From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
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Mrs. Eddy’s Rebuke of Human Wisdom
On the surface, the Psalms seem to represent the Christian side of thought more than the scientific. Yet, that Christian side has its distinct place in aiding thought, when the claim is that it is heavy, weary or depressed. It must be recognized, however, that Science represents the only permanent attainment, and the Psalms fulfill their greatest mission through the Science they contain.
The Christian side of the Psalms, which inculcates a childlike faith in God, sets forth the possibility of rising temporarily above difficulties, although one still believes in the reality of error, which is never the scientific process. After the student has learned, however, to understand the unreality of error, its falsity, foolishness and deception, he must not believe that, if his thought once more sinks back into the belief in its reality, Science is the only way out. It is, to be sure, the only permanent way out, yet the Christian side of the Psalms represents a temporary way of escape, which may be necessary at times.
This point can be illustrated by the old fable of the lion and the mouse. The lion permitted the mouse to escape with its life, because the mouse promised to repay the lion when the opportunity arose. Although the lion laughed at the proposition, the day came when the mouse was able to set the lion free from a snare of strong ropes by gnawing them in two.
The mouse might illustrate a human faith in God, a childlike trust that we find present in the teachings of old theology; while the lion might represent the scientific understanding of God’s allness and man’s power when he reflects this divine Mind. Furthermore, it might typify that state of fearlessness which enables man to face mortal belief in all its manifestations, because he recognizes its scientific nothingness.
When Christian Science salvages from the wreck of old theology a simple faith in God, this mouse-like quality might thank Christian Science and say, “I will help you some day. ” It is obvious that the one armed with spiritual understanding would laugh at this promise, knowing how far from his thought such a human sense of God was. Yet, the day comes, when his thought becomes tired and bound up in fear; the logic of scientific argument no longer seems efficacious; he cannot see the unreality of sense testimony. Then comes the thought, illustrated by the mouse, a childlike trust in God, to help to release his thought from this snarl.
Thus, a wise Christian Scientist, no matter how scientific his understanding may be, never scorns a childlike faith in God, because, even though not the scientific method, it may be the means of helping him in time of need, aiding him to float when too weary to swim.
On page 23 of Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy makes this distinction, calling the mouse quality, trustfulness and the lion quality, trustworthiness. She speaks of these as two kinds of faith; one, that trusts one’s welfare to others, and the other, a self-reliance that includes spiritual understanding.
This matter under discussion suggests a point in Mrs. Eddy’s experience that has already been treated before: those times when she would refuse the dinner that had been prepared for her, and the cook would send up the incase, which was prepared and held in readiness.
It must be understood that our Leader’s portion of what would be called human health was really unimportant. Her health was a matter of spiritual demonstration. Hence, it required demonstration to maintain it. That is, her condition necessitated being fed spiritually, as well as materially. She required a spiritual thought with the food that was prepared for her. Thus we are faced with the question, how did she feel when she asked for bread and received a stone, meaning thereby that the food served to her was backed up by a stone, or an impenetrable state of materiality? How did she react, when she asked for a fish and received a serpent, or was presented with food which was backed up by a thought that had been made a channel for evil and human thinking?
It is not true, however, that, when Mrs. Eddy’s spiritual thought was in the ascendency, she depended on the students in the home to feed her spiritually. Her food at such times flowed in from the divine Mind, and a lack of demonstration, on the part of the students, did not affect her any more than high waves, beating against the base of a lighthouse, affect the light. If the supply of oil should run low, however, and the keeper finds it necessary to row to the mainland to replenish it, then the buffeting of the waves becomes a serious menace, and the assistants must be alert to pour oil on the waters, in order that the one in charge may make his necessary journey.
It was when error endeavored with persistence to rob Mrs. Eddy of her freedom of spiritual thought, divine optimism and dominion, that she expected and needed her students’ demonstrating sense to motivate every service rendered, whether it be in preparing her meals, cleaning the house, or tending to her correspondence. This was the standard by which all effort was measured. Hence, it was during our Leader’s hours of travail, that any lack of demonstration on the part of the students, was exposed. When she represented the lion of spiritual power, the students might let their demonstrating thought wane, and no rebuke would be forthcoming. But when, temporarily, her thought lost its spiritual poise, then any spiritual lack on the part of the workers became a breach of trust, which merited a severe rebuke.
