"The author's medical researches and experiments had prepared her thought for the metaphysics of Christian Science. Every material dependence had failed her in her search for truth; and she can now understand why, and can see the means by which mortals are divinely driven to a spiritual source for health and happiness."
Science and Health, p. 152—Mary Baker Eddy
Nearly 100 years have passed since the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote those words., halfway around the world and decades later, can testify to their veracity—as well as identify with Mrs. Eddy's search for health and, ultimately, truth itself.
Raised and educated in Bombay, India, Dr. Master was deeply involved in and committed to her profession. As a pediatrician, she taught at the city hospital and conducted a large private practice, specializing in pediatric cardiology. Her transition from medicine to membership in The Mother Church involved ten years of searching and sorting—a process not unfamiliar to anyone who comes to grips with the demands Christian Science makes on individual lives.
How did you learn about Christian Science while being so immersed in the medical profession?
It began about eleven years ago when my neighbor gave me some Sentinels to read. At first I wasn't very keen on even having them but kept them to be polite. (Like many people in India, I was put off by the word "Christian.") After two weeks she asked if I had read them, so I finally did—but again, just to be polite.
I quickly realized this was not the usual kind of missionary literature; its logic and clarity set it apart. Christian Science was explaining things. That's when I got Science and Health by Mrs. Eddy and began reading far into the night. It captured my interest so much I could hardly put it down.
Were you interested in any religious or philosophical studies before this?
On the contrary. I had never thought about or believed in God. I saw so much evil in the world. If there was a God, I thought, what sort of God could it be? I felt most religions consisted of just ritualism—something I couldn't accept. My parents wanted me to pray, but I didn't know how. Their prayers were said in an ancient, "dead" language, and I wasn't going to mumble sounds that didn't seem to me to have meaning. I read various books on religion, and each had beautiful words, but that was all. There was nothing of substance to understand, and what didn't have substance I couldn't accept.
But Christian Science does have substance, so I began to accept it. Each proof of its truth was a convincing factor. At that time I wore glasses, both for reading and distance. One day, after I had been studying Science and Health for about four months, the glasses fell off and broke. I thought I would get a new pair immediately but was very busy and postponed the purchase. Two weeks went by before I realized I no longer needed them. I understood this was a healing in Christian Science, even though improved sight was not something I had prayed for. I had begun to see the world in better focus, so I could naturally see things in better focus!
How did your friends and colleagues view your interest in ideas so contrary to medical teachings?
I never told anyone I was studying Christian Science. Only my mother and the woman who gave me the Sentinels knew. Whenever I had an illness or relationship problem to be healed, I used the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings. There were healings of influenza, a skin disease, and many others. Over the years I reached the stage where I could no longer sit on the fence. I had to learn to let go of human will and ask myself, "Do you believe what you're reading? Have you understood it or not?"
Something that also convinced me of the veracity of Science occurred on a return trip to a New York City hospital where I had done postdoctoral research fourteen years before. I saw some of the same patients, even found notes I had written in their files. Poor children, I thought. What a life to be lived, in and out of hospitals all their growing years. It seemed so futile—this huge city with the high-powered equipment and so-called modern progress in medicine.
In 1976 I resigned from the hospital staff where I was teaching because my work for classes involved reading medical literature and preparing lecture notes. I had tried to resign earlier, but the dean of the hospital thought I was being emotional and urged me to think it over.
What were the irreconcilable differences you saw between Christian Science and medicine?
Several things stood out. First, medical theories change from year to year. Books written ten years ago are almost outdated now. There's not a fixed law on which such theories are based, whereas Christian Science is based on fixed Principle, God. Christ Jesus' parable about building on sand or on rock came forcibly to me (see Matt. 7:24-27).
And not only do medical treatments and concepts vary from year to year, but from one part of the world to another. For example, in India it is believed that if you give fruit juice to children it can cause a cold and cough. When I was working for two years in that New York City hospital, a child with a cold was given a jug full of orange juice!
Secondly, medicines and drugs frequently have dangerous side effects. Years ago physicians thought antibiotics such as penicillin were very good. Now there is greater hesitation about using penicillin because of the negative reactions it can cause. Many doctors I know don't take medication themselves—or very little. They know the extent of iatrogenic disorders, their label for diseases caused as a result of medical treatment.
