The featured talk at the 2007 Fern Lodge Annual meeting was of great interest to Christian Scientists, and of importance to mankind. Brad Stock, PhD, of Columbus, Ohio, shared many precious glimpses into the character of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. Today, Christian Scientists around the world acknowledge with gratitude the contribution Mrs. Eddy has made to mankind’s understanding of God, of Christ Jesus, and of spiritual healing. We recognize Mrs. Eddy as an individual whose insights into Christianity, and also into human affairs, were acute and practical. And we are deeply grateful for the blessings of physical healing and character renewal that come through the realization of Truth and Love which Mrs. Eddy presents in her main work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and in her other writings.
But what about the general public? Does mankind have a clear understanding of who Mary Baker Eddy was? Do they recognize her place in the unfolding history of Christian thought and practice? Do they realize the practical insights and inspiration her writings provide to help mankind solve contemporary human problems, such as disease, contagion, pollution, greed, and the epidemic of violence, including war? Do they realize that Mrs. Eddy, through her writings and the Church she founded, has brought the Comforter to mankind, as was promised by Christ Jesus? Sadly, the answer to all these questions is, No. Today, the vast majority of people, including those who are educated and religious, are ignorant of Mary Baker Eddy, uninformed about her life work, and, more significantly, unaware of the deeply Christian character of this remarkable woman.
In his talk, Brad read excerpts from a wide range of sources. All were accounts of people who had met Mrs. Eddy or heard her speak. Between his readings, Brad shared insights on what the individual accounts revealed of Mrs. Eddy’s character. He also related the importance of her example to those who would follow her in the healing, nurturing practice of Christian Science today. There is no adequate substitute for hearing the full presentation, but in this Focus, we will share a few of the accounts Brad read, and tell why these mean so much to us.
Our hope is to help mankind gain a better appreciation for Mary Baker Eddy. One step might be for people to regain the recognition of Mrs. Eddy that was common in her time. Here is what a broad spectrum of newspapers published shortly after Mrs. Eddy’s passing in 1910. The following was compiled from many sources, which can be found in the book, Tributes from the Press: Editorial Comments on the Life and Work of Mary Baker Eddy.
“With the death of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy there passes from this world’s activities one of the most remarkable women of her time …. She has builded … a great religious institution, a faith wide-spread and held by hundreds of thousands of believers. And not only is the number of her following notable, but likewise its character: Mrs. Eddy has not swept into her church myriads of the unthinking and uneducated. On the contrary, her teachings have appealed to the highest classes, and the level of the character and intelligence of the Christian Scientists is everywhere high. “
“Thoughtful men and women … must pay a tribute of respect and admiration for this earnest and forceful character who made such an imprint upon modern thought.” “The story of her life forms one of the most remarkable records among the histories of the religious leaders of the ages.” “She was the moving spirit in and the chief exemplar of a religious and spiritual phenomenon affecting … nearly the whole of the civilized world.” “That [her] message should appeal in a compelling way to a million or more intelligent men and women in the most searching and critical age and among the most mentally acute peoples of earth, is one of the most significant historic facts of the present. “
“She was a pioneer–one of the most extraordinary of whom there is a record–and there are few now who doubt that the body of facts and experience which has resulted from her pioneering is a valuable gain to knowledge.” “[Her] life’s work will go down in … history as the equal of Wesley, Calvin, Luther, and others of like prominence.” “[She] has been one of the world’s greatest benefactors” [and] “has contributed in a greater measure than any other man or woman since Calvary to the sum total of human happiness.” “[She] has been a power for good. “
“More than an ordinary woman[, Mrs. Eddy] was a great woman” “of rare power and intellect”, [and] “she deserves to be ranked among the most striking, the most interesting, and the strongest figures that ever graced … the annals of her sex.” “She was [also] a profoundly good woman” [whose] “life was devoted to the uplift of mankind. ” “No other woman in modern times has ever reached anything like Mrs. Eddy’s heights.” “None other has had more widespread influence or is regarded with greater reverence by more people.” “The history of womankind has no parallel to the career of Mary Baker Eddy. ” “From the present day back to where disappears in the mists of tradition the initial mileposts of … civilization … [,] the pages of history are resplendent with the glory of earth’s great women. Viewed from a broad perspective, however, they stand as a sisterhood of similarity — all save one. Like her there was none.” “We believe her to have been the greatest woman the world ever knew. “‘
[But Mrs. Eddy was] “not merely one of the world’s great women [, she was also] one of the world’s great personages … She must be adjudged great if measured only by the extent of the influence she exerted over the minds and lives of men and women all over the earth. ” “[She was] a great leader of superior ability,” “one of the world’s most brilliant executives and organizers,” [and] “the most powerful religious leader of this age. ” “[She was also] one of the greatest intellectual forces of the world’s history, ” and “her life-work, SCIENCE AND HEALTH, will have an eternal place in English literature. ” “She kindled a new light on earth. ” “[She] has done a great work in the world for good. “
Although these tributes are touching and reassure us that Mrs. Eddy was recognized and honored, it is clear that the public misunderstood something of her true character and the real nature of her life work. We believe that if Mrs. Eddy is more accurately understood, mankind will receive a great blessing. Perhaps more important, if Mrs. Eddy is better understood among mankind, the students of Christian Science will be blessed. This is not wishful thinking. In a letter to one of her students she wrote, “Keeping the truth of [Mrs. Eddy’s] real character before the public will help the students and do more than all else can for our Cause,” (The Emergence of Christian Science, Gottschalk, p.165). Plainly it is important for Christian Science nurses and practitioners to understand not only the theology of Christian Science contained in Mrs. Eddy’s writings, but the Christian character that impelled Mrs. Eddy to pursue faithfully and to share unselfishly the understanding of divine Love, Life, and Truth.
