Christian Science is a science of spiritual and divine laws and their practice that results in healing. More than a simple Christian philosophy or positive life-style choice, it involves a revolutionary system of spiritual laws that, when applied according to the natural order or methodology of its divine Principle, which is God, produces consistent transformative and curative results. Under the heading “One divine method,” Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer to this age of this eternal Science wrote in the Christian Science textbook, “There are various methods of treating disease, which are not included in the commonly accepted systems; but there is only one which should be presented to the whole world, and that is the Christian Science which Jesus preached and practised and left to us as his rich legacy.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 344)
What is the divine method Jesus preached and practiced? Is it possible to retrace Jesus’ methodology in a clear and simple fashion without reducing healing prayer - an essentially spiritual phenomenon - down to an exercise of the human mind? In its 600 pages of text, with an additional 100 documenting the integrity and effectiveness of the methodology, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures does just that. It puts on record the order of scientific healing, drawing on the authority of Christ Jesus, the master healer, who not only taught and practiced the methodology, but expected his immediate disciples and those that would follow long after would practice the same.
Science and Health explains, “A Christian Scientist requires my work Science and Health for his textbook, and so do all his students and patients. Why? First: Because it is the voice of Truth to this age, and contains the full statement of Christian Science, or the Science of healing through Mind. Second: Because it was the first book known, containing a thorough statement of Christian Science. Hence it gave the first rules for demonstrating this Science, and registered the revealed Truth uncontaminated by human hypotheses. Other works, which have borrowed from this book without giving it credit, have adulterated the Science. Third: Because this book has done more for teacher and student, for healer and patient, than has been accomplished by other books.” (456)
What exactly did Jesus teach about this divine method of healing? And does Science and Health explain the method in sufficient detail to permit us to employ spiritual means with scientific results?
Christ Jesus taught one divine and perfect Cause creating divine and perfect effect consistent with its Source. He taught one Spirit, God, who is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and omniactive. Spirit as the one perfect and divine Cause could and would only produce a perfect and spiritual effect. True being is as perfect as the Father, or divine Source of creation, is perfect. The invariability of the divine Principle Jesus taught was echoed by the apostle James when he wrote, “Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (1:16-18)
In Recapitulation, the chapter of Science and Health used in the classroom to teach the specific methodology of Christian Science treatment for healing, Mary Baker Eddy brings out the invariability of the divine Cause, which produces an effect that not only holds creation safe from disease, but unfolds immortality. She explains, “For right reasoning there should be but one fact before the thought, namely, spiritual existence. In reality there is no other existence, since Life cannot be united to its unlikeness, mortality.
“Being is holiness, harmony, immortality. It is already proved that a knowledge of this, even in small degree, will uplift the physical and moral standard of mortals, will increase longevity, will purify and elevate character. Thus progress will finally destroy all error, and bring immortality to light.” (492)
This one fact – spiritual existence – held before thought is more than positive human thinking. It includes the spiritual reasoning through prayer that Christ Jesus taught, beginning with our natural divine authority as God's children to heal, and the true nature of God and of the universe, including man, as Spirit’s perfect manifestation, or image and likeness. Jesus developed for us his understanding of the powerlessness of any real opposition to Spirit in its varied deluded and delusional guises: of devil, evil, sin, disease, death, hatred, ignorance, injustice, intolerance, and the list goes on. Through parable he illustrated how Father and son, Creator and creation, Cause and effect, Shepherd and sheep have not been, and cannot ever be, separated. And he gave timeless proofs of the truth in his teachings by consistently healing where by any other account, healing would be improbable, if not impossible.
Has this methodology disappeared? Was it a limited teaching for a limited group at a particular point in time? No. Science and Health, particularly the classroom chapter, leads today’s disciple of Christ out of the incorrect reasoning from effect to cause promoted by most, if not all, material methods of healing. It unfolds a pure methodology of spiritual reasoning from Cause to effect that enables one to duplicate for himself and for others in some degree the so-called marvels of ancient times. This reasoning is called Christian Science treatment.
