Christian Science/Chapter VIII
I think that any one who will carefully examine the By-laws (I have placed all of the important ones before the reader), will arrive at the conclusion that of late years the master-passion in Mrs. Eddy's heart is a hunger for power and glory; and that while her hunger for money still remains, she wants it now for the expansion and extension it can furnish to that power and glory, rather than what it can do for her towards satisfying minor and meaner ambitions.
I wish to enlarge a little upon this matter. I think it is quite clear that the reason why Mrs. Eddy has concentrated in herself all powers, all distinctions, all revenues that are within the command of the Christian Science Church Universal is that she desires and intends to devote them to the purpose just suggested—the upbuilding of her personal glory—hers, and no one else's; that, and the continuing of her name's glory after she shall have passed away. If she has overlooked a single power, howsoever minute, I cannot discover it. If she has found one, large or small, which she has not seized and made her own, there is no record of it, no trace of it. In her foragings and depredations she usually puts forward the Mother-Church—a lay figure—and hides behind it. Whereas, she is in manifest reality the Mother-Church herself. It has an impressive array of officials, and committees, and Boards of Direction, of Education, of Lectureship, and so on—geldings, every one, shadows, spectres, apparitions, wax-figures: she is supreme over them all, she can abolish them when she will; blow them out as she would a candle. She is herself the Mother-Church. Now there is one By-law which says that the Mother-Church:
"shall be officially controlled by no other church."
That does not surprise us—we know by the rest of the By-laws that that is a quite irrelevant remark. Yet we do vaguely and hazily wonder why she takes the trouble to say it; why she wastes the words; what her object can be—seeing that that emergency has been in so many, many ways, and so effectively and drastically barred off and made impossible. Then presently the object begins to dawn upon us. That is, it does after we have read the rest of the By-law three or four times, wondering and admiring to see Mrs. Eddy—Mrs. Eddy—Mrs. Eddy, of all persons—throwing away power!—making a fair exchange—doing a fair thing for once more, an almost generous thing! Then we look it through yet once more unsatisfied, a little suspicious—and find that it is nothing but a sly, thin make-believe, and that even the very title of it is a sarcasm and embodies a falsehood—"self" government:
"Local Self-Government. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, shall assume no official control of other churches of this denomination. It shall be officially controlled by no other church."
It has a most pious and deceptive give-and-take air of perfect fairness, unselfishness, magnanimity—almost godliness, indeed. But it is all art.
In the By-laws, Mrs. Eddy, speaking by the mouth of her other self, the Mother-Church, proclaims that she will assume no official control of other churches-branch churches. We examine the other By-laws, and they answer some important questions for us:
1. What is a branch Church? It is a body of Christian Scientists, organized in the one and only permissible way—by a member, in good standing, of the Mother-Church, and who is also a pupil of one of Mrs. Eddy's accredited students. That is to say, one of her properties. No other can do it. There are other indispensable requisites; what are they?
2. The new Church cannot enter upon its functions until its members have individually signed, and pledged allegiance to, a Creed furnished by Mrs. Eddy.
3. They are obliged to study her books, and order their lives by them. And they must read no outside religious works.
4. They must sing the hymns and pray the prayers provided by her, and use no others in the services, except by her permission.
5. They cannot have preachers and pastors. Her law.
6. In their Church they must have two Readers—a man and a woman.
7. They must read the services framed and appointed by her.
8. She—not the branch Church—appoints those Readers.
9. She—not the branch Church—dismisses them and fills the vacancies.
10. She can do this without consulting the branch Church, and without explaining.
11. The branch Church can have a religious lecture from time to time. By applying to Mrs. Eddy. There is no other way.
12. But the branch Church cannot select the lecturer. Mrs. Eddy does it.
13. The branch Church pays his fee.
14. The harnessing of all Christian Science wedding-teams, members of the branch Church, must be done by duly authorized and consecrated Christian Science functionaries. Her factory is the only one that makes and licenses them.
[15. Nothing is said about christenings. It is inferable from this that a Christian Science child is born a Christian Scientist and requires no tinkering.]
