Belief and Understanding
by Andrew Hartsook
Who owns Christian Science? Most readers would react with surprise or disbelief at such a question. But it is one which should be considered no matter what one’s initial reaction to it might be.
If one views Christian Science as primarily a religion, one might well conclude that constituted church authorities could control all the outlets of its teachings and just who may take part in its activity and propagation. In such circumstances, people in authority could give or take away according to their best judgment in any situation.
If, however, one views Christian Science as a science, or rather the primal Science, then it is clear that only those who study and gain a working understanding and demonstration can have any claim to it, no matter who might hold a position in a temporal organization.
If the law of gravity were the possession of the Isaac Newton Society with excusive legal rights to the name and sole power to designate authorized writings and qualified scientists, one can imagine how difficult it would be to gain permission to utilize gravity or its related effects. The paperwork, the interviews, and the backlog would put a severe strain on all human activity. Fortunate for everyone, no science is subject to such constraints, not even Christian Science.
The problem arises, however, because Christian Science is not readily observable as law in the human realm except through its effects, i.e. healing. It cannot be learned through the material human senses, and, for this reason, it has been falsely categorized as just another belief system such as the philosophy of Hegel or Goethe. It is even considered as such by many Christian Scientists, albeit unconsciously. It is this unconscious regarding of Christian Science as a belief that Mrs. Eddy sharply condemns in her article “Principle and Practice” which first appeared in the Christian Science Sentinel of September 1, 1917.
The current battles raging over Christian Science today center on this misapprehension. The lawsuits over the health care of children all assume that Christian Science is the practice of a strange belief testing the limits of religious tolerance.
The lawsuit by the Christian Science Board of Directors in Boston against the independent Christian Science church in Plainfield, New Jersey, assumes that the words “Christian Science” are the Directors’ personal and exclusive property which might not be used without their permission.
The continuing efforts by the same Directors to hold on to the expired copyright of Science and Health as well as Mrs. Eddy’s other writings indicate their belief that this Science can be possessed and consequently denied to those who do not receive their personal blessing.
Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Christian Science is not copyrighted; nor would protection by copyright be requisite, if mortals obeyed God’s law of manright.” (Ret. 76:2-4) In the early days when this Science was being introduced to human thought, there were many attempts to steal it and adulterate it, and, therefore, copyright laws were essential to protect the book in order to prevent the Revelation from being separated from the Revelator. Once the authorship of Science and Health was established and the Christian Science Movement was well underway, Mrs. Eddy intended for Science and Health eventually to enter the public domain. The last edition of her textbook which she copyrighted was the 1906 edition, not her 1910 edition. She made several hundred changes in her textbook after 1906, but these were not copyrighted. Two significant changes after 1906 included the change in the number of synonyms for God from eight to seven and her statement on page 442 about malpractice. If the copyright had been permitted to expire in accordance with the laws of the United States as Mrs. Eddy intended, there would doubtless be Penguin and Bantam editions of Science and Health in bookstores all over the world right now. Those who deliberately misrepresent the textbook by quoting it out of context have been doing so all along with the copyright in place. A check of commercial bookstores reveals the sad absence of the book Mrs. Eddy labored to present to the world. It remains all but inaccessible at the time of greatest need. Those who adamantly maintain their control believe that they are preserving Christian Science, but the disastrous decline in the Movement should speak loudly to any intelligent observer.
The responsibility for correcting this confusion over Christian Science as a belief system or a Science lies squarely on the Board of Directors who doggedly hold on to their expired authority and on the individuals who comprise the Christian Science field. The latter group bears special responsibility for blindly following the traditions of the elders (the Board) and ignoring Mrs. Eddy’s Church Manual by-laws which precluded any centralized control once she was no longer personally present to correct and adjust the otherwise veering course of five student-directors. The burden is heavier still when one considers the efforts made over the last ten years to present the facts before church members, and their subsequent determination to follow the familiar path rather than the right one. If familiarity is the field’s test for determining what is right or wrong, one may well wonder on which basis they are practicing Christian Science, — belief or understanding. One cannot practice any science known to man by basing one’s thinking on the familiar at the expense of provable facts.
As the world picture darkens over the next few years, Christian Scientists may have to demonstrate God’s promise to Abraham not to destroy the city if ten good men remain within it. (Gen. 18:22-33)
If only a handful of clear thinkers remain who yield not to the darkness and hold to the Revelation and the law contained in the Manual, there may yet be a chance to hold forth Christian Science in this Age and with it what Mrs. Eddy calls “free moral agency.” (Mis. 113:7, 119:19)
The current situation demands the attention of all thinking Christian Scientists. They must maintain their position knowing that darkness cannot engulf light without the latter’s capitulation. In the words of Saint Paul, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (I Thes. 5:21)