Mary Baker Eddy (July 16, 1821 – December 3, 1910) was the founder of Christian Science (1879), a Protestant American system of religious thought and practice adopted by the Church of Christ, Scientist, and others. She is the author of the movement's textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and founded the Christian Science Publishing Society (1898), which continues to publish a number of periodicals including The Christian Science Monitor (1908).
Married three times, she took the name Mary Baker Glover from her first marriage. She was also known from her third marriage as Mary Baker Glover Eddy or Mary Baker G. Eddy.
ChildhoodMary Morse Baker was born in Bow, New Hampshire, the youngest of six children of Abigail and Mark Baker. Although raised a Congregationalist, she came to reject teachings such as predestination and original sin. She suffered chronic illness and developed a strong interest in biblical accounts of early Christian healing.
At the age of eight, Mary began to hear voices calling her name; she would go to her mother, only to learn that her mother had not called her. In her autobiography, she relates one of these later experiences:
According to Yvonne Cache von Fettweis, in her book Christian Healer, "Mary's religious upbringing had taught her that all men are God's servants." In her discovery of Christian Science, Eddy found that healing the sick was an integral part of Christian service. From early childhood, Mary Baker’s life included incidents of healing others. Her family would bring sick farm animals to her to heal, for example. Some biographers[who?] have suggested Mary was high-strung or emotional; irrespective of such claims, reports from friends in the community where she grew up corroborate reports of her ability to heal at a young age."One day, when my cousin, Mehitable Huntoon, was visiting us, and I sat in a little chair by her side, in the same room with grandmother, the call again came, so loud that Mehitable heard it, though I had ceased to notice it. Greatly surprised, my cousin turned to me and said, 'Your mother is calling you!' Finally, after speaking with her mother, the child Mary responded to the voice with the phrase from Samuel 'Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth.' When the call came again I did answer, in the words of Samuel, but never again to the material senses was that mysterious call repeated."
Mary did not join the Congregational church until she was 17 at Sanbornton Bridge, New Hampshire (present-day Tilton). While Mary Baker attended the Pembroke Academy, an event occurred, later related by long time Tilton residents. A mentally disturbed man had escaped from the local Concord asylum and, brandishing a club, entered the Pembroke schoolyard terrifying pupils who ran shrieking into the schoolhouse. Peering through the windows, the children watched in horror as Mary approached him as he wielded his club above her head, expecting her to be struck down before their eyes. Instead, she simply took his free hand and walked him, as he lowered his club to his side, to the schoolyard gate, from which he departed. The following Sunday he reappeared. Quietly entering the church, he walked to the Baker pew and stood beside Mary during the hymn singing, after which he yielded without resistance into legal custody."My mother, as she bathed my burning temples, bade me lean on God's love, which would give me rest if I went to Him in prayer, as I was wont to do, seeking His guidance. I prayed; and a soft glow of ineffable joy came over me. The fever was gone and I rose and dressed myself in a normal condition of health. Mother saw this and was glad. The physician marveled; and the "horrible decree" of Predestination – as John Calvin rightly called his own tenet – forever lost its power over me."
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Her mother died in November 1849 and about a year later, her father remarried Elizabeth Patterson Duncan. Mary Baker Glover continued to have poor health and her son was put into the care of neighbors by her father and stepmother. Mary married Dr. Daniel Patterson, a dentist, in 1853 hoping he would adopt the young boy, and Daniel Patterson signed papers to that effect on their wedding day. However, he never followed through on his promise. Mary was often bed-ridden during this period. Of her sisters who were able to help her in the care of her rambunctious child, sadly, none really did, beyond short periods. Her mother had passed on and her father had remarried a woman who did not welcome either Mary or her child. A neighbor couple with a small farm and no children took up the care of the boy for a fee, during times Mary was confined to her bed. When this couple, who found the boy useful in the farm labor, intended to move out to the Prairie territories, without her knowing, some of Mary's family arranged that the couple should take the child along with money given them by her father. Mary's symptoms worsened and plunged her into a deep depression. The failure of Patterson to make good on his promises of reunification with her now far-distant son plunged her into deep despair. Her acute desire to recover her health led her to seek healing in the various systems fashionable of the period. She was ready to try anything to bring relief to her sufferings.
