Ancient, Basic, and Genuine Spirituality

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group editor/writer. This is part of our on-going series about people who have left Christian Science for a new spiritual path. Find other related posts under the tag, ‘other spiritual paths’.


In March 2009, my mother died after a short battle with an unknown illness. Later that same year in December, my father died after a seven year battle with what turned out to be heart failure. Neither of my parents sought medical attention for their ailments, and they both suffered immensely in their last days. These were the events that gave me my final push out of Christian Science.

Like the vast majority of people who are or were ever adherents of Christian Science, I was born into it: third-generation on both sides of my family. While I always harboured doubts about Christian Science, and never witnessed any dramatic ‘healings’, I largely immersed myself in the culture. It was always my comfort zone, weird as that may seem. I always did everything I could do to make it ‘work’, but I never really saw it work. It took the abysmal failure of Christian Science to heal my parents to finally make me realize that my life-long doubts had a basis in truth.

It was shortly after my mother’s death that I was introduced to an Indigenous sweat-lodge ceremony by an old friend from my high school days with whom I had reconnected on-line. Her own father had died only a few months earlier, so we were walking down a similar path. She had mentioned this ceremony in passing in a comment, and I asked her about it. She didn’t say much, but told me to research it myself, which I did. I’ve always been curious about other spiritual/religious paths, especially Indigenous spirituality, and this looked interesting to me. I grew up in Tsleil-Waututh territory, and the culture of the Coast Salish people (of which they are a part) was something that had always been around me, and I had always felt an innate connection with it that I couldn’t explain, and deep respect for it, even though as a child my knowledge was limited. I asked my friend if I could attend with her when I came out to be with my Dad, as she lived near where my parents had lived–and where I now live, and that became my introduction to the spiritual path I now walk, a path that is often referred to as the Red Road.

The sweat-lodge ceremony…

Briefly, I’ll explain what I can of what a sweat-lodge ceremony is. First and most importantly, I need to state that I am not an Indigenous person on this land (North America, or as many Indigenous people call it, Turtle Island). My ancestry is European (Irish, Scottish, and English). I am a ‘settler’ on this land. I state this because in Indigenous culture, your ancestry and who your ancestors are is an important part of your identity, and it is part of how you introduce yourself. Also, it is important that the perspective I speak from, and my status on this land are clearly understood and acknowledged. I speak only for myself and my own experience, and only from my own perspective.

A sweat-lodge ceremony is conducted in a structure known as the ‘lodge’, which is usually a dome-shaped structure that is tall enough for you to sit, but not stand–you enter humbly, on your hands and knees. The ceremony consists of usually four rounds, each with its own focus–which is different in each lodge, depending on the person pouring (the term for running a lodge), and the purpose of the lodge. In each round, a number of heated rocks (usually known as ‘grandfathers’) are brought in and water is poured on them. During the ceremony, the lodge is closed, and it is pitch-dark. You are not distracted by anything visual, it becomes extremely warm, and your thoughts become very focused. There is usually a break between each round, where you can go outside to cool off.

I am not entirely sure where the sweat-lodge ceremony originates, and there is a fair amount of information on-line. Many nations throughout Turtle Island have similar ceremonies of their own or have adopted forms of the ceremony from other nations. From what I understand, the ceremony I have become familiar with, and what has become most common, has its origins with the Lakota people from the Great Plains region of North America. There is also evidence of similar ceremonies in cultures in other parts of the world as well.

My initial experiences…

The sweat lodge is a very sacred ceremony, and because of that, I can’t specifically discuss what happens there outside of the circle of people who are present at the ceremony–even my own experiences. It’s not that there is some deep dark secret, it is to preserve the sacredness or sanctity of the ceremony, and the privacy of what is shared and experienced there.

