From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
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Following the Christ-Idea
On October 23, 1905, Mrs. Eddy sent a telegram to the secretary of the Christian Science Board of Directors, William B. Johnson, who was in New York City. It read as follows: “Thanks for the telegram. Hand in hand, heart with heart, take step forward, march and hold fire on your Leader. God bless you. Lovingly, Mary Baker Eddy.”
In this telegram, did Mrs. Eddy refer to the fire of malpractice? Did she imply that a member of her own Board of Directors might be malpracticing on her, and that she wanted him to cease?
Mr. Johnson was on important business for the Cause, when this telegram was sent. Mrs. Eddy sent no idle nor unnecessary words. Then, what was the metaphysical and scientific meaning back of her statement?
We learn in Christian Science that our thinking alone is the important thing. Whatever follows from that thinking, is but the effect of cause, a shadow made visible by the light shining on an object. If, as a Christian Scientist, you were endeavoring to maintain in your home a spiritual atmosphere of thought, and another in the home, whose thought was on a less spiritual level, should show an undue interest or curiosity in what you were trying to do, might you not feel that material thought hindering your spiritual thought from having free and full expression?
After students who had been living with Mrs. Eddy left, they could tell what her activities were in the home every hour of the day, since she followed such a strict routine. Thus, if they turned their thought toward Pleasant View after they left, they could enter into the mental activity of Mrs. Eddy’s life, almost the same as if they still lived in the home.
I speak of this, because there were times when Mrs. Eddy felt an interference, resulting from this ignorant effort to perpetuate the routine of Pleasant View, as if it were responsible for some period of confusion through which her thought might be passing. Hence, she would often write and ask students not to think of her, but to turn their thoughts away from her entirely.
Mrs. Eddy went to Pleasant View to escape those activities of the Christian Science organization, which weighed so heavily around her neck, because she found it a continual struggle to have what she put forth and knew was right, opposed by her own students, who had not the perception to see the wisdom back of her moves. Another reason for her withdrawal, was the desire to wean her students from leaning on her demonstration, so that they might learn to lean on Principle. In this, she was not as successful as she had hoped she would be. Even today, there are still those who would lean on her demonstration of spiritual wisdom, trying to do what they feel she would have wanted them to, as if she were still present, instead of recognizing that her only desire was to have her students learn to lean on divine Principle, as she did.
In the Church Manual, Mrs. Eddy included many ByLaws which required the approval of the Pastor Emeritus. Even though she recognized that her consent could no longer be gained after she had passed from our midst, nevertheless, she definitely left this requirement in many of the By-Laws. Understood spiritually, however, this is our assurance that she left the impersonal guidance of the Christ, which is with us always. Hence, today Mrs. Eddy’s demand upon her faithful followers is that they always go, as she did, to divine wisdom for guidance and consent in matters pertaining to the furthering of this great Cause.
She realized that, unless students were weaned from her demonstration to make their own, they would cease to progress. The Master recognized this point so strongly, that he said, in John 8:21, “I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.” In other words, if your effort goes no further than to seek to have me take you into the kingdom of heaven on my demonstration, instead of embodying the Christ for yourselves, and gaining heaven through your own demonstration, then your lack of understanding of the true spiritual method will be the sin of ignorance, which will mean the death of your spiritual progress.
Both the Master and Mrs. Eddy taught that the time must come with every student, when the help of another spiritually-minded pilgrim must turn into self-help, where the Christ must be lost as something to follow after, and gained as something to be embodied. It is a profitless thing to continue to seek the help of another in Christian Science, if it is continued beyond the point, where wisdom would indicate that one should rely on his own efforts. Every gardener knows, that the very glass frame which is necessary to give his plants their start and protection, becomes a definite obstruction to the development of the plants, beyond a certain stage of growth. They must be transplanted into the open.
It might be said, that there is a point at which we follow the Christ in another, a point where we catch up with Him, and finally a point where we embody Him. Jesus called that embodying of the Christ, eating his flesh and drinking his blood. It is as if a man, weak with hunger, were being drawn in a cart by an ox. Finally, he kills the ox and eats his flesh. Then he finds he has gained the strength to pull the cart himself. From this, we can describe the crucifixion as symbolic of the point where Christ is taken away as something that can be followed, only to reappear and come to life again, as something to be embodied by man. It dies as something apart from man, and comes to life as his own true selfhood. This might be taken as a warning to students of today, that if they feel suddenly bereft, as if they no longer received the help they expected, from those to whom they have been accustomed to turn, that indicates that the time has come for them to embody the Christ for themselves, which means to recognize within themselves the ever-enlarging spiritual spark.
