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Cheryl Petersen goes over the six tenets of Christian Science as found in her book, 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A modern version of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health.
We did make it to the Blue Mountains, to my younger brother’s cabin, where we spent a few nights.
My brother inherited the family cabin from our parents and had retained most of the knick-knacks and cutlery and furniture, which brought up a lot of good memories from when we were kids.
Meanwhile, our older daughter flew from Tennessee to Boise, Idaho, met up with her friend since kindergarten, Nik, and they drove to the cabin.
Over the years, these girls came with us to the cabin, built forts outside our orchard, rode horses, and had sleepovers. She’s part of the family. But a few years back, Nik had a work-accident as a horse jockey and now uses a wheelchair for mobility. This cabin trip was the first trip she’d taken without her husband, who is a wonderful man and very able to help lift and get Nik around when she’s not in her wheelchair.
However, as good friends do, Nik and our daughter push boundaries with wisdom.
Before the visit, at the gym in Tennessee, our daughter practiced hauling heavy weight, with the idea it was Nik, holding on with her arms around her neck. And Nik increased her arm strength.
They arrived at the cabin, and we talked and laughed, all the while feeling genuinely grateful deep inside. That night, Doug and I returned to Washington and the two friends went on a “walk” from the cabin to the meadow, both women, capably and safely, maneuvering the wheelchair. They also “climbed” the cabin stairs together.
On the morning that the girls were to travel back to Boise, they expected Doug and me to come to the cabin, chit-chat some more, and say goodbye.
I woke about four a.m. We arrived at the cabin just after six a.m.
Some people could think 6 a.m. was early, but during the more than thirty years we’ve known one another, it was normal for me to walk into the small cabin kitchen and see Nik pivot her wheelchair deftly and crack, “It’s about time you got here. We’ve been waiting since four.”
Watching sun rises was one of the longstanding commonalities between us.
“Isn’t it amazing that a loyal friend is always beautiful!”—21st Century Science and Health
“The pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”—Proverbs 27:9
Driving to the Blue Mountains in Oregon, we came to a stop, behind a long line of vehicles. Temperature rising.
It was another, over one-hundred-degree day of the heat wave in southeastern Washington state.
We heard the pulsing pounding before we saw the helicopter fly to a distance in front. Whatever stopped traffic was down a hill and we didn’t see the helicopter land but figured it was time to turn around and return to where we came from.
Keeping my frustration at bay, I called and told the people, who we were going to visit, that we couldn’t make it. They said, it was better we didn’t come, because of the heat they were driving to Walla Walla for the day to find coffee shops with air-conditioners.
I touched off the phone and, knew.
“Let’s go see Roland,” I told my husband. Who snickered because it was early in the morning, not quite seven, and we didn’t have his phone number to call to see if he was home or awake.
Roland didn’t even know we were in town, three-thousand miles from our own home.
After driving ten minutes to his house, I knock on the door. I see him come to the door through thick glass. He opens the door, recognizes us immediately and tears come to his eyes. He said, “I’ve been trying to call you.”
He lost our phone number, but his mind was really on another topic, which he told us then and there because he wanted to get it out so he could move forward. His wife was diagnosed with cancer. We all went to the living room. Doug and I said hello to his wife who told us, “You came at the right time. We have to leave for chemo in thirty minutes.”
She went to get ready while we talked with Roland, a man who was also a member at the church we were when we lived in Kennewick. He and Doug played their guitars and sang at church together. Roland and I talked for hours upon hours about God, life, marriage, raising children. I remember getting an email from him with the question, “What is God?”
“Reality,” I replied.
Once, during our conversation on this trip, we each said, we couldn’t believe that we stopped by his house, when we did. It’d been years before we spoke last. Only once, because sitting in awe can be a distraction to getting done what needs to be done.
We reconnected for spiritual strength. We reconnected because it was in the plans for our trips, despite the fact we didn’t talk about it, outline it, or contemplate it.
We confirmed and talked about the available Holy Spirit, getting us through the diagnosis with grace.
“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”—Isaiah 30:20-21
This is my personal reasoning and conclusion, which changes with new ideas:
My parents introduced me to religion by taking me to a church of Christ, Scientist. During the 1870s through the mid-80s, I began to feel barren. Although I experienced and prayed for others to experience healing through spiritual truth, I realized that my attitude was pretentious, devoid of true welcoming.
