Eleventh in a series commemorating Women's History Month by spotlighting a significant speech or testimony delivered by a woman in the U.S. on this date.
Mary Baker Eddy had suffered from poor health since childhood. But she experienced a dramatic turnaround after reading a Bible passage. That led her to become a popular healer and pastor who preached that illness was an illusion that could be treated through prayer. Establishment clergy were not pleased.
On Feb. 26, 1885, the Rev. Joseph Cook read out loud, from the pulpit at Boston’s magnificent Tremont Temple, a letter written by his colleague, the Rev. Adoniram Judson Gordon. It was an all-out attack on Eddy, accusing her of being “a mesmerist, a medium, a pantheist, and prayerless.”
Eddy insisted on the right to defend herself in person. On March 16, she was given the lectern at the same venue, but only 10 minutes to speak. The audience of nearly 3,000 included hundreds of hostile clergymen. Before starting, she turning to Cook and said: “’I can hardly explain Christian Science in 10 minutes. May I have a few moments more?” To which he replied: “No, Madam, and if you take one moment longer you will be forcibly stopped.”
Talking without notes, she structured her presentation as a series of questions and answers. Eddy’s speech marked a turning point. Adherents to Christian Science burgeoned. In 1889, she returned to the Tremont Temple, this time rented by the Christian Science Church, to lead the annual meeting of the Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist.
Tremont Temple, Boston
As the time so kindly allotted me is insufficient for even a synopsis of Christian Science, I shall confine myself to questions and answers.
Am I a spiritualist?
I am not and never was. I understand the impossibility of intercommunion between the so-called dead and living. There have always attended my life phenomena of an uncommon order, which spiritualists have miscalled mediumship; but I clearly understand that no human agencies were employed -- that the divine Mind reveals itself to humanity through spiritual law. And to such as are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,” Christian Science reveals the infinitude of divinity and the way of man’s salvation from sickness and death, as wrought out by Jesus, who robbed the grave of victory and death of its sting. I understand that God is an ever-present help in all times of trouble – have found Him so; and would have no other gods, no remedies in drugs, no material medicine.
Do I believe in a personal God?
I believe in God as the Supreme Being. I know not what the person of omnipotence and omnipresence is, or what the infinite includes; therefore, I worship that of which I can conceive, first, as a loving Father and Mother; then, as thought ascends the scale of being to diviner consciousness, God becomes to me, as to the apostle who declared it, “God is Love” -- divine Principle -- which I worship; and “after the manner of my fathers, so worship I God.”
Do I believe in the atonement of Christ?
I do; and this atonement becomes more to me since it includes man’s redemption from sickness as well as from sin. I reverence and adore Christ as never before. It brings to my sense and to the sense of all who entertain this understanding of the Science of God, as a whole salvation.
How is the healing done in Christian Science?
This answer includes too much to give you any conclusive idea in a brief explanation. I can name some means by which it is not done. It is not one mind acting upon another mind; it is not the transference of human images of thought to other minds; it is not supported by the evidence before the personal senses — science contradicts this evidence; it is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. It is Christ come to destroy the power of the flesh; it is truth over error that, understood, gives man ability to rise above the evidence of the senses, take hold of the eternal energies of truth, and destroy mortal discord with immortal harmony — the grand verities of being. It is not one mortal thought transmitted to another’s thought from the human mind that holds within itself all evil. Our Master said of one of his students, “He is a devil,” and repudiated the idea of casting out devils through Beelzebub. Erring human mind is by no means a desirable or efficacious healer. Such suppositional healing I deprecate. It is in no way allied to divine power. All human control is animal magnetism, more despicable than all other methods of treating disease. Christian Science is not a remedy of faith alone, but combines faith with understanding through which we may touch the hem of His garment and know that omnipotence has all power. “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.”
Is there a personal man?
The Scriptures inform us that man was made in the image and likeness of God. I commend the Icelandic translation: “He created man in the image and likeness of Mind, in the image and likeness of Mind created He him.” To my sense, we have not seen all of man; he is more than personal sense can cognize, who is the image and likeness of the infinite. I have not seen a perfect man in mind or body — and such must be the personality of him who is the true likeness: the lost image is not this personality, and corporeal man is this lost image; hence, it doth not appear what is the real personality of man. The only cause for making this question of personality a point or of any importance is that man’s perfect model should be held in mind, whereby to improve his present condition; that his contemplation regarding himself should turn away from inharmony, sickness, and sin, to that which is the image of his Maker.
Sources: Eddy, Mary Baker, Miscellaneous Writings: 1883-1896, (Boston: Trustees of the Will of Mary Baker G. Eddy), 1896, pp. 95-98.
Also: Eddy, Mary Baker, “A Strong Reply,” in The Christian Science Journal, April 1885.