Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 16: The Sensitives > Chapter 8: Christian Science, Other Spiritual Movements
Christian Science, Other Spiritual Movements
Virtues and faults
Christian Science is a useful anticipator of the fuller philosophic teaching.
Because we must refuse to follow the Christian Scientists all the way, because we must refuse to regard Christian Science as the one and only thing that matters--this is no excuse for not following them part of the way.
The essential difference between the Christian Science method and the one which has been explained here is that the former asserts that man is divine whereas the latter asks what man is and then awaits the answer. The first method may, and often does, easily fail by remaining a mental statement and not becoming a spiritual experience.
Mrs. Eddy, I regret to say, made these and other errors but it is not my purpose to evaluate either the merits or demerits of her cult. She had her part to play in the spiritual instruction of the Western world, and if she made serious mistakes, she nevertheless brought to birth a widespread movement which, as she says, has done much good. The system which she founded contains elements of the highest truth, and if her followers will only have the courage to remove the fetters which have been placed upon their independent thought, if they will not hesitate to utilize the powers of free inquiry which God has bestowed upon them, and if they will not shut their eyes but adopt an attitude of wider sympathy and less intolerance towards other systems, they may avoid the fate which overtakes most spiritual movements, when growing numbers kill the spirit and adhere to the letter. I have introduced Mary Baker Eddy's name into this book to render some small service of correction for the sake of her large following, if not for the benefit of the world at large. I cannot conceal a certain admiration for the dignified way in which Christian Science is doing its work in the world, much as I deplore its fanatical narrowness and intellectual mistakes. It contains truths which are sorely needed by ignorant humanity today.
The New Thought or Christian Science claims, where correct, are true only of the adept, for he alone has fully aligned himself with the Spirit.
With a little perception of the metaphysical truth in mentalism but a large application of it, the Christian Scientists have healed sickness and banished anxiety.
Theosophic misunderstanding of Indian wisdom is not surprising in view of the fact that the majority of Hindu Vedantins have misunderstood the tenets of their own doctrine.
Theosophy is often helpful in serving as a means of information to some seekers of spiritual truth. But it also contains elements which can lead them woefully astray.
Is life's purpose in us to add new experience to the old ones, as the Western theosophist thinks, or to shed all experience entirely, as the Eastern ascetic asserts?
The thought service of teachers like H.P. Blavatsky and Mary Baker Eddy was to help those people who were ready to move away from the materialistic view of Nature which prevailed in the nineteenth century, and which was created by the scientific activities of that century. Theosophy and Christian Science helped to arouse such people to question their materialistic beliefs and provided them with the necessary higher faith to which they could step across. These cults provoked new ideas and gave new points of view.
The defect in all this "New Thought" type of teaching is the arrogance and absurdity, the unpracticality and unreality incorporated along with its undeniable wisdom and usefulness. Its advocates, insofar as they defend and propagate this defect, are self-hypnotized and thus self-deluded, or have little experience of practical human affairs, or are carried away by intemperate enthusiasm into unbalance.
The historians of New Thought point to Emerson as their first prophet, but he himself would deny the honour. What he thought of George Muller's autobiography, an early book which is made much of by the movement, was indicative of what he would have thought of the movement as a whole had it existed then. It pulled piety into the shoe-closet and left it suffocating there, was his first criticism. It could not stand close cross-examination, was his second. It lacked philosophic depth, was his third. Nevertheless, he was fair enough to praise the piety which it did contain.
One of the disadvantages of Theosophy is that it invariably leads to a confusion of paths. The quest, on the other hand, being an individual rather than a group affair, offers an unobstructed view that is free from confusion.
My attitude toward Theosophy is certainly neither hostile nor prejudiced: while intensive and sympathetic study of its history, as well as long-range observance, makes its limitations and defects clearly obvious, I am nevertheless fully aware and appreciative of the valuable part it has played in human evolution.
