if you can. Fortunate is he who has all former revisions, together with the original edition of 1875! They are indicators of successive stages of growth in Christian Science; and as such, at some future day will not only possess historic value, but will be exceedingly difficult to procure. Keep them all; they will prove a “treasure trove.” Again: Let the new volume be studied in connection with earlier editions. The very contrasts help to see how the thoughts have risen only as we have been able to receive them. This, again, will reveal why the new edition could now be written for us. It is simply because the advancing thought, or demonstration, of Christian Students has ascended to that plane which makes it both possible and practicable for us to have the new Work.