Mrs. Eddy could stop it if she was not fond of it, for her sovereignty over that temple is supreme.
The fitting-up of that place as a shrine is not an accident, nor a casual, unweighed idea; it is imitated from age--old religious custom. In Treves the pilgrim reverently gazes upon the Seamless Robe, and humbly worships; and does the same in that other continental church where they keep a duplicate; and does likewise in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, where memorials of the Crucifixion are preserved; and now, by good fortune we have our Holy Chair and things, and a market for our adorations nearer home.
But is there not a detail that is new, fresh, original? Yes, whatever old thing Mrs. Eddy touches gets something new by the contact--something not thought of before by any one--something original, all her own, and copyrightable. The new feature is self worship--exhibited in permitting this shrine to be installed during her lifetime, and winking her sacred eye at it.
A prominent Christian Scientist has assured me that the Scientists do not worship Mrs. Eddy, and I think it likely that there may be five or six of the cult in the world who do not worship her, but she herself is certainly not of that company. Any healthy-minded person who will examine Mrs. Eddy's little Autobiography and the Manual of By-laws written by her will be convinced that she worships herself; and that she brings to this service a fervor of devotion surpassing even that which she formerly laid at the feet of the Dollar, and equalling any which rises to the Throne of Grace from any quarter.
I think this is as good a place as any to salve a hurt which I was the means of inflicting upon a Christian Scientist lately. The first third of this book was written in 1899 in Vienna. Until last summer I had supposed that that third had been printed in a book which I published about a year later--a hap which had not happened. I then sent the chapters composing it to the North American Review, but failed. in one instance, to date them. And so, In an undated chapter I said a lady told me "last night" so and so. There was nothing to indicate to the reader that that "last night" was several years old, therefore the phrase seemed to refer to a night of very recent date. What the lady had told me was, that in a part of the Mother-Church in Boston she had seen Scientists worshipping a portrait of Mrs. Eddy before which a light was kept constantly burning.
A Scientist came to me and wished me to retract that "untruth." He said there was no such portrait, and that if I wanted to be sure of it I could go to Boston and see for myself. I explained that my "last night" meant a good while ago; that I did not doubt his assertion that there was no such portrait there now, but that I should continue to believe it had been there at the time of the lady's visit until she should retract her statement herself. I was at no time vouching for the truth of the remark, nevertheless I considered it worth par.
And yet I am sorry the lady told me, since a wound which brings me no happiness has resulted. I am most willing to apply such salve as I can. The best way to set the matter right and make everything pleasant and agreeable all around will be to print in this place a description of the shrine as it appeared to a recent visitor, Mr. Frederick W. Peabody, of Boston. I will copy his newspaper account, and the reader will see that Mrs. Eddy's portrait is not there now:
"We lately stood on the threshold of the Holy of Holies of the Mother- Church, and with a crowd of worshippers patiently waited for admittance to the hallowed precincts of the 'Mother's Room.' Over the doorway was a sign informing us that but four persons at a time would be admitted; that they would be permitted to remain but five minutes only, and would please retire from the 'Mother's Room' at the ringing of the bell. Entering with three of the faithful, we looked with profane eyes upon the consecrated furnishings. A show-woman in attendance monotonously announced the character of the different appointments.