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Mark Twain > Christian Science > Book I - Chapter V

Christian Science

Book I - Chapter V


Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to
each other; it will unriddle many riddles; it will make clear and simple
many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and
obscurities now.

Those of us who are not in the asylum, and not demonstrably due there,
are nevertheless, no doubt, insane in one or two particulars. I think we
must admit this; but I think that we are otherwise healthy-minded. I
think that when we all see one thing alike, it is evidence that, as
regards that one thing, our minds are perfectly sound. Now there are
really several things which we do all see alike; things which we all
accept, and about which we do not dispute. For instance, we who are
outside of the asylum all agree that water seeks its level; that the sun
gives light and heat; that fire consumes; that fog is damp; that six
times six are thirty-six, that two from ten leaves eight; that eight and
seven are fifteen. These are, perhaps, the only things we are agreed
about; but, although they are so few, they are of inestimable value,
because they make an infallible standard of sanity. Whosoever accepts
them him we know to be substantially sane; sufficiently sane; in the
working essentials, sane. Whoever disputes a single one of them him we
know to be wholly insane, and qualified for the asylum.

Very well, the man who disputes none of them we concede to be entitled to
go at large. But that is concession enough. We cannot go any further
than that; for we know that in all matters of mere opinion that same man
is insane--just as insane as we are; just as insane as Shakespeare was.
We know exactly where to put our finger upon his insanity: it is where
his opinion differs from ours.

That is a simple rule, and easy to remember. When I, a thoughtful and
unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any
question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious
matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the
Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually
insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can
prove anything to a lunatic--for that is a part of his insanity and the
evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has
the same defect that afflicts his. All Democrats are insane, but not one
of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the
Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive
it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are
insane. When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many
people are mad. To mention only a few:

The Atheist, The Theosophists, The Infidel, The Swedenborgians, The
Agnostic, The Shakers, The Baptist, The Millerites, The Methodist, The
Mormons, The Christian Scientist, The Laurence Oliphant Harrisites, The
Catholic, and the 115 Christian sects, the Presbyterian excepted, The
Grand Lama's people, The Monarchists, The Imperialists, The 72 Mohammedan
sects, The Democrats, The Republicans (but not the Mugwumps), The
Buddhist, The Blavatsky-Buddhist, The Mind-Curists, The Faith-Curists,
The Nationalist, The Mental Scientists, The Confucian, The Spiritualist,
The Allopaths, The 2000 East Indian sects, The Homeopaths, The
Electropaths, The Peculiar People, The----

But there's no end to the list; there are millions of them! And all
insane; each in his own way; insane as to his pet fad or opinion, but
otherwise sane and rational. This should move us to be charitable
towards one another's lunacies. I recognize that in his special belief
the Christian Scientist is insane, because he does not believe as I do;
but I hail him as my mate and fellow, because I am as insane as he insane
from his point of view, and his point of view is as authoritative as mine
and worth as much. That is to say, worth a brass farthing. Upon a great
religious or political question, the opinion of the dullest head in the
world is worth the same as the opinion of the brightest head in the
world--a brass farthing. How do we arrive at this? It is simple. The
affirmative opinion of a stupid man is neutralized by the negative
opinion of his stupid neighbor no decision is reached; the affirmative
opinion of the intellectual giant Gladstone is neutralized by the
negative opinion of the intellectual giant Newman--no decision is
reached. Opinions that prove nothing are, of course, without value any
but a dead person knows that much. This obliges us to admit the truth of
the unpalatable proposition just mentioned above--that, in disputed
matters political and religious, one man's opinion is worth no more than
his peer's, and hence it followers that no man's opinion possesses any
real value. It is a humbling thought, but there is no way to get around
it: all opinions upon these great subjects are brass-farthing opinions.

It is a mere plain, simple fact--as clear and as certain as that eight
and seven make fifteen. And by it we recognize that we are all insane,
as concerns those matters. If we were sane, we should all see a
political or religious doctrine alike; there would be no dispute: it
would be a case of eight and seven--just as it is in heaven, where all
are sane and none insane. There there is but one religion, one belief;
the harmony is perfect; there is never a discordant note.

Under protection of these preliminaries, I suppose I may now repeat
without offence that the Christian Scientist is insane. I mean him no
discourtesy, and I am not charging--nor even imagining--that he is
insaner than the rest of the human race. I think he is more
picturesquely insane than some of us. At the same time, I am quite sure
that in one important and splendid particular he is much saner than is
the vast bulk of the race.

Why is he insane? I told you before: it is because his opinions are not
ours. I know of no other reason, and I do not need any other; it is the
only way we have of discovering insanity when it is not violent. It is
merely the picturesqueness of his insanity that makes it more interesting
than my kind or yours. For instance, consider his "little book"; the
"little book" exposed in the sky eighteen centuries ago by the flaming
angel of the Apocalypse, and handed down in our day to Mrs. Mary Baker G.
Eddy, of New Hampshire, and translated by her, word for word, into
English (with help of a polisher), and now published and distributed in
hundreds of editions by her at a clear profit per volume, above cost, of
seven hundred per cent.!--a profit which distinctly belongs to the angel
of the Apocalypse, and let him collect it if he can; a "little book"
which the C.S. very frequently calls by just that name, and always
enclosed in quotation-marks to keep its high origin exultantly in mind; a
"little book" which "explains" and reconstructs and new-paints and
decorates the Bible, and puts a mansard roof on it and a lightning-rod
and all the other modern improvements; a "little book" which for the
present affects to travel in yoke with the Bible and be friendly to it,
and within half a century will hitch the Bible in the rear and
thenceforth travel tandem, itself in the lead, in the coming great march
of Christian Scientism through the Protestant dominions of the planet.

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