Monday, March 19, 2007

Healing and medicine

A lot of people call me with questions about how Christian Science healing relates to medical practice, if at all.

Sometimes they've been given a very hard line from others when they've asked about it, meaning that these others have said that no medical intervention is to be tolerated at all.

I guess I don't really fall in that camp. My feeling is that while Mary Baker Eddy presented the ideal and the goal in her writings, she also clearly acknowledges the process of growth needed to achieve that ideal and goal. In other words, achieving 100% reliance on Spirit is a journey.

MBE even has occasional good things to say about using medical care. Here's one from her sermon Christian Healing:

Great caution should be exercised in the choice of physicians. If you employ a medical practitioner, be sure he is a learned man and skilful; never trust yourself in the hands of a quack. In proportion as a physician is enlightened and liberal is he equipped with Truth, and his efforts are salutary; ignorance and charlatanism are miserable medical aids. (p. 14)

Yes, she's cautioning us to find the right physician. But she's definitely not prohibiting the use of medical care—in fact, she even calls it "salutary," or beneficial, if the doctor is "enlightened." With today's increase in mind/body awareness amongst physicians, it is possible to find care that will coincide with or support a spiritual approach. I would consider this a step on the journey to total reliance on Spirit.

Here's some more food for thought from MBE's writings:

Until the advancing age admits the efficacy and supremacy of Mind, it is better for Christian Scientists to leave surgery and the adjustment of broken bones and dislocations to the fingers of a surgeon, while the mental healer confines himself chiefly to mental reconstruction and to the prevention of inflammation. Christian Science is always the most skilful surgeon, but surgery is the branch of its healing which will be last acknowledged. --Science and Health

Until people better understand spiritual healing, it is *better* to let surgeons do their job and for Christian Scientists to limit their work to the aftereffects. *Better.* In my mind, she's actually telling us not only to be sensible as to where we are on the learning curve, but also where everyone else is. It's better to be understandable to our fellow man than to be radical in some cases.

Duty to Patients. SECT. 23. If a member of this Church has a patient whom he does not heal, and whose case he cannot fully diagnose, he may consult with an M.D. on the anatomy involved. And it shall be the privilege of a Christian Scientist to confer with an M.D. on Ontology, or the Science of being. --Church Manual

We need to know what we're dealing with. We're supposed to be able to "fully diagnose," and if we can't, we might want to consider finding out what's going on with a particular physical condition. (I've found some Web tools, such as Web MD, helpful in this regard.) Perhaps the patient doesn't need to know the diagnosis (in that it might increase their fear), but it seems to me that this By-law from the Manual is saying the healer should be informed so prayerful treatment can be directed accordingly. Complete ignorance of the physical situation does not serve the patient.

I've also found it helpful in healing to at least find out what the patient thinks is going on. I mean, if they are thinking it, it may be important for me as their practitioner to be in on what's on their mind. So I will encourage people to tell me what they know or have been told, again so I can direct my prayerful treatment accordingly.

Emerge gently from matter into Spirit. Think not to thwart the spiritual ultimate of all things, but come naturally into Spirit through better health and morals and as the result of spiritual growth. --Science and Health

Take it a step at a time. Be patient. Don't rush things. It should all make sense to you as you grow. There should be a logical progression of increased trust in spiritual ideas and their reality. Day by day, each idea will add to the one before, and your gradual storehouse of conviction and understanding will allow greater demonstrations.

This road is very individual for both patient and practitioner—indeed, each situation needs to be looked at individually, even if it involves the same two people. I find it helpful to remember that God is Love, and spiritual healing therefore also includes kindness and patience. A drop of kindness will decrease fear much more quickly than strict adherence to a rule or standard.

So be kind to yourself on this journey, and you'll find yourself approaching the ideal naturally and safely.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 3/19/2007 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Thanks for these thoughts, Laura! It is a persistent question and confusion, isn't it? I just always try to remember that it is *Christian* Science. The Christian part - expression of Love and Truth - comes first. Mary Baker Eddy seems to have always been emphasizing the importance, criticalness of Love in healing. To me, Love doesn't exclude, doesn't create parameters for healing.

She and Jesus certainly provided great examples of this. In anything I've read - the Bible and bios on Eddy, I haven't seen them quiz someone who came for healing about what other treatments the person has been pursuing, what medication they might be on, etc., and then turn the person away because of those practices pursued. They just loved and healing followed. Something to strive for, in my book.

At 3/19/2007 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Kim said...

An interesting and important discussion. MBE also writes in SH "If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists, — their brethren upon whom they may call, — God will still guide them into the right use of temporary and eternal means. Step by step will those who trust Him find that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (p444)

At 3/19/2007 01:26:00 PM, Anonymous Dennis R. said...

Thank you for addressing this issue. I was concerned abit because I was reading the articles at First Lessons In Christian Science. In one them on the first commandment, the comment was made that it was even unethical to treat onself if they are getting medical treatment.

I was trying to think of a loophole. I figured if someone was taking a maintenance type drug that it was not treatment because the purpose was not to treat the disease but just to help you get by similar to eyeglasses.

Some of these things are beyond our control because of other family members putting the pressure on because of their concern.

Your comments help put it into perspective

At 3/19/2007 10:19:00 PM, Anonymous Heather said...

In Sunday School, one of my teachers told me of when he was a child, he went and rolled around in poison ivy on purpose. When his mother asked him why, he said that as a Christian Scientist, he shouldn't fear the poison ivy.

His mom told him that CS also stood for common sense. :)

And that's what your post reminds me of -- always use common sense, and determine where you in the journy.

At 3/21/2007 09:36:00 AM, Anonymous Emily said...

"In one them on the first commandment, the comment was made that it was even unethical to treat onself if they are getting medical treatment."

I'm not sure where that idea came from. The very first time I called a practitioner, I was struggling with the conflict between my own desire to be healed through Christian Science and my husband's desire for me to have medical treatment. The claim was pretty scary, and he was understandably afraid that Christian Science -- which he didn't know anything about at the time and certainly wasn't going to trust with his wife's life -- would not work.

I asked the practitioner if she could give me CS treatment (which I was sure would be effective) while I played along with my husband's demand for medical intervention (which *I* wasn't willing to trust with my life!) She said that she couldn't do that, because she and the doctor would wind up working at odds with each other, so that neither would be able to help me, but she added: "Of course you always have the right to work for yourself from your own understanding."

The practitioner worked with me until the day of the medical procedure, and I worked from my own understanding at the same time. Although the claim was quite frightening, I had a sense of peace about the whole thing, and tests later confirmed my own diagnosis: I was perfectly fine and in absolutely no danger. Somehow the doctor even forgot to prescribe an antibiotic or a painkiller, both of which are customary following surgery -- and I forgot to need them. :)


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