Passage For Translation: "We are translating Science and Health into German"

German Translation Committee, 1911-1912.
From left: Helmuth von Moltke, Ulla Schultz,
Adam H. Dickey, Renate Hermes, Dorothy von
Moltke, and Theodor Stanger. Longyear Museum collection.
November 18, 2013

Longyear Museum is pleased to share the article – “Passage for Translation: ‘We are translating Science and Health into German.’” Written by Catherine R. Hammond while employed at the Museum, the article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2009 Longyear Museum Report to Members.

Since that time, “Kate,” as we know her, has recently published a book titled, Island of Peace in an Ocean of Unrest: The Letters of Dorothy von Moltke. It is the culmination of eight years’ research, and presents the letters of Countess Dorothy von Moltke, who was married to Helmuth von Moltke, grandnephew of Germany’s great military hero of the same name. The letters capture the life of the elite on a large estate in Silesia and poignantly describe living through World War I, the Weimar Period, and the rise of Nazism. They provide also an intimate view of the Moltkes’ eldest son, German resistance hero Helmuth James von Moltke, who was hanged by the Nazis in 1945.

Part Two of the book tells the story of Dorothy and Helmuth von Moltkes’ life in Christian Science, including going to Boston in 1911 to translate Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, into German; the Count’s work as a practitioner and teacher in Berlin; and his service as Committee on Publication for Germany from 1928 to 1933.

Longyear Museum hosted a book talk by Miss Hammond on November 17, 2013.

Copies of the book, published by Nebbadoon Press, are available for purchase in the Museum Store.


By Catherine Hammond

As the bow of the S.S. George Washington cut through the gray waters of the North Sea in early August 1911, Count Helmuth von Moltke and his wife, Dorothy, stood on the deck and pondered the mission ahead of them. In a few days they would land in New York harbor, take a train to Boston, and there begin the momentous task commissioned by Mary Baker Eddy a year-and-a-half earlier – to translate her work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures into German.

Leaving the North Sea, the ship passed through the English Channel where it glided “past the ships and houses all lighted up and twinkling cheerily to us, into the vast darkness of the night.”1 The von Moltkes considered the significance of the work they were about to begin: it would enable thousands of Germans to read and study the Christian Science textbook in their own language and to hear it read aloud at church services all over the German-speaking world.2 Their hearts were filled with a mixture of joy and awe.

But as their beloved Germany faded in the distance, something of the mission’s personal cost was already coming due. They had left their three young children – the youngest of whom had been born only three months earlier – to be cared for by nannies and relatives at their country estate at Kreisau, Silesia, in eastern Germany.

How long would they be away from them? Two months, the Christian Science Board of Directors at The Mother Church in Boston had told them. But would the project take longer? How would their little ones fare for those months without their mother and father?

Yet when the call from Boston came, both Helmuth and Dorothy answered it without hesitation. They seemed especially suited to the task at hand. Each had been cut from the cloth of accomplishment. Indeed, the marriage of Dorothy Rose Innes to Helmuth von Moltke in 1905 in her home town of Pretoria, South Africa, joined together two remarkable families: Dorothy’s father was the great Chief Justice of South Africa, Sir James Rose Innes; Helmuth’s granduncle was Germany’s most revered general, Count Helmuth von Moltke, the Field Marshal under Prussian Chancellor Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm I who led the Germans to victory in the Franco-Prussian War, resulting in the formation of the German Empire in 1871.

Helmuth had taken up the study of Christian Science in 1899 after a healing of “schweren Nervenleiden” – severe nervous suffering. By 1909 he was in the full-time healing practice. Dorothy learned of Christian Science through him and embraced it with equal enthusiasm. Both received Primary class instruction in Christian Science in 1907 from Berthe Günther-Peterson in Hannover, Germany, and became committed Christian Scientists.

In May 1907 Helmuth approached Mrs. Eddy with an impassioned plea for a German translation, even offering his services as translator. “How shall a people be taught when they have no textbook in their mother tongue?” the Count asked in a letter written in German. “You have done so much for us; would you kindly complete the full measure of your benevolence, and give us what we all need here, a translation of your book in our mother tongue.”3

For many years Mrs. Eddy had refused to give permission because of various hurdles that first had to be overcome. Indeed, she had not authorized translations of the textbook into any language, although there had been repeated calls for translations, especially into French and German.4

Her chief concern was the loss of accuracy when translating the metaphysics from the “divinely inspired English version”5 into any other language. It was also her desire that all students of Christian Science, whatever their nationality, read Science and Health in the original English. If there was to be a translation, she insisted, the translators should possess not only the necessary translation skills, but a sufficiently deep understanding of Christian Science metaphysics.

