Applying words wisely

When studying any form of knowledge, we must understand each word. We must bear in mind the fact that words can become outdated. Or, they can become narrowly defined. And, even if we think we understand a word, we must realize that the definition of that word, held by the majority of people in the world, affects our application of the word.

The very first paragraph of Mary Baker Eddy’s, Science and Health, a religious textbook for those who practice Christian Science, states, “Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God’s gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind.”

A 19th century dictionary definition of self-immolation is: sacrifice, a sacrifice of the self.

Today, we find a definition of: the offering of oneself as a sacrifice, esp. by burning; such suicidal action in the name of a cause or strongly held belief.

Yes, today, the rarely used word, “self-immolation” is directly attached to the headlines about self-immolating monks setting fire to themselves to protest against Chinese rule.

It is one thing to sacrifice selfishness, it is quite another to sacrifice the body. Even if we did sacrifice a body, the selfish thoughts could very well still remain.

If at times it seems that our spiritual progress is too slow, take a new approach. Remove your thought from a world view.

When I am putting into practice the knowledge of sacrificing egotism, personal indulgences, and opinions, I also rigorously make sure my practice isn’t being affected by the world view of self-immolation. This way, I don’t fall into a self-immolation that really is self-destruction.

The revision, 21st Century Science and Health, states, “Human mortal selflessness,” in place of self-immolation. You may find a better word or words to effectively apply the principle of manifesting spirituality, one with Life, Truth, and Love, in place of the problems that come with a mortal self.


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2 thoughts on “Applying words wisely

  1. visnow77 October 28, 2013 at 9:55 am Reply

    That word “self-immolation” always does bring me up short. I pause to think about it, assume the meaning has changed since the 19th century, and go back to reading, but it certainly throws me for a few moments. I like that you are trying to make the meaning clearer. But why do you include the word “mortal” in your revision? Aren’t we trying to understand ourselves as non-material and immortal creations of divine Mind?

    • Cheryl Petersen October 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm Reply

      In comparison to Mrs. Eddy’s version, the number of the times the word “mortal” was used was reduced in the revision 21st Century Science and Health. Mortal was frequently replaced with the word “human.” Mrs. Eddy used mortal and human interchangeably. I agree with you that we are aiming for and demonstrating the non-material and immortal in divine Mind, however the human mind tries to fool us or stop us. So, in order to understand what the non-material and immortal means, it helps to see what it is not, thus the references to mortal. Thanks.

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