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.


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.


Phineas Parkhurst Quimby & Mary Baker Eddy

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.

This post contains affiliate links, thank you for supporting Kindism.org

The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity has an extensive piece on Ms. Eddy’s relationship with P.P. Quimby.  I highly recommend reading it: http://christianscience.com/var/mediafile/departments/clerk/bol/pdf/commonquimbyquestionshandout.pdf

Update – these PDFs appear to have been removed from the website! 

I’ve mentioned Ms. Eddy’s relationship with P.P. Quimby (1) before, but have not yet done an in-depth piece on their relationship and P.P. Quimby as a source of “inspiration.

While Ms. Eddy was undoubtedly influenced by Quimby, the general consensus is that the conclusions she came to are entirely her own. I particularly like Dakin’s analysis of this relationship when he writes

Others of his pupils lost themselves in Quimby’s philosophy, but Mrs. Glover lost Quimby in herself” (Dakin, 92).

Eddy biographer, Gillian Gill devotes a number of pages to the issue of Ms. Eddy and P.P. Quimby, (2) taking a far more sympathetic stance on the subject than Dakin or Fraser. Gill systematically dissects any claims made by Quimby’s other students, mainly Julius and Horatio Dresser, poking holes in their claims, pointing out that they showed little interest in Quimby’s work after his passing until Ms. Eddy’s Christian Science started to gain popularity (Gill, 146).

One of the more interesting comparisons of P.P. Quimby’s work with Ms. Eddy’s is in the July 10, 1904 New York Times, in a piece entitled True Origin of Christian Science (3). Gill dismisses the piece as “bad faith or bad scholarship” (Gill, 231-232). “Bad scholarship” aside, it makes for interesting reading.

NYTimes July 10, 1904 Eddy/Quimby

NYTimes July 10, 1904 True Origins of Christian Science  (3)

Gill’s assertions of poor scholarship are not entirely incorrect, as her claims are extensively footnoted. The main point of contention being that The Quimby Manuscripts, were not published by Horatio Dresser until 1921, by which point P.P. Quimby had been dead for over 50 years, and Christian Science was well established and thriving. Furthermore, they had not been given directly to Dresser, but had instead passed through several others before arriving with him (Gill, 121). Gill’s further research shows Dresser omitted papers that were not favorable to Quimby  (Gill, 138) — the fact that the early Church attempted to suppress some of Ms. Eddy’s early work seems lost on her (Fraser
, 142).

Putting aside the scholarship and origin story issues — unless we get a time machine it is unlikely those will ever be sorted out, let us look at what comprised the core of Quimby’s teachings. There are several websites (see Further Reading below) that talk about Quimby’s work, one of them thoughtfully shared the following condensed list of Quimby’s ideas.

Seven Element List compiled by Horatio W. Dresser to explain Quimby’s ideas (4)

  1. The omnipresent Wisdom, the warm, loving Father of us all, Creator of all the universe, whose works are good, whose substance is an invisible reality.
  2. The real man, whose life is eternal in the invisible kingdom of God, whose senses are spiritual and function independently of matter.
  3. The visible world, which Dr. Quimby once characterized as “the shadow of Wisdom’s amusements”; that is, nature is only the outward projection or manifestation of an inward activity far more real and enduring.
  4. Spiritual matter, or fine interpenetrating substance, directly responsive to thought and subconsciously embodying in the flesh the fears, beliefs, hopes, errors, and joys of the mind.
  5. Disease is due to false reasoning in regard to sensations, which man unwittingly develops by impressing wrong thoughts and mental pictures upon the subconscious spiritual matter.
  6. As disease is due to false reasoning, so health is due to knowledge of the truth. To remove disease permanently, it is necessary to know the cause, the error which led to it. “The explanation is the cure.”
  7. To know the truth about life is therefore the sovereign remedy for all ills. This truth Jesus came to declare. Jesus knew how he cured and Dr. Quimby, without taking any credit to himself as a discoverer, believed that he understood and practiced the same great truth or science.

While there are undeniable parallels between the seven elements and Ms. Eddy’s teachings, neither the students of Quimby or Ms. Eddy wish them to be associated with one another. The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity’s piece Ms. Eddy’s relationship with P.P. Quimby has a wonderful quote from Gottschalk’s Rolling Away the Stone (5). On page 72 he writes

George Quimby, a strong champion of his father’s originality, 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; for I should loath to go down into my grave feeling that my father was in any way connected with “Christian Science.”