[16. Nothing is said about funerals. It is inferable, then, that a branch Church is privileged to do in that matter as it may choose.]
To sum up. Are any important Church-functions absent from the list? I cannot call any to mind. Are there any lacking ones whose exercise could make the branch in any noticeable way independent of the Mother. Church?—even in any trifling degree? I think of none. If the named functions were abolished would there still be a Church left? Would there be even a shadow of a Church left? Would there be anything at all left? even the bare name?
Manifestly not. There isn't a single vital and essential Church-function of any kind, that is not named in the list. And over every one of them the Mother-Church has permanent and unchallengeable control, upon every one of them Mrs. Eddy has set her irremovable grip. She holds, in perpetuity, autocratic and indisputable sovereignty and control over every branch Church in the earth; and yet says, in that sugary, naive, angel-beguiling way of hers, that the Mother-Church:
"shall assume no official control of other churches of this denomination."
Whereas in truth the unmeddled-with liberties of a branch Christian Science Church are but very, very few in number, and are these:
1. It can appoint its own furnace-stoker, winters. 2. It can appoint its own fan-distributors, summers. 3. It can, in accordance with its own choice in the matter, burn, bury, or preserve members who are pretending to be dead—whereas there is no such thing as death. 4. It can take up a collection.
The branch Churches have no important liberties, none that give them an important voice in their own affairs. Those are all locked up, and Mrs. Eddy has the key. "Local Self-Government" is a large name and sounds well; but the branch Churches have no more of it than have the privates in the King of Dahomey's army.
Mrs. Eddy, with an envious and admiring eye upon the solitary and rivalless and world-shadowing majesty of St. Peter's, reveals in her By-laws her purpose to set the Mother-Church apart by itself in a stately seclusion and make it duplicate that lone sublimity under the Western sky. The By-law headed "Mother-Church Unique" says—
"In its relation to other Christian Science churches, the Mother-Church stands alone.
"It occupies a position that no other Church can fill.
"Then for a branch Church to assume such position would be disastrous to Christian Science,
Therefore no branch Church is allowed to have branches. There shall be no Christian Science St. Peter's in the earth but just one—the Mother-Church in Boston.
"NO FIRST MEMBERS"
But for the thoughtful By-law thus entitled, every Science branch in the earth would imitate the Mother-Church and set up an aristocracy. Every little group of ground-floor Smiths and Furgusons and Shadwells and Simpsons that organized a branch would assume that great title, of "First Members," along with its vast privileges of "discussing" the weather and casting blank ballots, and soon there would be such a locust-plague of them burdening the globe that the title would lose its value and have to be abolished.
But where business and glory are concerned, Mrs. Eddy thinks of everything, and so she did not fail to take care of her Aborigines, her stately and exclusive One Hundred, her college of functionless cardinals, her Sanhedrin of Privileged Talkers (Limited). After taking away all the liberties of the branch Churches, and in the same breath disclaiming all official control over their affairs, she smites them on the mouth with this—the very mouth that was watering for those nobby ground-floor honors—
"No First Members. Branch Churches shall not organize with First Members, that special method of organization being adapted to the Mother-Church alone."
And so, first members being prohibited, we pierce through the cloud of Mrs. Eddy's English and perceive that they must then necessarily organize with Subsequent Members. There is no other way. It will occur to them by-and-by to found an aristocracy of Early Subsequent Members. There is no By-law against it.
I uncover to that imperial word. And to the mind, too, that conceived the idea of seizing and monopolizing it as a title. I believe it is Mrs. Eddy's dazzlingest invention. For show, and style, and grandeur, and thunder and lightning and fireworks it outclasses all the previous inventions of man, and raises the limit on the Pope. He can never put his avid hand on that word of words—it is pre-empted. And copyrighted, of course. It lifts the Mother-Church away up in the sky, and fellowships it with the rare and select and exclusive little company of the THE's of deathless glory—persons and things whereof history and the ages could furnish only single examples, not two: the Saviour, the Virgin, the Milky Way, the Bible, the Earth, the Equator, the Devil, the Missing Link—and now The First Church, Scientist. And by clamor of edict and By-law Mrs. Eddy gives personal notice to all branch Scientist Churches on this planet to leave that THE alone.
