From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Preparation for the Reflection of Truth
Mortal man shows a tendency that is similar to that manifested by sheep, desiring to follow rather than to lead, to worship blindly rather than to endeavor to understand, to be satisfied with an interpreter of God, rather than to seek God for himself. This error has caused the life and teachings of our Master to become almost impractical in the world, by the effort to exalt the human to the level of the divine, thus causing both to be considered miraculous, and thereby making it seem impossible for the average man to follow in his footsteps. This same tendency caused the children of Israel to demand a king, as set forth in I Samuel. In reality, Jesus’ teachings made simple that which was complex and difficult of understanding; took religion out of the category of belonging to the privileged and educated classes, and gave it back to universal humanity, ignorant and intellectual alike; and simplified a knowledge of it so that a wayfaring man, though a fool, could not err therein. Had this been comprehended, then the tendency to deify the Way-shower might have been overcome, and Jesus’ teachings and example would have been recognized as a sufficient guide to eternal life.
It was this deification of the human side of the Master that made Mary Baker Eddy a necessity. Then, what would be said of a tendency today to deify the human side of Mrs. Eddy, and thus once more place the teachings of Truth in the discard, as far as their practical value to humanity is concerned? If the theory is advanced that Mrs. Eddy’s experience was a miracle from beginning to end, that she started with remarkable religious instincts from childhood, and hence, was a spiritual prodigy, that would place her life so far above the possibility of the average mortal following her footsteps, that it would discourage the average student in his or her effort to imitate her demonstration, and strengthen the belief in a vicarious atonement, thus landing once more on the ancient platform that destroyed the vitality and practicality of the teachings of the Master.
The chief error in this platform is the miracle of his birth, which causes man to feel that he cannot follow Jesus’ example because of the material nature of his own birth. This error has resulted definitely from the effort to deify Jesus to the level of the Christ. Yet, Mrs. Eddy teaches that nothing in man that is human comes from God, no matter how gifted, trained or educated that human may be. Only that which is spiritual has its origin in Spirit. Hence, the spiritual is all that is eternal in man, all that is to be, or that can be retained. When man realizes this, he will never fail to differentiate between Jesus and the Christ, between man and the Christ in man, between the human Mrs. Eddy and the spiritual idea which she embodied.
There can be no miracle in the human preparation for the divine. It is simply a oneness of purpose and a persistent determination; the human urge in man giving way to the divine. When the life of Mrs. Eddy is portrayed in such a way that the world can appreciate her dissatisfaction with existence in the flesh, her spiritual emptiness which caused her more determinedly to endeavor to find Truth, then the world will recognize the fact, that it was this emptiness which made room for the great demonstration of Truth that she finally brought to this generation. Thus, a true history of this great woman should depict the reasons for this spiritual emptiness, why it was produced, and how it was filled to overflowing with the life-giving Truth, which is for the healing of the nations.
Therefore, the miracle does not lie in the human preparation, but is the result of it. Throughout the ages, many have taken the human steps and gone no further. So, if the word miracle is used at all, it should apply to the divine light shining through the one who has not only immolated his human self, but gained spiritual understanding. In other words, one should marvel, not at the cleansing of the windowpane, but at the brilliance of the sunshine streaming through.
In her Message for 1901, page 34, Mrs. Eddy gives a word to the wise when she states: “. . . follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ.” This is a warning not to exalt the human but the divine, not to place spiritual valuation on the human sense of Mrs. Eddy, but to separate it at all times from the divine, and to retain only the latter as worthy and real. It is impossible to put too much emphasis on the divine, and far too easy to exalt the human. It requires determination to behold the high goal and walk in its direction, whereas it seems easy to yield to the human tendency to commemorate the human footsteps which have little or no spiritual value, after they have been taken, since no two individuals ever take the same human footsteps in the journey to the Father.
The deification of personality, an error which Mrs. Eddy stresses in no uncertain terms in Miscellany, on page 116, makes useless the Truth that comes from one so deified. It is idolatry, in that it endeavors to satisfy the divine with the products of the human. It personalizes Truth by making it seem the product of human fullness, instead of human emptiness. It makes Truth a development rather than a reflection, something that comes from within rather than from without. If Truth is ever assumed to be personal, or the product of the development of the individual, that places the ancient limitations on it that make it once more mortal, an error that must never be permitted to creep into the doctrine of Christian Science.
Then, who must write the spiritual history of our Leader, but each individual Christian Scientist? Where must he write it, but in his heart? This exactly accords with the necessity for each one’s tracing the history of the Christ back to its inception, and inscribing its history within.
Mrs. Eddy’s spiritual history starts with the infancy of the spiritual idea in her. The true history of the Christidea is always the same for all, and starts the moment its birth takes place in consciousness.
Those who demand Mrs. Eddy’s material history to satisfy their human desire to exalt someone, would find a greater blessing and lose that human demand, if they would endeavor to try to understand the birth of the Christ, both in Mrs. Eddy and in themselves. The history that deserves to be recorded, is the history of when and how the Christ awoke in man. Thus, the effort to turn one’s thought to that side of Mrs. Eddy’s experience, and let his or her mind grasp that part of her life which has spiritual significance, and learn to detect what must be eliminated from the spiritual scale, would mean a tremendous blessing and spiritual growth. In fact, it is a definite part of the education of each student of Christian Science to do this. Jesus’ spiritual history was written as a sample for us, showing only that part which was important for future generations and leaving the rest a blank, thus setting a standard for all spiritual history, for it points out what should be retained, and what discarded, in the life of any pilgrim. It is illustrative, and sets a model of history for all reformers, or those who have made their connection with God and given forth the Truth. In conclusion, then, we might say that the above indicates the necessity for each student’s endeavoring to follow this pattern in portraying Mrs. Eddy’s life in its spiritual import.