We hope no one will misunderstand us to be supporting the enemies of Christian Science and taking sides against it when we state--without ill feeling and quite as a matter of scientific observation--certain facts. We are not here judging these facts but only stating them. These paragraphs are intended to explain, and not to justify, a point of view which we do not hold. It is an unreasonable point of view, but anyway it is an intelligent one. Although we do not accept it, at least we understand how and why others come to accept it. But we do not stand on the same platform with them. It is not that we are hostile to their attitudes. It is simply that we feel we cannot participate in them. Christian Science has its virtues and faults. It contains a number of needed truths, but it also contains a number of dangerous errors. Hence it cannot be accepted as it stands. Nevertheless we are always glad to give our blessing and not our opposition to a genuine spiritual movement. Therefore we give it to Christian Science.
During her lifetime, Mrs. Eddy became one of the spiritual illuminators of the Western world. Her work began on the American continent, yet the organization she founded has spread across Europe. In spite of the fierce light of publicity which beat down upon her, she remained an enigmatic figure to the end--partly because her followers permitted no whisper of criticism to disturb their placid regard, and partly because the scoffing world outside her church could obtain practically no access to her. The result was that her believers came to look upon her as a goddess who never erred, when in reality she was but a human being possessed of certain failings, yet one who also attained a mixed illumination.
Mrs. Eddy's fundamental contribution of importance was the teaching that the world is Mind, and thus she paved the way for the higher truth which is based on this doctrine and which has yet to be unfolded to the Western world. But it is a truth which is purely spiritual, that does not attempt to bribe people with material benefits to enter the Kingdom of Heaven--a thing which can't be done. That is why I criticized her doctrine in my book.
We are all working in our different ways--Christian Science people and myself--for the spiritualization of the world; but that need not cause one to confuse the issues. There are different grades of perception and consequently different grades of truth.
Studies in Christian Science and Unity will also have been useful in preparing you for the metaphysical studies.
Mary Baker Eddy must still receive the tribute and credit due to her for grasping anew and developing in a modern way these fundamental age-old truths, which are so important to the well-being of mankind. I say this although I am not a Christian Scientist in the narrow sense of being one who holds this faith and no other. Her system enshrines deep truth, but even in her own lifetime she altered her teaching from time to time.
Christian Science has taken up this great truth of mentalism. For this it must be praised and respected. But, in important ways, it has also misunderstood and misapplied it. Moreover, it is not enough simply to make the affirmation, "Divine Mind is the only reality." It is also necessary to adopt the practical course of self-discipline and mental re-education which will enable one to realize this truth.
The progress of Christian Science students and the success of the movement itself does, however, afford some encouragement, some hope that mentalism will not be entirely a voice in the wilderness but will also find a few receptive hearers.
Some cults come close to this truth when they assert that there is in reality but one true consciousness--the activity of divine Mind. We are in sympathy with much of their theory but less with their practice. For we admire their propaganda of mentalistic truth--obscurely understood though it be--but dislike their degradation to commercial methods.
It is regrettable to have to make strictures on the logical side, for Mrs. Eddy followed a trail of original thinking and deserves commendation on this account. Christian Science comes close to the philosophy expounded in my books at several points, and consequently I am interested in it and rejoice at its spread. Nevertheless, there are points where it flies off at a tangent, partly due to some confusion of thought on the part of its founder. Those critics who say that it is based principally on emotion and not on reasoning are not correct; rather, it is based on both, but, as I have said, its reasoning becomes faulty at times and its emotion attempts, not quite successfully, to mix the highest aspirations with self-centered human ones. In any case, it does not offer a complete answer to the questions "Who am I?" and "Why am I here on this earth?"
What is true in her message will endure; the rest will inevitably succumb under the severe testing of Time.
If the orthodox religionist seriously takes up Christian Science, this would be an excellent advance on the old standpoint. He ought, therefore, to be encouraged to travel in such a direction. Christian Science makes greatly exaggerated claims about its practical results and physical possibilities, but on the whole its metaphysical and religious aspects especially are to be approved for people of this mentality.
Although we have ventured to disagree with Christian Science on a number of points, we recognize the valuable truths it certainly contains. Our criticisms do not despoil its genuine merits, and there are many--enough to overbalance the account in its favour. Despite all difference of view, it is propagating the foundational doctrine of mentalism in the world of theory, as it is inculcating the casting out of negatives in the world of thinking.
The Christian Science doctrine is only partly true and its claim only partly tenable. This is because the human mind is only the part-maker of the world of its experience.
