MARY BAKER EDDY: An Interpretive Biography of the Founder of Christian Science by

MARY BAKER EDDY: An Interpretive Biography of the Founder of Christian Science

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Sensible interpretations, but a mediocre biography. Silberger is a Boston psychiatrist, and he treats MBE with the deference usually accorded rich and prominent patients. Not that he's blind to Eddy's manipulativeness, to her phobias and repressions, or to her gross intellectual deficiencies, but he dodges summary judgments. ""She brought the promise of good health,"" he timidly concludes, ""and opportunities for successful careers for many women. . . ."" Undoubtedly, but at what cost? What about the fundamental lie involved in denying the reality of the body? Still, Silberger makes some useful observations. He studies the ways Eddy practiced ""languishing as a form of self-expression"" in her youth. He analyzes her famous ""Fall on the Ice"" in Lynn, Mass., on February 1, 1866, a minor accident which Eddy transmogrified into a mystical death and resurrection and which led her to exchange her frailty and dependence on others for dynamic personal initiative. He speculates, with commendable restraint, on the frustrated eroticism implicit in Eddy's vehement attacks on two former associates in faith healing, Richard Kennedy and Harry Spofford. All this is fine, but not enough to jolt Silberger's story into life. He has little sense of the color and texture of 19th-century America, little ear for literary style (his own grinds on monotonously), and little dramatic instinct. Granted, Eddy is a difficult, even maddening subject: somewhere in between a genius and a fool, part ruthless autocrat (as in her seizure of total control over the Church of Christ Scientist in Boston), part deranged enthusiast (as in her insistence that she would never die a natural death, but be ""mentally murdered""). But instead of fusing his material into a coherent whole, Silberger has simply dumped it into the reader's lap.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1980
Publisher: Little, Brown