Figuratively speaking, Mrs. Eddy is already as tall as the Eiffel tower. She is adding surprisingly to her stature every day. It is quite within the probabilities that a century hence she will be the most imposing figure that has cast its shadow across the globe since the inauguration of our era. I grant that after saying these strong things, it is necessary that I offer some details calculated to satisfactorily demonstrate the proportions which I have claimed for her. I will do that presently; but before exhibiting the matured sequoia gigantea, I believe it will be best to exhibit the sprout from which it sprang. It may save the reader from making miscalculations. The person who imagines that a Big Tree sprout is bigger than other kinds of sprouts is quite mistaken. It is the ordinary thing; it makes no show, it compels no notice, it hasn't a detectible quality in it that entitles it to attention, or suggests the future giant its sap is suckling. That is the kind of sprout Mrs. Eddy was.
From her childhood days up to where she was running a half-century a close race and gaining on it, she was most humanly commonplace.
She is the witness I am drawing this from. She has revealed it in her autobiography not intentionally, of course—I am not claiming that. An autobiography is the most treacherous thing there is. It lets out every secret its author is trying to keep; it lets the truth shine unobstructed through every harmless little deception he tries to play; it pitilessly exposes him as a tin hero worshipping himself as Big Metal every time he tries to do the modest-unconsciousness act before the reader. This is not guessing; I am speaking from autobiographical personal experience; I was never able to refrain from mentioning, with a studied casualness that could deceive none but the most incautious reader, that an ancestor of mine was sent ambassador to Spain by Charles I., nor that in a remote branch of my family there exists a claimant to an earldom, nor that an uncle of mine used to own a dog that was descended from the dog that was in the Ark; and at the same time I was never able to persuade myself to call a gibbet by its right name when accounting for other ancestors of mine, but always spoke of it as the "platform"—puerilely intimating that they were out lecturing when it happened.
It is Mrs. Eddy over again. As regards her minor half, she is as commonplace as the rest of us. Vain of trivial things all the first half of her life, and still vain of them at seventy and recording them with naive satisfaction—even rescuing some early rhymes of hers of the sort that we all scribble in the innocent days of our youth—rescuing them and printing them without pity or apology, just as the weakest and commonest of us do in our gray age. More—she still frankly admires them; and in her introduction of them profanely confers upon them the holy name of "poetry." Sample:
"And laud the land whose talents rock The cradle of her power, And wreaths are twined round Plymouth Rock From erudition's bower."
"Minerva's silver sandals still Are loosed and not effete."
You note it is not a shade above the thing which all human beings churn out in their youth.
You would not think that in a little wee primer—for that is what the Autobiography is—a person with a tumultuous career of seventy years behind her could find room for two or three pages of padding of this kind, but such is the case. She evidently puts narrative together with difficulty and is not at home in it, and is glad to have something ready-made to fill in with. Another sample:
"Here fame-honored Hickory rears his bold form, And bears a brave breast to the lightning and storm, While Palm, Bay, and Laurel in classical glee, Chase Tulip, Magnolia, and fragrant Fringe-tree."
Vivid? You can fairly see those trees galloping around. That she could still treasure up, and print, and manifestly admire those Poems, indicates that the most daring and masculine and masterful woman that has appeared in the earth in centuries has the same soft, girly-girly places in her that the rest of us have.
When it comes to selecting her ancestors she is still human, natural, vain, commonplace—as commonplace as I am myself when I am sorting ancestors for my autobiography. She combs out some creditable Scots, and labels them and sets them aside for use, not overlooking the one to whom Sir William Wallace gave "a heavy sword encased in a brass scabbard," and naively explaining which Sir William Wallace it was, lest we get the wrong one by the hassock; this is the one "from whose patriotism and bravery comes that heart-stirring air, 'Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled.'" Hannah More was related to her ancestors. She explains who Hannah More was.
Whenever a person informs us who Sir William Wallace was, or who wrote "Hamlet," or where the Declaration of Independence was fought, it fills us with a suspicion wellnigh amounting to conviction, that that person would not suspect us of being so empty of knowledge if he wasn't suffering from the same "claim" himself. Then we turn to page 20 of the Autobiography and happen upon this passage, and that hasty suspicion stands rebuked:
"I gained book-knowledge with far less labor than is usually requisite. At ten years of age I was as familiar with Lindley Murray's Grammar as with the Westminster Catechism; and the latter I had to repeat every Sunday. My favorite studies were Natural Philosophy, Logic, and Moral Science. From my brother Albert I received lessons in the ancient tongues, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin."
You catch your breath in astonishment, and feel again and still again the pang of that rebuke. But then your eye falls upon the next sentence but one, and the pain passes away and you set up the suspicion again with evil satisfaction:
"After my discovery of Christian Science, most of the knowledge I had gleaned from school-books vanished like a dream."
That disappearance accounts for much in her miscellaneous writings. As I was saying, she handles her "ancestral shadows," as she calls them, just as I do mine. It is remarkable. When she runs across "a relative of my Grandfather Baker, General Henry Knox, of Revolutionary fame," she sets him down; when she finds another good one, "the late Sir John Macneill, in the line of my Grandfather Baker's family," she sets him down, and remembers that he "was prominent in British politics, and at one time held the position of ambassador to Persia"; when she discovers that her grandparents "were likewise connected with Captain John Lovewell, whose gallant leadership and death in the Indian troubles of 1722-25 caused that prolonged contest to be known historically as Lovewell's War," she sets the Captain down; when it turns out that a cousin of her grandmother "was John Macneill, the New Hampshire general, who fought at Lundy's Lane and won distinction in 1814 at the battle of Chippewa," she catalogues the General. (And tells where Chippewa was.) And then she skips all her platform people; never mentions one of them. It shows that she is just as human as any of us.
Yet, after all, there is something very touching in her pride in these worthy small-fry, and something large and fine in her modesty in not caring to remember that their kinship to her can confer no distinction upon her, whereas her mere mention of their names has conferred upon them a faceless earthly immortality.
When she wrote this little biography her great life-work had already been achieved, she was become renowned; to multitudes of reverent disciples she was a sacred personage, a familiar of God, and His inspired channel of communication with the human race. Also, to them these following things were facts, and not doubted:
She had written a Bible in middle age, and had published it; she had recast it, enlarged it, and published it again; she had not stopped there, but had enlarged it further, polished its phrasing, improved its form, and published it yet again. It was at last become a compact, grammatical, dignified, and workman-like body of literature. This was good training, persistent training; and in all arts it is training that brings the art to perfection. We are now confronted with one of the most teasing and baffling riddles of Mrs. Eddy's history—a riddle which may be formulated thus:
How is it that a primitive literary gun which began as a hundred-yard flint-lock smooth-bore muzzle-loader, and in the course of forty years has acquired one notable improvement after another—percussion cap; fixed cartridge; rifled barrel; efficiency at half a mile how is it that such a gun, sufficiently good on an elephant hunt (Christian Science) from the beginning, and growing better and better all the time during forty years, has always collapsed back to its original flint-lock estate the moment the huntress trained it on any other creature than an elephant?
Something more than a generation ago Mrs. Eddy went out with her flint-lock on the rabbit range; and this was a part of the result:
"After his decease, and a severe casualty deemed fatal by skilful physicians, we discovered that the Principle of all healing and the law that governs it is God, a divine Principle, and a spiritual not material law, and regained health."—Preface to Science and Health, first revision, 1883.
N.B. Not from the book itself; from the Preface.
You will notice the awkwardness of that English. If you should carry that paragraph up to the Supreme Court of the United States in order to find out for good and all whether the fatal casualty happened to the dead man—as the paragraph almost asserts—or to some person or persons not even hinted at in the paragraph, the Supreme Court would be obliged to say that the evidence established nothing with certainty except that there had been a casualty—victim not known.
The context thinks it explains who the victim was, but it does nothing of the kind. It furnishes some guessing-material of a sort which enables you to infer that it was "we" that suffered the mentioned injury, but if you should carry the language to a court you would not be able to prove that it necessarily meant that. "We" are Mrs. Eddy; a funny little affectation. She replaced it later with the more dignified third person.
The quoted paragraph is from Mrs. Eddy's preface to the first revision of Science and Health (1883). Sixty-four pages further along—in the body of the book (the elephant-range), she went out with that same flint-lock and got this following result. Its English is very nearly as straight and clean and competent as is the English of the latest revision of Science and Health after the gun has been improved from smooth-bore musket up to globe-sighted, long distance rifle:
"Man controlled by his Maker has no physical suffering. His body is harmonious, his days are multiplying instead of diminishing, he is journeying towards Life instead of death, and bringing out the new man and crucifying the old affections, cutting them off in every material direction until he learns the utter supremacy of Spirit and yields obedience thereto."