Ms. Eddy biographer Gillian Gill, while not a Christian Scientist, takes several opportunities to poke holes in the Quimby/Eddy inspiration story (5). Short of discovering time travel and witnessing these events for ourselves, it seems unlikely this mess will ever be unraveled, and P.P. Quimby and Ms. Eddy forever be remembered together.

  1. https://kindism.org/tag/quimby/
  2. Mary Baker Eddy, by Gillian Gill http://books.google.com/books?id=eiEMHjyvTGEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Mary+Baker+Eddy,+Gill&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FS3GUfKOMcmZiQKY34GgDQ&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Quimby&f=false
  3. New York Times, July 10, 1904 True Origin of Christian Science http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9E01EFDC1138E430A75753C1A9619C946597D6CF
  4. http://phineasquimby.wwwhubs.com/
  5. http://christianscience.com/var/mediafile/departments/clerk/bol/pdf/commonquimbyquestionshandout.pdf

Further Reading

Parts 1 & 2: Mere Historical Incidents & Building an Empire

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 1: Mere Historical Incidents

Divided into fifteen sections, Part 1 begins with an overview of the time period Ms. Eddy came of age in, then progresses through a brief biographical sketch covering her childhood, first marriage, child, second marriage, introduction to and falling out with P.P. Quimby, the fall on the ice in Lynn, early years and formation of Christian Science through the death of her third husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy in 1882 of mesmeric poison.

In my two pages of notes on pages 23-79 that comprised Part 1 a few things stood out to me more than others, it is those I will focus on and share. While much of what was covered in Part 1 was not new (I’d read much of it in Dakin’s biography), Fraser’s perspective (and hindsight) allowed her to condense and highlight the main ideas from Ms. Eddy’s early years.

In Part 1, section 2, Fraser reminds readers of Ms. Eddy’s self-proclaimed right to manipulate the facts as she saw fit, and the Christian Science Church has followed her lead, revising and expunging, reshaping and elaborating the mythology she wove around her self, preferring that the world see Eddy as a religious genius and leader, divinely inspired. (GPC, 26) With this in mind, Fraser goes on to finely balance the Eddy apologists with the Eddy critics. It is no easy task, but Fraser does it admirably, carefully calling out and comparing the differences in what the Church-approved biographers say and what contemporaries/critics have written. To the chagrin of the apologists, there is often more evidence on the side of the critics. There are several of these examples through out Part 1 (this is by no means an exhaustive list, just my favorites)

  • Ms. Eddy’s “attacks,” the fits of poor health that continued through her life, balancing the critics with the apologists perspectives, and carefully noting that even Robert Peel — one of the most apologetic of the group — tends to agree that Ms. Eddy’s symptoms may have been caused by “the romantic melancholy she shared as a literary fashion of the age.” (GPC, 35)
  • The Fall in Lynn — when Ms. Eddy is said to have “discovered” Christian Science — is a lovely story, but Fraser reminds us that whatever the exact circumstances of the fall, given Mary’s predilection for “spells” and collapses, it is difficult to accept at face value her assertion that her accident was life-threatening. (GPC, 53) The homeopathic doctor attending Ms. Eddy agrees.
  • The year of 1866 when Ms. Eddy moved “at least eight times” — church biographers paint the picture of a woman just beginning to formulate her healing method and to discover its wondrous powers, while non-church sources paint a very different picture, claiming she had not paid rent, or healed them. (GPC, 54)

God’s Perfect Child also touches on a few new issues that I would like to explore further:

  • In section 10 (pages 63-65), Fraser touches on the idea that Ms. Eddy was influenced by Emmerson’s Transcendentalism. While I was aware of Emmerson and Transcendentalism, I had not come across the Christian Science connection and hope to explore it further.
  • On p. 75, Fraser makes it quite clear that Ms. Eddy is not a feminist. While some of my Sunday school teachers may have felt differently, I tend to agree with Fraser’s analysis of this. She may have been a woman who founded a church, but she also steadfastly refused to put women in positions of power on her Board, and undermined women who gained power in branch churches.

