Did Mary Baker Eddy write it? A letter to Septimus J. Hanna

Although Mary Baker Eddy wrote hundreds of letters to Septimus J. Hanna, we are frequently asked about one she did not write, in which she purportedly asked Hanna to “keep a time for meditation” each day. 

We do not know who wrote the letter in question, which is often prefaced by an authentic statement from his 1918 reminiscences: 

In 189[7] when work had accumulated to such an extent that I wrote Mrs. Eddy for permission to resign some of my places she asked me to adopt a method of relief by taking certain hours each day for selfwork, during which I was not to be interrupted by anyone for any purpose. She said that had she not adopted such a course she never could have accomplished her work.1

Eddy did in fact send a letter to Hanna, asking him to set aside time each day to pray and study—but it did not direct him to “keep a time for meditation.” 

Here is what we do know. In June 1897 Hanna wrote to Eddy saying that he felt “overtaxed and almost overborne” by his work, to the extent that he was “suffering day and night.” He hoped for a time of prayer and the study of Christian Science—“an opportunity to get with God and the books.”2 At this time he was First Reader of The Mother Church, Editor of The Christian Science Journal, and a member of the Bible Lesson Committee. 

Eddy replied: “you can go apart to pray—this we all need to do, and I want you to do it.”3  Two weeks later she wrote to him again: 

You are now taking the right steps  Go into your secret “upper chamber” (observatory) shut out observation and the world since the kingdom of good cometh not thereby – and pray.  No better possible place hath earth for prayer than that But to reap the reward take up your cross overcome the fear of man that bringeth a snare.  Tell your wife and her servants never to disturb you at those hours of prayer fix them at four hours each day for reading prayer and meditation alone with God.  Let your rule for this have no more exception than if you were on an island in the sea.  Be strong and firm on this basis till you are ready to feel “I have had my vacation I am ready for harder work”.  Life is not rest it is action doing good is Life, rest, and action. But turmoil and the world’s nothing forced on one goads and thus tires good folks.  You are an example of action that cannot weary, it bears the burdens that Christ, Truth, make light.  Love gives you rest in this toil and sweetens it.4

After signing the letter, Eddy gave additional guidance, stating that Hanna could drop any of his offices but First Reader. “Aside from 4 hours employed as designated,” she added, “study the Word, meditate pray, watch, work, but not weary. I mean by this mental work. Remember this fixed fact.”5

In summary, the document in question is a mixture of authentic and inauthentic material. The introduction attributed to Hanna, while generally authentically his own, is from his 1918 reminiscence. However, the words attributed to Eddy asking Hanna to “keep a time for meditation” are not hers; we have quoted her authentic responses to Hanna’s plea in the two letters excerpted above.

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  1. Septimus J. Hanna, “Reminiscences of Mary Baker Eddy,” 1918, Reminiscence, 70.
  2. Hanna to Eddy, 20 June 1897, IC033bp1.13.031.
  3. Eddy to Hanna, 21 June 1897, L05195.
  4. Eddy to Hanna, 5 August 1897, L14478.
  5. ibid.