Category Archives: Science and Health

Spiritual health care that works

Elodie Reed SunflowersVermont Sunflowers photo by Elodie Reed

Participation in alternative health care has surged in recent years. Many people want care and healing with simplicity and results. They are increasingly wary of expensive care that is complicated or drug and surgery dependent.

A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times published “More Doctors Going the Alternative Route” by Janice Neuman, reporting that 83% of physicians are turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for their own health care needs, compared to 63% of the general population.

The public is looking for health solutions in a wider variety of approaches – in some cases integrating alternatives with allopathic medicine and in others moving completely to alternatives such as naturopathy or spiritual care. Hospitals and clinics are adding “integrative medicine centers” at a rapid rate because the demand for such approaches is high.

Some of the non medical approaches have underpinnings that are tied to theological and religious belief practices. There is a well documented yearning among patients and care providers for an individual’s religious or spiritual beliefs to be included in their treatment.

Studies show that prayer and spiritual care are the most popular non medical care methods used by the public – about 50% of us pray about our health. And yes, it has been shown to improve lifestyles and health outcomes. While to some this may seem incredible or anecdotal, to those who rely on spiritual care for their heath care needs, spiritual healing is dependable, accessible, and affordable.

So just what is spiritual care? For some, it’s spiritual counseling by a member of the clergy in a hospital that brings comfort while the medical team makes efforts with the illness to mitigate pain and suffering. For others, it may be a practice of meditation incorporated into an allopathic treatment plan to relieve symptoms. In my faith tradition, it’s sincere prayer to God with the expectation of complete healing.

What is this God of health and healing? This God is divine Love, a love that is so much bigger and stronger than any human love. We can learn how to turn to divine Love and better understand our relationship to this powerful source as a means to maintaining or restoring our health.

I learned how to do this many years ago by studying, in conjunction with the Bible, a textbook on healing through prayer by New Hampshire native, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science. Her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has been instrumental in my approach to my own spiritual care.

Here’s one recent example of how Christian Science has helped me. Years ago I had an asthma condition that restricted my movements considerably. I had difficulty climbing the stairs in our three story Concord Victorian home. Yet I can honestly say that I was not afraid, even when it seemed like I was on my last breath. Why was I so confident? Because I have successfully relied on Christian Science spiritual healing for over a half century. And because I was praying and felt God’s comforting presence.

I asked a Christian Science practitioner to pray with me. This is someone who devotes their full time ministering and specifically praying for those who have health care needs. We prayed to understand and realize God’s perfect health as His gift to me at that moment and always. We studied this statement in Science and Health: “Health is not a condition of matter, but of Mind [God].” (Science and Health, p. 120)

I learned more clearly that God, divine Mind, is all acting. I started to feel better, breathe easier, and had the courage to go for a walk. Eventually these walks stretched into miles. Soon I was completely healed.

Is it any wonder, when we consider the effectiveness of spiritual care and healing, that more and more of the public are turning to it to support their health care? The Bible promises, “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 30:17)

© 2014 Christian Science Committee on Publication for New Hampshire

Placebo surgery?

Placebos have graduated into surgical procedures.

A placebo is a pill or substance without an active medical ingredient. The patient believes that he is receiving a drug. Physicians have found that the patient, unaware of the deception, may respond as if an actual drug was administered.

Five years ago psychologist Dr. Irving Kirsch, Associate Director of Harvard Medical School’s Placebo Studies program, reported that antidepressants are no more effective than a placebo in treating depression. On CBS 60 Minutes two years ago, Dr. Kirsch reported that some placebo knee surgeries are as successful as actual knee surgeries. A “placebo surgery” is surgery that is faked by the surgeon. The patient believes that he had an actual surgery.

In this 60 Minutes report Kirsch said “placebos are great for treating a number of disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries, ulcers, Parkinson’s disease. Even traumatic knee pain. In this clinical trial some patients with osteoarthritis underwent knee surgery. While others had their knees merely opened and then sewn right back up. And here’s what happened. In terms of walking and climbing, the people who got the placebo actually did better than the people who got the real surgery. And that lasted for a year. At two years after surgery, there was no difference at all between the real surgery and the sham surgery.”

