wipes out the belief of material husband

I have often wondered where Christian Scientists get their rather interesting views on sex. The Chapter on Marriage talks about the “formation of mortals” and it very quickly gets very hard to follow.

To be enrolled at Principia College campus, it was required that we abstain from pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Although premarital sex was forbidden (and most students were unmarried), during one of my terms at Prin, a Planned Parenthood representative came to speak about birth control. It was probably the most comprehensive talk on birth control any of us had ever had. The following morning there was a talk about Spiritual Birth Control which talked about “right motives” and “lust.” It was awkward at best, several carefully selected Resident Counselors/Staff spoke about the issue, some were married with children, some married without, and at least one was not married at all.

While the Planned Parenthood representative talked about condoms and practical steps that could be taken to prevent pregnancy, the “spiritual” birth control was far less concrete. It was about knowing the “right” reasons for intercourse – not just lust/pure physical pleasure, and always within the confines of marriage. It was a physical expression of Divine Love, which just sounded creepy coming from a middle aged woman in OSL.

Although having sex at Principia was taboo, it was often discussed in Moral Reasoning seminars. A favorite, oft cited anecdote, claims to have been overheard in moral reasoning in response to RC saying sex doesn’t tend to lead to orgasms: Clearly they’re not doing it right.

The other anecdote comes from a testimony at Tuesday morning CSOrg meeting, an elderly gentleman proudly shared that he had: finally overcome sexual desire for wife. If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears I would be doubting the validity of this tale. It became the gossip of the morning at our lunch table: Had he really said that? If my husband said that about me there would be divorce paperwork filed. Have you met his wife?

So where are Christian Scientists getting these unique ideas about sex? What makes it okay to “overcome sexual desire” for one’s wife?!

I don’t claim to have a definitive answer, but I have found some insight in Notes on Metaphysical Obstetrics used to teach Class of 1900. The notes are written by Dr. Alfred Baker (1), who regularly refers to Ms. Eddy as Mother.

Page 14: Marriage

  • Marriage, birth and atonement are one; they express unity. This attitude and altitude of thought delivers a child.
  • Error’s concept of marriage is truly marriage misunderstood, a house divided against itself. The false concept of marriage – the man having pleasure and the woman pain – is the cause for so much dissension (Mother’s writings on marriage)
  • God governs us from crown of our head to soles of our feet, and governs the present sense of marriage until we see something better. Don’t say “If you don’t see that I am All-in-all right away, I’ll cut your head off.”
  • Bring out unity of good, not a condemnation of a belief of marriage. Mother said, “Unity of Principle and idea is the only marriage.”

A few observations:

  • If only the man is getting “pleasure” out of the marriage they’re doing it wrong. Perhaps MBE is referring to the pain of child birth and the notion of “original sin” –which is inherently unreal in CS as part of the Adam Dream? (2)
  • the present sense of marriage until we see something better” what exactly is going to be better? After the Apocalypse when we are as the angels and free from marital obligations? (3)

Page 17: Husband

  • Husband, obstructing thought. Jesus healed the Samaritan woman of five husbands (five personal senses). Afterward she gave birth to a spiritual child – that is she saw herself as Jesus did, as a child of God (Luke 26:28-31, Galatians 4:27, Matthew 22:30, 24:19-38). This is not against marriage as I understand it. I think it means to warn against unwise condemnation of marriage.
  • Mother says it is an error to say “God is my husband” if you have finite, not a spiritual, sense of it. Malice may come through the husband as a channel, affecting mother or child, or both. There is no hate. God is Love, and heals the child (S. & H. p. 89:25). True birth is spiritual; is unity manifesting the one action. It wipes out the belief of material husband, the obstructing thought. There is no compulsion. Birth is spiritual and is atonement. One Father-Mother, God, good. Tyranny in man, shrewishness in woman. “He is a tyrant.” “She is a shrew.” Must be handled in every case of obstetrics. Cain thought, “If man can create, man can kill.”

A few observations:

  • Ms. Eddy seems to have a very dim view of husbands.
  • I’m not sure how Jesus “healed” the woman who’d had five husbands, he just told her things that she’d done, see John 4:4-42.

Page 18: Outlet for Manhood

  • Science and Health 274:17 explains the subtlety of the belief of the desire for children, and the outlet for manhood. Will have to meet the belief. Love is his necessity. There is no material creation or supposed outlet for manhood. Man never created any circumstance or relationship.
  • Supposed outlet for manhood perfect nonsense. Truth is the safety valve, and God is the only outlet. This overcomes female diseases, selfishness, and the desire to be satisfied.
  • Sometimes a thought that parents do not want children. Appealed sometimes to stop embryo. Having entered into partnership, must take the consequences. Read from chapter on wedlock. Show a thought of murder back of stopping development of embryo. Must work out scientifically. (4)

A few observations:

  • I’m not sure we’re reading the same copy of S&H, I’m not drawing the same connections/conclusions as MBE, although that’s not entirely unheard of.
  • What do “female diseases” have to do with outlets for manhood?
  • “entered into partnership, must take the consequences” sounds like some of our politicians’ attitudes on sex today. I’m not sure what “work out scientifically” means. (5)

Pages 19-20: Intercourse

  • We have belief of connection with nerves instead of with God. Belief of material bodies attracting material bodies untrue. Only one attraction – God.
  • No sexual desire or genital sense. It is founded on matter; no age, no climactic period and supposed change of function, no beginning or ending, no tomb, no gloom, no doom.
  • Sensuality and intercourse in belief, wiped out by reflection, as explained in Science & Health, 301. The capacity to reflect the eternal intercourse. That is Love. Knowledge of this will leaven the whole lump. God’s thoughts passing to man, man’s to God, is intercourse.
  • 91st Psalm correlative with intercourse. Mother turns to Bible and Science and Health. That is intercourse.
  • Ecstatic sense, as in courtship, a belief of mesmerism to be handled.

A few observations:

  • Ms. Eddy’s views were not limited to 19th century Puritan hang-ups, Puritans were fine with enjoying sex once you were married. Ms. Eddy goes a step further, and is set on denying anything to do with sex, as it is founded on matter, a material act, and therefore totally unreal. (6)
  • In Science & Health, Ms. Eddy defines ANGELS. God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality. Maybe this explains the “virgin birth” after all, an “Angel” told Mary she was pregnant.

No wonder so many Christian Scientists have a unique view about sex. Husbands are an obstruction, only interested in pleasure – I guess this is why it was such a Big Deal that the man overcame desire for his wife, he had transcended his role as obstruction. The material bodies are unreal, the act of intercourse is untrue, there is supposedly no pleasure in it, although our material senses tell us otherwise. To question this logic is to fall prey to mortal mind — and be a failure as a Christian Scientist.

More reading:

  1. Dr. Baker was an M.D. that Ms. Eddy called “to do healing work” for more see p. 1 Preface
  2. Science & Health p. 283  Whatever indicates the fall of man or the opposite of God or God’s absence, is the Adam-dream, which is neither Mind nor man, for it is not begotten of the Father.
  3. Luke 20:27-40
  4. p. 25 addresses Abortion, includes reference to S&H p. 330:13 and Buswell’s article on mental abortion, entitled “Watch” from the November 1898 Journal.
  5. The issue of rape is not discussed.
  6. Some of this is talked about in the Chapter on Marriage