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Mark Twain > Christian Science > Book II - Chapter XV

Christian Science

Book II - Chapter XV

We may take that up now.

It is not a single if, but a several-jointed one; not an oyster, but a

1. Did Mrs. Eddy borrow from Quimby the Great Idea, or only the little
one, the old-timer, the ordinary mental-healing-healing by "mortal" mind?

2. If she borrowed the Great Idea, did she carry it away in her head, or
in manuscript?

3. Did she hit upon the Great Idea herself? By the Great Idea I mean,
of course, the conviction that the Force involved was still existent, and
could be applied now just as it was applied by Christ's Disciples and
their converts, and as successfully.
4. Did she philosophize it, systematize it, and write it down in a book?

5. Was it she, and not another, that built a new Religion upon the book
and organized it?

I think No. 5 can be answered with a Yes, and dismissed from the
controversy. And I think that the Great Idea, great as it was, would
have enjoyed but a brief activity, and would then have gone to sleep
again for some more centuries, but for the perpetuating impulse it got
from that organized and tremendous force.

As for Nos. 1, 2, and 4, the hostiles contend that Mrs. Eddy got the
Great Idea from Quimby and carried it off in manuscript. But their
testimony, while of consequence, lacks the most important detail; so far
as my information goes, the Quimby manuscript has not been produced. I
think we cannot discuss No. 1 and No. 2 profitably. Let them go.

For me, No. 3 has a mild interest, and No. 4 a violent one.

As regards No. 3, Mrs. Eddy was brought up, from the cradle, an old-
time, boiler-iron, Westminster-Catechism Christian, and knew her Bible as
well as Captain Kydd knew his, "when he sailed, when he sailed," and
perhaps as sympathetically. The Great Idea had struck a million Bible-
readers before her as being possible of resurrection and application--it
must have struck as many as that, and been cogitated, indolently,
doubtingly, then dropped and forgotten--and it could have struck her, in
due course. But how it could interest her, how it could appeal to her--
with her make this a thing that is difficult to understand.

For the thing back of it is wholly gracious and beautiful: the power,
through loving mercifulness and compassion, to heal fleshly ills and
pains and grief--all--with a word, with a touch of the hand! This power
was given by the Saviour to the Disciples, and to all the converted.
All--every one. It was exercised for generations afterwards. Any
Christian who was in earnest and not a make-believe, not a policy--
Christian, not a Christian for revenue only, had that healing power, and
could cure with it any disease or any hurt or damage possible to human
flesh and bone. These things are true, or they are not. If they were
true seventeen and eighteen and nineteen centuries ago it would be
difficult to satisfactorily explain why or how or by what argument that
power should be nonexistent in Christians now.

To wish to exercise it could occur to Mrs. Eddy--but would it?

Grasping, 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

Of course the Great Idea could strike her, we have to grant that, but why
it should interest her is a question which can easily overstrain the
imagination and bring on nervous prostration, or something like that, and
is better left alone by the judicious, it seems to me--

Unless we call to our help the alleged other side of Mrs. Eddy's make and
character the side which her multitude of followers see, and sincerely
believe in. Fairness requires that their view be stated here. It is the
opposite of the one which I have drawn from Mrs. Eddy's history and from
her By-laws. To her followers she is this:

Patient, gentle, loving, compassionate, noble hearted, unselfish,
sinless, widely cultured, splendidly equipped mentally, a profound
thinker, an able writer, a divine personage, an inspired messenger whose
acts are dictated from the Throne, and whose every utterance is the Voice
of God.

She has delivered to them a religion which has revolutionized their
lives, banished the glooms that shadowed them, and filled them and
flooded them with sunshine and gladness and peace; a religion which has
no hell; a religion whose heaven is not put off to another time, with a
break and a gulf between, but begins here and now, and melts into
eternity as fancies of the waking day melt into the dreams of sleep.

They believe it is a Christianity that is in the New Testament; that it
has always been there, that in the drift of ages it was lost through
disuse and neglect, and that this benefactor has found it and given it
back to men, turning the night of life into day, its terrors into myths,
its lamentations into songs of emancipation and rejoicing.

There we have Mrs. Eddy as her followers see her. She has lifted them
out of grief and care and doubt and fear, and made their lives beautiful;
she found them wandering forlorn in a wintry wilderness, and has led them
to a tropic paradise like that of which the poet sings:

     "O, islands there are on the face of the deep
     Where the leaves never fade and the skies never weep."

To ask them to examine with a microscope the character of such a
benefactor; to ask them to examine it at all; to ask them to look at a
blemish which another person believes he has found in it--well, in their
place could you do it? Would you do it? Wouldn't you be ashamed to do
it? If a tramp had rescued your child from fire and death, and saved its
mother's heart from breaking, could you see his rags? Could you smell
his breath? Mrs. Eddy has done more than that for these people.

