This is one of several posts exploring the accusations of plagiarism leveled against Ms. Eddy, as well as what may have influenced the writing of Science & Health. This, and future posts dealing with this topic will be tagged MBEPlagerism.
In Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind (1), Dakin drops a paragraph pertaining to “what is perhaps the most important letter of the entire group, containing as it does a reference to the neighboring Shakers and the curiosity in which they were held.” (Dakin, p. 13). Dakin goes on to highlight some similarities in terminology, theology and practice, then he completely ignores the Shakers until p. 193 when they are briefly mentioned again, in reference to Ms. Eddy’s (and Ann Lee’s) views of themselves as the Woman in the Apocalypse (2).
The Shakers got a much earlier start and were well established in the New England area by the later part of the 1700. Ms. Eddy was coming of age in what the Shakers termed the Era of Manifestations (1837-1850) a golden age of Shaker growth and prosperity (3), so young Mary would have been undoubtedly aware (at least on some level) of their teachings.
I am not an expert on Shaker Theology so I hope the wikipedia page is at least somewhat accurate. The wikipedia page breaks it down into five main points that I have very briefly summarized below (4)
- Dualism – the idea of God as both father and mother
- First and Second Coming – Jesus was the male coming of God, while Ann Lee was the female coming of God
- Celibacy and Children – everyone is celebrate, children acquired through adoption.
- Gender roles – women and men are equally valued and equal in the sight of God
- Worship – unadorned meeting houses, services rather chaotic with much dancing and singing
Christian Science shares the dualistic father/mother God, and some have speculated with Ms. Eddy as the woman in Revelation, Science and Health/Christian Science is the second coming — I’m not totally sure how the theology works.
While Ms. Eddy does have unique views on sex and reproduction, she never takes it quite to the extreme of demanding celibacy, although she does take great effort to point out marriage should be tolerated but only until the Apocalypse (5).
Ms. Eddy also never takes a hard-line stance on gender roles, her chapter on Marriage could be (and has been) read both ways, with vague qualities of masculine and feminine — again, once the Apocalypse happens this is all something to be tolerated. For the most part, the Christian Science movement has been fairly progressive in allowing men and women to participate equally, many of the influential people in the early movement were woman, as was the founder of Principia College.
The only similarity that Christian Science shares with Shaker meeting houses is their unadorned nature — the exception being the Mother Church, which has amazing stained glass windows (6). Christian Science services are always devoid of dancing and generally devoid of spontaneous shaking.
Dakin draws a few more parallels between Ms. Eddy and Mother Ann Lee (7), but I have not been able to confirm his claims regarding her. According to Dakin, Lee proclaimed she had the gift of healing, and felt that she assumed the sins and sufferings of her followers. Lee governed her followers with fear and allowed them to believe she had mental powers which “could inflict torture.” Dakin goes on to state that the Shakers called their church “The Church of Christ” and their main organization the “Mother Church” (Dakin, 13).
While Eddy’s claims (healing powers, feeling suffering/malicious animal magnetism) and behavior (absolute power) do mirror Lee’s, Mother Ann Lee’s wikipedia page does not confirm or deny Dakin’s claims, and Dakin does not footnote these facts. While Dakin’s claims regarding Ms. Eddy are most certainly true, it does leave a certain amount of room for speculation as to how much, and what, Ms. Eddy may have borrowed from the Shaker movement.
Further Reading: “Mother” Ann Lee and the Shakers
- DAKIN, Edwin Franden., and Mary Morse Baker. EDDY. Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, London, 1929. Print.
- https://kindism.org/2013/06/13/the-formation-of-mortals/, https://kindism.org/2014/02/02/virgin-whore-christian-scientist/
- For a full analysis of the Mother Church’s stained glass windows I highly recommend http://thearkoftruthmothershood.files.wordpress.com, see also http://christianscience.com/church-of-christ-scientist/the-mother-church-in-boston-ma-usa/tour-the-mother-church