To any intelligent observer who is watching "the signs of the times," the Christian Science movement cannot fail to be of deep interest. The time was when new moral movements were supposed to "happen," not especially in accord with law, but capriciously, or as the result of a special interposition of Providence, as peculiar occasion might require. But now it is recognized that every new turn in human thought belongs to a chain of manifestation, the links of which reach backward and forward indefinitely. It must have adequate cause and significance, and also possess a philosophy and logic of its own.
With the closing part of the nineteenth century the time was ripe for a marked spiritual reaction. Materialism was aggressive, and had subtly permeated science, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and therapeutics, and even the Church was not exempt from its penetrative influence. Realism, pessimism, agnosticism, and atheism had become pronounced, and a new spiritual uplift was due, and nothing could hold it back. The higher nature of men refused longer to be bound.
Out of the rapidly developing spiritual consciousness, including a recognized healing potency involved in the wide movement, there grew two separate and distinctive systems, having interior resemblances, but outwardly and philosophically quite unlike. One was esoteric, impersonal, without central authority, creed, or general organization, and of free and individualistic spirit, and this, at length, came to be designated as the New Thought. The other, with strong outward organization, authority centered in one person, absolute in doctrinal detail, and denominational in form and polity, was called Christian Science.
The multitude who look upon the Christian Science movement—phenomenal in its growth and power—and count it as a passing fancy or delusion are incapable of fair and intelligent judgment. It is no spasmodic or chance happening. It mingles with and adds its quota and quality as a factor to the general onward current of human development. As a rule, such radical reactions, in some features during their early stages, are likely to be extreme, and this, in the long run, is not without compensation. They are like a swift flowing stream of great momentum in a channel of limited width. In the natural course, after the initial stages there comes a gradual broadening, softening, and a more apologetic temper. As time passes, early sharp boundaries become more elastic, and gradually somewhat modified by environment. If this does not prove to be the trend of Christian Science in the future, it will be a rare exception to a general law.
Though entirely distinct in doctrine and framework, and with differences most marked in method and theory, the New Thought has intimate spiritual agreements and points of contact with Christian Science. While these correspondencies are wholly internal, no worthy representative of the New Thought will fail to be highly appreciative of the good in Christian Science, and friendly in general relation. Many of the observations already made regarding common ground with the Church, are equally pertinent in this connection.
No spiritual revival is fully intelligible from an intellectual and conventional standpoint. It can be interpreted only from within. With limited and exceptional outcroppings, a most vital body of truth has lain dormant since the period of the primitive Church. The modern practical application of spiritual power for the assuagement of mental and physical ills was not a discovery or special revelation. It was a divine and eternal law, though largely out of intelligent use and application. But by natural selection new forward impulses of eternal truth choose the fittest channels for their fresh expression. As Mrs. Eddy's individuality was the one in which leadership for the Christian Science division of the new advance actually lodged, it is fair to conclude that for some reason she was the most suitable instrument. Whatever her incidental mistakes, she deserves honor and respect accordingly. This she will receive in future, however it may be lacking today.
It is granted that if the adherents of the New Thought find their general free system best suited to their needs, no less there is also a great class of minds who prefer authoritative guidance and interpretation. Here, with all good-will, we agree to think differently. Outwardly moving in two almost opposite lines, in basic principles and ideals there is nearly a parallel course.
There can be no logical rivalry between the adherents of the two movements that are under review. Each should rejoice in the progress of the other. The New Thought is no feeble imitation of its more observed neighbor, nor is its light borrowed. It is a great silent uplift and advance, with no emphasis upon outward machinery, and therefore entirely unappreciated by the world at large. But its influence in the shaping of internal causative forces is very great.
Healing through the higher law is founded upon principles that are common to the race. They cannot be monopolized by any institution, or confined within any limits. Whatever men may or may not call themselves, they are privileged to turn their faces toward the great Fatherly Spirit for aid in every condition. In it they live and move and have their being. Freedom to worship God after the dictates of one's own conscience, freedom to open the soul to the reception of all living and loving good, freedom from the shackles of man-made legislation as applied to individual inner development and activity, these are universal ideals and possessions.
Spiritual verities can be bounded by no artificial lines, but are always available to the degree that the higher consciousness and local hospitality will permit. In the not distant future the philosophy of Christian Science will become modified and a spirit of greater toleration developed. Its marvelous growth makes the rise of some spiritual exclusiveness easy. But every truly spiritual work should be characterized by breadth and universal good-will.
The religious world has seen too much of the "I am of Paul" and "I am of Apollos" feeling, for the Spirit of Truth is free, and its highest ideal is universality. The New Thought and Christian Science are very different, and this is necessary in order that they may be supplemental. Each is doing a work that is impossible to the other. Without any responsibility for the imperfections of the other, the adherents of each system should see the best in its neighbor; otherwise its assumed idealism is bound and inoperative. In a moral order which is governed by spiritual law, and with a divine love which is universal, there can be no exception, exemption, or limitation. Associations need not outwardly mingle in their respective activities, but unless their sympathy, love, and good-will How out beyond their own technical boundaries there is a spiritual loss.