Mary Baker Eddy (born Mary Morse Baker July 16, 1821 – December 3, 1910) was the founder of the Christian Science movement. Deeply religious, she advocated Christian Science as a spiritual solution to health problems. She wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, founded The First Church of Christ, Scientist of Boston in 1879, and several periodicals including The Christian Science Monitor. She took the name Mary Baker Glover from her first marriage and was also known as Mary Baker Glover Eddy or Mary Baker G. Eddy from her third marriage. She did much spiritual teaching, lecturing, and instantaneous healing. Her influence continues to grow through her writings.
Mary Baker Eddy, the youngest of the six children of Abigail and Mark Baker, was born in Bow, New Hampshire
. Although she was raised a Congregationalist
, she rejected teachings such as predestination
and original sin. She suffered chronic illness and developed a strong interest in the biblical accounts of early Christian healing.
In her autobiography, Eddy relates that as a child she heard God calling her. "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!" but I answered not, till again the same call was thrice repeated." Finally, after speaking with her mother, the child Mary responded to the voice with the phrase from Samuel "Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth." . 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, Mary Baker Eddy found that healing the sick was an integral part of Christian service.
Even in early childhood, healing played a role in Mary's life. Her family would bring ailing farm animals to her for healing. Some biographers have suggested Mary was high strung or emotional, yet reports from friends in the community where Mary grew up corroborate reports of Mary's ability to heal at a young age.
On December 10 1843
, she married George Washington Glover. He died on June 27 1844
, a little over two months before the birth of their only child, George Washington Glover. As a single mother, Mrs. Glover tried writing and working as a preschool teacher to financially provide for her son and herself. However, the social climate of the times made it very difficult for a widowed woman to earn money. She continued to have poor health and George Glover was put into the care of neighbors by her father and stepmother. Mary Glover married Dr. Daniel Patterson 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 Mary Patterson's 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 the Mrs. Patterson into deep despair. Her acute desire to recover her health led her to seek for healing in the various systems fashionable of the period. Mrs. Patterson was ready to try anything to bring relief to her sufferings.
Persistent ill health
A fragile child, Mary Baker Eddy suffered intensely from a number of physical complaints. The exact nature of these illnesses, and their possible psychosomatic
or hysterical (as it was called at that time) nature, is still a subject of debate. Mrs. Patterson's letters from this time, now at the Mary Baker Eddy Library
for the Betterment of Humanity in Boston, Massachusetts
, portray her sufferings and search for relief.
Study with Phineas Quimby and his influence
In October 1862 she became a patient of Phineas Quimby
, a magnetic healer from Maine
. She benefited temporarily by his treatment and his beliefs influenced her later thinking and writing although to what extent has been frequently disputed. Originally, Eddy gave Quimby much credit for his hypnotic treatments of her nervous and physical conditions and initially thought his brand of mesmerism
entirely benign. From Quimby, Eddy was first exposed to the effects of unseen mental influences and beliefs on sick patients.
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
After being helped by Quimby, Eddy wrote the following defense of him in the Portland (Maine) Evening Courier in the fall of 1862: "...now I can see dimly at first, and only as trees walking, the great principle which underlies Dr. Quimby's faith and works; and just in proportion to my light perception of truth is my recovery. This truth which he opposes to the error of giving intelligence to matter and placing pain where it never placed itself, if received understandingly, changes the currents of the system to their normal action; and the mechanism of the body goes on undisturbed. That this is a science capable of demonstration becomes clear to the minds of those patients who reason upon the process of their cure."
On the day following the publication of the above article her views were criticized by a rival newspaper, the Portland Advertiser. Eddy wrote a second article, replying to the criticism. In it appeared the following paragraph, referring to Quimby and his doctrine: "P. P. Quimby stands upon the plane of wisdom with his truth. Christ healed the sick, but not by jugglery or with drugs…. P. P. Quimby rolls away the stone from the sepulchre of error, and health is the resurrection."
This quote stands in contrast to what she would later write in Science and Health, "Glory be to God, and peace to the struggling hearts! Christ hath rolled away the stone from the door of human hope and faith, and through the revelation and demonstration of life in God, hath elevated them to possible at-one-ment with the spiritual idea of man and his divine Principle, Love." She claimed her understanding of the spiritual message of the Bible deepened and her understanding of what she called "the Christ" replaced references to personal saviors.
1866 injury, healing and study leads to Christian Science
After a severe fall in Lynn, Massachusetts
allegedly caused a major spinal
injury in February 1866, Eddy reported that she turned to the Bible
and recovered unexpectedly. Although she filed a claim for money from the city of Lynn for her injury on the grounds that she was "still suffering from the effects of that fall," she later withdrew the lawsuit..
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, Eddy 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, 155:15)
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.
At this time no one knows how much, or even if, Eddy influenced the great social and political movements of her day including abolition, the Wellness health movement and the women's suffrage movement.
Publishing her discovery
In 1875, after several years of testing the effectiveness of her healing method, Eddy 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 it she claimed "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 hundreds of 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.
Distinguishing between Eddy and Quimby and other criticisms
Gillian Gill, writes "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."
Although Eddy used terms such as "Science", "Health", "error", "shadow", "belief", "Christ" and many others used by Quimby, these terms were also found in the Bible. In the end, the conclusions she found from her scriptural study and continued healing practice were diametrically opposed to the teachings of Quimby. Eddy eventually rejected many of Quimby's conclusions on the dynamics of human disease, suffering, healing, redemption, God and Christ.
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 "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)
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).