Daniel Patterson chased after other women while married to Mary. He ran into financial difficulty and mortgaged Mary's furniture, jewelry, and books, but was still unable to keep current on their property in Groton, New Hampshire, and was eventually forced to vacate. Daniel intended to leave Groton and Mary's sister, Abigail, removed her from her Groton home to Rumney, six miles distant, in a carriage with her blind servant following on foot.
Persistent ill health
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Study with Phineas Quimby and his influence
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Quimby was steeped both in the Protestant Christianity of his time and the science of the industrial revolution. Quimby wrote in 1864, "The wise man, in like measure [,] knows that the light of the body or natural man is but the reflection of the scientific man. Our misery lies in this darkness. This is the prison that holds the natural man, till the light of Wisdom bursts his bonds, & lets the captive free. Here is where where [sic] Christ went to preach to the prisoners bound by error before the reformation of science." Quimby writes many such passages linking the healing power of Christ with right perception and understanding, which Quimby equates with Science. The impartial student may see Quimby as a precursor in the theory and practice of Christian Science, though Eddy's relationship with Quimby was a subject of controversy even within her own lifetime.
While Quimby had his own notions on the nature of these unseen forces, which Eddy accepted early on, she would later draw decidedly different opinions on the nature of thought on the body and reject any form of hypnotism. It is evident that Eddy and Quimby worked together, appreciated one another and learned from one another. Quimby later said he learned more from Eddy than she did from him. Eddy clearly respected him and at one point referred to him as an “advanced thinker” with a “high and noble character.”
Still, the controversy over how much Eddy took from Quimby and vice versa has existed from their day to the present. Quimby’s work and writings, as seen above, included references to “Christ” and “scientific man” and “wisdom,” all words which Eddy used in her writings and teachings. However, it is clear, based on scholarly work on this subject (see, for example, the Gillian Gill and Robert Peel biographies of Eddy), that Quimby continued to practice various forms of hypnotism, mesmerism, and physical manipulation of the body. In contrast, Eddy’s healing method became firmly grounded in The Bible and the healing example of Jesus before the first edition of her book Science and Health was published in 1875.
Phineas Quimby died in January 1866.
1866 injury, healing and study leads to Christian ScienceIn February 1866, after a fall in Lynn, Massachusetts caused a spinal injury, she turned to God. She is quoted saying:
|“||On the third day thereafter, I called for my Bible, and opened it at Matthew, 9:2 [And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.(King James Bible) ]. As I read, the healing Truth dawned upon my sense; and the result was that I arose, dressed myself, and ever after was in better health than I had before enjoyed. That short experience included a glimpse of the great fact that I have since tried to make plain to others, namely, Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence.||”|
She devoted the next three years of her life to Biblical study and what she considered the discovery of Christian Science. In her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, Eddy writes "I then withdrew from society about three years,--to ponder my mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind that should take the things of God and show them to the creature, and reveal the great curative Principle, --Deity."
Convinced by her own study of the Bible, especially Genesis 1, and through experimentation, Mary claimed to have found healing power through a higher sense of God as Spirit and man as God's spiritual "image and likeness." She became convinced that illness could be healed through an awakened thought brought about by a clearer perception of God and the explicit rejection of drugs, hygiene and medicine based upon the observation that Jesus did not use these methods for healing:
It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would have recommended and employed them in his healing. … The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love. (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 143:5, 367:3)She eventually called this spiritual perception the operation of the Christ Truth on human consciousness.
Claiming to have first healed herself and then others, and having learned from these experiences, Eddy felt anyone could perceive what she called "the Kingdom of Heaven" or spiritual reality on earth. For her, this healing method was based on scientific principles and could be taught to others. This positive rule of healing, she taught, resulted from a new understanding of God as infinite Spirit beyond the limitations of the material senses.
Mary became well known as a healer, and first-hand accounts survive claiming that miracles occurred similar to miracles performed by Jesus, who calmed a storm and raised people from the dead.
Publishing her workIn 1873, Mary divorced Daniel Patterson for adultery to which he readily admitted.
