Chapter One Hundred Twelve
From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
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The True Temple
There have been students of Christian Science who have mistakenly asserted, that either the church militant has fulfilled its usefulness, or will do so in time. In order to answer this erroneous contention, let us analyze the concept of church. Just as an airplane will always need a cleared field in which to taxi, before acquiring enough speed to fly, so the individual requires a training ground, in which he can prepare for his flight into the upper reaches of Mind, where one is sustained on the wings of demonstrated inspiration. When the plane has left the earth, it no longer needs a field on which to taxi. Similarly, when man no longer requires the training offered by a church, in order to enable him to soar into the atmosphere of Spirit, he leaves it behind as a substitute for God. But this statement should not be misconstrued, for there will always be a need of the church, for there will always be those who require the training it offers.
The church represents the opportunity for acquiring correct spiritual understanding, and offers all manner of opportunities to demonstrate that understanding. In fact, when a branch church of Christ, Scientist functions so harmoniously, that it presents no problems through which to develop the members’ demonstrating ability, its purpose will be fulfilled, for there will be nothing left to force progress, which is a scientific necessity in our present status of growth.
Mrs. Eddy taught the members of her household that there was a work for them to perform for the world. When one had grown to the point where he could fulfill it, that work became more important to the Cause, than the solution of the problems of the organization. She also declared, that it would be a backward step to relinquish this spiritually important demonstration, for which one’s thought should be kept free from the errors, which association with those in church groups often brings, for a demonstration outgrown.
When Mrs. Eddy discovered in us an inclination to attend the church services, she unfolded the greatness and importance of the work she was teaching us to perform, namely, that when we had climbed into the upper reaches, not to return to earth.
In the sixth chapter of Zechariah, there is a prophecy concerning the Christ, that “. . . he shall build the temple of the Lord.” Although Jesus built no material temple, he fulfilled this prophecy. How? The true temple of the living God is the spiritual consciousness of reality, the recognition of the universe filled with the things of God, already created. Hence, the true temple is built, in proportion as this realization of reality is awakened in man, and a deathblow is thereby aimed at the objects of sense which the world calls reality.
The true temple is that which contains God. Therefore, a Christian Science church becomes a temple, when the demonstration of the students therein brings into that edifice a true consciousness of the presence of God, where the stranger and pilgrim may find Him.
The Master built up in consciousness reality to replace the belief in that which is not real. This was the true temple.
It is necessary to have such centralized houses of worship, as may draw the stranger to come and partake of the demonstration of the presence of God; for they become Christian Science dispensaries of good. No one recognized this more fully, than did our Leader.
It limits the conception of the temple, or true church, however, to believe that God, or religion, is always to be found in one kind of a building, when it is the true task of the student to build up the consciousness of good in every department of life.
More than any other place on earth, Mrs. Eddy’s home at Pleasant View represented the building of the true temple, and Mrs. Eddy believed that students who came to her were far enough advanced to recognize this fact.
But why was this true of Pleasant View? Because Mrs. Eddy’s objective was to extend spiritual demonstration to cover every phase of human existence. Such an endeavor will build up the true temple of God, thus exemplifying I Kings 8:27, “Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded.”
Mrs. Eddy realized that when the student, who prepared her meals, could cook them with the realization that they were symbols of divine feeding, accompanied with divine inspiration for the one who partook of them, that process was building the temple of God, even though established through the most mundane of human tasks. Hence, when one makes a demonstration of cooking meals, cleaning rooms, applying one’s self to business, that is building the temple of the living God, because it is recognizing God as supreme in His universe.
When the Master saw the necessity of giving his disciples a spiritually-uplifted consciousness, that would remain until after his resurrection, he made use of the human phenomenon known as the association of ideas. He applied this to the humble supper. When they met together to eat, he provided them with a spiritual feast. This served to link the human symbol to the spiritual fact so that, when they gathered for their repast without him, their thoughts were maintained on that same lofty level, with no diminution of spiritual vision because of his absence. Thus, he bridged over the interval of three days, and was assured of his disciples being in a frame of mind, sufficiently exalted to apprehend the wonder of the resurrection. A further result, coming from this experience, was a teaching for future generations that demonstration, to be progressive, must broaden to cover all human symbols, which animal magnetism has claimed to appropriate, in its effort to convince man that matter is necessary to his life and happiness.
When Mrs. Eddy turned the thought of her household away from church attendance as a duty, her purpose was to broaden their viewpoint, and to free thought from the primary experience of finding God in the church, to the realization of His presence everywhere.
Mrs. Eddy knew how difficult it is, to maintain one’s spiritual thought in the company of others. Time and time again, her best students failed her, when she called upon them to work in conjunction; and she had to stop them, on the basis that their prayers were resulting in discord, rather than harmony. Yet, to win the ability to work together in unity, is a necessity laid upon all advancing workers. Thus, the experience of branch church activity is important. Mrs. Eddy never advocated any neglect of church attendance, when she indicated that a desire to go to church was out of place in her home. She was merely teaching her household, that the work she gave them to do was on a higher plane than even church activity. Hence to desire to go to church, was like putting one’s hand to the plow and looking back.