On the other hand, the effects of Christian Science treatment are only beneficial. You might have been praying about one problem and discovered something else was healed you weren't even thinking about.
A Christian Scientist automatically reverses in his thought general beliefs about physical conditions and epidemics that may be prevalent in the community, and in that way is protected from much that seems to afflict people. That can be a real boon in these days when the media are so full of reports that scare people. Mrs. Eddy says, "The prophylactic and therapeutic (that is, the preventive and curative) arts belong emphatically to Christian Science, as would be readily seen, if psychology, or the Science of Spirit, God, was understood."ibid., p. 369
Above all, each case in Christian Science is highly specific. Medically, you might treat ten children who had the same illness with the same medication. But there may be ten different fears, either in the children's or their parents' thoughts, that need to be reversed. You can handle them specifically in Christian Science. There's no hazy thinking when giving treatment in Science.
Is there any kind of trend developing in India that would indicate others are beginning to question traditional medical practices, as you did?
More patients in India are turning to homeopathy. They feel it's a "mild" form of treatment compared to allopathic medication, which is "strong"—to use their words. Some physicians actually take a degree in homeopathy, but in Bombay even the traditional physicians in the medical establishment suggest homeopathy for ailments like chronic colds and stomach upsets, which have no medical cure.
When a new drug, whose effects are unknown, is initially used, physicians set up what are called "controlled trials," giving one group the new drug and the other group a sugar pill, or placebo. They're trying to find out whether it's the new drug that produces an effect or just people's expectancy because they are getting a new drug. (See Science and Health 156:28-15 for some of Mrs. Eddy's statements on homeopathy.)
You still had your private practice at this time, didn't you?
Yes, but giving up my private practice brought up the question of income. The medical profession is a lucrative one, and my colleagues thought I was crazy to leave it just when I had gotten well established. I had to trust. I reasoned that if I couldn't trust God with my life, my very existence, then there was no point in pursuing all that Christian Science teaches.
In that year a Christian Science lecturer who came to Bombay told me his experience of leaving his former profession for the full-time practice of Science. He faced the same arguments as I, but he did it, and very successfully. Someone else's example quite often helps. Soon after I just quit. I was able to finish working with the patients I already had, and each got well and went home. In that same month I applied for membership in The Mother Church. Since then I've found that my practice of healing can be placed on a spiritual basis rather than a medical one.
What did a step like membership in The Mother Church mean to you at this point?
Really taking a stand for Christian Science. Just before joining, however, I began suffering from diarrhea—a common ailment in India but one that had never bothered me before. I did a lot of prayerful study, but a week went by with no improvement. One day the temptation to take medicine was terribly strong. I couldn't understand it, because I hadn't been the least inclined for years. Then I saw I had already sided with Truth and that this was just aggressive mental suggestion. I read the section on medicine from "Science, Theology, Medicine" in Science and Health, and by the time I finished it I was quite ready to trust divine Mind entirely.
Shortly after this I felt an impulsion to take class instruction in Christian Science and couldn't proceed with other activities until I had posted my letter to the person who later became my teacher.
Even though you had some convincing physical healings through Science, it must have been a tremendous challenge to turn your back on thirty years of education and professional experience. Did you ever have moments of great questioning?
Even after class instruction I sometimes had the nagging doubt, "Did you do the right thing?" Then I was in the Reading Room studying one morning and the word "wisdom" kept coming to me. I looked it up in the Bible and found, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."I Cor. 3: 19. That was my answer at last. Then I knew that coming into Christian Science was the result of divine impulsion and the height of wisdom—the opposite of foolishness.
What would you say to someone today who is in the same position you were in ten years ago, wondering what Christian Science is all about?
It's provable. It's not just theory. When I've needed healings myself or for others, the understanding that the Christ, Truth, was not confined to a man two thousand years ago, and that the only real universe is spiritual and perfect, offers such hope and results. Otherwise the world seems bleak and unpredictable. Christian Science is not merely a system for staying healthy. It takes you to the heart of what existence is all about, making tangible man's unity with God.
It often takes a mighty wrestling to be quite certain. But as one lifts one's thought to the absolute—the spiritual facts of God and man—the fears fade away. Then you really are free.