"Astronomy, optics, acoustics, and hydraulics are all at war with the testimony of the physical senses. This fact intimates that the laws of science are mental, not material," wrote Mary Baker Eddy. This shows her acceptance of Mentalism as the basis of her teaching.
The Christian Science Church achieved success not at all because it taught mentalism, which is too hard and too subtle for most to grasp, but for two reasons. First, it gave visible results in the healing of sick people. If some of the cases were quite trivial, others were spectacular. Second, it taught a practical method of not letting the ego's "mortal mind" manage its own affairs (since it is so faulty and so limited) but of turning them over or surrendering them to the Overself for management. This is similar to the Ramana Maharshi's story of a passenger in a railway carriage who was advised to put his parcel down from his shoulder and let the train carry it.
New Thought would be better titled Muddled Thought. It is an amazing amalgam of the divinest truths with the stupidest errors. People can often see the golden reef in it and then proceed towards the unwarrantable conclusion that it is ALL gold. It is not. A mixture of right and wrong has never yet produced all right, nor can it.
One may admire Rudolf Steiner without wanting to be grouped with his disciples and without agreeing with all he wrote!
The Shaker sect built very successful communities which mainly grew and preserved fruit, medicinal herbs, and garden seeds.
Mary Baker Eddy was an inspired woman, an illumined teacher. She had a great mission but she muddled it. And this faulty execution derived, as it often derives, from the interference of the lower ego, with its earthly desires, in both her inward receptivity and her outward activity.
If H.P. Blavatsky got some things wrong, it is pardonable in a work of vast dimensions. She got many new unfamiliar things amazingly right.
New Thought and kindred cults may, if rightly used, prepare and control, refine and thin out the ego. But this is only the first stage. After that comes the work of surrendering the ego. Few followers of these success and cheerfulness cults are taught this second stage, or would be willing to go on to it.
Those New Thought cults which make the seeking of health, wealth, and worldly happiness their real objective, and which do not hesitate to use the spiritual techniques of prayer, meditation, and affirmation to achieve this objective, are entitled to do so. But they are not entitled to practise the deception that their methods can achieve entry to and naturalization in the kingdom of heaven. For with all their lofty talk they still love the ego sufficiently to prevent this from happening.
The great error of all these worldly-happiness Spiritual teachings like New Thought, Unity, Christian Science, and especially Dr. Peale's "Power of Positive Thinking" is that they have no place for pain, sorrow, adversity, and misfortune in their idea of God's world. They are utterly ignorant of the tremendous truth, voiced by every great prophet, that by divine decree the human lot mixes good and bad fortune, health, events, situations, and conditions; that suffering has been incorporated into the scheme of things to prevent man from becoming fully satisfied with a sensual existence. They demand only the pleasant side of experience. If this demand were granted, they would be deprived of the chance to learn all those valuable and necessary lessons which the unpleasant side affords and thus deprived of the chance ever to attain a full knowledge of spiritual truth. It is the ego which is the real source of such a limited teaching. Its desire to indulge itself rather than surrender itself is at the bottom of the appeal which these cults have for their unwary followers. These cults keep the aspirant tied captive within his personal ego, limit him to its desires. Of course, the ego in this case is disguised under a mask of spirituality.
The fallacies of Christian Science arise not only from its ignorance of the law of karma but also from its ignorance of the law of opposites. Every kind of experience in this space-time world is conditioned by its opposite kind. Thus light appears to us only because darkness also appears. We can call some things large only because we are able to call others small. We are accessible to joy only because we are also accessible to misery. We live only because we die. Consequently, in claiming the right and power of mankind to physical immortality, unbroken prosperity, and continuous good health, in wanting pleasure without the pain which it rests upon, Christian Science claims what is contrary to universal law; and when it believes it has succeeded in making a demonstration of truth, it has merely succeeded in making a demonstration of self-delusion.
The reformer who thinks that the kingdom of heaven will be inaugurated on earth when men will accept his pet idea or proposed change, does not understand the kingdom of heaven. Firstly, if it comes at all it will come individually, man by man. Secondly, it will come as a presence within one's own heart, as a state of being and not as a social organism.