When Mrs. Eddy acted for the Cause, it was divine Principle that dominated her thought, rather than human opinion. This, and this alone, was what she wanted her students to follow. “Follow me only as I follow Christ,” was her most profound counsel.
Did our Master wield a mighty divine power and law, or did the divine power or law wield the Master? This is a more significant question than might appear at first reading. In Science and Health, on page 119, we read that man “is but the humble servant of the restful Mind, though it seems otherwise to finite sense.” Surely, the divine law was the master of Jesus, and not Jesus the master of divine law. Hence, he is called Master, because he, above all men, was the humble instrument of Principle, and allowed this divine Principle to master him completely.
This same truth pertains to our Leader, and represents the great lesson which she inculcated on her students. To illustrate how complete was her yielding to the mastery of divine Love, she said to Lida Fitzpatrick, a student in the home, on March 17, 1907, “I used to say before going before an audience, Now dear God, here I am, use me; I am absent from the body and present with Thee in consciousness. Love uses me in its own good way. I would lift myself right out of the material sense of self and audience, and let God use me.”
This self-immolation of our Leader must be understood, before God’s use of her can be rightly perceived. During the effort to wean her students from leaning on her demonstration, Mrs. Eddy constantly advised them to seek guidance from above, and to let God use them. When a splendid worker in the Field was commissioned to handle some vital matter, and Mrs. Eddy sensed that he was trying to figure out how she would want the thing handled, she would call this malpractice, because she could definitely feel a sense of anxiety and fear, as well as an effort to lean on her demonstration of divine guidance, a fear to depend on his own unaided understanding of God’s leading. To be sure, Mrs. Eddy did not accuse such a student of deliberately sending out something toward her that he knew was wrong, but she wanted him to realize, when she said, “Hold fire on your Leader,” that such an attitude of mind, as described above, would tend to rob her of her mental peace and of her ability to hold up her thought spiritually. Jesus voiced the same thought, when he said to Mary, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” In other words, he had not attained the divine Spirit so permanently, but that he could still be reached through the thought of his students.
It must be recognized, that Mrs. Eddy’s gauge of whether her thought was handled by animal magnetism, differed from that of many of her students, for they measured the extent to which error was influencing them by how they felt: depressed, sick, in pain, or discouraged. Such was not Mrs. Eddy’s standard. She gauged her freedom from mortal belief solely by the clarity of her spiritual thought, by whether she could think of God intelligently, by how real and how near He seemed to her.
This is a most important metaphysical point for the advanced student, because the mistake of using one’s feelings as a gauge, as to whether one is handled by animal magnetism is that, in a mental state of exhilaration without an ache or a pain, man may be further from God, than when he is depressed or is suffering. When he feels badly, he is out of tune with God, to be sure, but he is struggling to get back. But, when he is in a state of mental exhilaration, he may be out of tune with God, and in tune with that with which he should not be; yet, because he feels well and happy, he is not driven to make the struggle to throw off the domination of the enemy of God.
Thus, we deduce that Mrs. Eddy had more to contend with from ignorant malpractice, than she did from malicious, and that her telegram was a protest against loving malpractice, if one can express it that way. The Board of Directors represented the most spiritually active thought in the Field. Hence, Mrs. Eddy’s rebuke was not personal, but a general warning, that was illustrative of her desire, that none of the students permit their thought to come back to her continually for guidance, and thus add to her burden.
Students feared Mrs. Eddy’s criticism, just as they do that of the Board of Directors today. Hence, they endeavored to follow what they thought Mrs. Eddy wanted, rather than what they had demonstrated that God wanted them to follow, when, in reality, with Mrs. Eddy, these two would always coincide. We know that today, as yesterday, such criticism is given in the most loving way, and is intended only to bless and to be constructive. Therefore, why be afraid of it?
