Chapter Sixty-five | Plainfield Christian Science Church, Independent

Chapter Sixty-five

From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by


Mrs. Eddy’s Detection of Animal Magnetism

In connection with my year’s residence at Pleasant View, the subject of animal magnetism has proved a source of never-ending interest and inspiration. Although Mrs. Eddy increased the joys of her students, through bringing them a larger acquaintance with God, yet, at the same time, she apparently multiplied their sorrows through an insistence that they delve into the subject of animal magnetism when, to them, there seemed to be no necessity for such an effort. There seemed to be little reason why she could not let them enjoy this larger acquaintance with God, without spoiling the picture with demands that seemed needless.

If our Leader increased the sorrows of the students, she was divinely led so to do. She saw, as no one else, the need of analyzing every phase of mortal belief and exposing it as erroneous, enmity against God, even though according to the testimony of the senses, it came under the classification of the so-called good phases of mortal existence.

She recognized that the evil and sinful side of mortal existence tended to rouse man to see the true nature of mortal mind, and the error of permitting it to dominate man, which is a blessing in disguise. Then, as if to neutralize this thought-awakening action of sin and suffering, is their tendency to keep consciousness full of error and fear. On the other hand, what is called the good side of this human experience acts like a soporific, lulling man to sleep. Thus we are reminded of the fable of the hare and the tortoise. When the hare was free to race to victory, he went to sleep; whereas the tortoise, although handicapped by his shell, persisted to the end. The man who is carrying a load of human error imagines himself worse off than the one who is not. Yet, in point of fact, this very incubus makes daily progress an absolute necessity. Hence, the conclusion is, that whatever tends to cause man to go to sleep, as does the pleasant side of mortal existence, is a more dangerous phase of animal magnetism than all the vicious effects that can be conceived of.

So, it can never be emphasized enough, that our Leader was not disturbed when the students were sick or had problems, although she would not permit any such claims to grow on the thought. However, it did disquiet her, when she found the household going to sleep in a placid and harmonious sense of human well-being. She saw the rabbit taking his nap, when she knew there was no peace in battle. Yet, admitting a battle did not warrant discouragement in the students, but the recognition of the constant necessity for keeping thought steady, and working to combat whatever presented itself that might rob one of his spiritual thinking. Mrs. Eddy did not feel that it was necessary to frighten the students, nor make them feel anything less than a sense of dominion. But she did recognize that at no time could a Christian Scientist consider going to sleep, and so letting his thought drift with the current of human thinking.

One may row against the tide and not be carried out to sea, as long as he continues to row. If, however, he goes to sleep, the tide will irresistibly sweep him away. Animal magnetism is the tide of human thought which is ever flowing down into the sea of mortal mind. Hence, we are forced to the conclusion, that there is no point at which the worker can afford to lay down his oars. The demand is not to do anything strange or unreasonable, but persistently and continuously to make the effort to progress day after day. If animal magnetism is the argument of effect that would ever distract man from cause, one may realize that his work is to stay up in cause. He will also understand why it disturbed Mrs. Eddy to find the students yielding to apathy.

The main purpose in having students in the home, was for the help they might be to our Leader in maintaining an atmosphere of spiritual harmony, in which her thought might function most scientifically and correctly. No student could do his part in this and, at the same time, permit himself to go to sleep mentally. Mrs. Eddy did not intend to call to Pleasant View students who were incapable of spiritual analysis so that, when an error was presented to them, they would not know how to handle it.

One might think that our Leader would have urged her students to work for the world, rather than the spiritual atmosphere of the home. Yet, to work in this way was to work for humanity, since the effort to maintain the right atmosphere in the home was a help to Mrs. Eddy in her work for humanity. She was like a diver, going into the ocean of Mind after the priceless pearls of Truth, which were to bless humanity. The students in her home represented those whose duty it is, to man the pump and keep the diver supplied with fresh air, in order that the gathering of the pearls may go on uninterrupted.

When the students did their part to maintain this spiritual atmosphere, Mrs. Eddy’ s thought functioned most scientifically in its work of gaining that revelation which was given forth for the healing of the nations. Hence, it can be seen why she was so disturbed when she felt the students relaxing in their efforts, because, like the diver, she noticed the supply of air diminishing, indicating that the men at the pumps were not fulfilling their task.

