From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Click here to play the audio as you read:
Students Forced to Higher Demonstration
One of the important steps in Christian Science is to free thought from its belief in a fleshly embodiment, in order that it may be preparing itself for a skyward flight. It is the effort to put wings on thought. But the belief that mind is in matter would effectually limit thought’s freedom, as would frozen water in a fish-bowl limit the attempt of the goldfish to swim.
From Genesis has come the metaphysical picture of the serpent, or evil, perpetually at the heel of the woman. In Science and Health, page 564, Mrs. Eddy writes, “The serpent is perpetually close upon the heel of harmony.” From this statement, we can deduce the profound fact that error never impedes our spiritual progress; it only challenges our endurance.
For this reason, our Leader was impatient with apathy in the students. She feared lest they slow up and error overtake them. There was no reason why the advanced students in Mrs. Eddy’s home should not have been able to maintain the spiritual pace which she set for them. Any failure on their part was not because she expected the impossible of them, but because they had failed to handle and overcome the human tendency to apathy, which is a part of man’s human inheritance.
All work accomplished at Pleasant View was done under a forced draft. Already referred to, is an illustration of this method of procedure; namely, the fact that Mrs. Eddy never allowed a student more than fifteen or twenty minutes to resurrect another from some difficulty, when she considered that the latter was not in a mental condition which would enable him to meet the problem for himself.
Although Mrs. Eddy’s career abounds in such examples of this forced draft, which is a term borrowed from railroad terminology, where the effort is made to keep enough pressure in the boiler to drive the train at top speed, the building of the Mother Church is one of the most outstanding. Those who have read Joseph Armstrong’s book, The Mother Church, have sometimes asked why Mrs. Eddy was in such a hurry to build the church. When this first edifice of the Christian Science denomination was contemplated, Mrs. Eddy told the Board of Directors that it must be finished on a date which she set, a date which would require a supreme demonstration on their part. Then, although certain contracts had to be awarded at once in order to fulfill this demand, Mrs. Eddy stipulated that the Directors could not assign any contracts unless the money was at hand. But the treasury was lean! Finally, to cap the climax, Mrs. Eddy stated that if these seemingly arbitrary requirements were not met, it would be a triumph of animal magnetism.
What could such demands mean from the standpoint of Christian Science? They were Mrs. Eddy’s method of driving the Directors to make a scientific demonstration of what, on the surface, seemed a purely routine job of erecting an edifice of stone, something that the architect and contractors could do successfully, provided the funds were adequate.
From the standpoint of the metaphysician, to build a church as the world would build it, could not be considered a Christian Science activity, since only manifestations of demonstration have a place in Christian Science, which establishes a definite line of demarcation between material methods and spiritual. Thus, it should be perceived that our Leader used this divinely-wise means to induce or compel demonstration, where the human tendency would be to leave all such mundane matters to persons who were humanly qualified to perform such work.
It was one of Mrs. Eddy’s customs to assign tasks to persons and then expect them finished in a certain length of time, usually a period that the human mind would judge so inadequate, that it would seem impossible to complete the task in the given period. In this way, she forced students to rely on God in order to fulfill the demand. Thus, step by step, through demonstration, was the Cause built up, and human processes became merely servants of God. Appearances indicated that Mrs. Eddy considered the serpent of Genesis to be human processes tempting the Christian Scientist, when he becomes weary in applying metaphysics, to leave the business of the Cause to those persons who are humanly adequate, rather than to those who are forced to rely wholly upon demonstration.
For the above reasons, Mrs. Eddy had little patience with those in her home who attempted to meet her needs from a human standpoint. The speed and exactness which she required, forced the students to use demonstration, where otherwise they might have relied on human ability. Mrs. Eddy’s entire career was based on demonstration. She attempted to surround herself with demonstration, and she functioned and existed because of demonstration. There were students who misunderstood her spiritual requirements and believed that she was overparticular, and that her requirements were unnecessarily arduous.