In an undated letter thought to have been written in 1904, Mrs. Eddy had expressed her concerns to another early advocate of a German translation, Helmuth’s distant cousin – Countess Fanny von Moltke. “Your desire to have my book ‘Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures’ translated into the German language expresses one of the warmest wishes of my heart,” Mrs. Eddy wrote, “but I fail to know how this can be done properly and conscientiously.”6

Indeed, the complexity of translating her works into German may be seen in the question of how best to translate the word Mind, a synonym for God in the Christian Science textbook.

When the German-language periodical, Der Christian Science Herold (later renamed Der Herold der Christian Science), was first authorized by Mrs. Eddy and published in 1903, Mind as a synonym for God was translated Geist, and mind apart from God was translated Gemüt, as in “sterbliches Gemüt”(mortal mind). But Geist was also used to translate another synonym for God: Spirit.7

Many Germans, however, felt that using Geist for both synonyms was incorrect and blurred the distinction between the two.

One of these was Fanny von Moltke, who found that “Gemüt,” brought her inspiration and was far closer to the English Mind. “When I am reading Science & Health translating Mind with ‘Gemüt,'” she wrote Mrs. Eddy in July 1908, “it is wonderful how the light is growing clearer and brighter, in wondrous radiance it shines, chasing away the darkness of mortal ‘gemüt’ (mind), for it maketh God All-in-all.”8

Meanwhile, without an official translation available, Germans who could not read English were reading the passages from Science and Health that had been translated in the Herold, as well as unofficial translations of other bits and pieces of the textbook that were floating around Germany and causing confusion.

In March 1910, three years after initiating contact with Mrs. Eddy, the Count suddenly traveled across the Atlantic to Boston.9 From his room at the Hotel Lenox, he penned the following letter to her on Sunday, March 20th:

My english [sic] is too bad to write much to you. Only one thing I must tell you. I am so thankful, that I have seen the loving and faithful work the men in the Publishing House are doing for our work in Germany. God's blessings rest on such a work.

And I am so thanksful [sic], that I had the priveledge [sic] to talk with all these good men. It was a great help to me.

My thankfulness to you is expressed in my work for the Cause of Christian Science.

Yours in Truth and Love
Helmuth Graf [Count] von Moltke.10

Perhaps it was the sincerity and humility of the Count’s letter that touched Mrs. Eddy’s heart and moved her to make the decision the von Moltkes and other Germans had been waiting for.

On March 31 the Founder of Christian Science granted permission to have Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures translated into German. She had come to the conclusion that “it would be wiser to authorize a translation which could be generally adopted, than to permit the confusion inevitable from many partial renditions of an unofficial nature,”11 and in her crisp, decisive style gave the order to her publisher, Allison V. Stewart:

Please take immediate steps to have SCIENCE AND HEALTH translated into the German language.12

To further protect the integrity of her work, Mrs. Eddy decided that the translation would have each German page face its English original:

This new edition shall be printed with alternate pages of English and German, one side to contain the divinely inspired English version which shall be the standard, the other to contain the German text which shall be a translation.

The idea of including both languages had probably come to Mrs. Eddy through the von Moltkes’ close friend Ulla Schultz, whose father, a former theologian, had suggested his German-Greek New Testament as a model for the German translation. Ulla sent a copy to church officials in Boston. Presented with this copy (or one like it), Mrs. Eddy said, “That is the way.”13

The order continued:

This work must be done by a committee of not less than three persons who are thorough English and German scholars, and good Christian Scientists.

Coincidentally, a short entry that appeared in the Sentinel two weeks later under “Items of Interest” noted that speakers of German worldwide had grown by that time to seventy million.14

In accordance with Mrs. Eddy’s missive to Stewart, the Board of Directors began the work by appointing three Germans to translate Science and Health. This they were to do independently of one another. These first translators were Helmuth von Moltke, Renate Hermes (later King), and Ulla Schultz (later Oldenbourg). A year-and-one-half later the Board appointed three additional committee members: Theodor Stanger, editor of Der Herold der Christian Science; Dorothy von Moltke; and Adam H. Dickey, a Director of The Mother Church and formerly one of Mrs. Eddy’s secretaries.15

Soon after Helmuth and Dorothy arrived in Boston, they joined the other four committee members at the Hotel Beaconsfield in the Boston suburb of Brookline. Though not very far from the church headquarters, it was far enough away that it would help to preserve confidentiality. They promptly set to work on August 15.

