From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
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Mrs. Eddy’s Insistence on Mental Alertness
Everything that nature gives man by way of food, is composed of two parts: that which is edible and nourishing, and that which is worthless and must be discarded. It is man’s task to learn by experiment and experience to separate between the two.
The student never needs to travel the bypaths Mrs. Eddy investigated. There were many human incidents in her life which must be expounded. She instructed us to follow her only as she followed Christ. Yet, there are some things which students feel it is the part of loyalty to overlook, and which they do not delve into lest, through misunderstanding, they might find themselves criticising their Leader. This tendency might cause the student to reject the very things in Mrs. Eddy’s experience which exemplified a signal following of Christ.
Orthodox religion esteems one loyal to God for overlooking the evidences of God’s wrath, jealousness and fickleness, because they cannot be explained. This inclination has built up such a false sense of God, that it is the task of a lifetime to resurrect any conception of God on a truly scientific basis.
When an individual attains greatness, some maintain that everything in the life of such a one must be great. Others argue that, because there are spots on the curtain, the whole should be thrown away. Certainly, there must be a middle ground. Is it not possible to differentiate and determine just what should be retained, and what should be discarded?
No doubt, Mrs. Eddy was pushed by animal magnetism at times, so that she made missteps. Yet, did these apparent failures prevent her persistent growth and achievement? Today, do they not remain to comfort the weary pilgrim weeping over his own shortcomings?
In the eighth chapter of Romans Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” In other words, the one who is fired with a determination to gain a spiritual consciousness, can never be condemned for any of the footsteps that may be necessary to gain that goal. Mrs. Eddy’s underlying purpose was to eliminate the fleshly sense and gain a spiritual sense. The fact that she arrived at this destination, proves that her intervening footsteps were ordered by the Lord and hence, cannot be condemned. No matter what may be brought up, in regard to our Leader’s life experience, in an effort to overthrow Christian Science by discrediting its Discoverer, the fact remains that she grappled with the claim of animal magnetism in the effort to destroy it, and the very points that one might criticise, were necessary parts of this sublime struggle.
The man who goes to battle cannot avoid wearing the scars of the wounds received. But they are honorable scars, which distinguish the seasoned veteran from the scarless one, who has never challenged Goliath in deadly combat. Any student who assumes the struggle with evil will have honorable wounds. If such a one yields, only to awaken to recognize the yoke and throw it off, that is a praiseworthy endeavor.
That one has crossed swords with the enemy of mankind and God, and has come forth a victor.
A wrong attitude toward Mrs. Eddy would be to accept everything she did as right, simply because she did it. A right attitude is to know, that whatever she did had a right motive back of it, and that if she went the way of mortal mind momentarily, only the part of her history should be retained which teaches a spiritual lesson. As she writes in Retrospection and Introspection, page 22, “The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged.”
No Christian warrior should ever be ashamed of honorable scars. Was the Master ashamed of the nail-prints? Did they not prove that, when the spiritual idea is sufficiently developed, it is above the reach of earth? Have we not that same proof in our Leader’s experience today? Did she not exemplify in her human struggles that, no matter what the human experience may be, it has no part in the real man? All sin is bound up in man’s yielding to the domination of animal magnetism, even though that yielding may be largely unconscious. Thus, the crux of man’s salvation is to be found in one’s learning how to arouse himself and overcome the tendency to sluggishness, with a mental activity that rises above the temptation to remain in a condition of mental drunkenness. The student must learn the necessity of stimulating himself mentally, by giving his thought a thorough beating, in order to elevate himself to that state of mental alertness, which makes of him a moving target that error cannot hit.
From human hypnotism, we learn this interesting lesson that, when the operator desires to gain control of his subject, he begins by making him feel drowsy, usually by persuading him to focus his eyes on some bright object. Then, when the subject’s mind through this process becomes sufficiently sluggish, the mesmerist can substitute his thinking for that of his victim’s, an interference which is not possible to induce in an active thought.
Mortal existence is a dream. A dream means sleep, or inactivity of thought. Conversely, spiritually active thinking is the death of any dream sense, and hence, must characterize the state of man’s mind in heaven. For this reason, Mrs. Eddy knew that mental activity, and whatever induces such activity, were vital to man’s salvation. Her persistent call for mental activity, at every point and in every direction, therefore, was her effort to stimulate and perpetuate in her students the habit of active right thinking.