There were students, who acted as if Mrs. Eddy’s criticisms were a death blow to all their hopes. Why should we not take as our working basis this statement: “Now, I am going to endeavor to do the best I can, and I pray God that there will be somebody with enough love and alertness to point out to me the wrong steps I may take at times, in my effort to progress spiritually.”
Pride prompts human thought to endeavor to erect a barrier against criticism. If the Field had listened more understandingly to Mrs. Eddy’s criticisms, when she was with us, they might have collected more oil for their lamps to sustain their light, now that she is gone.
I must repeat, that in this telegram, Mrs. Eddy had no intention of accusing Mr. Johnson of malpracticing on her intentionally. She wanted him to appreciate that, although he was absent from her, he was, at the same time, sending his thought back to her, seeking help, and that this process of mental dependence upon her might cause her to go through the same experience of anxiety, as if she had been in New York personally, burdened with the same problem. Hence, if, in being absent from her in body, he should still be present with her in thought, that would not spare her one bit. Furthermore, to spare her was part of his responsibility.
This represents a difficult point in Mrs. Eddy’s history because, if these splendid workers looked within their hearts to detect evidence of malpracticing on their Leader, they would have found only love; but if it was a love that leaned, a love that constantly depended on Mrs. Eddy’s demonstration, rather than on their own, then it constituted a malpractice that Mrs. Eddy needed to rebuke, for the sake of their spiritual growth, as well as her own freedom.
The letters that Mrs. Eddy sent to those who had left Pleasant View, instructing them to keep their thought away from the home and not to think of her, showed that she considered this a form of malpractice. When the students left, she wanted them to leave mentally, as well as bodily. Why? There are several scientific points involved, but among them is the fact, that Mrs. Eddy was able to guide spiritually the mental efforts of those in the home. This enabled them to pursue their mental ministrations in the way that would be most helpful to her and the Cause. Let us suppose, however, that those students after leaving, should continue the same work for Mrs. Eddy that they did under her direction, while with her. Even though that work was done with a sincere love and a right motive, it might prove to be a definite interference. Mrs. Eddy once likened it to many animals locking their horns together, and attacking a common enemy en masse, without the proper direction of a leader.
Mrs. Eddy guided the loving effort of her students into the wisest channels, and so she was not disturbed at the derelictions of any of those living with her; she could always handle such a condition, correct it, and make it productive of good. When she saw a student in the home on the wrong mental track, she would always lift him back to the spiritual point where his work became helpful.
If the student returned home, however, and continued in this effort, without Mrs. Eddy’s wisdom to guide it, the result might not be constructive. A loving effort to do good might become malpractice. It was not that the students who returned home fired at Mrs. Eddy mentally. It was, that after a long period of effort to help our Leader, where such daily prayer had become a habit, it was most natural that their thoughts should return to roost, where they had labored so long and lovingly. However, to Mrs. Eddy, there were times when this constituted a definite interference.
In order to consider another side of the letters received by students after leaving Pleasant View, it is necessary to take up one of the important planks in the doctrine of Christian Science. As a specimen of such a letter, I offer the following:
I have so much on hand, I cannot see you as often as I would like to. Please do not think of me unless I request it. Try to be happy and have faith “that all things work together for good to them that love God.” We do love God, good, hence can claim this promise to us.
Lovingly in haste M. B. Eddy
The question comes up whether, in such a letter, Mrs. Eddy did not personalize error. This is the criticism that is brought against her for the chapter, Demonology, in the third edition of Science and Health, where she comes out so plainly, and attributes to K— such evil motives and aims.
Is this consistent with a statement from page 285 of Miscellaneous Writings, where she carefully writes, “An edition of one thousand pamphlets I ordered to be laid away and not one of them circulated, because I had been personal in condemnation?” Notwithstanding, there are many facts in Mrs. Eddy’s experience, where it would seem as if she definitely personalized error. How can one reconcile this with the fact that Christian Science shows so plainly, that to personalize error, gives it a reality for the time being, that precludes the possibility of its destruction? It is the difference between a drop of water on, or a flaw in, the reflecting surface of a beautiful mirror. In the latter case, the mirror is worthless. Whereas, in the former, the water may be wiped away with the utmost ease. Hence, if evil is part of man in any way, then man is forever doomed. If, however, it is merely a false belief that claims expression as man, and yet is not part of the real man, then it can be easily destroyed through the power of the divine Mind. Mrs. Eddy writes (ibid. page 310), “To impersonalize scientifically the material sense of existence—rather than cling to personality—is the lesson of to-day.”