In the latest revision of Science and Health (1902), the perfected gun furnishes the following. The English is clean, compact, dignified, almost perfect. But it is observable that it is not prominently better than it is in the above paragraph, which was a product of the primitive flint-lock:
"How unreasonable is the belief that we are wearing out life and hastening to death, and at the same time we are communing with immortality? If the departed are in rapport with mortality, or matter, they are not spiritual, but must still be mortal, sinful, suffering, and dying. Then wherefore look to them—even were communication possible —for proofs of immortality and accept them as oracles?"—Edition of 1902, page 78.
With the above paragraphs compare these that follow. It is Mrs. Eddy writing—after a good long twenty years of pen-practice. Compare also with the alleged Poems already quoted. The prominent characteristic of the Poems is affectation, artificiality; their makeup is a complacent and pretentious outpour of false figures and fine writing, in the sophomoric style. The same qualities and the same style will be found, unchanged, unbettered, in these following paragraphs—after a lapse of more than fifty years, and after—as aforesaid—long literary training. The italics are mine:
1. "What plague spot or bacilli were [sic] gnawing [sic] at the heart of this metropolis . . . and bringing it [the heart] on bended knee? Why, it was an institute that had entered its vitals—that, among other things, taught games," et cetera.—C.S. Journal, p. 670, article entitled "A Narrative—by Mary Baker G. Eddy."
2. "Parks sprang up [sic] . . . electric-cars run [sic] merrily through several streets, concrete sidewalks and macadamized roads dotted [sic] the place," et cetera.—Ibid.
3. "Shorn [sic] of its suburbs it had indeed little left to admire, save to [sic] such as fancy a skeleton above ground breathing [sic] slowly through a barren [sic] breast."—Ibid.
This is not English—I mean, grown-up English. But it is fifteen-year-old English, and has not grown a month since the same mind produced the Poems. The standard of the Poems and of the plague-spot-and-bacilli effort is exactly the same. It is most strange that the same intellect that worded the simple and self-contained and clean-cut paragraph beginning with "How unreasonable is the belief," should in the very same lustrum discharge upon the world such a verbal chaos as the utterance concerning that plague-spot or bacilli which were gnawing at the insides of the metropolis and bringing its heart on bended knee, thus exposing to the eye the rest of the skeleton breathing slowly through a barren breast.
The immense contrast between the legitimate English of Science and Health and the bastard English of Mrs. Eddy's miscellaneous work, and between the maturity of the one diction and the juvenility of the other, suggests—compels—the question, Are there two guns? It would seem so. Is there a poor, foolish, old, scattering flint-lock for rabbit, and a long-range, centre-driving, up-to-date Mauser-magazine for elephant? It looks like it. For it is observable that in Science and Health (the elephant-ground) the practice was good at the start and has remained so, and that the practice in the miscellaneous, outside, small-game field was very bad at the start and was never less bad at any later time.
I wish to say that of Mrs. Eddy I am not requiring perfect English, but only good English. No one can write perfect English and keep it up through a stretch of ten chapters. It has never been done. It was approached in the "well of English undefiled"; it has been approached in Mrs. Eddy's Annex to that Book; it has been approached in several English grammars; I have even approached it myself; but none of us has made port.
Now, the English of Science and Health is good. In passages to be found in Mrs. Eddy's Autobiography (on pages 53, 57, 101, and 113), and on page 6 of her squalid preface to Science and Health, first revision, she seems to me to claim the whole and sole authorship of the book. That she wrote the Autobiography, and that preface, and the Poems, and the Plague-spot-Bacilli, we are not permitted to doubt. Indeed, we know she wrote them. But the very certainty that she wrote these things compels a doubt that she wrote Science and Health. She is guilty of little awkwardnesses of expression in the Autobiography which a practiced pen would hardly allow to go uncorrected in even a hasty private letter, and could not dream of passing by uncorrected in passages intended for print. But she passes them placidly by; as placidly as if she did not suspect that they were offenses against third-class English. I think that that placidity was born of that very unawareness, so to speak. I will cite a few instances from the Autobiography. The italics are mine:
"I remember reading in my childhood certain manuscripts containing Scriptural Sonnets, besides other verses and enigmas," etc. Page 7.
[On page 27.] "Many pale cripples went into the Church leaning on crutches who came out carrying them on their shoulders."
It is awkward, because at the first glance it seems to say that the cripples went in leaning on crutches which went out carrying the cripples on their shoulders. It would have cost her no trouble to put her "who" after her "cripples." I blame her a little; I think her proof-reader should have been shot. We may let her capital C pass, but it is another awkwardness, for she is talking about a building, not about a religious society.
"Marriage and Parentage "[Chapter-heading. Page 30]. You imagine that she is going to begin a talk about her marriage and finish with some account of her father and mother. And so you will be deceived. "Marriage" was right, but "Parentage" was not the best word for the rest of the record. It refers to the birth of her own child. After a certain period of time "my babe was born." Marriage and Motherhood-Marriage and Maternity-Marriage and Product-Marriage and Dividend—either of these would have fitted the facts and made the matter clear.
"Without my knowledge he was appointed a guardian." Page 32.
She is speaking of her child. She means that a guardian for her child was appointed, but that isn't what she says.
"If spiritual conclusions are separated from their premises, the nexus is lost, and the argument with its rightful conclusions, becomes correspondingly obscure." Page 34.
We shall never know why she put the word "correspondingly" in there. Any fine, large word would have answered just as well: psychosuperintangibly —electroincandescently—oligarcheologically—sanchrosynchro- stereoptically—any of these would have answered, any of these would have filled the void.
"His spiritual noumenon and phenomenon silenced portraiture." Page 34.
Yet she says she forgot everything she knew, when she discovered Christian Science. I realize that noumenon is a daisy; and I will not deny that I shall use it whenever I am in a company which I think I can embarrass with it; but, at the same time, I think it is out of place among friends in an autobiography. There, I think a person ought not to have anything up his sleeve. It undermines confidence. But my dissatisfaction with the quoted passage is not on account of noumenon; it is on account of the misuse of the word "silenced." You cannot silence portraiture with a noumenon; if portraiture should make a noise, a way could be found to silence it, but even then it could not be done with a noumenon. Not even with a brick, some authorities think.
"It may be that the mortal life-battle still wages," etc. Page 35.
That is clumsy. Battles do not wage, battles are waged. Mrs. Eddy has one very curious and interesting peculiarity: whenever she notices that she is chortling along without saying anything, she pulls up with a sudden "God is over us all," or some other sounding irrelevancy, and for the moment it seems to light up the whole district; then, before you can recover from the shock, she goes flitting pleasantly and meaninglessly along again, and you hurry hopefully after her, thinking you are going to get something this time; but as soon as she has led you far enough away from her turkey lot she takes to a tree. Whenever she discovers that she is getting pretty disconnected, she couples-up with an ostentatious "But" which has nothing to do with anything that went before or is to come after, then she hitches some empties to the train-unrelated verses from the Bible, usually—and steams out of sight and leaves you wondering how she did that clever thing. For striking instances, see bottom paragraph on page 34 and the paragraph on page 35 of her Autobiography. She has a purpose—a deep and dark and artful purpose—in what she is saying in the first paragraph, and you guess what it is, but that is due to your own talent, not hers; she has made it as obscure as language could do it. The other paragraph has no meaning and no discoverable intention. It is merely one of her God-over-alls. I cannot spare room for it in this place.
"I beheld with ineffable awe our great Master's marvelous skill in demanding neither obedience to hygienic laws nor," etc. Page 41.
The word is loosely chosen-skill. She probably meant judgment, intuition, penetration, or wisdom.
"Naturally, my first jottings were but efforts to express in feeble diction Truth's ultimate." Page 42.
One understands what she means, but she should have been able to say what she meant—at any time before she discovered Christian Science and forgot everything she knew—and after it, too. If she had put "feeble" in front of "efforts" and then left out "in" and "diction," she would have scored.
" . . . its written expression increases in perfection under the guidance of the great Master." Page 43.
It is an error. Not even in those advantageous circumstances can increase be added to perfection.
"Evil is not mastered by evil; it can only be overcome with Good. This brings out the nothingness of evil, and the eternal Somethingness vindicates the Divine Principle and improves the race of Adam." Page 76.
