“How may I best study ‘Science and Health’?”

From time to time we’re asked for background on correspondence between Mary Baker Eddy and Frank Walter Gale (1862–1944) regarding this question. He was a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in San Francisco, California, whose reminiscence of Eddy is published on pages 213–220 of We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. I.

On December 30, 1890, Gale wrote Eddy:

Your message to me, to “wait for the new revise of Science and Health,” and that “careful study of that book would supply my need for further instruction,” was received, and I will do so, trusting that I may hear the voice of Truth and Love so clearly through it, that the suggestions of error will be silenced. There is one question I would like to ask, and that is, how may I best study Science and Health? Should it be read consecutively, topically, or any particular chapter studied specially? And would it be best to devote all my time to it for a season, or study it in connection with my regular work? I want to do what will best promote progress, and will do so as fast as I see the way.1

In his reminiscence, Gale quotes from the letter Eddy sent him in response to his questions.2:

I was pleased to hear from you. Had felt that our Father was giving you line upon line and you had the best Teacher and most loving in all His ways. This abated any care of mine for you. In reading my revised edition that is, by the way, published this week, there is no special direction requisite.

The general rule is to commence with the first chapter, read slowly, and pause as you read to apply certain portions which meet your present need,—to thought that will carry them out in action. The book is complete in itself; it is a teacher and healer. Has 50 pages more than the old edition just past. The labor I have bestowed on it, you cannot reckon. There are more signs of it than you can see, but not more than will be felt.3

The revised edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that Eddy and Gale were discussing was the 50th edition—a major revision published on January 19, 1891.4

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  1. Gale to Eddy, 30 December 1890, IC130.23.009.
  2. Eddy to Gale, 20 January 1891, L08564.
  3. Gale, “Our Leader as Teacher and Friend,” in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume I (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2011), 219.
  4. Eddy to Ruth B. Ewing, 18 January 1891, L08500.