Part 1 comes to conclusion with the death of Ms. Eddy’s husband, Gilbert, and Ms. Eddy’s accusations that malicious mesmerism caused him to be mentally murdered. Fraser points out that Gilbert had been diagnosed with a “diseased heart” but such details did not matter to Ms. Eddy, obviously the death was caused by a former student, and “malpractioner” who used “mesmeric poison.”(GPC 78)

Ms. Eddy’s reaction to Gilbert’s passing set up the Christian Science worldview that death is not a natural event. Death is the failure to assimilate the “truths” of Christian Science, and Christian Science deaths are regularly accompanied by the reactions of anger, defensiveness, and disassociation from the human emotions of grief and sorrow. (GPC, 79) Fraser calls the Christian Science response to death one of Ms. Eddy’s “most painful legacies” and I find I could not agree more.

Part 2: Building Her Empire

Part 2, is entitled “You Will Have to Learn to Love Me More”: Mrs. Eddy Builds Her Empire and spans nearly 100 pages (from p. 83-167) and 18 sections (and a postscript). The chapter starts in 1882 with the hiring of Calvin Frye as her secretary, concludes in 1910 with her death, and has a postscript which sums up Ms. Eddy’s Place in history, and the Christian Science movement. As it encompasses over 80 pages of concise ideas, I’ve chosen to cover the issues that continue to plague/exist in the church today (or at least they were issues of relevance five-plus years ago when I was still going to church).

Ms. Eddy’s competition the Mind Quacks!

Ms. Eddy denounces any perceived competition from her fellow disciples of Quimby, as well as any/all Christian Science apostates as “Mind-Quacks” and “frauds.” The not insubstantial list included Julius Dresser, one of Quimby’s fellow students who had known Ms. Eddy as Ms. Patterson; Myrtle Fillmore, a convert to Christian Science, who went on to found The Unity School of Christian Science; Emma Curtis Hopkins, another former student of Ms. Eddys, and founder of Divine Science. Hopkins went on to set up the Christian Science Theological Seminary, which went on to influence many New Thought leaders/writers. (GPC. 88-89)

While it greatly irks The Mother Church in Boston to be lumped in with others in the New Thought movement — “Christian Science is so much more!” they implore. Ms. Eddy was undeniably influenced by one of the Fathers of New Thought (Quimby) and many of her students went on to be active leaders of the movement. It is also worth noting that of all of these new-thought, divine science movements, Christian Science stands alone in its “insistence on a complete repudiation of medical care.” (GPC 89)

The  Committee on Publication

The Committee on Publication is mentioned a few times through our this chapter. Founded in 1900, to “Correct in a Christian Manner impositions on the public in regard to Christian Science the injustices done Mrs. Eddy or members of this Church by the daily press, by periodicals or circulated literature of any sort” the COP serves as the Church’s strongman making sure the “correct” views on Christian Science are shared. (GCP 120-121)

The scope of the COP is quite broad, in Ms. Eddy’s world the word, “imposition,” means both burden and deception, so her first COP manager, Alfred Farlow, began to treat all forms of critical comment on Christian Science –indeed, anything that did not agree with the Christian Science view as “lies” that placed an intolerable burden on the movement. (GCP 121-122) This includes everything from unfavorable newspaper articles to legislation that might limit the scope of Christian Science in some way. The COP may have been responsible for the Christian Science definitions in the Merriam-Webester dictionary, and was known to actively encourage libraries to group approved works relating to Christian Science away from unapproved sources. (GCP 122)

Ms. Eddy Goes to the Dentist & Seriously F*cks over Generations of CS for Life

I struggled with Chapter 2, section 12 Radical Reliance and Mrs. Eddy’s Teeth (128-132). This section left me seething with such rage I had to put the book down and walk around the block to clear my head. It deals with “Radical Reliance” which has become the bane of many a Christian Scientists existence. Ms. Eddy writes in Science and Health, “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.” (S&H p. 167) In short, follow Ms. Eddy’s teachings, reject everything else.

Ms. Eddy, of course, didn’t rely on just Christian Science: in 1900 a Boston newspaper revealed that Ms. Eddy had  been to a dentist and had teeth extracted. Fraser shares Ms. Eddy’s response to the kerfuffle:

If I employ a dental surgeon, and he believes that the extraction of a tooth is made easier by some application or means which he employs, and I object to the employment of this means, he thinks I must suffer because his method is interfered with. Therefore his mental force weighs against a painless operation, whereas it should be put in the same scale as mine, thus producing a painless operation as a logical result. (GPC 128-129)

Putting the larger question of why was Ms. Eddy visiting a dentist anyway? aside (Ms. Eddy’s occasional concessions to “physical reality” clearly include toothaches), this “compromise” on dentistry has “come to haunt subsequent generations of Christian Scientists” (I’d say that’s a bit of an understatement) — the reasoning as to why deny medical treatment when dental treatment is allowed can be a tough one to wrap one’s head around.