This is too extraneous for me. That is the trouble with Mrs. Eddy when she sets out to explain an over-large exhibit: the minute you think the light is bursting upon you the candle goes out and your mind begins to wander.
"No one else can drain the cup which I have drunk to the dregs, as the discoverer and teacher of Christian Science" Page 47.
That is saying we cannot empty an empty cup. We knew it before; and we know she meant to tell us that that particular cup is going to remain empty. That is, we think that that was the idea, but we cannot be sure. She has a perfectly astonishing talent for putting words together in such a way as to make successful inquiry into their intention impossible.
She generally makes us uneasy when she begins to tune up on her fine-writing timbrel. It carries me back to her Plague-Spot and Poetry days, and I just dread those:
"Into mortal mind's material obliquity I gazed and stood abashed. Blanched was the cheek of pride. My heart bent low before the omnipotence of Spirit, and a tint of humility soft as the heart of a moonbeam mantled the earth. Bethlehem and Bethany, Gethsemane and Calvary, spoke to my chastened sense as by the tearful lips of a babe." Page 48.
The heart of a moonbeam is a pretty enough Friendship's-Album expression —let it pass, though I do think the figure a little strained; but humility has no tint, humility has no complexion, and if it had it could not mantle the earth. A moonbeam might—I do not know—but she did not say it was the moonbeam. But let it go, I cannot decide it, she mixes me up so. A babe hasn't "tearful lips," it's its eyes. You find none of Mrs. Eddy's kind of English in Science and Health—not a line of it.
Setting aside title-page, index, etc., the little Autobiography begins on page 7 and ends on page 130. My quotations are from the first forty pages. They seem to me to prove the presence of the 'prentice hand. The style of the forty pages is loose and feeble and 'prentice-like. The movement of the narrative is not orderly and sequential, but rambles around, and skips forward and back and here and there and yonder, 'prentice-fashion. Many a journeyman has broken up his narrative and skipped about and rambled around, but he did it for a purpose, for an advantage; there was art in it, and points to be scored by it; the observant reader perceived the game, and enjoyed it and respected it, if it was well played. But Mrs. Eddy's performance was without intention, and destitute of art. She could score no points by it on those terms, and almost any reader can see that her work was the uncalculated puttering of a novice.
In the above paragraph I have described the first third of the booklet. That third being completed, Mrs. Eddy leaves the rabbit-range, crosses the frontier, and steps out upon her far-spreading big-game territory —Christian Science and there is an instant change! The style smartly improves; and the clumsy little technical offenses disappear. In these two-thirds of the booklet I find only one such offence, and it has the look of being a printer's error.
I leave the riddle with the reader. Perhaps he can explain how it is that a person-trained or untrained—who on the one day can write nothing better than Plague-Spot-Bacilli and feeble and stumbling and wandering personal history littered with false figures and obscurities and technical blunders, can on the next day sit down and write fluently, smoothly, compactly, capably, and confidently on a great big thundering subject, and do it as easily and comfortably as a whale paddles around the globe.
As for me, I have scribbled so much in fifty years that I have become saturated with convictions of one sort and another concerning a scribbler's limitations; and these are so strong that when I am familiar with a literary person's work I feel perfectly sure that I know enough about his limitations to know what he can not do. If Mr. Howells should pretend to me that he wrote the Plague-Spot Bacilli rhapsody, I should receive the statement courteously; but I should know it for a—well, for a perversion. If the late Josh Billings should rise up and tell me that he wrote Herbert Spencer's philosophies; I should answer and say that the spelling casts a doubt upon his claim. If the late Jonathan Edwards should rise up and tell me he wrote Mr. Dooley's books, I should answer and say that the marked difference between his style and Dooley's is argument against the soundness of his statement. You see how much I think of circumstantial evidence. In literary matters—in my belief—it is often better than any person's word, better than any shady character's oath. It is difficult for me to believe that the same hand that wrote the Plague-Spot-Bacilli and the first third of the little Eddy biography wrote also Science and Health. Indeed, it is more than difficult, it is impossible.
Largely speaking, I have read acres of what purported to be Mrs. Eddy's writings, in the past two months. I cannot know, but I am convinced, that the circumstantial evidence shows that her actual share in the work of composing and phrasing these things was so slight as to be inconsequential. Where she puts her literary foot down, her trail across her paid polisher's page is as plain as the elephant's in a Sunday-school procession. Her verbal output, when left undoctored by her clerks, is quite unmistakable It always exhibits the strongly distinctive features observable in the virgin passages from her pen already quoted by me:
Desert vacancy, as regards thought. Self-complacency. Puerility. Sentimentality. Affectations of scholarly learning. Lust after eloquent and flowery expression. Repetition of pet poetic picturesquenesses. Confused and wandering statement. Metaphor gone insane. Meaningless words, used because they are pretty, or showy, or unusual. Sorrowful attempts at the epigrammatic. Destitution of originality.
The fat volume called Miscellaneous Writings of Mrs. Eddy contains several hundred pages. Of the five hundred and fifty-four pages of prose in it I find ten lines, on page 319, to be Mrs. Eddy's; also about a page of the preface or "Prospectus"; also about fifteen pages scattered along through the book. If she wrote any of the rest of the prose, it was rewritten after her by another hand. Here I will insert two-thirds of her page of the prospectus. It is evident that whenever, under the inspiration of the Deity, she turns out a book, she is always allowed to do some of the preface. I wonder why that is? It always mars the work. I think it is done in humorous malice I think the clerks like to see her give herself away. They know she will, her stock of usable materials being limited and her procedure in employing them always the same, substantially. They know that when the initiated come upon her first erudite allusion, or upon any one of her other stage-properties, they can shut their eyes and tell what will follow. She usually throws off an easy remark all sodden with Greek or Hebrew or Latin learning; she usually has a person watching for a star—she can seldom get away from that poetic idea—sometimes it is a Chaldee, sometimes a Walking Delegate, sometimes an entire stranger, but be he what he may, he is generally there when the train is ready to move, and has his pass in his hat-band; she generally has a Being with a Dome on him, or some other cover that is unusual and out of the fashion; she likes to fire off a Scripture-verse where it will make the handsomest noise and come nearest to breaking the connection; she often throws out a Forefelt, or a Foresplendor, or a Foreslander where it will have a fine nautical foreto'gallant sound and make the sentence sing; after which she is nearly sure to throw discretion away and take to her deadly passion, Intoxicated Metaphor. At such a time the Mrs. Eddy that does not hesitate is lost:
"The ancient Greek looked longingly for the Olympiad. The Chaldee watched the appearing of a star; to him no higher destiny dawned on the dome of being than that foreshadowed by signs in the heavens. The meek Nazarene, the scoffed of all scoffers, said, 'Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?'—for He forefelt and foresaw the ordeal of a perfect Christianity, hated by sinners.
"To kindle all minds with a gleam of gratitude, the new idea that comes welling up from infinite Truth needs to be understood. The seer of this age should be a sage.
"Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity. The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world. Meekness heightens immortal attributes, only by removing the dust that dims them. Goodness reveals another scene and another self seemingly rolled up in shades, but brought to light by the evolutions of advancing thought, whereby we discern the power of Truth and Love to heal the sick.
"Pride is ignorance; those assume most who have the least wisdom or experience; and they steal from their neighbor, because they have so little of their own."—Miscellaneous Writings, page 1, and six lines at top of page 2.
It is not believable that the hand that wrote those clumsy and affected sentences wrote the smooth English of Science and Health.
It is often said in print that Mrs. Eddy claims that God was the Author of Science and Health. Mr. Peabody states in his pamphlet that "she says not she but God was the Author." I cannot find that in her autobiography she makes this transference of the authorship, but I think that in it she definitely claims that she did her work under His inspiration—definitely for her; for as a rule she is not a very definite person, even when she seems to be trying her best to be clear and positive. Speaking of the early days when her Science was beginning to unfold itself and gather form in her mind, she says (Autobiography, page 43):
"The divine hand led me into a new world of light and Life, a fresh universe—old to God, but new to His 'little one.'"
She being His little one, as I understand it.
The divine hand led her. It seems to mean "God inspired me"; but when a person uses metaphors instead of statistics—and that is Mrs. Eddy's common fashion—one cannot always feel sure about the intention.
[Page 56.] "Even the Scripture gave no direct interpretation of the Scientific basis for demonstrating the spiritual Principle of healing, until our Heavenly Father saw fit, through the Key to the Scriptures, in Science and Health, to unlock this 'mystery of godliness.'"
