Essay / On This Day

Mary Baker Eddy Seems to Have Died

Today (December 3) is the day in 1910 when Mary Baker Eddy, who taught that evil is an illusion and death is a failure of the imagination, died. To everybody else, this kind of thing seemed rather like a refutation of her own teaching, but to her followers in the church of so-called Christian so-called Science, it was just a minor setback, easily explained away. Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Scientists have always had good explanations for why pain seems to be happening, even though there’s no such thing. They have thousands and thousand of pages about it, and you could read them in reading rooms.

But in the words of rock band Daniel Amos, “We might have believed her if her teeth hadn’t fallen out.”

Christian Science is one expression of a widespread religion that has gone by names like mind-cure, new thought, new age, or plumb cattywompus. In its generalized form, it’s the official religion of our nation’s public television system, which runs Wayne Dyer videos all night long. Oprah gives the spotlight to much of the same stuff, and does a pretty good job of making it seem less weird than it really is. As this religion moves through the decades, it takes on new forms and describes itself in various ways, sometimes as practical business advice, sometimes as exotic and ancient Eastern wisdom, sometimes as rationalism packed with sciency truthiness, and sometimes as Jesus’ Big Idea For A Positive You. Partly because of Mary Baker Eddy’s magnetic personality and her ability to network with the strange territorial force in charge of Boston’s spirituality, her part of the movement took on a permanent and institutional shape.

For most people who are a little bit attracted to Christian Science, the best cure is to actually read a little bit of Mary Baker Eddy’s prose. So here, by way of prophylaxis, is a Christmas reading from the Preface to the totally serious Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

The wakeful shepherd beholds the first faint morning beams, ere cometh the full radiance of a risen day. So shone the pale star to the prophet-shepherds; yet it traversed the night, and come where, in cradled obscurity, lay the Bethlehem babe, the human herald of Christ, Truth, who would make plain to benighted understanding the way of salvation through Christ Jesus, till across a night of error should dawn the morning beams and shine the guiding star of being. The Wisemen were led to behold and to follow this daystar of divine Science, lighting the way to eternal harmony. The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity. Contentment with the past and the cold conventionality of materialism are crumbling away. Ignorance of God is no longer the steppingstone to faith. The only guarantee of obedience is a right apprehension of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal. Though empires fall, “the Lord shall reign forever.”

Merry Christmas!

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