From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Mrs. Eddy’s True Portrait
What should we say to the young student who, looking upon the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science as a superhuman woman, questions our statement that Mrs. Eddy’s human side was at times subject to fear? Should we not say that whether she was at times fearful makes no difference, so long as we realize that if she was, she was continually endeavoring to master such fear and eliminate it? Certainly, if she did have struggles with fear, she would not want the history of it written, except as it might show forth her footsteps to some weary follower. She would not want the mere human side of the picture deified or exalted.
In Stevenson’s immortal story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the history of the former was certainly not that of the latter. Furthermore, the balance changed as time went on, causing Mr. Hyde to wield more and more power, and Dr. Jekyll to grow more and more subordinate. Conversely, Mrs. Eddy was continually living more and more in the spiritual, until she outgrew the human. Therefore, we are led to conclude that the human should never be brought into the picture, except as a waning sense.
After she discovered Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy’s experience might be said to have been a combination of Jesus’ two statements, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” These two never united; for when one came, the other departed. One represented fear, and the other, spiritual confidence. One represented his struggle with animal magnetism, and the other, the spiritual supremacy with which he thundered forth the power and revelation of Truth. Mrs. Eddy’s whole effort was to maintain spiritual cause and to eliminate any opposite belief; it must also be ours. What flows in from a spiritual cause we must strive to retain, and what flows in from the human mind, or from the belief in a human cause, must be expunged. This rule applies to our comprehension of our Leader’s life.
First in her experience came a dissatisfaction with the things of the flesh. Then came the recognition that true wisdom never flows from man, but flows into him from a divine source. Even in the Master’s experience, there is nothing recorded relative to the human side of his nature, that he continually struggled to overcome and eliminate.
Many artists have essayed to paint Mrs. Eddy’s portrait. Her true nature, however, was spiritual; the painter who had not the spiritual perception and ability to portray that, would fail in his attempt. All he would record would be Mrs. Eddy’s human mask. This explanation accounts for the failure of so many pictures of our Leader to portray an adequate likeness. This same analysis would apply to any biography of her, written by one who could not appreciate the true spiritual nature of this great woman. Hence, such a work would be little more than a word picture of her human mask.
On April 17, 1902, Mrs. Eddy wrote to the artist who painted the picture of her that is the frontispiece of Dr. Lyman Powell’s biography of her: “I can never express my full appreciation of the loving care which prompted the dear church in Baltimore to give a portrait of me to the world. I have often wondered, when thinking of the indifference that other churches have shown on this point, which does concern the history of Christian Science at present, and will in the future more than today.” And on June 27, 1895, she wrote to Emma McLauthlin: “I have no picture of myself that pleases me. I mean by this, that looks as I feel sometimes. This is what I want to get, this is the expression that artists have not yet caught. Oh, for the far-off gaze, the absent from the body look, the expression that comes over me at times from what I see and feel!”