Another baffling metaphor. If she had used plain forecastle English, and said "God wrote the Key and I put it in my book"; or if she had said "God furnished me the solution of the mystery and I put it on paper"; or if she had said "God did it all," then we should understand; but her phrase is open to any and all of those translations, and is a Key which unlocks nothing—for us. However, it seems to at least mean "God inspired me," if nothing more.
There was personal and intimate communion, at any rate we get that much out of the riddles. The connection extended to business, after the establishment of the teaching and healing industry.
[Page 71.] "When God impelled me to set a price on my instruction," etc. Further down: "God has since shown me, in multitudinous ways, the wisdom of this decision."
She was not able to think of a "financial equivalent"—meaning a pecuniary equivalent—for her "instruction in Christian Science Mind-healing." In this emergency she was "led" to charge three hundred dollars for a term of "twelve half-days." She does not say who led her, she only says that the amount greatly troubled her. I think it means that the price was suggested from above, "led" being a theological term identical with our commercial phrase "personally conducted." She "shrank from asking it, but was finally led, by a strange providence, to accept this fee." "Providence" is another theological term. Two leds and a providence, taken together, make a pretty strong argument for inspiration. I think that these statistics make it clear that the price was arranged above. This view is constructively supported by the fact, already quoted, that God afterwards approved, "in multitudinous ways," her wisdom in accepting the mentioned fee. "Multitudinous ways" —multitudinous encoring—suggests enthusiasm. Business enthusiasm. And it suggests nearness. God's nearness to his "little one." Nearness, and a watchful personal interest. A warm, palpitating, Standard-Oil interest, so to speak. All this indicates inspiration. We may assume, then, two inspirations: one for the book, the other for the business.
The evidence for inspiration is further augmented by the testimony of Rev. George Tomkins, D.D., already quoted, that Mrs. Eddy and her book were foretold in Revelation, and that Mrs. Eddy "is God's brightest thought to this age, giving us the spiritual interpretation of the Bible in the 'little book'" of the Angel.
I am aware that it is not Mr. Tomkins that is speaking, but Mrs. Eddy. The commissioned lecturers of the Christian Science Church have to be members of the Board of Lectureship. (By-laws Sec. 2, p. 70.) The Board of Lectureship is selected by the Board of Directors of the Church. (By-laws, Sec. 3, p. 70.) The Board of Directors of the Church is the property of Mrs. Eddy. (By-laws, p. 22.) Mr. Tomkins did not make that statement without authorization from headquarters. He necessarily got it from the Board of Directors, the Board of Directors from Mrs. Eddy, Mrs. Eddy from the Deity. Mr. Tomkins would have been turned down by that procession if his remarks had been unsatisfactory to it.
It may be that there is evidence somewhere—as has been claimed—that Mrs. Eddy has charged upon the Deity the verbal authorship of Science and Health. But if she ever made the charge, she has withdrawn it (as it seems to me), and in the most formal and unqualified; of all ways. See Autobiography, page 57:
"When the demand for this book increased . . . the copyright was infringed. I entered a suit at Law, and my copyright was protected."
Thus it is plain that she did not plead that the Deity was the (verbal) Author; for if she had done that, she would have lost her case—and with rude promptness. It was in the old days before the Berne Convention and before the passage of our amended law of 1891, and the court would have quoted the following stern clause from the existing statute and frowned her out of the place:
"No Foreigner can acquire copyright in the United States."
To sum up. The evidence before me indicates three things:
1. That Mrs. Eddy claims the verbal author ship for herself. 2. That she denies it to the Deity. 3. That—in her belief—she wrote the book under the inspiration of the Deity, but furnished the language herself.
In one place in the Autobiography she claims both the language and the ideas; but when this witness is testifying, one must draw the line somewhere, or she will prove both sides of her case-nine sides, if desired.
It is too true. Much too true. Many, many times too true. She is a most trying witness—the most trying witness that ever kissed the Book, I am sure. There is no keeping up with her erratic testimony. As soon as you have got her share of the authorship nailed where you half hope and half believe it will stay and cannot be joggled loose any more, she joggles it loose again—or seems to; you cannot be sure, for her habit of dealing in meaningless metaphors instead of in plain, straightforward statistics, makes it nearly always impossible to tell just what it is she is trying to say. She was definite when she claimed both the language and the ideas of the book. That seemed to settle the matter. It seemed to distribute the percentages of credit with precision between the collaborators: ninety-two per cent. to Mrs. Eddy, who did all the work, and eight per cent. to the Deity, who furnished the inspiration not enough of it to damage the copyright in a country closed against Foreigners, and yet plenty to advertise the book and market it at famine rates. Then Mrs. Eddy does not keep still, but fetches around and comes forward and testifies again. It is most injudicious. For she resorts to metaphor this time, and it makes trouble, for she seems to reverse the percentages and claim only the eight per cent. for her self. I quote from Mr. Peabody's book (Eddyism, or Christian Science. Boston: 15 Court Square, price twenty-five cents):
"Speaking of this book, Mrs. Eddy, in January last (1901) said: 'I should blush to write of Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, as I have, were it of human origin, and I, apart from God, its author; but as I was only a scribe echoing the harmonies of Heaven in divine metaphysics, I cannot be supermodest of the Christian Science text-book."'
Mr. Peabody's comment:
"Nothing could be plainer than that. Here is a distinct avowal that the book entitled Science and Health was the work of Almighty God."
It does seem to amount to that. She was only a "scribe." Confound the word, it is just a confusion, it has no determinable meaning there, it leaves us in the air. A scribe is merely a person who writes. He may be a copyist, he may be an amanuensis, he may be a writer of originals, and furnish both the language and the ideas. As usual with Mrs. Eddy, the connection affords no help—"echoing" throws no light upon "scribe." A rock can reflect an echo, a wall can do it, a mountain can do it, many things can do it, but a scribe can't. A scribe that could reflect an echo could get over thirty dollars a week in a side-show. Many impresarios would rather have him than a cow with four tails. If we allow that this present scribe was setting down the "harmonies of Heaven"—and certainly that seems to have been the case then there was only one way to do it that I can think of: listen to the music and put down the notes one after another as they fell. In that case Mrs. Eddy did not invent the tune, she only entered it on paper. Therefore dropping the metaphor—she was merely an amanuensis, and furnished neither the language of Science and Health nor the ideas. It reduces her to eight per cent. (and the dividends on that and the rest).
Is that it? We shall never know. For Mrs. Eddy is liable to testify again at any time. But until she does it, I think we must conclude that the Deity was Author of the whole book, and Mrs. Eddy merely His telephone and stenographer. Granting this, her claim as the Voice of God stands-for the present—justified and established.
I overlooked something. It appears that there was more of that utterance than Mr. Peabody has quoted in the above paragraph. It will be found in Mrs. Eddy's organ, the Christian Science Journal (January, 1901) and reads as follows:
"It was not myself . . . which dictated Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures."
That is certainly clear enough. The words which I have removed from that important sentence explain Who it was that did the dictating. It was done by
"the divine power of Truth and Love, infinitely above me."
Certainly that is definite. At last, through her personal testimony, we have a sure grip upon the following vital facts, and they settle the authorship of Science and Health beyond peradventure:
1. Mrs. Eddy furnished "the ideas and the language." 2. God furnished the ideas and the language.
It is a great comfort to have the matter authoritatively settled.
It is hard to locate her, she shifts about so much. She is a shining drop of quicksilver which you put your finger on and it isn't there. There is a paragraph in the Autobiography (page 96) which places in seemingly darkly significant procession three Personages:
1. The Virgin Mary 2. Jesus of Nazareth. 3. Mrs. Eddy.
This is the paragraph referred to:
"No person can take the individual place of the Virgin Mary. No person can compass or fulfil the individual mission of Jesus of Nazareth. No person can take the place of the author of Science and Health, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science. Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity."
I have read it many times, but I still cannot be sure that I rightly understand it. If the Saviour's name had been placed first and the Virgin Mary's second and Mrs. Eddy's third, I should draw the inference that a descending scale from First Importance to Second Importance and then to Small Importance was indicated; but to place the Virgin first, the Saviour second, and Mrs. Eddy third, seems to turn the scale the other way and make it an ascending scale of Importances, with Mrs. Eddy ranking the other two and holding first place.
I think that that was perhaps the intention, but none but a seasoned Christian Scientist can examine a literary animal of Mrs. Eddy's creation and tell which end of it the tail is on. She is easily the most baffling and bewildering writer in the literary trade.
