Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Had lunch yesterday with my UCC minister friend Debbie, you know, the one who gave us the Thanksgiving Prayer. We always have the most interesting conversations.

After wandering through issues like gay marriage and our respective spiritual work with parishioners or patients, we got onto the subject of sin. She laughed when I brought it up. But I really liked her outlook on it, it was amazing close to my own.

She said that sins to her are not a list of no-nos or rules. Sins are those things we get distracted by, those things that take us off the path to God. So I actually did something I seldom do—I brought up Mary Baker Eddy's term, animal magnetism. Because that's what animal magnetism is to me—that which distracts us and pulls us off the path.

If you're familiar with Eddy's book Science and Health, you know there's a Glossary of biblical terms at the end. Several of the definitions are of Jacob's sons, including Joseph, Benjamin, Rueben, Judah, etc. She also includes Dan, defining him as "animal magnetism" among other not-so-flattering things.

Now, Dan is a fairly minor biblical character, and he's pretty much always mentioned in a group. So I often wondered where she got that definition. Why did Dan get such a bum rap?

Then, in my Bible read-through several years ago, I came upon Jacob's prophecies regarding his sons.

Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.


Ah! Then it began to make sense to me. The serpent attacks and distracts the horse, which causes the rider to go backward. A fitting metaphor for animal magnetism.

This helped me see animal magnetism as less about some sort of evil force out there, and more as a tiny, insignificant thing that we're either afraid of or we allow to distract us. But it actually remains tiny and not all that fearful if we see it for what it is.

So what is distracting us today? My attention sometimes gets caught on gossip, for example, on bad news, on worries, on stress. But I can begin to see all these as snakey attempts to distract me. And I can respond first by recognition, second by refusal, and third by replacing. I replace those distracting thoughts with Truth, with ideas that keep me on the path toward God.

So if sin is being distracted, healing sin is the process of getting back on the path. Not so fearsome really. Just takes some clear thinking and a commitment to moving forward.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 12/07/2005 12:28:00 PM, Blogger porthos said...

Funny, I just looked up the term on yesterday:

Animal magnetism
Animal magnetism is both a synonym for mesmerism as well as the 18th century term for the supposed ethereal medium postulated by Franz Mesmer as a therapeutic agent. Its existence was examined by a French royal commission in 1784, and the commission concluded there was no evidence of its existence or efficacy of the animal magnetic fluid, and that its effects derived from either the imaginations of its subjects or charlatanry. The term is also occasionally employed in the context of Christian Science to describe unheeded mental influences, malicious or ignorant, resting on its subjects' belief in them.
The term's most common usage today is to refer (sometimes facetiously) to a person's sexual attractiveness.
See the entry on Franz Mesmer.
External links

0. Mesmer's propositions


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