One might imagine our Leader saying, “In the care of my room, in the various services which I require in my home, in the preparation of my daily food, in the matter of promptness, I demand demonstration. Whatever proceeds from demonstration satisfies me, because back of it is the thought that destroys error and brings Life. I have set myself the task of being dissatisfied with anything less than demonstration, even though the act may be prompted by a loving thought. It hurts me to refuse the work of those who, although they are eagerly trying, have failed to measure up to the standard I have set for this home; but, for the sake of the growth of my students, and for the sake of perpetuating for the Cause, the importance of demonstration in every department, not only in our metaphysical healing, but in all the minutiae of human experience, I force myself to uphold this high standard. If, lest I hurt the feelings of my precious students, I fail to hold them up to this standard, I may be robbing future generations of their perception of the important foundation upon which Christian Science is established; namely, divine wisdom and Love as the basis of every activity.”
In Christian Science, the important effort is to keep ahead of the serpent, and Mrs. Eddy was led to whip the students for this purpose. She established a standard that a human task, performed from the standpoint of demonstration, was acceptable while, without demonstration, it was not. She was able to detect, in the service rendered, whether it was the expression of demonstration or completed from the basis of human accuracy, without that thought which made of every human task an opportunity to approach nearer the spiritual ideal. There were no insignificant tasks, no belittling positions, in Mrs. Eddy’s home. The ones who did the cooking or cared for the horses, ennobled their offices by relying on God to fulfill them. In other words, the opportunity to broaden the application of one’s understanding of Christian Science was even greater in connection with menial tasks, than it was in connection with those functions which, in Christian Science, are commonly understood as requiring the support of Mind in order to fulfill them.
Through the life at Pleasant View, a student was enabled to attain some understanding of Jesus’ statement as recorded in Luke, “he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” This was a call on the disciples to see the importance of making a demonstration of every task, no matter how simple, as a means of broadening their appreciation of the scope of demonstration. To heal the sick through Christian Science year after year, does not necessarily broaden one’s concept to recognize the thousand and one ways in which demonstration must be applied.
It seemed as if part of every demonstration, made at Pleasant View, had in it the necessity to demonstrate over the claim of time. The students never were allowed to feel that they might sit down and take their time over a task. The human sense would say that, after struggling all day with an error, you could go to bed for rest and sleep, and renew your work the next day. However, if an error presented itself at Pleasant View, Mrs. Eddy would never let us stop working until that error was overcome, no matter how long it took. I can remember one period, when we worked three days and three nights continuously, without taking off our clothes. When the condition was met, we took our rest, realizing that the necessity for keeping awake was then over. This experience is reminiscent of Matthew 26, where, after the need for work was over, the Master said to his disciples, “Sleep on now, and take your rest.” Jesus had hoped that his disciples would help him protect his demonstration so that, in that exalted state of consciousness, he would not be touched by an alien thought. Then, when he came down, the need for help was over.
Mrs. Eddy was not a hard taskmaster. She only required us to work when there was something to do; but, when there was, she kept us at it until it was completed. The difficulty lay in the fact, that often we were able to see neither the importance of the task nor what the error was that had to be met. If we could only have seen the claim, and had some means outside of Mrs. Eddy’s own perception of knowing when it was handled, then the importance of the work we were doing would have been better understood.
It seemed to me, as if most of the effort to overcome apathy at Pleasant View was the necessity to keep going, in order not to lose the precious things that came flowing in from God. It was as if Mrs. Eddy was watching, lest anything prevent these precious things from finding expression when they appeared in thought. It was definitely part of the demonstration to keep so mentally alive, that nothing could be lost. Mrs. Eddy also recognized, that these precious things would flood in only through the development of the students’ spiritual sense. How was she to develop this power of reflection in her students, unless she gave them problems which were unsolvable from any human standpoint? It is through the humanly unsolvable that man is forced to turn to demonstration, to the development of spiritual sense. Then how valuable becomes anything that forwards this development!