Eddy, Mary Baker
Mary Baker Eddy 1821-1910
(Full name Mary Ann Morse Baker dover Patterson Eddy) American nonfiction writer, autobiographer, editor, poet, and songwriter.
Eddy was the founder and controversial figurehead of Christian Science, a religion based on spiritual healing. Through her writings and public promotion of Christian Science, as well as careful management of the church that evolved from her teachings, Eddy established the basis for an international religious organization that would remain viable after her death.
Born in Bow, New Hampshire, Eddy never attended school but read extensively on her own. At the age of sixteen she began contributing prose and poems, usually of a religious nature, to various publications. Widowed shortly after her first marriage and abandoned by her second husband, she lived for many years in genteel poverty and obscurity. She became interested in mental healing as an alternative to conventional medicine in 1862 after a consultation with Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, a specialist in animal magnetism. In 1866 she injured her spine in a slip-and-fall accident, but recovered within a few days without medical help. She experienced this cure as a revelation that spiritual power was the only true way to alleviate human suffering. As she formulated this insight into a new system of religious belief, she began to attract followers with her teachings and worked on the book that would prove to be the primary text in Christian Science theology, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875). The Church of Christ, Scientist, was chartered in 1879, with Eddy later ordained as its pastor, and the Massachusetts Metaphysical College was established in 1881 to train Christian Science practitioners. Eddy also founded and edited the Christian Science Journal, one of several periodicals that would be instrumental in publicizing the new religion. When Eddy died in 1910, there were over 600 Christian Science places of worship, with central authority resting in the Mother Church in Boston. As a result of Eddy's sustained efforts to promote her ideas through books and periodicals, the church has maintained a lasting influence through such venues as the Christian Science Reading Rooms, which make writings by Eddy and other church-issued publications available to the general public, and the highly respected newspaper The Christian Science Monitor.
Eddy established Science and Health and the Bible as the key texts of Christian Science, and readings from both books are central to the Christian Science religious ceremony. Science and Health underwent several revisions during Eddy's lifetime, once reportedly under the editorship of the Unitarian minister James Henry Wiggin. The principles of Christian Science set forth in Science and Health were inspired by the descriptions of Christ's restoration of the sick and dead in the Bible, which Eddy believed demonstrated that divine healing power is available to ordinary human beings. The material world is an illusion, and so sin, physical infirmity, and mortality can be conquered by methodically focusing on the reality of God's spiritual realm. Eddy published a number of inspirational books under the auspices of the Christian Science Church, including The People's Idea of God (1883), Christian Science: No and Yes (1887), and Christian Science versus Pantheism (1898). She also wrote an autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection (1891), as well as hymns, poems, and articles for Christian Science newspapers and magazines.
As a powerful religious leader who advocated faith healing over conventional medical treatment, Eddy became a target of intense media attention, much of it negative. Since Eddy relied on her publications to promote Christian Science and to shape her own public image, these were closely scrutinized by her critics. She was accused of falsifying aspects of her life in her autobiographical writings and plagiarizing her ideas about mental healing from Quimby and other sources. In 1907 and 1908, the magazine McClure's published a series of articles profiling Eddy, written by Georgine Milmine and edited by Willa Cather, that revealed unflattering facts about her life and dealings with the church. Concerned that Christian Science might become a dominant American religion, Mark Twain published Christian Science (1907), which used Eddy's writings as the basis for a rationalist argument against her teachings.
The Science of Man (nonfiction) 1870
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (nonfiction) 1875
Christian Healing (nonfiction) 1880
The People's Idea of God (nonfiction) 1883
Historical Sketch of Metaphysical Healing (nonfiction) 1885
Defence of Christian Science (nonfiction) 1885
Christian Science: No and Yes (nonfiction) 1887
Rudiments and Rules of Divine Science (nonfiction) 1887
Unity of Good and Unreality of Evil (nonfiction) 1888
Retrospection and Introspection (autobiography) 1891
Rudimental Divine Science (nonfiction) 1891
The Manual of the Mother Church (nonfiction) 1895
Miscellaneous Writings (nonfiction) 1896
Christian Science versus Pantheism (nonfiction) 1898
Messages to the Mother Church (nonfiction) 1900-02
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (nonfiction) 1913
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SOURCE: "Christian Science," in Religion in the Twentieth Century, edited by Vergillius Ferm, The Philosophical Library, 1948, pp. 357-78.