Mrs. Eddy depended on the efforts of the students to a great degree. Of course, she herself could have done the work, but she called them to do it, in order that she might be left free to fulfill a larger and more important function, which no one else was in a position to fill.

She realized that the students were liable to become lax in their efforts, only when they felt that everything was harmonious and peaceful of its own accord. She knew that, in a storm, they would work hard. She also knew that as they pumped for the one in the diver’s suit, they would not know whether they were supplying enough air, unless they received word from the one below. She desired, therefore, that the students keep in that state of mind where they were so conscious of the claims of error that, even though they recognized no reality in them, they would continue in their efforts, where under ordinary circumstances they would have gone to sleep. It seemed to me that she would create an artificial storm, when there was none, and work definitely to sustain a certain fear of animal magnetism, in order to maintain the work at concert pitch. She reminded me of the head of a group of men working on a levee which is in danger of being inundated by rising water, and who keeps the men straining every nerve, by continually warning them what will happen if they permit the waters to overflow. No doubt it was due to this misunderstood endeavor, that the impression went forth that our Leader was afraid of animal magnetism, when, in reality, she was striving to keep alive in the minds of the students a fear, not of animal magnetism, but of what would happen if they did not handle it with strenuous and positive spiritual thought. She assumed this task to neutralize any sleep-inducing tendencies to which the students might yield.

At no time did I ever see the slightest indication that Mrs. Eddy was afraid of animal magnetism. Many students assumed this to be a fact, because she insisted on discussing it. I am convinced that when Mrs. Eddy talked about malicious animal magnetism to the students, she was not talking from any fear she had for it, but merely from the recognition that it might produce in them such a sense of lethargy and feeling of well-being, that they would stop that spiritual effort to hold up her hands, which meant the greatest help that could be rendered her in her work for the Cause and for the world.

There have been those who, after living with our Leader, described the continuous malicious attacks made on her, which were intended to interrupt her work and, if possible, assail her very life. I should like to go on record as saying, that the phases of mortal mind’s attacks and malpractice against which Mrs. Eddy directed us to wage our warfare, were those same elements of the human mind which are present in every home, but of which the materially-minded are more or less unconscious. If one did not understand this, he might think of her as having been subject to a constant bombardment of mental bullets, fired from the minds of malpractitioners who hated her and her work.

What were the facts in the case? Animal magnetism is like the dust that settles on everything in a house, and must be cleaned off each day. Then, why this “much ado about nothing?”

Mrs. Eddy, through many years of tribulation and prayer, had so cleansed the windowpane of her thought, that it reflected much spiritual light, a light that had become her very life and the life of her Cause. Hence, keeping this windowpane of thought spotlessly clean took on a significance that it is difficult for the layman to appreciate. The ordinary dust, with which we are familiar in our every day human experience, that human mental miasma that would constantly emphasize the unreal and keep the real out of sight, became to her the one great enemy, whether it darkened her windowpane in the natural course of things, or was induced consciously.

How was Mrs. Eddy to make the students conscious of this danger, and cause them faithfully to do the work required? How, but by giving this dust a new name that would sound fierce and frightening, designating it as that enemy which was attacking her with malicious intent and which must be handled? Was this contention true of the common dust or not? Yes; it is always true from the standpoint of the one who is embodying the Christ-idea. Mortal mind, just plain everyday mortal mind, is always the murderer of the Christ, and daily, yea, hourly, aims at it with malicious intent. Hence, to the spiritual pioneer, and to those following in that one’s spiritual footsteps, the common dust becomes the enemy which, to be sure, is easy to handle, if opposed promptly and persistently, although it is quite a different matter if neglected

No one should ever feel that Mrs. Eddy was subject to malicious attacks more than anyone who attempts to span the gap that separates sense and Soul. Far above the clouds, there are great winds blowing at high velocity. Letting these winds symbolize the last attempt of error to keep man out of the divine heights, we perceive that only the one who ventures into these upper reaches in his airplane, comes in conflict with these winds, which are always there, although the man on the earth is never conscious of them.

