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Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910)
Founder of Christian Science
Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science movement, is widely recognized outside her Church as one of the most remarkable religious figures of modern times.
She was born in New England on a farm in Bow, New
Her childhood and much of her adult life, before 1862, was spent in ill
health. Although raised with Puritan values, daily Bible reading, and
the talk of God's healing power, she spent many years looking for
in the many remedial methods available in her time.
She became a
of the New England healer Phineas
Parkhurst Quimby, whose "medicine-free" healing techniques
undoubtedly influenced her greatly. When she first visited Dr. Quimby
in 1862 she was a
invalid, and with the good doctor's help her health quickly improved.
change was instantaneous. Her pain and weakness disappeared. A sense of
comfort and well-being stepped into their place. Within a week she says
that without help she climbed the one hundred eighty-two steps to the
of the City Hall. And in this whole experience she furnished a clear
of the words Jesus spoke to the woman healed after twelve years'
"Thy faith hath made thee whole."
Mary Baker Eddy's Birth Place
While under his care, off and on for several years, she became deeply interested in his theory of disease and its cure. She heard many of his essays read, and wrote many herself which she submitted to him for inspection and correction. She began to give some public lectures on his healing system in Warren, Maine, advertising her subject as, "P. P. Quimby's spiritual science healing disease as opposed to deism or Rochester-Rapping Spiritualism." After Quimby's death in 1866, Mrs. Eddy continued to teach the new ideas and methods, as one of his followers until the period of her more public work.
A few weeks after Quimby's death, Mrs. Eddy fell over on a sidewalk and struck her back on the ice, and was taken up for dead. She came to consciousness amid a storm of vapors from cologne, chloroform, ether, camphor, etc., to find herself the helpless cripple she was before she saw Dr. Quimby. Feeling that she had not long to live, she asked for her Bible, and whilst reading an account of one of Jesus' healings, she felt God's presence very strongly and shortly afterwards rose from her sick bed.
"The physician attending said I had taken the last step I ever should, but in two days I got out of bed alone and will walk; but yet I confess I am frightened . . . I think that I could help another in my condition if they had not placed their intelligence in matter. This I have not done, and yet I am slowly failing." writes Mrs. Eddy in a letter to Mr. Julius Dresser, a fellow patient that was healed by Quimby. In the same letter she asked Mr. Dresser whether he could help her overcome the present physical difficulties caused by her accident, as she believed that he could and was best fitted to take up where Quimby left off. Mr. Dresser did not respond to this appeal, and Mrs. Eddy had to depend on her own interpretation of Quimby's method. She recovered her health, however, and marked this period as the time that she came to fully understand the "Science of Christianity," which she named Christian Science—A term that had been used by Dr. Quimby on at least one occasion.
She wrote the following poem as a tribute to Dr. Quimby, which accompanied her letter to Mr. Dresser and was published in a Lynn newspaper shortly afterwards :
LINES ON THE DEATH OF DR. P.P. QUIMBY, WHO HEALED WITH THE TRUTH
THAT CHRIST TAUGHT, IN CONTRADISTINCTION TO ALL ISMS.
Did sackcloth clothe the sun, and day grow night, All matter mourn the hour with dewy eyes,
When Truth, receding from our mortal sight, Had paid to error her last sacrifice?
Can we forget the power that gave us life? Shall we forget the wisdom of its way?
Then ask me not, amid this mortal strife, -- This keenest pang of animated clay, --
To mourn him less: to mourn him more were just, If to his memory 'twere a tribute given
For every solemn, sacred, earnest trust, Delivered to us he rose to heaven.
Heaven but the happiness of that calm soul, Growing in stature in the thrown of God:
Rest should reward him who hath made us whole, Seeking, through tremblers,
where his footsteps trod. ...........................MARY M. PATTERSON (LYNN, FEB 22, 1866)
During the years following this she was a lonely
going from place to place talking about a new system of healing without
the benefit of medicine, reading from a manuscript she was working on,
teaching an occasional pupil, and finally conducting classes in the
underlying the healings.
