From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Click here to play the audio as you read:
The Student’s Reflection of the Power of Truth
At one time Mrs. Eddy told me that I was to be her successor. I assumed that she said this same thing to every one of the students who gave any exhibition of spiritual understanding and power. Later, I learned that about a year before I arrived at the home, the point had come up and some student had stated that God would raise up someone who would be faithful as was John at the cross. Mrs. Eddy replied, “How do you know? Look within and see who that one should be. It is opium, ether, etc., that would cause you to suggest it should be someone else.”
I think that Mrs. Eddy hoped that every student who came to Pleasant View would be her successor, notwithstanding, by successor, she did not mean one who would step into her place as Leader.
Who could be Mrs. Eddy’s successor? In order to answer the question let me ask another: what was Mrs. Eddy’s work? Was it not to keep the mighty influx of spiritual revelation flowing freely to guide the great Cause of Christian Science and to bless humanity? Hence, would not all students who could successfully light the bright lamp of inspiration, and keep it burning and shining out to bless all mankind be her successors? This explanation defines Mrs. Eddy’s successor, a position of honor before God rather than before man. The results of such a position, which is open to all at all times, are so infinite and far-reaching that man cannot conceive of them. The footsteps to it require sincere self-immolation, the effort to submerge the human and exalt the divine.
And he who attains this God-crowned office of Mrs. Eddy’s successor does so through gaining and retaining inspiration. Mrs. Eddy has no other successorship.
It is interesting to note that students who came to live with our Leader came face to face with inspiration that was coming directly from the divine Mind. However, coming so close to the Leader meant a shortened focus. It involved a situation which required a mental adjustment that was not an easy one to make, for one beheld in Mrs. Eddy, cause, without the opportunity of seeing effect; a situation which might be represented by the difference between seeing the power house, or the multifold operations of the power in serving a wide area of currentusers. Being actually in the power house is apt to remove the sense of awe that one feels in contemplating the use of the power in a thousand different ways in a hundredthousand homes and factories.
Those students out in the Field, who never had the chance to see Mrs. Eddy at close range, felt a sense of worship toward her because of the magnificent effect of her demonstration, as it covered the world. On the other hand, those who lived with her, who respected and loved her, felt a sense of fear rather than worship toward her. When those on the outside asserted that she was such a wonderful woman, those on the inside were apt to say to themselves, “If they could live with her, they would have no such illusions.” It seemed as if distance lent enchantment to the view. Those on the outside felt that she must lead a life of perfection; whereas the shock of living with her and discovering the facts was almost too much for some. Nevertheless, for those who could understand, Mrs. Eddy’s life provided the greatest kind of spiritual help. The students who were shocked on coming to the home were the ones who formerly visualized human perfection in Mrs. Eddy’s life and found instead a human struggle.
Thus, it can be seen that the attitude of those outside the home differed from that of the students inside. The close focus revealed imperfections in the human, but, at the same time, a sense of the grandeur and magnitude of cause. Many on the outside imagined human perfection and hence, failed to comprehend Mrs. Eddy’s use of the spiritual, because they fancied that her goodness was inherent instead of being reflected.
Therefore, it would have been sound advice to urge those on the inside to look away from cause to effect at times, from the power house to the vast number of factories in action; for then, if the temptation came to criticize the power house, it would be silenced through the evidence of what the power house was accomplishing.
The fact that she recognized and persistently declared that the action of the divine Mind reflected by her, or by those who understand the Truth, was legion, made a great impression on me.
In the fifth chapter of Acts, we read of Ananias and Sapphira who fell down dead when they were caught withholding part of the money that had been pledged to the common fund. Is there not a danger of repeating their error today? When the students learn the depth, spread, allness and completeness of the divine Mind as reflected by man, then if this power is largely applied to the healing of sickness or poverty, it involves placing limits on this reflection of limitless law. The thought of the application of Christian Science as being legion and meeting every phase of the human problem, must be constantly kept before the mind of the student if he does not want his understanding to fail him sooner or later in an emergency. Should the time come, when his very life depends upon his absolute allegiance to God, then a halfway dependence in the past will be exposed as it was with Ananias and Sapphira. If one claims to relinquish everything material, even dependence on the human intellect, wisdom and education, in order that he may be entitled to the divine aid, and he still retains a faith in mortal mind in any direction, this will rob his prayers of that perfect assurance that brings conviction. How much faith does the godless sailor have in his prayers during a storm, when he recalls that his past experience has been a denial of God at every point? Consistent dependence on God brings mental strength, whereas if, after taking the first footsteps in Christian Science, which include healing sickness and lack, the student does not broaden his conception to include every phase of human experience, there is lacking that consistent growth which brings spiritual power and dominion.