As a matter of fact, if a critic is going to accuse Mrs. Eddy of inconsistency, saying that she taught the impersonalization of error in theory, but personalized it in practice, then, by the same token, that critic must include the Master in this category, because he plainly called Herod a fox and Judas a devil. For the Master to speak thus, was apparently to designate man as a source of evil, instead of a channel for it. This criticism would apply to Mrs. Eddy, when she designated any of her students as a source of interference to her.
Nevertheless, it is possible to identify error through its mouthpiece, without personalizing it. The Master could recognize the animal qualities that Herod and Judas were expressing, and yet not come down from his high mental standpoint of recognizing their real selfhood as the perfect child of God. So our Leader could scientifically detect the channel, through which error was being expressed, and yet not personalize error.
Mrs. Eddy was a pioneer in the discovery of the nature and sources of the devil, that keeps mortal man in bondage. Many of the spiritual facts, which are well known to the Christian Scientist to-day, and which seem so simple, cost Mrs. Eddy years of arduous search and prayer. Some of the simplest, and yet, most important forward steps in material invention and research are met by the statement, “Why, that is so simple; why didn’t somebody think of it before?” Such a discovery might be the fulfilment of years of research. Edison experimented with several thousand different materials, before he hit on one that would light his incandescent lamp. A carbonized twisted cotton thread was the ultimate solution. How simple! How profound! Just a twisted cotton thread revolutionizing the lighting of the world!
Thus, Mrs. Eddy was led to trace all evil back to aggressive mental suggestion. She named it animal magnetism, and showed it to be merely false belief, or man hypnotized into accepting a false estimate of God, and hence, of himself, and reading this into everything. How simple! How profound! The discovery of Mary Baker Eddy, that all evil is mesmerism, or false belief, destined to revolutionize the whole world’s method of eliminating the falsity, that attempts to separate man from his heavenly Father! Yet, no-one will ever know what this discovery cost our Leader.
The simple doctrine of impersonalizing evil, in reducing it to nothingness, just as one separates the parasite from the oak tree, and thus destroys it by cutting it off from that upon which it lives and draws its life, is so well known to the Christian Scientist today, that it seems impossible, that even after Mrs. Eddy discovered this fact, she should have ever made error personal. Why did she do it? Why does a man lose his way through the woods, after he has climbed a tree and seen his objective? Because he is blazing a new trail and going over unfamiliar ground.
From the time of our Master, Mrs. Eddy was the only one successfully to assume the task of exposing the true nature and powerlessness of error. Her first steps in this task involved attacking its surface manifestations. Then, through suffering and prayer, she began to work deeper and deeper, until finally she reached cause. If one reduced Mrs. Eddy’s experiences to what she revealed and laid forth in her book of instruction, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, one would never assert that Mrs. Eddy ever personalized error or made a reality of it, after she gained her revelation. Mrs. Eddy knew that evil was not personal, and that to see it as impersonal gave one spiritual power over it, and the ability to eliminate it. She knew that obedience to animal magnetism produced all the so-called phenomena of evil. Thus, her writings set forth no temptation to believe in the personalization of animal magnetism, or to believe that she ever yielded to this error.
Then, what about her exposure of K—? The answer is, that it is possible that, under the great pressure which a pioneer would feel in delving into the hidden workings of evil, that had defied the greatest thinkers of all ages, her thought might at times bend temporarily under the evidence of personified evil. This explanation exposes the effort of animal magnetism to sidetrack her demonstration and render it in vain. Under such circumstances, the evidence multiplies to convince one that he has been picked out as a mark by the evil one. When one seeks the hidden cause of all evil, the cornered beast sets up a clamor of adverse argument, that makes it seem impossible not to believe that certain people, especially certain renegade students, to whom Mrs. Eddy had taught her mental method, are not turning this very teaching against one and hence, such are the direct cause of one’s suffering. What was more natural, than to believe that these students, having learned and understood the power of thought under Mrs. Eddy’s tutelage, were the ones who were able to reach her through animal magnetism?