[In the following essay, Todd provides an overview of Christian Science and of the principal tenets of Eddy's writings.]
Christian Science is the system of religious thought and the denomination founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 as the outcome of her discovery of this religious truth at Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1866, and her publication of the first edition of its basic textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in 1875. From childhood Mrs. Eddy had been deeply religious and a profound student of the Bible, and had long been inclined to attribute all causation to God, and to regard Him as infinitely good, and the Soul and source of all reality. But in 1866 a lifetime of ill-health was climaxed by what was regarded as a fatal injury from which she recovered almost instantaneously after reading an account of healing in Matthew's Gospel. That seeming miracle set her mind to work. It appeared to her as a divine revelation, the prophecy of a revolution in human thinking, and an inspired call to action. She describes (in her brief autobiography Retrospection and Introspection) how she withdrew from society for about three years "to ponder [her] mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind that should take the...
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SOURCE: "Mary Baker Eddy and Sentimental Womanhood," in The New England Quarterly, Vol. XLIII, No. 1, March, 1970, pp. 3-18.
[In the following essay, Parker discusses Mary Baker Eddy and the Victorian notion of women as purely moral beings.]
As Mark Twain described her, Mary Baker Eddy was the very type of the American businessman, with a mouth full of moral phrases, and a totally unscrupulous head for profit. "She was always in the front seat when there was business to be done; in the front seat, with both eyes open, and looking out for Number One; in the front seat, working Mortal Mind with fine effectiveness and giving Immortal Mind a rest for Sunday." For Twain, Mrs. Eddy's hypocrisy reached a peak in her denial of the existence of matter. "From end to end of the Christian-Science literature not a single (material) thing is conceded to be real, except the Dollar," and the dollar was hunted down in a dazzling variety of ways. The "Mother-Church and Bargain Counter in Boston peddles all kinds of spiritual wares to the faithful, and always on the one condition—cash, cash in advance. The Angel of the Apocalypse could not go there and get a copy of his own pirated book on credit."
Twain's characterization reveals a great deal about Mrs. Eddy, and about Twain, but not if it is accepted as literal truth. Twain was outspoken in his repugnance for sentimentalism in all its forms,...
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SOURCE: "Mental Healer," in Famous American Books, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1971, pp. 147-54.
[In the following essay, Downs discusses Science and Health and Eddy's career.]
America has given the world two major religions—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormonism, and the Church of Christ, Scientist, or Christian Science. The latter has the distinction of being the only religion founded by a woman.
Throughout the nineteenth century, during which both the Mormon and Christian Science churches were established, occult philosophies nourished. Nonconformist and Utopian movements attracted numerous adherents. Particularly appealing in the latter part of the century were such Oriental faiths as Vedanta, Baha'ism, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, and Yoga, and there were churches of Divine Science, Religious Science, the Science of Mind, and New Thought.
In this highly charged atmosphere, so preoccupied with the supernatural and theological disputation, a new faith was born, Christian Science, destined for a permanence, vitality, and wide acceptance denied a majority of other sects of the era.
The founder of the Christian Science movement, Mary Baker Eddy, was a controversial figure for a major portion of her nearly ninety years of life and remained so after her death. From infancy she was an odd child, given to "fits," temper...
(The entire section is 2970 words.)
SOURCE: "Mary Baker Eddy: A Sesquicentennial Acknowledgement," in Contemporary Review, Vol. 220, No. 1277, June, 1972, pp. 294-300.
[In the following essay, Olds discusses Eddy's life and religious beliefs.]
Today, most moderns view the real world as the world of sense experience. In this world there is flesh which we enjoy both seeing and touching. In this world there is also war, poverty, sickness, suffering and death. Because the world of the five senses has such a strong hold on us, many are driven to doubt the existence of a Supreme Being and the possibilities of immortality. Many feel that they have been cast into a world they did not create, and so they must make the best of a bad situation.
Yet in this crazy mixed-up world which we both love and hate there is a small religious group which claims to hear the sound of a different drummer. In fact this drummer is a female, who made music on her drum before it was popular for women to play more than a piano or flute. This woman is Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of that little known American religious denomination which goes under the heading of Christian Science.
The writings of Mrs. Eddy inform us that we are greatly mistaken when we think that we experience the empirical world, for the natural world of matter, sickness, suffering and death are not real but an illusion. They are the results of erroneous thinking. If...