What I can talk about is what it has done for me. It brought me tremendous healing of the grief and trauma surrounding the circumstances of my parents’ deaths. It brought me comfort, understanding, and a fellowship of people who supported me in my journey, and most importantly (and quite unlike my experience in Christian Science), validation of the grief, anger, and other emotions I was feeling. I came to realize that grief is a natural and necessary part of life. It is how you process traumatic events. It is actually a healthy thing. But, like anything else, it can become unhealthy if you do not process it and move through it.

The sweat lodge is what ‘grounds’ me each week. If I’ve had a stressful week, or just have a lot of stuff to work through, it is a time for me to quietly meditate or ‘defrag’ the hard-drive of my brain. I feel re-connected with the Earth, and everything around me, and it brings me back to a healthy perspective.

What my path is to me…

In addition to the sweat lodge, I’ve attended and supported other ceremonies, such as the Sun Dance, and many others. What this spiritual path is to me, and I want to emphasize that this is what it is to me (I don’t speak in any way as an authority or someone with extensive knowledge–I have no right to do so), is an ancient, basic, logical, humble, and genuine spirituality. It is not filled with dogma or human interpretation. It’s me and whatever higher power I commune with, and my connection to the environment around me. Humility is at the core of this spirituality. People from many different faiths (or no particular faith) and nations have attended the lodge I go to. As for me, I consider myself to be agnostic. I go to the lodge to meditate and find my own connection to Mother Earth and the universe. I also practice other teachings I’ve received, many based on the Medicine Wheel, in my day-to-day to bring balance into my life as much as possible. It balances me. It makes sense to me. There’s nothing abstract or esoteric about it to me.

Do I believe in God? No, not really–not the Judaeo-Christian version found in the Bible–that makes no logical sense to me at all. I believe that consciousness is a form of energy, and that we’re all a part of a collective intelligence or consciousness that connects us to everyone and everything else. Is that what Indigenous spirituality teaches? Yes and no–it depends on the teachings you’re receiving, and the cultural traditions they originate from. This interpretation I have of consciousness and the universe is what I’ve come to myself through my own walk and experience. It’s not any particular teaching of any form of Indigenous spirituality.

Indigenous spirituality…

It is important to note that there is no one singular form of Indigenous spirituality or culture. There are as many forms as there are nations, and in North America, there are over 600 nations, each as distinct from the other as French are from Germans, or Russians are from Turks. Yes, there are some common threads through many, but they are all distinct.

A couple of concepts I’ve been finding to be at the core of most teachings I’ve received, are respect and humility. Respect for everyone and everything around you: your fellow humans, animals, plants, water, air, and Earth. If we treat all with respect–taking only what we need, we all always have what we need, and we don’t destroy the environment around us. Humility to realize that we are not any better or worse, higher or lower than anyone or anything else, and that none of us knows everything or has all of the answers. I like to think that I know more today than I did yesterday, and tomorrow I will learn more.

One term I have become very familiar with, Wankan Tanka, is a term in the Lakota language that some people mistakenly think means ‘God’. There isn’t really an exact translation, but one interpretation holds that it refers to the power and sacredness that resides in everything. This is a concept of a ‘higher power’ (if you choose to call it that) that makes logical sense to me. My own conclusions on what ‘higher power’ and/or other ‘mysteries’ there may be are just the logical conclusions I have come to. Others have different perspectives, and that is a large part of what the Red Road path is–it is an individual journey that is as unique to you as your fingerprints. Yes, you are guided by teachings from Elders you connect with, but ultimately it is your own individual journey.

Evidence and logic are what guide me now, and are the only things that will change my mind. Faith does not. Faith has failed me, and it won’t get another chance. Faith will never be a part of my life again. The spiritual path I am on now is one that resonates strongly with me, it is open, accepting, and as individual to me as my fingerprints are. It simply makes sense to me.

The Placebo Effect

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.

