Christian Science (book)

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Christian Science is a 1907 book by the American writer Mark Twain (1835–1910). The book is a collection of essays Twain wrote about Christian Science, beginning with an article that was published in Cosmopolitan in 1899. Although Twain was interested in mental healing and the ideas behind Christian Science, he was hostile towards its founder, Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910).

Background[edit]

Twain's first article about Christian Science was published in Cosmopolitan in 1899. It describes how he fell over a cliff while walking in Austria, breaking several bones. A Christian Science practitioner who lived nearby was sent for, but could not attend immediately and so undertook to provide an "absent healing." She sent a message asking Twain to wait overnight and to remember that there was nothing wrong with him:

I thought there must be some mistake.

"Did you tell her I walked off a cliff seventy-five feet high?"

"Yes."

"And struck a boulder at the bottom and bounced?"

"Yes."

"And struck another one and bounced again?"

"Yes."

"And struck another one and bounced yet again?"

"Yes."

"And broke the boulders?"

"Yes."

"That accounts for it; she is thinking of the boulders. Why didn't you tell her I got hurt, too?"[1]

In 1907 he collected this and several other critical articles he had written and published them as a book, Christian Science. Twain himself believed that mind could influence matter to some degree.[2] He nevertheless took strong exception to the writings of Eddy, calling them "incomprehensible and uninterpretable."[3] He was particularly incensed by the thought that Eddy was using Christian Science to accrue wealth and power for herself.[4]

Critical responses[edit]

Gillian Gill, a biographer of Mary Baker Eddy, has argued that Twain was "ambivalent" towards Christian Science, and that passages of the essay were in fact "pretty unambiguously pro-CS." In response Caroline Fraser writes that Gill has misread the text, and that Twain praised Christian Science "in the most backhanded and ironic way." Fraser writes that whatever Twain's view of Christian Science, his view of Eddy herself was overwhelmingly hostile.[5] He called her "[g]rasping, sordid, penurious, famishing for everything she sees—money, power, glory—vain, untruthful, jealous, despotic, arrogant, insolent, pitiless where thinkers and hypnotists are concerned, illiterate, shallow, incapable of reasoning outside of commercial lines, immeasurably selfish."[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Twain, Mark. Christian Science, Chapter I.
  2. ^ Schrager, Cynthia D. "Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy: Gendering the Transpersonal Subject", American Literature, 70(1), 1998, p. 29.
  3. ^ Horn, Jason Gary. Mark Twain and William James: Crafting a Free Self. University of Missouri Press, 1996, p. 123.
  4. ^ Stahl, J.D. Mark Twain, Culture and Gender: Envisioning America Through Europe. University of Georgia Press, 2012, p. 202.
  5. ^ Gillian Gill; reply by Caroline Fraser, "Mrs. Eddy’s Voices", The New York Review of Books, June 29, 2000.
  6. ^ Twain 1907, Chapter XV.

Further reading[edit]