With her faulty mental development, it was not surprising that Mrs. Eddy's version of mentalism was equally faulty--and not the same as philosophy's. In denying disease she perforce denied the body--a procedure which even philosophy dares not do. In making man God's idea but refusing to make the universe God's idea too, she showed her lamentable self-contradiction. In dismissing the world as illusion but failing to see that she ought to explain the origin of this illusion, her attempts to explain the origin of matter, sickness, evil, and error as beliefs of mortal mind, which was nothing, became pointless.
The greatest limitation of these cults, whether Christian Science or New Thought, is their refusal to admit any limitations at all. They would part the universe from God's control and put it under their own.
Those members of New Thought schools who take it upon themselves to instruct the Almighty as to how he is to arrange the future course of their lives do not, of course, understand either the temerity or the foolishness of their action.
New Thought at times degenerates into unconscious black magic. Mysticism itself even degenerates at times into necromantic spiritism.
Too many people use New Thought to deceive themselves, to evade their responsibilities, and to shirk their duties. This is because they think it promises them something for nothing, results without working for them.
The failure of cults like New Thought and Christian Science, which make so much of the power of thought, is that they make so little of the power of will.
Too many "New Thought" books contain little of verbal sense, and even less of the common kind.
The craving for Utopias of brotherly love and social sharing is common among the religiously or mystically inclined but not among the philosophically inclined. It can be nurtured only by those who refuse to believe the facts of human existence and who long to believe that their wishes are equivalent to these facts.
The term "universal brotherhood" is idealistic but vague, pleasant-sounding but windy. An attempt to form a society whose main object was to become the nucleus of a universal brotherhood was made by the Theosophists, and by less-known cults. Moreover, they added constant talk about "the service of humanity" to their other prattle. Not only did all such groups end in failure to actualize their ideal and in inability to influence the remainder of mankind, but most ended in bitter disputes, harsh quarrels, and internal fission. There are several different factors behind such failures. The two which concern us here are first, lack of any practical workable method to implement the ideal, and second, belief in the delusion that a group can do better what only an individual can do for himself. This is where philosophy shows its superiority. In reference to the first of these factors, it teaches us exactly what we can do with our bodies, our feelings, our thoughts, and our intuitions to bridge the wide gap between ideals and their actualization. In reference to the second factor, it proves that to practise individualism, self-reliance, is essential to real progress.
Rudolf Steiner's metaphysical ideas lack subtlety and depth, partly because his addiction to science--which deals after all with the form side of things--was so excessive as to disturb his natural balance, and partly because the kind of science in which he had steeped himself was that which may roughly be called "Victorian," and "mechanistic," and is now wholly outdated by the new science of today which is so much less materialist. The "impasse" between science and religion, the blank wall terminating scientific materialism of which Steiner made so much and to which he addressed so many pages, is hardly a serious issue today. After all, three-quarters of a century have passed since it really was one. Rudolf Steiner was too much a creature of his own period to be considered our contemporary today; his work is too dated. His agricultural ideas, however, are excellent and are now being taken up with great benefit by farmers.
When World-Mind withdraws the entire cosmos into itself and there is literally nothing at all, it only then fulfils the Christian Science teaching of having no existence whatsoever.
A sister cult is that which teaches them to surrender to the higher divine power that rules the world, saying that the more they surrender the more prosperous they will become. This is a misunderstanding of the wiser notion that surrender can only be actual and justified after they have done everything humanly possible to get what they need and that they are here to strive for it, thereafter leaving ultimate results to destiny.
In an age when economic troubles are widespread, we need not be surprised at the prevalence of another type of cult, more particularly in the Occident, which believes that merely by thinking frequently in meditation of desired possessions, the latter will fall somehow into one's life.
There are misguided Christian Scientists who believe that the existence of poverty is an outward sign of inner failure, of inability to comprehend and apply the spiritual purport of life!
Another defect of its technique is that it makes attainment too cheap and too easy. The notion that anyone can attain the Real without paying the requisite price, and especially without a purification and ennoblement of character, is a deceptive one. It is a bubble that not a few mystics harbour, but it will be pricked in the end.
