From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Independent Thought Needed by Pioneer
Weeds find little chance to take root and flourish in soil that is composed largely of clay, and for this reason, a farmer would find it a difficult task to raise crops. So if he rejoiced because of the ease with which he kept his farm free from weeds, he would feel sad when he saw what a scanty crop he could raise. On the other hand, rich land invites a luxuriant growth of worthless plants, until it has been properly weeded. Then the good seed, planted, will bring an abundant harvest.
Many great men and women, whose later destinies revealed a great richness of thought, have manifested in youth an indication of this future prolificness by the greater growth of what might be called weeds. Parents who have rejoiced in model children, however, have lived to see these children grow up and amount to very little.
The above offers an interesting line of thought in connection with a book entitled, Fads and Quackery in Healing, by Morris Fishbein, M.D. In this book he writes of Mrs. Eddy as a girl as follows: “No-one had trouble with Mary when she could have her way, but when crossed she could put on a performance that would stop the family. She was frail, delicate, oversensitive, frequently given to spasms and attacks of tantrums.” In writing of her forty years later he says, “She lay in bed arguing, battling, contesting with everyone.”
Without taking up the question of the correctness of the source for such an extravagant picture, let us dissect it on the assumption that it might be correct. Can we not show that it would enhance rather than belittle our memory of Mrs. Eddy?
A child who has unusual strength of character is always a problem, always difficult to handle, always hard to understand. Such a child is troubled by the common-place things of daily living, which often provoke in him a storm of protest. If it were true that Mrs. Eddy did seem selfwilled in her youth, and a problem to her father, that would indicate the presence in her of a great desire, a searching for satisfaction, an inability to find peace of mind from a human standpoint.
If, in the splendid soil of Mrs. Eddy’s mind, any weeds of morbidity, discontent, or insubordination flourished, as Dr. Fishbein would have the world believe, they would merely point to that which later was proved to be so fertile, because of the plenteous harvest that followed the planting of the spiritual seed. If there was any lack of human docility in the child, Mary Baker, any lack of effort to make the best of things, any lack of unprotesting obedience to a situation in life which most people would consider inevitable, this would be a definite signpost pointing to her fitness to be entrusted with a message from God, and its unfoldment to humanity. Anything critical biographers may unearth in Mrs. Eddy’s early experience that might point to an undue independence of spirit, would only prove how impossible it is to control and direct a great mind with human rules and regulations. When will any mortal waken to spiritual freedom, unless the hunger for such freedom first produces a mounting discontent with the cold restrictions of material law?
Hence, if Mary Baker did have any objectionable human qualities, might it not be possible that after she had discovered Christian Science, and these qualities which stood out as undesirable were put under the control of the divine Mind; they became important as adjuncts to independence of thought, which was so needed by one who literally became an eddy in the great stream of thought, where an eddy is defined by Webster as “a current of water flowing back, or in a direction contrary to the main stream?”
Love for Mrs. Eddy might tend to cause young students to sugarcoat her early life to suit his or her fancy. Yet, if she were the child such a fancy might picture, from whence would have come that strength and rugged courage, which enabled her to emerge triumphant as a Leader worthy to follow?
Most parents endeavor to bend the will of a child so that it may be driven down the path of human destiny without resistance. Yet, the child who submits to this without a protest, does not represent the one with qualities capable of being developed into leadership, but rather into lifelong subjection.
I once owned two hunting dogs. One was obedient and easily trained. The other was so high-spirited that it took many patient hours to break him to the trail. Yet the latter became the finest bird dog I ever owned. The former was perfectly obedient, but lacked initiative; he was never able to find a bird. The high spirits of the latter became valuable, after they were trained to be expressed in the right way; whereas the meek submission of the former made him of little value.
No-one can question that from her early childhood Mrs. Eddy had a driving force within, which, before it was turned into God’s channels, might have been something to complain of in a child who was not understood. Her mother never found it so. She is quoted as having said, after Mary went away, “That dear child’s bright laugh has gone out of the house.” Her father found her a different problem, and spent many hours in trying to break her independence of thought, because it opposed his theology.
Certainly Mary Baker must have had a mental energy and independence which, when properly applied, resulted in a magnificent achievement. So Dr. Fishbein’s picture is interesting, because it would indicate a powerful individuality emerging from the crushing influence of human mob psychology, as it falls like a waffle-iron on each newcomer on the scene of human life, to press and force him or her into a certain predestined human pattern.
