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musings on the material world & death – Eddy & Steiner’s perspectives

Before I dive into Lecture Four: Devachan, I want to pause and contemplate how Eddy and Steiner talk about the material world, and death. I am only three lectures into Steiner’s work, so my views on this could change as I learn more about Steiner’s perspectives.

Through out Science and Health, the material world is intrinsically linked with sin, disease/sickness and death*. Invoking Jesus, Eddy writes: “He came teaching and showing men how to destroy sin, sickness, and death” (Science & Health 6:27-28).

Every supposed pleasure in sin will furnish more than its equivalent of pain, until belief in material life and sin is destroyed. To reach heaven, the harmony of being, we must understand the divine Principle of being. [emphasis added]

For Eddy, the material (including, but not limited to, sin, pleasure, and husbands) are a distraction from God.  She enumerates five erroneous postulates (S&H p. 91-92) reflecting on how  “the denial of material selfhood aids the discernment of man’s spiritual and eternal individuality, and destroys the erroneous knowledge gained from matter or through what are termed the material senses(emphasis added).

Eddy is really big on the unreality of matter, the denial of the material world, and how, eventually, we will recognize that we are spiritual beings… which sounds like a special level of hell all on it’s own.

I am not as well versed in Steiner as I am in Eddy, and I’m sure my ideas will develop further as I work my way through his lectures. I find Steiner’s perspective differently difficult, but simultaneously easier to relate to on a metaphorical level as he acknowledges the physical aspects of the human experience.

Steiner’s vision of man is multi-faceted, with a physical form, and spiritual elements, in stark contrast to Eddy’s man is a spiritual idea of God (nothing more/less). Steiner acknowledges the physical/material world, as well as other worlds. For Eddy, there is only the spiritual, the rest is an erroneous lie.

Death gets complicated for Steiner, as the soul then goes to a purgatory-esque state, kamaloka, before it can be reborn. In this purgatory, it has to overcome the desires it experienced during its physical experience. Steiner does seem to be passing some judgment on the souls here similar to Eddy’s admonishment that “a great sacrifice of material things must precede this advanced spiritual understanding” (S&H p. 16) — but this is worked out after the death of the physical body, and before rebirth.

Steiner points out living a less-material life will cut back on this struggle in kamaloka, but as far as I can tell, Steiner falls short of lumping acknowledgement of the material body/world with sin, disease and death. The experience in the physical realm are something to be learned from, and worked through, as 1/3 of them will be carried forth into the next life — I could be totally wrong on Steiner’s views of this, but that’s what I read it to be.

In both cases, the departed individual has to do some “working out” of the problems they dealt with in their previous life. For Steiner, the person then goes on to be reincarnated (?) — I’m unclear on the exact process, while Eddy’s departed continues to “work out” whatever the issue is until they reach a totally clear understanding, and they “become as the angels” (which sounds pretty dull).


*The sin, disease and death combination appears 14 times through Science & Health, and sin, sickness and death appears together 55 times. Science & Health as a searchable PDF can be found: http://christiansciencemedia.org/files/2010/03/Science-and-Health-with-Key-to-the-Scriptures.pdf

“how many gods do we have mommy?”

The other day, on our drive home, my eldest spoke up about his day:

Eldest: We went and saw the -th-grade play today. It was about a blue god with a big beard.

Me: Do you know which god it was?

Eldest: No. I only saw it once. (pause for a second or two) How many god’s are there mommy?

Me: It really depends on which religion you follow. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have one god. The ancient Greeks and Romans had many. Different religious traditions have different views of god and gods.

Eldest: How many gods do we have?

Me: How many would you like?

The little one, who has been listening to this, pipes up: ZERO!

Eldest: One. The blue one with the big beard.

Little one continues to chant: ZERO!

Me: That’s fine, you can have one, or none, or as many as you like.

The eldest seemed okay with this answer. The little one seemed pleased too. Then they started talking about farts. Because, farts.

How do you handle these questions?

In the Beginning

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


A few times a year our Sunday School teacher would sit us down and have us open our Bibles to Genesis and we would read two accounts of the creation of man, starting with Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  Genesis 1 KJV edition, emphasis mine

Genesis 1 was the correct story of man’s creation, Genesis 2 being the myth where man was made from mud and woman from man’s rib. In Christian Science Adam never awoke from his “dream” (when God put him under to make Eve), and that is why we perceive there to be in and suffering in the world.

