Chapter One Hundred Seventeen
From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Click here to play the audio as you read:
Studying Mrs. Eddy’s Life Helps the Student
The objective of all effort in Christian Science is the development of spiritual sense. Material sense is the mode whereby man takes cognizance of a dream world called mortal existence, which has no reality. Spiritual sense is the medium through which man apprehends reality, gains the evidence of spiritual existence, and reflects God.
The question might well be asked, “Of what value is the teaching of Christian Science, that man is now in the kingdom of heaven, despite all evidence to the contrary, unless it provides a practical and scientific teaching, whereby man may recover his spiritual senses, which will testify to this grand fact of existence?”
In stating some of the ways provided by Christian Science for the development of spiritual sense, we can include healing sickness and sin, demonstrating the one Mind in the church business meetings, and unfolding the hidden meaning of the Bible. In this latter point, the student takes passages from Scripture that seem inexplicable from the standpoint of human reason, and by shutting out all deductions based on human intelligence and reason, permits the true meaning to flood in through spiritual sense. This mode unfolds the fallacy of scholastic theology in its effort called higher criticism, where it would delete from the Bible passages that seem dark and obscure, since these dark passages become of the utmost importance in Christian Science, as providing the student with the finest means whereby he may develop spiritual sense. It can be stated as an axiom in Christian Science, that the moment students discard, or attempt to change, the meaning of what they cannot comprehend, they thereby rob themselves of the God-appointed means of developing spiritual sense.
In the business meetings of the church, the demand is contained in the plea, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” This prayer aids in the development of spiritual sense, because it renders human wisdom and opinion valueless, and thus requires a recourse to Spirit.
When the student understands the above line of reasoning, he is prepared to approach the life of Mary Baker Eddy with a right attitude. It provides a rebuke for anyone who might attempt to glorify those parts of her experience that are self-evidently glorious, and to overlook or cover up those parts, which do not accord with what one thinks her life experience should have been. Students of Christian Science must be convinced, that every part of her life is subject to being interpreted and understood spiritually, and that inspiration can unfold it as one continuous and consistent spiritual journey from sense to Soul.
There is nothing in the life of his Leader, of which any student of Christian Science need ever be ashamed. He need never fear any exposure through unfriendly criticism of any hidden facts of her life, which might be uncovered in the future. There is a spiritual explanation for every incident that would satisfy any unprejudiced person, and this explanation can be gained by any student, who is willing to work on the problem in the right way. Moreover, the effort to understand our Leader’s life is a further method of developing one’s spiritual sense, equal in importance and efficacy to the processes enumerated above. The deduction is obvious, therefore, that a failure to understand spiritually the life of Mrs. Eddy in its entirety, would indicate a failure on the student’s part to develop his spiritual sense. If the student neglects the effort to interpret her life, especially those phases where it would seem as if she did not conform to the Christian ideal, he thereby neglects that most important work in Christian Science, namely, the development of his own spirituality.
Nothing does more to sharpen the teeth of a puppy than hard bones. A puppy will persistently gnaw on a hard bone until he has eaten it. This is a needful part of his development. Who will say but what it was part of wisdom’s plan that Mrs. Eddy’s life provide the student of Christian Science with points difficult to understand, thereby furnishing that needful spiritual effort, where a thing seems so hopeless of explanation from any human standpoint, that one is forced to turn to the divine Mind for the answer?
In her Message for 1902, Mrs. Eddy gives a statement concerning the Bible, that we may well apply to her own life. “Alternately transported and alarmed by abstruse problems of Scripture, we are liable to turn from them as impractical, or beyond the ken of mortals,—and past finding out. Our thoughts of the Bible utter our lives . . . Christian Science stills all distress over doubtful interpretations of the Bible.” From this affirmation, we can readily perceive that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity to develop in him the only accurate medium that he has for knowing truth, namely, spiritual hearing.
Once a farmer, in willing his land to his sons, stated that there was gold to be found in it. The boys dug everywhere and found none; but rather than have their efforts wasted, they planted the fields. Later, they sold the crop for much gold.
Mrs. Eddy has left us things hard to understand, especially certain By-laws in the Manual, which seem out of date, since they refer only to her, or call for her consent. Yet these By-laws came from God, and it is a rule, that that which comes from God needs spiritual sense in order to be understood aright. And the entire object of everything in Christian Science, including the Manual, is to turn man to God.
The deduction is, that our very inability to understand these parts of the Manual, turns us to God for understanding. Thus their object is fulfilled, and at the same time their golden meaning is made plain.