Confusion often arises, when discussing this methodology of treatment, over whether such reasoning constitutes a formula. In Article VIII, Formulas Forbidden. Sect. 9 of the Church Manual, Mary Baker Eddy protected the methodology of Christian Science from adulteration through the material symbols and methods that might trip up the members of The Mother Church and render their practice less than successful. The rule reads: “No member shall use written formulas, nor permit his patients or pupils to use them, as auxiliaries to teaching Christian Science or for healing the sick. Whatever is requisite for either is contained in the books of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Sometimes she may strengthen the faith by a written text as no one else can.” (p. 43)
Please don't mistake this by-law to mean that there is a church rule that forbids members from seeking whatever aid they prefer in caring for their health. No such rule exists and members are free to do what they feel is best for them. But in the healing practice of Christian Science written formulas are forbidden because they are generally useless, often misleading and sometimes dangerous.
Methodology and formula are not necessarily the same thing. While some methodologies rely on formulas – written or otherwise - the methodology of Christian Science does not. This doesn’t mean that there is not a consistent pattern, logic, unfoldment, and rule to follow in Christian Science treatment. There is. But, perhaps the confusion centers on what actually constitutes a formula as it relates to discussions about Christian Science. As with most words in the English language formula has many definitions. To best identify prohibited formulas, it helps to compare the various definitions with other instructions on what is essential to do found in Jesus teachings and in Science and Health.
One definition of formula is “a set form of words, as for stating or declaring something definitively or authoritatively, for indicating procedure to be followed, or for prescribing use on some ceremonial occasion.” (Definition resource: dictionary.com)
What does Jesus teach about healing prayer? When asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, he gave them a perfect model for the spiritual reasoning of Christian Science treatment – The Lord’s Prayer. The divine logic unfolding from perfect Cause – our Father – to the perfect effect of the divine kingdom, power and glory that reigns supreme over all forever, brings out the à priori or Cause to effect methodology of Christian Science treatment. Christ Jesus was quite definite in His declarations of truth concerning man’s authority and right to heal; the spiritual truth of God and man, in both a general sense and in specific cases; the powerless of evil and essential nothingness of matter; the impossibility of God, the perfect Mind, ever being separated from His creation, Mind’s perfect idea; and the expectation of healing, joy and gratitude that result from this understanding of the spiritual and real state of divine being.
Procedurally, Christ Jesus’ method was invariable. He started with divine Cause to produce healing. He never started with disease or the problem to find God. He never saw God in, or brought God to, a problem to resolve it. He lifted his patient up to see their pure, sinless, holy state in the light of His better sense of God, man, and reality, and to understand and experience the baseless nature of their problem.
While it can be argued that Jesus was more of a breaker of human, material traditions and ceremony, rather than a promoter of such like (the ceremonial washing before meals and his criticism of formal prayers that are more for show than truly from the heart, are good examples), the regular praying of the Lord’s Prayer in church services throughout the world emphasizes and teaches the natural order of à prori reasoning as Jesus taught it. This à priori reasoning is the same methodology that Christian Scientists follow in giving treatment through prayer today. It is the methodology laid out in Recapitulation which follows the pattern and order of à priori reasoning from the divine Cause, God, to the natural and normal amen of healing. So, clearly the first definition of formula, which would follow à priori reasoning, is not forbidden in Christian Science practice.
