Did Mary Baker Eddy write it? “Evil is not Power”

March 22, 2021

We are sometimes asked about the authorship of a leaflet titled “Evil is not Power.” It began as a reprinted editorial from the November 2, 1907 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.1 The title comes from a statement by Mary Baker Eddy on page 192 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Archibald McLellan, the editor of the church’s periodicals and a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors, wrote the editorial; Eddy then revised it extensively and had it turned into a leaflet.

“Evil is not Power” responded to an article by Benjamin Orange Flower (often referred to as B.O. Flower), in the October 1907 issue of a magazine called The Arena. Irving C. Tomlinson recalled this in his 1932 reminiscence:

The October [1907] Arena, which was a friend of Mrs. Eddy and of the Christian Science movement, published an article in which the writer appeared to say that evil was power. Mrs. Eddy saw this article and, as she had befriended “The Arena” and had asked Christian Scientists to subscribe for it, she felt that a correction was needed. She asked in the first place that her editor, Mr. McLellan, prepare an article on the subject — evil is not power — which he did. It was not satisfactory to Mrs. Eddy however. When the proof came before her the writer remembers that she revised it. She then had it reprinted and decided to put it into leaflet form. The writer has in his possession many of the proof sheets of this article which show that Mrs. Eddy corrected, changed and criticised it at least a dozen times before it appeared in its final form.2

Flower had founded The Arena in 1889. It was known for its advocacy of social reform.3 In his article, Flower attempted to rebut the “seven alleged delusions” under which Eddy had supposedly suffered, according to William E. Chandler, the lead counsel for the “Next Friends” in a 1907 lawsuit brought against Eddy.4

“Evil is not Power” was published several times. It first appeared in the November 2, 1907, Sentinel. Eddy then amended and reprinted it in the November 9, 1907 issue.5 However, a mistake occurred in the last two sentences of the second paragraph. Because of this a correction was made in the following issue (November 16, 1907).6 After that, Eddy continued to revise the text before publishing it as a leaflet. Even after that, she made further revisions and reissued it.7 This final version never appeared in the Christian Science magazines—it was published only as a leaflet.

Eddy clearly considered this subject to be of great importance. At one point when communicating with McLellan over the text’s wording, she wrote, “I foresee what is required to make it consistent with the future history of Christian Science.”8

“Evil is not Power” was widely distributed. On November 20, 1907, Alfred Farlow—whose position as Manager of Committees on Publication for the church brought him into frequent contact with the public and the press—wrote to Eddy: “We are sending the pamphlet to the entire world – 150,000 copies in all.”9 Notices of the leaflet’s free distribution appeared in issues of the Sentinel, and quantities were made available at Christian Science Reading Rooms.10

Laura Sargent was a student of Eddy and worked on her household staff. For over 20 years she often provided Eddy with prayerful support. On November 22, 1907, Sargent recorded this in her diary:

Mother [Eddy] called us and said that this message “Evil Is Not Power” that was being printed in pamphlet form was the sounding of the last [a]ngel (message), for this message settles the question about there being any power in evil or any evil.11

A couple of days later she mentioned the pamphlet again:

Mother is still working on the pamphlet “Evil Is Not Power.” In the afternoon when it was finished, she called us and said: “I have showed them there is no evil. There is nothing to quarrel over. First they will see that this is contrary to their former beliefs, and this will interest them. Then they will read it through to the end, and it will heal them. This is healing, not treatment but healing.” Then I showed her Revelation 12:9, 10 and Revelation 11:15, and she marked them in her Bible.12

In the March 7, 1908, issue of the Sentinel, the Christian Science Committee on Publication for California reported that over 12,000 copies of “Evil is not Power” had been distributed in the state by the end of 1907—less than two months after the leaflet was published.13 It was also translated into German and published in the March 1908 German edition of The Herald of Christian Science (known to German speakers at the time as Der Herold der Christian Science).14Although a discussion took place between Eddy and the Board of Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society about a French translation, one was never published.15

The leaflets printed by The Christian Science Publishing Society are part of The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s collections.

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  1. Archibald McLellan, “Evil is not Power,” Christian Science Sentinel, 2 November 1907, 170.
  2. Irving C. Tomlinson, “Mary Baker Eddy: The Woman and the Revelator,” 1932, Reminiscence, 403.
  3. Susan Harris Smith and Melanie Dawson, eds., The American 1890s: A Cultural Reader (Durham, North Carolina, and London: Duke University Press, 2000), 273.
  4. B.O. Flower, “The Seven Alleged Delusions of the Founder of Christian Science Examined in the Light of History and Present-Day Research,” The Arena, October 1907, 408–422.
  5. Archibald McLellan, “Evil is not Power,” Sentinel, 9 November 1907, 190.
  6. “A Correction,” Sentinel, 16 November 1907, 210.
  7. Copy of “Evil is not Power” with notations in Mary Baker Eddy’s handwriting, 1907, L07084.
  8. Mary Baker Eddy to McLellan, 5 November 1907, L07072.
  9. Alfred Farlow to Mary Baker Eddy, 20 November 1907, IC006fP2.06.053.
  10. For one example, see “For Free Distribution,” Christian Science Sentinel, 7 December 1907, 273.
  11. Laura Sargent, “Priceless Lessons from Our Leader,” in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume I (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2011), 113.
  12. Laura Sargent, “Priceless Lessons from Our Leader,” in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume I (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2011), 113–114.
  13. “Among the Churches,” Sentinel, 7 March 1908, 533.
  14. Archibald McLellan, “Das Übel ist keine Macht,” Der Herold der Christian Science, March 1908, 561–563.
  15. Trustees, Christian Science Publishing Society to Mary Baker Eddy, 2 December 1907, IC094b.21.021.