Eschatology (religious movement)
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Eschatology is a Christian spiritual movement founded by American writer and practitioner William W. Walter after Walter left Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science church in 1912. He named his organization "The Walter Method of Christian Science"; the term Eschatology as a trade mark for Walter's teaching was not used until the 1920s.
William W. Walter
William Wilfred Walter was born in Sublette, Illinois on July 13, 1869. Raised in a Catholic family, as a teenager he started to visit other church denominations. He left home at seventeen and moved to Aurora, Illinois. He later returned home and bought a barber shop. There he learned the trade, but soon after returned to his former job in Aurora and at twenty-one married his fiancée Barbara Stenger. The couple had a son who became sick and handicapped. The boy was fourteen when Walter became involved in the Christian Science church. At twenty-seven Walter was a buyer in a department store, a job he held the rest of his life. He never obtained formal education and had fishing as a hobby. The condition of the son depressed him and by thirty Walter caught tuberculosis. In his writings he claims that after seven years of struggling using the Christian Science healing techniques he finally overcame his illness. Walter thus became involved in trying to heal others as a Christian Science practitioner.
Between 1907 and 1910 he wrote three novels about mental healing in plain English for his clients and also for people outside the church. In 1910 Walter published The Christ Way under a pseudonym, in which he presented Christian Science concepts without mentioning Mary Baker Eddy, the founder and spiritual guide of the church. The book was relatively rejected by church members but widely accepted by outsiders. Walter reprinted the book, this time with his real name.
Between 1912 and 1916 Walter wrote several more books. In 1916 he also published his first Plain Talk series booklets, which heavily drew upon Eddy's teaching. In 1917 Walter held a class at his home for his closest followers and started a teaching plan for his Walter Method of Christ Science. He also continued to publish books and booklets for his successive courses. By 1920 some of his students started teaching new students, though Walter always examined them. Walter stipulated that each teacher requested an annual renewal of a permit that he alone granted. He called his teaching "the Science of Eschatology" and, like Eddy did before, claimed that the science was taught by Jesus. However, unlike Eddy Walter never founded a church: he restrained himself to teach the "Science of Life" at his home: a phrase he took freely from Eddy.
In the final chapter of The Sharp Sickle, the official textbook of Eschatology published in 1928, Walter, who had written The Sickle a decade before, sees the biblical book of Revelation as prophesizing his own work, but didn't claim any special mission from a personal God:
- "You might ask how he could know that the individual who unveiled his Revelation would bring it out in two volumes. John knew that the individual who would gain sufficient understanding to do the unveiling would also have wisdom enough to be guided by his great wisdom."
Though Walter claimed that it is impossible "to have a leader without a follower" he remained the sole leader of Eschatology. In 1941 Walter died suddenly at 72 at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was survived by his wife and his son Arthur.
Even though the title of this article says that Eschatology (The Walter Method) is a religious movement, this is incorrect. Mr. Walter was very adamant that this study was a *science* and had nothing to do with religion.
Mr. Walter stated in his booklet "Our Plan" that 'the Walter Method, which is nothing more or less than a plain and practical explanation and application of the method of mental healing given the present age by Mary Baker Eddy, and the further unfoldment of actual life as taught in the science of last things, Eschatology.'
Christian Science and Eschatology
There are some similarities between Eschatology, Christian Science and other metaphysical systems. In his 1993 book on Christian Science, Martin Gardner wrote he "was astonished by the extent to which today's New Age fantasies were so thoroughly aired a hundred hears ago by New Thought leaders." Since Eschatology resulted, specifically, from a schism from Christian Science certain metaphysical doctrines are shared by the two groups, though there are doctrinal differences as well.
Many tenets of Christian Science are shared by students of Eschatology. Both groups:
- take the Bible as their guide, but they differ from fundamentalists in that they regard the Bible as having a symbolic meaning; for instance they reject the existence of hell as eternal damnation (a belief that still appears in Eschatology, a book written by Pope Benedict XVI);
- regard Mary Baker Eddy as the re-discoverer of the science of life
- believe that suffering, especially disease, occurs because of belief in the reality of the problem ("mortal mind" in Eddy's jargon, "wrong thinking" in Walter's);
- display resistances to accept medical assistance when confronted with illness (though not necessarily prohibited);
- posit objections to the notion of the material world and regard it as a kind of consensual illusion (like idealist philosopher George Berkeley);
- consider that Jesus healed by his knowledge of a science of life: a healing science that both organizations claim was lost in early Christianity;
- like some New Age groups believe that every man is "arbiter of his own fate";
- believe in the existence of controversial phenomena (known to the secular world as psychokinesis) that can be developed through their respective techniques to the point of conquering old age and even death.