She has demonstrated over it and made it sacred to the Mother-Church:
"The article 'The' must not be used before the titles of branch Churches—
"Nor written on applications for membership in naming such churches."
Those are the terms. There can and will be a million First Churches of Christ, Scientist, scattered over the world, in a million towns and villages and hamlets and cities, and each may call itself (suppressing the article), "First Church of Christ. Scientist"—it is permissible, and no harm; but there is only one The Church of Christ, Scientist, and there will never be another. And whether that great word fall in the middle of a sentence or at the beginning of it, it must always have its capital T.
I do not suppose that a juvenile passion for fussy little worldly shows and vanities can furnish a match to this, anywhere in the history of the nursery. Mrs. Eddy does seem to be a shade fonder of little special distinctions and pomps than is usual with human beings.
She instituted that immodest "The" with her own hand; she did not wait for somebody else to think of it.
A LIFE-TERM MONOPOLY
There is but one human Pastor in the whole Christian Science world; she reserves that exalted place to herself.
A PERPETUAL ONE
There is but one other object in the whole Christian Science world honored with that title and holding that office: it is her book, the Annex—permanent Pastor of The First Church, and of all branch Churches.
With her own hand she draughted the By-laws which make her the only really absolute sovereign that lives to-day in Christendom.
She does not allow any objectionable pictures to be exhibited in the room where her book is sold, nor any indulgence in idle gossip there; and from the general look of that By-law I judge that a lightsome and improper person can be as uncomfortable in that place as he could be in heaven.
THE SANCTUM SANCTORUM AND SACRED CHAIR
In a room in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, there is a museum of objects which have attained to holiness through contact with Mrs. Eddy—among them an electrically lighted oil-picture of a chair which she used to sit in—and disciples from all about the world go softly in there, in restricted groups, under proper guard, and reverently gaze upon those relics. It is worship. Mrs. Eddy could stop it if she was not fond of it, for her sovereignty over that temple is supreme.
The fitting-up of that place as a shrine is not an accident, nor a casual, unweighed idea; it is imitated from age—old religious custom. In Treves the pilgrim reverently gazes upon the Seamless Robe, and humbly worships; and does the same in that other continental church where they keep a duplicate; and does likewise in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, where memorials of the Crucifixion are preserved; and now, by good fortune we have our Holy Chair and things, and a market for our adorations nearer home.
But is there not a detail that is new, fresh, original? Yes, whatever old thing Mrs. Eddy touches gets something new by the contact—something not thought of before by any one—something original, all her own, and copyrightable. The new feature is self worship—exhibited in permitting this shrine to be installed during her lifetime, and winking her sacred eye at it.
A prominent Christian Scientist has assured me that the Scientists do not worship Mrs. Eddy, and I think it likely that there may be five or six of the cult in the world who do not worship her, but she herself is certainly not of that company. Any healthy-minded person who will examine Mrs. Eddy's little Autobiography and the Manual of By-laws written by her will be convinced that she worships herself; and that she brings to this service a fervor of devotion surpassing even that which she formerly laid at the feet of the Dollar, and equalling any which rises to the Throne of Grace from any quarter.
I think this is as good a place as any to salve a hurt which I was the means of inflicting upon a Christian Scientist lately. The first third of this book was written in 1899 in Vienna. Until last summer I had supposed that that third had been printed in a book which I published about a year later—a hap which had not happened. I then sent the chapters composing it to the North American Review, but failed in one instance, to date them. And so, in an undated chapter I said a lady told me "last night" so and so. There was nothing to indicate to the reader that that "last night" was several years old, therefore the phrase seemed to refer to a night of very recent date. What the lady had told me was, that in a part of the Mother-Church in Boston she had seen Scientists worshipping a portrait of Mrs. Eddy before which a light was kept constantly burning.
