The First Fairy Tale
Dale K. Brown
The 1820's saw more charter members of the F.P.A. (Future Prophets of America) born than at any other time in its history. Among the chosen born that auspicious decade was Mary M. Baker. Like Ellen Harmon, she was the last child born in her family. Her parents, Mark and Abigail Baker, were devout Congregationalists, a stern, strait-laced church originally established in New England by the Puritans. They believed in the doctrine of predestination, which was almost astrological in its consequences. In their view, you were either born saved or you weren't and there was nothing you could do to alter your post-partum situation.
Known as the doctrine of "Unconditional Election", it was like being elected president for life without the bother of having to run for the office. This was highly uncomfortable dogma for wretches who, whatever the reason, had cause to doubt the validity of their own spiritual election; because the downside to this belief was drastic. For those who were born damned, there wasn't a damn thing they could do about it. And it didn't matter how good they tried to be in this life, either. The uncalled and unchosen, were fucked. Pure and simple!
For those lucky few who just knew they had been born saved, however, life couldn't have been sweeter; for it didn't seem to matter how big an asshole they made of themselves in this life, the eternally saved went to heaven no matter what!
This was the environment into which little Mary Baker was born. She was a fragile child, afflicted with nervous ailments and extremely introverted. By age twelve, her favorite pastimes were sitting in her rocking chair and reading the Bible. She began hearing voices and acting so strangely, though, that her father finally confiscated the Holy Scriptures and forced her to go outdoors and play with children her own age.
But one of her problems was the Bible. She was having trouble reconciling an arbitrary God of predestination, who apparently punched each ticket at the moment of conception, with the God of love portrayed in the Bible.
By age seventeen, Mary had reached a compromise with the impetuous God of the Congregationalists. And she was soon joined in the bonds of holy matrimony with a well to do gentleman who happened to be a slave owner. Mary held definite abolitionist views on the subject, however, so their marriage was a rocky one.
In June 1844, her husband died. She had no wish to own slaves, but it was against the law to set them free, so she left them all behind and returned to her parents' home in New Hampshire.
Afflicted with spinal weakness and spasmodic seizures, she was unable to live a normal life but, as her health allowed, she rendered what assistance she could to the abolitionist movement. As the years went past, she began to search out the mysteries of God and the path to true health.
One winter's day when she was out for one of her rare walks, she slipped and fell on an ice covered street near her home. It was a nasty fall and a hastily summoned doctor diagnosed severe concussion, spinal dislocation, and possible internal injuries. In her already weakened condition, she was not expected to live. Family, friends, and a Protestant minister gathered around her bedside so she would not be alone when the awful moment came.
It was at this juncture that she asked them all to leave her bedroom that she might be alone with her God and her Bible. When the guests had graciously complied, Mary opened the Good Book to Matthew chapter nine, verse two, which related Jesus' miraculous healing of a man afflicted with palsy. As she read, she experienced a mystical euphoria quite outside the realm of human experience. She met God face to face and could "touch and handle the unseen." Instantaneously, her body was healed, all earthly sadness turned to unspeakable joy! And she heard the voice of God speaking to her and saying, "Arise daughter and walk," which she promptly did, to the confusion and astonishment of those in the next room who had come to comfort her in her final hours.
Mary Baker determined from that moment on to search out the true principals of God, life, and health. It was a long and sometimes lonely path she had set out upon, but she finally discovered that reality, as experienced by human beings, is the problem. The world, as perceived by the senses, does not in fact exist; it's all in your head. That was the message.
The only reality is the divine mind of God. Everything else is illusion, including mental and physical illnesses. If a person were solidly in touch with the divine mind, illusions would disappear along with the phantoms of disease. This knowledge, she reasoned, could be taught to others and, if correct, should result in miraculous healings. It worked. At least, that's what the true believers who began flocking around her said. In one short period of time, she resurrected a dead four year old who apparently really believed he was dead, healed an old man suffering from intestinal blockage and, to the utter disbelief of crisis intervention personnel everywhere, healed the mind of a madman who had broken into her house and was about to brain her with a wooden chair.
And the healing frenzy went on. No disease presented too great a challenge to those who saw clearly. T. B. fled at the sound of her footsteps, arthritis made for the nearest exit, while social diseases hauled ass at the merest mention of her name. No malady could stand before the logic of the Lord, as embodied by this woman.
She started a school for those who wished to emulate her and married one of her graduate students, Asa Eddy, and, as Mary Baker Eddy, began to publish the first of many pamphlets and articles dealing with the Christian Science of Health.
In the beginning, she vainly imagined that her discoveries would be eagerly accepted by traditional churches of the day, but it was not to be. Quite uncharitably, her works were viewed by the conventional clergy as misguided at best and heresy at worst, so she started her own church.
The Christian Science Association was established in 1876 and finally incorporated as a church in 1890. Their beliefs in many areas of doctrine bear witness to their Protestant roots, but they depart from the norm in significant areas of their theology. They hypothesize that all matter is illusion, that physical illness is a misperception of reality which can be corrected by spiritual enlightenment. They have no professional priesthood as such and they enjoin one to prove these precepts beyond all doubt rather than merely accepting them, for they maintain that a blind belief, masquerading as faith, will be destroyed by the potent illusion of existence.
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