Eddy is a commonplace name, and would have an unimpressive aspect in the list of the reformed Holy Family. She has thought of that. In the book of By-laws written by her—"impelled by a power not one's own"—there is a paragraph which explains how and when her disciples came to confer a title upon her; and this explanation is followed by a warning as to what will happen to any female Scientist who shall desecrate it:
"The title of Mother. Therefore if a student of Christian Science shall apply this title, either to herself or to others, except as the term for kinship according to the flesh, it shall be regarded by the Church as an indication of disrespect for their Pastor Emeritus, and unfitness to be a member of the Mother-Church."
She is the Pastor Emeritus.
While the quoted paragraph about the Procession seems to indicate that Mrs. Eddy is expecting to occupy the First Place in it, that expectation is not definitely avowed. In an earlier utterance of hers she is clearer—clearer, and does not claim the first place all to herself, but only the half of it. I quote from Mr. Peabody's book again:
"In the Christian Science Journal for April, 1889, when it was her property, and published by her, it was claimed for her, and with her sanction, that she was equal with Jesus, and elaborate effort was made to establish the claim.
"Mrs. Eddy has distinctly authorized the claim in her behalf that she herself was the chosen successor to and equal of Jesus."
In her Miscellaneous Writings (using her once favorite "We" for "I") she says that "While we entertain decided views . . . and shall express them as duty demands, we shall claim no especial gift from our divine origin," etc.
Our divine origin. It suggests Equal again. It is inferable, then, that in the near by-and-by the new Church will officially rank the Holy Family in the following order:
1. Jesus of Nazareth.—1. Our Mother. 2. The Virgin Mary.
I am not playing with Christian Science and its founder, I am examining them; and I am doing it because of the interest I feel in the inquiry. My results may seem inadequate to the reader, but they have for me clarified a muddle and brought a sort of order out of a chaos, and so I value them.
My readings of Mrs. Eddy's uninspired miscellaneous literary efforts have convinced me of several things:
1. That she did not write Science and Health. 2. That the Deity did (or did not) write it. 3. That She thinks She wrote it. 4. That She believes She wrote it under the Deity's inspiration. 5. That She believes She is a Member of the Holy Family. 6. That She believes She is the equal of the Head of it.
Finally, I think She is now entitled to the capital S—on her own evidence.
Thus far we have a part of Mrs. Eddy's portrait. Not made of fictions, surmises, reports, rumors, innuendoes, dropped by her enemies; no, she has furnished all of the materials herself, and laid them on the canvas, under my general superintendence and direction. As far as she has gone with it, it is the presentation of a complacent, commonplace, illiterate New England woman who "forgot everything she knew" when she discovered her discovery, then wrote a Bible in good English under the inspiration of God, and climbed up it to the supremest summit of earthly grandeur attainable by man—where she sits serene to-day, beloved and worshiped by a multitude of human beings of as good average intelligence as is possessed by those that march under the banner of any competing cult. This is not intended to flatter the competing cults, it is merely a statement of cold fact.
That a commonplace person should go climbing aloft and become a god or a half-god or a quarter-god and be worshiped by men and women of average intelligence, is nothing. It has happened a million times, it will happen a hundred million more. It has been millions of years since the first of these supernaturals appeared, and by the time the last one in that inconceivably remote future shall have performed his solemn little high-jinks on the stage and closed the business, there will be enough of them accumulated in the museum on the Other Side to start a heaven of their own-and jam it.
Each in his turn those little supernaturals of our by-gone ages and aeons joined the monster procession of his predecessors and marched horizonward, disappeared, and was forgotten. They changed nothing, they built nothing, they left nothing behind them to remember them by, nothing to hold their disciples together, nothing to solidify their work and enable it to defy the assaults of time and the weather. They passed, and left a vacancy. They made one fatal mistake; they all made it, each in his turn: they failed to organize their forces, they failed to centralize their strength, they failed to provide a fresh Bible and a sure and perpetual cash income for business, and often they failed to provide a new and accepted Divine Personage to worship.
Mrs. Eddy is not of that small fry. The materials that go to the making of the rest of her portrait will prove it. She will furnish them herself:
She published her book. She copyrighted it. She copyrights everything. If she should say, "Good-morning; how do you do?" she would copyright it; for she is a careful person, and knows the value of small things.
She began to teach her Science, she began to heal, she began to gather converts to her new religion—fervent, sincere, devoted, grateful people. A year or two later she organized her first Christian Science "Association," with six of her disciples on the roster.
She continued to teach and heal. She was charging nothing, she says, although she was very poor. She taught and healed gratis four years altogether, she says.
Then, in 1879-81 she was become strong enough, and well enough established, to venture a couple of impressively important moves. The first of these moves was to aggrandize the "Association" to a "Church." Brave? It is the right name for it, I think. The former name suggests nothing, invited no remark, no criticism, no inquiry, no hostility; the new name invited them all. She must have made this intrepid venture on her own motion. She could have had no important advisers at that early day. If we accept it as her own idea and her own act—and I think we must—we have one key to her character. And it will explain subsequent acts of hers that would merely stun us and stupefy us without it. Shall we call it courage? Or shall we call it recklessness? Courage observes; reflects; calculates; surveys the whole situation; counts the cost, estimates the odds, makes up its mind; then goes at the enterprise resolute to win or perish. Recklessness does not reflect, it plunges fearlessly in with a hurrah, and takes the risks, whatever they may be, regardless of expense. Recklessness often fails, Mrs. Eddy has never failed—from the point of view of her followers. The point of view of other people is naturally not a matter of weighty importance to her.
The new Church was not born loose-jointed and featureless, but had a defined plan, a definite character, definite aims, and a name which was a challenge, and defied all comers. It was "a Mind-healing Church." It was "without a creed." Its name, "The Church of Christ, Scientist."
Mrs. Eddy could not copyright her Church, but she chartered it, which was the same thing and relieved the pain. It had twenty-six charter members. Mrs. Eddy was at once installed as its pastor.
The other venture, above referred to, was Mrs. Eddy's Massachusetts Metaphysical College, in which was taught "the pathology of spiritual power." She could not copyright it, but she got it chartered. For faculty it had herself, her husband of the period (Dr. Eddy), and her adopted son, Dr. Foster-Eddy. The college term was "barely three weeks," she says. Again she was bold, brave, rash, reckless—choose for yourself—for she not only began to charge the student, but charged him a hundred dollars a week for the enlightenments. And got it? some may ask. Easily. Pupils flocked from far and near. They came by the hundred. Presently the term was cut down nearly half, but the price remained as before. To be exact, the term-cut was to seven lessons —price, three hundred dollars. The college "yielded a large income." This is believable. In seven years Mrs. Eddy taught, as she avers, over four thousand students in it. (Preface to 1902 edition of Science and Health.) Three hundred times four thousand is—but perhaps you can cipher it yourself. I could do it ordinarily, but I fell down yesterday and hurt my leg. Cipher it; you will see that it is a grand sum for a woman to earn in seven years. Yet that was not all she got out of her college in the seven.
At the time that she was charging the primary student three hundred dollars for twelve lessons she was not content with this tidy assessment, but had other ways of plundering him. By advertisement she offered him privileges whereby he could add eighteen lessons to his store for five hundred dollars more. That is to say, he could get a total of thirty lessons in her college for eight hundred dollars.
Four thousand times eight hundred is—but it is a difficult sum for a cripple who has not been "demonstrated over" to cipher; let it go. She taught "over" four thousand students in seven years. "Over" is not definite, but it probably represents a non-paying surplus of learners over and above the paying four thousand. Charity students, doubtless. I think that as interesting an advertisement as has been printed since the romantic old days of the other buccaneers is this one from the Christian Science Journal for September, 1886:
"MASSACHUSETTS METAPHYSICAL COLLEGE
"Rev. MARY BAKER G. EDDY, PRESIDENT
"571 Columbus Avenue, Boston
"The collegiate course in Christian Science metaphysical healing includes twelve lessons. Tuition, three hundred dollars.
"Course in metaphysical obstetrics includes six daily lectures, and is open only to students from this college. Tuition, one hundred dollars.
"Class in theology, open (like the above) to graduates, receives six additional lectures on the Scriptures, and summary of the principle and practice of Christian Science, two hundred dollars.
"Normal class is open to those who have taken the first course at this college; six daily lectures complete the Normal course. Tuition, two hundred dollars.
"No invalids, and only persons of good moral character, are accepted as students. All students are subject to examination and rejection; and they are liable to leave the class if found unfit to remain in it.