A Scientist came to me and wished me to retract that "untruth." He said there was no such portrait, and that if I wanted to be sure of it I could go to Boston and see for myself. I explained that my "last night" meant a good while ago; that I did not doubt his assertion that there was no such portrait there now, but that I should continue to believe it had been there at the time of the lady's visit until she should retract her statement herself. I was at no time vouching for the truth of the remark, nevertheless I considered it worth par.
And yet I am sorry the lady told me, since a wound which brings me no happiness has resulted. I am most willing to apply such salve as I can. The best way to set the matter right and make everything pleasant and agreeable all around will be to print in this place a description of the shrine as it appeared to a recent visitor, Mr. Frederick W. Peabody, of Boston. I will copy his newspaper account, and the reader will see that Mrs. Eddy's portrait is not there now:
"We lately stood on the threshold of the Holy of Holies of the Mother-Church, and with a crowd of worshippers patiently waited for admittance to the hallowed precincts of the 'Mother's Room.' Over the doorway was a sign informing us that but four persons at a time would be admitted; that they would be permitted to remain but five minutes only, and would please retire from the 'Mother's Room' at the ringing of the bell. Entering with three of the faithful, we looked with profane eyes upon the consecrated furnishings. A show-woman in attendance monotonously announced the character of the different appointments. Set in a recess of the wall and illumined with electric light was an oil-painting the show-woman seriously declared to be a lifelike and realistic picture of the Chair in which the Mother sat when she composed her 'inspired' work. It was a picture of an old-fashioned? country, hair cloth rocking-chair, and an exceedingly commonplace-looking table with a pile of manuscript, an ink-bottle, and pen conspicuously upon it. On the floor were sheets of manuscript. 'The mantel-piece is of pure onyx,' continued the show-woman, 'and the beehive upon the window-sill is made from one solid block of onyx; the rug is made of a hundred breasts of eider-down ducks, and the toilet-room you see in the corner is of the latest design, with gold-plated drain-pipes; the painted windows are from the Mother's poem, "Christ and Christmas," and that case contains complete copies of all the Mother's books.' The chairs upon which the sacred person of the Mother had reposed were protected from sacrilegious touch by a broad band of satin ribbon. My companions expressed their admiration in subdued and reverent tones, and at the tinkling of the bell we reverently tiptoed out of the room to admit another delegation of the patient waiters at the door."
Now, then, I hope the wound is healed. I am willing to relinquish the portrait, and compromise on the Chair. At the same time, if I were going to worship either, I should not choose the Chair.
As a picturesquely and persistently interesting personage, there is no mate to Mrs. Eddy, the accepted Equal of the Saviour. But some of her tastes are so different from His! I find it quite impossible to imagine Him, in life, standing sponsor for that museum there, and taking pleasure in its sumptuous shows. I believe He would put that Chair in the fire, and the bell along with it; and I think He would make the show-woman go away. I think He would break those electric bulbs, and the "mantel-piece of pure onyx," and say reproachful things about the golden drain-pipes of the lavatory, and give the costly rug of duck-breasts to the poor, and sever the satin ribbon and invite the weary to rest and ease their aches in the consecrated chairs. What He would do with the painted windows we can better conjecture when we come presently to examine their peculiarities.
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE PASTOR-UNIVERSAL
When Mrs. Eddy turned the pastors out of all the Christian Science churches and abolished the office for all time as far as human occupancy is concerned—she appointed the Holy Ghost to fill their place. If this language be blasphemous, I did not invent the blasphemy, I am merely stating a fact. I will quote from page 227 of Science and Health (edition 1899), as a first step towards an explanation of this startling matter—a passage which sets forth and classifies the Christian Science Trinity:
"Life, Truth, and Love constitute the triune God, or triply divine Principle. They represent a trinity in unity, three in one—the same in essence, though multiform in office: God the Father; Christ the type of Sonship; Divine Science, or the Holy Comforter....
"The Holy Ghost, or Spirit, reveals this triune Principle, and (the Holy Ghost) is expressed in Divine Science, which is the Comforter, leading into all Truth, and revealing the divine Principle of the universe—universal and perpetual harmony."