Another definition of formula is “any fixed or conventional method for doing something.” This one can be applied two ways. If healing prayer forbids a fixed or conventional method, it can imply that every time one prays it should be infused with fresh inspiration, and not done by rote. Science and Health agrees. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Not human platitudes, but divine beatitudes, reflect the spiritual light and might which heal the sick.” (446) Also, “Inspired thought relinquishes a material, sensual, and mortal theory of the universe, and adopts the spiritual and immortal.” (547)
But we can’t discount all method out of hand, and say that healing prayer treatment in Christian Science is “anything goes” positive thinking, or involves taking a backseat and letting thought simply drift into more spiritual realms. That would be a rather Pollyanna view and would lose the scientific basis of divine reasoning so essential to breaking the mesmeric pull to fear and evil. As Science and Health points out, “Strict adherence to the divine Principle and rules of the scientific method has secured the only success of the students of Christian Science.” (456)
Science and Health sums up the methodology in very concise directions: “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious — as Life eternally is — can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not. Let Christian Science, instead of corporeal sense, support your understanding of being, and this understanding will supplant error with Truth, replace mortality with immortality, and silence discord with harmony.” (495)
It would make no sense to forbid the very methodology that consistently produced healing for Jesus and that today repeats his work.
Another definition of formula is a symbolic expression of a rule or principle, as in algebraic symbols; or in chemistry, an expression of the constituents of a compound by symbols and figures. Here Christ Jesus gave some helpful instruction. He discounted public prayers and rituals as putting the person praying at risk of being insincere and going through the motions, preferring the simple heartfelt prayers that one would have, alone with God in his mental closet. He explained, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)
Speaking of the material symbols and practices that have grown up around Christianity, Mary Baker Eddy explained, “If all who ever partook of the sacrament had really commemorated the sufferings of Jesus and drunk of his cup, they would have revolutionized the world. If all who seek his commemoration through material symbols will take up the cross, heal the sick, cast out evils, and preach Christ, or Truth, to the poor, — the receptive thought, — they will bring in the millennium.” (34) And elsewhere Science and Health explains, “Losing her crucifix, the Roman Catholic girl said, “I have nothing left but Christ.” (238)
Another definition of formula is “a recipe or prescription.” Here is where things get really interesting. Medical prescriptions start with symptoms to determine the cure. Once a material dose of medicine is administered, the value of the prescription is determined by its effects. This however doesn’t take into account the mental nature of fear and its influence on individual patients. No single material prescription claims 100 percent effectiveness in all cases, because it can’t. The mental and spiritual variable must be considered in healing. In Christian Science treatment, divine Mind, not the problem is the starting point for the case and the à priori reasoning that such a starting point demands does produces consistent results when the rule of scientific reasoning through prayer is faithfully followed. Science and Health explains, “The material physician gropes among phenomena, which fluctuate every instant under influences not embraced in his diagnosis, and so he may stumble and fall in the darkness.” (463)
Interestingly, the pitfall of the material physician is not unlike the experience of a metaphysician who uses a formula in the form of a prayer prescription used to treat particular types of ailments. In both cases the fluctuating symptoms of the case – which in actual fact are the effects of delusion, not the effects of matter – maintain control of the case. Positive results may result from the cumulative effect of the will-power or human faith in the healer, or from the power of collective belief. But they are not the result of the scientific method of healing prayer taught in Christian Science.
One last definition of formula to consider is “a special nutritive mixture, especially of milk, sugar, and water, in prescribed proportions for feeding a baby.” Jesus offered no prohibitions to adapting food to the needs of babies. But he did use little children as an example of the simple and pure faith that heals. He said, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” (Mark 10:15) The apostle Peter took the analogy yet further, when he said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (I Peter 2:2,3)
It is safe to conclude that the rule in the Church Manual forbidding written formulas is consistent with Christ Jesus’ teachings and the instructions for healing prayer found in Science and Health. Examined in this context, the formulas forbidden are written formulas that materialize prayer, that become in and of themselves a prescription for treating certain symptoms, or that are read repeatedly as if there is some inherent power in the words on the page. However, the logic and order of Christian Science treatment through à priori reasoning is not and would never be prohibited, as this is the very methodology that when properly followed produces scientific healing results.
Inspired thought, sourced in divine Mind, leads the healer to the divine logic in each treatment that heals the case. And the childlike thought that follows even a small glimpse of the allness of God to the natural conclusion of the absolute nothingness of evil in any form, is the spiritual understanding that heals the sick.
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I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no