Let us suppose that Mary Baker, as a girl, being physically weak and not able to gain her way by fighting, did fall back on a woman’s weapons. Let us conclude that she did have an indomitable determination which, when misapplied, became a difficult problem. Even this would redound to Mrs. Eddy’s praise.
Surely Mary Baker had a natural instinct which made her dissatisfied and discontented under human domination. The regime of mortal existence in no way satisfied the demands of her heart and soul. When individuals of Mrs. Eddy’s type appear in the course of history, they are bound to search for possible means of happiness, until they find the object of that search.
Little can be done with a thought that is negative. Even those who have positive opposition to Christian Science seem to make the most steadfast workers we have, when once they have been converted. St. Paul illustrates this point. He was a bitter opponent of Christianity. Yet when his mental energy was divinely directed, it brought great spiritual fruitage.
Hence, no matter what Dr. Fishbein might say of Mrs. Eddy, the fact remains that she was never possessed of a negative mind. Just what impression she created as a child, it would be hard to say. Probably she was not so different from many children, except for this inflexibility of thought—inflexible as far as holding rigidly to her own views is concerned. But, if we say that when her thought finally yielded, it yielded to God, then that would explain the steadfast quality which made her such a wonderful Leader, once the right path was unfolded to her. Thereafter, nothing swerved her from that path, not even the greatest pressure that the world could bring to bear of suffering, persecution and loss.
Another illustration of the cold hand of criticism, redounding to Mrs. Eddy’s praise, is to be found in a volume by Stephan Zweig called Mental Healers, published in February, 1932. On page 246 he writes, “What was molten lava when erupted from the volcanic soul of Mary Baker Eddy, is now cold, and a tranquil fellowship of undistinguished folk has established itself on the lower slopes of the extinct crater.”
Let us consider the implications in this statement. Could anyone refer to Mrs. Eddy as having a “volcanic soul,” without acknowledging that she was animated by a mighty sincerity, and that the irresistible volume of Truth, which she poured forth from revelation and inspiration, produced a mighty upheaval in the world of thought? Would not such an admission compensate for the recital of fiction in regard to our Leader’s life contained in the book under consideration?
Hence, we can be grateful for this implication of Mrs. Eddy’s mighty sincerity and spontaneous outpouring of that which welled up in her consciousness with such power, that it forced her to tell her story to an incredulous world. What does it matter that Herr Zweig states that Mrs. Eddy’s doctrine, once revolutionary in character, has now grown cold? No doubt he believes this to be true. He sees her followers today, a peaceful people, friendly and happy, not disposed to make trouble nor attack the treasured beliefs of others. He forgets, however, that when territory is being prepared for man’s use, there is a mighty upheaval and blasting, there is much to be done and much resistance to be overcome. The soil must be cleared and enriched. When this pioneering work is completed and the seed sown, there descends upon the scene a peace and tranquillity, which might deceive one who had not the insight to detect the miracle taking place underground, unseen to the eyes of man.
Today, the action of Truth, as taught by the Master, rediscovered by Mrs. Eddy, and now planted in the hearts of humanity, is performing a miracle. Although the action seems peaceful, yet those who have a finger on the pulse of present day affairs, recognize the signs of a mighty spiritual fruitage for the world, coming from the sowing which Mrs. Eddy did in those tumultuous pioneering days.
The question comes up, what is the soil in which the seed of Truth best germinates and grows? Mary Baker Eddy had a deep desire for something beyond what the world could give, a desire so strong that she was willing to endure misrepresentation, misunderstanding, persecution and hardship in order to gain it. Any quality of thought that hungers enough to be willing to go through such experiences, without losing sight of the object of that hunger, makes the finest quality of thought in which to develop the incorruptible seed of Truth. The moment Mrs. Eddy’s desire was awakened to discover the things of God, then all her background of determination and persistence came to her aid, to help her eventually to attain the thing she wanted.
When desire is strong enough in a man or woman, he or she will let nothing stand in the way, nor sidetrack either in the attaining of that goal. If one with such possibilities of attainment can only be given the right goal to strive for, then attainment enriches all.
