Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/June 1889/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

AN article appears in your valuable journal for April, page 798, on the subject of "Christian Science." On page 800 an item is given concerning Dr. Teed, of Chicago, in which is stated that said Benedict was a victim of faith-cure, and that C. R. Teed will be called upon to answer criminal charges, etc. I do not know the address of our friend Mr. Fernald, so I can not write him to correct this item. I am personally acquainted with Dr. Teed and the case in question, and I desire to state, in justice to all concerned, that the statement used as an argument by our friend is not true. Dr. Teed is editor of "The Guiding Star." His system of science and philosophy is wholly different in every one of its tenets from "Christian science." he is an eclectic physician, and has had years of practice. He was called to see Mr. Benedict, and gave him medicine. The man died of inflammation of the lungs. Dr. Teed had lately moved from New York to Chicago, and he had not taken out a State license to practice medicine. This was the charge against him. He had a good physician in regular practice in consultation in the case. The man died just as millions of others do. Though both medicine and mind-cure—not "Christian science"—were employed in the case, they both failed. The charges against Dr. Teed were not sustained, and he won the case. I hope you will ask Mr. Fernald to correct this item in his article; at least mail him my statement, and see if he is human enough to undo what he has tried to do—bring reproach on a fine man in fine practice.

Respectfully,R. O. Spear.
City Hotel, Waitsburg. Washington Ter'y,
April 1, 1889.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

As to "Koreshan science" being wholly different from "Christian science," Prof. Spear's authority might seem unquestionable, as he is a graduate of the "Koreshan College," and a writer of "Koreshan" pamphlets. But, to the impartial scientific investigator, this particular hotch-potch of astrology and speculative theology named "Koreshan science" is essentially the same, in whatever curative action it may have, as "Christian science," the "faith-cure," and all other varieties of designed or accidental mental healing.

Now to answer the more important part of Prof. Spear's letter. The newspaper report of the Benedict case, from which I quoted, gave more particulars, which I omitted simply to save space. I intended to ask you to print the rest of that report, but I have obtained something better. The physician who was called to see the patient at the last moment has kindly furnished me the appended account of the matter, which I think will satisfy your readers that I was fully justified in classing this case among the blunders of mental healing.

Very truly yours,
Frederik A. Fernald.
New York, May 8, 1889.
269 Chestnut Street, Chicago,
May 6, 1889
Frederik A. Fernald, Esq.

Dear Sir: The man Teed, whom you speak of as doctor, was at the time of Benedict's death the founder and president of the World's College of Life, pastor of the Arch-Triumphant Church, editor of the "Guiding Star," proprietor of a restaurant, etc., all conducted in one or two office-rooms in Central Music Hall. The fellow claimed to be a graduate of the New York Eclectic Medical College, but at the coroner's inquest could not produce a diploma, claiming as an excuse that it was lost. As I remember it, his method consisted in healing by prayer and faith, including absent treatment, all of which was employed in the case of Benedict from the beginning of his illness until about two or three days previous to his death, when medicine was prescribed by an eclectic practitioner whom Teed called to his assistance. At this state of the case Teed partly or wholly abandoned his system, and also prescribed medicines; but, inasmuch as his knowledge of the pathological conditions which were present, and with which he had to deal, amounted to almost nothing, the treatment was of no avail. According to his statements, made to me the morning of Benedict's death, the patient was regarded as having had diphtheria, pleurisy, intercostal neuralgia, and heart-disease, all existing at one and the same time! The absurdity of such a thing is apparent to almost any one. The post-mortem examination proved death to be due to broncho-pneumonia. In my opinion, under proper treatment the case would have recovered. The following is a copy of the verdict of the coroner's jury:

"We, the jury, recommend that one Cyrus R. Teed, who treated and prescribed for the deceased during his sickness without being properly authorized to do so, be held by the proper authorities to the grand jury for violating sections 10, 11, and 12 of an act approved January 16, 1887, regulating the practice of medicine in the State of Illinois; and we furthermore recommend that the penalty for the violation of the above act should be made more severe, so as to include imprisonment in addition to fine, in the future."

In his instructions to the jury the deputy coroner made a few remarks in which he hinted at quacks, impostors, and "voodoo" doctors, and declared that the public was sick of having such frauds running at large.

Respectfully yours,
C. W. Leigh. M. D.


Editor Popular Science Monthly;

While sympathizing heartily with the spirit of your editorial article on "Intellectual Liberty," in the May number of the "Monthly," yet it seems to me you have overlooked an application of the word agnostic which it is important that all lovers of truth should recognize. Nay, more, in the words of Nicole, whom you cite with approval, it is "the duty" of the modern thinker to declare himself an "agnostic" in regard to many questions that are still discussed in theological circles.

It is one of the chief merits of the school of philosophy of which Prof. Huxley is so brilliant a member that it distinctly recognizes what Mr. Spencer declares to be "the conviction. . . that has been slowly gaining ground as civilization has advanced," viz., that "human intelligence is incapable of absolute knowledge," and that "our duty is to submit ourselves with all humility to the established limits of our intelligence; and not perversely to rebel against them." Hence, when questions are propounded, to which, from their nature, neither an affirmative nor a negative answer can be given, and which do not admit of solution by any natural process, but can only be solved by the acceptance of a supernatural authority—that authority being generally the very question at issue—then it becomes the duty of those who follow the scientific method in their search for truth to declare themselves on all such subjects "agnostics."

Our theological friends occupy much of their time in discussing questions of this character, such as the origin of the universe, the nature and personality of God, the divinity of Christ, the immortality of the soul, and the like. But all these are inscrutable questions, incapable of solution by the human intellect. They have been discussed ever since the dawn of philosophy, and are no nearer solution to-day than when they were first propounded. If settled to any one's satisfaction at all, they can only be so accepted without proof and upon authority. Moreover, there are many questions capable of solution by the scientific method, which theologians discuss only from premises founded upon the supposed solution of the primary questions referred to above. This inevitably prevents their proper discussion and solution. The premises can not be accepted by the scientific thinker who is convinced of the futility of all ontological speculation as a means for establishing the truth. This does not mean—as so many seem to think—that science only concerns itself with those things which can be seen and felt. Nor does it even deny to the individual, who feels that his intellectual and moral integrity can be best conserved by such speculations, the right to indulge in them, and believe in them if needs be. By all means let him do so, if he is made a happier and a better man by such faith. But let him not upbraid his fellow-man whose faith is not as his is; let him not imagine that truth is entirely on his side; and, above all, let him beware of dogmatism. So "with malice toward none, with charity for all," he may cultivate that openness of mind which a genuine search for truth fosters and intellectual liberty maintains.

I think you will agree with me that much ontological speculation is a distinct loss to sound philosophy, and that there would be a great saving of time and talent if all thinkers accepted and acted upon "the conclusions of Hume and Kant, so well stated by the latter in a sentence" quoted by Prof. Huxley:

"The greatest and perhaps the sole use of all philosophy of pure reason is, after all, merely negative, since it serves, not as an organon for the enlargement (of knowledge), but as a discipline for its delimitation, and, instead of discovering truth, has only the modest merit of preventing error."

Robert Mathews.
Rochester, N.Y., May 3, 1889.