Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture
Peel, Robert. Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture. Harrington Park, NJ: Robert H. Sommer, 1958.
Peel fills a gap in American intellectual history with his analysis of 19th-century Transcendentalism in relation to the philosophy of Christian Science. These historical voices sometimes blended in metaphysical similarities, but the pragmatic nature of Christian Science commitment to healing was ultimately incompatible with Transcendental idealism. Bronson Alcott and Mary Baker Eddy conversed amicably about the mental nature of being and the potential of individual worth. But their parting of ways was dictated as much by Eddy’s radical attitude toward the material world as by a “sort of psychological toughness” (50) not so conspicuous in idealists. Unlike Alcott, she was working in the grime of human life, coming to grips with the passions, prejudices, and struggles of ordinary people to awaken and heal them. Critics coming from Emerson’s (Transcendental) ‘common sense’ perspective found the Christian Science denial of evil too dogmatic. But Eddy insisted that the denial of evil required cross-bearing, and the pragmatic test of such denial is whether healing occurs. Peel noted that in succeeding generations, the situation regarding the treatment of disease had changed, due to advances in medical technology. Peel suggests that Christian Science is a sort of “spiritual ultimate, so far at least as active spirituality is concerned…. our sense of fitness demands that the highest spiritual values shall have a quality of daring” (202).