I realized the tent emptied.
After getting married, we moved to another city (Kennewick) and started a First Church of Christ, Scientist, approved by The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. We had a small group, happy, full of fortitude.
From the mid-80s to the turn of the 21st century, despite my happy demeanor and spiritual success, desolation stared me in the face.
I stared back.
Because I study history, I knew that Mary Baker Eddy’s requirements for church membership were to follow the six tenets listed in her Science and Health: The Bible is sufficient (not the only book) to lead to eternal life, strive to stop sinning, acknowledge one Christ, Jesus, have the mind of Christ, and do to others what I want done to myself.
But I learned that when branch churches formed, early-mid 1900s, some branches included in their by-laws, the strict requirement not to use medicine. It was a bad mistake. And we refused to carry the law into the new church we formed in Kennewick.
I can sympathize with those of us who didn’t turn to medicine first and experienced spiritual healing, but to force the cart before the horse lacks common sense. And to apologize or try to reverse that standing, does little good. And can even make me more pretentious, thinking I have something others do not and if they join my tent, all will be well.
The day came when I crawled out of that tent.
And I saw before me, what was always in front of my face. A large tent, as defined by Eddy in Rudimental Divine Science, “As the law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony.”
Open minded people are pursuing spirit, overcoming their fears with love, and experimenting with alternative, less intrusive, methods of healing. Doctors are acknowledging the power and presence of a good mind. People are striving, struggling to treat others the way they want to be treated. Many other faiths acknowledging God as a healing force and hosting prayer meetings. Physics standing strong on the power of love and life over fear and death. Young people use different terminology, i.e. the universe, divine energy, but it fits as squarely with a God of love and truth as Christian Science lingo.
Sometimes, it’s not easy to see this, amid the divisiveness of politics, disparity of economics, and vile human nature, but the Christ is more powerful than human will-power, and good news is happening, making history.
I see a tent, enlarging its borders, of people blessed by the law of God interpreting harmony. Despite my blind believing it was barren because its inhabitants don’t bear fruit that looks, talks, reads, and acts exactly like I do or because they didn’t work as hard as I did in my church.
Within this large tent, fruits of divine Spirit are produced.
People enlarge their vocabularies to reach more truth-seekers, they stretch their arms out to assist those who need physical, financial, and emotional support. They talk through their problems instead of sweep them under the rug with the hollow behavior that pretends mended ways.
God is interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony. Big time.
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.—Isaiah 54:1-3
Using Cle Elum, Washington as our headquarters, we drove to the near border of Oregon and visited family and friends. Many times.
It was easier for two people, me and Doug, to drive to see the family with parents who both work other jobs besides caring for the two children, a dog, and a house. And we’d crisscross the USA multiple times because we love this family. Along with Aunty, who lives down the road in her own house and has a full-time job and is earning her master’s degree, logging hours in her internship.
So, imagine to our delight when they all offered to come to Cle Elum to visit us. I felt so honored. Aunty brought her boyfriend, also earning his master’s degree and holding a full-time job.
Before they came, Doug and I went to the Ranch and Home store because my sister’s house had no children’s toys besides pots and pans, which will work in a pinch. But we had time and wanted a little extra for the four- and two-year-old coming soon.
I walked the small section of items designed for children and found a container of chalk for drawing on sidewalks, which my sister has, and playdough.
Indoor tents caught my attention, hanging from the ceiling. The choices were pink barbie or blue spiderman. Irk. I wanted Wonder Woman. Anyway, spiderman it was.
When our guests arrived, out of the car came the four-year old girl dressed in spiderman.
By time they left six hours later, the sidewalk was decorated lavishly, playdough circles and squares were cut out, and the tent was set up. The children coaxed the tall, hefty boyfriend to squeeze inside with them causing great volumes of laughter because he struggled to unfold and exit the tent.
We all, also went on a long walk and picked wildflowers for a large bouquet for the table at which we ate.
We gave them the tent to take home before they made the two-and-half hour drive.
The next week, we visited them in their own homes, we read, built blocks, played with her two-year old brother, went outside, planted cantaloupe seeds, pulled tack weeds, ate, and threw the ball for the dog.
The next week after that, we arrived at their home and the girl was dressed in Wonder Woman. I told her, “When I was in school, on dress up day, I dressed as Wonder Woman, who has wrist bands for protection.”