A proper argument possesses steps and must move by logical jumps. But here Christian Science's first facts do not justify its last conclusions.
It is as easy for Christian Science to dismiss sin, sickness, and death as unreal and erroneous as it is for Vedanta to dismiss not only them, but also their contraries, as non-existent. But the thinking mind of man will still continue to ask these cults, "How did the human race even begin to hold, and to hold so firmly, such unreal, erroneous, and non-existent ideas?" There will come no answer, for in both these dogmatic theologies there is no answer.
The evasion of a problem is not the solution of it. This is a truth beyond the mind of the mystic who is unable to reconcile life in the soul with life in the world and flees from the one to seek the other.
Why deny, for the sake of wishful thinking or to satisfy a speculative theory, facts which we find in nature? Such are the denials of Christian Science. Thinking can make such concessions to human weakness and such violations of its own integrity only at the cost of failing to arrive at Truth.
Those cults which remove suffering from their conception of human life and believe that the latter could and should consist solely of health, wealth, success, and joy are the fruits partly of wishful thinking and partly of misapplied intuition. They ascribe to Deity what are merely the desires of humanity. They accept what they wish to be true, and reject what is unpleasant if true.
The fallacy of Christian Science on its practical side is its overestimation of the powers of man. It turns him into a veritable god.
However much the Christian Scientist may deny the world, or the Eastern/Western ascetic reject it, the world is still there, with its experiences and conditionings. He must still live with it. Is it not better to accept it but to transform its meaning in his own mind?
The fallacious self-deification of New Thought, this human audacity "thrusting insolently beyond what our nature warrants," as Plotinus called it, is not new; Plotinus had to ridicule its folly at Rome in the third century with the scathing sentence: "Imbeciles are to be found who accept this teaching as soon as they have heard it uttered!"
A problem is not solved, a disease not spirited away by denying that it exists.
Their total optimism is immune to the shocks and disturbances, the thrusts and disappointments of experience. It sees only what it wants to see: not the world in which it actually has to live, but the one in which it would like to live. The lessons of suffering are not assimilated; each adverse experience leaves them exactly where it found them.
When life's situations prove too hard for them to bear or deal with or adjust to, or when a battle occurring within themselves finally ends in defeat, such a simple faith-doctrine sets them free from the need of doing. But does it really? Or does it only give them the illusion of being set free?
Nothing could be more certain than the fact that not a single person in historic times has conquered death, that not a single irrefutable record exists of that tremendous event. Yet, in the nineteenth century, when science established its world-wide celebrity and dominance, a woman arose in America and established a religion which spread rapidly and asserted that it had found the way to eliminate death! The founder herself died, and not one of her followers has yet succeeded. In spite of such grandiose failure, this woman-prophet also propounded a second astonishing tenet, which is remarkably true, that of mentalism. And this despite the fact that she used the only basis she was capable of using--a religio-metaphysic one alone rather than what would be called a strictly scientific one.
A justifiable criticism of de Waters' teachings which mix Advaita with Christian Science is that they represent a magnificent but a one-sided and hence unbalanced position; consequently her brilliant conclusions can never be the perfect impeccable truth. They are necessary to offset the other form of unbalance which arises from the step-by-step self-improvement school. But the latter's teachings are just as necessary to offset her own. Philosophy, by accepting both the immediate and the ultimate, by keeping them always together to compensate and balance each other, alone offers an adequate and faultless teaching.
Whatever defects exist in Christian Science exist partly because of the confusion which existed in the mind of its founder, partly because she was fond of using impressive words even though she often did not know their meaning, partly because she habitually used the appearance of scientific thinking without being able to attain the reality. Mystics have often used announcement for argument, fantasy for fact, and they have the right to do so. But they do not have the right to label their pseudo-science as science.
Margot Asquilth once wittily observed that if the practice of Christian Science is pushed to a logical conclusion, you could jump off a roof without being hurt!
To drug the mind with the idea that pain, poverty, suffering, and sickness do not exist because, finding them unpleasant, we do not want them to exist, is not a heroic act nor even so spiritual as it seems. Behind it lies physical fear and prompting it is personal desire.
The foolish cult which denies the existence of disease and then gives "treatments" to cure it is caught in confusion.
