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Reproduced from the archive of The Mary Baker Eddy Library

Science and Health chapter "Animal Magnetism Unmasked"

Throughout her writings, Mary Baker Eddy addresses how to prayerfully combat "mental malpractice," the controlling of others through mental means in order to cause harm. In the third edition of Science and Health (1881), she writes about it in a lengthy and personal way in a chapter titled "Demonology." Her thoughts evolved over the years, and by the final edition, the chapter on this topic, titled "Animal Magnetism Unmasked," was very short and impersonal.

"Animal Magnetism Unmasked," found on pages 100-106 of the current edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Eddy, had its beginnings in the first edition of the book, published in 1875. On pages 37 and 38 of her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, Eddy writes of including additional material after the manuscript of the first edition was in the hands of the printer. This new material, found on pages 363-383 of that edition, described what she felt she had discovered about the mesmeric influence of evil in human life and its specific manifestation in "mental malpractice," in which individuals attempted to harm others through mental means. While, right from the beginning, Eddy's teachings on Christian Science affirmed that evil is an impersonal lie to be overcome through a consciousness of the allness and power of God, divine Love, the history of "Animal Magnetism Unmasked" chronicles Eddy's gradual personal growth in regard to the implications of this teaching. A sense of her thoughts on this issue can be seen in the following quotation from the first edition on page 123:

In coming years the person or mind that hates his neighbor, will have no need to traverse his fields, to destroy his flocks and herds, and spoil his vines; or to enter his house to demoralize his household; for the evil mind will do this through mesmerism; and not in propria persona be seen committing the deed. Unless this terrible hour be met and restrained by Science, mesmerism, that scourge of man, will leave nothing sacred when mind begins to act under direction of conscious power.

By the time the third edition of Science and Health was published in 1881, Eddy had greatly expanded this material into a chapter titled "Demonology." The chapter not only explained and denounced the evils of mesmerism and mental malpractice, but it was very personal in identifying specific individuals Eddy felt were engaging in mental malpractice against her, against other Christian Scientists, and against the Christian Science movement. These former Christian Scientists, Richard Kennedy and Daniel H. Spofford chief among them, were identified by their initials. Life challenges that Eddy believed to be the results of their malpractice, including legal difficulties, illnesses, breaking up of marriages, and relapses of difficulties that had been healed, are described in detail. Typical of passages in the chapter are these, referring to Richard Kennedy:

Carefully veiling his character, through unsurpassed secretiveness, he wore the mask of innocence and youth. But he was young only in years; a marvellous plotter, dark and designing, he was constantly surprising us, and we half shut our eyes to avoid the pain of discovery, while we struggled with the gigantic evil of his character, but failed to destroy it... (Science and Health, 3rd ed., II, page 2).

The Nero of to-day, regaling himself through a mental method with the tortures of individuals, is repeating history, and will fall upon his own sword, and it shall pierce him through. Let him remember this when, in the dark recesses of thought, he is robbing, committing adultery, and killing; when he is attempting to turn friend away from friend, ruthlessly stabbing the quivering heart; when he is clipping the thread of life, and giving to the grave youth and its rainbow hues; when he is turning back the reviving sufferer to her bed of pain, clouding her first morning after years of night; and the Nemesis of that hour shall point to the tyrant's fate, who falls at length upon the sword of justice. (Science and Health, 3rd ed., II, pages 38-39).

Not surprisingly, there were readers of Science and Health who were taken aback by these passages in the "Demonology" chapter, and some even wrote to Eddy, urging her to let go of what they regarded as an obsession with animal magnetism (mesmerism) and mental malpractice. One example can be found in a letter written to Eddy by Frances N. Wilbur on April 18, 1883. Wilbur was a resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, who had shown interest in Christian Science, and she concluded her comments on this matter by saying, "I have heard so many people of excellent judgment, and great intelligence say that they feared your zeal in this matter outran your discretion..." (724A.89.018Click link to view 724A.89.018 document in new window).

It's evident that, by the time the sixth edition of her book was published in September 1883, Eddy herself was beginning to see the necessity of a more impersonal approach. The chapter "Demonology" in the new edition was not only shorter than the third, but many of the personal references and sensational accounts had been eliminated. This trend continued through subsequent editions. The chapter title was changed to "Animal Magnetism," and by the fiftieth edition, published in 1891, the chapter was very short and similar to the current edition's "Animal Magnetism Unmasked." As it finally stood, the chapter included no personal references. And while it exposed the workings of mesmerism and mental malpractice, it also emphasized the powerlessness of evil when confronted by a consciousness of the allness and goodness of God. As Eddy wrote on page 103: "In reality there is no mortal mind, and consequently no transference of mortal thought and will-power. Life and being are of God."

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