Mary Baker Eddy talks a lot about “reality” and Man’s True Spiritual Identity as a Child of God. Reality is even the title of one of the bi-yearly Weekly Bible Lesson topics. (1) Sunday School teachers were always trying to come up with analogies to explain the ever-present idea of the Adam Dream, the unreality of matter, and our True Spiritual Identity, and most of them failed fantastically. Then one day, the movie The Matrix came out, mind you, it is now over a decade ago (fifteen years ago to be exact), but in the years that followed, The Matrix analogy was the best one they could muster – although, to be fair, after that we may have only had less media-and-teen savvy teachers. In The Matrix, a computer hacker (Neo) learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. (2)
Our Sunday School teachers likened us to Neo, being awakened into our True Spiritual Identity — if only we could recognize it we too could move mountains (I’m fairly sure they meant this figuratively because to the best of my knowledge none of them ever managed such a feat, and mountains aren’t real because none of this existence is real, but I digress). I agree, in many ways, Christian Science is like The Matrix: this is all the Adam Dream and any day now we’ll wake up and rediscover our True Spiritual Selves. Come to think of it, Christian Science is exactly like the Matrix, but not in the way Christian Scientists would like you to think.
In The Matrix, “reality” as projected by the Machines is used to subjugate the humans (the science and logic involved in this is vague and sketchy at best). When Neo “wakes up” he realizes there is the Real World, outside the Matrix, beyond the control of the Machines. The machines remain an ever-present threat, sort of like Ms. Eddy’s baddies-of-choice Error, Mortal Mind and Malicious Animal Magnetism.
I don’t think Ms. Eddy ever set out to subjugate humanity, but I do feel her misguided teachings have done more harm than the Matrix’s less-than-benevolent overlords. In the Matrix, the humans are totally unaware of the fact they are being subjugated, manipulated and deceived. The Matrix is a dull, but mostly safe, place to be as long as you don’t question authority. In both the Matrix, and in Christian Science, the people are aware of something else, something bigger, something more.
Neo is one of those who is seeking the “something more” and while his story is interesting, I am more interested in the Christian Scientists and their paths. Some Christian Scientists take the need to find “something more” as a sign they should immerse themselves in “the books” and spend hours analyzing Ms. Eddy’s works, others leave Christian Science to “find Jesus” or take another path entirely.
I’m not going to critique those who have “found Jesus” – they seem happy on their path. I’m one of those who has taken another path entirely. In some ways, I feel a bit like Neo (but not badly dressed, pale and badly acted part), I’m waking up to the Real World — not the fantasy world of the Christian Science Matrix.
Christian Scientists are encouraged to “live in the Absolute” but until you have ascended into Heaven and are as the Angels you’d better take care of the material body, regardless of how “unreal” you find it to be. Ignoring physical ailments will not magically make them go away — except when it does, and that’s not the “power of prayer” that’s the resilience of the human body and we are very resilient.
The Matrix — and Ms. Eddy — may try to convince us there is no spoon, but the spoon, and ice-cream I’m eating with it, are very real. In Christian Science, Ms. Eddy’s “reality” is a “perfect day of understanding, [when] we shall neither eat to live nor live to eat” (3) and this stands in stark contrast with the commonly accepted idea that
Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. (4)
Ms. Eddy’s “reality” calls for dissociation, varying from mild detachment from immediate surroundings (a TV commercial for pharmaceuticals) to more severe detachment from physical (everything from strokes and heart attacks, to something milder like headaches and hangnails) and emotional experience (the death of a loved one). Fellow former-CS-blogger MKHuggins has two excellent pieces on this: Christian Science and Dissociation in which she argues, quite convincingly, that Christian Science is a dissociative disorder, and a follow up piece entitled Christian Science is a Dissociative Disorder Part 2.
I remember young women at Principia who struggled month after month with horrible menstrual cramps, curled up in their beds with a heating pad for comfort (if they were lucky). Why allow a heating pad but not ibuprofen, or hormonal remedies? Why force otherwise healthy, capable young women to miss day after day of classes because they had been rendered nearly non-functional from pain? In Ms. Eddy’s Christian Science Matrix, the women were suffering from a false belief, in The Real World these women likely had ovarian cysts, hormonal imbalances, or other untreated issues. Could these young women seek treatment? No. That would be acknowledging and empowering Mortal Mind, Error, Mortality and Death.
I know from personal experience is only so much one can disassociate from before reality peeks in. Christian Science damages the ability to have empathy for the sick or injured — they should be working on their demonstration, not laying in bed hallucinating from a fever! The ailment is not real, it is attention seeking behavior!
Breaking free of Ms. Eddy’s Christian Science Matrix means learning about emotions — it is OKAY to be upset, to be angry, to be afraid, to be nervous. It is OKAY to acknowledge (and treat) physical ailments. I don’t have to be constantly filled up full with thoughts from God, and that’s OKAY.
The Christian Science Matrix talks a lot about the nature of reality, how we are all spiritual ideals, lofty thoughts for sure, but I’m not seeking perfection or an otherworldly lack of need for food — I don’t need to ascend into some exalted unreal spiritual state, I’m seeking okay-ness, I’m seeking to be a better mother, wife, friend, person. I don’t need the layers of “reality” that are layered on by the Christian Science Matrix, I can fend for myself in the Real World just fine.
- No Spoon – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzm8kTIj_0M
- http://christianscience.com/bible-lessons/related-information/about-the-bible-lessons/bible-lesson-subjects, http://biblelessons.rolf-witzsche.com/Christian-Science-Bible-Lessons/0097.html
- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/ emphasis mine, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY9UhIxitYM
- Science & Health p. 388