If you spend any amount of time in or around Christian Science and read the published output of the Christian Science Church (through its periodicals and its spokespeople), you’re bound to come across discussion of the placebo effect (otherwise known as placebo response). It is frequently used as a gateway to insert Christian Science into the discussion of more credible alternative health care modalities (some of which actually submit themselves to scientific study), or even the discussion of scientifically-based medical treatment itself. Continue reading “The Placebo Effect”

I’m grateful for proper medical care

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.

Last summer, I experienced an infection in one of my feet. It likely happened while I was cleaning up an area outside of my workplace while wearing flip-flops, and I pricked my foot with something. Within a day, my foot had become quite painful and slightly swollen. I initially thought I had either badly bruised it or suffered a hairline fracture of a bone–it was more of a dull pain initially, so I wasn’t overly concerned or motivated to seek immediate attention–figuring if it persisted another day or so, I’d get it checked out. Later that day however, the pain suddenly became significantly more sharp and intense, my foot turned purplish-red, the swelling increased, and the redness began to move up my leg. At that point, I had the good sense to go to the emergency room as soon as I could.

I was quickly put on a course of liquid antibiotics, which I stayed on for a week–necessitating daily trips to the out-patient clinic at the hospital for injections. This was followed by a 10-day course of antibiotic pills. When the infection failed to clear, another 10-day course of antibiotics was prescribed. When I was initially in the hospital, I was informed that it was a serious infection, and if I had been diabetic I’d have possibly lost the foot, hence the reason I was asked a few times by different people if I was diabetic. A later consultation with my own doctor confirmed that it was likely a strep infection.

While the infection cleared after 25 days of antibiotic treatment, the lasting effects took much longer. The bacteria did significant tissue damage, and I experienced swelling in my foot for the rest of the summer. Even now, a year later, that foot still slightly swells up occasionally and feels slightly tender near the origin point of the infection.

I think back on how I might have handled this situation had I still been in Christian Science, and I shudder with fear at the thought of what might have been. Likely, I would have been extremely frightened at the symptoms, deeply afraid of what it might be; too afraid to really do something about it. I’d have sought the ‘help’ of a Christian Science practitioner and tried to ‘pray it away’. I’d likely have eventually sought out medical treatment, but much later than I actually did, and possibly after much more harm had been done. It’s entirely possible I could have ended up losing my foot, or worse yet, if the infection spread throughout my body, I might have lost my life. Who knows? These are all thoughts that pass through my mind as I think about this experience in that context.

Christian Science causes people to stick their heads in the sand when faced with serious physical issues. My own father, when his health began to decline, even said to me once when I suggested that maybe he should see a doctor, “I’m afraid of what they might tell me…” So, he suffered and eventually died of yes, a scary heart condition, but one that could have been successfully treated and managed. When I went to the emergency room with my infected foot, the doctors matter-of-factly looked at the symptoms, figured out what was happening, and started treatment. My fear was allayed when I knew what it was–an infection; an infection that, while serious, was easily treatable.

Reliance on Christian Science for one’s health care is a dangerous game of Russian Roulette. Sure, you might get by for awhile if nothing serious happens. I did for 41 years. However, when the bullet chamber is loaded, and you’re not prepared and don’t take proper action, the consequences can be serious. My Dad took his chances, and it killed him–slowly and painfully. Fortunately when I was faced with my loaded bullet chamber, I took action, sought proper treatment, and I still have two healthy feet to walk on.

Why I’m doing this

My final departure from Christian Science began six years ago, when my Mom unexpectedly became ill and died, all within the span of about three months. She died in excruciating pain with a large tumour in her abdomen, all the while refusing any sort of medical intervention–not even pain abatement. She died in a Christian Science nursing facility before I was able to fly cross-country to see her. Later the same year, my Dad succumbed to untreated heart failure which had been going on for an estimated 5 – 7 years. During that time, he was in constant pain and discomfort and suffered two massive strokes at the end, which sent him into an irreversible state of dementia which often rendered him unable to recognize people (including myself) that he knew well. I was at his side during his last days. I will not share the same fate as my parents.