It is commonly believed that the best soil for spiritual achievement is represented by human qualities of love, thoughtfulness, charity, etc. But such Christian qualities are effect and not cause. Hence, the right soil is not indicated by what one manifests, but by the motive in thought which prompts the manifestation. Contrary to the evidence, the Master found good soil in Mary Magdalen. Although the manifestation was obnoxious, yet the underlying motive was good. The reverse of this is the deception of a fine outward expression, where the motive is selfish and wrong. The rich young man who came to Jesus had a fine outward expression; yet the Master unerringly detected the underlying selfishness, the desire to be well thought of by others. The Master told him to sell all and give to the poor, to eliminate all the seemingly good outward manifestation, and give attention to correcting the poor inward motive.
From this it follows, that in reference to their Leader, Christian Scientists stand on this platform: that Mrs. Eddy’s final spiritual goal demonstrates beyond all question the integrity and rightness of her underlying motive that animated her throughout her experience. Let critics tear the outward manifestation of her life to pieces and say whatever error directs them to. But, until they can impugn her life motive, they can do her no harm.
When a broom is introduced into a room badly in need of cleaning, the clouds of dust raised before the room is thoroughly swept, illustrate the action on the human mind, when the cleansing properties of the divine Mind enter human thought with the purpose of purification. In analyzing the value of stirring up dust which has been hidden for years, the only correct perspective can be gained through viewing the eventual results. Thus, noone can rightly criticize a single footstep Mrs. Eddy took, that did not seem to be in the direct line of spiritual progress, because such footsteps had no effect in preventing her from reaching her ultimate goal, or fulfilling her aspirations and desires, and no doubt each one was necessary in its own time as part of her effort to determine the right road.
Sometimes the pioneer of spiritual truth may yield to certain false arguments, because the strength necessary to stand at that time is not discerned. Sad experiences are needed to force him or her to investigate the claims of evil which, like the newly-adapted transparent wrapping called cellophane, are so imperceptible, that one cannot understand why a lofty spiritual desire and a sanctified consistent life do not bring the right results, until further spiritual understanding reveals this hidden claim, which is then destroyed through being seen as nothing. Such experiences, which would be used by critical thought to try to rob a great reformer of entitled glory, by setting forth a wrong picture, only point to the value and helpfulness of such a life, to those desirous of following in the footsteps of the pioneer.
Those naturally great in the world’s history have not the value to humanity that is commonly attributed to them, as compared with those who have acquired greatness through struggle and self-denial; who, having been overcome by evil, are not discouraged, but press on to final victory. These, recognizing the fallibility of human reason or experience, as a guide to enable them to surmount the obstacles which everyone must, in order to reach a divine status above the limitations of age or dependence on physical strength, rise to that point where they depend on the divine Mind alone, and discover that it never fails them when it is appealed to rightly. Such an experience is not only an individual triumph, but presents a great hope to all the world, because it shows the possibility of each individual taking the same steps and arriving at the same glorious results.
No-one is fit to touch the hem of Mrs. Eddy’s garment, to criticize one act in her life, to emphasize one experience, because it appears to be inconsistent with the spiritual perfection she revealed as a possible attainment for all, unless such a one understands to some degree her motives, what she had to overcome, and more than all else, the fact that she did accomplish and attain in a large measure what she set forth as attainable, or unless he recognizes the radical changes that have taken place in the lives of her followers who are consistent with her teachings. No-one who has any correct knowledge of the facts, can gainsay the dignity, the normality, and the sincerity of her followers who, knowing her as her enemies could never do, have never changed their estimate of her unselfish purpose and her absolute divergence from those things of the flesh, which so often draw men and women away from the object to which they have dedicated their lives.
There is a certain jealous thought that would attempt to show that Mrs. Eddy’s object in giving Christian Science to the world was to gain money. No-one could accuse Mrs. Eddy of the love of money, or of being a miser, after he learns how freely she bestowed her fortune on charity, and above all, to the building up of the Cause of Christian Science. Those who knew Mrs. Eddy intimately, can testify that the amount of money she spent on herself was very small. For years she enjoyed no other form of recreation or pleasure than her daily drive. When she was at an age when most people retire from active effort, the song of her life was that which she said was the song of Christian Science, in her Message for 1900, “Work—work—work— watch and pray.” She cared only to give to the world more clearly the principles which she felt confident would increase man’s faith in God, and would teach him the availability and value of the divine Mind as being adequate for every human need, not only to relieve man from the depression, despair, and fear which so-called disease brings to man, but also to furnish him with that unerring wisdom which alone can guide the individual and the nation aright, into the true harbor of perpetual peace, spiritual Truth, and divine Love.