It is pitiful to witness these naïve persons rise from their prayers or affirmations in the belief that what they want is already theirs, that their particular desires are already accomplished.
The idea that anybody can get what he wants simply by thinking of it is an exciting one. Who would not like it to be true? But observation of results shows that although not wholly false, the truth in it is greatly exaggerated.
The danger of New Thought-Christian Science affirmations about our divine power and of Vedantic meditations on our identity with God is that they may merely swell the ego with spiritual arrogance and grandiose babble. And because humility is both the first step and the inescapable price demanded of us, such exercises may remove us farther from, and not bring us nearer to, the Quest's goal.
The differences in character and tendencies and values among people make for natural class divisions. No amount of Vedantic tall talk will produce a real equality among people, nor even a fundamental sameness. Each class, each of Nature's groupings and gradings has its limitations. They do not vanish merely by asserting inner oneness. How can we love our neighbour when he differs from us in so many ways? Vedanta would be closer to fact if it shifted the emphasis to unity with our higher being rather than with our neighbour. It fosters illusions about a non-existent brotherhood of man. Its disciples swim in vague idealistic abstractions which they are forced to betray in actual living. If "babble" Vedanta shows itself in the end as impracticable, this is only because it applies itself in the wrong direction. That end is theory and words.
A system of assertion is not the same as a science of observation. When Christian Science ceases to deny facts or avoid realities, it will have the chance to become a science in the true sense of that term.
The hidden materialism
Some of these visionaries, strangely enough, deal in the art of attracting earthly things. A good deal of New Thought and Christian Science is like the ostrich. It buries it head in the sand, holding the thought of prosperity the while, and refuses to see the slum in which God compels it to live. It becomes excited to the point of purple ecstasy with its vision of riches yet to come. But alas! When that vision fades down the years through the hard refusal of facts to accommodate themselves to our theories, bewilderment comes like a blasting wind, yet brings an aftermath of enlightenment to those who have been forced to think.
It seems to me that the average New Thoughtist wants to deal himself all the aces of life, leaving the poorer sort of cards for the lesser and unfortunate mortals.
The truth in these New Thought and Christian Science doctrines can be known only by clipping and correcting the extravagances from which they suffer. The largest one is the belief the the body's health and the bank's balance must always and necessarily increase and improve to the extent that one's spirituality increases and improves. What really happens is that one is brought into increased and improved awareness of the higher self's leading, love, and protective care. It leads one toward those acts and decisions or into those situations and events which best promote the purpose of one's existence. It exists for the ordinary unenlightened man too and would do the same to him, but, not being on the Quest, he unwittingly frustrates its guidance and thwarts its moves. As for the material help it gives the Quester, this is a fact, for, as Jesus mentioned, "The Father knoweth that you have need of these things." But what the Father understands as one's need is viewed in the light of life's true purpose, whereas what the unenlightened man understands is dictated by the ego's desires. The New Thought teachings fail to make this distinction.
How distant are these votaries of New Thought from the real goal may be judged by the fact that not until they are as aware of the Overself as clearly and positively as they are aware of any object experienced by the senses, and not until this awareness is as firmly and as lastingly established as is their own personal identity, can they be rightly said to have found God.
They turn to New Thought as they turn to fortune telling--in the hope that it will promise them that their life will not always be as frustrated or as miserable as it is now.
"New Thought" is not philosophical thought. The difference between the "Dollars want me" attitude and the "My future is with the Overself" attitude is the difference between the retention and the surrender of the ego.
Joel Goldsmith's assertion that "God is supply" is true enough, but to leave it stated as simply as that is likely to mislead its believers. For "God is also lack." He takes away as well as gives, according to each person's particular karma and higher needs.
It is quite likely that satisfying results were gained directly or through the services of a professional practitioner. But it is just as likely that a day will come when these results cease to appear, when improvement in health or worldly conditions will obstinately elude him. This very failure is a sign of help given, albeit it is help up to a higher level of understanding and a purer concept of truth.
It is materialism wearing the cloak of spirituality, worldly desire pretending to be ethereal aspiration. But whether it is open or hidden, we need not wonder that it attracts many followers.
