Eddy, Mary Baker (Glover)
EDDY, Mary Baker (Glover)
Born 16 July 1821, Bow, New Hampshire; died 3 December 1910, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Daughter of Mark and Abigail Ambrose Baker; married George W. Glover, 1843; Daniel Patterson, 1853; Asa G. Eddy, 1877
Founder of the Christian Science movement and of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy was originally a member of the Congregational church. In 1862 she received treatment for a nervous ailment from Phineas P. Quimby, noted Massachusetts practitioner of "animal magnetism," and became interested in mind cure. In 1866 Eddy sustained a serious spinal injury, from which she recovered through what she later described as the total conviction that her life was in God and God was Life.
In the same year, her husband deserted her and for the next three years she lived with various friends and relatives. In 1870 she wrote a textbook, The Science of Man, and began teaching in Lynn, Massachusetts. She published the first edition of Science and Health (1875, revised and expanded, 1983) and organized the Christian Science Association in 1876. The year 1879 saw the establishment of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and 1881 the chartering of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College. Both were dissolved in 1889 in preparation for the founding in Boston of the Mother Church in September 1892. By 1900 a network of 600 churches existed, and Christian Science was no longer a sect but an organized religion.
Known chiefly for its emphasis on psychical healing, Christian Science embraces a full theology. Though Eddy firmly professed herself and her religion to be Christian, orthodox Christianity rejected both. Basic to Christian Science is the doctrine that God is All, Life, and Mind. Since God is Spirit, the only manifestation of life is in Spirit, not in matter. Matter, sin, pain, and death are all erroneous concepts, part of the great error, the belief in evil. Healing, then, is an important part of overcoming the error involved in the belief in the ills of the flesh.
The unreality of evil is believed to have been demonstrated in the life of Jesus, whose acts of love cast out error. Jesus, who illustrated the spiritual agreement between God and man, is the Christ only in the sense that he alone demonstrated the spiritual nature, which is the true nature of every man but which is veiled by the belief in man's materiality. Though not a part of godhead, Jesus is believed to be true Man, the man of Spirit.
Christian Science rejects all anthropomorphic and personal ideas associated with God; thus the Trinity becomes Life, Truth, and Love, a trinity in unity known through the three offices: God the Father-Mother; Christ, the spiritual idea of sonship; and divine Science, or the Holy Comforter. Eddy's identification of Christian Science as the Holy Comforter linked it to the aspect of God that she saw as feminine. At one point in the evolution of Science and Health, she went so far as to speak of God as "She," but the reference was dropped from succeeding editions.
Eddy, who claimed her teaching was a divine revelation, never considered her religion as extrabiblical. She intended it to be understood as a scientific demonstration of universal divine law, the spiritual truth behind the literal scriptural accounts. As organizer and leader of the only American religious movement founded by a woman, Eddy's contributions to feminism were chiefly her own accomplishments. In addition, her emphasis on the Motherhood as well as the Fatherhood of God forced a new consciousness on her followers. In Science and Health, the textbook of Christian Science, she advocates equality of the sexes, female suffrage, and the right of a woman to independently hold and dispose of property.
Eddy recognized the power of the written word in disseminating doctrine. In her life there were close to 400 editions of Science and Health published. The monthly Christian Science Journal began in 1883; in 1898 the weekly Christian Science Sentinel appeared; and in 1908 the daily newspaper Christian Science Monitor was established. The Monitor continues to be one of the most respected among international periodicals.
At one time the object of severe criticism (McClure's magazine's 1906-07 series of articles, among others) and of direct ridicule (Mark Twain's Christian Science, 1907), Christian Science is now a recognized part of the religious institution in America, a denomination whose members maintain more than 2,500 churches. Eddy served as pastor of the Mother Church in Boston for many years and never relinquished leadership of the movement until her death. Her Manual of the Mother Church (1895) still provides the framework of government for the churches, and Science and Health remains the religion's basic text. Thus Eddy's imprint on Christian Science is as strong now as it was when she founded it.
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—JOANN PECK KRIEG