Mrs. Eddy had passed on in December 1910, but she had left strict orders for the translation committee, particularly in regard to the way in which metaphysical concepts in Science and Health were to be handled.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Archibald McLellan,16 informed the committee on the very first day that “Mrs. Eddy had instructed Mr. Dickey to ‘watch the translation and to guard the metaphysical meaning of each line.’”17

In order for Dickey to perform this vital function, someone was needed to render the committee’s German translation back into English for him, since he did not speak German. As Dorothy von Moltke was the only member of the committee who was fluent in German and also a native speaker of English, she provided the necessary link. This she did “paragraph by paragraph,” enabling Dickey to judge whether the committee had “given the metaphysics right.”18

Headquartered in a suite of rooms at the Beaconsfield, all six translators – three men and three women – sat around a table and labored in long six-hour sessions.

Each day’s work began with silent prayer followed by the audible repetition of the Lord’s Prayer. Then committee members took turns reading from their own independently translated manuscripts of Science and Health. Members would then compare the translated passages. The process was meticulous and painstaking, proceeding sentence by sentence, each one having to be read, re-read, and re-formed until approved.

Dorothy then translated the approved German section back into English for Dickey to consider. More discussion and revision ensued until it was finally accepted. Dickey’s contribution was described by Fraulein Schultz as a “stupendous work.” For the most important decisions, the committee resorted to the Christian Science Board of Directors.19

The committee consulted many reference works as they translated. In addition to the three provisional translations they brought with them, they pored over several earlier editions of the Christian Science textbook20 and multiple dictionaries. The translators consistently strove to use “the best German without sacrificing any of the scientific sense.”21

The work progressed slowly at first, requiring patience and persistence as the committee sought the clearest and most accurate way to convey Mrs. Eddy’s ideas and language. In the beginning they translated a mere twenty to thirty lines per day. By the end of the second week they had completed only thirty-one pages of the 700-page volume.

At this rate, it was now obvious the von Moltkes were not going to be leaving Boston after the two months originally projected. Though they did not know it yet, the work would extend to seven months.

They – especially Dorothy – were already feeling the pangs of separation from their young children. “I miss the chicks terribly,” she confessed, “and if it were not for the comfort C.S. [Christian Science] gives me, I should be hopelessly unhappy; as it is, I know I am in my right place and that if I do my part God will look after the rest ....”22

The extension also forced Dorothy to postpone, repeatedly, an important visit she had planned with her parents in South Africa. Adding to her stress was the fact that she was obliged to keep her Boston work wrapped in the utmost secrecy and so was not able to explain to them the real reason for the delay.

Her parents were baffled and frustrated until finally, perhaps feeling under pressure to relieve her parents’ sorrow, Dorothy revealed the real purpose of the trip to Boston: “Well, we are translating Science and Health into German. This is extremely difficult and it has to be most thoroughly done, because about 5,000 people will study it daily more than any other book except the Bible, and the number is increasing rapidly.”23

German translation of <i>Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures</i>, by Mary Baker Eddy, 1912 edition. Longyear Museum collection.German translation of "Science and Health
with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker
Eddy, 1912 edition. Longyear Museum collection.
Dorothy found the translation work intensely challenging. German style and construction, she wrote, were “fearfully difficult and involved, – it is as thorough, specialized, and personal as the nation itself.”24

The challenge, she said, lay in the book’s being “full of new metaphysical ideas for which Mrs. Eddy had to almost coin words, and we have to do the same. This needs great discrimination, and we have to go to the root of all the words we use.”25

Indeed, translating Science and Health required a thorough study of the ways in which many of the terms used by Mrs. Eddy had been used by other writers and translated into German. For this purpose the Count and Countess took full advantage of Boston’s splendid libraries, where they delved deeply into the research, spending every Friday – their “free” day – “looking up points concerning our work” at the Boston Public Library and Harvard’s Widener Library.26 They consulted several English and German dictionaries, including Webster, Century, the forty-seven-volume Grimms Wörterbuch, philosophical dictionaries, a “dictionary of foreign words,” and two English-German dictionaries.27

Sometimes they turned to unlikely literary sources for assistance. For instance, to see how technical and physiological terms like evolve and evolution were used and translated into German, they consulted German translations of the works of Charles Darwin.28

For philosophical terms for sense pleasures and other concepts they studied the works of Immanuel Kant. “I am at present deeply ingrossed [sic] in a fine book ‘Immanuel Kant’ by Chamberlain, an Englishman who writes in German and writes splendidly,” Dorothy exclaimed. “Not only is the book a feast in itself, but the very technique, the handling of words, points of style are of the greatest interest and help in our work. I am constantly running to the Y.T.29 [Helmuth] or Schultzchen [Ulla Schultz] to show them some way of using a word or phrase which we might profitably follow ....”30 Even the works of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche31 came under their magnifying glass. “I enjoy dipping into his books occasionally,” the ever-curious Dorothy wrote, “and admire the fireworks he lets off when speaking of mortal man!”32

