Mrs. Eddy And Her Place

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The Revelation of Christian Science cannot be separated from its Revelator, Mary Baker Eddy. In her own writings and in the memoirs of her students, it is made clear that we understand this Science in proportion as we gain a true sense of its Founder. Any effort to discredit her draws a heavy veil over the discovery.

Over the years, there has been subtle questioning of Mrs. Eddy’s veracity and competence. What follows are examples which should be given serious thought.

On page 19 of the Church Manual, appears a footnote added after 1910 contradicting Mrs. Eddy’s statement that her Church charter was obtained in June 1879. Her tenets were the spiritual charter obtained in June while the author of the footnote could only conceive of the human, legal charter of August. The footnote says that Mrs. Eddy was mistaken.

The addition of the words “and Branch Churches” to the headings on pages 120 and 127 after Mrs. Eddy left us suggest that she must have lacked organizational skill and, therefore, was mistaken. The footnote on page 127, which did not appear in Mrs. Eddy’s day, suggests lack of thoroughness by Mrs. Eddy.

The “Editor’s Note” on page 130 added in 1971 implies that Mrs. Eddy failed to eliminate an unnecessary restriction on the directors and had to be corrected.

Mrs. Eddy’s statement on page xii of Science and Health that she taught “over 4000 students” is contradicted in the Peel biography where he says it was more like 1000 students, if even that many.

The removal of Mrs. Eddy’s name and the office of Pastor Emeritus from the list of church officers on page 21 and its subsequent reinstatement has been discussed elsewhere, but the implication is clear.

The annulling of sections of by-laws in the Manual requiring Mrs. Eddy’s signature, consent, or approval was done, we are told, because Mrs. Eddy made a “loving mistake”.

The inclusion of “Ways that are Vain” on page 210, “Take Notice” on pages 242 and 358, “A Letter by Mrs. Eddy” on page 360, and everything appearing from line 19 on page 364 to the end of the book were not intended to be in The First Church of Christ Scientist and Miscellany. Mrs. Eddy selected the items and articles she wanted and put them in a sealed packet. None of the above was included by her. “Ways that are Vain” was originally published in the May 1887 Journal, ten years before Miscellaneous Writings was even published. It clearly has no place in this later volume. One’s conclusion must be that if it was right to include these articles in Miscellany, it was wrong of Mrs. Eddy to exclude them.

Mrs. Eddy’s photograph was removed from the Science and Health appearing in 1911. We have proof that she wrote her signature as late as November 28, 1910, but the archives cannot produce any letter signed by her ordering her picture removed from the textbook. She was extremely particular about Science and Health and did not delegate authority to change it to anyone.

About ten years ago, a Mother Church representative toured reading rooms in the larger cities suggesting that Mrs. Eddy’s picture be replaced with a photograph of the Church Center. This was mentioned along with other suggested “improvements”.

The Wilbur, Powell, and Tomlinson biographies of Mrs. Eddy have all been discontinued in the past few years, and almost all copies of the Adam Dickey memoirs were confiscated in 1927. Today, we are essentially left with the Peel books which are, for the most part, an academic dissection of her life.

The construction in the 1970s of the portico on The Extension (Mrs. Eddy’s demonstration) suggested that the Church was incomplete and unfinished. It was tantamount to adding a line to someone else’s poem. Most photographs of the Church highlight the portico while Mrs. Eddy’s room at the apex of the triangle of land is almost out of sight.

The statements already discussed about mental murder and the “combination of sinners that was fast” are confirmed as genuine even by Robert Peel. But the directors suggest that her statement to Adam Dickey was made while she was suffering from “a physical claim” and Peel brushes off the latter statement as an indication of Mrs. Eddy’s flair for the dramatic. Both of these explanations imply that Mrs. Eddy was not consistently reliable. The fact that she had both of these statements committed to writing indicates thoughtful consideration of their messages and shows that they were not casual statements.

All the evidence shows that Mrs. Eddy was very careful of what she signed and that meticulous care was taken concerning everything she wrote, especially Science and Health and the Manual. That she made errors of statement or omission in her two most important works is inconceivable. As she said on page 3 of the Manual, “They were impelled by a power not one’s own…”

All of the above examples suggest the old belief that one cannot be both a discoverer of something and founder of a system promoting it. But Mrs. Eddy says, “When God called the author to proclaim His Gospel to this age, there came also the charge to plant and water His vineyard.” (S&H p xi)

There is the suggestion that she may have proclaimed His Gospel all right, but that the planting and watering of the vineyard was not done so well. Individually the above alterations and demeaning statements seem small, but taken together, they form a disturbing pattern which should be seriously considered by every Christian Scientist.

One must ask what is Mrs. Eddy’s place today in the Christian Science Movement? Has she been pushed out of her place as Pastor Emeritus? Is she acknowledged as Discoverer and Founder only in the sense of dutiful lip service?

We should remember that she was declared fully competent to manage her affairs as a result of the “Next Friends Suit” of 1907. As one of the participants said on the way out of Mrs. Eddy’s house, “That woman is smarter than a steel trap.” (Powell p. 207)

If such is the case, do these alterations, annullings, and condescending statements have any place in Christian Science?

As Mrs. Eddy stated in an earlier edition of Science and Health (1902 p. 68), “A true man respects the character of a woman; but a mouse will gnaw in the dark at a spotless garment.”




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