At this point, it is necessary to say that, at those times when our Leader lost for the time being the dominion of the lion, and took refuge in the wisdom of the mouse, or a simple faith in God, it was as if the mouse ran into its hole in order to reappear as a lion, because our Leader never failed to rally once more to her mountain top of spiritual power through her reflection of God.
It was always our Leader’s hope, that she might find in the Field students ready to come to her and, in her hour of need, to contribute such a demonstrating sense, that she would be aided in her effort to restore her thought to its spiritual balance. So often, however, the very error which would touch her would limit the spiritual thought in her students at the same time; and she would then have the double task of regaining her own poise of thought, and of giving spiritual support to those, from whom she had expected such support.
It was always a source of interest to me, that she so often detected the lack of demonstration on the part of a student in the little services, which it was his or her privilege to render. For instance, as I have mentioned before, when it was my specific duty to hand her into her sleigh and arrange the robe for her, this service one day brought forth a loving word of praise, whereas the next day I received a sharp rebuke, even though I had done my best. There was not the slightest indication, that the second day’s effort differed from that of the first. My explanation for this dilemma was, that Mrs. Eddy’s sensitive thought had felt in me the lack of a right spiritual thought. She detected in my mind an unconscious malpractice, as if I were tucking in one whose age had made her sensitive to cold, instead of ministering to a representative of God. Accordingly, I would retreat to my room and wake myself up spiritually, endeavor to gain a more exalted spiritual consciousness, lest I be called an unfaithful steward in holding up the hands of our Leader.
As part of this effort to make clear to future generations the spiritual significance of Mrs. Eddy’s refusal of her dinner, of her rebuke to me when I tucked in the robe, or similar matters, trivial enough on the surface, it must be remembered that there was nothing wrong with the food which she refused, or the service rendered her in other ways, when judged according to human standards. The thing that was lacking, was the right spiritual thought. In proof of this deduction, I offer the fact that the moment a student was called upon to perform any service for our Leader, even the simplest act, if a demonstration was made of it, he could be assured that in her eyes it was never wrong. The student, who could overcome the human temptation to feel that she had criticised him unjustly, when he had done his best outwardly, and who would make the effort the next time to demonstrate a spiritual cause back of the service, would profit by our Leader’s corrections and be sure of her commendations in the future.
This simple incident of Mrs. Eddy’s demanding more than just a well-prepared meal really exemplified the statement in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. ” It unfolds the great spiritual fact that it is never material food that nourishes man. Even though she had not yet reached that exalted standpoint where she could go without material food, still, it was the spiritual thought that comes from God alone, that made the food palatable and nourishing for her use. When she was in tune with God, she herself furnished the open door for this influx of spiritual good, which is necessary to make the human symbol called food acceptable to the advanced student of Christian Science. Hence, the student was rebuked for not supplying this spiritual nutriment, when Mrs. Eddy was incapable of doing it herself. Nevertheless, the students were expected to make such a demonstration continuously.
Another valuable point involved in this incident, is this: if one should find himself assailed by the ills of indigestion, he should realize that he cannot make the demonstration to overcome them, until he perceives that it is not food, either in quality or quantity, that is producing the physical disorder, or that is needed to nourish his body in health, but it is his lack of the realization of the true source from which all blessings come. Food, recognized through spiritual understanding, as a symbol of the love of God to man, could never cause any suffering, for this realization would be a healing for anyone, coming as it does, through the transfer of trust from matter to Mind. It is a sign of spiritual growth, when one is able to perceive the difference between food that emanates from mortal mind, and food in which demonstration has replaced mortal mind with divine Mind. When one is able to distinguish between those things which proceed from the divine Mind, which, because they are good, will always be acceptable to the spiritually-minded man; and those things which, no matter how apparently good they may seem to be, must be a source of darkness to the thought advanced in spiritual understanding, because they proceed from the source which is the avowed enemy of the things of Spirit, then the student will be able to perceive the valuable and important lessons which Mrs. Eddy’s daily experiences teach, when spiritually interpreted. Those who desire to follow in her footsteps, because they recognize her as the Revelator in this age, must gain this ability to translate all of her varied experiences in the flesh into waymarks, which point to her inward struggle, and eventual success, in being governed more and more by Spirit, instead of by the human mind. The human pages of her life are valueless to the student, unless their spiritual significance be understood and perceived as the orderly steps in the spiritualization of her thought, that constituted the numbering of the hairs of her head.