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SOURCE: "The Dusky Genius of Mary Baker Eddy," in Ball State University Forum, Vol. XIV, No. 3, Summer, 1973, pp. 38-43.
[In the following essay, Sowd examines the culture and theoretical background from which Christian Science came.]
For Mark Twain, Mary Baker Eddy was "the most daring and masculine and masterful woman that has appeared on the earth in centuries," and he wrote of her: "Closely examined, painstakingly studied, she is easily the most interesting person on the planet, and in several ways as easily the most extraordinary woman that was ever born upon it."
But, contrary to what is most often asserted by her biographers, Mrs. Eddy did not operate in some sort of cultural vacuum; like Thoreau, she was truly "born in the nick of time," and if she was extraordinary, it is precisely because she managed so perfectly to embody the peculiar concerns of the age and place in which she found herself.
"The dusky genius of Mrs. Eddy was," according to Van Wyck Brooks, "a sign of the times, a portent of the race, the place, the moment; for only a time of declining vitality, only a region at ebbtide could have given birth to the cult of Christian Science."
"In the year 1866," Mary Baker Eddy reflects in her religious textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "I discovered the Christ Science or divine laws of Life, Truth, and...
(The entire section is 3032 words.)
SOURCE: "Conclusion: Christian Science and the American Pragmatic Orientation," in The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life, University of California Press, 1973, pp. 275-93.
[In the following essay, Gottschalk examines the continuing influence of Christian Science.]
Christian Science can be best understood as a pragmatic interpretation of Christian revelation. It is the pragmatic character of Christian Science which most adequately conveys its distinctiveness as a religious teaching, most clearly illumines its relations with the patterns of American culture, and most fully explains the source of its appeal. To have used the term pragmatic in connection with Christian Science before this point would have been ahistorical, since the term never occurs in Mrs. Eddy's writings and, to my knowledge, was not used by Christian Scientists nor by others in reference to her teaching during the period with which we are concerned. Despite William James' passing interest in Christian Science, there were no direct links between Christian Science and the pragmatic movement in American philosophy.
Yet the emergence of both within roughly the same period is far from fortuitous. Certainly it was not just a co-incidence that the development of an indigenous American philosophy should have taken place in the decades following the Civil War when the United States was...
(The entire section is 7701 words.)
SOURCE: "Protest in Piety: Christian Science Revisited," in International Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 1, No. 4, July/August, 1978, pp. 401-16.
[In the following essay, Fox offers an interdisciplinary interpretation of Christian Science, concluding that many Victorian women found social and intellectual freedom in the religion.]
This paper reexamines Christian Science, a 19th century American religious sect, in its sociohistorical setting using interdisciplinary sources and methods to develop a new interpretation of the movement's original social function. In giving historiography an anthropological reading, this work underscores the complementary relationship of anthropology and history that prompted Claude Levi-Strauss to assert in The Savage Mind that the study of history over time and the study of anthropology in space are alternative ways of doing the same thing. Beyond its relation to history, this kind of inter-disciplinary effort reveals the synthesizing potential of anthropology.
Christian Science was founded in New England c. 1875 by Mary Baker Eddy at a time when a number of meta-physical healing cults arose mat were known collectively as the Mind Cure movement. William James, who was trained in both medicine and philosophy, noted in The Varieties of Religious Experience the broad resemblances between Christian Science...
(The entire section is 6150 words.)
SOURCE: "Retrospection and Introspection: The Gospel According to Mary Baker Eddy," in Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 75, No. 1, January, 1982, pp. 97-116.
[In the following essay, Stein explores Eddy's autobiography Retrospection and Introspection.]
In 1891 Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) opened her auto-biography, Retrospection and Introspection, with a romanticized account of her family tree entitled "Ancestral Shadows." Little more than one hundred pages later she closed her presentation with a confident prediction that in future centuries the "Tree of Life" would "blossom" under the influence of "Divine Science," benefiting all the nations. Between these extremities of genealogy and eschatology she grouped a potpourri of reflections—personal, historical, literary, and theological—which defy easy categorization and lack apparent organization. To this day her self-portrait remains a puzzle, a resource often ignored by those struggling to understand this "remarkable" woman. This essay is an attempt to unlock the enigma of Retrospection and Introspection by examining the content and the structure of the text itself, thereby shedding light on Mary Baker Eddy's self-conception as the discoverer and founder of Christian Science.