They are prejudiced witnesses. To the credit of human nature it is not
possible that they should be otherwise. They sincerely believe that Mrs.
Eddy's character is pure and perfect and beautiful, and her history
without stain or blot or blemish. But that does not settle it. They
sincerely believe she did not borrow the Great Idea from Quimby, but hit
upon it herself. It may be so, and it could be so. Let it go--there is
no way to settle it. They believe she carried away no Quimby
manuscripts. Let that go, too--there is no way to settle it. They
believe that she, and not another, built the Religion upon the book, and
organized it. I believe it, too.

Finally, they believe that she philosophized Christian Science, explained
it, systematized it, and wrote it all out with her own hand in the book
Science and Health.

I am not able to believe that. Let us draw the line there. The known
and undisputed products of her pen are a formidable witness against her.
They do seem to me to prove, quite clearly and conclusively, that
writing, upon even simple subjects, is a difficult labor for her: that
she has never been able to write anything above third-rate English; that
she is weak in the matter of grammar; that she has but a rude and dull
sense of the values of words; that she so lacks in the matter of literary
precision that she can seldom put a thought into words that express it
lucidly to the reader and leave no doubts in his mind as to whether he
has rightly understood or not; that she cannot even draught a Preface
that a person can fully comprehend, nor one which can by any art be
translated into a fully understandable form; that she can seldom inject
into a Preface even single sentences whose meaning is uncompromisingly
clear--yet Prefaces are her specialty, if she has one.

Mrs. Eddy's known and undisputed writings are very limited in bulk; they
exhibit no depth, no analytical quality, no thought above school
composition size, and but juvenile ability in handling thoughts of even
that modest magnitude. She has a fine commercial ability, and could
govern a vast railway system in great style; she could draught a set of
rules that Satan himself would say could not be improved on--for
devilish effectiveness--by his staff; but we know, by our excursions
among the Mother-Church's By-laws, that their English would discredit the
deputy baggage-smasher. I am quite sure that Mrs. Eddy cannot write well
upon any subject, even a commercial one.

In the very first revision of Science and Health (1883), Mrs. Eddy wrote
a Preface which is an unimpeachable witness that the rest of the book was
written by somebody else. I have put it in the Appendix along with a
page or two taken from the body of the book, and will ask the reader to
compare the labored and lumbering and confused gropings of this Preface
with the easy and flowing and direct English of the other exhibit, and
see if he can believe that the one hand and brain produced both.

And let him take the Preface apart, sentence by sentence, and searchingly
examine each sentence word by word, and see if he can find half a dozen
sentences whose meanings he is so sure of that he can rephrase them--in
words of his own--and reproduce what he takes to be those meanings.
Money can be lost on this game. I know, for I am the one that lost it.

Now let the reader turn to the excerpt which I have made from the chapter
on "Prayer" (last year's edition of Science and Health), and compare that
wise and sane and elevated and lucid and compact piece of work with the
aforesaid Preface, and with Mrs. Eddy's poetry concerning the gymnastic
trees, and Minerva's not yet effete sandals, and the wreaths imported
from Erudition's bower for the decoration of Plymouth Rock, and the
Plague-spot and Bacilli, and my other exhibits (turn back to my Chapters
I. and II.) from the Autobiography, and finally with the late
Communication concerning me, and see if he thinks anybody's affirmation,
or anybody's sworn testimony, or any other testimony of any imaginable
kind would ever be likely to convince him that Mrs. Eddy wrote that
chapter on Prayer.

I do not wish to impose my opinion on any one who will not permit it, but
such as it is I offer it here for what it is worth. I cannot believe,
and I do not believe, that Mrs. Eddy originated any of the thoughts and
reasonings out of which the book Science and Health is constructed; and I
cannot believe, and do not believe that she ever wrote any part of that

I think that if anything in the world stands proven, and well and solidly
proven, by unimpeachable testimony--the treacherous testimony of her own
pen in her known and undisputed literary productions--it is that Mrs.
Eddy is not capable of thinking upon high planes, nor of reasoning
clearly nor writing intelligently upon low ones.

Inasmuch as--in my belief--the very first editions of the book Science
and Health were far above the reach of Mrs. Eddy's mental and literary
abilities, I think she has from the very beginning been claiming as her
own another person's book, and wearing as her own property laurels
rightfully belonging to that person--the real author of Science and
Health. And I think the reason--and the only reason--that he has not
protested is because his work was not exposed to print until after he was
safely dead.

That with an eye to business, and by grace of her business talent, she
has restored to the world neglected and abandoned features of the
Christian religion which her thousands of followers find gracious and
blessed and contenting, I recognize and confess; but I am convinced that
every single detail of the work except just that one--the delivery of the
Product to the world--was conceived and performed by another.

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