Each Mind a Kingdom

I know I said I was going on hiatus this summer, but this book was too good not to share before I get back into a regular posting routine again! This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


I was first introduced to  Each Mind a Kingdom: American Women, Sexual Purity, and the New Thought Movement, 1875-1920 by Beryl Satter by a fellow former-CS. Her copy was was full of margin notes and post-its, and the back cover had high praise from Gillian Gill, who wrote one of Ms. Eddy’s authorized biographies.

Each Mind a Kingdom, firmly places Ms. Eddy in the historical context of the New Thought movement, as an undeniable student of Quimby, and inspiration for several prominent New Thought leaders (aka renegade students), one of whom, Emma Curtis Hopkins, went on to inspire a much larger group of prominent individuals in the New Thought movement.

Satter touches on Ms. Eddy’s control of the Christian Science “brand” through copyright and church structure, verses the New Thought movement’s lack of organized framework, and popular teachers having their own followings/ideas. When you think of Christian Science, you think of Ms. Eddy, when you think of New Thought there are nearly a dozen big names who have influenced the movement over the years, each adding their own interpretations and ideas to the mix.

Each Mind a Kingdom, is a dense read, heavy on the historical and sociological aspects of the New Thought movement. It also addresses the evolution of the New Thought ideas from Quimby, through his primary students: Dresser, Eddy and Evans, and their students, and so on, as they are modified, re-worked, and shared.

Satter discusses the social and economic conditions in which these ideas began, and why they were popular with white, upper and middle class women. New Thought provided women a platform with which to make, among other things, social reforms, and economic opportunities through income from faith healing, lectures, pamphlets, and teaching.

I highly recommend Each Mind a Kingdom for anyone who is interested in the origins of Ms. Eddy’s and New Thought ideas, as well as the broader context in which Ms. Eddy began her religion.

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fathermothergod: doing your part for the Cause

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


I’ve put down Dennet’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (see previous post) — an excellent read, but rather heavy — in favor of Lucia Greenhouse’s fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science — the blogger over at Emerging Gently assured me it was a “quick read” and I needed a break from deep philosophical musings.

fathermothergod is indeed a quick read, I finished it in a little over a day, and it hit all the emotional buttons. My husband found me in tears and told me I didn’t need to finish the book, I did anyway, I had to even though I knew how it was going to end. The story told in fathermothergod simultaneously validates my own experience, and gives me a preview of (and new perspective on) what I may face in the future with family members who remain steadfastly in Christian Science.

My father, much like Greenhouse’s, was a convert to Christian Science; my mother converted “out of convenience.” The father-know’s-best attitude that prevailed throughout echoed my childhood as well. Greenhouse’s father took a more extreme path with his practice of Christian Science than mine did, choosing to become a Christian Science Practitioner and then Teacher. Greenhouse’s father reminds his children on p. 59 that

you are in a sense doing your part for the Cause. There is a real need for Christian Science worldwide, and this is one way you can play a part. An important part.

The Cause of Christian Science can be quite compelling. For those who have the opportunity to participate it is seen as a “real gift” as Greenhouse’s father, my mother, and countless other Christian Scientists have said.

As a child, Christian Science was hard to explain as a religion in which I participated, but I can only being to imagine how hard it was to explain being a Christian Scientist Practitioner’s daughter. Greenhouse recounts her father’s reaction to her decision to get glasses, and how this is seen as a failing on her part, really, shouldn’t she give Christian Science a chance?

fathermothergod touches on some of the elephants in the Christian Scientists living room: secrecy surrounding illness, the idea that Christian Science must be protected (from what, I’m still not sure), the tremendously large abstract concepts that young children are expected to understand and demonstrate. Mortal mind, error, protective work. Having been raised in Christian Science, I found myself nodding knowingly when Greenhouse’s parents espouse these beliefs, I find this story quite relatable, and I feel the deepest sympathy for her non-Christian Science family members.

Reading about Greenhouse’s mother’s health challenges difficult, as was the family drama that played out around it. The line between respecting decisions — even when you disagree with them — and stepping in to intervene is a very fine. Regardless what you choose to do, you will be criticized by someone for your actions.