It was this breadth of thought and demonstration of our Leader, that was a constant source of inspiration to me.
In the seventh chapter of Hosea we read, “When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them.” This net might be said to represent our spiritual process of handling error, which, when applied, never lets error escape. A net carries with it much more possibility of success in catching fish than does one hook or, perhaps, a gun, the bullet of which might miss the target, whereas a net is allencompassing. Furthermore, a net represents the infinite spread of man’s reflection of divine power, that reaches to the ends of the earth. It typifies, too, the extending of inspiration, exemplified by Mrs. Eddy in her demonstration. Finally, it must symbolize the goal of every student who cherishes the hope of being her spiritual successor.
The net is something woven together. Hence, it represents the complete line of scientific argument which the student has brought together that covers all the ground. It shows that in Truth man never sends out a demonstrating thought that does not reach its object and accomplish that whereunto it is sent. Hence, the net is not something reserved alone for sickness, lack, or even, sin. This texture of scientific and related arguments covers the whole ground, handles error and demonstrates Truth, through the realization of the nothingness of sense testimony and the allness of spiritual cause. These propositions build up our net whereby we stretch out the conception of demonstration ad infinitum. I was impressed with the sense that Mrs. Eddy’s demonstration was a net that went out to cover all, and necessarily such a limitless conception would mark the effort of one who would be her successor. Jesus’ disciples had the net but lacked expectancy.
At the time of the eight o’clock Watch Mrs. Eddy went out on the upper side porch. I always gained the impression that this hour was consecrated to working for the whole world and that she never permitted anything less to come under the searchlight of her scientific consciousness during this time. These universal outpourings nearly always lifted and sweetened her thought.
Self-depreciation is found both in mortal mind and in Christian Science. In the latter, however, it is right only when applied to the mortal sense of man, which must be torn down as we build up the ideal sense of man and our consciousness of his ability to reflect the divine Mind with an infinite range of influence.
Students of Christian Science must take their cue from their Leader and build up confidence in the power they reflect, establishing the glorious fact that their spiritual consciousness has the very powers of the universe back of it; that nothing can stand before it; that it has a speed greater than that of light; that it goes wherever it is directed, acts instantaneously and does accomplish that whereunto it is sent.
Being with Mrs. Eddy was of great assistance to me in my effort to realize the infinite range of spiritual thought as reflected by man. It aided me in my effort to throw off the mortal mind sense of limitation which we are tempted to place about our spiritual capacities. Unless the student recognizes the coverage and range of his spiritual power, he will not use it as he should. He will resemble the farmer who buys an automobile and then drives it within the limits of his old horse and carriage, both as to speed and distance.
Unless the seeker begins to recognize the possibilities connected with reflection, he will exclude from his thought certain phases of human experience that need mental purgation. However, when one does begin to recognize the vastness of spiritual good and its range, when reflected by man, he will begin to work in worlds and worlds upon worlds, and not confine his efforts to specific phases of error. In corroboration of this thought-arresting conception, let us quote Mrs. Eddy’s statement regarding Love in Miscellaneous Writings, page 249, “Over what worlds on worlds it hath range and is sovereign!”
Without this breadth of thought, a practitioner might be glad to treat a patient in his office and, at the same time, fear to take the case of one who was on the other side of the globe. Science and Health tells us that space is no obstacle to Mind.
Although the student can take Truth into his consciousness, he must never limit it by a human sense and must always include the right conception of its range and power in this assimilatory process. Right thinking is not truly right thinking until it is universal right thinking. When the student takes on this divine consciousness, this heavenly sense which, like the mustard seed, seems small from the human standpoint, he takes on infinite possibilities; there is no extent that it cannot compass; no good that it cannot bring out; no thought that it cannot reach. First, the student makes his spiritual net, and then broadens it day by day.
It is true that much self-depreciation in students is an error, a lack of developing this understanding of the spiritual extent of the divine power they reflect. Therefore, in order to antidote this sense of inferiority, they must build up their faith in the limitless extent of the divine power that they do reflect, and not that which they can reflect. If one spends his whole Science experience in healing the claims of sickness and lack, the error involved in such activity is not that it does not do good and present Christian Science to the world in the right way, but it limits the scope of its greater possibilities. This situation might be aptly illustrated by one using a 500 ton hydraulic press to break eggs; it is enlisting majestic power to perform inconsequential tasks. To be sure, the student begins by modest demonstrations, small beginnings, but the call of progress always comes demanding one to broaden his conceptions.