Fraser goes on to list a few more (occasional) concessions — child birth, the adjustment of broken bones, the “temporary means” (mechanical aids — crutches, eye glasses, hearing aids — things outside the body), and “hypodermic injection” (perhaps acknowledging her own pain and need for morphine injections).  (GPC 130-131). Of course a diagnosis should be avoided, and one should never talk of disease — that gives it power, and while surgery is listed with setting of bones, very few Christian Scientists avail themselves of surgical procedures (oral surgery not withstanding, because that’s dental work, which is different somehow).

While some of Ms. Eddy’s “concessions” may appear to contradict her stance on “radical reliance” Ms. Eddy dismisses that notion (and any idea that there might be anything contradictory in Science & Health) stating “in this volume of mine there are no contradictory statements, – at least none which are apparent to those who understand its propositions well enough to pass judgement upon them.” (GPC 128)

Science & Health The Final Edition (1910)

This was a section with so many little stars in the margins I could not possibly begin to cover everything. This section, and the Radical Reliance portion of this chapter are really must-reads for those interested in, or transitioning out of Christian Science. Fraser manages to explain both Science and Health and provide a basic summary of Christian Science theology/ideology in an approachable manner. I will touch on a few of the key points — some of these may be all too familiar to former Christian Scientists, and entirely foreign concepts to outsiders.

  •  Prayer – a vehicle for “knowing the Truth” (note the capital “T” as Truth is a synonym for God). Christian Scientists prayers are more effective than others because instead of rote reciting, they are “conceived as revisions of their own thinking, bringing their thoughts in line with God’s.” If your prayers fail, clearly you didn’t align your thought well enough. After all, “[prayer is] an attempt to bring subjective attitudes into accord with what Science proclaims to be objective reality. It is largely silent affirmation, the application of logic to certain given premises.” (GPC, 155)
  • Wholesale denial of reality & Circular Logic – aka questions I tried to ask my Sunday School teacher – If God created all, and all is perfect, where does the illusion of error come from? Error never existed, and does not exist now, the illusion of it does not exist; therefore the illusion has no source or origin. (GPC, 160)
  • Jesus! – It was really nice to have a solidly clarified and explained view on Ms. Eddy’s teachings of Jesus that I could point to when others question Christian Science’s stance on the issue. Fraser clarifies the role of Jesus, Christian Science as the “Comforter” promised by St. John, hell, salvation, and at-one-ment. (GPC 162-163)

I am fairly certain that had Ms. Eddy lived longer there would’ve been more editions of Science and Health. In fact, there are more editions (21st Century Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures by Cheryl Petersen, and A Woman’s Book of Healing: An Adaptation of Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy by Carolyn Gage), but none are authorized by The Mother Church.

Even at over 1400 words, I have touched on less than 1/3 of the content of Chapter 2, parts of it – particularly the section on Radical Reliance – were difficult to read, while others left me nodding in agreement. My list of topics to explore further has grown, as has my desire to share God’s Perfect Child (or at least sections of it) with anyone who has questions about Christian Science.

Emanuel Swedenborg & Mary Baker Eddy

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.

This post also contains some affiliate links, thank you for supporting Kindism.org

Some time ago, I made a note for myself: WHO IS SWENDENBORG?! in the margins of my little black book. Why? The more I read about Ms. Eddy and her sources of inspiration, the more the name Emanuel Swedenborg keeps popping up. Dakin refers to Swendenborg in Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind, Haushalter refers to him in Mrs. Eddy Purloins from Hegel,
he is mentioned in an interview with the Rev. Wiggian, and each time I am left with the feeling that I should know who Emanuel Swendenborg is.

So who is Emanuel Swendenborg? Wikipedia tells us Emmanuel Swendenborg was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, revelator, and mystic best known for his book Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen (Latin name De Caelo et Ejus Mirabilibus et de inferno, ex Auditis et Visis) published in 1758.

