Christian Science

Author: Mark Twain

Chapter X

There she stands-painted by herself. No witness but herself has been allowed to testify. She stands there painted by her acts, and decorated by her words. When she talks, she has only a decorative value as a witness, either for or against herself, for she deals mainly in unsupported assertion; and in the rare cases where she puts forward a verifiable fact she gets out of it a meaning which it refuses to furnish to anybody else. Also, when she talks, she is unstable, she wanders, she is incurably inconsistent; what she says to-day she contradicts tomorrow.

But her acts are consistent. They are always faithful to her, they never misinterpret her, they are a mirror which always reflects her exactly, precisely, minutely, unerringly, and always the same, to date, with only those progressive little natural changes in stature, dress, complexion, mood, and carriage that mark—exteriorly—the march of the years and record the accumulations of experience, while —interiorly—through all this steady drift of evolution the one essential detail, the commanding detail, the master detail of the make-up remains as it was in the beginning, suffers no change and can suffer none; the basis of the character; the temperament, the disposition, that indestructible iron framework upon which the character is built, and whose shape it must take, and keep, throughout life. We call it a person’s nature.

The man who is born stingy can be taught to give liberally—with his hands; but not with his heart. The man born kind and compassionate can have that disposition crushed down out of sight by embittering experience; but if it were an organ the post-mortem would find it still in his corpse. The man born ambitious of power and glory may live long without finding it out, but when the opportunity comes he will know, will strike for the largest thing within the limit of his chances at the timeconstable, perhaps—and will be glad and proud when he gets it, and will write home about it. But he will not stop with that start; his appetite will come again; and by-and-by again, and yet again; and when he has climbed to police commissioner it will at last begin to dawn upon him that what his Napoleon soul wants and was born for is something away higher up—he does not quite know what, but Circumstance and Opportunity will indicate the direction and he will cut a road through and find out.

I think Mrs. Eddy was born with a far-seeing business-eye, but did not know it; and with a great organizing and executive talent, and did not know it; and with a large appetite for power and distinction, and did not know it. I think the reason that her make did not show up until middle life was that she had General Grant’s luck —Circumstance and Opportunity did not come her way when she was younger. The qualities that were born in her had to wait for circumstance and opportunity—but they were there: they were there to stay, whether they ever got a chance to fructify or not. If they had come early, they would have found her ready and competent. And they—not she—would have determined what they would set her at and what they would make of her. If they had elected to commission her as second-assistant cook in a bankrupt boarding-house, I know the rest of it—I know what would have happened. She would have owned the boarding-house within six months; she would have had the late proprietor on salary and humping himself, as the worldly say; she would have had that boarding-house spewing money like a mint; she would have worked the servants and the late landlord up to the limit; she would have squeezed the boarders till they wailed, and by some mysterious quality born in her she would have kept the affections of certain of the lot whose love and esteem she valued, and flung the others down the back area; in two years she would own all the boarding-houses in the town, in five all the boarding-houses in the State, in twenty all the hotels in America, in forty all the hotels on the planet, and would sit at home with her finger on a button and govern the whole combination as easily as a bench-manager governs a dog-show.

It would be a grand thing to see, and I feel a kind of disappointment— but never mind, a religion is better and larger; and there is more to it. And I have not been steeping myself in Christian Science all these weeks without finding out that the one sensible thing to do with a disappointment is to put it out of your mind and think of something cheerfuler.

We outsiders cannot conceive of Mrs. Eddy’s Christian Science Religion as being a sudden and miraculous birth, but only as a growth from a seed planted by circumstances, and developed stage by stage by command and compulsion of the same force. What the stages were we cannot know, but are privileged to guess. She may have gotten the mental-healing idea from Quimby—it had been experimented with for ages, and was no one’s special property. [For the present, for convenience’ sake, let us proceed upon the hypothesis that that was all she got of him, and that she put up the rest of the assets herself. This will strain us, but let us try it.] In each and all its forms and under all its many names, mental healing had had limits, always, and they were rather narrow ones— Mrs. Eddy, let us imagine, removed the fence, abolished the frontiers. Not by expanding mental-healing, but by absorbing its small bulk into the vaster bulk of Christian Science—Divine Science, The Holy Ghost, the Comforter—which was a quite different and sublimer force, and one which had long lain dormant and unemployed.

The Christian Scientist believes that the Spirit of God (life and love) pervades the universe like an atmosphere; that whoso will study Science and Health can get from it the secret of how to inhale that transforming air; that to breathe it is to be made new; that from the new man all sorrow, all care, all miseries of the mind vanish away, for that only peace, contentment and measureless joy can live in that divine fluid; that it purifies the body from disease, which is a vicious creation of the gross human mind, and cannot continue to exist in the presence of the Immortal Mind, the renewing Spirit of God.

