This is #12 in a series of posts looking at the 26 Christian Science Weekly Bible Lesson subjects, chosen by Mary Baker Eddy, and rotated twice per year. These lessons are the sermon at each Christian Science church worldwide, and are read by Christian Scientists daily. Today’s subject is ‘Life’. Look for other posts in the category “Lesson Sermon Subjects“.
Life in the context of today’s subject, is one of Mary Baker Eddy’s seven ‘synonyms’ for God (the word is capitalized when used in this context–see ‘Christian Science Grammar’ in my glossary of terms for more on this), and one of the six of these that is a Lesson Sermon topic (Principle seems not to get a nod for some reason). So, what is this thing called ‘Life’?
Question–What is Life?
Answer–Life is divine Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit. Life is without beginning and without end. Eternity, not time, expresses the thought of Life, and time is no part of eternity. One ceases in proportion as the other is recognized. Time is finite; eternity is forever infinite. Life is neither in nor of matter. What is termed matter is unknown to Spirit, which includes in itself all substance and is Life eternal. Matter is a human concept. Life is divine Mind. Life is not limited. Death and finiteness are unknown to Life. If Life ever had a beginning, it would also have an ending.
(Science and Health, pp. 468-469)
When I read through passages like this in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures nowadays, after a little more than six years away from Christian Science, it increasingly reads like incomprehensible word-salad to me. This Christian Science ‘definition’ of Life appears in the chapter Recapitulation, which is sort of a Q & A section of Science and Health.
As I pick through this meandering definition, and recall my own memories of what ‘Life’ was, according to Christian Science, it takes on a sentience, if you will, of its own–as if Life is some sort of sentient thing–sort of. In the context of Eddy and Christian Science, Life is an attribute of God, hence the synonymous relationship, so in this sense, it is something sentient. It is, in essence, God–as far as Christian Science is concerned. If that sounds a bit ‘New Age-y’ to you, you’re right. Some aspects of New Age thought and especially the New Thought movement are strongly influenced by Christian Science–or philosophies that influenced Christian Science, with most adherents being mostly unaware of the connections. Many share similar ancestry.
Life (capital ‘L’) in Christian Science is analogous to what most of us think of as life,
similar to how ‘Mind
‘ (another ‘synonym’ for God) is analogous to the human brain. It is a ‘spiritual’ sense of what we normally think of as our day-to-day human lives. It brings in a bit of a pantheistic sense of God as something that dwells in and is a part of all of us. Often, in Christian Science, you’ll hear of all people as being ‘reflections’ of God. Not really God, but sort of like God. Another analogy I often heard was that God is like the sun, and we are like the rays of the sun. In essence, according to Christian Science teachings, God is our life (Life). In fact, one of the last statements attributed to Mary Baker Eddy, written within a day or two of her death, was “God is my life.” To sum it up in a nice neat package, God is life/Life, and life/Life is God.
Some aspects of this have carried over with me in my post-Christian Science life. While I no longer believe that anything like God or any other diety exists or ever has existed, I do believe that there is something ‘more’ out there (the best way I can describe it). If someone asks me the “what’s your religion?” question, my answer is ‘agnostic’ (although that is NOT a religion). I think there is a lot more about life and the universe than what is known to current science, and it would be the height of arrogance to think we know everything right now, or ever. While deities make no sense at all to me, I do believe that we are all a part of a collective intelligence–if you want to call it ‘God’, go ahead. That’s what makes logical sense to me now. I may be completely wrong, who knows? My thoughts on life echo what an atheist friend of mine once said about the idea of an afterlife. She feels that consciousness is a form of energy, and since the law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then in her estimation, our consciousness does continue in some way, and science just hasn’t figured it out yet.
This more expansive thought, for me, is liberating. God was a humanly-constructed security blanket that was actually more of a straight-jacket. If I believe in anything, I believe in knowledge, and the pursuit of knowledge. The open mind to not only consider all possibilities, but to also be convinced by evidence, rather than solely by conjecture or blind faith, is truly a wonderful thing. I’ve never felt more free.