Phineas Quimby died in January 1866. In 1873, Eddy divorced Patterson for adultery to which he readily admitted. In 1877 she married Asa Gilbert Eddy, who died in 1882.
In 1903 Mark Twain published a satirical diatribe attacking Eddy and her church entitled Christian Science Twain wrote "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...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 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 anyone who could reach up to Mrs. Eddy's waistbelt." However, later he seemed to reverse his stance as Paine wrote:
- I was at this period interested a good deal in mental healing, and had been treated for neurasthenia 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.
Building a church
Eddy devoted the rest of her life to the establishment of the church, writing its bylaws, "The Manual 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. She was supported by the approximately 800 students she had taught at her Massachusetts Metaphysical College
in Boston, Massachusetts
between the years 1882 and 1889. These students spread across the country practicing healing 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.
In 1908, at the age of 87, Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper which continues to be published today. 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 non-English languages, for children, and in English-Braille.
She died on December 3, 1910 at her home at 400 Beacon Street, in the Chestnut Hill section of Newton, Massachusetts, and was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1921, on the 100th anniversary of Eddy's birth, a 100-ton, eleven-foot granite pyramid
was dedicated on the site of her birthplace in Bow, New Hampshire. A gift from the Freemasons
, it was later dynamited 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
Eddy Biographies, pro and con and in between
- A well footnoted (scholarly) biography which eventually became the church-authorized biography of Eddy is Robert Peel's trilogy Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial, and Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority. (1966–1971)
- A more recent single volume is another originally independent, but now church-authorized and still controversial, 1999 work by a non-Christian Scientist, Gillian Gill (ISBN 0-7382-0227-4). Gill's work included a review of numerous other Eddy biographies over the years. She also uncovered fairly convincing evidence that Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, from whom critics have long-claimed Eddy stole all her ideas, could not possibly have been the "author" of the his so-called "Quimby Manuscripts" as Horatio Dressor, the son of two of Quimby's students, claimed. Gill wrote that Quimby's actual manuscripts, in his own almost illegible handwriting, indicated that for all intents and purposes Quimby was functionally illiterate and could not write a single cogent English paragraph let alone the alleged Manuscripts. She also uncovered materials that demonstrated that Dresser intentionally left out all manuscripts that would have demonstrated the independence of Eddy's ideas from Quimby's.
- See also Stephen Gottschalk, Rolling Away the Stone, Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism, (ISBN 0-253-34673-8) for a new account of her founding the church and relations to critics such as Mark Twain. (Indiana University Press: 2006)
- Mary Baker Eddy, Speaking for Herself (ISBN 0-87952-275-5)
- Willa Cather and Georgine Milmine The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science (1993) began as a famous magazine series 1907–08 and critical book in 1909.
- Doris and Moris Grekel also wrote three-part non church-authorized biography on Eddy, The Discovery of the Science of Man: (1821–1888), (ISBN 1-893107-23-X), The Founding of Christian Science: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy 1888–1900, (ISBN 1-893107-24-8), and The Forever Leader: (1901–1910) (ISBN 0-9645803-8-1). This biography was aimed at serious students of Christian Science as opposed to the general public.
- Former Church treasurer and clerk, John V. Dittemore teamed up with Ernest Sutherland Bates, in 1932, to write a biography, Mary Baker Eddy - The Truth and the Tradition. Most of the prose was written by Bates and Dittemore would later distance himself from the book. It has some genuinely distinct information including a list of Eddy's students taught at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College.
- The famous Viennese novelist Stefan Zweig wrote a biography "The Mental Healers: Mesmer, Freud, Mary Baker Eddy." Original in German: "Die Heilung durch den Geist: Mesmer, Freud, Mary Baker Eddy." Zweig based his book solely on the Milmine biography (above) and after consultation with Sigmund Freud, concluded that Eddy was a madwoman. He never read her seminal work "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" although it was available in German. Zweig's widow in a biography stated that Zweig had regretted his version of Eddy. A 1998 German reprinting of the book contains an afterword with corrections to Zweig's presentation.
- Martin Gardner, The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy, Prometheus Books, 1993.
- Science And Health, With Key To The Scriptures - 1875, revised through 1910
- Miscellaneous Writings
- Retrospection and Introspection
- Unity of Good
- Pulpit and Press
- Rudimental Divine Science
- No and Yes
- Christian Science versus Pantheism
- Message to The Mother Church, 1900
- Message to The Mother Church, 1901
- Message to The Mother Church, 1902
- Christian Healing
- The People's Idea of God
- The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany
- The Manual of The Mother Church
- Mary Baker Eddy Historic House
- Dupee Estate-Mary Baker Eddy Home in the Chestnut Hill village of Newton, Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Metaphysical College with a complete list of students of Eddy
- Septimus J. Hanna student of Eddy and vice-president of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College
- William R. Rathvon student of Eddy, early Christian Scientist and lone person to leave an audio recording of his hearing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the age of nine.
- Bliss Knapp a child when the church was in its formative years. Later, he was a teacher and also lectured for 21 years. His father was one of the first Directors of The Mother Church. Knapp's Book, The Destiny of the Mother Church, which was rejected by the Church but privately published, was quite controversial, and Knapp's opinions of Eddy remain controversial to this day in the Christian Science Church.
- Augusta Emma Stetson, pastor and later First Reader of First Church of Christ, Scientist (New York, New York), excommunicated by the Mother Church in 1909.
- Christian Science Herald
- Christian Science Journal
- Christian Science Monitor
- Christian Science Pleasant View Home
- Christian Science practitioner
- Christian Science Sentinel
- Christian Science Reading Room
- List of Christian Science tenets, prayers, and statements
- Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures