A series of job requirements of late have kept me from devoting as much time to this blog as I would like, and this blog post is largely extempore, but I have had time to consider the issue of the future of Christian Science, and the fact that that question begins by understanding its past. Those who wish to promote Christian Science today must do so in a different world than that of the Mrs. Eddy and the early workers. Is that an excuse for any failings today? No, but understanding the past can provide a clearer look at what needs to be done a century later.
I recently obtained a copy of Albert Moll’s 1902 pamphlet, Christian Science, Medicine, and Occultism. Moll was a noted German researcher in hypnotism and related issues, and in his translated pamphlet, he wrote, p. :
“When I was traveling in 1898 for some months in the United States of North America for the purpose of making a general survey of the country and its civilization. The principal question besides the hackneyed phrase, ‘What do you think of America?’ put to me was, ‘What is your opinion of Christian Science?’ In the New York, in San Francisco, in Boston, in Denver, in Chicago, in New Orleans—everywhere the same query.”
By 1898 Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science were a major topic in society, and I would argue that it was in part because society was ready for the concept of religious teachings as being a science, something that could be practical and reliable when it came to following the injunction in James 5:14-15 (KJV):
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
Society was also ready for a God that was loving and did not, even could not, send disease and death. Of course, since then we all know that in the last 100+ years the world of medicine has not only made important strides forward, but the mass communication we have today has allied with medicine to promote the conviction that material medicine is the only avenue for healing, and that religion might have value in its own way but it cannot be relied upon to change material conditions.
Since Mrs. Eddy was the founder of the Christian Science religion, the focal point of the history of Christian Science begins with her life. As such I thought it would be helpful to review the historiographical aspects of her life story, how was it told, who told it and why. In the book that I am working on concerning the Mary Baker Eddy—P. P. Quimby debate, that will be covered in detail, but until then I thought it might be helpful to look at the very first biographical treatment of Mrs. Eddy, this little-known and rare pamphlet:
Essay. Writings and Genius of the Founder of Christian Science. . . by a Student [Hanover P. Smith]. Boston: Published by Hanover P. Smith, .
This was first mentioned in the January 1887 Christian Science Journal as follows:
"Our wide-awake brother, H. P. Smith, has published a pamphlet on “The Writings and Genius of the Founder of Christian Science.” It is written with much fervor and animation, with which Mrs. Eddy’s disciples will be well pleased, and among whom we bespeak for it a large sale. 3 Park St. Price 25 cents; six for $1.00."
This was followed by the message below in the February 1887 Journal:
"THE attention of JOURNAL readers is again called to the pamphlet published by H. P. Smith, 3 Park street, Boston. The title is: “Writings and Genius of the Founder of Christian Science.” Five hundred copies were taken in ten days last month. This little work evidences the spiritual teachings in Science and Health, and of its author, Rev. M. Baker G. Eddy. It increases the desire to know more of Christian Science. It was written by one who has long been in the ranks, and intimately acquainted with our Teacher. Everybody should possess a copy."
In my collection are the following editions and issues. The first edition, first issue, with 51 pages, as noted in the advertisement in the March 1887 Journal. Also there is a second issue with 52 pages and a perfect page number “12” on that page as well as a perfect “l” in “life” on page 20. A possible third issue has more worn type, the “12” on that page is imperfect, as is the “l” in “life” on page 20. Finally, there is a later (fourth?) issue with an advertisement opposite page 52. In addition, this last issue has horizontal lines in the laid paper used for the cover; earlier issues used paper stock with vertical lines. This last issue is likely the one mentioned in the May 1890 Journal as follows:
"THE exceeding excellent and ably written pamphlet "Writings and Genius of the Founder of Christian Science" has been printed in an edition of five thousand copies It is written in admirable literary style with the added grace of a learned insight in Science."
This would prove to be the first of many biographical treatments of Mrs. Eddy, in fact it is quite possible that no American woman would ever have so many biographies (both pro and con) as she had.