It is worth noting that there is no mention of Ms. Eddy or Christian Science on either Swendenborg’s wikipedia page, or Heaven and Hell’s wikipedia page, however, Swendenborg is credited with influencing a

With such an impressive list, it seems likely that Swendenborg was in the public conscious during Ms. Eddy’s time, and that the contemporary sources I found would be aware of Swendenborg’s work, as would have their educated middle class audience — Christian Science’s primary demographic.

In my search for information about Ms. Eddy and Swendenborg, I came across an article by Henry M. Craig, M.D. in The New York Times dated August 18, 1907 (2). In addition to offering an interesting analysis of their respective works, it also offers a side-by-side comparison of Swendenborg/Eddy.

Swendenborg/EddyJohn Whitehead addresses the Swendenborg/Eddy situation in his book 1907 book The illusions of Christian science, its philosophy rationally examined (3). For brevity, and because I don’t want to slog through 247 pages of esoteric theological and philosophical discussions, I shall focus on the appendix which directly addresses Swendenborg and mental healers. In the appendix, starting on page 222, Whitehead addresses Craig’s assertions that Ms. Eddy borrowed from Swendenborg starting Rev. Wiggins perspective on the issue:

  • “No Swedenborg and all other such writers are sealed books to [Ms. Eddy]. She cannot understand such utterances and never could, but dollars and cents she understands thoroughly.” (McClure’s Magazine October 1907 p 69)

Whitehead goes on to provide an interesting analysis of Ms. Eddy’s sourcing techniques and comes to a similar conclusion as Dakin does with Ms. Eddy’s sourcing from Quimby*: she undoubtedly borrowed from Swendenborg, but her reinterpretation of his work is entirely her own. On p. 223, Whitehead describes Ms. Eddy’s method as “greatly changed in the transmission” and compares her work to a garden where Swendenborg’s idea-flowers have been “transplanted without roots.”

Whitehead goes on to compare teachings on Disease (p. 226-229), Medicine (p. 229-231), The Law of Healing (p. 231-236), Miracles (p. 236-238), and Claims (p. 238) which leads to several pages (239-241) of side-by-side passages comparing Swendenborg and Eddy’s work.

On p. 229, under the section on Medicine, Whitehead provides an interesting analysis of the contrast in teachings:

  • Mrs Eddy earnestly opposes the use of material remedies. To use them is a violation of Christian Science principles. She does indeed acknowledge that drugs have been received in her house but only for the purpose of killing vermin. Her position is that disease is a wrong belief and its true remedy is to destroy that belief. Swedenborg while teaching that the origin of disease is mental at the same time shows that it has its seat as a disease in the physical nature It must therefore be treated from both the spiritual and material planes. The spiritual cause would not manifest itself as disease in the corresponding material plane if the body by acts did not bring down the spiritual disorder into the physical nature … When the disease has gained a lodgment in the body it must be treated on its own plane.

The contrast of Eddy and Swendenborg’s approach continues, from The Law of Healing (p. 235)

  • Swedenborg’s teaching in regard to disease shows the necessity of the physician having a thorough knowledge of the physical structure and of diseases of their symptoms and causes of materia medica and the proper remedy for each disease. He should also have an extensive knowledge of the mental nature and its influence on the body This cannot be attained by three weeks instruction … When Swedenborg ascended to the spiritual plane he stood on the solid ground of his previous scientific attainments [emphasis mine]

There is no doubt that Ms. Eddy’s contemporaries felt she had sourced from Swendenborg, and the Swendenborg Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to help people learn about Emanuel Swedenborg, shares these views, crediting the 17th century scientist with influencing Ms. Eddy as well. From their website, under “Cultural Influence” (4) they discuss

  • One of the most enduring movements involving spiritual healing was initiated by Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910). Mrs. Eddy’s ideas, and even her very wording, are in some instances so similar to Swedenborg’s that many people have concluded that Christian Science is derived from Swedenborgianism. While Swedenborg never advocated exclusive reliance on spirit to heal the physical body (as did Mrs. Eddy), he did write voluminously on the interconnectedness of soul and body—an awareness that is now gaining ground in modern medicine. Thus Swedenborg’s influence continues to be felt today—especially among artists, spiritual seekers, and people who like to think “outside the box”! (emphasis mine)

The Swendenborg Foundation is not the only one to note these similarities, the What is happening blog which is “Blogging the beginning of Chicago’s Christian Science fellowship” has a post dated March 27, 2010 entitled What do Mary Baker Eddy and Emanuel Swedenborg have in common? (5) as part of an Interfaith meeting. This is one case where reading comments on the internet is not only okay, I acutally encourage it.

