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Friday, 26 May 2023

What Christian Science is not

I have read several chapters of Historical Sketches by Clifford Smith now. I enjoy his clear, no-nonsense style. The writing is tidy and economical, and he always presents a well-balanced argument. At all times, the tone is measured and quiet. It never becomes forceful or even mildly hysterical in a bid to be persuasive. 



The chapter on Mrs Eddys Transitional Years, Chapter 6, p 43, was particularly well set-out and argued in relation to the influence that Phineas Quimby had on Mrs Eddy and her discovery of Christian Science. I very much appreciated the presentation of the letters of other students of Mr Quimby, which Smith included to show convincingly that Mrs Eddy did not acquire Christian Science from Quimby. (See bottom of page 47 to page 50).


After setting out all the evidence, Smith concludes: In fact, all that she could have got from (Quimby), even in the general direction of Christian Science, were a few useful words and additional proof that health depends on mental conditions and is subject to mental conditions. Her experience with him was a factor in her approach to Christian Science only as her experience with homeopathy had been.


He continues later: Christian Science consistently and completely distinguishes between that which can be attributed to God, the divine Mind, the infinite Soul or Spirit, and that which cannot pass this test. Thus, as regards its mental practice and its opposite, Mrs Eddy has said: The basis of malpractice is in erring human will, and this will is an outcome of what I call mortal mind, -   a false and mortal sense of Truth, Life, and Love…….’  In short, Mr Quimby had not even a glimmer of that which is distinctive in Christian Science. 


As I read the chapter, it occurred to me that Mrs Eddys chapter Animal Magnetism Unmasked in her textbook Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures may have been primarily informed by her association with Mr Quimby and her ensuing clarity on what Christian Science was NOT. 


A very useful read.

Marie Fox

Saturday, 20 May 2023

Christian Science and its Discoverer

  Blog May, 2023. Historical Sketches by Clifford P. Smith

Bless Editor Julie for the book she chose for May.  

I had been wanting to find a record of a  healing by Mrs. Eddy of a lunatic who had escaped from an asylum.  Brian Talcott in his A spiritual response to mental illness ( Christian Science Sentinel audio 20/10/19) mentioned it, but he didn't give the part I was seeking.

This chap thought Mrs. Eddy had anointed him was the point I was after.  The event is described on pages 81 and 82 of Historical Sketches. She healed the man and touched his head as if in benediction. He asked what she was doing and she said she was anointing his head with oil. (Alluding to the 23rd Psalm). He visited Mrs. Eddy years later and told her he had never been insane after she anointed him as if with oil.

I was also seeking a record of the person Mrs. Eddy healed of deafness and dumbness.  I seemed to think that he had written a book.  His name was Hanover P. Smith.  I remembered the Smith part and wondered if the writer of Historical Sketches (Clifford P. Smith) was the same chap.  I believe I had always assumed it was, without checking.  Anyway, the healing is mentioned in the book – page 83.

So, I had it in mind that Hanover Smith wrote a book. Historical Sketches must have been my source because it tells me that indeed he did write a book, Writings and Genius of the Founder of Christian Science; privately published but advertised in the Christian Science periodicals. (see Index and page 201.)

Mr. Smith has given me an enlarged idea of the effects of the seven year old child Mary Baker saying she was going to write a book. It seems that this was much more than a childish fancy.

She was inspired with this idea and it was very real to her as a message direct from God. Smith seems to be saying that her brother Albert’s academic coaching of her was done with this goal in mind. He says, “...she confided this intention to her brother, Albert, who promised to help her become a writer.” He tutored her in the subjects he was studying. He was a capable writer and fluent speaker. Smith says that in her later years, “...she counted her early intention to write a book as aone among a few of the most determinative facts of her entire history.” (Notes from pages 102, 103))

On page 71 we read of the healing of a little boy who had been at the point of death from brain fever. The part I recall is that the little chap resisted the truth being known for him, saying, “I is tick, I is tick.” Mrs. Eddy said, “You are not sick, and you are a good boy.” And it was so.

I was reminded of this when I visited my sister-in-law in hospital. The medical verdict was not good. I was a new student of Christian Science, but I endeavoured to know some truths about the claim. The look she gave me seemed to echo the little boy’s, “I is tick.” She passed on shortly after.

Some of Mrs. Eddy’s students asked her how she had healed a man whose “arms were so stiff and his legs so contracted that he was strapped to crutches.” She replied, “When I looked on that man, my heart gushed with unspeakable pity and prayer.” (p. 96) Pity? Yes, followed by prayer, or probably including prayer.

I found a part-definition of Christian Science on page 111: “...Christian Science, as its name indicates, is the Christian religion interpreted in an original manner and applied in a scientific way to the overcoming of evil with good throughout the range of human thought.”

Friday, 12 May 2023

Mary's brother Albert

I dipped into Historical Sketches by choosing to read the chapter on Albert Baker, Mary’s brother. It is Chapter 3 in the book. I found Clifford P Smith's writing clear and economical, and it showed a keen insight into the relationship that Albert and Mary would have shared. Mary was closer to Albert than to her other siblings. Eleven years older than her, they both had exceptional intellectual talents. Smith describes him, along with their mother, as Mary’s closest family member.  

Albert Baker distinguished himself as a sharp, independent, and ethical thinker, a natural leader, and a gifted orator. His education at Dartmouth College and subsequent  mentorship with Franklin Pierce ably prepared him for a distinguished career in law and politics. Clifford Smith writes of this association with the future President of the United States thus: “This association had rather far-reaching influence: the polish and learning of Franklin Pierce and his protégé, Albert Baker, so impressed the latter’s little sister that she too became anxious for the advantages of an education”.  

Indeed Albert encouraged Mary to go to school whenever she was well enough, and tutored her whenever he was home on holidays. He thus had a profound influence on her education and awareness of the outside world. Clifford Smith writes:  "...she attributed her initial intellectual stimulus to the example and tutoring of her brother.” Albert recognised his sister's exceptional intellect and obviously held her in high regard. One time, Albert wrote to Mary encouraging her to associate with a new attendee at Sanbornton Academy, a Mr Harrison Andrews. He wrote: “He is a very close (strictly logical) student, and is as much given to discursive talking as yourself, though he has not quite so much poetry at his command…”  It would appear that by "discursive talking" Albert meant that Mary possessed the ability to proceed in her communications by reasoning and argument rather than intuition. It also would appear that her expression was always particularly poetic. Both of these talents emerge full-blown in her primary work, Science and health with Key to the Scriptures 

Albert had a distinguished career in the New Hampshire legislature, and seemed poised to enter the United States Congress when he passed away at age 31. Many were the tributes to him for his public services, his love of good,  and his pursuit of “What is right?”, which "he would pursue fearless of the consequences.”  

An extraordinary statement concludes this chapter: “Only a month or so before she passed on, (Mrs Eddy) spoke of him as the most scientific man that she ever knew before the discovery of Christian Science.”  One can only wonder what the discovery of Christian Science might have looked like had Albert been at Mary’s side, reasoning scientific truths with her and encouraging her in her research and writing. 

Marie Fox

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