Mary Baker Eddy Had Chutzpah

        Millions of unprejudiced minds – simple seekers forTruth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert – are waiting and watching for rest and drink. Give them a cup of cold water in Christ’s name, and never fear the consequences.
Mary Baker Eddy, from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

I’ve started reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy again. This is probably the fourth time I’ve read this book. I get something different out of it each time I read it – I come upon lines that, for whatever reason, I never noticed before and that leap out at me and grab my attention. It’s like going on a treasure hunt.

This time what is jumping out at me is the sheer audacity – the unabashed chutzpah – of the book’s author. She doesn’t beat around the bush. She doesn’t try to sugar-coat what she believes to be Truth. She doesn’t write what she believes will make her popular. She doesn’t try to appease anyone else’s ego or try to make her book more palatable to the cynical or worldly. There is a kind of innocent, almost child-like, honesty in her words. I like her. She writes, “The author has not compromised conscience to suit  the general drift of thought, but has bluntly and honestly given the text of Truth.” And she ain’t kidding.

She first published Science and Health in 1875 – almost 140 years ago – and when you think about what the world was like in 1875 – what most religious folks believed at that time, what most scientists believed, what the common thought was regarding spiritual healing – I cannot help but admire the courage it must have taken to publish a book that pretty much went against most peoples’ most cherished beliefs. Her thoughts were progressive then, and they are still progressive today. She writes about atomic power, space travel, evolution, and what today might be classified as ideas found in quantum physics. She went against the common religious beliefs of her day with her thoughts on eternal damnation, heaven, an anthropomorphic god, the story of Adam and Eve, and atonement.

Regarding an anthropomorphic god, Eddy wrote: “The word anthropomorphic, in such a phrase as ‘an anthropomorphic God,’ is derived from two Greek words, signifying man and form, and may be defined as a mortally mental attempt to reduce Deity to corporeality. The life-giving quality of Mind is Spirit, not matter. The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.” (Holy shamoley! Can you imagine how well THAT passage must have flown in a society in which  women didn’t even have the right to vote, yet!)

Regarding heaven and the idea of God sending her children to a place of eternal damnation, Eddy wrote: “Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind…” and “It would be contrary to our highest ideas of God to suppose Him capable of first arranging law and causation so as to bring about certain evil results, and then punishing the helpless victims of His volition for doing what they could not avoid doing. Good is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins.” (Even today you’ll find people in “civilized” countries who believe that God sends his own creation to a place of eternal, torturous “time-out” – can you imagine how Eddy’s ideas about heaven and hell must have been received by the general population 140 years ago?!)

Eddy several times referred to the story of Adam and Eve as an “allegory,” she wrote, for example: “In the Scriptural allegory of the material creation, Adam or error, which represents the erroneous theory of life and intelligence in matter, had the naming of all that was material.” (In 1875 the story of creation and Adam and Eve was interpreted as a literal happening by most Christians. Her thoughts about the book of Genesis might have been considered heresy by some. Actually, her interpretation of Genesis might still be considered heresy by some.)

And regarding the atonement and the belief that Jesus died for our sins, Eddy wrote: “ATONEMENT is the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. His mission was both individual and collective. He did life’s work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals,- to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility.”

Yeah. I am not at all surprised that there were – and still are – people who got all ruffled and riled up by her views. The close-minded, the arrogant, pompous, stodgy and self-righteous, were alive then, just as they are today. They can be found in every group (ahem, even, I am embarrassed to say, amongst those who call themselves “Christian Scientists”). But I don’t think Eddy was at all worried about what those people thought of her. She wrote her book for the other ones – the open-minded, the humble and the honest.

        In the spirit of Christ’s charity, as one who “hopeth all things, endureth all things,” and is joyful to bear consolation to the sorrowing and healing to the sick, she commits these pages to honest seekers for Truth.
Mary Baker Eddy, from the preface to Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

10 thoughts on “Mary Baker Eddy Had Chutzpah

  1. Well said, Karen. You have shown how MBE explains Deity altogether unlike the straw man deity so many commenters set up then attack and dismiss, even deride. Many who do not understand Deity as you have laid out speak of a bearded god who sits on a throne in judgment of mankind, dispensing favors based on whim, or supplication, or sacrifice.