Watching this graphic proof of the complete failure of Christian Science in my own family was one of the last nails in the coffin for my belief in it. It was the final of many proofs to me that Christian Science is 100% false in each and every claim it makes of an ability to heal. Many a Christian Scientist will try to tell you that healing is not what it’s all about, but mark my words, it is one of the most central aspects of Christian Science practice. Why else do Christian Scientists aggressively lobby for legal protections for their ‘healing’ practice? Why does the Church tout its 80,000-plus ‘verified’ healings?

I do this because I want people to know what Christian Science is really all about. I want people to know that it does not work, that it is completely fallacious in its claims, and it can and has done some incredible damage to many people, and it has destroyed families. It took mine away from me in the worst possible way. In the end, I was unable to do much to help or save my parents. For so many years, I was so deeply immersed in the Christian Science ‘Krazy Sauce’, I couldn’t see how fallacious it really was, and I failed to see how serious my own parents’ health problems really were. By helping to build and maintain this website and speak out when I can, I hope to help others, and if I can convince even one person to walk away from Christian Science, it will be worth all of my efforts.

Jeremy

Content Editor & Writer,
The Ex-Christian Scientist

I was the beneficiary of dumb luck.

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

None of us who grew up in loving homes with parents who cared deeply about us ever wants to admit that perhaps our parents didn’t do everything right, and perhaps, just perhaps, they neglected their duty to properly care for us in some very terrible ways, even if they had no malicious intent, and genuinely thought they were doing the best for us. Such is the case with me as I recall some of my early brushes with childhood illness.

I remember two instances when I was in first, and then second grades, where I suffered at length from a painful, hacking cough, and I was home sick from school for around a week or two each time. Since my parents were Christian Scientists, I was not taken to the doctor, so I was never diagnosed, although I now suspect it was either bronchitis, pneumonia, or most likely pertussis. No relief other than prayer, hot lemonade, and the singing of Christian Science hymns was offered. Fortunately, I recovered. In later years, my dad confided to me that he and Mom had been concerned enough about my condition to seriously consider taking me to a doctor. In retrospect, I wish they had. I may not have suffered as I did, as simple antibiotics may have cleared things up quickly.

I also recall several bouts with excruciatingly painful earaches between the ages of approximately six until around ten years of age. I was never taken to a doctor, where the pain could have been quickly abated and the infection properly treated with antibiotics. No, I was made to listen to a Christian Science practitioner, who tried to assure me that as ‘God’s perfect child’, the earache was an unreal ‘illusion’, or some such esoteric Christian Science crap.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have survived my childhood with, as far as I can tell, few if any lasting physical effects directly attributable to lack of proper medical care. While the devout Christian Scientist would say I was ‘protected’, I think I was just the beneficiary of dumb luck.

About a year ago, I related these childhood experiences to a friend of mine who is a retired trauma counselor. She is a survivor of childhood abuse, and is also a cancer survivor. When I told her that I had never seen a doctor as a child, even for these conditions, she was shocked. She bluntly told me, “You were neglected.” I had to let that sink in for a while. While I realized my parents had no malicious intent, and my friend emphasized that, the glaring fact was that they neglected to give me the physical care I needed at the time. Most of us who grew up in Christian Science were neglected in exactly the same way. We’re all survivors, and in some cases, damn lucky to still be alive.

My Departure (Jeremy)

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

The best way I’ve been able to describe my departure from Christian Science is as ‘death by a thousand cuts’. In a sense, it’s a process that evolved over my lifetime up until I made my final break. I was born into Christian Science and was third-generation on both sides of my family. Throughout my childhood, and into my adult years, I always had questions, always harboured doubts about Christian Science. I even briefly left in my late teens, but returned by the time I was 20. All the while, I desperately wanted to ‘make it work’, and it was that desire that kept me ‘in’ for so long.

Continue reading “My Departure (Jeremy)”