When you enter upon a true recognition of the power, extent and results of the divine law that you reflect, this knowledge will destroy fear, limitation, self-condemnation and self-depreciation. Realize that every time you think scientifically and remove the sense of human limitation from thinking, you are launching into the world a regenerative power the results of which are legion! Understand that you cannot limit the action and extent of the infinite power of Truth you reflect, since Truth is always limitless! Either you reflect it or you do not. If the Truth you express is narrow in its extent, this fact alone indicates that you are muzzling the Truth you reflect, hence, it cannot rightly be called Truth. Students imagine that Truth comes to them in a small stream. Whereas, in reality, just to catch a glimpse of Truth is to image forth infinite power.
A concise statement of the foregoing argument might be that the demand to become Mrs. Eddy’s successor, which is a mantle all should and can assume, carries with it the necessity, first, to learn the truth of Christian Science; then, to recognize the limitless extent of this divine power thus brought to earth; and gradually, to compass a larger and larger demonstration.
It is an observable fact that the Master claimed nothing for himself beyond what he taught was a possibility for his disciples. When the five thousand were hungry, he said to them, “Give ye them to eat,” inferring in this statement that they possessed the understanding to bring out the demonstration, as he did. He had an unlimited sense of the possibilities of the Truth he reflected, which put him above his disciples, not so much in understanding as in faith in that understanding. A reader of the New Testament is constantly impressed with the Master’s faith in the Truth and in the fact that he put no limits on the divine power which he reflected and manifested.
When Mrs. Eddy wrote Science and Health, the flow of inspiration to her continued from sunrise to sunset, a limitation she mentions on page 114 of Miscellany. At another time, she described this phenomenon to one of the students in the home as follows: “I did not understand Science and Health when I wrote it. I would write just as fast as I could; I would have to do so; could not help it. The desire to write would begin in the morning at about a certain time, and leave in the afternoon. I would not stop for dinner when I was writing, and the people where I was boarding used to wonder at it, and would sometimes bring my dinner to me on a tray and set it beside me; but I would not stop.”
However, as her thought broadened and left behind its nervous apprehension of the night-pictures, which the darkness brings to many who have known years of illhealth, she outgrew this periodic sense of inspiration, which, no doubt, was a curtailment on her output of infinite Truth. As her spiritual understanding matured, she progressed beyond this limiting condition, so that the darkness presented no fear, and Truth would flow day and night. Truth is knocking at man’s door twenty-four hours a day, asking only that man supply it with a spiritualized transformer. This requires that man empty thought of human interests, desires and fears, which claim to fill consciousness so that the normal action of Truth is distorted, and God’s will, which maintains a reign of harmony in heaven, is reversed into a reign of terror on earth.
David’s five smooth stones and sling represented his spiritual understanding and his determination to put that understanding into operation. In accord with this symbolism our Leader was outstanding because she possessed this spiritual understanding plus the determination to drive it home and make it operative and effective. Furthermore, she commanded that valuable quality which kept her thought alive, active, awake. In this alert condition, thought possesses the knowledge of what it is trying to do, and how it can be done; hence, it is invincible before any Goliaths which this world presents.
With a compass in his hand, man is equipped with an infallible guide to the north magnetic pole; but, in order to reach this point, he also requires the qualities of endurance and persistence. What is man’s knowledge of Christian Science worth if he has not the courage and determination to put it into practice? Knowledge plus zeal make the ideal combination.
Mrs. Eddy possessed this dual capacity. She was an intelligent student, and had a spiritually executive and persistent thought. Through these two attributes, she gained spiritual understanding and growth.
The analysis of what happens, when one of these qualities functions without the other, is interesting. The student who has an executive thought without the understanding to direct it is apt to be so handled by error that he becomes a positive menace. On the other hand, the person who has a good spiritual understanding but who lacks a purposeful thought to drive it, is apt to be handled so that he is afraid to call his soul his own. Hence, of what value is his understanding to him? Everything that he has developed has done little good because the claim of animal magnetism in the form of fear and self-depreciation has clothed his thought as in a black garment. Once Mrs. Eddy said, “Self-depreciation is not humility, but the meanest kind of pride, because it admits a sense of self apart from God.”
Thus we may see how animal magnetism claims to work in the two suppositional cases, illustrated in Ezekiel 21:21 where “the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination.” The student who is fortified against this divination, or animal magnetism, is the one who combines these two essential qualities: a correct understanding of the Truth, and a firm and active faith in his ability to demonstrate, that keeps him alert to the suggestions of animal magnetism, so that he never yields to the belief that he can be robbed of God, either through the argument of a lack of understanding, or of a lack of ability to demonstrate that understanding with ever-increasing coverage.