Is Eddy’s “course in Divinity” accessible?

August 3, 2021

29th Edition of the Church Manual

Church Manual (29th edition) by Mary Baker Eddy, 1903.

We have been asked about a course mentioned in a By-Law of the Church Manual by Mary Baker Eddy. It is in Article XXII, Section 11. Under the heading “Opportunity for Serving the Leader,” is this statement:

At the written request of the Pastor Emeritus, Mrs. Eddy, the Board of Directors shall immediately notify a person who has been a member of this Church at least three years to go in ten days to her, and it shall be the duty of the member thus notified to remain with Mrs. Eddy three years consecutively…. Those members whom she teaches the course in Divinity, and who remain with her three consecutive years, receive the degree of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College.1

This By-Law first appeared in the 29th edition of the Manual (1903). Its original wording required members to attend Eddy for one year, rather than three, and did not make reference to the course in Divinity.

In the 49th edition of the Manual (1905), this sentence was added: “Those members that she teaches the course in Divinity, stay with her three years, and receive the degree D.S.D. of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College.”

In the 76th edition of the Manual (1909), the By-Law assumed its present wording.

We have been unable to find any information about the course itself, and we do not know of any students who received the degree of D.S.D.

There is a notebook in our collections titled “Notes taken in Mrs. Eddy’s home ‘Pleasant View’ by Lida W. Fitzpatrick.” The author, Lida Fitzpatrick, served in Eddy’s household for eight months from 1903 to 1904, and for seven months in 1907. The manuscript (which is in Fitzpatrick’s handwriting) labels only the first lesson (May 13, 1903) as “One lesson in Divinity.”2 However, we have not found any evidence that Eddy characterized her statements in this way.

Irving Tomlinson was closely associated with Eddy and her household from about 1898 to 1910. On March 2, 1934, he wrote to the Christian Science Board of Directors, stating that he had never heard Eddy, or anyone in her household, speak about a divinity course or course notes.3

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  1. Mary Baker Eddy, Church Manual, 89th edition (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 67–68.
  2. Selections of Fitzpatrick’s reminiscence are available in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume II (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2013). See 109–110.
  3. Irving C. Tomlinson to the Christian Science Board of Directors, 2 March 1934, Reminiscence.