From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Symbolism of Dirt and Shadow
Of aid in gaining further ability to interpret our Leader’s spiritual footsteps is the following explanation of two statements which seem to contradict each other.
When Mrs. Eddy addressed her students from the balcony at Pleasant View at one of the yearly gatherings, she said, “When you see sin in others, know that you have it in yourselves, and become repentant. ”
The reverse of this instruction is the following extract taken from page 11 of the book, “Ira Oscar Knapp and Flavia Stickney Knapp”, privately printed by their son, Bliss Knapp, in 1925: “Mrs. Eddy possessed the ability to read the unspoken thoughts of her pupils. For example: a student called at her home for an interview and was told that Mrs. Eddy would see her in a few moments. While the student was looking out of the window as she waited for Mrs. Eddy, she saw an intoxicated man across the street. She began to ponder the case, and asked herself, ‘Where is that seeming error? Am I drunk or is that man drunk? Is the error in me or is it in him?’ Immediately Mrs. Eddy, who had entered the room unobserved, said aloud, ‘No, that error is not in your thought.’”
Is man’s concept of error all there is to it? On page 67 of Retrospection and Introspection, Mrs. Eddy writes, “Sin existed as a false claim before the human concept of sin was formed; hence one’s concept of error is not the whole of error.”
It is possible for the shadow of another’s error momentarily to affect the Science of one’s thinking, as in the above instance of Mrs. Eddy’s pupil, but, in this case, it was the wrong thinking of another, for which the woman herself was not responsible. She would have been reprehensible only if she had permitted it to take hold of her thought. A passing glimpse of falsity does not mean that it has any holding power to mar man’s scientific conception.
If you were constructing a statue, you would not believe that a passing shadow, which suddenly made a dark place on the whiteness of the marble, was the same as dirt rubbed onto it from your own soiled hands. In fact, you would handle each situation as the need required, pulling up the shade to remove the shadow, and washing the statue to remove the dirt. In like manner, Mrs. Eddy wanted this student to know that that error was not in herself, not part of her own thinking, although reflected for a moment by her thought. Of course, the obligation was hers to deny the error, but not feel personally responsible for originating it.
There is a difference between having dust on the windshield of one’s automobile, or having it lodge on the piece of celluloid which forms the internal core of what is called the modern safety glass. One is easily wiped off, whereas the removal of the other involves an entire new core.
Thus, the dust of mortal thinking, which settles on thought from day to day, can be easily removed. Notwithstanding, the very presence of this dust is a constant reminder of the necessity for that effort which involves the establishment of an entirely new basis of thinking, a transference from the human to the divine; and the very fact that one sees sin in another, proves that this task has not yet been completed.