From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
The Example of Mrs. Eddy’s Demonstration
The first time Mrs. Carpenter and I visited Mrs. Eddy, she arranged that we three sit on the sofa with her in between, holding our hands in hers. Then she told of the time when her husband, Dr. Eddy, was arrested for murder. She said that she remained on her knees in prayer far into the night preceding the trial, and toward morning, fell into a peaceful sleep. She awakened early and felt a leading to go to the public library. She arose, dressed and arrived so early, that she had to wait for the doors to open. She was guided to find a case on record that was parallel to the one of her husband, and her finding proved to be of vital aid in the matter that day.
It is difficult to convey in words the impression Mrs. Eddy made on us during this interview. She exhibited such faith in the divine guidance which she demonstrated, that it amounted to absolute conviction. As we arose to go, she apologized for spending the whole time in telling about such an incident, but told us that we must come again soon. Before she would let us go, she insisted that we see her banner, picturing a shepherd carrying a lamb, with the quotation from the Song of Solomon, “His banner over me was love.” She said, “I have carried the little lambs in my arms just like that.”
I have often pondered why Mrs. Eddy should have talked to us so long on this dark case, during our first interview. The story involved such sinister motives, that it seemed horrible to us in its uncoverings. I realized, however, that Mrs. Eddy had had much experience with young students who idealized her experience as being the Revelator in this age. For that reason, I felt that she wanted to point out that her attainment had been through struggles, suffering and prayer; that she had been subject to persecution and attack; and that her task involved uncovering the most sinister motives resident in mortal thought, so that we might realize the true significance of what it means to any student of Christian Science to enlist on the side of God, to have his part in throwing down the strongholds of mortal mind, which of a certainty do not yield without a struggle, and to rise triumphant.
Mrs. Eddy saw the necessity for setting forth the fact that, although she had been the glorified channel for a new dispensation of Truth in this age, this office did not absolve her from entering the arena with her students in its demonstration. She was the Discoverer of the spiritual rules for the world’s salvation, yet she had to make these rules operate in practice, a task which consists in transferring the belief in power from every other source and giving it back to God. She had to drink with us of the same cup of fear, discouragement, depression, and struggle, which must always attend the destruction of the claim of animal magnetism, that would obstruct progress by endeavoring to make us feel the impossibility of a mere human being upsetting the apparently invincible strongholds of error.
The Master had trials and self-denials. He was not exempt from the necessity of a personal demonstration. The Bible is insistent that he was tempted at all points like as we are, yet without sin.
Mrs. Eddy recognized that future generations must understand the dual nature of her task as Discoverer and Founder, as Revelator and Demonstrator. Although she wrote her textbook, Science and Health, she studied it and revised it up to the year of her passing, and was constantly perceiving its deeper meanings.
Thus, in demonstration, she was placed on the same basis with her students, which is the disclosure that I believe she desired to convey to us at that memorable first meeting, in order that we might have the courage to go ahead, and also, never to set her on a pedestal as a spiritual prodigy, which, if that were what she was, would make the path she was laying out an impractical one for another to attempt to follow.
In reality, Mrs. Eddy’s experience was duplex. She was both the minister voicing Truth, and a member of her own congregation, striving to demonstrate the truths which she revealed. The spiritual idea developed in Mrs. Eddy to the point where the revelation of Truth dawned upon her enraptured thought. Then, the remainder of her experience, which resulted in building up the great Cause of Christian Science, consisted in demonstration and depicting the human struggle which is requisite to throw off mortal belief. One might say, with no untruth, that Mrs. Eddy did not write Science and Health, but that the spiritual idea in her did. However, since the spiritual idea is man’s only true and real selfhood, she did write it, not as the human person, but the divine idea. Because in her writings our Leader is so careful to draw the correct line of demarcation between Jesus and the Christ, the same must be done today with our Leader and the spiritual idea, lest the two be confused, with the result that that which is not worthy, be exalted, and that which should be exalted, be abased.
In writing the history of Mrs. Eddy as the Discoverer of Christian Science, proof must be offered of the spiritual quality of her thought which enabled her to receive such a great unfoldment; but in writing of her life as the Demonstrator, it becomes necessary to portray all the dark places, in order to show how Truth purified the human element and enlightened her dormant spiritual sense. This study of Mrs. Eddy’s struggle in demonstration is the important one for the student, because it unfolds the operation of both Truth and error.
The difference between Mrs. Eddy’s experience and ours, is that she had to discover and supply herself with the spiritual vision, whereas we have not that work to do, since she has supplied us with that vision through her revelation. As she once said, “The Discoverer has to discover the way to meet these things: you will not have that to do; you are learning now how to meet them; I have had to discover it.”
Although Mrs. Eddy was not a spiritual prodigy, in the sense that she possessed by birth innate spiritual endowments which were supernatural, nevertheless, she had a spiritual nature that was more developed than is usual with the average man or woman, and she also had a deeper insight into the unsatisfactory nature of matter and mortal existence. These talents enabled her to bring her spiritual efforts to fruitage more quickly in this short span of human existence, than can most people. Even though in the race Mrs. Eddy had a start in advance of the average person, her experience as pioneer required this advance, and did not remove the necessity for the same demonstration over the flesh that we have to make.