(a) Those who want to "demonstrate" material well-being by following the methods taught in such cults, under the belief that they are demonstrating, at the same time, a godly power, need to correct their notions and re-study their religious history.
(b) They will then learn that the men and women whose attainment of true spirituality is unquestionable seldom paraded much wealth and often lived in humble circumstances. It does not need more than a cursory study of the world around to show that the temptations of prosperity have obstructed the way to inner freedom much more than have the tribulations of poverty.
(c) It is not the demonstration of material gain but the demonstration of spiritual detachment from such gain that is true progress. Yet to avoid misunderstanding, it must be firmly stated that the Quest asks no one to embrace either poverty or prosperity but only truth.
"Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added unto you," was the uncompromising injunction of Christ. Whoever has the courage to test the soundness of this counsel will discover its truth. But many people, like the Christian Scientists, make the mistake of trying to exploit the Kingdom for the sole purpose of financial rewards and physical health. In other words, they do not seek first things first, and therefore do not attain them. They may reach an intellectual understanding of spiritual purpose, but this is in no way the same as living realization. Yet, this said, it is good to remember also that the distortions and perversions and confusions which have accreted around this great teaching cannot engulf its pristine spiritual greatness.
Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says: "He who is happy in poverty and free from things of earthly desire--him I call a rishee, an illuminated one." Contrast this to the rejection of poverty by American mysticism, whose "illuminates" would be unhappy in it and who regard it as a sign of not yet having reached illumination.
Dr. Walter Siegmeister: "I worked for twenty-six years to establish nonprofit, humanitarian, idealistic colonies in Central and South America for U.S.A. vegetarians and spiritual seekers. In Panama I found that at a co-operative undertaking there was a general grab for money and land, or fighting about how the money was to be used. I found that humanity today is unfit psychologically for any co-operative undertaking. Consequently today I consistently refuse such involvements, which lead only to trouble, or to form any form of organization."
They are merely materialists, these New Thought demonstrators, who have penetrated into the camp of the idealists and stolen some of their baggage and then quickly retreated to a safer spot. They want material things first and divine life last. God is merely a convenience for them to use in order to get the former.
On the religious and religio-mystical levels it is necessary to keep in the foreground the Prophet's name and to demand unlimited faith in what he says. Theosophy started with a universal outlook but degenerated with time into a sect, because Theosophists made the mistake of basing their doctrines on the say-so of certain persons.
These Yankee cultists fondly believe that they have but to "switch on" the divine wireless and they will immediately hear that mental voice of God which has eluded the cleverest philosophers down through the centuries. Their teachers are worse, for they spend so much of their time teaching others how to become perfect that they fail to find time to perform this admirable operation for themselves. As a rule God's voice usually flatters their personal importance and puffs up their vanity, if he does not straightaway charge them with the mission of saving all mankind.
This, incidentally, is not the same thing as the "demonstration" claimed by Christian Science and kindred cults. The latter make the mistake of attempting to measure inward spiritual attainment by outward material gain, an absurd and materialistic notion and one which could never have taken hold had these cults truly understood the message of Jesus. They claim that fortune can be amply supplied through the services of the Divine Mind, as though Providence took a special interest in our private purse. They wish to effect an unholy conjuncture of God and Mammon, wish to widen the narrow way. It cannot be done. They are really worshipping money, not spirit and truth. They are entitled to do this but they ought not to deceive themselves in the matter.
Christian Science offers material benefits as a bait to induce men to seek for the Kingdom of Heaven. But Jesus himself is authority for the statement that the Kingdom must be sought for its own sake, or it will not be found. And all history shows that those who have succeeded in finding it were individuals who had, through wide experience or deep insight, abandoned earthly desires. For them the Christian Science bait would have been the very opposite--a bar!
It is hard to give up the attractive theory of abounding health and abundant wealth coming to him in reward for his belief in it. But if he is to grow spiritually he will have to take this difficult step, however slowly and reluctantly. There is no escape from it.
Buddha was a mendicant. Jesus was penniless. But Mrs. Eddy was a millionaire. The early Christians renounced the world and embraced asceticism, but the Christian Scientists seek prosperity and comfort. They are entitled to do this. But are they entitled to assert that their system is primitive Christianity restored?
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