Mrs. Eddy lived in Stoughton, Mass., 1868-1870, where she left a manuscript known as "Extracts from P. P. Quimby's Writings," on which she based her teachings. In 1872, while teaching in Lynn, Mass., Mrs. Eddy claimed this manuscript as her own, and in this and other writings she gradually changed the terminology so that it bore less resemblance to Quimby's. In 1875 she published a book which she called "Science and Health,"* in which was set forth a philosophy of healing of which she claimed to be the discoverer. A part of the Quimby's manuscript, with a facsimile showing emendations in Mrs. Eddy's hand, was published in the New York Times, July 10, 1904, with a "deadly parallel" showing Quimby's teachings and those of Mrs. Eddy in her book "Science and Health." After publishing "Science and Health," she put forward progressive claims as discoverer and founder.
* Dr. Quimby called his system "The Science of Health and Happiness."
In her "Metaphysical College," in Boston, Mrs. Eddy began in 1882 to have trouble with some of her students, who criticized her teaching and disputed her claims. One of these students, Mr. E. J. Arens, learned from Mr. Julius Dresser , in October, 1882, that the methods and ideas claimed as hers by right of "revelation" were derived from Dr. Quimby. Arens gave full credit to Quimby and claimed the right to publish the new ideas without giving credit to Christian Science, but was sued by Mrs. Eddy for plagiarism. The suit was won, Sept. 24, 1883, by Mrs. Eddy, because Arens could not persuade George Quimby, Dr. Quimby's only son, to let him take the Quimby Manuscripts into Court. Mr. Quimby did not loan his father's manuscripts to Mr. Arens because he was not in a position financially to engage in a legal suit. Moreover, he was naturally and rightly asked why he should take part in a suit to establish what was true? Dr. Quimby had taught that truth could take care of itself, when the time came.
Meanwhile, the controversy in the press was begun, Feb., 1883, by "A. O.," in a letter to the editor of the Boston Post, entitled "The Founder of the Mental Method of Treating Disease," in which the facts, acquired from Mr. Dresser, were accurately stated. On Feb. 19, 1883, "E. G.," ostensibly a sometime patient of Dr. Quimby's but in reality a publicist of Mrs. Eddy's, wrote a letter to the Post, representing Quimby as a mere "mesmerist" and trickster. On Feb. 23, Mr. Dresser refuted these statements and put Quimby's work in its true light. On March 7, 1883, Mrs. Eddy wrote to the Post trying to meet Mr. Dresser's reply by introducing irrelevant subjects.
George Quimby, on the subject of plagiarism said: "As far as the book 'Science and Health,' is concerned, Mrs. Eddy had no access to father's manuscripts [save 'Questions and Answers'] when she wrote it, but that she did have a very full knowledge of his ideas and beliefs is also true. The religion which she teaches certainly is hers, for which I cannot be too thankful; for I should be loath to go down to my grave feeling that my father was in any way connected with Christian Science. That she got her inspiration and idea from father is beyond question. In other words, had there been no Dr. Quimby there would have been no Mrs. Eddy. Father claimed to believe, and taught and practiced his belief, that disease was a mental condition and was an invention of man . . . caused by error or beliefs, and capable of being cured mentally without medicine or appliances or applications—these ideas are embodied in Mrs. Eddy's book—she certainly heard father teach years before she wrote her book."
In 1907 Miss Georgine Milmine, after painstaking research, published in McClure's Magazine an accurate life of Mrs. Eddy which later appeared in a book entitled "The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy" by Miss Georgine Milmine. Miss Milmine carefully traced back the history of Quimby's manuscript "Questions and Answers," showing how it had been modified by Mrs. Eddy in her "Science of Man" chapter in "Science and Health." In a letter to George Quimby, Miss Milmine writes, "This manuscript of your father's was used largely to form the 'Recapitulation' chapter in 'Science and Health' in later years; but with each new edition it was revised until the present chapter of that title is a long way off from the original. Nevertheless this is the only chapter in her book from which her students are taught in classes, today. The course in Christian Science consists of a series of talks on this one chapter, which is elucidated and explained to the class. The rest of Christian Science is simply 'frills' added by Mrs. Eddy."
