Letter to Times Literary Supplement

The following letter was posted to the Times Literary Supplement, in response to their article on Willa Cather called “A lady found”.

“A lady found” throws light on the subject of author Willa Cather (Thomas Meaney, November 27). However, it could have been subtitled “…and a lady lost” for its interlude on Mary Baker Eddy.

Admittedly, the Cather biography itself does no favours to the founder of Christian Science based, as it was, predominantly on statements collected from those who nursed grievances against the spiritual pioneer. As independent feminist scholar Gillian Gill noted in her own biography, called “Mary Baker Eddy”, “When [the Cather biography] vows, as it were, hand on heart, to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when it claims not rhetoric but reportage, not passion but objectivity, it lies and compromises the very truth of the standards it claims to espouse.”(Perseus Books)

To say, as the article does, that Eddy “rejected progress in the physical sciences as an affront to God” is to miss the nuances in her approach to all things. Eddy’s household were quick to install electricity and telephones when these became available and she bought vacuum cleaners into her home and a car for the staff when these were ground-breaking items. She took great interest in the events of her day including technological developments. She said of “modern, material inventions” that they “all tend to newer, finer, more etherealized ways of living. They seek the finer essences.” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany”.)

What Eddy’s ideas challenged was the materialism inherent in medical science that she felt missed the bull’s eye by focusing on physical cause and effect instead of recognising and dealing with the mental causes of disease, such as fear. In particular, she saw alienation from the love of an all-good God as a cause for much suffering and saw Jesus as the individual who most understood that alienation and how to reverse it in healing.

It was on the basis of grasping how Jesus healed by perceiving and proving the individual’s unbroken spiritual relationship to God that she did indeed evidence God’s healing power. Healings, to her, were a proof that evil was ultimately a mistaken view of reality which needed to be identified, confronted and destroyed. She worked hard to teach students how to do this in their own healing practices, often with impressive results.

Indeed, it was the success of her healing ministry and that of students who stayed faithful to the Christian demands of her teachings which spread Christian Science so quickly and so broadly at the turn of the twentieth century. This brought her wealth and fame towards the end of her life but that was never her ambition. Her years were spent selflessly healing individuals and honing and sharing her ideas for a global audience by laboriously refining her “how to” explanation of Christian healing in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (www.spirituality.com).

As Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, notably concluded in 1908, “Mary Baker Eddy is the one person, regardless of sex, who is living today, that has done the greatest good for her fellow-creatures.”

Yours faithfully

Tony Lobl
District Manager for the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland
Christian Science Committees on Publication

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Categories: Mary Baker Eddy, Women's spiritual leadership

Author:Tony Lobl

I write and speak on spirituality from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I am also an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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One Comment on “Letter to Times Literary Supplement”

  1. Carolyn
    January 5, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    Thank you for a thoughtfully written letter in reply to the review of a book that would denounce the discovery of Mary Baker Eddy. Her discovery of how human need is met through understanding the teachings of Jesus continues to be practical and effective today.

    Thank you for counter balancing societal cynicism for the non-material, non-pragmatic.

    May those who feel hopelessly imprisoned by their need read your letter and reach to touch the healing hem of Love that Cather did not have eyes to see.

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