I will cite another passage. Speaking of Jesus—
"His students then received the Holy Ghost. By this is meant, that by all they had witnessed and suffered they were roused to an enlarged understanding of Divine Science, even to the spiritual interpretation.. ... of His teachings," etc.
Also, page 579, in the chapter called the Glossary:
"HOLY GHOST. Divine Science; the developments of Life, Truth, and Love."
The Holy Ghost reveals the massed spirit of the fused trinity; this massed spirit is expressed in Divine Science, and is the Comforter; Divine Science conveys to men the "spiritual interpretation" of the Saviour's teachings. That seems to be the meaning of the quoted passages.
Divine Science is Christian Science; the book "Science and Health" is a "revelation" of the whole spirit of the Trinity, and is therefore "The Holy Ghost"; it conveys to men the "spiritual interpretation" of the Bible's teachings and therefore is "the Comforter."
I do not find this analyzing work easy, I would rather saw wood; and a person can never tell whether he has added up a Science and Health sum right or not, anyway, after all his trouble. Neither can he easily find out whether the texts are still on the market or have been discarded from the Book; for two hundred and fifty-eight editions of it have been issued, and no two editions seem to be alike. The annual changes—in technical terminology; in matter and wording; in transpositions of chapters and verses; in leaving out old chapters and verses and putting in new ones—seem to be next to innumerable, and as there is no index, there is no way to find a thing one wants without reading the book through. If ever I inspire a Bible-Annex I will not rush at it in a half-digested, helter-skelter way and have to put in thirty-eight years trying to get some of it the way I want it, I will sit down and think it out and know what it is I want to say before I begin. An inspirer cannot inspire for Mrs. Eddy and keep his reputation. I have never seen such slipshod work, bar the ten that interpreted for the home market the "sell all thou hast." I have quoted one "spiritual" rendering of the Lord's Prayer, I have seen one other one, and am told there are five more. Yet the inspirer of Mrs. Eddy the new Infallible casts a complacent critical stone at the other Infallible for being unable to make up its mind about such things. Science and Health, edition 1899, page 33:
"The decisions, by vote of Church Councils, as to what should and should not be considered Holy Writ, the manifest mistakes in the ancient versions: the thirty thousand different readings in the Old Testament and the three hundred thousand in the New—these facts show how a mortal and material sense stole into the divine record, darkening, to some extent, the inspired pages with its own hue."
To some extent, yes—speaking cautiously. But it is nothing, really nothing; Mrs. Eddy is only a little way behind, and if her inspirer lives to get her Annex to suit him that Catholic record will have to "go 'way back and set down," as the ballad says. Listen to the boastful song of Mrs. Eddy's organ, the Christian Science Journal for March, 1902, about that year's revamping and half-soling of Science and Health, whose official name is the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and who is now the Official Pastor and Infallible and Unerring Guide of every Christian Science church in the two hemispheres, hear Simple Simon that met the pieman brag of the Infallible's fallibility:
"Throughout the entire book the verbal changes are so numerous as to indicate the vast amount of time and labor Mrs. Eddy has devoted to this revision. The time and labor thus bestowed is relatively as great as that of—the committee who revised the Bible.... Thus we have additional evidence of the herculean efforts our beloved Leader has made and is constantly making for the promulgation of Truth and the furtherance of her divinely bestowed mission," etc.
It is a steady job. I could help inspire if desired; I am not doing much now, and would work for half-price, and should not object to the country.
PRICE OF THE PASTOR-UNIVERSAL
The price of the Pastor-Universal, Science and Health, called in Science literature the Comforter—and by that other sacred Name—is three dollars in cloth, as heretofore, six when it is finely bound, and shaped to imitate the Testament, and is broken into verses. Margin of profit above cost of manufacture, from five hundred to seven hundred per cent., as already noted In the profane subscription-trade, it costs the publisher heavily to canvass a three-dollar book; he must pay the general agent sixty per cent. commission—that is to say, one dollar and eighty-cents. Mrs. Eddy escapes this blistering tax, because she owns the Christian Science canvasser, and can compel him to work for nothing. Read the following command—not request—fulminated by Mrs. Eddy, over her signature, in the Christian Science Journal for March, 1897, and quoted by Mr. Peabody in his book. The book referred to is Science and Health:
"It shall be the duty of all Christian Scientists to circulate and to sell as many of these books as they can."
