Read Christian Science by Mark Twain Free Online
Book Title: Christian Science|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 974 KB
v The author of the book: Mark Twain
Edition: Oxford University Press, USA
Date of issue: March 6th 1997
ISBN 13: 9780195114249
City - Country: No data
Read full description of the books Christian Science:I’ve always been a bit literal and so when I was a child walking along St Kilda Road and first saw The First Church of Christ Scientist I just assumed that this was a church that had started here in Melbourne and that somewhere there must be a second church. I don’t think I ever made the connection with the Christian Scientist Reading Rooms that are dotted about the place – there’s one in Glenhuntly Road, for example.
Then I grew older and read a book that said various joking things about religions – and one of the only things I remember from that book was that when Mary Baker Eddy (affectionately known as Mother Mary to her congregation) was asked about the efficacy of her mind cure and more specifically why members of her family had not lived longer than the average Joe or, in fact, why they had also had the standard illnesses everyone gets – she answered that it was because of the bad feelings directed at her and her family by wicked people. I always thought this was very amusing.
Then when my youngest daughter started drama at CAE and my eldest daughter and I would wait to pick her up in Degrave Street we would invariably stand waiting for her outside the Christian Science Reading Room there. And I told her what little I knew of Ms Eddy and we looked in thorough the window at the endless copies of Science and Health on display and I smiled to myself.
It was only when I got my Kindle that I found out Twain had written a book on the subject. I wasn’t going to read it, but then I read William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience and he talks extensively about Christian Science (if in rather general terms) and I thought it would be good to learn a bit more. I like Twain, I really enjoyed Huck and found his Life on the Mississippi wonderful – so, who better to take me on a journey into the dark world of Christian Science?
Christian Science believes that there is no such thing as matter – Matter is merely prejudice we seem to have been lumbered with. What is true is God, and God is spirit, not matter, and we are made in God’s image, so we aren’t really matter either – if you follow my logic. Christ wasn’t just a religious leader, he was also a healer. So, it makes sense that the followers of Christ should also be healers. And by the way, a Christian Scientist doesn’t need to be in the same room to heal you – since matter doesn’t exist, space doesn’t either. Really, to be healthy is just a matter of removing sin from your life and then your spirit will be healthy and therefore so will your body be.
Twain is much more respectful of this view than I probably would have been – the desire to simply point and laugh is obviously very great here, but I will follow Twain’s example. Twain points out that it is probably true (and I’m translating into modern language here) that given that most illness is psychosomatic it can therefore be ‘cured’ by the placebo effect. Given it is notoriously difficult to know which is a real and which is a psychosomatic illness – then perhaps Ms Eddy is wiser than as the rest of us in just grouping all illnesses as illnesses of the spirit. Perhaps treating all illness as if the body didn’t really exist is just as good as some of the other treatments available in her day – bleeding, poisoning with mercury, cutting people open with dirty knives and so on – in fact, there is no ‘perhaps’ about it.
Twain makes it clear right from the beginning what he thinks of the views that form the basis of Christian Science, even if he does so using humour and satire. The first few chapters here are the supposed treatment he receives from a Christian Scientist after falling off a cliff and breaking most of the bones in his body. When the Christian Scientist effectively tries to cure his broken body by telling him to have faith (about as effective as trying to cure a broken arm with iridology or aromatherapy) he really goes to town on the whole idea.
But this isn’t the main point of the book. Twain’s main point is to show that he doesn't think very highly of Mrs Eddy at all – and not because he thinks her ideas are stupid. In fact, it is clear that his main concern is that he thinks she is money hungry and obsessed with power to the extent that she virtually believes she is divine. Now, she is hardly the first founder of a religion to have those faults. What is really interesting, and takes up a large part of the book, is that he also does not believe that she actually wrote Science and Health (virtually the second bible of Christian Science) – and he believes he can prove it. And, do you know what? His proofs are pretty convincing.
Let’s say that besides all of the plays and all of the poems and sonnets of Shakespeare’s there were also a series of letters that we absolutely knew for certain Bill had written. Let’s say that in these letters he mentions some bits of poetry he has been working on and the poetry in the letters is invariably in the form of limericks. Now, this wouldn't in itself be conclusive proof that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays, but then, you might be much more prone to have another look at the evidence for Bacon having had a hand in them. And what if the letters were so badly written, so unclear, so jumbled and convoluted that it was just obvious that the pen that wrote the letters couldn’t possibly also be the pen that wrote Hamlet?
Well, that is pretty much what Twain shows with Mrs Eddy. He even appends slabs of Science and Health and her preface and it is as clear as day that the two bits of writing were not done by the same hand. Where one is sharp and clever and clear the other is uninspired, hard to read and just badly written.
This really was an interesting book. Mrs Eddy seems to have suffered from megalomania and also seems to have been a plagiarist. But I’m even more fascinated by Christian Science after having finished this book than I was before reading it. Her megalomania might have implied (ought to have?) that once she died the church would metaphorically follow her to the grave soon after. That this didn’t happen seems rather remarkable. I might also have thought that the advance of modern medicine might have helped to undercut some of her ideas – although, why I might think this given the growth of New Age Medicine is yet another mystery.
If I had time I would like to find out more about this church post-Eddy, but Twain’s message and manner of attack here is enlightening and, I should think, proved a bit of a head-ache for Christian Science at the time. This was well worth the read.
Read information about the authorSamuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).
Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion's newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling.
He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility.
Born during a visit by Halley's Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age", and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature".
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