Thought And Action
by Andrew Hartsook
This article and — the one that follows it (Belief and Understanding) — were originally published by Andrew Hartsook, the editor of The Banner, in 1986. These, along with four others were sent to the Christian Science field. They were all so well received that they led to the publication of The Banner newsletter which began in 1987.
Mr. Hartsook’s newsletter, The Banner, which gives the latest developments regarding the Church headquarters in Boston and in the Field. It is published four times a year. For a free copy, write Andrew Hartsook, 2040 Hazel Avenue, Zanesville, Ohio 43701
Christian Science today is a Science without inquiries. It has become static and moribund from seeming lack of interest. Although it answers the most fundamental questions ever asked from remotest antiquity, it receives little mention or earnest consideration today. Why has the once robust inquiry faded into silence?
When Mrs. Eddy was personally present to lead the Christian Science Movement, she was in a unique position as Discoverer and Founder to confirm or summarily dismiss the statements of students and other inquirers into this Science. She was the unquestioned authority on all issues, and sincere students accepted this without contradiction. After Mrs. Eddy’s passing, it would have been natural for free inquiry, free writing, and free rebuttal to flourish. All issues would be resolved by scientific proof or lack thereof rather than authoritative statements from the Leader. While this process would take longer than Mrs. Eddy’s quick, definitive “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, (and) the thoughts and intents of the heart,” (Heb. 4:12) it would take place because Christian Science is a science — the ultimate science — and, therefore, it is subject to scientific proof and demonstration.
Examples of fascinating trends and discourses would include names like John W. Doorly, Alice Orgain, and Herbert W. Eustace. Whether correct or incorrect in their writing is not the issue. Rather these writers provoked thought, discussion, and investigation which would inevitably disclose the rightness or wrongness of what they wrote. This is the time-honored, scientific process which results in clearer views and deeper understanding when all is said and done.
This, however, did not happen after Mrs. Eddy’s passing. The Christian Science Board of Directors tried to fill her unique position and presumed to endorse or condemn, as they saw fit, the lively discourse and trends of inquiry resulting from the widespread study of Christian Science.
Through reprimand and excommunication, they silenced anyone who sought to write independent of their prior approval and blessing. The greatest thinkers were either expelled from the Movement or fell silent to avoid the displeasure of the Directors.
In time, the scientific nature of Christian Science was subdued and the Movement assumed the static posture of a doctrinal religion, but without the traditional spectacles and trappings which would maintain crowd appeal. As a result, interest declined to such an extent that Christian Science is now in danger of disappearing altogether from the human scene. At a time when the human mind is in a fit frame of mind to accept the radical Truth and is diligently searching for it in all the wrong places, this decline in the Christian Science Movement is the deepest of tragedies.
A science is not a doctrine which can be tampered with, revised, or superseded. It is unchanging law which remains law no matter what mistaken notions humans may have, whether honest or self-serving. Christian Science was discovered, not contrived or formulated. Mrs. Eddy wrote down in human terms what this Science is. In the process of so doing, others sought to appropriate the discovery for themselves and to misrepresent and misstate it for their own selfish gain. But Mrs. Eddy successfully presented Science and Health to the world and has long since been acknowledged legally as its author.
There are many Christian Scientists today who regard Science as a fragile doctrine rather than as a demonstrable Science. They fear that just anyone talking or writing without the review of some authority will adulterate Christian Science and cause its destruction. They view Christian Scientists as naive children who cannot think critically, who are easily led astray, and who must be protected from the influence of “unauthorized” writings. Christian Scientists and Christian Science, itself, have suffered from this policy and attitude. The periodicals have become bland rehashes upon rehashes. There is a dismal pall over the articles resulting from this policy of sanitizing all reading matter.
The point and counterpoint which stimulate thought and exercise the calculus and numerals of infinity in the minds of students is lacking. The insights which send the thinker back to the textbook with renewed inspiration are absent.
One can only imagine the pleasant challenge the editors of the periodicals would have analyzing, highlighting, or even rebutting the multitude of ideas which would cross their desks. Journal and Sentinel articles and editorials would overflow with active thoughts instead of rehearsing in stagnant, predetermined format, the well-meaning, but uninspired, recital of the letter of Science. The possibilities of Christian Science unfettered by unnatural restrictions and proscriptions point to hope, development, and fruition in this Science.
How many Christian Scientists today immediately think when presented with an article, “Is it authorized?” “Has it been reviewed and approved by the Directors?” “Does the C.O.P. know about this?” Many people in this situation react with fear, panic, and consternation.
Christian Scientists must wake up to see that this is not thinking, it is a mesmeric reaction, an educated belief. Either Christian Scientists are thinkers, (S&H vii:13) able to evaluate and understand, being a law unto themselves, (S&H 442:30) or they are imbeciles waiting to be told what to think, what to do, what to read, what to say.
Mrs. Eddy wrote in the July, 1891 Journal, “I consider my students as capable, individually, of selecting their own reading matter and circulating it as a committee would be which is chosen for this purpose.” This was part of a last minute notice added to the Journal by Mrs. Eddy to stop an effort to “authorize” literature in her day. This notice was removed by the directors in the bound volumes offered to reading rooms. It is preserved in an original Journal in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The evidence is accumulating on every side that Christian Science will disappear in the next few years if it is not liberated from the dead hand of ecclesiasticism. Christian Scientists must wake up or the labor of centuries; the work of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles; the missions of Christ Jesus and Mary Baker Eddy will be buried in the rubble of time.
The responsibility for this is in the hands of every Christian Scientist. They and the world will pay dearly if they fail to return Christian Science to the realm of real thought and real action.