the formation of mortals

This is an incredibly long post which may be a little hard to follow. I mostly wrote it for myself, but thought I would share it here as well. It is a semi-metacognative conversation on selections from the chapter on Marriage in Science and Health. I was mostly left with a great desire to build a time machine and question a selection of Teachers and Christian Science-scholars at length over Ms. Eddy’s thoughts and careful word selection – if any happen to read my blog your insights are most welcome! Alternatively, I would love to put together a Wednesday evening service based on some of the passages.

After I finished this post I was left with an incredible sense of relief that I no longer practice CS, or ascribe to Ms. Eddy’s unique world views. My brain also hurt. I strongly recommend anyone who has questions look up the passages I’ve screen-captured in a book (or on the official Church website) so they can see them in the larger context.


The other morning over my husband asked why I had not yet touched on the topic of sex, the answer is simple, Ms. Eddy does NOT TALK ABOUT SEX,* she talks about the formation of mortals, which is not sexy, just weird.

My husband argued she has “that whole chapter on Marriage” which is true (I’ve read it several dozen times over the years). Yes, but in Ms. Eddy’s world marriage is something that that must be tolerated until the Apocalypse:

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Ms. Eddy then doles out marriage advice, about being nice to each other, not being wasteful, guarding affections, remaining chaste and then on page 61-62 she starts talking about “the propagation of the human species” and

The formation of mortals must greatly improve to advance mankind. (emphasis mine)

I had to read that a few times before I realized she said MORTALS and not MORALS, and I’m left wondering how does one advance the “formation of mortals” – immaculate conception? Asexual reproduction? Spores? Test tubes? Also, by their very nature, mortals are unreal, never have been real and can not be created because they don’t exist. This remains perplexing even when put in context:

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Ms. Eddy defines Man as “The compound idea of infinite Spirit; the spiritual image and likeness of God; the full representation of Mind” (S&H p. 591). This seems in direct contradiction to the mortals which are being generated to perpetuate mankind as on p. 468 of Science & Health Ms. Eddy states

There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual. (S&H p. 468)

Ms. Eddy reminds us time and time again that man can not be both mortal (material) and spiritual, yet Ms. Eddy states that mortals are being formed, and the human species is being perpetuated. Both of these terms directly contradict everything she’s said about man’s true nature.

The other line that stood out to me was:

If the propagation of a higher human species is requisite to reach this goal, than its material conditions can only be permitted for the purpose of generating. (emphasis mine)**

I have read the chapter on Marriage dozens of times and I’m fairly sure I’ve never actually consciously paid attention to those two lines. I know I’ve read “nothing unworthy of perpetuity should be transmitted to children” and the line about the fetus’ purity is also reasonably well remembered, but material conditions can only be permitted for the purpose of generating?! did someone sneak that in since the last time I skimmed it?

I suppose in some ways this goes back to the reason why CS refrain from drug use and alcohol consumption, both alter one’s mental state and to be a good CS one must be clear-thinking at all times. Sex releases a torrent of hormones, the experience, to quote a former prominent Principian, “rearranges your brain cells” which isn’t going to set you on a path to clear thinking and therefore should be avoided unless you’re trying to generate little humans (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway – see p. 68-69 below). This also neatly solves any need for discussion about birth control or masturbation.

It is interesting to remember Ms. Eddy refers to the “formation of mortals and “material conditions” as she sets about on page 63 talking about how

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 11.08.53 AMSo are the mortals that are being created through the acts of “generating” the offspring of Spirit? Ms. Eddy appears to be saying they are not. The generated mortals come from “brute instinct” – the desire to generate humankind? I don’t know. While the Scientific man is beautiful and good, his source is Spirit. So where do these Scientific men come from? I’m drawing a blank.

Ms. Eddy continues to dole out marriage advice, stay together, make it work, once you’re committed it is too late, until around page 68-69, where things get interesting again:

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Is Christian Science somehow unfolding to the mortals that have been generated? Are our mere little mortal minds being expanded by the knowledge of the divine Mind? Is that even possible? Mortals are not real.

I feel like there is some amount of “have cake and eat it too” going on. Clearly mankind needs to generate more of the human species for it to continue, but should we really want that to happen? Ms. Eddy sends a very mixed message:

Proportionately as human generation ceases, the unbroken links of eternal, harmonious being will be spiritually discerned; and man, not of the earth earthly but coexistent with God, will appear.

If humans cease to generate then there will be no more humans, however, we should all cease to generate because as there are fewer humans the “unbroken links of eternal, harmonious being will be spiritually discerned” and man as “coexistent with God, will appear.” This also seems to contradict what Ms. Eddy says on p. 62:

 Is not the propagation of the human species a greater responsibility, a more solemn charge, than the culture of your garden or the raising of stock to increase your flocks and herds?

So propagating the human species is of the UTMOST importance – if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right (and be married), but at the same time we should cease to generate so that man may be “coexistent with God.”

So if you’re going to be married, you should have children, and you should educate them spiritually, otherwise it is really better not to do so (I suspect someone was reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians).