I never got an answer on why God didn’t wake Adam up (so much easier to blame a talking snake and a woman), and I never got a firm answer on anyone in Christian Science about what I learned (or didn’t learn) in school about biology, evolution or creation science. I was allowed to drift and be influenced by a local Christian Radio station that regularly talked about the Grand Canyon as being evidence of Noah’s flood. I’ve since become pickier about my scientific sources, and more curious about other traditions’ creation mythologies.

As part of my goals to introduce my children to other religious and mythological traditions in a non-indoctrional way came across In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Barry Moser.

I’ve started reading some of these stories with the children and we’ve been talking about them.

The first story we read was The Pea-Pod Man, Raven the Creator where man emerges out of a pea-pod and meets Raven who can transmogrify into a humanoid and make little animals, and a companion woman for man, out of clay. Death does not enter this story, but little animals (and woman) out of mud do.

We also read about Death the Creator and Quat the Creator, both stories introduce death as being caused by some sort of stupidity. In Death the Creator, it is because the God Alatangana kidnaps Death’s daughter and marries her, and Death demands one of their children.

In Quat the Creator, Quat is one of twelve brothers born from the stone-mother Quatgoro. Quat was the eldest and he made little figures out of clay and danced life into them. One of Quat’s younger brothers, Tangaro the Fool, carved little figures out of wood, danced life into them, and then lost interest and buried them, about a week later he unburied them but they were stinky and rotten, so they had to be buried again. Because of Tangaro’s actions death entered the world.

There are more wonderful stories, including (but not limited to) First Man Becomes the Devil – Ulgen the Creator, Turtle Dives to the Bottom of the Sea – Earth Starter the Creator, Spider Anase finds Something – Wulbari the Creator, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky – Divine Woman the Creator, In the Beginning – Elohim the Creator.  The Frost Giant – Imir the Creator, The Sun-God and the Dragon – God Ra the Creator, First Man, First Woman – Yahweh the Creator. 

As we read, we talk about how these ancient cultures were trying to explain everything happening around them, and answer the big questions: where did we come from, why do we die, who or what created us, what is going on in our world. We are also noticing similarities in the stories — there is a lot of mud-building and stupidity.

Some of the stories are strange and dark, which makes sense, life is strange and there are dark moments that need to be explained. Where did we come from? We emerged out of a pea-pod! We were made from earthen or little mud figures (this is a popular one). How did death enter the world? Someone was foolish and buried little wooden people. Someone was disobedient and listened to a talking snake. Someone married Death’s Daughter without his permission.

In the Beginning is a wonderful resource to explore a wide range of creation stories. I highly recommend it for children and grownups of all ages who are curious about other culture’s creation stories, and in learning how our ancestors explored the answers to life’s big questions.

The Belief Book

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


I don’t remember where I first heard about The Belief Book by David G. McAfee and Chuck Harrison, but I do remember coming across very positive things about how it explained religion to children.

 The Belief Book is a slim, 74 page paperback, aimed at “readers and thinkers of all ages, including kids and kids at heart.” The nine chapters (including introduction and conclusion) map out the path questions take to becoming religions.

People have questions! They form stories to help answer them. These stories are passed along from generation to generation and gradually they become beliefs. These beliefs are people’s creations, they create myths and gods, which go on to become religions.

I appreciate the simple, straightforward manner in which the information is presented. I also like that they define the words they are using to clarify their points, and provide examples of the way the words are used, for example on page four they define Believe, God and Religion:

Be-lieve:
verb

  1. To think a thing is true or that something is real. “Dave and Chuck believe definitions are important because they have seen many people get angry or upset because they disagree about a word’s meaning.”
  2. Trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something. “Dave and Chuck believe definitions are important and they believe in always telling the truth.

They also define words in the text, such as “logical” on page 30.

A mix of the things you’ve tried, like Brussels sprouts, and the stories you’ve heard, have led you to some beliefs that are log-i-cal. Logic is what makes sense based on the facts. Dave and Chuck think that following the evidence and looking at all things with a logical mind is the best way to get good answers to big questions!