Her eyes got big.
We found paper and scissors, cut strips, and taped them together to make wrist bands.
She asked, “Can I have ankle bands too?”
Of course, I said.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”—Matt. 7:11
Click below to listen to Wednesday weekly Bible lessons with spiritual interpretation from 21st Century Science and Health, a modern version of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health
Born two-hundred years ago in 1821, Mary Baker was raised by a doting mother and strict father. By the age of thirty, she had endured personal crises typical to privileged white girls. Lost lovers and unfulfilled dreams. Her mother died when Mary was twenty-eight. She married her second husband, Daniel Patterson, in 1853, fancying he would make things better. But in 1857, while ill in bed a few weeks, forlornly pining her mother, Mary noted in her scrapbook, “My dear dear…Mother waits for me in the far beyond and through the discipline, the darkness and the trials of life, I am walking unto her.”
In 1861, Daniel urged Mary to investigate mind-cure and wrote a letter to up-and-coming practitioner, Dr. Phineas Quimby, to make plans to travel from their home in Rumney, New Hampshire, to Portland, Maine, to get Mary treatment for her periodic spinal and emotional challenges.
But the plan was interrupted by another crisis that appeared to disillusion and transform Mary. The American Civil War (1861-1865).
Spring of 1862, President Lincoln called for volunteers to fight for the Union. Surely with Mary’s support, Daniel traveled to Washington D.C. for an assignment. But before getting the assignment, he became a civilian casualty, captured by Confederates and taken to Libby Prison in Virginia.
At the news of Daniel’s imprisonment, Mary’s mental and physical health broke down. Her executive sister, Abigail, checked her into Vail’s water-cure center where Mary languished for months. A far cry from her previous ten years of being the center of Daniel’s attention.
Historical records show that Daniel professed his love in a letter to Mary as the only woman he wanted to marry. Both were intelligent and educated. Mary had written for publications and Daniel was known as an honest, expert dentist.
That first summer of the Civil War, within the confines of a disease festering prison, echoing agonies of pain, Daniel succumbed to illness. He survived the sickness and was taken to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina, to suffer more hunger, lice, and probably guilt for not doing more.
End of September, in the dark of night during a thunderous downpour, Daniel escaped through a third story window and over a ten-foot fence. He began stumbling at night, hiding by day, and foraging or stealing food. He was dodging Confederate sympathizers.
Daniel crossed the Alleghany Mountain range on his four-hundred-mile trek to safety over the Union line in West Virginia, while mid-October, Mary asked her brother to take her to Portland, Maine, for mind-cure treatment from Dr. Quimby. Through Quimby’s mind-power therapy, Mary received physical relief like never before. The healing caused her immediately to place her faith in Dr. Quimby.
Mary and Daniel were reunited in November of 1862 in New Hampshire. Daniel’s relief was probably clouded with post-traumatic syndrome disorder. Mary’s relief was probably spilling over with unrestrained excitement at her renewed health.
Next spring, the Pattersons settled in the busier town of Lynn, Massachusetts, closer to Dr. Quimby. Daniel resumed his dental business and supported Mary while she wrote and tested the waters of public speaking in Maine on subjects varying from mind-science to supporting the Union troops. Mary’s days were filled with new ambitions and frequent, lengthy absences from Daniel, while she also probed Quimby on mind-cure.
Records show that Daniel worked in Lynn, paid their bills, and dealt with poorer health due to deprivations in prison. July 1864, in extreme hundred-degree temperatures, Daniel contracted a bacterial infection. Mary was home, after being in Maine for more than two months that spring, and wrote Quimby on July 8, “My husband was seized 2 days ago with fever and what is called erysipelas… His face is a purple red and swelled horribly. I feel alarmed about him for fear it will reach the brain as he knows the M. D.’s opinions. I have watched and waited upon him till I am not a little out of tune, feel tired and it hurts me now to move. Can you not prevent my taking it and send relief to him?” Apparently, Mary traveled to Maine after July 9 and left Daniel alone to recuperate.
Mary returned to Daniel in October with greater confidence in what she was learning about mind-power and more experience at keeping the attention of an audience.
Quimby died in 1866 and Mary faltered. She literally slipped and fell on ice, becoming bedridden.
