From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
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Mrs. Eddy’s Rebuke of Students
Once when Mrs. Eddy wished to confer with two of her students, and found that they had just gone on a vacation, she wrote them: “Return at once to Boston and find your retreat for an outing within a short distance of human help. Had I known sooner the place you were sent by m.a.m., I would sooner have delivered my message to you no doubt.” This was written July 28, 1897, and may be found in part on page 177 of Lyman Powell’s book.
Although the tone of this letter was severe, she intended it not for criticism, but instruction. Notwithstanding this fact, it would seem as if she had taken a position that was arbitrary and dictatorial, expecting her faithful workers to continue year after year without recreation.
The spiritual interpretation of such a simple episode as this deserves an important place in this book, because it illustrates so perfectly the fact, that such events in our Leader’s experience are susceptible of two interpretations, even as the Bible can be taken literally or unfolded inspirationally. Taken literally, Mrs. Eddy’s letter might be seized upon by critics as exposing her unreasonable attitude in handling her students, demanding a blind and implicit obedience to inflexible decisions. Understood and interpreted from a spiritual standpoint, however, it shows a scientific expectancy and keen endeavor to keep herself and her students always in tune with God’s great plan of salvation, which was being made manifest in the upbuilding of the Cause of Christian Science. Jesus said, “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.” In other words, when one has gained a scientific understanding, thereafter he can never judge Mrs. Eddy’s life from anything but a spiritual standpoint. Thus is exposed the fallacy of critical biography.
In building a skyscraper, there are orderly traffic regulations governing the incoming material. If a man, who was one cog in this smooth-running machinery, should be absent from his post, when he is needed to do his part, that might involve delay in the whole construction.
Mrs. Eddy was engaged in the upbuilding of the great structure of Christian Science. If one of her workers was absent when needed, she knew that he was handled by animal magnetism. She demanded that if a worker take a vacation, he must make a demonstration of it, which would mean going in God’s time. The materially-minded man is always out of season. He is out of tune with good, with the great ever-active tides of spiritual thought. He goes away when he will be needed and should remain at his post, and stays at home when he is not needed. If a man is thinking in tune with the divine government, he is instant in season and out of season. Hence, Mrs. Eddy rebuked these students for yielding to that which sent them away, when they should have been at their posts, an act which displayed a lack of spiritual demonstration.
Mrs. Eddy had a right to expect, that all those of her students who were in tune with divine wisdom, would be kept in their places, when and where they were needed, and that the impulses which decided them when and where to go, would be those that fitted into the spiritual upbuilding of the Cause. If their lives and thoughts were devoted to the Cause, it was not unreasonable to expect that their individual motivation would fit in with the universal scheme of salvation. Hence, because of the proved loyalty of these students, Mrs. Eddy braved being misunderstood, in order to rebuke the error, and instruct them in the higher demands of God. She expected them to be guided by demonstration at all times. Semper paratus, always ready, was Mrs. Eddy’s motto. Still, those who understand nothing of mental action, might believe that when it was just a matter of luck or chance that brought out inharmony and interruption, she was unjust and unreasonable in her demands; but she stood on the platform, that all things work together for good to those who love God. She knew, that no one could be of value to the Cause, who did not struggle to be guided by the same divine wisdom that guided her. When two are being guided by the same wisdom, their acts must dovetail, and chance cannot enter into it. If they do not dovetail, then one is out of tune with the divine Mind. Was it Mrs. Eddy, in this case, or her students?
Jesus judged his disciples by a standard that seemed harsh. It seems unreasonable that he should have rebuked them for sleeping, when they were almost overcome by sleep. Furthermore, was it not just as natural for them to sleep, when tired, as for these students to go on a vacation in the hot period of the year? Yet, Mrs. Eddy might have said to her students, “Could ye not watch with me one hour, or when you were needed by God, instead of being asleep on a vacation?” Jesus did not rebuke his disciples for sleeping at night, but for sleeping when God needed them, when they should have been awake and watching. This fact proved that animal magnetism, or being out of tune with God, had put them to sleep; hence, it was an induced sleep, that was not what would be termed natural. Mrs. Eddy did not rebuke these students for taking a vacation, but for yielding to the pull of animal magnetism, which took them away just when God’s work needed them at their posts. On the other hand, it would have been just as much a lack of demonstration for one who was useful to our Leader, always to have stayed at home, fearing lest she might need him or her at some unexpected time. Demonstration would mean, that a needful recreation would never find that one absent from his or her post when the call came. Unless one functions under demonstration, he is either too hot or too cold.
Mortal mind tempts us to quit work, just when that work is most needed. Many students do their best work when that work is not needed, and then, when the storm comes, they are so mentally seasick that they are of little help to the helmsman.
Testimonies are given in the Wednesday meetings by students who, through demonstration, find themselves in the right place at the right time. Should not this realization open their eyes, to make them more watchful, so that when they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, they will swallow their pride and admit it to be a lack of demonstration? From that standpoint, they can renew their consecration, and endeavor to be guided wholly by the Mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then, and only then, will they be not “made to forget nor to neglect [their] duty to God, to [their] Leader, and to mankind.”