Even the most distinguished biographer of Mary Baker Eddy has only modest insight to offer concerning this unusual document. Robert...
(The entire section is 6881 words.)
SOURCE: Willa Cather and The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy," in American Literature, Vol. 54, No. 2, May, 1982, pp. 288-94.
[In the following essay, Bohlke explores Willa Cather's connection to Eddy and Christian Science.]
As with many other writers of fiction whose foundations were laid in journalism, the total number of words which came from the pen of Willa Cather will never be known. Besides the great number of unsigned articles which appeared in numerous newspapers and other publications, Cather also published several stories, articles and reviews under pseudonyms. John P. Hinz, Bernice Slote, Mildred R. Bennett, Virginia Faulkner, William M. Curtin and others have done prodigious work in the identification and publication of several such works. Even so, there remain in the archives of The Home Monthly, McClure's Magazine and other publications several likely candidates for Catherian ascription.
It is well known that Cather herself wished to suppress much of her early writing and on several occasions refused permission to have it reprinted: "… in her later years Willa Cather closed the door firmly on all but a fraction of the work that had preceded O Pioneers! and did her best to discourage inquiry concerning it." Cather held the copyright on many of her early stories and was able to prevent republication. "She compared her attitude to that of an apple-grower...
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SOURCE: "Mormonism, Christian Science, and Spiritualism," in The Occult in America: New Historical Perspectives, edited by Howard Kerr and Charles L. Crow, University of Illinois Press, 1983, pp. 135-61.
[In the following essay, Moore examines the connection between Christian Science and the occult.]
Mary Baker Eddy's first husband happened to be a Mason. Briefly but happily married to George Glover, she remained forever grateful for the help she received from his brother Masons when Glover died. Later, membership in a Masonic lodge was the single organizational affiliation that was not ruled incompatible with membership in the Christian Science mother church. However, Eddy's gratitude toward the Masons never prompted her to imitate their ritual. Although some links to occult sciences were strikingly present in the church she founded, those links had nothing to do with Masonry. Rather, it was the peculiarities of her extreme version of philosophical idealism that allowed Eddy's critics to charge her with occultism.
Mary Baker Eddy must have thought it uncommonly bad luck that Science and Health was published in the same year, 1875, that Madame Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society. Thereafter, she was never able to change the minds of her critics who thought that the two women had a great deal in common. She wanted no association with Blavatsky, who returned the favor...
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SOURCE: "The Ambiguous Feminism of Mary Baker Eddy," in The Journal of Religion, Vol. 64, No. 3, July, 1984, pp. 318-31.
[In the following essay, Lindley discusses Eddy's feminist principles.]
Among women who have achieved recognition in the field of religion, Mary Baker Eddy frequently appears as a pioneer, a woman who founded and led a major religious movement and who used feminine imagery for the divine. During and since her lifetime, biographers and historians have presented portraits of the founder of Christian Science of an almost dizzying variety, from unadulterated adulation to devastating attack.
More recently, Mary Baker Eddy as woman has been the focus of scholarly analysis, with mixed conclusions as to her place in the women's movement of nineteenth-century America and her heritage for contemporary feminism. Gail Parker's study stresses psychological analysis, seeing in Eddy's denial of the material an attempt "to avoid any confrontation between the two halves of her profoundly divided personality"—that is, willfulness and submission, the appropriate masculine and feminine identities of nineteenth-century America. According to Parker, Eddy tried to use the "Sentimental Womanhood" ideal of her time to overcome masculine dominance but was ultimately unsuccessful, in part because of her claims to divinity and her method of exercising power, in part because "when die...
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SOURCE: "Christian Science Textbook: An Analysis of the Religious Authority of Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy," in Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 84, No. 3, July, 1991, pp. 273-97.
[In the following essay, Weddle argues that Christian Science is based on a "mythic vision of Christian history."]
A holy book arouses the greatest respect even among those (indeed, most of all among those) who do not read it … and the most sophistical reasoning avails nothing in the face of the decisive assertion, which beats down every objection: Thus it is written. It is for this reason that the passages in it which are to lay down an article of faith are called simply texts. The appointed expositors of such a scripture are themselves, by virtue of their occupation, like unto consecrated persons; and history proves that it has never been possible to destroy a faith grounded in scripture. [Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone]
If there is a supernatural realm, the "science" of this realm is sheerly verbal. [Kenneth Burke, Language as Symbolic Action]
One of the more curious proclamations in the history of American religion is found in the Manual of the Mother Church of Christian Science:
I, Mary Baker...