The purpose of Fern Lodge is to heal. We work and pray to realize the Truth of God as Love and to recognize Love’s immediate, present, and practical care for everyone. Our purpose is to heal, and the Christian Science nurses on our staff understand that their work is essential to the healing mission of Christian Science. They know that their healing influence does not depend on specific treatment for patients, but on the unerring healing influence of grace, which accompanies every demonstration of Christian character. In Miscellaneous Writings, page 101, Mrs. Eddy indicates that healing “becomes spontaneous,” and in Rudimental Divine Science, 9:21, she writes, “The spiritual power of a scientific, right thought, without a direct effort, an audible or even a mental argument, has oftentimes healed inveterate diseases.” The following two reminiscences show how we all can expect healing to result from the understanding of God, unselfishly expressed in genuine, loving Christianity.
Bertha Reinke was a young German woman who came to the United States to study medicine in search of a cure for her physical problems. She went to hear a “lady preacher” merely “out of curiosity, because it was unheard of in her country for women to preach. She had never heard of Christian Science and had not known of its focus on healing.” She tells of her experience as follows: “Escorted by a gentleman, the ‘Lady Preacher’ appeared on the stage. For a few moments she gazed silently over the audience. I felt an atmosphere such as I had not known before. She spoke with a gentle, low, but very clear voice. As I was not accustomed to hear an address in English … , the words themselves were not understood. But as I listened, I experienced an inexpressible feeling of relief and the pains and misery … had fallen away …. Not knowing to whom I had been listening, I asked an usher for the name of the Lady Preacher. In utter astonishment he looked at me and answered, ‘Why, that was Mrs. Eddy!’ — Mrs. Eddy!? I had never heard the name before–I left the hall free and well” (Christian Healer 128-129).
The second account is by Mary Dunbar, a newcomer to Christian Science. “Mrs. Dunbar” resolved to go and hear…Mrs. Eddy preach….On her return home her family were waiting….They asked her if she had actually seen Mrs. Eddy and what she looked like. Mrs. Dunbar replied that she had seen her but did not know what she looked like. They then asked what Mrs. Eddy wore, and Mrs. Dunbar replied, ‘I do not know.’ They inquired what Mrs. Eddy had said and again Mrs. Dunbar replied, ‘I don’t know.’ In jest, they then asked her what she did know. To this Mrs. Dunbar replied, ‘I know I have found the Truth. I know I have found that for which I have always sought.'” Mrs. Dunbar’s young daughter was healed that night of a crippling bone disease without any specific treatment from a Christian Science practitioner (Christian Healer 127).
This kind of spontaneous healing, experienced by individuals who were in Mrs. Eddy’s presence and who heard her speak, apparently was quite common. These days, in part because of the aggressive influence of a health care industry with a focus on material medicine, it is tempting for people to think that such healing was just the result of a remarkable, charismatic personality. Such healings might be interesting as “miracles,” but they are seen as not within the realm of science and certainly not something most people should expect in their own lives. Mrs. Eddy emphatically teaches exactly the opposite. She writes, “Divine metaphysics … enables the learner to demonstrate the divine Principle, upon which Jesus’ healing was based, and the sacred rules for its present application to the cure of disease” (Science and Health 146:31 ).