My parents sought medical care when my father’s health began to fail. It was selective and inconsistent, but I credit the medical intervention that was given with the extra ten years we had with Dad. As my mother put it once, she’d seen too many people “radically rely themselves into an early grave” and she wasn’t going to let that happen. It was difficult, his health problems started while I was still immersed in Christian Science (and attending Principia), and by the time he died, I was well on my way out.

I highly recommend fathermothergod, it demonstrates many of the concepts of Christian Science in their real-world application and not just abstract theories. fathermothergod also does an excellent example of portraying the emotional strain placed on children of Christian Scientists, as well as the relationship complexities when non-science family is involved.

Part 5 & 6: and final thoughts

This is part of a series of posts on God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser. For all posts on this topic, see the tag God’s Perfect Child

This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


Part 5: “God’s Requirement”

Part 5, is entitled “God’s Requirement”: Christian Science on the Air. Starting on page 344 and continuing through page 395, it is broken into eleven sections, and predominantly deals with the rise and fall of the Mother Church’s attempt at a media empire. The TL:DR version of the chapter can be  summed up as follows:

High ranking officials at The Mother Church mismanaged an attempt at a cable network and lost the church millions. This mismanagement also caused budget problems with periodicals and The Christian Science Monitor.

To compensate for the monetary losses, they published the highly controversial book that claimed Ms. Eddy was the Woman in Revelation — The Destiny of the Mother Church by Bliss Knapp so they could get the funds from the Knapp estate (they could only get the money if they published the book).

The bungling of the media empire and publishing of Destiny caused some rifts within the church and the membership. I vaguely remember some heated discussion about wether or not Destiny should grace the shelves of our local church’s Reading Room, but I was too young to be involved (or even really told what was going on).

Chapter five is full of interesting characters, with equally interesting motives. It provides well researched insights into the workings of the Mother Church attempts at public outreach from the 1950s-1990s.


Part 6: “God Will Do the Rest”

Part 6, is entitled “God Will Do the Rest”: Resurrecting Christian Science. Starting on page 399 and continuing through page 447, this part has only five sections. Part six reflects on the cold realities of the Church’s present situation, and the Church’s denial.

Dismal figures from the 1990s (yes, the numbers are old, but they’re not trending up) of declining JournalSentinel, and Monitor subscriptions reflect the declining participation, and diminished numbers of Christian Scientists. Fraser also notes declining numbers of Christian Science practitioners, as well as an excess of job openings that require class taught Christian Scientists, at the Mother Church and other C.S. institutions.

Fraser touches on the 1990s campaign by then-member of the Board of Directors, Virginia Harris, to make Science and Health relevant, with the release of a trade edition designed to be sold in bookstores (not just Reading Rooms) to people seeking books on spirituality.

Harris gave interviews in the New York Times, and successfully had Ms. Eddy entered into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame. Harris has also given talks before the Harvard Medical School’s “Spirituality and Healing in Medicine” courses (GPC 408), giving her lectures an air of credibility — and pushing Christian Science into the realm of alternative health care.

Fraser points out the 1990s trend for books on the connections of health and spirituality, and Harris did her best to capitalize on that. With Christian Science neatly repackaged as alternative healthcare some important details were overlooked: there was no scientific verification of anecdotal healings; some confusion over the issue of radical reliance and withholding medical treatment from children. Easy details to gloss over.

Fraser is quite right with the sub-headings “accentuating the positive” and “eliminating the negative.” The Mother Church, and indeed most Christian Scientists are quite good a pointing out all the healings they’ve had — there are “thousands” of documented “healings.” For them it is not a mere religion, Christian Science is a Science, “God’s laws” are provable. Fraser pulls out the age old 2+2=4 not 5 example used by Sunday School teachers everywhere. “Finding the correct answer in math is the same as realizing the correct answer in metaphysics; everything else follows” (GPC 417) — the correct answer is, of course, Christian Science.

Christian Scientists are eager to tout modern advances in physics as backing up Ms. Eddy’s claims about reality and matter, and enjoy telling apocryphal stories of Albert Einstein‘s interest in Christian Science (GPC 418).

In a similar vein, Christian Scientists are eager to share their testimonies of healing, modern testimonies are all pretty much the same: I had a brief nondescript problem, I corrected my thought using some passages and C.S. logic/hymns/S&H readings, and the problem resolved — completely and totally.

