From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Click here to play the audio as you read:
The Spiritual Atmosphere at Pleasant View
The early environment of Mary Baker Eddy was Calvinistic, which means that the whole trend of thought at that time was on the serious side, with long sermons and solemn Sabbaths. But Mrs. Eddy was reaching out for warmth and joy and, not finding it in the church of her fathers, she sought it in the intellect, in literature, and in poetry. It is reasonable to believe that this early solemnity of thought was a better field to take off from, than would be one so grown up with beautiful vegetation, that it offered little opportunity for an airplane to taxi around, in order to gain the necessary speed. You must have a clear field for a good takeoff, and the barren Calvinistic field was well suited to this purpose. In such a doctrine was to be found little human warmth or mental recreation to balance properly the somberness of thought. It was a faith which contained little sweetness to make it attractive. For this reason, no-one could long sustain his or her interest in it, except from a sense of duty, and duty carries man but a short distance along the spiritual path. First, Mrs. Eddy turned to the intellect, believing that through study and the acquiring of book knowledge, she might meet her needs. However, intellectual pursuits never constitute anything more than a mental skeleton, even though they may furnish a preliminary scaffolding. Such has no value unless filled out with beauty, warmth and desirability. The valley of dry bones, in Ezekiel 37, represents the effort to gain spirituality through the intellect, yet the moment any true spirituality is borne in on such a thought, the bones come to life, take on beauty and form, and express the graces of the Spirit.
There is an error abroad that attempts to set forth that, in her early days, Mrs. Eddy had these graces of the Spirit naturally. If this were true, then unlike the students she taught and the members of her church, she made no spiritual progress; yet, if there is any one thing we must conclude concerning Mrs. Eddy, it was that her spiritual understanding was continually developing and growing. In order to understand all of her steps, however, one must understand her first steps. If these had been complete, it would imply that she made no progress.
When our troops surprised the Hessians, who were the soldiers hired by the British in the Revolutionary war, they were celebrating Christmas, and were full of meat and drink. This was a celebration of enjoyment and religious loyalty, which normally would be considered not only harmless, but orderly and proper. Yet, as far as results were concerned, the soldiers might just as well have swallowed deadly poison and been on their death beds, since, because of the circumstances, they fell an easy prey to the sword.
Does not this illustration show why human satisfaction and well-being, exhibited by her students, disturbed Mrs. Eddy? Her rebukes were based on her knowledge that such a mental condition was just as effective in clogging thought, and so barring the spiritual idea from man’s door, as would be fear, which forcibly ejects the spiritual idea. Yet, there is this difference: when the spiritual idea is forcibly ejected, you desire to regain it more than anything else in the world. If you have learned any processes that will bring the Christ back, you will put forth every energy in order to accomplish this. On the other hand, when the spiritual idea is barred because of human satisfaction and apathy, man’s desire grows indifferent, unless sharply rebuked, and indifference is just as effective in keeping it out, as would be a window heavily barred.
There is a temptation that has been put forth by error, for man to believe that the wisdom which alone can guide the Christian Scientist aright, is something which may be developed through experience, or by the mere human study of Mrs. Eddy’s works. Yet, the sum total of her teaching is, that divine wisdom is that wisdom which comes from God; it cannot be developed, but must be reflected. Hence, the study of Christian Science through the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings, plus the effort to demonstrate her teachings, is necessary to enable the student to locate, understand and neutralize those errors that fill thought, and effectively prevent the wisdom of God from entering the hearts of men. So, logically, anything that prevents the things of God from being reflected by His idea, man, must be considered the enemy of the student, no matter how apparently good. This assertion will help to explain Mrs. Eddy’s frequent rebukes for that which, on the surface, did not seem to merit such a rebuke. It is interesting to note this perplexing point, that Mrs. Eddy did not rebuke evil, in the common use of that word; she rebuked that which she knew to be a spiritual deterrent in the student’s efforts to hold up her hands. Evil is self-explanatory in calling attention to one’s erroneous human thinking, whereas human good, which also has its origin in human thinking, and hence is a natural enemy of God, is something that may require a loving explanation by a spiritually-minded person, who is able to detect the error, in order to be seen as evil.
At times, Mrs. Eddy seemed to expect and need the demonstration of the students in maintaining the spiritual atmosphere of the home. While her faith in their ability stimulated them to do good work in this direction, yet mature consideration informs us that, without the spiritual support which she lent her household, their demonstration would never have accomplished the desired results.
Who of Mrs. Eddy’s students have since experienced the spiritual uplift which was felt at Pleasant View, the free-flowing of spiritual thought which comes from God alone, the continuous harmony of mind and body? This should prove that Mrs. Eddy’s part in preserving the spiritual atmosphere of the home was of primary importance, even though the students contributed their share, under her direction. Mrs. Eddy not only supplied the larger part of the spiritual uplift through her own mental ministrations, but also watched over the students with such great care that, when she perceived error menacing them, she forced them to drive it out. No matter how high the student’s thought might be in the spiritual scale, she required him to rise still higher toward the limitless spiritual ideal. Thus, whatever work the students did that was spiritually efficacious in maintaining an atmosphere of spiritual harmony in the home, was directly due to Mrs. Eddy’s continued watchfulness over her helpers, her willingness to assume full responsibility for the demonstration, (if help was not forthcoming from the students), and her unselfed love, which gave the needed rebuke, without counting the possible cost. As she says in Science and Health, page 571, “It requires the spirit of our blessed Master to tell a man his faults, and so risk human displeasure for the sake of doing right and benefiting our race.”
If those consecrated workers, who are with us today and who were privileged to work in that blessed home, will seek spiritual self-analysis, will strive to understand the motive that governed all of Mrs. Eddy’s actions and to see, without prejudice or sentiment, mental cause and effect; the relation of Mrs. Eddy to her students; the effect of her clear thought upon the Christian Science Movement, as well as upon all the nations of the earth; and to perceive her use of every human problem to establish spiritual understanding and development; then these students may be of inestimable value to the field in laying out these facts, and in assisting those who could not have the privilege of a personal contact with our beloved Leader, in gaining their appreciation of Mrs. Eddy’s mental history, from which alone can be deduced the footsteps leading up to the throne of God.
It was the Mind of God reflected by the Master which taught his disciples, and left the spiritual precepts which are for the guidance of the whole world. It was the Mind of God which was in Christ Jesus, to which he referred when he said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end.” So it must be the attainment of the reflection of that Mind, which comes through its guidance, and of the spiritual perception of the processes by which the human mind is taught to lay off its limitation and human qualities, which will finally bring man to the reflection of infallible wisdom. Thus, the vital thing that interests the true Christian Scientist must be the understanding of these mental processes; and whatever may be correctly set forth about the mental life of the one who has attained the reflection of this divine Mind in a great degree, would be the knowledge above price, to which we all aspire.
This leads to the conclusion that there is nothing insignificant in revelation. The simplest statements are fraught with the most profound meaning. Acts which seem trivial, have a spiritual analysis. Mrs. Eddy’s own teachings reiterate that the evidence of the material senses is the reverse of the spiritual fact. Therefore, how could you be sure that you were portraying those experiences in the life of our Leader that were spiritually great, unless the mortal senses called them insignificant and small. Hence, we can see that everything connected with the Revelator of Christian Science and the revelation is important, and must be understood by Christian Scientists; the false estimate of mortal mind must be rejected, and the facts of Mrs. Eddy’s life brought into their true spiritual perspective.