Miss Sybil Wilbur, writer, undertook to prepare an offsetting "Life" without inquiring into the truth of the "facts" put at her disposal. The result was seen in Human Life, Boston, April, 1907, which contained a sensational report of an interview with George Quimby, trying to discredit him, and doubting the authenticity of the Quimby Manuscripts. These statements somewhat modified were published in her 1908 book "The Life of Mary Baker Eddy." Even Miss Wilbur, in her "interview" with Mrs. Crosby of Waterville, as reported in Human Life, March 1907, puts in as fact that "Mrs. Patterson (Mrs. Eddy) spent most of her time reducing to writing the remembered sayings of Quimby," while living with Mrs. Crosby.
This is what George Quimby had to say on the matter, "Now a word about the great court decision. One E. J. Arens, of Boston, made a statement which he could not prove, that Mrs. Eddy got her ideas from father, and that his writings and manuscript would prove it. He went into court and could not prove what he said, and now Mrs. Eddy and her adherents claim that because he could not prove that there were such manuscripts, that there are none! I would not allow him to use the manuscripts in court, and consequently he could not prove what he said." "The basis of the whole misunderstanding has been that everything that has emanated from the Eddy side has been taken for God's truth, and everything that has been stated in opposition to her has been pronounced and believed to be lies. By assuming all she has said is true, on the start, it doesn't leave much for the other side." ". . .I have a package of Mrs. Eddy's letters to my father, covering a period from 1862 to 1864. . . In all her letters she gives him full credit for discovering and reducing mental healing to a science. . . This Mrs. Eddy knew, and this she learned from him, not as a student receiving a regular course as she taught in her college, but by sitting in his room, talking with him, reading his manuscripts, copying some of them, writing some herself and reading them to him for his criticism. In that sense she and many others of his patients were his pupils, in the same way that the disciples were pupils of Jesus."
Julius Dresser and his wife Annetta, who had known Mrs. Eddy since she first visited Dr. Quimby at Portland, knew how much she had admired him and praised him as the one discoverer of the method of Jesus. They were irked by her claims and those made for her as the discoverer of Christian Science, and rose to the defense of the good Dr. Quimby, thus provoking a still more radical disclaimer on the part of Mrs. Eddy that she owed nothing to this "mesmerist," and causing her to push farther and farther back her first intimations of the truth only vaguely suggested by the Portland healer. Various partisans of Mrs. Eddy undertook replies from time to time, always confining themselves to what was favorable to Mrs. Eddy, never examining the facts. The rumor was persistently fostered that the whole question of Mrs. Eddy's indebtedness was settled by the Arens' suit.
The controversy as to Mrs. Eddy's dependence upon
has been so frequently discussed by persons on both sides that there is
nothing new that can be said about it. Violent partisans, pro and con,
have presented the evidence alleged for and against such influence.
the best summary of the stages through which the controversy has passed
was furnished by H. W. Dresser, son of Julius Dresser, in his "The
Quimby Manuscripts," published in 1921. The various stages are
in chronological order in Appendix I of the book, and the sources
indicated, so that interested students who desire to go into the matter
may easily satisfy themselves as to the facts. The book is is now
but an electronic edition is available by Cornerstone Books
internet users to read online. The electronic edition
includes Mrs. Eddy's letters to Dr. Quimby and to Julius Dresser as
published in the first edition of the book. You can read the online
The most compelling feature concerning the controversy in Mr. Dresser's book is the confronting of the clear statements of the early Mrs. Eddy with the Mrs. Eddy of a later date, when the defense of a going organization very much under fire was a major concern, and when it had become a matter of necessity, as it seemed to her, to assure her following of her originality as revealer of the new truth which Christian Science purportedly brought to the world. It is exceedingly difficult for an objective student to accept at face value the later statements in the face of the earlier ones, made spontaneously and out of a profound sense of gratitude to her great benefactor. There was certainly no practical purpose to be served by her quite gratuitous and eloquent early tributes to the importance of P. P. Quimby other than the enhancement of the reputation of the man who cured without medicine, who healed by mental or spiritual means, the first, in America at least, to do so.