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The child doing the questioning is mortal (material) therefore God, who did NOT create mortal, material things, could NOT have created the child. So where did it come from if not from mortal man?Also, it is my understanding that if the mortal is unreal, it is incapable of becoming Spiritual/Real.

I also have questions about Ms. Eddy’s quote from Luke 20:34 – the larger context comes from a hypothetical story about one bride for seven brothers, she married the first, and he died, she married the second and he died as well, eventually she had been married to all seven brothers and none managed a heir, so which of them would she be married to after they all died? Simple, none of them, she would be free of any marital obligation.

All of that leaves me with more questions than answers.

  • Are mortals capable of advancing mankind? How do mortals recognize their true Scientific nature?
  • Can mortals become immortals?
  • If “in Science man is the offspring of Spirit” than what is man the rest of the time?What about those not “in Science” – are they lesser beings?
  • In the larger picture will any of this make a difference?
  • Why is it so important to only use “methods of propagation” for the purpose of generating?
  • If there are no marriages after the resurrection will there be any new beings brought/”generated” into existence?
  • Is this resurrected state going to take place on the Earth as we know it, or in some other higher celestial realm?

Right about now I would really, really like to pick selections for a Wednesday Evening Testimony service.


*except for that one place where she does, and it is NOT sexy.

**this may just be Ms. Eddy being influenced by the prevailing culture of her day, but I’m not entirely willing to give her the benefit of the doubt

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10 thoughts on “the formation of mortals

  1. Carmen says:

    Whew!! Sorry, but when I try to read what Mary Baker Eddy wrote I always have the same thought. .. . “This woman was a certifiable NUT”. . I probably shouldn’t be so blunt but there it is. There are so many other good authors out there who write easy-to-decipher essays; why give yourself a headache??

    • kindism says:

      Sadly, when you look at her from a historical perspective, she wasn’t really that much nuttier or deadlier than the other ideas being proposed in the late 1800-early 1900s. I’m very glad not to be living in Ms. Eddy’s New England. Most of what we know as “modern medicine” came post-WW2.

  2. Liz Heywood says:

    SO glad you are wrestling through the linguistic contortions of MBE for us…We readers can just come along for the ride & shake out heads in amazement (if our heads don’t explode along the way.) I know of one devout CS who bought into the sex-only-in-marriage-and-only-when-you-want-to-get-pregnant party-line. Her husband left her for another woman.

    Having read S&H cover-to-cover in my life WAY more times than can be good, I think the Marriage chapter requires the most bass-ackward CS discipline to accept. Just reading your take on it makes me want a drink. No wonder MBE kept the morphine close.

    • kindism says:

      I’ve got another post about the topic coming up eventually, it makes for truly horrifying reading. In a similar vein, in “Resources” I’ve linked to another drink-inducing document about “Metaphysical Obstetrics” – not reading for the faint of heart!

    • Carmen says:

      Hello Liz! I watched your presentation at the Panel on Child Abuse that Richard Dawkins chaired (on-line) ; you did a marvelous job!! That must have taken a lot of courage – my hat goes off to you! My daughter-in-law (who’s a nurse) was here yesterday and I had her read your story. She was shaking her head the whole time. The emotion that we feel when we read/hear your story, I realize, is but a fraction of the lifetime of emotions you’ve gone through. Very humbling. Please be assured that there are many people who admire your tenacity. Cheers!

  3. mkhuggins says:

    Kindism,
    I am so glad you are looking at the meaning, and the words – and the implications of the text. As CSer’s we were not encouraged to do so, but it is extremely revealing and very contradictory to do so in every chapter I have read, so far.

    A few people doing this could affect a lot of thinking. And there need to be several people analyzing texts. Right now, I am just folowing each instance of the use of ‘mortal mind’ in her textbook, I have about 50 out of 300 uses, so I am tied up and won’t be scanning chapters word by word to get the big picture of each chapter.

    • kindism says:

      I’ve been enjoying your analyses of mortal mind! I’m currently on a bit of a radical-reliance kick, but this particular post had been sitting around & I felt it was time to be shared.

  4. leftcs says:

    I remember my soon to be husband, who was a CS but not class taught, wanting me to ask my CS teacher about sex and Mrs. Eddy’s thoughts about it. Granted, we were already having sex and enjoying it but he still had some guilt but not enough to stop. I did ask my CS teacher about MBE’s thoughts and he told me that the statement you mentioned above, “material conditions can only be permitted for the purpose of generating” meant that you could have sex while married but should use birth control when you weren’t wanting children!!! Tell that to a Catholic!!! Anyway, it satisfied my soon to be husband and we continued to enjoy a healthy and guilt free sex life. I think any CS could find many ways to interpret MBE to their satisfaction!!! I appreciate your blog and enjoy reading it.

  5. emerginggently says:

    This post was honestly hard to follow…for a very good reason. It takes the reader through the very confusing and twisted ideology of Mary Baker Eddy. The mental gymnastics required to try to get a grasp on her teachings is beyond that of mere mortals. I tried for 41 years. As a previous commenter said, she’s nuts. Interesting analysis of this whole idea. I think Mrs. Eddy’s discomfort with intimacy translates into her religion, and it’s lack of human warmth and any sort of intimacy.

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