1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Christian Science

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CHRISTIAN SCIENCE, a system of theosophic and therapeutic doctrine, which was originated in America about 1866 by Mrs Mary Baker Glover Eddy, and has in recent years obtained a number of adherents both in the United States and in European countries. Mrs. Eddy (1821-1910; née Baker) was born near Concord, New Hampshire; in 1843 she married Colonel G. W. Glover (d. 1844), in 1853 she married Daniel Patterson (divorced 1873), and in 1877 Dr Asa Gilbert Eddy (d. 1883). About the year 1867 she came forward as a healer by mind-cure. She based her teaching on the Bible, and on the principles that man's essential nature is spiritual, and that, the Spirit of God being Love and Good, moral and physical evil are contrary to that Spirit, and represent an absence of the True Spirit which was in Jesus Christ. There is but one Mind, one God, one Christ, and nothing real but Mind. Matter and sickness are subjective states of error, delusions which can be dispelled by the mental process of a true knowledge of God and Christ, or Christian science. Ordinary medical science using drugs, &c. is therefore irrelevant; spiritual treatment is the only cure of what is really mental error. Jesus himself healed by those means, which were therefore natural and not miraculous, and promised that those who believed should do curative works like his. In 1876 a Christian Scientist Association was organized. Mrs Eddy had published in the preceding year a book entitled Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, which has gone through countless editions and is the gospel of Christian Science. In 1879 she became the pastor of a “Church of Christ, Scientist,” in Boston, and also founded there the “Massachusetts Metaphysical College” (1881; closed 1889) for the furtherance of her tenets. The first denominational chapel outside Boston was built at Oconto, Wisconsin, in 1886; and in 1894 (enlarged and reconstructed in 1906) a great memorial church was erected in Boston. Mrs Eddy's publications also include Retrospection and Introspection (1891), Unity of Good and Unreality of Evil (1887), Rudimental Divine Science (1891), Christian Healing (1886), &c. The progress of the cult of Christian Science has been remarkable, and by the beginning of the 20th century many hundreds of Christian Science churches had been established; and the new religion found many adherents also in England. A purely local and congregational form of government was adopted, but Christian Scientists naturally looked to the mother church in Boston, with Mrs Eddy as its guiding influence, as their centre. A monthly magazine, The Christian Science Journal (founded in 1883), and the weekly Christian Science Sentinel are published officially in Boston.

The profession of the paid Christian Science “healer” has been very prominent in recent years both in America and in England; and very remarkable successes have been claimed for the treatment. In some serious cases of death after illness, where a coroner's inquest has shown that the only medical attendancewas that of a Christian Science “healer,” the question of criminal responsibility has been prominently canvassed; but an indictment in England against a healer for manslaughter in 1906 resulted in an acquittal. The theosophic and the medical aspects of Christian Science may perhaps be distinguished; the latter at all events is open to grave abuse. But the modern reaction in medical practice against drugs, and the increased study of the subject of “suggestion,” have done much to encourage a belief in faith-healing and in “psychotherapy” generally. In 1908, indeed, a separate movement (Emmanuel), inspired by the success of Christian Science, and also emanating from America, was started within the Anglican Communion, its object being to bring prayer to work en the curing of disease; and this movement obtained the approval of many leaders of the church in England.

An “authorized” Life of Mrs Eddy, by Sibyl Wilbur (1908), deals with the subject acceptably to her disciples. Georgine Milmine's Life of M. B. G. Eddy, and History of Christian Science (1909), though not so acceptable, is a judicious critical account. A detailed indictment against the whole system, by a competent English doctor (Stephen Paget), will be found in The Faith and Works of Christian Science (1909).