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Mark Twain > Christian Science > Book I - Chapter IV

Christian Science

Book I - Chapter IV

No one doubts--certainly not I--that the mind exercises a powerful
influence over the body. From the beginning of time, the sorcerer, the
interpreter of dreams, the fortune-teller, the charlatan, the quack, the
wild medicine-man, the educated physician, the mesmerist, and the
hypnotist have made use of the client's imagination to help them in their
work. They have all recognized the potency and availability of that
force. Physicians cure many patients with a bread pill; they know that
where the disease is only a fancy, the patient's confidence in the doctor
will make the bread pill effective.

Faith in the doctor. Perhaps that is the entire thing. It seems to look
like it. In old times the King cured the king's evil by the touch of the
royal hand. He frequently made extraordinary cures. Could his footman
have done it? No--not in his own clothes. Disguised as the King, could
he have done it? I think we may not doubt it. I think we may feel sure
that it was not the King's touch that made the cure in any instance, but
the patient's faith in the efficacy of a King's touch. Genuine and
remarkable cures have been achieved through contact with the relics of a
saint. Is it not likely that any other bones would have done as well if
the substitution had been concealed from the patient? When I was a boy a
farmer's wife who lived five miles from our village had great fame as a
faith-doctor--that was what she called herself. Sufferers came to her
from all around, and she laid her hand upon them and said, "Have faith--
it is all that is necessary," and they went away well of their ailments.
She was not a religious woman, and pretended to no occult powers. She
said that the patient's faith in her did the work. Several times I saw
her make immediate cures of severe toothaches. My mother was the
patient. In Austria there is a peasant who drives a great trade in this
sort of industry, and has both the high and the low for patients. He
gets into prison every now and then for practising without a diploma, but
his business is as brisk as ever when he gets out, for his work is
unquestionably successful and keeps his reputation high. In Bavaria
there is a man who performed so many great cures that he had to retire
from his profession of stage-carpentering in order to meet the demand of
his constantly increasing body of customers. He goes on from year to
year doing his miracles, and has become very rich. He pretends to no
religious helps, no supernatural aids, but thinks there is something in
his make-up which inspires the confidence of his patients, and that it is
this confidence which does the work, and not some mysterious power
issuing from himself.

Within the last quarter of a century, in America, several sects of curers
have appeared under various names and have done notable things in the way
of healing ailments without the use of medicines. There are the Mind
Cure the Faith Cure, the Prayer Cure, the Mental Science Cure, and the
Christian-Science Cure; and apparently they all do their miracles with
the same old, powerful instrument--the patient's imagination. Differing
names, but no difference in the process. But they do not give that
instrument the credit; each sect claims that its way differs from the
ways of the others.

They all achieve some cures, there is no question about it; and the Faith
Cure and the Prayer Cure probably do no harm when they do no good, since
they do not forbid the patient to help out the cure with medicines if he
wants to; but the others bar medicines, and claim ability to cure every
conceivable human ailment through the application of their mental forces
alone. There would seem to be an element of danger here. It has the
look of claiming too much, I think. Public confidence would probably be
increased if less were claimed.

The Christian Scientist was not able to cure my stomach-ache and my cold;
but the horse-doctor did it. This convinces me that Christian Science
claims too much. In my opinion it ought to let diseases alone and
confine itself to surgery. There it would have everything its own way.

The horse-doctor charged me thirty kreutzers, and I paid him; in fact, I
doubled it and gave him a shilling. Mrs. Fuller brought in an itemized
bill for a crate of broken bones mended in two hundred and thirty-four
places--one dollar per fracture.

"Nothing exists but Mind?"

"Nothing," she answered. "All else is substanceless, all else is

I gave her an imaginary check, and now she is suing me for substantial
dollars. It looks inconsistent.

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