With all the focus on the positive it seems the church would prefer that the negative just go away. The Church does not maintain records of the deaths of children or adults. Fraser lists several examples of falsified or selectively edited testimonials, and the long gone “Questions and Discussion” department (1889-1893) of the Journal which fielded questions from Christian Scientists who were not getting the results they’d prayed for (GPC 429).

Fraser cites several damning studies, including one that compared Principia students with Universe of of Kansas students. Principia students had notably lower life expectancies, even though they abstained from alcohol and tobacco (GPC 434).

Finally, Fraser touches on the Remarkable Providences of Christian Science, the dangerous ideas that refuse to die. Mesmer and his magnetism, Quimby’s therapeutic touch, Ms. Eddy and her malicious animal magnetism. All that is old is new again, and once again quackery and Christian Science are being repackaged as alternative healthcare.

Although my edition of God’s Perfect Child was published fifteen years ago (2000), Fraser’s concluding thoughts continue to ring true. The Committee on Publication and Practitioners have taken to the internet and done their best to sell Christian Science as a science, as a reliable method for healing, as everything that it is not.


A few closing thoughts

I think it is worth noting that God’s Perfect Child benefits, not only from hindsight, but also from a vast array of resources not available to turn-of-the last century biographers. God’s Perfect Child is quite dense, fully footnoted, and some sections are very difficult to read. Fraser is aided by her goal of writing about the history of the Mother Church/Christian Science Movement – not just Mary Baker Eddy.

I was left with the overwhelming desire to purchase a huge stack of books and send them to every Christian Scientist that I know with the second chapter clearly marked as a MUST READ! Budget restrictions (and courtesy) prevent me from doing this, as well as the knowledge that God’s Perfect Child is not the sort of book that should be undertaken lightly, you have to be ready to be receptive to the information within, and even then, some times it makes for difficult reading.

Launching www.ExChristianScience.com

I’d like to share with you an exciting new resource for those who are doubting, questioning, leaving or have left Christian Science.


unnamed-2A group of former members of the Christian Science Church have launched a new website designed as a resource for people who have left or are considering leaving the Christian Science faith. Christian Science (not to be confused with Scientology) was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the late 19th century and is perhaps best known as a sect that rejects medical treatment, advocating prayer exclusively for healing.

The website, called The Ex-Christian Scientist (www.exchristianscience.com), is maintained by an informal group of about fifty former Christian Scientists “who strive to assist those questioning their commitment to Christian Science as well as those who have already left it.” Individual members of the group left Christian Science for varying reasons. Some are still religious, some are not. All, however, are united in their desire to help those who are questioning Christian Science to decide if there is a more appropriate path for themselves, and to provide an inclusive and understanding community for those who leave the faith.

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Inspiration Link Dump (3) – Mark Twain & the Movies

Every now and then I get inspired to research a topic and then when I get around to writing the blog post the inspiration flees, leaving me with a post of links and background information that is unlikely to ever make it onto a blog post. “Inspiration Link Dumps” are things that I looked into, but never got around to writing about further. Perhaps you’ll find something informative or interesting.

Hopefully all of these links still work. Apologies if they have changed. Some of these resources may be more scholarly than others. 


Mark Twain & Ms. Eddy

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy

The following is a review of The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science by Martin Gardner, as written by guest contributor Bacon.


UnknownTo be entirely honest, I’m incredibly glad that I read God’s Perfect Child (Fraser) before trying to wrap – nay – braid – my brain around, among, betwixt the texts within this scrambled maze of original sources (cool!) and snide criticism (oy). The Healing Revelations seems quite promising from the aspect of historical context, and it provides ample fodder from original sources that are almost as dated and contrived as Science and Health…. it’s good to have the context filled in a bit that Fraser referenced. HOWEVER, Fraser was able to keep her work ordered, objective, relatively unbiased and easily accessible by the layperson. Gardner throws you on a literary rollercoaster.

Perhaps Gardner’s work seems a more challenging read because it is so dated; constant references to celebrities (Shirley MacLaine gets 
plenty of coverage) and the assumption that readers were adults of the 70s or 80s (or aware of the gossip at the time) is a bit daunting. Apparently the book started as an article and it grew with frustration and the absurdity of the religion — that much definitely rings true.