Criminal history records many organizations, whose head is one with a developed intelligence and cleverness, yet entrenched in such secrecy, that it is almost impossible to reach him. He is called the man higher up. Until he is caught, the organization will continue, in spite of all efforts to wipe it out. Every once in a while, the police think that they have caught the right one, only to be disappointed.
Mrs. Eddy was endeavoring to find the man higher up, meaning the cause of the evil that held the world in suffering. Was it in God? Was it a devil that existed in spite of God? Was it in man? Her thought searched and searched. She did her utmost to clarify her spiritual vision through purification and prayer, in order that she might come into the secret, and unfold the metaphysical mystery of error, “its hidden paths, purpose and fruits” (Miscellany, 223). Her thought ranged the world. It compassed spiritualism, theosophy, astrology, materia medica, scholastic theology.
What she finally discovered, seems almost too simple to us today to have required such consecration and persistence. Yet, the world still quarrels over her contention that mortal belief is an impersonal claim, unreal and yet believed in. Was it not natural, that Mrs. Eddy should have sought for the cause of evil in a malicious motive, animating either certain individuals or groups? Is it strange that at first she personalized it to some extent?
If all evil can be analyzed in terms of mesmerism, the human thought demands to know, “Who does the hypnotizing?” If man has been under the spell of false belief since Adam, what existed before Adam to put him under the spell, if it were not God? According to Christian Science, we have God, man and false belief. God did not create, could not create, false belief. Then, where did it come from? This was the great question, and, when you realize Mrs. Eddy’s effort to uncover the most important phases of evil that keep man out of heaven, or keep heaven out of man, there is no surprise in realizing that Mrs. Eddy required spiritual growth herself, before she fully recognized the impersonal nature of evil in her practice. It takes much spiritual growth, before one can understand how impersonal evil can result in a personal attack. Mrs. Eddy took into account everything that might possibly be the cause of evil, as it seemed to attack her with malicious intent, everything that might throw any light on the origin of evil. She traced it all back to animal magnetism.
Her final discovery was, that there is only one way to handle animal magnetism, and the Christian Scientist who is good enough to be assailed by it, is good enough to use this process, which is to turn to divine wisdom for guidance, knowing that that wisdom will unerringly direct thought to the source of the error, which is always in some false belief, accepted and not cast out.
Under stress, the Christian Scientist may momentarily personalize error, yet, when the pressure has been lifted, the clarity of scientific thought is found to have been enhanced, and not dulled, by the experience. Letters, which instructed students who had left Mrs. Eddy’s home, not to think of her, were the outpourings of an harassed thought, searching in every direction to try to locate the agent of the evil. When the situation cleared, as it always did, the impersonal nature of all mortal belief was again spiritually discerned. The effect of animal magnetism is directly to darken thought. What one does under such manipulation is the thermometer, indicating that thought has been darkened.
One way that error would attack Mrs. Eddy, was to try to make her conscious of a personal vulnerability, and to try to arouse a present disturbance, by bringing back to memory the black times of the past, which were associated with such an aggressive sense of personal malice. From a human standpoint, our Leader was incapable of performing the great duties for the Cause which lay before her. As a humanly normal woman, she would not have been able to do it. Hence, error would argue remembrance of past weakness and suffering. If one is relying absolutely on the divine Mind, and leaning upon it for support, strength and courage, whatever would attempt to take that away, would be an attempt to throw that one back into a sense of incapacity.
The student must understand, that Mrs. Eddy was not like one who has a natural sense of endurance and strength, and, when robbed temporarily of his spiritual thought and thrown back on his human sense, is thrown back on something that gives a limited measure of support. Hence, such an experience would not produce fear. But with Mrs. Eddy, the cry was, “Lord, save or I perish.” Without the support of the divine Mind, she had nothing left to turn to, with any degree of strength or courage. In fact, Mrs. Eddy faced the human claim of death, whenever anything threatened to rob her of her spiritual sense, because that alone supported her and gave her life.