"A limited number of clergymen received free of charge.
"Largest discount to indigent students, one hundred dollars on the first course.
"No deduction on the others.
"Husband and wife, entered together, three hundred dollars.
"Tuition for all strictly in advance."
There it is—the horse-leech's daughter alive again, after a three-century vacation. Fifty or sixty hours' lecturing for eight hundred dollars.
I was in error as to one matter: there are no charity students. Gratis-taught clergymen must not be placed under that head; they are merely an advertisement. Pauper students can get into the infant class on a two-third rate (cash in advance), but not even an archangel can get into the rest of the game at anything short of par, cash down. For it is "in the spirit of Christ's charity, as one who is joyful to hear healing to the sick" that Mrs. Eddy is working the game. She sends the healing to them outside. She cannot bear it to them inside the college, for the reason that she does not allow a sick candidate to get in. It is true that this smells of inconsistency, but that is nothing; Mrs. Eddy would not be Mrs. Eddy if she should ever chance to be consistent about anything two days running.
Except in the matter of the Dollar. The Dollar, and appetite for power and notoriety. English must also be added; she is always consistent, she is always Mrs. Eddy, in her English: it is always and consistently confused and crippled and poor. She wrote the Advertisement; her literary trade-marks are there. When she says all "students" are subject to examination, she does not mean students, she means candidates for that lofty place When she says students are "liable" to leave the class if found unfit to remain in it, she does not mean that if they find themselves unfit, or be found unfit by others, they will be likely to ask permission to leave the class; she means that if she finds them unfit she will be "liable" to fire them out. When she nobly offers "tuition for all strictly in advance," she does not mean "instruction for all in advance-payment for it later." No, that is only what she says, it is not what she means. If she had written Science and Health, the oldest man in the world would not be able to tell with certainty what any passage in it was intended to mean.
Her Church was on its legs.
She was its pastor. It was prospering.
She was appointed one of a committee to draught By-laws for its government. It may be observed, without overplus of irreverence, that this was larks for her. She did all of the draughting herself. From the very beginning she was always in the front seat when there was business to be done; in the front seat, with both eyes open, and looking sharply out for Number One; in the front seat, working Mortal Mind with fine effectiveness and giving Immortal Mind a rest for Sunday. When her Church was reorganized, by-and-by, the By-laws were retained. She saw to that. In these Laws for the government of her Church, her empire, her despotism, Mrs. Eddy's character is embalmed for good and all. I think a particularized examination of these Church-laws will be found interesting. And not the less so if we keep in mind that they were "impelled by a power not one's own," as she says—Anglice. the inspiration of God.
It is a Church "without a creed." Still, it has one. Mrs. Eddy draughted it—and copyrighted it. In her own name. You cannot become a member of the Mother-Church (nor of any Christian Science Church) without signing it. It forms the first chapter of the By-laws, and is called "Tenets." "Tenets of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist." It has no hell in it—it throws it overboard.
THE PASTOR EMERITUS
About the time of the reorganization, Mrs. Eddy retired from her position of pastor of her Church, abolished the office of pastor in all branch Churches, and appointed her book, Science and Health, to be pastor-universal. Mrs. Eddy did not disconnect herself from the office entirely, when she retired, but appointed herself Pastor Emeritus. It is a misleading title, and belongs to the family of that phrase "without a creed." It advertises her as being a merely honorary official, with nothing to do, and no authority. The Czar of Russia is Emperor Emeritus on the same terms. Mrs. Eddy was Autocrat of the Church before, with limitless authority, and she kept her grip on that limitless authority when she took that fictitious title.
It is curious and interesting to note with what an unerring instinct the Pastor Emeritus has thought out and forecast all possible encroachments upon her planned autocracy, and barred the way against them, in the By-laws which she framed and copyrighted—under the guidance of the Supreme Being.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
For instance, when Article I. speaks of a President and Board of Directors, you think you have discovered a formidable check upon the powers and ambitions of the honorary pastor, the ornamental pastor, the functionless pastor, the Pastor Emeritus, but it is a mistake. These great officials are of the phrase—family of the Church-Without-a-Creed and the Pastor-With-Nothing-to-Do; that is to say, of the family of Large-Names-Which-Mean-Nothing. The Board is of so little consequence that the By-laws do not state how it is chosen, nor who does it; but they do state, most definitely, that the Board cannot fill a vacancy in its number "except the candidate is approved by the Pastor Emeritus."
The "candidate." The Board cannot even proceed to an election until the Pastor Emeritus has examined the list and squelched such candidates as are not satisfactory to her.
Whether the original first Board began as the personal property of Mrs. Eddy or not, it is foreseeable that in time, under this By-law, she would own it. Such a first Board might chafe under such a rule as that, and try to legislate it out of existence some day. But Mrs. Eddy was awake. She foresaw that danger, and added this ingenious and effective clause:
"This By-law can neither be amended nor annulled, except by consent of Mrs. Eddy, the Pastor Emeritus"
The Board of Directors, or Serfs, or Ciphers, elects the President.
On these clearly worded terms: "Subject to the approval of the Pastor Emeritus."
Therefore She elects him.
A long term can invest a high official with influence and power, and make him dangerous. Mrs. Eddy reflected upon that; so she limits the President's term to a year. She has a capable commercial head, an organizing head, a head for government.
TREASURER AND CLERK
There are a Treasurer and a Clerk. They are elected by the Board of Directors. That is to say, by Mrs. Eddy.
Their terms of office expire on the first Tuesday in June of each year, "or upon the election of their successors." They must be watchfully obedient and satisfactory to her, or she will elect and install their successors with a suddenness that can be unpleasant to them. It goes without saying that the Treasurer manages the Treasury to suit Mrs. Eddy, and is in fact merely Temporary Deputy Treasurer.
Apparently the Clerk has but two duties to perform: to read messages from Mrs. Eddy to First Members assembled in solemn Council, and provide lists of candidates for Church membership. The select body entitled First Members are the aristocracy of the Mother-Church, the Charter Members, the Aborigines, a sort of stylish but unsalaried little College of Cardinals, good for show, but not indispensable. Nobody is indispensable in Mrs. Eddy's empire; she sees to that.
When the Pastor Emeritus sends a letter or message to that little Sanhedrin, it is the Clerk's "imperative duty" to read it "at the place and time specified." Otherwise, the world might come to an end. These are fine, large frills, and remind us of the ways of emperors and such. Such do not use the penny-post, they send a gilded and painted special messenger, and he strides into the Parliament, and business comes to a sudden and solemn and awful stop; and in the impressive hush that follows, the Chief Clerk reads the document. It is his "imperative duty." If he should neglect it, his official life would end. It is the same with this Mother-Church Clerk; "if he fail to perform this important function of his office," certain majestic and unshirkable solemnities must follow: a special meeting "shall" be called; a member of the Church "shall" make formal complaint; then the Clerk "shall" be "removed from office." Complaint is sufficient, no trial is necessary.
There is something very sweet and juvenile and innocent and pretty about these little tinsel vanities, these grave apings of monarchical fuss and feathers and ceremony, here on our ostentatiously democratic soil. She is the same lady that we found in the Autobiography, who was so naively vain of all that little ancestral military riffraff that she had dug up and annexed. A person's nature never changes. What it is in childhood, it remains. Under pressure, or a change of interest, it can partially or wholly disappear from sight, and for considerable stretches of time, but nothing can ever permanently modify it, nothing can ever remove it.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
There isn't any—now. But with power and money piling up higher and higher every day and the Church's dominion spreading daily wider and farther, a time could come when the envious and ambitious could start the idea that it would be wise and well to put a watch upon these assets —a watch equipped with properly large authority. By custom, a Board of Trustees. Mrs. Eddy has foreseen that probability—for she is a woman with a long, long look ahead, the longest look ahead that ever a woman had—and she has provided for that emergency. In Art. I., Sec. 5, she has decreed that no Board of Trustees shall ever exist in the Mother-Church "except it be constituted by the Pastor Emeritus."
The magnificence of it, the daring of it! Thus far, she is:
The Massachusetts Metaphysical College; Pastor Emeritus; President; Board of Directors; Treasurer; Clerk; and future Board of Trustees;
and is still moving onward, ever onward. When I contemplate her from a commercial point of view, there are no words that can convey my admiration of her.