That Dr. Quimby was a very remarkable healer there can be no doubt. And that he saw something very special in Mrs. Patterson-Eddy there can be little doubt either. More than once, he buoyantly remarked "she is a devilish bright woman." He was impressed by her, as by no other patient. He possessed extraordinary clairvoyant abilities, and was known to have made the following remark concerning Mrs. Patterson to another of his patients: "This is a very wonderful woman and in comparison I am the man, but Mary is the Christ." He could already see the great potential in her for furthering his healing cause and giving impetus to the spreading of his methods.
Out of the thirty-four hundred cases that Quimby treated in his last two years at Portland, only four felt any obligation to pass on the healing gospel - Warren Felt Evans, Annetta and Julius Dresser, and Mary Patterson. Mrs. Patterson did not delay. She was determined to be able to demonstrate the method through which she had been healed in order that she could apply this to suffering mankind. In 1866, just a few weeks after Quimby's passing, her prayers were answered, and following her near fatal fall on the ice, she rose from her sick bed with a new strength and conviction and belief that she could help heal others.
Whilst Christian Scientists may claim that the healing method employed by Mrs. Eddy was unique to her, any objective student will realise that there really is no essential difference between the methods taught and practised by Quimby and his later followers and those adopted by Mrs. Eddy. The basis is exactly the same, i.e. firstly the removal of fear from the patient, which Quimby accomplished by quietly explaining the mental causes of their malady to them, and then the replacing of this fear with faith, conviction, and firm expectation that they are healed. As it was exceedingly difficult for some of his patients to believe that healing could be affected in this way, he would often manipulate the patient's head in order for them to see that something had been done. In his manuscripts it becomes clear that he claimed no healing efficacy in this manipulating of the head, other than to help with the patient's faith. Quimby's conviction was that it is faith and expectation that invokes the Divine healing power, and whether one calls this power omnipresent Wisdom as Dr. Quimby did, or Divine Mind as Mrs Eddy did, or Universal Mind as many New Thoughters do, or God as most others do, makes no real difference. Jesus Himself said as much with His statement "Thy faith hath made thee whole."
Despite all the controversy surrounding Mrs. Eddy's
Science movement, the Church of Christ, Scientist, which she formed in
1879, had spread around much of the world by the time she died, and one
should not be over-critical of Mrs. Eddy, or underestimate the vital
that her organizational skills played in getting this healing message
a worldwide audience. Mr. Henry Wood, one of the earliest New Thought
had this to say in his 1903 book New Thought Simplified: "No
spiritual revival is fully intelligible from an intellectual and
standpoint. It can be interpreted only from within. With limited and
out-croppings, a most vital body of truth has lain dormant since the
of the primitive Church. The modern practical application of spiritual
power for the assuagement of mental and physical ills was not a
or special revelation. It was a divine and eternal law, though largely
out of intelligent use and application. But by natural selection new
impulses of eternal truth choose the fittest channels for their
As Mrs. Eddy's individuality was the one in which leadership for the
Science division of the new advance actually lodged, it is fair to
that for some reason she was the most suitable instrument. Whatever her
incidental mistakes, she deserves honor and respect accordingly. This
will receive in future, however it may be lacking today."
In 1895, Mrs. Eddy published the first edition of
"Manual of The Mother Church." One of her last and greatest
was founding The Christian Science
Monitor in 1908—her 88th year—a newspaper respected around the
for its editorial integrity and news insight. By the time of her death
in 1910, she had become one of the most recognized public figures in
In 1995, she was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame as the
American woman to found a worldwide religion.
Click here to read an excellent biographical sketch of
Mary Baker Eddy by Henry and Dana Lee Thomas.
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