It is important to remember that while we respect and honor Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian character, we do not believe that her influence for good and her healing authority were the outcome of her human personality. Nor do we believe that we can become better healers by nurturing our own personalities. Two passages from Mrs. Eddy’s unpublished writings bear witness to the healing grace of true witnessing and reveal an important aspect of spontaneous or instantaneous healing. In the first passage, she shares her own experience:
“I first gave to the world the Truth, Life, and Love that was revealed to me. I now give to the world the Truth, Life, and Love that I am experiencing. I did not understand in the first instance, but could tell what was revealed. I do understand in the second instance, and can testify from experience. What I did in healing at first was a manifestation of Divine power not understood. What I now do in healing is the manifestation of grace and spiritual understanding” (The Christian Science Journal, March 1997, p. 16).
Our Leader makes it clear that each one of us can expect in our lives the natural transition from healing as an expression of power to the manifestation of grace. And she tells us how. If we would be more effective healers, we must not dwell on cultivating our personalities, making ourselves look good in the eyes of others. Healing is the natural outcome of thought focused on God, divine and impersonal Love, not on the personalities, even the apparently loving personalities, of men and women. How important this lesson is for Christian Science nurses! Here’s what Mrs. Eddy says in a letter to one of her students:
“The healing will grow more easy and be more immediate as you realize that God, Good, is all and Good is Love. You must gain Love, and lose the false sense called love. You must feel the Love that never faileth — that perfect sense of divine power that makes healing no longer power but grace” (Christian Science Sentinel, April 10, 2006, p. 9).
Each one of us has the potential and the ability to demonstrate the Christianity that heals spontaneously. The Christianity of one’s character, far more than an attractive personality, is essential in a Christian Science nurse. For Christian Science nurses to fulfill their mission effectively, they must be obedient to the guidance Mrs. Eddy gives in Science and Health, page 395, ”An ill-tempered, complaining, or deceitful person should not be a nurse. The nurse should be cheerful, orderly, punctual, patient, full of faith, –receptive to Truth and Love.” Isn’t that a clear and concise description of Christian character expressed? A comforting distinction between human personality and Christian character is the difference between the origins of each. An individual’s human personality is supposed to arise from a combination of genetics, or physical heredity, and the environment in which one is brought up. These influences, genetics and environment, presume men and women to be material mortals, who are at the mercy of circumstances, both before and after birth. But we trust the Bible, which teaches that man, male and female, is the image of God. The ability to demonstrate a Christian character is a gift of God to everyone of His children.
On the front piece of the book, MARY BAKER EDDY Christian Healer, is the following quote by Phillips Brooks: “God has not given us vast learning to solve all the problems, Or unfailing wisdom to direct all the wanderings of our brothers’ lives; but He has given to everyone of us the power to be spiritual, and by our spirituality to lift and enlarge and enlighten the lives we touch.” Following this quote is Mary Baker Eddy’s response: “The secret of my life is in the above. “
How are we to make the choice to be spiritual? What can Christian Science nurses do to ensure that their character is the outcome of God, good, and that their daily work demonstrates the presence of Love, which heals spontaneously? In his talk, Brad shared the following reminiscence by Calvin Hill, which is included in the book, We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, on pages 160-161.
[In my first private interview with her] she … asked me many questions … testing my grasp on Christian Science …. Finally, in a flash of apparent satisfaction with one of my answers, she said, “By the way, who is your teacher?” “Well, Mrs. — Mother; ” I replied, “I believe I shall have to call you my teacher. I have been studying your book, Science and Health … for the past four years and if what is said to me by one of your own students or by one of your students’ students is not backed up or verified by your writings, I take no stock in his statements, none whatever!”
Mrs. Eddy stepped forward, placed her hand on my shoulder and patted it gently, saying, “My child, my child, my child, you’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe!”
…. She then inquired if I had any questions …, but I was so impressed with her purity and greatness and my own impurity and unworthiness … that tears were rolling down my cheeks, and I could only reply … “No, Mother:” I was aware that I was in the presence of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science–the woman who, like Jesus, perceived the reality and allness of Spirit and the utter unreality and nothingness of matter; and who brought to mankind the Comforter of which he spoke.
Those who heard the Fern Lodge annual meeting were given an opportunity to grasp a clearer concept of Mrs. Eddy’s character and to learn more of how to repeat today her remarkable healing work. We are convinced that through faithful obedience, Christian Science nurses at Fern Lodge, and Christian Scientists everywhere, should expect to heal spontaneously those who are yearning for comfort and aid. Through consecrated prayer, along with study of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, we can ensure our protection from a sense of material personality,–either good or bad, our own or another’s–and we can increase the daily demonstration of our God-given Christian character. In this way we will be faithful followers of the Master, Christ Jesus. In this way we will more clearly recognize and honor the life and work of our Leader. And in this way we will help mankind to gain and keep a better, more spiritual, understanding of Mary Baker Eddy and of the promised Comforter, divine Science.
If you enjoyed reading this article, feel free to read some of our other talks here.