Mrs. Eddy knew that the students must be roused to do their mental dusting methodically and with consecration. They must be brought to the realization, that the dust of mortal belief was as serious to the health and brightness of Mrs. Eddy’s spiritual thought as would-be assassins armed with daggers, lurking in every dark corner at Pleasant View. They must be made conscious that this dust was as much a weapon of the destroyer, as the poison gas used in warfare. Therefore, Mrs. Eddy took the action of that which is most common to mankind, human thinking, and dignified it with the awe-inspiring name, malicious animal magnetism. Many have mocked her for so doing; many have misunderstood her; only those could really appreciate her, who had in some measure endeavored to develop their spiritual nature and protect it from the smothering dust of mortality. Only those who have acquired this precious possession, can appreciate the malicious motive and persistence back of the attempt to rob them of it, through the apparently petty phases of every day human experience.

Such, and such alone, can understand why Mrs. Eddy rechristened the human deterrents, so that the would-be metaphysician might learn that the greatest enemy to the life of the soul, is the dust of material belief, that is constantly settling on thought. Once, in a private letter, Mrs. Eddy called it, “The constant dropping of mental assassins on the mind.”

Anyone who has ever lived in a college dormitory knows that there is a constant confusion going on all the time, cleaning, radios, telephone bells, talking and laughing. This hubbub is distracting to the one engaged in serious study, or rather, to the one who takes studying seriously. If, suddenly, such study became a matter of life and death to a student, could one be blamed for rechristening all that confusion with the designation, the devil in disguise? Similarly, no one can criticize our Leader, when he or she has the least comprehension, for denominating the confusion of human thinking and the friction of human wills, animal magnetism, and instructing her students that they must handle it, when, to her, it was a matter of life and death, not so much the so-called life of the physical body as of her spiritual thought.

Mrs. Eddy, in emphasizing animal magnetism and malpractice, was not awakening her students to any new deviltry, but uncovering to them, from the spiritual standpoint, the actual nature of the mental atmosphere which they inhale all their lives, much as the professor of biology reveals to his students, by means of his powerful microscope, the living organisms in the very water they have been drinking and relishing all their days. If the world permits itself to be frightened at the supposed power resident in invisible germs to disrupt human health and destroy human life, why should it be thought strange that Mrs. Eddy should awaken thought to the danger latent in those mental germs which attack the life of the spiritual idea or Christ? She perceived this ignorance of the adversary, and knew that it must be recognized by Christendom, if man ever was to discover the secret of what holds mortals in bondage to mortality.

The bright side of this discovery, however, lies in the fact that man is faced with an enemy which he is fully equipped by God to meet and master, provided he keeps awake and alert; does not fear the foe; gives it no reality; nor loses sight of cause in the multiplicity of effect.

In building a house of playing cards for a child, you do not object if the child hits the table, while you are building the first one or two layers. However, as you go higher, the child must keep more and more quiet, and when you reach the last one or two rows, if the child merely walks across the floor, the whole structure is liable to collapse. The rule is, therefore, that the higher you build, the more susceptible to jar your masterpiece becomes.

This illustration serves to show that, to the metaphysician who is working to attain a spiritual balance of thought, the devil would be that which would tend to disturb this delicately adjusted consciousness. Once having gained this spiritual equilibrium which, although intangible to the world, is nevertheless real and vital to him, it takes very little to rob him of it, until it has been permanently established.

If a man with malicious intent should take a sledge hammer into a museum and destroy priceless works of art, the brutal and disruptive nature of such wanton destruction is self-evident. Yet, the constant bickerings and human undercurrents which rob the Christian Scientist of God, and send his thought tottering back to matter, are just as devilish in intent and result, although their evil purpose and malicious nature are not apparent on the surface.

Mrs. Eddy found it necessary to educate her students to appreciate that the enemy of the metaphysician was not the blow on the face, the foot that inadvertently or purposely trips him so he falls, but the so-called innocent amusements and petty irritations which send his thought back to a mortal level, and make him relinquish his connection with divine Mind, that is so essential to his spiritual progress.

When a deep canyon is being spanned by a bridge, first, a string is stretched across. This, in turn, is followed by materials of increasing strength, until the cables that form the permanent bridge are strung.

Let us compare the relative criminal intent and purpose in the minds of two men, the first of whom, the moment the initial string is stretched across the canyon, secretly takes out a knife and cuts it; the second of whom places a charge of dynamite under the bridge, after it has been completed, and thus makes an attempt to blow it up.