  • .. the founders of these two Christian denominations – Emanuel Swedenborg and Mary Baker Eddy – have more in common than that. They both experienced profoundly spiritual awakenings and began writing books about their spiritual insights. They both interpret the Bible from deeply spiritual perspectives and consider their teachings to be divinely inspired.

The Fellowship’s post inspired me to research Swedenborgianism, the church founded on the teachings of Swendenborg. From the church’s official website:

Key elements of Swedenborgian belief include:

  • God is infinitely loving and at the center of every life.
  • Truth is love in action. Actions performed out of love are genuine expressions in a physical form of what love means.
  • There is one God whose essence is Divine Love and Wisdom. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all aspects of God just as body, mind, and soul are all aspects of one person.
  • The Bible is the inspired Word of God that provides inspiration and help to lead better and more fulfilling lives. The literal sense of Scripture tells the story of the people of God, and contains a deeper meaning that illumines the journey of the human soul.
  • People are essentially spirits clothed with material bodies. At death, the material body is laid aside and the person continues to live on in the world of spirit choosing a heavenly life or a hellish one, based on the quality of life choices made here.
  • God gives everyone the freedom to choose their beliefs and live their lives accordingly. Salvation is available for people of all religions.
  • The Second Coming has taken place—and in fact still is taking place. It is not an actual physical appearance of the Lord, but rather his return in spirit and truth that is being effected as a present reality.
  • God is infinitely loving and at the center of every life.

The parallels with Christian Science are undeniable, however I find myself agreeing more with Whitehead (and Wiggins) analysis of the final product.

Further Reading

* Yes, I know, I need to write a post on Quimby

End Notes

  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven_and_Hell_%28Swedenborg%29
  2. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9B01E5DC1F30E233A2575BC1A96E9C946697D6CF
  3. James Whitehead The Illusions of Christian Science, Its Philosophy Rationally Examined: With an Appendix On Swedenborg and the Mental Healers http://books.google.com/books?id=Qiw3AAAAMAAJ&dq=Swedenborg+Eddy&source=gbs_navlinks_s, http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=FZc-AAAAIBAJ&sjid=91kMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4996%2C1747829
  4. http://www.swedenborg.com/emanuel-swedenborg/influence/
  5. http://whatishappeningchicago.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/what-do-mary-baker-eddy-and-emanuel-swedenborg-have-in-common/

Part 2: A Book to Conjure With (vii-x)

This is part of a series of posts about Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind by Francis Dakin. For all posts on this topic, see the tag the Biography of a Virginal Mind

As with Part 1, Dakin beings Part 2 with a Plutarch quote.

Often in his speaking he would be transported into a kind of ecstasy, as a man inspired and beside himself… — Plutarch

While Plutarch is referring to Eratosthenes, a Greek mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theorist (1), Dakin is talking about Ms. Glover — she divorced Dr. Patterson, and reverted back to her previous married name. I’m not sure the comparison is fair to Eratosthenes, but as with Dakin’s previous comparison to Minerva, I’m not sure if he is serious, sarcastic, or simply alluding to ancient Greece to flatter the intellect of early 20th century readers — perhaps it is all three. In some ways, the Plutarch quote is quite fitting: Mrs. Glover was able to “instill into [her students] some sort of burning ardor they never felt either before or after” their contact with her (Dakin, 92).

Mrs. Glover taught about Quimbyism and his methods of spiritual healing, the more she expanded and adapted them for herself. Dakin, quoting Milmine nearly sums up this transformation: “Others of his pupils lost themselves in Quimby’s philosophy, but Mrs. Glover lost Quimby in herself” (Dakin, 92).

In Dakin’s analysis, Mrs. Glover took Quimby’s work and expanded upon it adding details of her own, liberally supplementing the original ideas of suggestion and mental healing to cure disease, with a more complicated and convoluted system of mesmerism, fear and evil to be denied. Here Dakin has what is possibly my favorite summation of Ms. Glover/Eddy’s philosophy:

Her first premise is that God is All. And God is Mind. Therefore Mind is All. The second syllogism* would take this conclusion to a new premise: Mind is All; Matter is not Mind; therefore Matter does not exist. A third syllogism would cast out the reality of dieaase and sin in the same fashion. God, Good is the only reality. Sin and sickness are not good. Hence, they are not real. (Dakin, 102)

She continues with these interesting logical arguments, expounding on them. Dakin asserts she has liberally borrowed from older philosophers, including Spinoza, Liebnitz and Berkeley (3).** Swendenborg, is credited as a prime source of inspiration in the theological department.