 The Belief Book is a quick, fun, simple read, that touches on really big ideas. I will probably read it to the children at some point in the not too distant future — most likely the older one, it is still a bit advanced for the little one, and once they’re reading on their own, I’ll probably put it on their bookshelf for them to discover.

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Parenting Beyond Our Past: A Resource Guide

Very glad to have found this resource guide! I’ve already read How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk and Siblings Without Rivalry and found them to be helpful. Look forward to exploring the other things listed as well!

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Simple Things

Photo Credit: Darcy Anne

“Train up a child in the way he should go……”

I have yet to meet a religious homeschooler who can’t finish that scripture from memory. If you’re like me, you grew up in a very authoritarian, punitive family environment. Punishment and pain, both physical and emotional, were believed to be the best means to teach a child “the way he should go”. Spanking and instant, cheerful obedience to authority were the norm, with many other kinds of punishments used as retribution for a child’s wrong-doing. Parents were the ultimate authority, and children had no choice but to obey or be punished, sometimes very harshly. I honestly didn’t know there were any other ways to parent. Either you spanked and “trained” your children, or you let them run wild and that meant you didn’t love them.

We were the generation influenced by “child training” teachers like the

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Breaking the Spell

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org

This may not be the greatest book review/summary as I am in the process of recovering from one of many viruses that have been circulating the school yard. My apologies in advance. 


A while back an exchange with Matt of Jerico Brisance (check out the impressive bibliography page) led me to picking up a copy of Daniel C. Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. The book arrived and then sat on my desk. I started it enjoyed it greatly, got part way in, put it down (I think the holidays happened), and then it sat some more, somewhat overlooked on a shelf.

I have the hardcover edition of Breaking the Spell which feels a little intimidating and very authoritative. It is not a light read to be skimmed in an afternoon, even the dust jacket makes for heavy, thought provoking, reading:

In a spirited argument that ranges widely through biology, history and psychology, Dennett explores how religion evolved from folk beliefs and how these early “wild” strains of religion were then carefully and consciously domesticated. 

In an effort to more clearly define my reading goals, I put a book mark at the end of the book just before the Appendices start (cutting the reading down to 339 pages from a total of 448), in doing so, Dennet’s central policy recommendation jumped out at me:

[My recommendation] is that we gently, firmly educate the people of the world, so that they can make truly informed choices about their lives. Ignorance is nothing shameful; imposing ignorance is shameful. Most people are not to blame for their own ignorance, but if they willfully pass it on, they are to blame. (p. 339)

As I am on a quest to educate myself, I decided I really should start at the beginning and dutifully flipped back to the Preface where Dennett begins by openly acknowledging his bias as an American, and offers insight into why he has chosen such a “provincial” focus — namely, religion in America. I like his style.

Breaking the Spell is neatly divided into three main sections, then divided into eleven sub-sections, that are further broken down into 3-7 sub-sub-sections, rather like a the outline for a history paper. Throughout, Dennet poses thought provoking questions to the reader and provides brief summaries of what is to come in upcoming chapters.

As far as I can tell, Dennett is not arguing that religion is good or bad, he is arguing that region should be studied, questioned and examined. Religions make extraordinary claims, that should be looked at critically, tested, and studied. Sadly, as Dennett points out, there is the time-tested argument against this:

If anybody ever raises questions or objections about our religion that you cannot answer, that person is almost certainly Satan. In fact, the more reasonable the person is, the more eager to engage you in open-minded and congenial discussion, the more sure you can be that you’re talking to Satan in disguise! Turn away! Do not listen! It’s a trap!

Christian Science replaces “Satan” with “error” or “malicious animal magnetism” but the idea is the same. It’s a trap!  Issues, with “Satan” (or “error”) aside, religion influences too many people for it not to be studied. It should not be immune.

I don’t recommend reading this book while you’re sick. It requires you to think, which can be tricky when your head feels like it is wrapped in wool and there is unbearable pressure behind your eyes.


I look forward to reading the other book in my pile by Dennet: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Update:  I have since attempted to read Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and I’m having a hard time grasping the concepts as completely as I’d like. Eventually I hope to finish reading, and review the book in question, but for now it has moved to my “come back to it later” stack.