Recently, the reputable The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published the results of another medical trial that also shows similar results between actual surgery and placebo or fake surgery. The report is titled “Arthroscopic Partial Meniscectomy versus Sham Surgery for a Degenerative Meniscal Tear.”

Although researchers and physicians have varying views on why the placebo effect works, most agree that it has something to do with the patient’s belief in the medicine or procedure. As more patient and health care providers come to see that thought and faith affect the body, it could serve as a springboard to a deeper study of the mental and spiritual nature of health.

At the same time, research into the impact spirituality, prayer, and religious practices have on health is on the rise.

The public these days is looking for health solutions in a wider variety of approaches – in some cases integrating alternatives with allopathic medicine and in others moving completely to alternatives such as naturopathy or oriental medicine. Some of the alternative approaches have underpinnings that are tied to theological and/or religious belief systems and practices. Hospitals and clinics are adding “integrative medicine centers” at a rapid rate because the demand for such approaches is high. And there is a well documented yearning among patients and care providers for an individual’s religious or spiritual beliefs to be included in their treatment.

Health seeker, health researcher, and New Hampshire native Mary Baker Eddy experimented with homeopathy and placebos. Homeopathy stops short of administering placebos outright; it attenuates or dilutes substances supposed to have medicinal value. Mrs. Eddy explains her experiment: “We have attenuated a grain of aconite until it was no longer aconite, then dropped into a tumblerful of water a single drop of this harmless solution, and administering one teaspoonful of this water at intervals of half an hour have cured the incipient stage of fever.” She continues, “The highest attenuation we ever attained was to leave the drug out of the question, using only the sugar of milk; and with this original dose we cured an inveterate case of dropsy. After these experiments you cannot be surprised that we resigned the imaginary medicine altogether, and honestly employed Mind [God] as the only curative Principle.” (Christian Healing, p. 13; this case of dropsy or edema is further described in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, page 156.)

This experience and others like it helped Mrs. Eddy to reach her conclusion that cures are not produced by drugs or chemistry. The effects of drugs, she taught, are produced by the faith placed in them by doctors, nurses, patients, families, and the public. And she discovered, as Jesus had demonstrated some 2,000 years earlier, that prayer is a powerful healing medicine.

I have found in my own experience that it is possible for a knee injury to be healed without resorting either to medical intervention or to placebos. I had severely injured a knee by running up and down a New Hampshire mountain with my daughter. I couldn’t walk for a few days, but through prayer the knee injury was healed, and when it returned a few years ago in a milder fashion, it was healed again through prayer so that I am able to walk, hike, and bike freely. My complete account of this experience can be read in the 2012 Christian Science Journal.

© 2014 Christian Science Committee on Publication for New Hampshire

A neurosurgeon’s life-changing experience

The public is giving more and more attention to the connection between spirituality, consciousness, and health. It shows in the popularity of a recent book by Dr. Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.

In his best-seller, Dr. Alexander tells of coming back to life after being in a coma and on a ventilator for seven days with a 2% medical prognosis of survival and 0% prognosis of recovery. The condition, according to medical diagnosis, had been brought on by a rare strain of bacterial meningitis.

While he was in the hospital, Dr. Alexander was prayed for by those close to him, including an Episcopal pastor. A family friend who describes herself as a psychic counselor and healer, also attempted to help him. Dr. Alexander says that he was given the clear impression, while he was unconscious, that he had to return because he had more work to do. And he said he came back because of his love for his 10-year-old son; that he was brought back because of this connection of love.

Dr. Alexander writes that he received these messages: “You are loved and cherished.” “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.” He summarized this message in one sentence, “You are loved.” And in one word: “Love.” He said the unconditional love that he experienced on his mental journey was his most important discovery. He awoke out of the coma and was restored completely back to health. He writes: “The (false) suspicion that we can somehow be separated from God is the root of every form of anxiety in the universe, and the cure for it – which I received partially within the Gateway and completely within the Core – was the knowledge that nothing can tear us from God, ever.”1

The Scriptures teach that “Love alone is Life” as recorded in a hymn of prayer by New Hampshire native, discover and founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. (Hymn 30) Divine Love itself is what resurrects us from death, both here and hereafter.