She possessed the prophetic spiritual development that enabled her to bring prophecy into realization, a work which she did, thus relieving us of the necessity of doing it. Yet, it is a great mistake to feel, because she gained the spirituality which enabled her to set forth the vision and the true path leading to its fulfillment, that she was absolved from taking the bleeding footsteps which all must take.
Much of the misunderstanding in regard to Mrs. Eddy has come through people’s expectancy that, because of the supernatural character of her discovery, she should have made a supernatural demonstration of it in her own life. However, what student is there, who would not feel more than satisfied, if he could make a demonstration of Christian Science approximating hers? Therefore, Mrs. Eddy’s personal history does not suffer by comparison with that of her students, but only with her spiritual revelation. The moment specific instances in her experience, which suggest a failure in demonstration because they are not understood, are brought to the attention of certain students, these loving, but blind followers turn away from them at once to the wonder and grandeur of her revelation, and draw a curtain over that which they cannot comprehend. They fail to realize, that her revelation was ahead of her demonstration, just as the city to which we journey, appears in the distance and we must walk the intervening steps.
All men are born with spiritual talents, but most of them bury these talents in the ground of human obligations and pleasures. Alert to this condition, Mrs. Eddy kept her talents where they could be utilized the moment their right application was revealed to her. Therefore, she was spared the additional effort of first digging them out of the dust of materiality.
Mrs. Eddy might be said to have done two things for her followers. She issued general directions that would enable them to assemble at the common square, from whence they are to depart on the journey from sense to Soul. But, realizing that each individual traverses a separate path, she knew that she could not map out the way for each one after he had begun the ascent to heaven, any more than two ships can follow the same paths through the seas. As a consequence, she gave the instruction that would enable each one to determine how to gain the spiritual information and determine the rightness of each step of the way, and hence to reject the enticements that would offer bypaths to error.
Following from this argument is the conclusion that mere belief in her doctrine, mere acceptance of its logic or appreciation of its spiritual worth, will never take anyone the least distance along the road from sense to Soul. Such would merely bring one to the common square, the starting point. Those consecrated students who endeavor to mould every thought to Science and Health, through such an effort proceed no further than this general rendezvous. If our Leader could speak to such students today, she might say, “Because you have reached the limit of the application of my teachings to your present needs, what you should now do, is rely on your own ability to develop that teaching to the point where the additional revelation that you require, will flow in from the same source from which mine came. You must reach the demonstration where you are taught of God, which is the Divinity Course, open for every student, a teaching each one must receive. That, and that alone, will enable you to make progress on your journey from sense to Soul.” Commenting on this condition of mental laziness, Mrs. Eddy once said to a student, “Students who are getting from the book [S & H] and from me, when they are put to the test are wanting; why? Because they have taken it of me instead of God; now what I have given, take in usury; use it, and more will be given; like the one who had a talent given him and did not use it; lost it; but to the one who did make use of it, more was given.”
Mrs. Eddy ascended the Mount of Revelation; then she came down to demonstrate the truths that had been revealed to her. It is this latter phase of her experience that is the most important and valuable to understand. Otherwise, the student might fall by the wayside, not because he questioned in the least the Truth which Mrs. Eddy revealed, but because he might question the possibility of man’s ability, with his present human equipment, to apply it in practice. Unless such a one can be given evidence of one who, taking the rules of Science, has been able to persist successfully under the same fear, discouragement, and struggles that all have to meet, he will not be able to make progress himself. If the rules of Christian Science unfold the process which will free man from the bondage of this world, what merit has this revelation, if man does not believe that, with his present normal equipment, this freedom can be won? When one discovers such spiritual laws, and then proves, by following them in his own life, that they can be applied by all, such a one constitutes a true wayshower. Of what value is a discovery as to the way to heaven, that is automatically demonstrated coincident with its discovery? A freak experience has no universal application.
If, as our textbook states, the Church is “whatever . . . proceeds from divine Principle,” it follows that the Church is a symbol of man himself. Hence, its rules are for his purification and guidance, and its services give him the opportunity each week to take account of himself, first, to determine if he is growing in understanding, and second, in demonstration.
The ideal man is the Church, if he proceeds from divine Principle; but not a material structure. Hence we understand the real man in proportion as we understand the Church, and as we outgrow a material sense of and attitude toward man, we do the same toward the Church.
Mrs. Eddy once wrote to a student: “Let all the members of my Church rest assured that I love them, and work and pray for the good of all of them.” If the Church defined is whatever proceeds from divine Principle, these words of Mrs. Eddy’s apply to the present, as if the Church itself could repeat, “Let all my members rest assured that I love them, and work and pray for the good of all of them.” What a reassuring and comforting thought for a member to have, namely, that he belongs to a Church that loves him, and is working and praying constantly for his good, rather than one that is watching him constantly, and ready to admonish and even discipline him, if he strays one step from the path laid down.