Biography of Messiahs and Prophets Mary Baker Eddy Part 1

About the famous religious figure Mary Baker Eddy, biography and history of the founder of Christian Science.


MARY BAKER EDDY (1821-1910)

Out of a life marked by illness and the death of loved ones. Mary Baker Eddy developed an elaborate metaphysical religion which denied not only the reality of pain but the existence of the grave. She called it Christian Science.

Born Mary Morse Baker in Bow, N.H., in 1821, she was a child of the starchy, repressed world of Victorian New England. She poured her innermost feelings into florid verse, suffered from nervous seizures, and was sick most of the time. Her childhood was shaped by a strict, authoritarian father and by a mother who believed her daughter had been divinely touched while still in the womb, and they treated her accordingly. When the regimen of regular schooling proved too much for Mary's frail constitution, her education was continued at home.

Pampering, however, did not prepare her for a series of personal tragedies. While still a young woman she buried her mother, a doting older brother, a fiance, and her husband of one year. Her infant son was handed over to friends to raise. Her next marriage was to a philandering itinerant dentist-a union which caused Mary further mental and physical anguish due to her husband' general absence. Between bouts of invalidism brought on by a mysterious spinal condition, she taught school, had several poems and essays published locally, and shared New England's fascination with spiritualism, mesmerism, health fads, and miracle cures.

In 1862 she responded to an advertising circular issued by one Phineas Parkhurst Quimby of Portland, Me. Quimby was a journeyman clockmaker who practiced hypnotism in front of audiences, attracting considerable attention by effecting some dramatic-if temporary-cures on volunteer patients. The future Mrs. Eddy was an incredibly receptive subject. She later said she began to feel relief even before opening the door to his office. She became Quimby's adoring disciple. In her letters over the next three years, she called him "Christ" and "Lord," and referred to his ministrations as "angel visits." Years later, as head of her own church, she would dismiss him as "a primitive mesmerist." But at the time, she lectured in his behalf, edited his papers, and wrote Byronic odes to Quimby's greater glory for the local newspapers.

Quimby taught an arcane theory which postulated that magnetic forces and nervous fluids affected one's physical health and moral attitude. He attributed this to the power of the mind over the body, and he believed his method of direct healing to be the one Jesus had used in performing the miracles recorded in the New Testament. He referred to his nascent theory as the "science of health," and sometimes as "Christian science."

Quimby died in the winter of 1866 of a longignored internal tumor. Mary was inconsolable. Several days later she slipped on an icy street in Lynn, Mass., and spent the next three days in a semiconscious, spasm-wracked state. Much to the surprise of the attending physician, she got up from bed on the third day, to all appearances recovered from her injuries. She accomplished this apparent miracle, she said, by concentrating on certain Bible verses.

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