“Physic and Metaphysic in Nineteenth-Century America: Medical Sectarians and Religious Healing”
Albanese, Catherine L. “Physic and Metaphysic in Nineteenth-Century America: Medical Sectarians and Religious Healing.” Church History 55, no. 4 (1986): 489–502.
Albanese argues that the 19th-century American interests in both “physic and metaphysic showed striking points of connection and overlap” (502). The popular mentality of the era deified nature and made it into a religion of metaphysical components. The concept of ‘nature’ was so ill-defined, however, it ranged from the simple physical world to an abstract idea of the environment without any real connection with the world. Some considered nature the illusory outer garment of higher spirit, and for others it connoted the truly real. But in many religious manifestations, “the theology of nature … understood nature and mind as primary principles and the healing act as the expression of virtue through ritual” (492). This is why, as Albanese argues, American metaphysical religion paradoxically also expressed forms of the theology of nature. Phineas P. Quimby forms the link from channeling energy to heal through mesmeric roots to mental healing. But “it remained for Mary Baker Eddy, former Quimbyian patient and student, to achieve the greatest clarity regarding matter and mind, given the inconsistencies of the heritage” (501). And yet in her own way, Eddy also wove a relationship of ‘nature’ into her metaphysical schema, as Albanese quotes Eddy’s Science and Health: “Laws of nature are laws of Spirit” (Science and Health, 183).
Print ISSN: 0009-6407
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