This latter act of sabotage might merely damage the bridge temporarily, leaving the possibility of its being repaired, but the former act, unless the work was done over, would prevent the bridge from ever being constructed. What an exposure of the shortsightedness of human justice such an episode contains! For, if we stop to ponder, we will see that dynamiting the bridge would demand a prison sentence, whereas the law might find it difficult to pass sentence on the mischief-maker who cut the string. Yet this simple act, which would prevent the bridge from ever being built, would be the more farreaching criminal act of the two.

If he ever hopes to win his salvation, the Christian Scientist must fulfill the task of holding his thought steadfastly to God long enough for it to crystallize into a bridge, over which he may pass at will to God. If, each time he attempts to bridge the gap which seems to separate him from God, some small phase of animal magnetism distracts his thought or swerves it from its purpose, such a detrimental annoyance would rank as the most malicious form of human evil, when weighed by Christian Science in the scale of deviltry.

In a measure, this analogy helps to explain Mrs. Eddy’s task in pointing out the relative evil embodied in different phases of human deterrents, and unfolds why there was a danger of misunderstanding, when Mrs. Eddy described as the most malicious form of egregious evil, something that seemed on the surface to be almost too simple to merit consideration.

Students who believe that animal magnetism knows where the central point of good is at work, and from whence the Truth that is destroying it is coming, so that a great army of malpractitioners are at work on the exponents of Truth, have a misconception of animal magnetism. All human thinking is malpractice, and all human thinking is directed against Truth. Therefore, Mrs. Eddy, as an individual, had no more error to meet than would any powerful exponent of Truth. The error to be handled at Pleasant View differed in no way from the error that should be handled in every home. The distinction lay in the spiritual ability on Mrs. Eddy’s part to detect the presence of an atmosphere alien to Truth, and also in the fact that the nature of her work required a spiritual atmosphere far greater than would be needed for any lesser work, just as the standards of measurement at the Bureau of Standards in Washington are accurate far beyond any requirements of what might be called average demands. The so-called normal atmosphere in the average home, which nobody would question, would need the greatest kind of spiritual effort to clear it up, if Mrs. Eddy was present. Had it been Pleasant View, she would have demanded that every worker in the home be at his or her post, until the balance of thought was restored to the side of spiritual reality.

Hence, the true diagnosis is, that the animal magnetism at Pleasant View was no different, no greater, than what would be found anywhere, but the need for meeting it was greater, yea, imperative. As any student of Christian Science grows spiritually, the obligation and necessity to handle animal magnetism, become more and more compulsory, for it claims to touch the sensitive spiritual thought and to darken it. The present-day radio receivers illustrate this conception. The more tubes added to a set, the more sensitive it becomes to receiving distant signals, and, as if to neutralize this advantage, the more sensitive to static and interference, which do not bother the mediocre radio receiver. The light thrown by this analogy illumines the difficulty that Mrs. Eddy had in explaining these vital points which, as St. Paul noted, seemed foolishness to the natural man.

When our Leader was disturbed by animal magnetism, and called upon the students to handle the mental atmosphere of the home, I could not detect any extraordinary need, other than the strain put upon us by Mrs. Eddy’s insistence that her spiritual sense required such an effort. From this fact, I deduce that, as students of Christian Science, we were at that point of growth where we could have carried on, and been content under an atmosphere that would have disturbed her, and darkened her spiritual thought. Being residents in Mrs. Eddy’s home did not subject us to a pressure of extraordinary animal magnetism, a bombardment of malicious malpractice which struck at our very lives. In all my human experience, I never felt such a continuous sense of harmony, as I did during twelve months in her home. It is true that she would break in upon a false sense of human peace in no uncertain way; if it had not been for such rude awakenings, I doubt whether any of us would have felt any more pressure of error than we would have in our own homes. With a developing spiritual sense, there comes an increasing consciousness of the claims and activities of animal magnetism, until the time arrives when an error that would not touch the gross thought, would cause the spiritually sensitive thought to be thrown off its balance, were it not for the fact that, with this increase of sensitiveness, comes the increased ability to nullify and neutralize the claims of illusion.