Addressing the thorny issue of how to translate Mind into German – Geist versus Gemüt – the committee finally resolved it by reserving Geist for Spirit and using Gemüt to translate Mind.33

Despite all the challenges, the von Moltkes as well as the other committee members remained enthusiastic about what they saw as a rare privilege. “We feel rather like the translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible, and I have been reading their preface with special interest!” Dorothy effused.34

While in Boston the von Moltkes were able to engage in a few pleasant diversions such as “paddling” on the Charles River and exploring country roads in the Count’s rented Cadillac (“an old and not very pretty affair but it goes well and was the best we could get”). They enjoyed meeting many Christian Scientists in the Boston area, including Mary Beecher Longyear.35 In late November Mrs. Longyear and her husband, John Munro Longyear, a wealthy entrepreneur, hosted a dinner for them at their mansion in Brookline and took them to the opera.36

But, as Dorothy reported, most of their time was spent in “nothing but work, eat, sleep and [taking] the air.”37 By mid November 1911 the Count and Ulla were “hard at work revising [and] correcting” the translation,38 and by January 1912 the committee was engaged in proofreading. “Another day of work is gone, but it was a day of great inward happiness and contentment,” Dorothy sighed.39

The American experience for the von Moltkes was in many ways a trying one.40 Although they found the work interesting, there was also a “sameness” to it;41 in the winter months they felt cooped up by harsh New England weather with snow and biting winds; the hotel food was “very poor.”42 Although they were met with much kindness on the part of many Americans, they were appalled by a “lack of culture” in some elements;43 they missed their children; and Dorothy longed to get to South Africa and her parents.

Nevertheless, the von Moltkes’ conviction of the transcendent importance of their mission was ample compensation for the sacrifices it involved. “We consider the translating of the book a very important and big work,” Dorothy stated, “because hundreds of thousands have become better and healthier because of it and we hope that through the translation thousands more will find the happiness we have.”44

German translation of <i>Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures</i>, by Mary Baker Eddy, 1912 edition, title page. Longyear Museum collection.German translation of "Science and Health
with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker
Eddy, 1912 edition, title page. Longyear
Museum collection.
At last, on Valentine’s Day, 1912 – six months since the committee had first convened in the Beaconsfield on an August morning – the translation was finished. The March 30, 1912, issue of the Sentinel announced that “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures has been translated into the German language. The book is now in process of publication....”45 A similar announcement appeared in the April issue of Der Herold der Christian Science.46

When news of the translation reached Germany, the Germans were jubilant, writing their Dankesbezeugungen (expressions of thanks) in subsequent issues of Der Herold.

“How glorious is the certainty that in a short time we shall have a translation of ‘Science and Health,’ the work of our revered Leader,” wrote Countess Fanny von Moltke.47

Helmuth and Dorothy’s teacher, Frau Günther-Peterson, added her gratitude as well as her confidence in the quality of the work:

The entire German nation will not cease to thank God as well as Mrs. Eddy for this blessing. I am certain that the work of translating the textbook has been conducted in the most conscientious manner.48

Finally, on Sunday, August 4, 1912, Germans attending Erste Kirche Christi, Wissenschafter, Berlin (First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berlin) heard for the first time the Lesson-Sermon read from the first authorized German translation of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Interestingly, the subject of the Lesson-Sermon on that Sunday was “Mind” (Gemüt) – the very word that had been one of the stumbling blocks to a German translation.49

Their mission accomplished at long last, the committee members went their separate ways. In March, Count and Countess von Moltke boarded the R.M.S. Mauretania and headed for Southampton, England, where they were met with the hugs and kisses of their children, nannies, and other members of the family entourage. The von Moltke family then set sail for South Africa and Dorothy’s waiting parents. There they would remain for several months before returning to Germany and the next chapter of their life at Kreisau.


1 Dorothy von Moltke to her parents, James and Jessie Rose Innes, S.S. George Washington, August 7, 1911. Countess von Moltke wrote over 750 letters to her mother and father from 1902 to 1934.

2 This included Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In parts of the United States also, immigrant families spoke and read German as their first and, in some cases, only language.

3 Helmuth von Moltke to Mary Baker Eddy, Kreisau, May 23, 1907, IC 84, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, Massachusetts.

