Does Christian Science have a connection to Freemasonry?
In answering this question, some background information is useful. Freemasonry is a fraternal order found in many countries, its membership consisting only of men. It is organized into several “bodies,” such as the Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite, York Rite, Royal Arch Masons, and Shriners.
Other organizations are associated with Freemasonry, including the Eastern Star, which admits both men and women, and the Order of DeMolay, which admits young men between the ages of 12 and 21. Rainbow Girls and Job’s Daughters admit young women between 10 and 20.
Initiates into Masonic bodies are given a series of “degrees,” consisting of rituals and allegorical plays symbolizing the moral and spiritual teachings of Masonry. In the United States, atheists are not accepted as members, and a member must have passed through the three degrees of the Blue Lodge (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason) before being permitted to join any of the other Masonic bodies.
Some of Freemasonry’s symbolism derives from accounts and legends of King Solomon’s temple, and the work and tools of stone masons. Actual stone masons are referred to as “operative Masons,” with Freemasons known as “speculative Masons.” The core principles of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Masons are enjoined to care for fellow members, as well as widows of deceased members. The order also engages in much charitable work.1
Mary Baker Eddy’s first husband, George Washington Glover, was an active Freemason in Charleston, South Carolina. Because of her exposure to the values of Freemasonry through him, and because of the care his brother Masons showed her after his untimely death in 1844, Eddy had a lifelong respect and appreciation for the Masonic Order. On page 19 of her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, she wrote:
My husband was a freemason, being a member in Saint Andrew’s Lodge, Number 10, and of Union Chapter, Number 3, of Royal Arch masons. He was highly esteemed and sincerely lamented by a large circle of friends and acquaintances, whose kindness and sympathy helped to support me in this terrible bereavement. A month later I returned to New Hampshire, where, at the end of four months, my babe was born.
Colonel Glover’s tender devotion to his young bride was remarked by all observers. With his parting breath he gave pathetic directions to his brother masons about accompanying her on her sad journey to the North. Here it is but justice to record, they performed their obligations most faithfully.2
Eddy’s third husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy, remarked on this appreciation in a September 15, 1877, letter to George Prescott, who had studied Christian Science with Eddy that February:
Mrs Eddy has had long experience with the Free-masons and is highly in favor of the Order and I think of joining them the first opportunity. Had you not better join them before locating in practice, Candidates are required to join where they have lived within the jurisdiction of the Lodge six months and within the state one year.
I think if the people of your place thought you had gone west and did not know what part of it you might do well to start a practice at Fair Haven Conn. my brother is there and is a Free-mason and if you were a member of that fraternity my brother and all of the Brotherhood would feel interested in you.3
In 1883 Eddy established a monthly publication, The Christian Science Journal, and in 1898 a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel. During her lifetime there were favorable mentions of Freemasonry and of her respect for it in these magazines. For example, the August 14, 1909, Sentinel quoted a Masonic publication, the New England Craftsman:
Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science church, has made a generous contribution of five hundred dollars to the Massachusetts Masonic Home [the equivalent of $14,307 in 2020]. We have before found pleasure in noting Mrs. Eddy’s favorable opinion of freemasonry, and her generous action speaks louder than words in testimony of the sincerity of her belief in its value. We hope her example may stimulate others of the opposite sex who have the means to do likewise.4
As the Christian Science movement grew, questions arose from time to time as to the appropriateness of its members being active in organizations other than those directly connected to Christian Science, including Freemasonry. For instance, on January 24, 1885, C. F. Morrill, a Christian Scientist in Chicago, wrote to Eddy and asked, “Is proper for a Christian Scientist to belong to a Free Mason Lodge. If a member should he withdraw.”5 While a reply from Eddy is not extant, in due time she gave guidance in the Manual of The Mother Church, in the form of a By-Law she sent to the Christian Science Board of Directors on May 2, 1904, titled “Church Organizations Ample.”6 It was published in the 41st edition of the Manual: “Members of the Mother Church shall not be made members of Clubs or organizations, the Free Masons excepted, which exclude either sex or are not named in the Manual of the Mother Church. God separates the tares and wheat to garner the latter in His storehouse.”7
Eventually Eddy decided to remove mention of specific organizations in that By-Law. And she included a statement that Mother Church members should “not unite with organizations which impede their progress in Christian Science,” as well as pointing out to members that “within the wide channels of The Mother Church” they had a “dutiful and sufficient occupation.”8
In the end, Eddy left it up to individual members to decide if an organization’s missions and goals would interfere with their “dutiful and sufficient” occupation as members of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Along these lines, Judge Clifford P. Smith, Manager of the Committee on Publication office in Boston, commented in a letter to the New Age magazine, regarding content in its February 1925 issue:
In the same issue there was an answer to a question which quoted a former By-law of Mrs. Eddy’s church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, which expressly excepted Freemasonry from a rule against members of this church joining other organizations. As this By-law was afterward amended, it is worded in general terms, without any mention of Freemasonry. As the By-law in question is now worded, it leaves each member of this church to decide for himself about joining any particular organization. It is quite true, however, that Mrs. Eddy regarded Masonry favorably.9
- Further information on Freemasonry and the various organizations associated with it can be found on numerous websites. We have not located a site that contains in a single place complete information on all of the aspects of Masonry and its associated organizations.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 19.
- Asa Gilbert Eddy to George Prescott, 15 September 1877, L16184.
- “Selected Articles,” Christian Science Sentinel, 14 August 1909, 987.
- C. F. Morrill to Eddy, 24 January 1885, IC563.59.021.
- Eddy to the Christian Science Board of Directors, 2 May 1904, L00857B.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Manual of The Mother Church, 41st edition, Article XXVI, Section 14 (Boston: Joseph Armstrong), 72.
- Eddy, Church Manual, 89th edition (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 44–45.
- “Selected Articles,” Sentinel, 15 August 1925, 988.