In Science and Health, page 239, Mrs. Eddy writes, “Success in error is defeat in Truth. ” When one finds that human wisdom fails to guide his footsteps aright, this cryptic statement should turn his thought to the only infallible source of wisdom, the divine Mind; but, as long as human wisdom seems to accomplish the results he desires, he may mistake this poor substitute for the divine wisdom. Such a sad misconception indicates how success in error is defeat in Truth, because it leaves man without the necessary incentive to make the effort to manifest Truth.
It is an interesting commentary on human blindness that any of Mrs. Eddy’s household should have felt that, although they had a great love for her and an appreciation for what was unquestionably good in her life and teaching, it required more or less tolerance on their part to overlook Mrs. Eddy’s own impatience, and to ignore her lack of appreciation, and even criticism, of what was done for her through their love and effort. To some, her rebukes seemed the voice of animal magnetism. They felt that, in coming to Pleasant View, they had come face to face at close range with the real Mrs. Eddy, and the idol was found to have feet of clay. On the surface, it would seem as if Mrs. Eddy was swayed by sentimental feelings, that she was unduly critical and that, when she had a difficulty of the flesh, she did not behave with the courage and determination that she would have demanded of her lowliest disciple, but instead, stirred everybody up unnecessarily. In reproving such a blind estimate, let us quote the Master: “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.” Does not this human picture of Mrs. Eddy resolve itself into the waymarks of divinity, under the searchlight of spiritual perception?
Mrs. Eddy’s own explanation of her often rebukes to her students, was that it was not lack of self-control that made her so often appear the unjust, or ungenerous, or unkind, or impatient one, but the obedience to God which she dare not disregard. Her own words were, “Oh! You don’t know what burdens I have borne through the necessity I have felt for rebuking students, but who could not receive my rebuke as coming from true love for them. This is the great test of the true student. If they are found unwilling to bear this test, they are not worthy to be found in this work. It is the resentment that rebuke uncovers or excites, that makes up the burden, the terrible burden, that I have had, and still have to bear, in this pioneer work of Christian Science. It was nothing but a constant joy to me to minister to the needs of humanity in the healing work. It was when I began to teach, and be faithful with students, that I began to know of suffering and sorrow.”
Scientifically understood, the very phases of Mrs. Eddy’s experience that might seem foreign to a patient, loving, Christian nature, teach lessons which are invaluable, and no more merit criticism as failures to live up to her own teachings, than do the sweeping strokes of the swimmer which he uses to produce progress, as compared with a calm floating on the surface, which is peaceful to be sure, but is not productive of any results. Whenever Mrs. Eddy felt her thought slowing up spiritually, she began to thrash the waters of mortal mind, in order that she might start a renewal of progress, a thing which she invariably accomplished. Hence, the end justified the means. At such times, she might be likened to a speed boat churning the water into waves which stir up all the other boats in the harbor. Consider, however, what a contrast its motion is, when compared with the other vessels aimlessly floating, but getting nowhere. Any criticism of the speed boat, for making waves that produce discomfort, must be swallowed up in the miracle of achievement. Mrs. Eddy’s own pronouncement of her standard was written to one of her secretaries on Jan. 21, 1904: “I have no hope in earthly ways and means; God has pointed my path higher. O for the eagle’s wings, the power divine, to mount to Thee!”