When the students at Pleasant View settled down into the state of thought that most distressed Mrs. Eddy, they were merely apathetic. It disturbed her, because she realized that, if she should permit herself to sink down into such sloth, it spelled death. However, it did not bother the students. I would not imply that she feared death, but she knew she must stay to finish her work. When she found the students in that state, which she called mental drunkenness and human complaisance, she would call each one to her and wake him or her up. She would thunder at me, “Haven’t you got a heavenly Father?” “Yes, mother,” would be my meek reply. “Then why don’t you trust in Him?”
Mrs. Eddy recognized, that human smoothness offered the advanced student nothing on which he might get a foothold to progress spiritually. It can be described in metaphor, by picturing the futile efforts of a mouse to escape from a glass globe by climbing up the smooth sides. She also perceived the temptation that the students might come under, of basking in the sweet sense of harmony and protection, that her demonstration of God’s love and presence brought into the home. Therefore, it was with the greatest sense of love and spiritual wisdom, that she would break up such a sense of human smoothness, in order that her students might not stagnate in their spiritual endeavors.
Once she said, “The drunkenness produced by belief in wine is not to be compared with the drunkenness in thought; ‘mental darkness.’ We are all drunk without wine, in the senses.”
Each time Mrs. Eddy felt that she might lose her spiritual thought, she fought a death struggle, because that spiritual consciousness was all that she had to sustain her, but it was enough! It enabled her to accomplish every day, what six women could not have done with only physical strength to sustain them. Nevertheless, the realization of this fact will aid the follower in her footsteps to understand much in her experience, that otherwise seems anomalous.
In a critical and biased biography of any great man or woman, the evil lies in the emphasis placed on experiments and struggles, which amounted to nothing in themselves, except to teach mankind what to avoid. What if Mrs. Eddy did have struggles and did write to students not to think of her? Her veritable teachings are to be found in her published writings, and she adhered to and lived up to them to the best of her ability. The value of finding inconsistencies in the life of any great pioneer, is very questionable in proving anything except what every wise man knows, that, in blazing a path through a forest, if he could go straight ahead without turning to the right or left, there would be no need of blazing a path. The very need of such a road costs him his struggle. Mrs. Eddy would not have been needed as the Revelator to this age, if she could have gone straight through the mists of mortality without making a mistake.
The critic may discover some of the wrong turns Mrs. Eddy made, and emphasize them sufficiently to cause some unwatchful ones to turn away from the path she eventually took. But, the only thing such an effort proves, is that the critic is an obstructionist and an enemy of Truth.
Any attempt to criticize Mrs. Eddy’s experience from the human standpoint of good, is bound to cause misunderstanding. Accomplishment alone enables footsteps to be judged correctly. The most unselfish and devoted effort to live a life of human good, never yet has made the things of God real to mankind.
How grateful we are that Mrs. Eddy left us this important admonition, “Follow me only as I follow Christ;” for in this statement she revealed to us that which unfolds an understandable process, whereby all can be taught of God. Then, in order to turn thought away from the worthless side of her human experience, she advised this scientific analysis, so we might follow that part of her experience and that alone, where she embodied and practised the Christ wisdom and Truth. Mrs. Eddy laid down scientific spiritual teachings. Then, she advised us to adopt these teachings, provided we could recognize in her life the practical adaptation of these teachings as reflecting and demonstrating the Christ, or wisdom, Truth and Love. This thought also carries the necessity to discard every part of her human experience, which was not the exemplification of her revelation. Biographers of Mrs. Eddy’s life may attempt to portray the worthless side of her experience, worthless as a guide to those in the mire of mortal belief, and having no value from the standpoint of scientific demonstration; but such efforts will always do more harm than good, and feed in the minds of students a human attitude toward Mrs. Eddy, which should be starved into extinction.
Let the student eschew such biographies which attempt to foist upon the public some of Mrs. Eddy’s worthless experiences, as being the following of the Christ, when they are not. When one’s thought sloughs off from scientific thinking, he is no longer following the Christ. During that lapse, his experience is worthless from a spiritual standpoint, and has no value, except for the man who may get lost in the same bypath. A chart of such a bypath might help another, who fell into the same morass; but once back on the right path, to follow that chart would mean to follow a mistaken sense of the Christ. It must be emphasized, that Mrs. Eddy did not tell us to follow her as she followed Jesus, apart from the Christ.