That is flung at all the elect, everywhere that the sun shines, but no penalty is shaken over their heads to scare them. The same command was issued to the members (numbering to-day twenty-five thousand) of The Mother-Church, also, but with it went a threat, of the infliction, in case of disobedience, of the most dreaded punishment that has a place in the Church's list of penalties for transgressions of Mrs. Eddy's edicts—excommunication:
"If a member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, shall fail to obey this injunction, it will render him liable to lose his membership in this Church. MARY BAKER EDDY."
It is the spirit of the Spanish Inquisition.
None but accepted and well established gods can venture an affront like that and do it with confidence. But the human race will take anything from that class. Mrs. Eddy knows the human race; knows it better than any mere human being has known it in a thousand centuries. My confidence in her human-beingship is getting shaken, my confidence in her godship is stiffening.
SEVEN HUNDRED PER CENT.
A Scientist out West has visited a bookseller—with intent to find fault with me—and has brought away the information that the price at which Mrs. Eddy sells Science and Health is not an unusually high one for the size and make of the book. That is true. But in the book-trade—that profit-devourer unknown to Mrs. Eddy's book—a three-dollar book that is made for thirty-five or forty cents in large editions is put at three dollars because the publisher has to pay author, middleman, and advertising, and if the price were much below three the profit accruing would not pay him fairly for his time and labor. At the same time, if he could get ten dollars for the book he would take it, and his morals would not fall under criticism.
But if he were an inspired person commissioned by the Deity to receive and print and spread broadcast among sorrowing and suffering and poor men a precious message of healing and cheer and salvation, he would have to do as Bible Societies do—sell the book at a pinched margin above cost to such as could pay, and give it free to all that couldn't; and his name would be praised. But if he sold it at seven hundred per cent. profit and put the money in his pocket, his name would be mocked and derided. Just as Mrs. Eddy's is. And most justifiably, as it seems to me.
The complete Bible contains one million words. The New Testament by itself contains two hundred and forty thousand words.
My '84 edition of Science and Health contains one hundred and twenty thousand words—just half as many as the New Testament.
Science and Health has since been so inflated by later inspirations that the 1902 edition contains one hundred and eighty thousand words—not counting the thirty thousand at the back, devoted by Mrs. Eddy to advertising the book's healing abilities—and the inspiring continues right along.
If you have a book whose market is so sure and so great that you can give a printer an everlasting order for thirty or forty or fifty thousand copies a year he will furnish them at a cheap rate, because whenever there is a slack time in his press-room and bindery he can fill the idle intervals on your book and be making something instead of losing. That is the kind of contract that can be let on Science and Health every year. I am obliged to doubt that the three-dollar Science and Health costs Mrs. Eddy above fifteen cents, or that the six dollar copy costs her above eighty cents. I feel quite sure that the average profit to her on these books, above cost of manufacture, is all of seven hundred per cent.
Every proper Christian Scientist has to buy and own (and canvass for) Science and Health (one hundred and eighty thousand words), and he must also own a Bible (one million words). He can buy the one for from three to six dollars, and the other for fifteen cents. Or, if three dollars is all the money he has, he can get his Bible for nothing. When the Supreme Being disseminates a saving Message through uninspired agents—the New Testament, for instance—it can be done for five cents a copy, but when He sends one containing only two-thirds as many words through the shop of a Divine Personage, it costs sixty times as much. I think that in matters of such importance it is bad economy to employ a wild-cat agency.
Here are some figures which are perfectly authentic, and which seem to justify my opinion.
"These [Bible] societies, inspired only by a sense of religious duty, are issuing the Bible at a price so small that they have made it the cheapest book printed. For example, the American Bible Society offers an edition of the whole Bible as low as fifteen cents and the New Testament at five cents, and the British Society at sixpence and one penny, respectively. These low prices, made possible by their policy of selling the books at cost or below cost," etc.—New York Sun, February 25, 1903.