Mary Baker Eddy: And God Came to the United States

  • toArno Weidmann


Religion is also a business idea: Memory of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science.

A common prejudice calls the nineteenth century the age of science, even the age of positivism. It is often overlooked that the 19th century was also one of those in which as many new religions were founded as it is in a few others. Not only by men. There were also women religious founders. In addition to, for example, the Japanese Nakayama Miki (1798-1887) or the British philosopher Annie Besant (1847-1933), the American Mary Baker Eddy (July 16, 1821-1910), the founder of “Christian Science”. Her 200th birthday is the reason she remembers her these days.

In 1875 she published her major work “Science and Health with the Key to the Bible”. It is said that your church, the “Church of Christ, Scholars” still has 100,000 active members worldwide today (Wikipedia). That’s too little. Mark Twain will be surprised. At the beginning of the last century, he recorded the rapid success of the organization and, accordingly, expected millions of members. At the end of the 1890s there were 8,700 in the USA, and in 1906 the number was 85,000. Twain’s “Christian Science” emerged as the ideal religion in the early twentieth century. “Health, optimism, peace of mind – it’s all here on Earth.”

Christian Science was one of the countless spiritual healing projects that plagued the East Coast at the time. The United States was and still is a country of believers. There was no work without God. God was there—and not just there—always a business idea. Mark Twain explained that Christian Science is run as efficiently as Standard Oil. While he was doing that, he must have thought about how much he would have improved since he had a member of the Standard Oil board managing his finances. The fact that Christian Science paid close attention to business was also determined by the fact that the church did not spend any money on social work.

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Anyone who has read the writings of Mary Baker Eddy will realize what an irrational profession of literary criticism. No one should read it by their standards. But people did, and probably still do. Literature has ten thousand faces and the monolithic repetition of the same assertion over and over again contradicts one of the oldest teachings – the “variatio delectat” – but it also has its audience. Which also has the advantage of not stopping at what is being typed. The believer wants to work.

One of the most important facilities of “Christian Science” is the reading rooms. There are books, magazines and newspapers organized. Passion for learning meet there. There were also lectures, but the dissemination of the doctrine was above all the publication of texts. This would not have been possible without the tremendous successes in eradicating illiteracy among the population of the United States.

Early “Christian Science” was a poor white movement. Mark Twain scoffs at critics of the Church who say it has no chance because the elite can’t reach it. This, according to Twain, is what makes her so successful.

Sickness, pain, sin are things, so they are not right. If you understand that, they are gone. Because they don’t exist. They are thoughts from our minds. We have to free ourselves from it, we are free. Anyone who mentions Hinduism is right. Indian philosophy is one of the greatest influences of the nineteenth century on Western thought. Even more than academic teaching, Indian spirituality has permeated the most diverse esoteric currents. From the twenty-fourth to the thirty-second edition of “Science and Health …” there was also no shortage of references to Hinduism, which were subsequently deleted.

But what is the Christian thing about spiritual healing? The Gospels portray Jesus as a healer. He’s also someone who goes without medication. He tells the lame or the dead to rise. no longer. You are cured. For the average Christian, this is proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the Messenger of God, the Son of God, the yes of God.

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Spirit healers see it differently. In fact, patients are not sick. The therapist ignores the subjective perception of the “patient”. Tell them what’s up. This is the end of the disease. Anyone can be healed as Jesus did. If he doesn’t work out with others, he can always start on his own. He must understand that when he feels sick, he gives in to an illusion. To face it boldly – everything depends on it.

If you want to get to know Mary Baker Eddy better, read Stefan Zweig’s Healing Through the Spirit from 1930. In it Zweig deals with the magnetizer Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), with Mary Baker Eddy and with Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). ). The three realized that many illnesses had spiritual causes and therefore needed spiritual treatment.

Zweig’s pages on Mary Baker Eddy are arguably the best he’s ever written about. You can read about her three marriages, about the son she abandoned, and about the healer Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), who not only made her good again, but also used his ideas and opinions in her education. Zweig described the decades in which Mary Baker Eddy knew she was very special, but had no idea what she could be. There were decades of recurring hysteria, followed by weeks of being completely bedridden. He searched desperately for people who would take them and give them food and lodging, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for months. Again and again I stood in the street. never worked. No housework, no sewing, no sewing. She ran away from being a woman. But she didn’t know what she wanted to be.

You were not a therapist. Did not treat anyone. When she wasn’t talking about the soul and its possibilities, she wrote her book. Obsessed as a real writer. Even after the book was published, she continued to write on it. Corrected, deleted and added. It is said that forty different editions were made during her lifetime. The bestsellers in American literature were not those of authors such as Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, but Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health…” and, for example, Joseph Smith’s “Book of Mormon” (1805-1844).

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“Healing by the Spirit” accompanies traditional medicine, which itself emerged from the world of spiritual healers. The more obsessed the era with something, the higher the opposite. More points of contact there. “Christian Science” was the name of the Baker Eddy movement. The “science” was important. “Exams” played a large role in the writings of Eddy Baker. Healing was not guaranteed, but if you don’t, you will get your money back. Or so it was promised in early ads.

As with all new movements, there have been divisions. Emma Curtis Hopkins (1849-1925), a former Eddie student, called her organization New Thought. The fluctuations between the different currents can be conceptualized as being similar to those of the socialist movement.

Nor can one lose sight of the political importance not only of “Christian science”, but of all churches of the “Cure of Mind” movement, as William James called it. They have all opposed the idea that we are doomed to fear, to suffer. An idea that has shaped many Christian communities for centuries. “The Fall of Adam is completely corrupt / Human nature and beings…” sang it. It’s over. Christians were not in despair. God was with the optimists. God has come to the United States of America.

Stefan Zweig writes: “Perhaps, despite Ford and Lincoln, despite Washington and Edison, America has not produced a type of thought that expresses the duality of American idealism and the American universal ethos so clearly as Mary Baker Eddy.”

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