Dr. Alexander says in his book that, before his coma, he was skeptical of the existence of God and had been losing interest in religious matters. A recent inspired interview by my colleague from Massachusetts, Ingrid Peschke shows that he has had a revolutionary transformation in his thinking. He has had a glimpse of spiritual reality.

The universal truth of spirituality, consciousness, and health was revealed in 1866 to Mrs. Eddy. She learned that spiritual consciousness unfolds spiritual health. It heals disease. She writes, “The true consciousness is the true health.” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 298)

Spiritual healing, which is sanctioned by the Bible, can bring recovery for all mankind right now. There are laws of health behind spiritual healing that we can learn to understand and to practice. These spiritual laws of health are God’s laws, the laws of divine Love, the one Healer.

A student of Christian Science learned the importance of understanding and demonstrating these truths at a time when he started feeling pain in his body. Soon the discomfort was so intense that he had to lie down while praying for himself. He was grateful to be able to stay calm and to feel the peaceful presence of God somewhat. He suspected that the acute pain and illness was an attack of appendicitis. He called a Christian Science practitioner for spiritual treatment. The prayers of the practitioner brought much comfort. Soon the pain subsided, other symptoms stopped, and he got up and about.

The following evening, however, he believed he might need to go to the hospital to be fed. He had been unable to take nourishment for two days. But then what he calls an angel thought from God came and brought him relief. He became thankful for the milk of God’s Word. Then he felt led literally to drink some milk, which met his immediate need for nourishment. He continued with Christian Science treatment. In the next few days the pain, sickness, and debility were completely healed. The peace of Love reigned.2

The Bible promises, “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 30:17) And Science and Health explains: “Health is not a condition of matter, but of Mind. . . The basis of all health, sinlessness, and immortality is the great fact that God is the only Mind; and this Mind must be not merely believed, but it must be understood.” (Science and Health, pp. 120, 339)

We are all on a spiritual journey to understand more of God, Mind, the one true consciousness of Love, and the effects of this understanding of God upon the health of humanity.

1 Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D., © 2012, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, NY, pp. 71, 73, 76, 123.

2 No enemies? by George Reed, © 1998, Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston, MA, Christian Science Journal, August 1998, Volume 116, Issue 8, p. 13.

© 2013 Christian Science Committee on Publication for New Hampshire

Mary Baker Eddy: Finding the Love that makes us well

The following piece was written by Thomas Mitchinson, who is a Christian Science practitioner, teacher and Committee on Publication for Illinois.

Many individuals comment on the power of love to make us well. One of my favorite observations comes from Dr. Larry Dossey, M.D., who wrote in his book, Healing Words, “If scientists suddenly discovered a drug that was as powerful as love in creating health, it would be heralded as a medical breakthrough and marketed overnight – especially if it had as few side effects and was as inexpensive as love.” (p. 109)

Christian healer, Mary Baker Eddy, also found that love was extremely valuable in making individuals well. One of her students once quoted her as saying this in response to a question about healing through prayer, “Just live love – be it – love, love, love. Do not know anything but Love. Be all love. There is nothing else. That will do the work. It will heal everything; . . .Be nothing but love.” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, p. 134)

Eddy also knew that human love, while important, was variable and inconsistent. She looked for something deeper than human love – and found it in The Bible – in the book of First John – where it states, “God is Love.” She found the invariable, deep love for God that restores, redeems, forgives unconditionally, and heals disease. She found this more reliable and powerful than just human love, and used Love (with a capital L – see again her above quotation) as a synonym for God.

Her Bible study led her to write the book Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, which she wrote to help others understand this Love that heals.

She wrote, “’God is Love.’ More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 6) She knew that it takes devotion, and sometimes hard work, to keep one’s thought filled with this love of God. The world can mightily test one’s faithfulness to Love. It certainly tested Mary Baker Eddy. . . At one time she was faced with a lawsuit that challenged her integrity. A group of newspaper reporters were sent to her community of Concord, New Hampshire, to see if something sensational could be written about her.

Eddy gave the responsibility for talking to the reporters to a member of her staff, Irving C. Tomlinson. In a book he wrote about his years of service to her, he wrote, “The chief man among this group, representing a big New York newspaper, was known as a particularly hard-boiled reporter and a steady drinker. He had been afflicted for some years with a cancerous growth of the throat, which was extremely painful and at times overwhelmed him completely.

