Thursday, June 16, 2005

Does matter matter?

Here's an email exchange I had lately discussing the existence of matter in a creation that's entirely spiritual.

For those of you new to this, in Christian Science matter is considered to be the opposite of Spirit, which fills all space. Therefore, matter has no true existence. Yet, we still find ourselves dealing with it every day. Here's a bit of discussion on that point.

A new friend asked:

Does matter exist in any form? I take the unreality of matter as being that matter has no existence in and of itself, is incapable of sustaining or harboring life, and has no "real" existence, that is it is of no eternal significance. Matter has no power to harm man. However, we do deal with matter on a daily basis.

I answered:

To me, matter is a subjective projection of mankind's collective agreement of what matter is. So in that respect, it exists as long as we keep projecting it. Which we won't probably stop doing any time soon.

I've been looking closely at Mary Baker Eddy's answer to the question at the bottom of page 484 in Science and Health. The basic question is, Do we need materiality or matter to understand spirituality? and surprisingly, she doesn't just say No. She says something more like (I'm paraphrasing), If we need the negative to help us define the positive, then it's necessary, but not otherwise.

The point to me is that matter is malleable. It is what we think it is, and it exists as long as we believe in it. So, no, it doesn't have an absolute independent existence of its own, but as long as the belief remains solid, so will matter. And in some respects it's fun to study the properties of matter, like physics or botany or astronomy, to see what spiritual qualities are coming through despite the limitations of the medium. But also, as you say, to know always that matter cannot harm man, we are not subject to it. We have dominion over it.

My friend replied:

After reading your points, I guess my next question is if you and I don't know each other, if matter is subjective, then how could we both independently see and quantify the same thing? For example, I have a baseball bat. I leave the bat in the woods, you then come along and find it. You and I don't know each other, so we would have no basis for a collective perception of the object, right?

And I wrote:

Haha, that's a perennial question! Mary Baker Eddy answers it here:

"If a dose of poison is swallowed through mistake, and the patient dies even though physician and patient are expecting favorable results, does human belief, you ask, cause this death? Even so, and as directly as if the poison had been intentionally taken.

"In such cases a few persons believe the potion swallowed by the patient to be harmless, but the vast majority of mankind, though they know nothing of this particular case and this special person, believe the arsenic, the strychnine, or whatever the drug used, to be poisonous, for it is set down as a poison by mortal mind. Consequently, the result is controlled by the majority of opinions, not by the infinitesimal minority of opinions in the sick-chamber." Science and Health

So it's the fact that mankind *in total* has a conception of how wood behaves that makes the neglected bat in the forest appear to me just as you left it. That's what I meant about a "collective agreement." It's not just one or two people, it's everyone's agreement. This is educated into us by our surroundings at birth, etc. That's why, also, I think, that certain phenomena are localized to a degree. For example, acupuncture has worked for many centuries in Asia, but it's not as prevalent in the West. The collective consent there makes it effective. Over here, it's conventional medicine that gets the most mental "votes." Both are subjective; it's mental consent causing the results.

Mary Baker Eddy also says this:

"The universal belief in physics weighs against the high and mighty truths of Christian metaphysics. This erroneous general belief, which sustains medicine and produces all medical results, works against Christian Science; and the percentage of power on the side of this Science must mightily outweigh the power of popular belief in order to heal a single case of disease." Science and Health

I've always thought that is cool, though, because since God is All, it's not impossible to outweigh even the most widely held beliefs. But you've got to do it with God, and not just the human mind. Only with God do you get the oomph required to change matter, even though it is essentially unreal.

Just a few thoughts on a huge subject!

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