'WITH BLEEDING FOOTSTEPS' by Robert David Thomas


Mary Baker Eddy's Path to Religious Leadership
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 An intriguing, though by no means definitive, biography of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), the woman who founded Christian Science. Thomas (The Man Who Would Be Perfect, not reviewed), a teacher and psychoanalyst, takes a psychoanalytic approach to his subject. In so doing, he seeks to discern the inner motives of his enigmatic and charismatic subject. Born in New Hampshire, Eddy demonstrated a religious turn of mind at a young age. She joined the Congregational Church and, despite her inability to subscribe to some of its doctrines, remained a member until she founded her own church. The other defining element of her childhood was frail health: Whenever ill, she turned to the Bible for solace. From this experience, the first seeds of her thinking on religion and health were planted. These reached fruition in 1875 with the publication of her well-known volume, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures. Four years later she established the Church of Christ, Scientist. It was the beginning of a movement that continued to grow until her death in 1910 (and even after). As part of her work, she energetically founded a college and several newspapers. Examining Eddy's private motivations, Thomas discusses her ambivalent and troubled relations with men, particularly her father and her first husband. He also treats the public reaction to Eddy, who was revered by her followers while others called her a charlatan, a ``moral thief,'' and a dictator. In the end, the author admits that he remains ambivalent about a subject whom he has taken 15 years to characterize. Though he offers a wealth of information, Thomas curiously omits some important incidents in Eddy's life (such as her calling). His psychologizing approach is at times helpful and at times grating.

Pub Date: July 7th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-41495-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994