“One evening as they were all sitting in his room at the Eagle Hotel, drinking and smoking, bored with their stay, this man was suffering with his throat; he had lost his voice entirely and was unable to speak a word. Mrs. Eddy had asked me to call these men by telephone and inform them that it was impossible for her to see them. But she cautioned me at the same time, ‘Be sure to ask for the leading man and speak directly to him.’”

Tomlinson was told that the head man could not speak to him. Eddy – who characteristically embraced even her enemies in the unchanging and universal love of God – had told Tomlinson to insist on speaking to this man – that if he could not speak, at least he could listen. He did – and he was healed.

Tomlinson continued, “the healing stirred these men. . .[They] had believed Mrs. Eddy to be only a humbug, and the reputed healings of Christian Science to be a great hoax. Their whole position was overthrown by this proof offered before their very eyes. They packed their bags and left.

“Some years later a relative of this man called at my office in Boston, and gave me the following message: ‘My uncle requested me to see you and to tell you that in his last days he turned to Christian Science, and he knew that he owed a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Eddy for his healing in Concord.'” (Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 63-65)

Love. It is a vital ingredient in defeating illness.

©2013 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois – used with permission

Woman’s Place

Today is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. The following piece was written by Virginia Harris, CSB, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Weston, MA and Center Harbor, NH.

“A native of New Hampshire, a child of the Republic, a Daughter of the Revolution…”

Oh, Mary Baker Eddy loved to describe herself as a daughter of New Hampshire! She represented generations of family and neighbors who tilled its soil to birth communities, create schools and churches to nurture individual and communal support, devote lives to freedom and independence, and shape its government and laws. New Hampshire natives created functioning societies where there were none, and made meaningful contributions to the state’s progress and its stature in the newly-formed United States of America. New Hampshire was one of the original 13 colonies that declared independence from Britain in 1776.

By the turn of the 20th century, Eddy reminded the thousands of readers of her publications of what New Hampshire had already achieved:

“The enlightenment, the erudition, the progress of religion and medicine in New Hampshire, are in excess of other States, as witness her schools, her churches, and her frown on class legislation…”

So I think that Mary Baker Eddy would be pleased to know that her New Hampshire has another notable achievement in the annals of civilization’s progress due, in all likelihood, to its legacy: it is the first state in the country to elect all women as its highest leadership. These are the federal delegation (2 Senators, 2 Congresswomen), the Governor, the Speaker of the State House and the chief justice of the State Supreme Court.

Why is this so significant? Why is it important to mark this achievement in the year 2013 – 237 years after the country’s declaration of independence? Because it is evidence of progress in the rights of all mankind to advance due to merit, and not to be held back by bias – in this case by gender.

The New Hampshire example shows this: these leaders proved their merit in different political parties, followed different paths to election and were chosen in different election cycles. They are individuals who earned their way all the way, proving at every step that bias has no place in a democratic society.

There are still battles to be waged and won, here in the US and the world, of gender-based civil rights, for example in education, healthcare, and fair pay. All the more reason to acknowledge and celebrate evidence of progress in New Hampshire.

Mary Baker Eddy’s rich and productive life challenged the 19th century image of women and formed a new model of womanhood that transcended her time and still sets a high standard for the 21st century. She authored a manifesto that continues to revolutionize thinking about the unconditional basis of each individual’s spiritual being, and how this knowledge breaks any and every limitation in life. Her publishing company communicates the practical application of her ideas for everyday living and her global church has adherents serving their communities in 130 countries.

In Eddy’s seminal book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she devotes several pages to the divine mandate for equality of the sexes, always referring to the Bible for her inspiration. In the second chapter of Genesis, Gihon is mentioned as one of the four rivers of the Garden of Eden – perhaps metaphorically the cradle of civilization. Eddy makes a point of redefining Gihon with a practical meaning and purpose – a mandate – for our time:

Gihon (river). The rights of woman acknowledged morally, civilly, and socially.

New Hampshire’s leadership shows the progress that has been made toward achieving this ideal.

When Mary Baker Eddy returned to her beloved New Hampshire later in life she was probably the best-known woman in the United States. The local leaders enjoyed reminding their citizens that she was a native daughter, and hung a portrait of her in a place of honor in the capital’s seat of government, the State House…a woman’s place.