“With Bleeding Footsteps”: Mary Baker Eddy’s Path to Religious Leadership
Thomas, Robert David. “With Bleeding Footsteps”: Mary Baker Eddy’s Path to Religious Leadership. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
Thomas, not a Christian Scientist, draws on his training in history and psychoanalysis to explain why some of the unusual details of Mary Baker Eddy’s life were disturbing to some and dismissed as irrelevant to her followers. Although Thomas’s work was completed prior to the public opening of the Church archives, he acknowledges that as an outsider, he gained unprecedented access to archives and church spokespeople in support of his research. He focuses on understanding the complexities and inconsistencies of Eddy’s life that caused the range of reactions from veneration to vilification. Most notably, Thomas identifies Eddy’s childhood experience with dangerous and lengthy illness as both the inspiration for her future commitment to healing and her struggles with life-and-death issues, distorted parental attitudes, and fears of malignant forces. His social and psychological analysis of her perplexing behavior as a child and as leader of her movement reveals both her remarkable abilities and the cause of her personal struggles. He explains how Eddy’s mid-life healing from serious internal injuries re-set the direction of her life. But even at the height of her accomplishments, she grappled with her identity as mother, a spiritual ideal, and an aging woman. Thomas treats Eddy’s life choices and actions seriously and respectfully but critically.