(The entire section is 8350 words.)
SOURCE: "Honesty, Blasphemy and The Destiny of the Mother Church," in The Christian Century, Vol. 108, No. 32, 1991, pp. 1028-1031.
[In the following essay, Gottschalk explores the controversial reception of Bliss Knapp's biography of Mary Baker Eddy.]
A book and an endowment have thrown the Church of Christ, Scientist, into its most significant controversy of the past 70 years. The dispute erupted after the church announced it would publish a book it had rejected over four decades ago, Bliss Knapp's The Destiny of the Mother Church, as part of a new biography series on church founder Mary Baker Eddy. Then in early September former church archivist Lee Z. Johnson sent a letter to librarians of the denomination's more than 2,300 reading rooms, as well as to the executive boards of churches. The letter quietly and knowledgeably set forth six specific points—expressed to the church's board of directors three weeks before—for these "branch" churches to consider before selling Destiny in their reading rooms. As democratically self-governed institutions they are under no compulsion to carry it.
Publication of this book has drawn protest from Christian Scientists because it asserts that Eddy was more than human, a counterpart to and equivalent of Jesus Christ. Its publication also appears to compromise principle for financial gain: $92 million from the Knapp estates,...
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SOURCE: "Lost American Opportunity: Two 1931 German Plays about Mary Baker Eddy," in Comparative Drama, Vol. 28, No. 4, Winter, 1994/1995, pp. 486-509.
[In the following essay, Gadberry discusses two little-known German dramas about Eddy.]
My personal interpretation is that Germany has such a wealth of love, mercy, and other virtues found in the Christian faiths that we do not need an American sect, which in my opinion, does not teach humility, but strives for business success in addition to religious goals.—Ilse Langner (1931)
In 1930 and 1931, a critical biography and two plays about Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy appeared in Germany, and a third was announced. They were but part of the Euro-American revival of interest in the problematic founder of Christian Science, who had died in 1910. "Mother Mary," as she came to be called, remains a fascinating and outrageous character. Mark Twain, her contemporary, found much to ridicule and fear in her despotic irrationality, yet he could conclude, "Closely examined, painstakingly studied, she is easily the most interesting woman on the planet, and in several ways, as easily the most extraordinary woman that was ever born upon it." His various satires on Christian Science, combined into a 1907 book, helped publicize the scandals, principally plagiarism, greed, and drug use, that kept Eddy in the public...
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SOURCE: "With Banners Still Flying: Christian Science and American Culture," in With Bleeding Footsteps: Mary Baker Eddy's Path to Religious Leadership, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, pp. 291-310.
[In the following essay, Thomas surveys Eddy's impact on modern American social and religious thought]
Mary Baker Eddy's death in 1910 was not the passing of an ordinary woman. Obituaries appeared in big-city tabloids and small-town weeklies across the country. Thumbing through a sample of these editorial comments today, one is struck by their lack of neutrality. Even when progressive America admired her accomplishments, it was uncomfortable with her, not knowing where to fit her into its notions of authority, leadership, and gender.
The Rochester Times observed that Mrs. Eddy's death marked the passing of a woman who was "probably the most notable of this generation; certainly none other has had more widespread influence or is regarded with greater reverence by more people." Indulging in hyperbole, the paper noted that "millions of followers" flocked to fill the pews of her worldwide church. The Chicago Tribune reflected the same sentiments: with her death, "there passes from this world's activities one of the most remarkable women of her time."
The Chicago Post accurately summed up the meaning of Christian Science to Mrs. Eddy's followers. "Without humbug or...
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Milmine, Georgine. The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971, 495 p.
First major exposë of Eddy, based on series of articles in McClure's; originally published in 1909.
Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1966, 372 p.
—. Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1971, 391 p.
—. Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1977, 528 p.
Three-part biography written by a member of the Mother Church's Committee on Publications.
Silberger, Julius, Jr. Mary Baker Eddy: An Interpretive Biography of the Founder of Christian Science. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980, 274 p.
Psychologically oriented study of Eddy.
Smith, Louise A. Mary Baker Eddy: Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1991, 142 p.
Part of a series of biographical works about Eddy published by the church.
Gardner, Martin. The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993, 255 p....
(The entire section is 453 words.)