Even though Christian Science differs from orthodox Christianity in some ways, it is still a theistic religion. Eschatology strongly rejects the belief of a personal God. In the chapter "Experiments and experiences" of The Sickle Walter confess the extreme tribulation, or "mental warfare" as he called it, that he endured in the process of abandoning theism and the ideas inculcated in him as a child. Walter and the Eschatologists' view of God are much closer to New Thought and the New Age movement than to Christian Scientists.
Subsequent to his tribulation and inner deliverance, Walter developed the notion that after Eddy's death a conspiracy within the Christian Science church veiled the original meaning of the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the ideological foundation of the Christian Science movement. Christian scientists deny this but there is evidence that there have been many alterations from Eddy's texts. (This is a common phenomenon in other large American religions, for example the altered texts in Scientology doctrine.)
Throughout his later career Walter maintained that in her unaltered writings Eddy's notion of God was non-theistic and that, after the alteration, the writings were given a theistic taint. However, there is no evidence that Eddy rejected the belief of a personal God as radically as Walter did.
Eschatology after Walter
After Walter's unexpected death in 1941 the movement fell into confusion. Eventually Genevieve L. Rader, who began her study with Walter in 1921, continued his work. In the early 1960s she moved the organization's headquarters from Aurora to Pacific Palisades in California. Rader wrote the Questions and Answers commentary to Walter's four stages in the teaching of Eschatology: the Beginners Course, The Sickle Course, the Primary Notes Course and The Sharp Sickle Course. She also delivered the annual Teacher's Graduate Course. In July 1981 Rader relinquished the responsibility of Director of Teaching and was succeeded by her secretary, Evelyn Durling. In July 1987, at Durling's recommendation, Marjorie D. Westad was appointed as her successor, and in August 1998 Westad recommended Bruce C. Smith, who is the current Director of Eschatology.
From the 1970s through the 21st century the movement has flourished in other countries, particularly in Mexico.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (22 September 1989) reported on a study of more than 5.5 thousand Christian Scientists as compared to a lay group of almost 30 thousand. The death rate among Christian scientists from cancer double the national average, and 6 percent of them died from causes considered preventable by doctors. The non-"Scientists" on the average lived four years longer if they were women and two longer if they were men (male Christian Scientists are more likely to seek medical help than female believers). For critics this study is relevant to Eschatologists as well. For example, on May 2001 Juan del Río, founder of a school based on Eschatology teachings in Mexico City and author of Sánate a ti mismo (How to heal yourself) died of cancer after a four-year battle with the disease. Eschatologists counter that not every practitioner correctly applies the techniques, and claim that a school "based on Eschatology teachings" or Christian Science as it stands today is not Eschatology as taught by William Walter.
- Church of Christ, Scientist - article on Christian Science
- Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures - Mary Baker Eddy's book
- Background information - Biographical sketch of Walter by the Eschatology Foundation. (Most of the biographical information of this section is taken from this source.)
- William W. Walter, The Sharp Sickle, p. 551
- "William Walter Dies Suddenly in Florida Home", Aurora Beacon News, 6 March 1941
- Gardner, Martin (1993). The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. p. 9. Chapter 14 is dedicated to "New Thought, Unity, and Ella Wheeler Wilcox"
Eschatology literature by Walter and his followers
- Robert Durling, Out of Confusion (Taylor publishing co, 1981) — originally published in 1950, this is one of the most readable introductions to Eschatology by an advocate
- William Walter, Common Sense Series (1925–1940) — originally a planned series of 70 booklets for the general public, the series was interrupted because of Walter's death after having completed only 34 booklets
- William Walter, The Sickle (1918) — the "Sickle" books are sectarian but can be consulted at the Library of Congress
- William Walter, The Sharp Sickle (1928) — the textbook of Eschatology
- Juan del Río, Sánate a ti mismo (Aplicación Mental, 1988) — this book is dedicated "A quienes desean sanarse" (To those who want to heal themselves)
Criticism of metaphysicians that applies to Eschatology
- Martin Gardner, The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy (Prometheus Books, 1993) — Gardner is one of the foremost critics of pseudosciences, magical thinking and religious cults
- Stefan Zweig, Mental Healers: Franz Mesmer, Mary Baker Eddy, Sigmund Freud (Garden City publishing co, 1934) — a three-part work consisting of three individual biographies in which Zweig satirizes Eddy and her doctrines