- Publisher: Beacon Pr (1 May 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807010189
- ISBN-13: 978-0807010181
- Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 14.7 x 22.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
The Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood Hardcover – Import, 1 May 1991
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He recalls, "When I was a child... I did not go to a doctor... What I received instead was the extraordinary, elastic kindness of my mother, who stayed up with me all night when I was writhing in bed. As Christian Scientists we did not go to doctors... my mother would telephone a Christian Science practitioner who would pray for her... Although instantaneous healings were part of the lore of Christian Science---I heard about them regularly in Sunday school---I do not remember being instantaneously healed of any ear infection, or even being healed at all. I remember hours and hours of unrelieved pain---and my mother, who did everything she could to comfort me." (Pg. 2) Later, he adds, "I do not recall ever being healed of a physical illness through Christian Science. for my minor maladies... Over the course of a few days I improved, and prayer rather than nature received the credit.. I accepted the validity of this judgment...because in some sense the religion was the most stable force in my life." (Pg. 63)
He notes, "Christian Science acknowledges no hell. But there is something worse. There is life in the mortal world---utterly random, without authentic cause and effect, liable to every evil and disease and mutation known to the depraved mortal mind. In am in that world now... It is a hell to me." (Pg. 38) He adds, "Like the other Christian Science children I played with, I struggled to be 'perfect'---intelligent and well-behaved and free from illness---and when I failed, I took this as evidence that I was unworthy of the perfect, finished world that Christian Science offered me." (Pg. 52)
He asserts, "Mary Baker Eddy was quite explicit that sex was a concession to the illusion of human existence... The question of abstinence seemed contrived or artificial to me; it was a dividing line with no relevance to my own experience. Nevertheless, I felt progressively farther from God as I moved closer to the one aspect of my life that seemed truly real to me... I made several attempts to discuss these anxieties with Christian Science practitioners, but always ran hard against their placid lives: they could not discuss sexuality. The subject of birth control was of course out of the question." (Pg. 115)
He observes, "Since death is unreal in the religion, Christian Science makes no provision for funeral services and offers no specific comfort for the relatives of the dead. Shortly after my mother died, the branch church that she and my father had attended for eleven years sent my father a letter for comfort... The letter was, in a sense, addressed to me as well... I was not supposed to mourn, because my mother had simply 'passed on'; I could take comfort in the unblemished spiritual fact of her continued existence; there was not cause for grief, which was an effect of mortal mind." (Pg. 144)
He also admits, "I filled out the Christian Science teacher's application for class instruction. I mailed it immediately; he replied several weeks later. After prayerful consideration, he said, he had decided that I was not an appropriate candidate for his class. My desire to become a practitioner remained for a time, and once or twice I considered applying to a different teacher, but something about my first experience stopped me... Yet... I continued to hope that somehow I would hear the divine Voice, and would have an answer to my increasingly plaintive application." (Pg. 157)
This well-written (even in a "literary" sense) book will interest those studying Christian Science from an objective or critical standpoint.
The strengths of this book are his closely observed family dynamics - the parents, especially the mother, were committed Christian Sicentists, and they are revealed as sad and isolated figures in the end. Simmons also is very good at restrospective analysis of significant events in his adolesence and young adulthood. The reader feels compassion for his vulnerability in print and admires his dogged honesty to break out of a system that is neither Christian or scientific.
In addition, the book via its personal insights tracks the onset of serious decline of Christian Science in the 3rd quarter of the 20th century, a time when medical science was making enormous strides in eliminating disease and alleviating human suffering. It seems the only Christian Scientists I meet today are at least over 50 years old. If you want to see a fading American version of the ancient Gnostic heresy, you need look no further than Christian Science.
So why only 3 stars, a "gentleman's grade," for this little well-crafted book? In the end Simmons has written a respectable memoir of his spiritual journey, but within a bit too narrow of a framework. For a real 5-star account where the reader gets the "big picture" of a fully-realized and complex spiritual journey within the protagonist's times, I encourage you to delve into Thomas Merton's masterpiece, THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN.
In closing, now that THE UNSEEN SHORE is freely found in second-hand book stores, you can also save some $ on his little jewel. It will be a worthwhile read if the subject has piqued your interest.