The life of Mary Baker Eddy is important as it helps to understand the growth of Christian Science and yet she says in her book Miscellany that:
“Those who look for me in person, or elsewhere than in my writings, lose me instead of find me.”
For this reason her autobiography Retrospection and Introspection is a ‘must read’. In it she tells us she was brought up to treasure the Bible through her family’s sharing of it with those who came into their home: her mother was especially loving and out of this came the family’s deep compassion for mankinds’ problems. She felt deeply that God’s love was all round her. But though she loved her father his tyrannical male orientated Calvinistic theology upset her immensely! She rebelled against what she felt was so cruel and felt God’s love would never lead to such harsh ideas on God’s cruel punishment of wrong doers! She felt that the certainly of God’s love and forgiveness were an incentive for reformation and that ideas that we are all predestined left little room for individual progress and freedom.
As a child her compassion for others healed both animals and people alike. Her sensitivity to religious anomalies touched her deeply and made her ill - as she had not yet discovered Christian Science. This was especially so in her late thirties, by which time she had become a mother, a destitute widow deprived of her offspring followed by being a deserted and homeless wife.
On the death of her mother her father remarried and no one in her family would help her unless she abandoned her heart felt convictions and research into knowing that God could heal people of their ills! She had overcome what people saw as a fatal accident by just reading one of Jesus's healings, she was healed also of all of her previous disabililities. This healing had not only left her totally sound but free of all the other illnesses she had formally succumbed to.
You would have thought people would have welcomed her discovery of The Science of Mind as she first called it! Some loved it at first when they were healed but some became antagonistic and even tried to block her message.
Gillian Gill, a 21st century, Cambridge educated biographer wrote that at the start of her research, she read all the published literature on Mary Baker Eddy and found much of it to be extremely critical, often viciously so. And so she started seeing that the most important way in which Christian Science was attacked was through the personality of its Leader. She was seen by her contemporaries as a challenge to the established order; least of all being a woman she came in for a lot of flack and especially as she was drawing converts from other religions which were all led by men. Not only this but she was also questioning current medical practices in the heart of the foremost scholarly city of New England. Some men did not like this upset at all, as they were used to leading all new fields of discovery themselves.
Gillian Gill notes that the negative presentation of Mrs Eddy’s life “continues to be given currency today” as many people writing books never do original research but go to the already existing biographies, often using the ones about Mrs Eddy that are negative.
Apparently the biography accredited to Georgine Milmine was not written by her at all but by Willa Cather, a brilliant writer, who really didn’t want her name on it. As a writer Carther had real talent for putting characters on paper and for telling a story. Gill says of this biography:
“As a piece of fiction, the book works quite well, but the awful thing is, that it is actually about a real woman, and it tells a story that is not true.”
In Mrs Eddy’s day to be respected as a a theologian and to be able to speak with authority one had to be a man and have a classical education or a degree in divinity and in those days it was impossible for women to undertake such training but by the time she became famous in 1900 people had forgotten this.
Knowing that she was an original [non-conformist thinker] and having the conviction that she was being led by God gave her the motivation and strength to do what she did.
She revealed God’s spiritually created, perfect world for everyone to find; indicating that utilising these thoughts is the most momentous individual challenge and accomplishment we have today :
“A book introduces new thoughts, but it cannot make them speedily understood. It is the task of the sturdy pioneer to hew the tall oak and to cut the rough granite. Future ages must declare what the pioneer has accomplished.”
[Science and Health vii:23]
NB. I mention the findings of Gillian Gill as not so long ago there was a report of a conference about the demand to gain a better understanding of Mrs Eddy’s life and her message, in The Christian Science Sentinel[vol.101, No 40]. Gillian Gill is not C.S.and is the author of the biography “Mary Baker Eddy “