Ives, Beethoven, and Mary Baker Eddy…

The musical careers of Charles Ives and Beethoven overlapped with the life of religious leader Mary Baker Eddy. But what else did they have in common? This is a guest blog by Massachusetts Committee on Publication, Ken Girard.

My previous career was as a composer of classical music.  I did that for 34 years professionally before becoming a Christian Science practitioner.

There are many composers that I greatly admire throughout the history of Western classical music and from whom I learned a great deal through studying their compositions.  Two of whom for me were among the greatest composers are Charles Ives (1874-1954) and Carl Ruggles (1876-1971) – both New Englanders.

Each of them had a deep spiritual sense about the nature of music, of God, and of man.  Each of them were very independent thinkers who were raised in that profound “thought soil” that New England was known for.  Each of them were individuals who struck out on their own and often against the prevailing opinions and views of their times.  And each of them ended up composing music – though very different from each other’s in every way – that transcends the commonplace and speaks to our deeper, spiritual natures – that speaks of universal ideas and that conveys a degree of spiritual substance that I and others have found to be very moving and uplifting.

Ives’ work – his music – was revolutionary.  His musical thinking was 50 years in advance of everything that took place in the 20th century.  Today most historians and people generally agree that Ives was ahead of his time.  But he accomplished all of this while often facing severe criticism from fellow musicians or the “musical authorities” of his time who simply didn’t have a clue of the heights that he was achieving.  They simply had no way of relating to it.  Their musical values tended towards the superficial.  They were not looking for depth, nor did they recognize it when it was staring them right in the face!
History has proved those individuals wrong.

Indeed, the classical repertoire that most people regard as the heights of music – Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, etc. – was originally “new music” and often met with extreme resistance and criticism.  Beethoven’s 5th Symphony – that piece so widely known and cherished by concert-goers today – was referred to as “Indian war-hoops!”   And his 9th Symphony (1824) – think “Ode to Joy” – was referred to as late as 1925 as the work of a “genius gone mad” and as totally “incomprehensible.”  That’s 100 years after the work was written!  Imagine, those pillars of Western music being described so negatively.

But they were so new to the thought of that time that it shocked some of the listeners.

I see similarities with Christian Science.

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), the woman who discovered and founded Christian Science in the 19th century, was also a New Englander.  She was an exceptionally inspired individual – a person of great spiritual depth and love for humanity.  A profound and original thinker.  Someone whose ideas were so very different from what her contemporaries were thinking or expecting.  And someone who went far beyond what the rest of us considered possible.  She established a world-wide religion and a system of healing that’s been in use for over 140 years now.  And, all of this at a time when women were extremely limited in what they could achieve.  In fact, she became one of the most famous people – man or woman – of her time.

And, of course, there were and are detractors – people who have difficulty in realizing or even accepting the fact that this woman could accomplish all that she did.  That she could heal people through spiritual means alone and teach others to do the same.  It’s difficult for them to come to grips with as they try to fit it into a thought-model in which spirituality and health could not even be related.  Just as the listeners to Beethoven’s and Ives’ music did, they try to fit it in to a system of thought that they are comfortable with.  But it doesn’t fit their models of what they think religion and health should be.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it?  That closing of thought just shuts out the benefits. And, you know, these folks do this in spite of all of those decades of healings that have taken place around the globe by people who have found that Christian Science provides them another way to health and well-being.

I’m one of those people who have experienced the straight-forward benefits of using Christian Science.  It works.  And yes, it is avant-garde!

Ken’s blog is called Christian Science in Massachusetts.

P.S.  Thank you, Ken!  Mary Baker Eddy’s writings include a couple of references to Beethoven, whose last years coincided with her first years.  This comment is from her Message to The Mother Church of 1900 (p. 11): “Music is more than sound in unison. The deaf Beethoven besieges you with tones intricate, profound, commanding. Mozart rests you. To me his composition is the triumph of art, for he measures himself against deeper grief. I want not only quality, quantity, and variation in tone, but the unction of Love. Music is divine. Mind, not matter, makes music; and if the divine tone be lacking, the human tone has no melody for me. Adelaide A. Proctor breathes my thought: — It flooded the crimson twilight Like the close of an angel’s psalm, And it lay on my fevered spirit With a touch of infinite calm.”


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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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