I can image that after losing everything during the Civil War, then discovering it with added hope and trust, only to lose it all again after the war ended, that Mary felt disillusioned. Like hundreds of thousands of Americans, reeling with resentments and anxieties after forced losses and gains. After compulsory revisions to enslaved and enslaving lifestyles.
Mary’s written memories of her ice fall experience show contradictions, but her recovery indicates a scientific breakthrough or revelation. Something she could work with. Faith in herself, rather than faith in Quimby.
It seems Mary tested her faith in healing by using logic and discovery. What didn’t work to benefit mental and physical health was corrected by new ideas.
Early 1867, Mary taught a factory worker, Mr. Crafts, how to heal with mind-power. Ready to turn her mission into money and start a healing business, Crafts agreed to be the face of Mary’s business while paying her royalties for each patient healed, in his hometown of Taunton, Massachusetts. In April, Mary moved to live with Mr. and Mrs. Crafts while Mr. Crafts and Mary rented an office in town.
Daniel didn’t move with Mary. He permanently moved to the quieter, rural Rumney, New Hampshire and continued his successful dental business.
As for Mary’s business, it didn’t last half a year. People were healed but Mr. Crafts quit. The rest of 1867 is a blur of Mary living in different towns, but she didn’t give up fine-tuning her method of applying mental health to physical healing.
In 1868, she moved to Amesbury, Massachusetts and picked up a few more students. Including Richard Kennedy, a nineteen-year-old who worked at a box factory.
Summer of 1870, Mary made her next mind-cure business attempt in Lynn, Massachusetts with the young Richard Kennedy, who had learned from Mary how to massage patient’s heads and stomachs and think good thoughts to heal illnesses.
For two years, they rented a space to live and work in together. Documents show that Mary and Richard Kennedy developed a love-hate emotional affair that lasted fifteen years. Written manuscripts show Mary tenaciously blaming Richard or Mr. K_ for her problems. Undoubtedly, it was a terrible mental burden.
After physically separating from Richard and before divorcing Daniel in 1873, Mary stopped teaching and spent a reflective three years thinking, writing notes, and living in Lynn.
I believe that this is when Mary’s faith in her own mind lessened and faith in a greater reality, called infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, took hold.
Compiling her notes, Mary published, Science and Health, in 1875, a book she revised constantly until her death.
Science and Health showed how to translate the emancipation of African American slaves to the emancipation of mental slavery.
Science and Health was originally intended for the general public, not for religion or church. Mary, using Christ as her model healer, pointedly wrote in the first edition, “Creeds and ritualism never enable us to follow Jesus’ example, and give the demonstration he gave of God.”
In 1877, Mary wed one of her students, Asa Eddy, ten years her junior. He served her dutifully until he died five years later. During this third marriage, Mary established the Massachusetts Metaphysical College and became nationally known. She helped thousands of regular people and Civil War veterans experience physical and mental health. She organized The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. It would be another fifteen years before Science and Health was grafted to the church.
Curiously, the Church Manual that Mary left behind for members to follow, indicated a brief future under her control. The book of rules was written and revised in present tense, commanding her personal consent and approval for critical decisions. A task not possible when she was dead, making the Manual impossible to follow in the future.
Perhaps Mary wrote the Manual in present tense because revisions and scientific modifications are necessary to continue benefiting humanity.
By time I was born in 1961, Mary Baker Eddy and her church were fading. But the power of mind and the idea of an infinite were gaining hold. The discoveries of an infinite cosmos more easily translated into infinite possibilities.
Except, I grew up believing that reliance on prayer was the best healer, limiting my possibilities.
Until, as a young adult, that belief unraveled after reading this sentence in Eddy’s Science and Health, “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.”
Prayer is a ritual, like getting vaccinations. In other words, prayer is not synonymous with the truth or truthfulness that sets us free.
Not that I quit praying.
Prayer helped me stay calm and take on new daily rituals last August when closing my small business, a casualty of the Covid epidemic.
I also prayed while getting fully vaccinated against Covid.
My prayers and the vaccination won’t set me free from the troubles that come with the crises common the human beings, but using them to benefit the humane in humanity sure feels freeing.
Happy birthday, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910).
Bio: Cheryl Petersen received a scholarship from Religion Newswriters Association and studies Christian Science. She is author of, 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health. She lives in New York. Cheryl can be reached at www.HealingScienceToday.com and 4CherylWrites (at) gmail.com