The Scientist finds this reasonable, natural, and not harder to believe than that the disease germ, a creature of darkness, perishes when exposed to the light of the great sun—a new revelation of profane science which no one doubts. He reminds us that the actinic ray, shining upon lupus, cures it—a horrible disease which was incurable fifteen years ago, and had been incurable for ten million years before; that this wonder, unbelievable by the physicians at first, is believed by them now; and so he is tranquilly confident that the time is coming when the world will be educated up to a point where it will comprehend and grant that the light of the Spirit of God, shining unobstructed upon the soul, is an actinic ray which can purge both mind and body from disease and set them free and make them whole.

It is apparent, then, that in Christian Science it is not one man’s mind acting upon another man’s mind that heals; that it is solely the Spirit of God that heals; that the healer’s mind performs no office but to convey that force to the patient; that it is merely the wire which carries the electric fluid, so to speak, and delivers the message. Therefore, if these things be true, mental-healing and Science-healing are separate and distinct processes, and no kinship exists between them.

To heal the body of its ills and pains is a mighty benefaction, but in our day our physicians and surgeons work a thousand miracles—prodigies which would have ranked as miracles fifty years ago—and they have so greatly extended their domination over disease that we feel so well protected that we are able to look with a good deal of composure and absence of hysterics upon the claims of new competitors in that field.

But there is a mightier benefaction than the healing of the body, and that is the healing of the spirit—which is Christian Science’s other claim. So far as I know, so far as I can find out, it makes it good. Personally I have not known a Scientist who did not seem serene, contented, unharassed. I have not found an outsider whose observation of Scientists furnished him a view that differed from my own. Buoyant spirits, comfort of mind, freedom from care these happinesses we all have, at intervals; but in the spaces between, dear me, the black hours! They have put a curse upon the life of every human being I have ever known, young or old. I concede not a single exception. Unless it might be those Scientists just referred to. They may have been playing a part with me; I hope they were not, and I believe they were not.

Time will test the Science’s claim. If time shall make it good; if time shall prove that the Science can heal the persecuted spirit of man and banish its troubles and keep it serene and sunny and content—why, then Mrs. Eddy will have a monument that will reach above the clouds. For if she did not hit upon that imperial idea and evolve it and deliver it, its discoverer can never be identified with certainty, now, I think. It is the giant feature, it is the sun that rides in the zenith of Christian Science, the auxiliary features are of minor consequence [Let us still leave the large "if" aside, for the present, and proceed as if it had no existence.]

It is not supposable that Mrs. Eddy realized, at first, the size of her plunder. (No, find—that is the word; she did not realize the size of her find, at first.) It had to grow upon her, by degrees, in accordance with the inalterable custom of Circumstance, which works by stages, and by stages only, and never furnishes any mind with all the materials for a large idea at one time.

In the beginning, Mrs. Eddy was probably interested merely in the mentalhealing detail And perhaps mainly interested in it pecuniary, for she was poor.

She would succeed in anything she undertook. She would attract pupils, and her commerce would grow. She would inspire in patient and pupil confidence in her earnestness, her history is evidence that she would not fail of that.

There probably came a time, in due course, when her students began to think there was something deeper in her teachings than they had been suspecting—a mystery beyond mental-healing, and higher. It is conceivable that by consequence their manner towards her changed little by little, and from respectful became reverent. It is conceivable that this would have an influence upon her; that it would incline her to wonder if their secret thought—that she was inspired—might not be a well-grounded guess. It is conceivable that as time went on the thought in their minds and its reflection in hers might solidify into conviction.

She would remember, then, that as a child she had been called, more than once, by a mysterious voice —just as had happened to little Samuel. (Mentioned in her Autobiography.) She would be impressed by that ancient reminiscence, now, and it could have a prophetic meaning for her.

It is conceivable that the persuasive influences around her and within her would give a new and powerful impulse to her philosophizings, and that from this, in time, would result that great birth, the healing of body and mind by the inpouring of the Spirit of God—the central and dominant idea of Christian Science—and that when this idea came she would not doubt that it was an inspiration direct from Heaven.


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Chicago: Mark Twain, "Chapter X," Christian Science, trans. Müller, F. Max (Friedrich Max), 1823-1900 in Christian Science Original Sources, accessed April 16, 2024,

MLA: Twain, Mark. "Chapter X." Christian Science, translted by Müller, F. Max (Friedrich Max), 1823-1900, in Christian Science, Original Sources. 16 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Twain, M, 'Chapter X' in Christian Science, trans. . cited in , Christian Science. Original Sources, retrieved 16 April 2024, from