Baym, Nina. “Spiritual Science,” Pages 195–212 in American Women of Letters and the Nineteenth-Century Sciences: Styles of Affiliation. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.
Baym was a literary critic and literary historian as well as professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1963 to 2004. She points out that people in the 19th century credited their superior Protestant-Enlightenment heritage for the scientific advances so evident at this time. The implication for women was clear: technology (machinery) would allow men as well as women (the weaker sex physically) to “rule by intellectual, and moral and religious power, not by physical strength and material force” (197). However, women also held on to the privileges that came with their century’s “carefully crafted ideology of female [spiritual] exceptionalism” (197), which gave them a kind of knowing that went beyond the knowledge of the material world. Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, would combine the authority of the sciences and Protestant Christianity with the exceptionalism of the feminine to claim her spiritual knowing as not supernatural, but revealing a predictable scientific law; and her ‘Science’ as spiritual, for it gave one dominion over matter—this Science operating behind Jesus’s healings. Therefore, to Eddy, material science and technological progress were all “destined for philosophical obsolescence” (200)—they would eventually reveal “matter’s ontological unreality” (199) and the corresponding spiritual reality.