100 Years on: What do Bertrand Russell, Pythagoras, Einstein and Mary Baker Eddy have in common?

Next in our “100 years on, and still going strong” series, celebrating the continued resonance of Mary Baker Eddy’s life and ideas 100 years after her passing…

What do Bertrand Russell, Pythagoras, Einstein and Mary Baker Eddy have in common?

Well, firstly, they are all mentioned together in a quote which recently appeared in a Village Voice movie review by J. Hoberman, called Celebrating the Cycle of Life in Le Quattro Volte.  He writes “Bertrand Russell characterized  Pythagoras  as a combination of Einstein and Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of Christian Science).”

Secondly they are all great thinkers whose ideas have had a significant impact on humanity.

Bertrand Russell

The Bertrand Russell brand of atheism itself is far removed from Mary Baker Eddy’s spiritual assessment of God as conscious goodness and man (all men and women) as God’s eternally loved children.  Russell’s gloomy materialistic prognosis was “Brief and powerless is man’s life; on him and all his race the slow sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way.”

Eddy’s evaluation of matter’s shenanigans would essentially agree with Russell’s description.  But her teachings – based on her understanding of the words and healing works of Jesus – take the crown of “omnipotence” off matter and place it firmly on the head of Spirit, God, offering an antidote to the material fatalism in views such as that coined in Russell’s statement.  In her answer to the question What is the scientific statement of being she clarifies that “All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation” and that “Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material, he is spiritual.”

Far from being an abstract philosophy, or scholastic theology, Eddy insisted that these statements could be proved in practical ways, including physical healing, and accounts of such healing have been recorded systematically since the first publication of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875.

Albert Einstein

Einstein does indeed seem nearer to Eddy than Russell. Her naming of God as “divine Mind” resonates with Einstein’s delightful spiritual quip, that “I want to know God’s thoughts…the rest are details.” And Einstein shared the aspiration of Eddy to see a more spiritually aware human race.  As he once said “the goal is to raise the spiritual values of society.”

Many Christian Scientists quote anecdotal evidence of Einstein enthusing about Christian Science.  The Mary Baker eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity strikes a more cautious note, and has written the following:

We are aware that Einstein attended at least one Wednesday noon meeting at Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, in New York City in the early 1950s.  On this occasion he said to a member after the service (not to the congregation), “Do you realize what a wonderful thing you have?”  The member he spoke to and who reported the remark to us was the late George Nay, former associate editor of the Christian Science periodicals.  The two spoke in German. 

Helen Dukas, Einstein’s longtime secretary, was asked by a Christian Scientist about Einstein’s interest in Christian Science; she unequivocally stated that on the basis of her long and close association with Einstein, she could say he knew nothing about Christian Science and had expressed no interest, given no opinion, and made no reference to it.  (This was on or about January 20, 1970.)


Under the heading “Religion and science” Wikipedia states that “Pythagoras’ religious and scientific views were, in his opinion, inseparably interconnected”. That sounds promising. Eddy’s view was that true science and true theology are one. However, the similarity ends there. Wiki continues that Pythagoras “believed in transmigration, or the reincarnation of the soul again and again into the bodies of humans, animals, or vegetables until it became immortal.”  

Eddy’s spiritual researches, on the other hand, suggested a spiritual continuity of being which transcends material form, and that each individual’s inherent immortality as a child of God is progressively provable here and hereafter through spiritual growth in the understanding and expression of the nature of the divine Life.

Perhaps more than their religious outlooks, Pythagoras and Eddy might have more in common in their scientific approach to problem solving.  Pythagoras came up with his famous theorem that a^2 + b^2 = c^2\!\, where c represents the length of the hypotenuse, and a and b represent the lengths of the other two sides, and people have been using it ever since.  Mary Baker Eddy arrived at her statement of “metaphysical Science” which teaches “there is no other Life,
substance, and intelligence but God” and people have been applying that idea ever since in practical, spiritual healing.

It is probably fair to say that Pythagoras, Albert Einstein and Mary Baker Eddy were each unique individuals who conscientiously pursued and shared the ideas that came to them to explore…

But Pythagoras – a cross between Mary Baker Eddy and Einstein?

What did Bertrand Russell mean?

Einstein’s impressive breadth of interests in human life and spirituality, and his much more nuanced evaluation of the value of scientific thinking than some of today’s prominent spokespersons for science, are featured on the video below.  Get ready to use the pause button on the longer quotes, though! They flash past a little too speedily for anything apart from speed reading!


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Categories: Mary Baker Eddy, Movies, Spirituality and Society

Author:Tony Lobl

I write and edit articles on spirituality from the perspective of the practice of Christian Science as 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 teachings of Christian Science transformed my life and re-shaped my career.


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