This discussion explains why Mrs. Eddy was so insistent upon mental alertness. Such activity of thought, free from any erroneous influence, is necessary in order that one may recognize in her mental history the finger of God moving on the waters of mortal mind. In order to grasp its significance, one must be mentally and spiritually awake, endeavoring to resurrect within himself a consciousness of God’s image which has been beclouded in mortal man’s idea of himself.
An active spiritual sense is necessary to enable one to behold the signposts hidden in the material history of the Bible, that mark the way to the spiritual man. This same spiritual alertness, developed into understanding, is needed to enable one to perceive the importance of every one of Mrs. Eddy’s footsteps, taken to reach the high goal, even though such steps be censured by materialistic thought, and to understand how the fire of affliction welded the links in that spiritual chain which bound her more and more absolutely to God.
There is a fairy story to the effect that a certain man was given a cloak that would make him invisible to his enemies. Every time they came near, he put on this cloak and thus outwitted them. Finally, they plotted to approach him in the guise of friendship, so he would not recognize them. Feeling no fear in their company, he did not put on his cloak, and thus was robbed of it, and then captured.
Failing through directly aggressive methods to deprive man of his spiritually-protective thought, animal magnetism resorts to subtle ways, putting him off guard by giving him purified human thinking.
One might imagine a situation that would involve the effort of a thief to steal a valuable paper. Being aware of the thief’s purpose, the owner secretes the paper in his pocket. However, through magic, the thief causes the wind to blow, just at a time when the owner is holding the paper in his hand. In this way, it is whisked away and lost.
When once it is understood, it becomes plain that mental inactivity disturbed Mrs. Eddy more than anything else, because she knew that it was error’s sly way of putting man off his guard. She could feel that wind starting to blow which, if not detected, might sweep the spiritual good right out of the thoughts of her students. She knew that, under discord and malice, under sickness and opposition, they would begin to function spiritually; they would stand up and shake off lethargy, they would fight as they knew how to fight, and win! They had been trained from their earliest days in Christian Science for such work. Thought had not been awakened to perceive the lethargic and devastating effects of human confidence and satisfaction; a confidence and satisfaction induced by animal magnetism, and not based on demonstration; a confidence and satisfaction similar to that experienced by a man who, because he has lived peacefully for ten years on the side of a volcano, relaxes in an assurance that he is safe, and that nothing is going to happen to endanger his security.
So it can readily be understood that, without that spiritual perception which causes Mrs. Eddy’s life to stand out in all its spiritual consistency, the way of heaven will always remain an enigma to the would-be pilgrim. It is one of the great works of the student of Christian Science to develop the ability to analyze all the steps of Mrs. Eddy’s life, and understand that they disclose the path which mortals must tread in reaching the goal she reached, where the voice of God became to her as clear as the voice of man. This same voice which called Mary three times when she was a young girl, is the only infallible guide that could have brought the great Cause of Christian Science into being, established it, and enabled it to function with power and spirituality. It must be heard by those who are today attempting to guide the steps of our Movement to a higher and higher attainment in the metaphysics of living and service.
The spiritual significance of the fact that this voice called to Mrs. Eddy when she was a girl, lies in its being the first proof, or evidence, that revealed that she possessed a spiritual sense, through which she could hear the voice of God and be divinely guided. It was through the further development of this spiritual sense, that the revelation of Christian Science was brought to the world. Today, the successful perpetuation of our Cause hinges on the recognition by individual students that this same spiritual sense lies dormant in each one, and that they must develop it as our Leader did, in order that the voice of God may still be heard and obeyed.
According to the Bible, Jesus’ footsteps provoked the greatest criticism from those who did not understand him. In fact, the honest conviction was voiced that his death would mean the greatest blessing to their religious faith. Hence, today, we should not expect that Mrs. Eddy’s life could be understood by those who are ready to criticise her, exactly as the Master was criticised of old, because, not perceiving the driving force necessary to lift her to a higher and more practical faith in God, they judge her from a purely human standpoint.