4 Alice Tournier had appealed to Mrs. Eddy for a French translation as far back as 1897, and in 1904 Countess Fanny von Moltke wrote to Mrs. Eddy on the subject of a German translation.

5 Mary Baker Eddy to her publisher, Allison V. Stewart, March 31, 1910, quoted in the Preface to the German translation of Science and Heath with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: Allison V. Stewart, 1912), ii.

6 Mary Baker Eddy to Fanny von Moltke, undated, but presumed to be 1904, L09568, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection.

7 For an example of this, see the lead article, second paragraph, in the April 1903 Christian Science Herold, which was a partial translation of the chapter “Science, Theology, Medicine” from Science and Health. Obviously, this was not an ideal solution and in 1907 the editors of the Herold considered using Gemüt to translate Mind meaning God. But they rejected it on the basis that the use of Gemüt “would prevent our showing the clear distinction between Christian Science and pantheism, because Gemüt means to the average German ‘much in many minds.’” See letter of Louise Kollmorgen to Mary Baker Eddy, October 6, 1907, in Christian Science Sentinel, v10, n12 (Nov 23, 1907): 231.

8 Fanny von Moltke to Mary Baker Eddy, July 22, 1908, IC 196, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection.

9 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Berlin, March 15, 1910.

10 Helmuth von Moltke to Mary Baker Eddy, March 20, 1910, IC 84, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection.

11 Preface to German translation, 1912, i-ii.

12 Ibid., ii.

13 Ulla Oldenbourg, “Account of the Translation of the Textbook into German,” The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, 1. See also Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority [New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977], n.121, 415-416.

14Sentinel, v12, n33 (Apr 16, 1910): 642.

15 Dickey had served as one of Mrs. Eddy’s secretaries from February 1908 to December 1910, and was a Director of The Mother Church from November 1910 to March 1925.

16 McLellan served as a Director from 1903 to 1917.

17 Florence M. Dickey, in “Historical Sketch of Adam H. Dickey,” prepared by the Association of Pupils of Adam H. Dickey, C.S.D., 1948, 7, Longyear Museum collection.

18 Oldenbourg, “Account,” 3-4.

19 Ibid., 3-5.

20 In their research, the committee used the first, second, third, seventh, and twenty-eighth editions of Science and Health. The seventh edition would correspond to the sixth edition (a major revision of Science and Health), while the twenty-eighth would correspond to the sixteenth (also a major revision).

21 Preface to German translation, 1912, iii.

22 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, September 30, 1911. The von Moltke children were ages four, two, and four months.

23 DvM to James Rose Innes, Boston, September 10, 1911.

24 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, September 4, 1911.

25 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, September 30, 1911.

26 DvM to James Rose Innes, Boston, September 19, 1911.

27 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, November 11, 1911.

28 Ibid. Dorothy wrote, “I have also been studying the German translations of Darwin to see how technical and phisiological [sic] terms are translated.”

29 Abbreviation for “Young Teuton,” a nickname for Dorothy's husband, bestowed on him by her father.

30 DvM to James Rose Innes, Boston, December 1, 1911.

31 Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher.

32 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, February 3, 1912.

33 DvM to James Rose Innes, Boston, September 10, 1911.

34 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, November 11, 1911. The translators’ preface of the Authorized Version of the Bible (King James Version) is a long, detailed account of linguistic wrestlings to find the most suitable English renderings for Old and New Testament terms. It should be noted that this preface is not the same as the “Epistle Dedicatory” and is not generally reprinted in modern editions of the KJV.

35 Mary Beecher Longyear (1851-1931), founder of Longyear Museum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, in 1923.

36 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, November 26, 1911.

37 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, November 11, 1911.

38 Ibid.

39 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, January 4, 1912.

40 A recent biography of the von Moltkes’ eldest son, Helmuth James von Moltke: Die Geschichte einer Kindheit und Jugend (Helmuth James von Moltke: the Story of a Childhood and Youth), by Jochen Köhler (Reinbek:Rowohlt, 2008), portrays their stay in Boston as generally unhappy and frustrating. However, the letters of Dorothy von Moltke indicate that the value they attached to their work transcended the inconvenient aspects of their stay in America and brought them deep satisfaction.

41 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, Boston, January 4, 1912.

42 Ibid.

43 DvM to Jessie Rose Innes, September 30, 1911.

44 Ibid.

45Sentinel, v14, n31 (Mar 30, 1912): 611.

46Der Herold, v10, n1 (Apr 1912): 32.

47Der Herold, v10, n4 (JuI 1912): 175. (Original in German.)

48 Ibid. (Original in German.)

49 Oldenbourg, “Account,” 5.