Thus, the advancing Scientist is dealing with impersonal error aimed at the Truth, and the importance of handling it, as well as the ability to handle it, is in direct proportion to one’s spiritual growth. What was it that brought our Leader to a successful termination of her lifework, which was giving to humanity the truth about God? Was it not her increasing ability to detect and meet the claims of animal magnetism, as they presented themselves each day? Then, why should there be any suggestions that Mrs. Eddy was afraid of animal magnetism, or that she was unable to neutralize the influence of evil minds? The more such a statement is emphasized, the greater shines the glory of her achievement in being able to carry on, in spite of all attempted interference.

The present mode of recording talking motion pictures offers an excellent illustration to explain to the seeker the mental situation at Pleasant View. The microphones used are so sensitive, that even slight extraneous noises interfere disastrously in this work. Therefore, while the film is being taken, a moderate noise would ruin the recording.

The more delicate one’s work in any direction, the more important become the methods of measurement and the circumstances surrounding the work. Hence, the more vital it becomes to maintain that standard in such a way, that it will be the least affected by outward conditions. For instance, many delicate operations in watchmaking have to be performed under glass.

Animal magnetism pervades the general atmosphere in which all mortals live. However, unless one’s effort lies in spiritual directions, he is not conscious of it as something that will throw him off, if he does not throw it off. The one who does not detect a mental falling-away under the influence of animal magnetism, is the one whose mental basis is not on a plane high enough to detect it. Only the effort that involves the necessity for tuning into the divine Mind, calls for such a clearing of the mental atmosphere.

The impression gained by students at Pleasant View was that they had a great deal of error to meet. However, this impression was due to the fact, that Mrs. Eddy was continually calling upon them to sweep out a room that was already clean, according to every known human standard of cleanliness. She demanded of us, that we go to work with zest to clear up a mental atmosphere, when we could not detect that there was anything wrong with it. Yet, if we had been on Mrs. Eddy’s spiritual level, it would have been apparent to us that the mental atmosphere needed attention.

When Mrs. Eddy felt her thought being thrown off its right balance, she knew that it was animal magnetism. Quite naturally, she hoped that we, too, were on a mental level high enough to feel it. Yet, because we did not detect it, we were tempted to conclude that she was making a great ado about nothing.

Students have gone out into the Field, and told about the pressure they were under at Pleasant View from animal magnetism, and how they had to stand with our Leader against the central line of focused evil, of which Pleasant View was the greatest recipient. These views have needlessly frightened many young students; for a greater frankness on the part of those students, who voiced these half-truths, would have revealed that they found as much, if not more, harmony at Pleasant View than they ever found elsewhere. They did not live in constant dread of animal magnetism. They found Mrs. Eddy so often concerned about it, however, that they thought that what disturbed her, should have disturbed them. Either they had to condemn themselves for a lack of spiritual sensitivity, or else criticize Mrs. Eddy for imagining vain things.

Keeping in mind the Master’s parable about the wheat and tares, let us imagine a man whose garden is all tares. If there is no wheat, what will open his eyes to the fact that he has nothing but tares? Mrs. Eddy asks this same question in Science and Health, page 254, “If you venture upon the quiet surface of error and are in sympathy with error, what is there to disturb the waters?” But when a student begins to develop a spiritual consciousness and endeavors to retain it, the very mental atmosphere in which mortals live, becomes his enemy, and offers him little else than misery, unless he is able to live above it.

When one’s standard of thinking becomes the reflection of divine Mind, he has to wage a warfare against mortal mind. When he seems to lose his reflection temporarily, his light is dimmed. And the more he learns to depend on Spirit, the more disturbance it brings, when that spiritual sense becomes darkened.

It is said that the first words Mrs. Eddy uttered, when she entered her new home in Chestnut Hill in 1908, were: “What splendid misery!” In these words she rebuked the effort to make the letter of the home so decorative that the spirit was neglected. All beauty was misery for Mrs. Eddy, when God was left out.

Was Mrs. Eddy obsessed on the subject of animal magnetism, as some critics have averred? She used the term habitually, to cover all that did not emanate from God, operating in a subtle way to shut out God. On Sept. 26, 1888, she wrote to Hannah Larminie: “Teach your students what animal magnetism is, how it works in themselves and from outside sources on them. These are the points in which my students fail most in teaching, and are the most difficult to teach rightly, so as not to frighten but strengthen the student.”




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