Key Thinkers that Pre-dated MBE: Swedenborg, Berkeley, & Hegel.

This is part of our series Where did “Science & Health” come from? This post briefly covers Emanuel Swedenborg, Bishop George Berkeley, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.


Emanuel Swedenborg

Wikipedia tells us Emmanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, revelator, and mystic best known for his book Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen (Latin name De Caelo et Ejus Mirabilibus et de inferno, ex Auditis et Visis), published in 1758.

From the Swedenborg website, under ‘Cultural Influence’ they discuss

One of the most enduring movements involving spiritual healing was initiated by Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910). Mrs. Eddy’s ideas, and even her very wording, are in some instances so similar to Swedenborg’s that many people have concluded that Christian Science is derived from Swedenborgianism. While Swedenborg never advocated exclusive reliance on spirit to heal the physical body (as did Mrs. Eddy), he did write voluminously on the interconnectedness of soul and body—an awareness that is now gaining ground in modern medicine. Thus Swedenborg’s influence continues to be felt today—especially among artists, spiritual seekers, and people who like to think “outside the box”!

It is worth reading The New York Times piece dated August 18, 1907 comparing Eddy and Swendenborg. In addition to offering an interesting analysis of their respective works, it also offers a side-by-side comparison of Swendenborg/Eddy.


Bishop Berkeley 

George Berkeley (1685 – 1753), aka Bishop Berkeley, was “an Anglo-Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called “immaterialism” (later referred to as ‘subjective idealism’ by others). This theory denies the existence of material substance and instead contends that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers, and as a result cannot exist without being perceived.”

BerkeleianismGeorge Berkeley’s philosophy of subjective idealism, which holds thatmaterial objects have no independent being but exist only as concepts in God’s mind and asperceptions of those concepts in other minds

I’m going to let the Basics of Philosophy sum up Berkeley’s view of reality:

There exists an infinite spirit (God) and a multitude of finite spirits (humans), and we are in communication with God via our experience. Thus, what we take to be our whole experience of the world is analogous to God’s language, God’s way of talking to us, and all the laws of science and Nature we see around us are analogous to the grammar of God’s language. There is, then, in this theory, no need to postulate the existence of matter at all, as all reality is effectively mental.

I suspect this is another case of Ms. Eddy took the idea and ran with it in her own direction, as can be seen when Ms. Eddy defines Man, in Science and Health, on p. 541.

Man: The infinite idea of Infinite Spirit; the spiritual image and likeness of God; the full representation of Mind the idea of Principle, not person; the compound idea of God, including all other ideas; the generic term for all that reflects God’s image and likeness; the conscious identity of being, as found in Science, where man is the reflection of God or Mind and therefore is eternal that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity that which possesses no life intelligence or creative power of his own, but reflects all that belongs to his Maker.


Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was a German philosopher, he had much to say on a variety of topics.

There is an entire book alleging that Ms. Eddy took her ideas from Hegel. Mrs. Eddy Purloins from Hegel was written by Walter M. Haushalter and copyrighted in 1936. I have not read the entire book, merely skimmed the first few pages. Haushalter makes reference to Ms. Eddy’s ‘literary dualism’ -– something many have remarked on over the years, and anyone who reads the 1875 version of Science and Health will also wonder how Ms. Eddy turned out the 1910 revision. Ms. Eddy Purloins contains some true gems, on p. 4, Haushalter remarks

Often, after stumbling though a foggy swamp of subjectivism, one merges upon a page or half-page of terse, clear, brilliant metaphysics worth of a Kant or a Royce. It is this dualism ofcrude mythology and valid science, of wild chaos and stately order, of non-sense and sense, that exasperates.

Haushalter’s thesis is that Ms. Eddy copied her work from the Leiber Documents, a collection of works by Dr. Francis Lieber, a distinguished German-American publisher and authority on the philosophy of Hegel (4). According to Haushalter, one example of this plagiarism is none other than the Scientific Statement of Being, found in the 1910 version of Science and Health on p. 468. The following is from Ms. Eddy Purloins on p. 28:


Read more Swedenborg:

Read more Berkeley:

Read more Hegel: 

Growing up in Christian Science

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about growing up in Christian Science. 


 

It was very difficult to explain my religion’s beliefs to my friends. I was always trying to make it sound like a more ‘normal’ religion, in fact writing “United Church” on a form once because I was embarrassed to write Christian Science. I so wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want my friends to know that there was no minister at our church, that there were two people on a podium and one read from a book of garbled language I couldn’t understand and finally, it was mortifying to explain that I had to go to Sunday School instead of the church service until I was twenty!

– Tessa


When I was growing up, we definitely had pictures of Mary Baker Eddy around our house. My parents gave me a framed portrait to keep on my bedside table, in fact. I was pretty much a believer throughout my entire childhood. Then I went through the ‘it works, it’s just not for me’ phase. I think I was in my late twenties when I finally realized how much I had been misled. It’s hard to know better when everyone around you, particularly your loved ones, are fervent believers.

– Beth


When we would come home from school and announce fearfully that measles or something else was going around, my mother would say firmly, “Contagion is all in the mind!” and send us back to school. I would brag to the other students that my siblings and I never got sick because sickness was all in the mind. Then I got chicken pox. I had no idea what was happening to me and of course my mother wouldn’t have had any medical education to help with that. I remember lying alone and sick in my room staring at every inch of my skin. Where was the chicken that I was sure would be sticking to me?

– Tessa


I did everything I could to hide the fact that I was a Christian Scientist. Even my closest friends didn’t know. It was embarrassing. It made me different in ways I didn’t want to be different. Sunday School was an hour of torturous boredom, and often my parents had to fight with me to get me ready in time to go, and when I was a little kid, I couldn’t stand the little old ladies who always wanted to pinch my cheeks. Ugh! I hated that! That is why to this day, I am always extremely respectful of peoples’ personal space–especially children.

– Jeremy