  2. Pingback: Bits and Clips for December 2014 | Polly Castor

  3. Yes! Lived with these observations for the last 50years, read them out loud publicaly for the last 40 years, and still gain inspiration every day, it’s the honesty of Science and Health, and the state of your own thought at the time of reading which rings out, often leading to healing without noticing. What’s really needed is to ‘see’ the idea behind the words….

  4. Have you considered that Eddy may have been close-minded and arrogant, despite her assertions that she wasn’t? That she wasn’t as original as she claimed? Have you read the writings of other students of Quimby? Yes, she had chutzpah, but not so much in the way you think. She had chutzpah for charging almost an annual salary of her time, for a 2 week course on spiritual healing.
    She couldn’t explain Darwin’s theory of evolution with any coherency or comprehension.
    She made Everlasting Punishment an eternal lesson to be taught in Christian Science.

    • Hi, George – Here’s what Eddy says about “Eternal Punishment” in *Science and Health*: “It would be contrary to our highest ideas of God to suppose Him capable of first arranging law and causation so as to bring about certain evil results, and then punishing the helpless victims of His volition for doing what they could not avoid doing. Good  is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins.” Neither Eddy, nor those who follow her teachings, believe in a literal place of hell. I’m thinking that if you’d actually taken the time to read *Science and Health* you would know that.

      I have never actually met Eddy in the person – and, seeing as how she lived most of her life in the 19th century, I’m guessing you haven’t, either. 🙂 I don’t think either one of us can speak with any authority about who she was as a person – seeing as how we never actually had the opportunity to meet her. Whether she and I would have been chums if we’d ever met, I cannot say. But I don’t follow people, I follow ideas – and I sure like the ideas she presented in her books. I have not read these ideas expressed with such clarity in any other works written before or during her lifetime.

      Regarding Darwin, she writes: “May not Darwin be right in thinking that apehood preceded mortal manhood?” and “In its history of mortality, Darwin’s theory  of evolution from a material basis is more consistent than most theories.” It wasn’t her purpose or duty to explain the theory of evolution – Darwin did that really well for himself. Eddy’s purpose in writing *Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures* was entirely different. And I think she accomplished her purpose really well.

      • “I am asked, ‘is there a hell?’ Yes, there is a hell for all who persist in breaking the Golden Rule or in disobeying the commandments of God. Physical science has sometimes argued that the internal fires of our earth will eventually consume this planet…burning in torture until the sinner is consumed, — his sins destroyed. This may take millions of cycles, but of the time no man knoweth.” –Mary Baker Eddy

        “Physical torture affords but a slight illustration of the pangs which come to one upon whom the world of sense falls with its leaden weight in the endeavor to crush out of a career its divine destiny.” –Mary Baker Eddy

      • “HELL. Mortal belief; error; lust; remorse; hatred; revenge…” and “The sinner makes his own hell by doing evil, and the saint his own heaven by doing right… Let unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love – the kingdom of heaven – reign within us, and sin, disease, and death will diminish until they finally disappear.” – Mary Baker Eddy (*Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures*.

        Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within us. I believe that is true of hell, too. When our thoughts are full of love, joy, hope, and kindness I think we’re in heaven. When our thoughts are full of hate, fear, anger, revenge, and bigotry I think we’re in hell. We don’t have to die to experience either one.

  5. Eddy’s purpose in S&H wasn’t to explain evolution by natural selection. The point that you lost was that she failed to comprehend what she dismissed.

    • George, you seem to be failing to comprehend what you’ve dismissed in Science and Health. Eddy wrote about a whole ‘nother way of looking at the world. She wrote about metaphysics. I wouldn’t expect Darwin to tackle metaphysics in his writing. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect Eddy to spend much time addressing the evolution of a material world that she saw as an illusion.

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