Healing Revelations is a work plainly written out of frustration and would easily be dismissed by active Christian Scientists or their sympathizers because of the author’s obvious bias. The nature of the book, of course, spirals in and out of various issues within the religion and keeps self referencing in order to touch on relevant points as often as they surface, but detracts from the overall readability. It does flesh out some of Mary Baker Eddy’s life and legal adventures, along with her perceived competition and the offshoots of the religion which are not as thoroughly covered in other texts.

It’s not a short read, though you’d expect it to be. It’s certainly not an easy read. Much of the content focuses on the plagiarism claims of the Quimby era and how Christian Science influenced/was influenced by the New Thought movement. Overall, the book does give perspective as to how CS was able to gain such a rapid foothold when it did, which isn’t as clearly outlined in Fraser’s book, but it goes to such lengths that it bogs in the personal lives of MBE’s contemporaries and loses traction.

A worthwhile read for context, but definitely not suggested as a first, second, third, or fourth look at the shortcomings of Christian Science.

 

Part 3 & 4: Nothing Has Gone Right, God’s Law is never wrong

This is part of a series of posts on God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser. For all posts on this topic, see the tag God’s Perfect Child

This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


Part 3: Nothing has Gone Right

Part 3, is entitled “Nothing has Gone Right Since 1910”: Christian Science After Death. Starting on page 170 and continuing through page 257, this section has eleven sub-sections and a ream of photographs.

Having grown up in Christian Science, I had heard about some of the incidents discussed, they all happened well before my time (this chapter discusses just after Ms. Eddy’s death up until the mid-1970s). As I heard them, they were more apocryphal tales than historical events bolstered by research and footnotes. Even with this background knowledge, there were still some sections that made me wonder if I was reading an article from The Onion. This section also covers a number of topics that I knew very little about, several of which I will touch on.

The Telephone in the Tomb

Augusta Stetson suggested to the press that the Board of Directors had posted a guard to make sure Ms. Eddy didn’t rise from the dead. Others thought the guard was there to welcome their Dear Leader back. Eventually a church spokesperson was forced to make a statement that Christian Scientists “do not look for her return to this world” (GPC 172).

Nothing Succeeds Like Supply

This is something I’ve never been quite able to wrap my head around, for all that matter is unreal, the accumulation of material wealth is a “demonstration” — God is supplying! “The expectation of perfect wealth, along with perfect health, follows from Eddy’s teachings about a perfect world” (GPC 191). Wealth and material accumulation is “an expression of spiritual riches” (GPC 193).

Masochism & Radical Reliance in Hollywood

The most notable example is of Carol Channing — preforming with a broken arm, high fever, in a wheel chair, in a neck brace, and while suffering from allergic reactions to her hair dye, all the while glorifying and romanticizing the image of Christian Scientists “never missing a day of work” (GPC 213-4). Fraser says Channing’s endurance “verges on masochism.” I agree, there is a strong masochistic streak that runs through the Christian Science community, Ms. Eddy reminds us that we are suffering because we want to be, because we have not yet aligned our thought properly with God, it is our failing to do so that is causing our suffering. We must put up a good fight and emerge from our battle with error victorious.

Drama, Suppression & the Church

  •  The Board actively attempted to suppress Edwin Franden Dakin’s book on Ms. Eddy — their attempts backfired. As one reviewer wrote “The total effect of his work is sympathetic; it is the facts that alienate us….” (GPC 219). Christian Scientists put out a “threefold attempt” to stop the book — attempting to stop the publication, when that failed, visiting libraries and bookstores, and letters to every newspaper or magazine that reviewed it. They threatened boycotts, and it is clear that the campaign was organized by the top levels of The Mother Church (GPC. 222-3).
  • “The Paul Revere” pamphlets – really esoteric stuff that only Christian Scientists cared about that caused more schisms in the church. Bickering and finger pointing about the power structure and how much individuality branch churches should be allowed. A number of people are excommunicated and some form unauthorized groups to carry on what they feel Ms. Eddy’s “discovery” actually entails. One such example is  the Kappeler Institute
  • The unauthorized works of Arthur Corey. Corey published Christian Science Class Instruction and Behind the Scenes with the Metaphysicians, with the intention of making Christian Science more accessible. Corey was one of the few Christian Scientists to acknowledge the dangers posed to children, and was “particularly scathing about those who pressed on with Christian Science treatment even when it became painfully absurd and absurdly painful” (GPC 237). Corey also spoke out about Ms. Eddy’s own use of medicine and eyeglasses, and pointed out the illogic of accepting dental care, but not medical care.
  • The Kerry Letters – A series of letters written by Reginald Kerry charging the church with corruption. The letters get quite heated, charges of immoral behavior of the Board. The letters are not currently available online. The Kerry Letters were the impetus for the Church to run several editorials in the Christian Science Monitor and religious periodicals, that homosexuality was immoral and could be healed through Christian Science, soon after, periodicals began to run testimonies by those claiming to be “healed” of impure desires (GPC 255).