I quite enjoy how Dakin handles the juxtaposition of Mrs. Glover’s logic with that of the Bible, as she liberally finds and creates symbolism to suit her needs.**

Her original interpretations of Biblical terminology eventually occupied a most important position in her religious thought; and she devised a “Key to the Scriptures” which embodied her own definitions of various Scriptural words, phases and even incidents to which long generations the Christian world had accorded their usual literal meaning. (Dakin, 111)

Mrs. Glover’s re-writing of both philosophy and theology set Malicious Animal Magnetism (MAM) into the world. Dakin dismisses MAM as “the evil eye” but to Mrs. Glover-soon-to-be-Eddy it was so much more. In Mrs. Glover/Eddy’s mind, Malicious Animal Magnetism** was the cause of her continuing health crises, she had enemies working against her, sending ill health and legal obstacles her way.

Dakin goes on to carefully document Mrs. Eddy’s practice slowly deteriorate in Lynn, Ma. This decline is depressing at best, and if it were not only 1/3 of the way through the book it might offer a glimmer of hope (to the uninitiated) that Mrs. Eddy’s madness would end there.

* syllogism A syllogism is a kind of logical argument that applies deductive reasoning to arrive at a conclusion based on two or more propositions that are asserted or assumed to be true. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogism)

** Clearly these merit posts of their own

  1. for more: Plutarch’s Lives of Illustrious Men, Volume 3 By Plutarch, see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Baker_Eddy#cite_note-52
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinoza, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Berkeley, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Swedenborg

Mary & Gilbert Were Sweethearts

The following is a short story by Joseph Woodbury III, initially left as a comment on the biography of a Virginal Mind, shared again here with the embedded hyperlinks that failed to show up in the original comment. 


Asa Gilbert Eddy

June 4, 1882: Gilbert lay dying on his bed.  His wife Mary sat by the bedside looking anxiously at the clock . The previous day Gilbert had been quite well and  engaged in the many  secretarial and practical duties of the household that Mary routinely entrusted him with, but that evening after supper he began to feel dreadfully ill.

His breathing became gradually more laboured as he started to speak in a weak, faltering voice and Mary looked at him blankly.

“What is it Gilbert, my dear.”

“I have something to tell you, Mother.  Before I pass…

“Hush, hush sweet Gilbert.  Be still, don’t speak and know that Mother is working Her purpose out on your behalf… ”

“No Mother, I must tell you this. Yesterday I was negligent in my duties, and disobeyed you concerning never ever looking at your papers. Animal magnetism seized the opportunity to invaded my thinking… When you were out on your drive with Mr. Frye I went to your room to tidy and dust, as usual.  The drawer in your desk that you always keep locked was open.  Out of curiosity I looked at the piece of paper that was on the top of your manuscripts.  It was a letter to you written by Dr. Quimby in 1865. He wrote that he intended to call his system of mind-cure Christian Science.”

Mary’s expression remained blank as she  impatiently regarded the clock again.

Gilbert asked for a cup of cold water but Mary lovingly declined his request on the grounds of chemicalization.  He continued, his voice perceptively  weaker,   “As you have always said that the name Christian Science came to you through an impartation of Divine Mind after the Great Fall on the Ice in Lynn,  I know that it is mortal mind that is deceiving me into thinking I saw such a letter. Please forgive me, Mother.”

“Of course, Gilbert.  But as you know, anything that shows Mother as less than perfect must be a false claim.  And you know full well that the belief in sin must be punished, until that belief is conquered. The Cross before the Crown, dear one.  You did something very naughty. Your sin was uncovered….”

And then she took hold of Gilbert’s hand, and  in a voice like Baby Jane Hudson’s, gently smacking out each word, said “Calvin saw you through the windeh.” Then looking at him with a loving smirk added, “And that’s why we put arsenic in your din-din last night…”

Image via http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Asa_Gilbert_Eddy.jpg, interestingly there are no photographs of Ms. Eddy with her third husband (or any of her husbands).