Friday, September 19, 2008

MBE Biographies and Not Biograhies

The value of reading a good biography of Mary Baker Eddy, and especially the Robert Peel, has been discussed in at least two or three earlier entries. The We Knew Mary Baker Eddy series, originally in four volumes (Series), can also be highly recommended. These reminiscences almost put the reader in her presence, and many uplifting statements by her are recorded by the various authors. It is hard to avoid feeling these volumes are indispensable to Christian Scientists, and they should be visited from time to time.

On the other hand, the much ballyhooed inaugural volume in Boston's Mary Baker Eddy biography series, The Destiny of The Mother Church by Bliss Knapp, is not by the most attenuated stretch of the word a biography of her, and it doesn't claim to be. It is a reminiscence by Bliss Knapp of his parents, who were early pioneers in the Christian Science Movement. It is a fine book for what it is, but Mrs. Eddy is only mentioned in the last few chapters.

The publication of this book by Boston is a tale of lucre, as most readers of this blog doubtless already know. The Knapp will stated, more or less, that the estate would be awarded to The Mother Church if the Christian Science Publishing Society would publish the book and make it available in "essentially all" Reading Rooms. For decades the Church refused to publish the book, even for the very large bequest ($180+ million by the late 80's), probably because the book takes the position that Mrs. Eddy is the woman in Revelation and because it really isn't about her or Christian Science per se.

As the closing date in the terms of the will drew near, it was decided that the obvious bolus wasn't really all that large and could be disingenuously and remuneratively swallowed. It was all a bit hugger-mugger, but the folks in Boston convinced themselves this non-biography was a swell candidate to start a new Mary Baker Eddy biography series. Mind you, money had nothing to do with this decision. As it turned out Boston only got half of the estate and the "default" legatee, Stanford University (?), the other half.

Also, if memory serves, at least one teacher of Christian Science was defrocked for teaching the position on Mrs. Eddy that the Knapp book takes. How will the Christian Science church survive and prosper on the pitifully thin gruel of prevarication, money-grubbing, and mendacity?

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