This chapter was quite an eye-opener and a very firm reminder that the Christian Science Church, for all it’s “divine inspiration” is run by humans, with their own agendas, bickering and infighting. It was like picking up a log and seeing all the little creepy crawlies underneath scurrying away from the light, and there are many creepy crawlies that the Church would prefer to remain hidden. Fraser notes the Church set itself up for failure as it forbids Christian Scientists to write, debate, or discuss the Church and its teachings. There are no ways to air grievances, or seek guidance. The disgruntled have no official channels so they make their own.


Part 4: “God’s Law”

Part 4, is entitled “God’s Law”: Christian Science Goes to Court. Starting on page 261 and continuing through page 339, this section has only seven sub-sections.

This was a particularly challenging section for me to read, more than once, I found I had to put the book down and come back later, the atrocities committed while practicing Christian Science are numerous, and many of the stories echoed experiences I’ve heard from friends and fellow former-CS.

While all of God’s Perfect Child makes people face uncomfortable truths about Christian Science, Part Four made me particularly uncomfortable as it dealt with the (lack of) treatment of children, and the “treatment” meted out in Christian Science Sanatoriums — where Christian Science Nurses provide care.

Christian Science vs. the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association and Christian Science both got their start in the mid-1800s. The AMA focused on public health policy, rooting out quacks, and promoting medicine based on scientific criteria (allopathic medicine). Early on, several Christian Science Practitioners were tried for manslaughter (or murder) following the death of their patients. The CSPs cases were often dismissed because there was no ability to conclusively prove that medical science could’ve saved the patient’s life, and that CSPs had not committed any criminal act because they were preforming a religious, not medical service (GPC 262).

Consistent Legislative Action

Starting in the late 1800s, Christian Scientists rallied and pressured legislatures to pass statutes exempting Christian Scientists from medical licensing requirements. This went smoothly until modern medicine began to out-heal Christian Science in key areas: namely serious illness and contagious disease. Deaths in the general population began to decline, and Christian Scientists continued to die (GPC 270). Christian Scientists argued that “children died under medical care as often, if not more often than, children under Christian Science care” and in 1902 this came across as a reasonable defense (GPC 271).

Christian Scientists have successfully lobbied for exemption from criminal and civil child abuse laws in Arizona, for fees of CSPs and CS Nurses to be deducted as medical expenses, and religious exemptions from immunizations (GPC 274). The Church has gone as far as to publish booklets for each state with lists of exemptions.

Christian Scientists also lobbied insurance companies, gaining much needed “recognition” — now it is not just a religion to be protected by the first amendment, it is now a “proven” and “effective” healthcare system — proven by the Church’s own claims as published in the Church’s own periodicals (GPC 275-6).

Child Cases

This was a particularly difficult section for me to read as it discusses children and Christian Science, starting with a focus on Rita Swan and the formation of C.H.I.L.D. it is a gut wrenching read.

This section also touches on measles outbreaks at Principia College, as well as polio outbreaks at  the Daycroft School, in Greenwich Ct, a diphtheria outbreak at a Christian Science camp in Colorado (GPC 303), as well as several other heart wrenching stories of children suffered greatly as their parents chose to rely on Christian Science for healing.

The  Fruitage & C.S. Nursing

The rest of Part IV reads like an anti-Fruitage (the Fruitage is the last chapter of Science and Health recounting the amazing healings people had), it is a very difficult read and it touches on topics ranging from gas lighting (why CS Parents opt not to seek medical care), to Christian Science Nursing. Fraser interviews people and recounts experiences from a wide range of people who were all directly and negatively impacted by Christian Science “treatment.”

I was going to try and talk further about Chapter Four, but I can’t bring myself to go back through it right now. It really speaks for itself — and speaks volumes about Christian Science as an alternative health care method.


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