Another of the great errors for which Mrs. Eddy was responsible is the idea that physical death will ultimately be conquered by the practice of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy herself, the foremost exponent of her own system, could not demonstrate that conquest. No other Christian Scientist has yet demonstrated it. And I might add the prediction that no Scientist will ever do so. Here again there is a basis of actual truth behind the erroneous teaching, and the whole doctrine provides an apt illustration of the tendency of Christian Science to enter a region of misunderstanding the moment it attempts to apply its true principles to things of this earth.
There was a time in the far past of the human race, a time now lost in the dim mists of antiquity, when the life of man was stretched to a number of years far in excess of what it is today. That time has been hinted at by hoary legends of a Golden Age and by biblical stories of a pre-Flood race. Such a time will return in the cyclic course of our planet's history, but naturally it is faroff in the future. Nature herself is in no hurry. She has plenty of time to accomplish her purposes. And in those days men will again have a normal life-span of hundreds of years.
There exists in Asia a certain ancient knowledge--whose name may conveniently be translated as "The Art of Yogic Body Control"--which promises its votaries astonishing benefits in longevity. This age-old art is not the same as the alchemy of medieval Europe, when men sought vainly in experiments for the elixir of life. It is of such antiquity that those who hand it down tell us that it was born just after the time when the fabled gods had ceased to walk this earth. The exponents have almost disappeared from the world, but the tradition is widespread throughout the East that solitary individuals still practise it in remote and unfrequented places. So difficult are the exercises which belong to this system, so laborious are its practices, so ascetic the self-discipline which it involves, that one can understand why it has almost faded out of existence. It performs strange feats such as stopping blood circulation and lung action, permitting knives and daggers to be run like skewers through the living flesh without harming it and with an extremely rapid drying of blood, and even the burial alive of an entranced body beneath the ground and its safe resurrection several hours or some days later. The principal basis of these feats consists in making certain changes in the breath rhythm, changes which involve such risk to life and health that we are not prepared to assume the responsibility of describing here the exercises for the development of such powers. It is also necessary to live a celibate and chaste existence, to refrain from expending energy in worldly work and business, and to reduce diet to an astonishing minimum.
Because they demand a special and severely ascetic training which is the work of several years devoted wholly to this austere task, such feats are necessarily uncommon. The ordinary layman could hardly be expected to find the time for such training, nor is there any necessity for him to do so. These displays are certainly spectacular but have primarily only scientific, medical, and theatrical values rather than a general one. Meanwhile, Nature has set her brief term to the human body, and those whose attachment to the body is not overweening will resignedly accept that term while the others must do so unwillingly.
But this is a different matter--living in the fleshly body for ever and ever, a notion which must seem insupportable to many who find the present brief term of man's existence quite enough for them to cope with. If Nature cared so much to preserve the physical body of man, she would not introduce earthquakes, eruptions, hurricanes, famines, pestilences, and floods into the scheme of things. The fact that she does do so indicates rather that she regards his body as being only a fragment of the man, not as the full man himself. It was Mrs. Eddy's idea, of course, that in those days sin and sickness would also have disappeared from the world, so that our existence would be a halcyon one. It is a pretty picture, but man's true home is not in the tabernacle of flesh; it is elsewhere. The fleshly body is but a temporary abiding place at best, and when man has arrived at a state of perfect spirituality he will abandon it and use a vehicle more consonant with his high condition, an electromagnetic body that will more easily and more faithfully represent him. Yes, death will be conquered, but not in the way that Christian Scientists imagine. It will be conquered firstly, by extending the duration of human life to a constantly increasing period; and secondly, by completely abandoning the physical body for a subtler one.
Mary Baker Eddy saw clearly enough that the real inner man--his spiritual being--is undying and immortal. For her statement of this truth, she deserves much credit, although it is certainly not a novel one. But when she began to consider that inner being in relation to its transient earthly tenement, the body, she became confused and misunderstood the nature of that relationship. The hour of every man's death is fixed by a higher will than his own, by that power which some call destiny but which itself takes its rise out of the Infinite Power, and no Christian Science practitioner or ordinary physician has ever "saved" the life of anyone. A man's own Overself fixes the dates of certain major events in his life prior to the moment when he utters his first cry as a babe, and the date of his death is but one of those appointed hours.
The Dhammapada says: "Not in the sky, nor in the depths of the ocean, nor by entering the caverns of the mountain, nowhere in the world can such a place be found where a man might dwell without being overpowered by death."
We are as flies on the wheel of the Universe. For all our loud buzzing it still rolls along on its own path. And yet these people confidently imagine they set the great Laws of Destiny at naught, and interfere with the workings of the Cosmic Plan.
-- Notebooks Category 10: Healing of the Self > Chapter 1: The Laws of Nature > # 45