In 1875, after several years of testing the effectiveness of her healing method, Mary published her discovery in a book entitled Science and Health (years later retitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures), which she called the textbook of Christian Science. The first publication run was one thousand copies, which she self-published. In the final edition, she wrote "In the year 1866, I discovered the Christ Science or divine laws of Life, Truth, and Love, and named my discovery Christian Science" (p. 107). During these years she taught what she considered the science of "primitive Christianity" to at least 800 people. Many of her students became healers themselves. The last 100 pages of Science and Health (chapter entitled "Fruitage") contains testimonies of people who claimed to have been healed by reading her book. She made numerous revisions to her book from the time of its first publication until shortly before her death.
In 1877 she married Asa Gilbert Eddy; in 1882 they moved to Boston, and he died that year.
Building a churchManual of The Mother Church, and revising Science and Health. While Eddy was a highly controversial religious leader, author, and lecturer, thousands of people flocked to her teachings.
By the 1870’s Mary was telling her students “Some day I will have a church of my own.” In 1879 she and her students established the Church of Christ, Scientist, “to commemorate the word and works of our Master [Jesus], which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” In 1892 at Eddy’s direction, the church reorganized as The First Church of Christ, Scientist, “designed to be built on the Rock, Christ....” Some years later in 1881, she founded the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, where she taught approximately 800 students in Boston, Massachusetts between the years 1882 and 1889. These students spread across the country practicing healing, and instructing others, in accordance with Eddy's teachings. Eddy authorized these students to list themselves as Christian Science Practitioners in the church's periodical, The Christian Science Journal. She also founded the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine with articles about how to heal and testimonies of healing.
As teacher, author, and preacher, Eddy was leader of the burgeoning Christian Science movement. In 1888, a reading room selling Bibles, her writings and other publications opened in Boston. This model would soon be replicated, and branch churches worldwide maintain more than 1,200 Christian Science Reading Rooms today.
In 1889, she closed the Massachusetts Metaphysical College to focus on a major revision of Science and Health. Throughout her lifetime, Science and Health would appear in over 400 separate printings, and undergo six major revisions. Science and Health is currently published in 17 languages including Braille.
In 1894, an edifice for The First Church of Christ, Scientist edifice was completed in Boston (The Mother Church). In the early years, Eddy served as pastor, and she was succeeded by several other individuals. In 1895, however, Eddy ordained the Bible and Science and Health as the pastor of The Church of Christ, Scientist, and the Sunday sermon consists of readings from these two books. Wednesday meetings also include readings from the Bible and Science and Health, and attendees participate by sharing accounts of healing and spiritual insight. Also in 1895 she published the first edition of a church manual, establishing guidelines that are followed to this day. It is also in this slim volume that she made provisions for democratically run local churches around the world.
Eddy founded The Christian Science Publishing Society in 1898, which became the publishing home for numerous publications launched by her and her followers. In 1908, at the age of 87, Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper. She also founded the Christian Science Journal in 1883, a monthly magazine aimed at the church's members and, in 1898, the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly religious periodical written for a more general audience, and the Herald of Christian Science, a religious magazine with editions in many languages. All of these publications continue to be published today.
DeathChestnut Hill section of Newton, Massachusetts. Her death was not announced until the next morning when a city medical examiner was called in. She was buried December 8, 1910 at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hundreds of tributes appeared in newspapers around the world, including The Boston Globe, which wrote, “She did a wonderful—an extraordinary work in the world and there is no doubt that she was a powerful influence for good.”
Distinguishing between Eddy and Quimby and other criticismsGillian Gill writes
Although Eddy used terms such as "Science", "Health", "error", "shadow", "belief", "Christ" and others used by Quimby, these terms are also to be found in the Bible and in the common language of the day. In the end, her conclusions from scriptural study and continued healing practice were diametrically opposed to the Quimby teachings. Eddy also eventually rejected many of Quimby's conclusions on the dynamics of human disease, suffering, healing, redemption, God and Christ.I am now firmly convinced, having weighed all the evidence I could find in published and archival sources, that Mrs. Eddy's most famous biographer-critics – Peabody, Milmine, Dakin, Bates and Dittemore and Gardner – have flouted the evidence and shown willful bias in accusing Mrs. Eddy of owing her theory of healing to Quimby and of plagiarizing his unpublished work.
