mad in pursuit journal


Christian Science

A memory: my grandmother Kitty Mom sitting on the side of her be in her beige slip, growling with pain. She had appendicitis. But she was not going to make one move toward the hospital till my mother went to the bank and retrieved all the contents of her safe deposit box.

It was the 1950s. I was young enough to be looking up at my grandmother as the drama unfolded. I rushed off with my mother to the bank.

Kitty Mom was certain that going to the hospital meant she would die. She had good evidence for this. Her first husband had died from a simple gall bladder surgery that had gone septic. In fact the ignorance and incompetence of the medical care system had killed off entire birth family. True, penicillin was now the great panacea of the 1950s, but Kitty Mom mistrusted and avoided doctors her whole life.

If my memory is correct at all, she flirted with Christian Science. I have vague recollections of books and pamphlets by Mary Baker Eddy and a quick trip to the Christian Science Reading Room, under the cover of dark. Ewald driving, me in the back seat. Kitty Mom dashing in.

From Wikipedia:

Christian Scientists ... believe that sickness is the result of fear, ignorance, or sin, and that when the erroneous belief is corrected, the sickness will disappear. They state that the way to eliminate the false beliefs is to replace them with true understanding of God's goodness. They consider that suffering can occur only when one believes in the supposed reality of a problem; if one changes one's understanding, the belief is revealed as false, and the acknowledgement that the sickness has no power since God is the only power, eliminates the sickness.

I'm learning that Christian Science is part of the American religious tradition of Metaphysics.* Metaphysics is contrasted with Evangelicalism (Bible Belt and mega-church people) and with mainstream Christian denominations (Episcopalians, Presbyterian, Catholics, etc.). This is the tradition that also encompasses the hodge-podge of New Age-ish belief systems (spiritualism, crystals, Shirley MacLaine, etc.)

Metaphysics has a long and complex tradition going back to medieval monasteries. It's essence: (1) Power of the mind (not just "thinking" but also intuition, clairvoyance, etc.). (2) All of nature is one -- no separate heaven, no need to be "born again." (3) Energy flows. (4) Healing (in a practical way, through misaligned, unbalanced energy flows). These basics have gotten packaged and repackaged over time, from bland Christian Science to alarming neo-paganism to whacko ufology. It's interesting for me to try to get all these strands and traditions sorted out.

"Mind over matter" is a phrase I hear in my mother's voice -- always impatient with people who took their suffering too seriously. On occasion my father would try to tell her that he didn't want to go to the doctor because he was studying Christian Science. All that got him was a dirty look.


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*Reading: A Republic of Mind and Spirit by Catherine L Albanese (2007)