Was there ever a pyramid at Mary Baker Eddy’s birthplace?
We are sometimes asked about a memorial to Mary Baker Eddy at her birthplace in Bow, New Hampshire, known as the Bow Pyramid. Did such a thing exist? Was it commissioned by The Mother Church (The First Church of Christ, Scientist)?
On December 24, 1918, such a memorial was in fact completed. It was financed by Christian Scientist James F. Lord. He owned part of the property at Bow, formerly the Mark and Abigail Baker family farm.1
The pyramid-shaped monument was built by Elbert S. Barlow, the contractor for Eddy’s memorial at Mount Auburn Cemetery, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was made from one solid piece of granite, weighed between 30 and 40 tons, and measured 10’11” x 10’11” x 6’11”. It was designed as a 1/70th-scale replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza—one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world—and was oriented so that its four sides faced directly north, south, east, and west.
Benedict nickel plaques on the pyramid were inscribed with quotes from the Bible and Eddy, as well as a Latin motto, novus ordo seclorum (“The new order of the ages”). A box placed in a cavity at the pyramid’s base contained the Bible, Eddy’s published writings, and other documents.
The pyramid’s completion went unmentioned in the periodicals published by The Mother Church, which neither sponsored nor financed the project.
Several years later, in July 1921, the “Mary Baker Eddy Centenary Committee” (also which was not affiliated with the church), invited Christian Scientists to travel to Bow on July 16, Eddy’s birthday, to mark its 100th anniversary. But the Christian Science Board of Directors sent a circular letter to church members, requesting that Christian Scientists “not centre [their] thoughts on pyramids or on personal history,” and stating that Eddy had “explicitly disapproved the commemoration of her Birthday.”2
Newspapers speculated that throngs would make a pilgrimage to Bow.3 But in fact only about 100 gathered. There were no celebrations by The Mother Church or its branch churches.4
Clifford P. Smith, Manager of The Mother Church’s Committee on Publication, gave a statement six days later:
Mrs. Eddy’s writings ought…to determine the content of Christian Science. Nothing in her writings furnishes reason for devotion to a pyramid, and nothing in her writings makes that object a sign or symbol of Christian Science…. [The] pyramid is the sign or symbol of a mystic cult extrinsic to Christian Science.5
Along with other opponents of The Mother Church, John V. Dittemore had championed the pyramid and birthday event. By then he was a former member of the Board of Directors and embroiled in litigation against that body. Dittemore claimed that Eddy’s unpublished writings contained substantial positive references to the Great Pyramid. However, we have not located such references. He also pointed out its Masonic symbolism.6
Eddy had referred briefly to “the great pyramid of Egypt” in her published sermon Christian Healing:
We are in the midst of a revolution; physics are yielding slowly to metaphysics; mortal mind rebels at its own boundaries; weary of matter, it would catch the meaning of Spirit. The only immortal superstructure is built on Truth; her modest tower rises slowly, but it stands and is the miracle of the hour, though it may seem to the age like the great pyramid of Egypt, — a miracle in stone.7
The Bow Pyramid has sometimes been connected to the claim that, at the time of her death, Eddy had had a booklet on her desk titled The Latter Days; With Evidence from the Great Pyramid, written by “F.E.H.” It’s further claimed that Eddy had marked a passage in the book associating the date of her death—December 3, 1910—with the end of the present age. The account is not true.8 Pyramidology was associated with theosophical teachings, and Eddy had written succinctly, “No greater opposites can be conceived of, physically, morally, and spiritually, than Christian Science, spiritualism, and theosophy.”9
In 1927 Lord gave the Bow property, including the pyramid, to The Mother Church.10 The memorial remained in place for 35 years, until the Board of Directors asked the New Hampshire Landscaping Association to destroy it in 1962.11 The four bronze plaques, and the copper box beneath the pyramid, were preserved.12
- “Monolith marks old Eddy farm,” Union & Leader (Manchester, N.H.), 25 December 1918.
- “No celebration,” News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), 23 July 1921, 3; Christian Science Board of Directors to “All Christian Scientists,” circular letter, 7 July 1921, Subject File, The Christian Science Publishing Society – Trustees – Litigation – Circular letters and other mailings.
- “Will Scientists Honor Mary Baker Eddy Centennial by Pilgrimages?” Boston Post, 10 July 1921, 46; A. J. Philpott, “In Spite of Mary Baker Eddy’s disapproval, followers will celebrate 100th birthday,” The Boston Globe, 10 July 1921, 46; “At Birthplace of Mrs. Eddy Hundreds to Visit Old Home Today,” Boston Post, 16 July 1921, 9.
- “Eddy Centenary Observed at Bow,” The New York Times, 17 July 1921, 22; “Mrs. Eddy’s birthday not celebrated here,” Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut), 17 July 1921, 19.
- Concord Patriot and Monitor, 22 July 1921.
- According to Clifford P. Smith, Dittemore was an advocate for “the Pyramids as prophesying all human events, and [was] also [interested] in the lost tribes of Israel, whom he contended had carried the Ark of the Covenant to Ireland ….” Clifford P. Smith, untitled reminiscence, Reminiscence, 83.
- Eddy, Christian Healing (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 11. A similar statement appears in an 1888 sermon by Eddy: “Our Ideals,” 15 July 1888, A10726B. An undated partial document by Calvin Frye and Eddy includes this: “A new old truth welling up from the Infinite is a miracle to the age but it should not [seem] like the great pyramid of Egypt, unintelligent, a miracle in stone!” A11689.
- Eddy, No and Yes (Boston, The Christian Science Board of Directors), 13.
- “Birthplace of Mrs. Eddy is given to The Mother Church,” The Christian Science Monitor, 31 May 1927, 1.
- The Christian Science Board of Directors to Leon E. Pearson, Letter, 27 April 1962, Subject File, Mary Baker Eddy: Birthplace – Pyramid.
- The Christian Science Board of Directors to Joanne Shaw, Letter, 21 May 1962, Subject File, Mary Baker Eddy: Birthplace – Pyramid.