These are a feature of first importance in the church-machinery of Christian Science. For they occupy the pulpit. They hold the place that the preacher holds in the other Christian Churches. They hold that place, but they do not preach. Two of them are on duty at a time—a man and a woman. One reads a passage from the Bible, the other reads the explanation of it from Science and Health—and so they go on alternating. This constitutes the service—this, with choir-music. They utter no word of their own. Art. IV., Sec. 6, closes their mouths with this uncompromising gag:
"They shall make no remarks explanatory of the Lesson-Sermon at any time during the service."
It seems a simple little thing. One is not startled by it at a first reading of it; nor at the second, nor the third. One may have to read it a dozen times before the whole magnitude of it rises before the mind. It far and away oversizes and outclasses the best business-idea yet invented for the safe-guarding and perpetuating of a religion. If it had been thought of and put in force eighteen hundred and seventy years ago, there would be but one Christian sect in the world now, instead of ten dozens of them.
There are many varieties of men in the world, consequently there are many varieties of minds in its pulpits. This insures many differing interpretations of important Scripture texts, and this in turn insures the splitting up of a religion into many sects. It is what has happened; it was sure to happen.
Mrs. Eddy has noted this disastrous result of preaching, and has put up the bars. She will have no preaching in her Church. She has explained all essential Scriptures, and set the explanations down in her book. In her belief her underlings cannot improve upon those explanations, and in that stern sentence "they shall make no explanatory remarks" she has barred them for all time from trying. She will be obeyed; there is no question about that.
In arranging her government she has borrowed ideas from various sources —not poor ones, but the best in the governmental market—but this one is new, this one came out of no ordinary business-head, this one must have come out of her own, there has been no other commercial skull in a thousand centuries that was equal to it. She has borrowed freely and wisely, but I am sure that this idea is many times larger than all her borrowings bulked together. One must respect the business-brain that produced it—the splendid pluck and impudence that ventured to promulgate it, anyway.
ELECTION OF READERS
Readers are not taken at hap-hazard, any more than preachers are taken at hap-hazard for the pulpits of other sects. No, Readers are elected by the Board of Directors. But—
"Section 3. The Board shall inform the Pas. for Emeritus of the names of candidates for Readers before they are elected, and if she objects to the nomination, said candidates shall not be chosen."
Is that an election—by the Board? Thus far I have not been able to find out what that Board of Spectres is for. It certainly has no real function, no duty which the hired girl could not perform, no office beyond the mere recording of the autocrat's decrees.
There are no dangerously long office-terms in Mrs. Eddy's government. The Readers are elected for but one year. This insures their subserviency to their proprietor.
Readers are not allowed to copy out passages and read them from the manuscript in the pulpit; they must read from Mrs. Eddy's book itself. She is right. Slight changes could be slyly made, repeated, and in time get acceptance with congregations. Branch sects could grow out of these practices. Mrs. Eddy knows the human race, and how far to trust it. Her limit is not over a quarter of an inch. It is all that a wise person will risk.
Mrs. Eddy's inborn disposition to copyright everything, charter everything, secure the rightful and proper credit to herself for everything she does, and everything she thinks she does, and everything she thinks, and everything she thinks she thinks or has thought or intends to think, is illustrated in Sec. 5 of Art. IV., defining the duties of official Readers—in church:
"Naming Book and Author. The Reader of Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, before commencing to read from this book, shall distinctly announce its full title and give the author's name."
Otherwise the congregation might get the habit of forgetting who (ostensibly) wrote the book.
This consists of First Members and their apostolic succession. It is a close corporation, and its membership limit is one hundred. Forty will answer, but if the number fall below that, there must be an election, to fill the grand quorum.
This Sanhedrin can't do anything of the slightest importance, but it can talk. It can "discuss." That is, it can discuss "important questions relative to Church members", evidently persons who are already Church members. This affords it amusement, and does no harm.
It can "fix the salaries of the Readers."
Twice a year it "votes on" admitting candidates. That is, for Church membership. But its work is cut out for it beforehand, by Art. IX.:
"Every recommendation for membership In the Church 'shall be countersigned by a loyal student of Mrs. Eddy's, by a Director of this Church, or by a First Member.'"
All these three classes of beings are the personal property of Mrs. Eddy. She has absolute control of the elections.
Also it must "transact any Church business that may properly come before it."
"Properly" is a thoughtful word. No important business can come before it. The By laws have attended to that. No important business goes before any one for the final word except Mrs. Eddy. She has looked to that.
The Sanhedrin "votes on" candidates for admission to its own body. But is its vote worth any more than mine would be? No, it isn't. Sec. 4, of Art. V.—Election of First Members—makes this quite plain:
"Before being elected, the candidates for First Members shall be approved by the Pastor Emeritus over her own signature."
Thus the Sanhedrin is the personal property of Mrs. Eddy. She owns it. It has no functions, no authority, no real existence. It is another Board of Shadows. Mrs. Eddy is the Sanhedrin herself.
But it is time to foot up again and "see where we are at." Thus far, Mrs. Eddy is
The Massachusetts Metaphysical College; Pastor Emeritus, President; Board of Directors; Treasurer; Clerk; Future Board of Trustees; Proprietor of the Priesthood: Dictator of the Services; Proprietor of the Sanhedrin. She has come far, and is still on her way.
In this Article there is another exhibition of a couple of the large features of Mrs. Eddy's remarkable make-up: her business-talent and her knowledge of human nature.
She does not beseech and implore people to join her Church. She knows the human race better than that. She gravely goes through the motions of reluctantly granting admission to the applicant as a favor to him. The idea is worth untold shekels. She does not stand at the gate of the fold with welcoming arms spread, and receive the lost sheep with glad emotion and set up the fatted calf and invite the neighbor and have a time. No, she looks upon him coldly, she snubs him, she says:
"Who are you? Who is your sponsor? Who asked you to come here? Go away, and don't come again until you are invited."
It is calculated to strikingly impress a person accustomed to Moody and Sankey and Sam Jones revivals; accustomed to brain-turning appeals to the unknown and unendorsed sinner to come forward and enter into the joy, etc.—"just as he is"; accustomed to seeing him do it; accustomed to seeing him pass up the aisle through sobbing seas of welcome, and love, and congratulation, and arrive at the mourner's bench and be received like a long-lost government bond.
No, there is nothing of that kind in Mrs. Eddy's system. She knows that if you wish to confer upon a human being something which he is not sure he wants, the best way is to make it apparently difficult for him to get it—then he is no son of Adam if that apple does not assume an interest in his eyes which it lacked before. In time this interest can grow into desire. Mrs. Eddy knows that when you cannot get a man to try—free of cost—a new and effective remedy for a disease he is afflicted with, you can generally sell it to him if you will put a price upon it which he cannot afford. When, in the beginning, she taught Christian Science gratis (for good reasons), pupils were few and reluctant, and required persuasion; it was when she raised the limit to three hundred dollars for a dollar's worth that she could not find standing room for the invasion of pupils that followed.
With fine astuteness she goes through the motions of making it difficult to get membership in her Church. There is a twofold value in this system: it gives membership a high value in the eyes of the applicant; and at the same time the requirements exacted enable Mrs. Eddy to keep him out if she has doubts about his value to her. A word further as to applications for membership:
"Applications of students of the Metaphysical College must be signed by the Board of Directors."
That is safe. Mrs. Eddy is proprietor of that Board.
Children of twelve may be admitted if invited by "one of Mrs. Eddy's loyal students, or by a First Member, or by a Director."
These sponsors are the property of Mrs. Eddy, therefore her Church is safeguarded from the intrusion of undesirable children.
Other Students. Applicants who have not studied with Mrs. Eddy can get in only "by invitation and recommendation from students of Mrs. Eddy.... or from members of the Mother-Church."
Other paragraphs explain how two or three other varieties of applicants are to be challenged and obstructed, and tell us who is authorized to invite them, recommend them endorse them, and all that.
The safeguards are definite, and would seem to be sufficiently strenuous —to Mr. Sam Jones, at any rate. Not for Mrs. Eddy. She adds this clincher:
"The candidates be elected by a majority vote of the First Members present."
That is the aristocracy, the aborigines, the Sanhedrin. It is Mrs. Eddy's property. She herself is the Sanhedrin. No one can get into the Church if she wishes to keep him out.
This veto power could some time or other have a large value for her, therefore she was wise to reserve it.
It is likely that it is not frequently used. It is also probable that the difficulties attendant upon getting admission to membership have been instituted more to invite than to deter, more to enhance the value of membership and make people long for it than to make it really difficult to get. I think so, because the Mother. Church has many thousands of members more than its building can accommodate.
