Again, Plutarch’s quote neatly sums up this section: Ms. Eddy is growing suspicious of other people’s influences over her religion. By this point, several popular and charismatic students have started teaching Christian Science, and a few have published works interpreting Ms. Eddy’s works. This did not sit well with Ms. Eddy, so in 1897 she published Miscellaneous Writings and published the following degree in The Journal
Christian Scientists in the United States and Canada are hereby enjoined not to reach a student of Christian Science for a year commencing March 14, 1897. “Miscellaneous Writings” is calculated to prepare the minds of all true thinkers to understand the Christian Science text book more correctly than a student can. The Bible, Science and Health with the Key to the Scriptures, and my other published works are the only proper instructors for this hour. It shall be the duty of all Christian Scientists to circulate and sell as many of these books as they can.
If a member of the First Church of Christ Scientist shall fail to obey this injunction it shall render him liable to lose his membership in this church. (Dakin, p. 293)
This decree forced all of Ms. Eddy’s perceived competition to close up shop or be excommunicated.
Although Ms. Eddy remained cloistered in Pleasant View suffering from fits of ill health, she continued to take an active interest in how her Boston church was going. She was particularly concerned about the growing influence of Agusta Stetson and Josephine Woodbury (spoiler alert, they’re excommunicated but for very different reasons).
Agusta Stetson’s crime was being too popular and influential. The Church she established in New York was quite wealthy, and Ms. Stetson’s wealth grew as well. In 1903 the New York church had a congregation of 2,200 people and had been built (debt free) at a cost of $1,250,000. It was dedicated to Ms. Eddy (345). Although Ms. Stetson was quite insistent of her loyal to Ms. Eddy, the older woman’s paranoia, and changing views on Ms. Stetson’s teachings caused her to fall out of favor. To be fair to Ms. Stetson, she was only teaching what Ms. Eddy had years before. Stetson believed in Ms. Eddy’s divinity, place in prophecy, and possible immortality (334-5). As Ms. Eddy aged, it seems her views on those issues changed and Ms. Stetson was no longer in-line with the “current” views.
Josephine Woodbury’s crime was making a fool of Ms. Eddy. Ms. Woodbury was a student of Ms. Eddy, having studied with her in 1879. She went on to be a very influential teacher, and brought in large amounts of both money and members. Ms. Woodbury took Ms. Eddy’s teachings on biology to their illogical conclusions and “immaculately” conceives a child (308). This does not sit well with Ms. Eddy, and in 1895, Ms. Woodbury is kept out of Ms. Eddy’s church reorganization. Ms. Woodbury is understandably upset, and publishes “War in Heaven” and Ms. Eddy denounces her — indirectly — as the “whore of Babylon.” There is a trial, a scandal, and Ms. Woodbury leaves and becomes an active member of the New Thought movement (312-17).
Although Ms. Eddy is paranoid about Ms. Stetson’s growing influence and power, she continues to be a key player in the New York Christian Science Circles through Part V. As for Ms. Woodbury, the scandal makes for most amusing reading, and while the idea of “immaculate conception” is farcical, it is easy to how a highly suggestible individual (as many of Ms. Eddy’s followers have been) could follow Ms. Eddy’s “logic” to such a conclusion.
- Agusta Stetson’s writings
- Josephine Woodbury’s Writings
- Ms. Woodbury Testifies NYTimes archive http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9803E4D81139EF32A25756C0A9609C946097D6CF
- War In Heaven http://books.google.com/books?id=dl5CAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PR6&ots=beSUM73UQI&dq=Woodbury%20publishes%20%E2%80%9CWar%20in%20Heaven%E2%80%9D&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Woodbury%20publishes%20%E2%80%9CWar%20in%20Heaven%E2%80%9D&f=false
- Augusta Stetson’s Church NYC: http://nyc-architecture.com/UWS/UWS041.htm, http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-1903-1st-church-of-christian.html