Through her study of the Bible, Eddy rejected Quimby's notion of a dualism between matter and spirit. She wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error." (S&H 468: 10–12)
Eddy found that while at first hypnotism seemed to benefit the patient, it later created more problems than the original sickness. Ultimately she rejected any form of hypnotism or mesmerism, stating
Eddy's use of these terms and her teaching are considered by both her defenders and Quimby's family to be distinct from Quimbyism. Quimby's son, George, wrote, "Don’t confuse his method of healing with Mrs. Eddy’s Christian Science, so far as her religious teachings go.... The religion which she teaches certainly is hers, for which I cannot be too thankful." (Gottschalk, Rolling Away the Stone, p. 72).The hypnotizer employs one error to destroy another. If he heals sickness through a belief, and a belief originally caused the sickness, it is a case of the greater error overcoming the lesser. This greater error thereafter occupies the ground, leaving the case worse than before it was grasped by the stronger error. (S&H 104:22–28)
In 1903 Mark Twain published a satirical diatribe attacking Eddy and her church entitled Christian Science. Twain wrote
When Harper's refused to publish "Christian Science" in 1903, Twain interpreted the rejection as suppression caused by pressure from Christian Science and wrote, "The situation is not barren of humour. I had been doing my best to show in print that the Xn Scientist cult has become a power in the land – well, here is the proof: it has scared the biggest publisher in the Union."We cannot peacefully agree as to her motives, therefore her character must remain crooked to some of us and straight to the others. No matter, she is interesting enough without an amicable agreement. In several ways she is the most interesting woman that ever lived, and the most extraordinary. The same may be said of her career, and the same may be said of its chief result. She started from nothing. Her enemies charge that she surreptitiously took from Quimby a peculiar system of healing which was mind-cure with a Biblical basis. She and her friends deny that she took anything from him. This is a matter which we can discuss by-and-by. Whether she took it or invented it, it was—materially—a sawdust mine when she got it, and she has turned it into a Klondike; its spiritual dock had next to no custom, if any at all: from it she has launched a world-religion which has now six hundred and sixty-three churches, and she charters a new one every four days. When we do not know a person—and also when we do—we have to judge his size by the size and nature of his achievements, as compared with the achievements of others in his special line of business—there is no other way. Measured by this standard, it is thirteen hundred years since the world has produced any one who could reach up to Mrs. Eddy's waistbelt.
Paradoxically, Twain later gave a rather different appraisal of Eddy, reported by his biographer Albert Bigelow Paine:
I was at this period interested a good deal in mental healing, and had been treated for neurasthenia (psychosomatic fatigue) with gratifying results. Like most of the world, I had assumed, from his published articles, that he condemned Christian Science and its related practices out of hand. When I confessed, rather reluctantly, one day, the benefit I had received, he surprised me by answering: "Of course you have been benefited. Christian Science is humanity's boon. Mother Eddy deserves a place in the Trinity as much as any member of it. She has organized and made available a healing principle that for two thousand years has never been employed, except as the merest kind of guesswork. She is the benefactor of the age."
It seemed strange, at the time, to hear him speak in this way concerning a practice of which he was generally regarded as the chief public antagonist. It was another angle of his many-sided character.
LegacyToday, almost 1,700 Christian Science churches are active in 76 countries throughout the world. People from all walks of life continue to practice this religion and use the system of health that Eddy codified almost 150 years ago.
Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures has been a best seller for decades, and was selected as one of the “75 Books By Women Whose Words Have Changed The World,” by the Women's National Book Association. In 1995, Eddy was inducted in the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 2002, The Mary Baker Eddy Library opened its doors, giving the public access to one of the largest collections about an American woman.
For more than a century, The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel have been publishing accounts of restored health based on the system of care that Eddy taught. The Christian Science Monitor newspaper has won seven Pulitzer Prizes to date.
In 1921, on the 100th anniversary of Eddy's birth, a 100-ton (in rough) and 60–70 tons (hewn), eleven-foot square granite pyramid was dedicated on the site of her birthplace in Bow, New Hampshire. A gift from James F. Lord, it was later dynamited in 1962 by order of the church's board of directors. Also demolished was Eddy's former home in Pleasant View, as the board feared that it was becoming a place of pilgrimage. Although Eddy allowed personal praise in her lifetime for various reasons, including for publicity and fundraising, the church shuns both the cult of personality and religious reliquaries.