AND SOME ENGLISH REQUIRED
Mrs. Eddy is very particular as regards one detail curiously so, for her, all things considered. The Church Readers must be "good English scholars"; they must be "thorough English scholars."
She is thus sensitive about the English of her subordinates for cause, possibly. In her chapter defining the duties of the Clerk there is an indication that she harbors resentful memories of an occasion when the hazy quality of her own English made unforeseen and mortifying trouble:
"Understanding Communications. Sec. 2. If the Clerk of this Church shall receive a communication from the Pastor Emeritus which he does not fully understand, he shall inform her of this fact before presenting it to the Church, and obtain a clear understanding of the matter—then act in accordance therewith."
She should have waited to calm down, then, but instead she added this, which lacks sugar:
"Failing to adhere to this By-law, the Clerk must resign."
I wish I could see that communication that broke the camel's back. It was probably the one beginning: "What plague spot or bacilli were gnawing at the heart of this metropolis and bringing it on bended knee?" and I think it likely that the kindly disposed Clerk tried to translate it into English and lost his mind and had to go to the hospital. That Bylaw was not the offspring of a forecast, an intuition, it was certainly born of a sorrowful experience. Its temper gives the fact away.
The little book of By-laws has manifestly been tinkered by one of Mrs. Eddy's "thorough English scholars," for in the majority of cases its meanings are clear. The book is not even marred by Mrs. Eddy's peculiar specialty—lumbering clumsinesses of speech. I believe the salaried polisher has weeded them all out but one. In one place, after referring to Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy goes on to say "the Bible and the above-named book, with other works by the same author," etc.
It is an unfortunate sentence, for it could mislead a hasty or careless reader for a moment. Mrs. Eddy framed it—it is her very own—it bears her trade-mark. "The Bible and Science and Health, with other works by the same author," could have come from no literary vacuum but the one which produced the remark (in the Autobiography): "I remember reading, in my childhood, certain manuscripts containing Scriptural Sonnets, besides other verses and enigmas."
We know what she means, in both instances, but a low-priced Clerk would not necessarily know, and on a salary like his he could quite excusably aver that the Pastor Emeritus had commanded him to come and make proclamation that she was author of the Bible, and that she was thinking of discharging some Scriptural sonnets and other enigmas upon the congregation. It could lose him his place, but it would not be fair, if it happened before the edict about "Understanding Communications" was promulgated.
The By-law book makes a showy pretence of orderliness and system, but it is only a pretence. I will not go so far as to say it is a harum-scarum jumble, for it is not that, but I think it fair to say it is at least jumbulacious in places. For instance, Articles III. and IV. set forth in much detail the qualifications and duties of Readers, she then skips some thirty pages and takes up the subject again. It looks like slovenliness, but it may be only art. The belated By-law has a sufficiently quiet look, but it has a ton of dynamite in it. It makes all the Christian Science Church Readers on the globe the personal chattels of Mrs. Eddy. Whenever she chooses, she can stretch her long arm around the world's fat belly and flirt a Reader out of his pulpit, though he be tucked away in seeming safety and obscurity in a lost village in the middle of China:
"In any Church. Sec. 2. The Pastor Emeritus of the Mother-Church shall have the right (through a letter addressed to the individual and Church of which he is the Reader) to remove a Reader from this office in any Church of Christ, Scientist, both in America and in foreign nations; or to appoint the Reader to fill any office belonging to the Christian Science denomination."
She does not have to prefer charges against him, she does not have to find him lazy, careless, incompetent, untidy, ill-mannered, unholy, dishonest, she does not have to discover a fault of any kind in him, she does not have to tell him nor his congregation why she dismisses and disgraces him and insults his meek flock, she does not have to explain to his family why she takes the bread out of their mouths and turns them out-of-doors homeless and ashamed in a strange land; she does not have to do anything but send a letter and say: "Pack!—and ask no questions!"
Has the Pope this power?—the other Pope—the one in Rome. Has he anything approaching it? Can he turn a priest out of his pulpit and strip him of his office and his livelihood just upon a whim, a caprice, and meanwhile furnishing no reasons to the parish? Not in America. And not elsewhere, we may believe.
It is odd and strange, to see intelligent and educated people among us worshipping this self-seeking and remorseless tyrant as a God. This worship is denied—by persons who are themselves worshippers of Mrs. Eddy. I feel quite sure that it is a worship which will continue during ages.
That Mrs. Eddy wrote that amazing By-law with her own hand we have much better evidence than her word. We have her English. It is there. It cannot be imitated. She ought never to go to the expense of copyrighting her verbal discharges. When any one tries to claim them she should call me; I can always tell them from any other literary apprentice's at a glance. It was like her to call America a "nation"; she would call a sand-bar a nation if it should fall into a sentence in which she was speaking of peoples, for she would not know how to untangle it and get it out and classify it by itself. And the closing arrangement of that By-law is in true Eddysonian form, too. In it she reserves authority to make a Reader fill any office connected with a Science church-sexton, grave-digger, advertising-agent, Annex-polisher, leader of the choir, President, Director, Treasurer, Clerk, etc. She did not mean that. She already possessed that authority. She meant to clothe herself with power, despotic and unchallengeable, to appoint all Science Readers to their offices, both at home and abroad. The phrase "or to appoint" is another miscarriage of intention; she did not mean "or," she meant "and."
That By-law puts into Mrs. Eddy's hands absolute command over the most formidable force and influence existent in the Christian Science kingdom outside of herself, and it does this unconditionally and (by auxiliary force of Laws already quoted) irrevocably. Still, she is not quite satisfied. Something might happen, she doesn't know what. Therefore she drives in one more nail, to make sure, and drives it deep:
"This By-law can neither be amended nor annulled, except by consent of the Pastor Emeritus."
Let some one with a wild and delirious fancy try and see if he can imagine her furnishing that consent.
MONOPOLY OF SPIRITUAL BREAD
Very properly, the first qualification for membership in the Mother-Church is belief in the doctrines of Christian Science.
But these doctrines must not be gathered from secondary sources. There is but one recognized source. The candidate must be a believer in the doctrines of Christian Science "according to the platform and teaching contained in the Christian Science text-book, 'Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures,' by Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy."
That is definite, and is final. There are to be no commentaries, no labored volumes of exposition and explanation by anybody except Mrs. Eddy. Because such things could sow error, create warring opinions, split the religion into sects, and disastrously cripple its power. Mrs. Eddy will do the whole of the explaining, Herself—has done it, in fact. She has written several books. They are to be had (for cash in advance), they are all sacred; additions to them can never be needed and will never be permitted. They tell the candidate how to instruct himself, how to teach others, how to do all things comprised in the business—and they close the door against all would-be competitors, and monopolize the trade:
"The Bible and the above—named book [Science and Health], with other works by the same author," must be his only text-books for the commerce —he cannot forage outside.
Mrs. Eddy's words are to be the sole elucidators of the Bible and Science and Health—forever. Throughout the ages, whenever there is doubt as to the meaning of a passage in either of these books the inquirer will not dream of trying to explain it to himself; he would shudder at the thought of such temerity, such profanity, he would be haled to the Inquisition and thence to the public square and the stake if he should be caught studying into text-meanings on his own hook; he will be prudent and seek the meanings at the only permitted source, Mrs. Eddy's commentaries.
Value of this Strait-jacket. One must not underrate the magnificence of this long-headed idea, one must not underestimate its giant possibilities in the matter of trooping the Church solidly together and keeping it so. It squelches independent inquiry, and makes such a thing impossible, profane, criminal, it authoritatively settles every dispute that can arise. It starts with finality—a point which the Roman Church has travelled towards fifteen or sixteen centuries, stage by stage, and has not yet reached. The matter of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was not authoritatively settled until the days of Pius IX. —yesterday, so to speak.
As already noticed, the Protestants are broken up into a long array of sects, a result of disputes about the meanings of texts, disputes made unavoidable by the absence of an infallible authority to submit doubtful passages to. A week or two ago (I am writing in the middle of January, 1903), the clergy and others hereabouts had a warm dispute in the papers over this question: Did Jesus anywhere claim to be God? It seemed an easy question, but it turned out to be a hard one. It was ably and elaborately discussed, by learned men of several denominations, but in the end it remained unsettled.
A week ago, another discussion broke out. It was over this text:
"Sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor."
One verdict was worded as follows:
"When Christ answered the rich young man and said for him to give to the poor all he possessed or he could not gain everlasting life, He did not mean it in the literal sense. My interpretation of His words is that we should part with what comes between us and Christ.