From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Demonstration or Nothing
In a book called Memoirs of Mary Baker Eddy by Adam H. Dickey, he mentions the fact that Mrs. Eddy rebuked the students if the chairs were not put back into their places after her rooms had been cleaned. If such misplacement were due to a lack of experience in the worker, or to an effort to accomplish too much in a given interval of time, then Mrs. Eddy’s rebukes might reflect on her Christian character.
Why should anyone reprimand students for such trivial matters? In order to understand this, one must realize that Mrs. Eddy was a metaphysician, who lived largely in Mind. To such a one, all outward effects are the indication of the mental state from which these effects proceed. Hence, even a slight misplacement of the furniture became to her an important way by which she might gauge intelligently the mental condition of the students in her home, who, standing porter at the mental door, either fulfilled their privileged task of keeping error out, or else yielded to a mental state of drunkenness, self-pity or misunderstanding, thereby permitting their thought to play traitor, and letting in that which might break up the spiritual poise of the one who required that poise, in order to translate the Father’s will to the successful guidance of our great Cause.
In the Bureau of Standards in Washington, the standard foot rule rests in a glass compartment, free from changes of temperature, or moving air currents. It seems almost incredible that a breath of air, of which a man might be unconscious, would affect the accuracy of this rule, yet such is the case.
There were students who misunderstood the significance of the little things in Mrs. Eddy’s household experience, which to her constituted a thermometer of the state of thought over which she watched with such great care. Hence, when this book describes how the students drove small brass nails into the floor, in order to enable them to put the chairs back in just the same place each time, he did not realize, any more than did the students, that they were robbing Mrs. Eddy of one of the means invaluable to her as a check on their demonstration.
Students who failed to appreciate Mrs. Eddy’s demand for constructive thinking, protective thinking, or, at least, harmless thinking, might malpractice on our Leader; failing to perceive that the very hairs of her head were all numbered, that nothing in her home or life was too trivial to be overlooked, because her goal was to bring every thought into captivity to Christ.
Once, when Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was on a tour of inspection of the royal laboratories, with just a touch of his hand he disturbed an instrument which had been adjusted with infinite care. He merely turned a small screw. Yet, that was enough to throw the delicate instrument out of precision. His failure to have a proper appreciation of the situation cost many hours of patient toil.
The beginner in Christian Science, who has not departed to any great extent from dependence on the action of human law, as manifested in physical health, bodily vigor and financial prosperity, can have little appreciation of the infinite care with which Mrs. Eddy preserved her mental poise, the delicate adjustment which the sensitive beginnings of spiritual thought find necessary in the midst of gross mortal mind. A change in the mental atmosphere might go unnoticed, except by the one who, having this standard of measurement in his care, perceives by the effect upon his “mental mercury” the disturbing action of that which is misunderstood or undetected by a less sensitive thought. Mrs. Eddy was like one endeavoring to dial a radio receiver into a station requiring precise tuning. Hence, such a one might find that even the soft footsteps of his pet dog constituted a definite interference to the task at hand.
When this fact about Mrs. Eddy is understood by the student, then, as he reads of her experience, he can perceive the reasons for much that otherwise might puzzle him.
Students who did not have the spiritual insight to trace Mrs. Eddy’s rebukes back to cause, might believe that Mrs. Eddy was unduly particular, to the point of fussiness, about trivial matters. Upon such, Mrs. Eddy’s demand that everything be done from the standpoint of demonstration would sometimes produce a chemicalization, because they felt that she not only criticized them unduly, but often found fault with their best efforts. They failed to see that in numbering the hairs of her head, she refused to leave out one strand. Such a misunderstanding would cause the student to seek refuge, not in the effort to correct his or her thinking, but to be more careful in the human service rendered Mrs. Eddy. She never criticized demonstration, however, but only a lack of it.
An illustration of this mistaken notion was found in the cook, who often prepared two complete dinners for Mrs. Eddy, calling one the in-case, meaning thereby that in case Mrs. Eddy sent back the first meal served, because she did not like it, there would be a second to offer. Such a procedure showed a failure to realize, that only the service rendered Mrs. Eddy from the standpoint of demonstration was satisfactory to her; anything else, although humanly without a flaw, called forth her rebuke. Yet, because this rebuke was forthcoming only at such times as Mrs. Eddy felt a waning spiritual thought in herself, the students were apt to get careless, until brought to task by the one who loved them enough to rebuke them, and risk their displeasure.
Critics, learning about the in-case meal, might seize upon it to prove that Mrs. Eddy was over-particular about her food. With justice, they might point to the labor involved in cooking two complete meals! Nevertheless, those with discerning eyes knew that Mrs. Eddy was not hard to please. Often, she hardly knew what she ate. Notwithstanding, she was extremely sensitive to thought, and during those times when her own thinking was under pressure through some urgent problem, a humanly-balanced thought in a student, even though expressed in the most loving desire to serve, would definitely disturb her spiritual poise, and might be as disastrous as physical suffering.
Yet, although Mrs. Eddy was not concerned about the food itself, she did require that it be flavored with scientific right thinking, cooked with spiritual understanding, and served with a loving consciousness of man’s oneness with God. In this requirement, Mrs. Eddy was only being consistent with the entire purpose of Christian Science, and teaching the students what they came to her home to learn.
The student who is willing to be criticized, will grow spiritually. The one who tries to protect himself from criticism by any human method of gaining accuracy and correctness, will thereby lose his sense of the importance of demonstration. “He that will save his life shall lose it.” Every student should be willing to let his work be an accurate index of his thinking, and be criticized, if necessary. He should be grateful for such a reprimand, since, if his thought is not on the right side of the mental balance, he thus finds it out, and can take the steps necessary to regain his demonstrating sense, which is the most precious thing a Christian Scientist has. The one who is glad to be rebuked for the sake of readjusting his mental state, when it is not correct, will progress spiritually.
Let it be remembered that a right diagnosis of mortal mind reveals that any outward effect, no matter whether the senses adjudge it good or bad, if it proceeds from any cause other than the divine Mind, is the effect of error. The most punctilious church attendance, the most unselfish giving, the most conscientious effort to prepare Mrs. Eddy’s meals or put her furniture back in place, would be the effect of error, if not prompted by demonstration, or a right balance of spiritual thought.
In summing up the points connected with the in-case, it must be understood that it was only when an extra pressure disturbed Mrs. Eddy’s scientific balance, that she rebuked any lack of spiritual support on the part of those around her. Then, if she would refuse a dinner that was perfection from the standard of cookery, why would she accept the second meal, unless it were more the manifestation of demonstration than the first? The reason was that she recognized that, even though the cook was lacking in demonstration, still she had a loving desire to please her. Although this was not the scientific support that Mrs. Eddy needed, yet it was a Christian thought, and Mrs. Eddy accepted it as such. Our Leader realized that if the cook had had more confidence in demonstration making the first meal acceptable, she would not have relied on preparing a second. The cook had a desire to please and a fear that she might not. Nevertheless, if she had realized that demonstration was always acceptable to Mrs. Eddy, in whatever form it manifested itself, the mistake might have been avoided.
Today students can learn a priceless lesson from the in-case, for it teaches that, if their spiritual demonstration is lacking, they should not fall back on human ways and means, education, ingenuity, etc. There is no doubt that it requires courage to stand on the platform DEMONSTRATION OR NOTHING, but only through that, comes satisfactory spiritual growth, and a radical reliance on God.
In relation to her household, Mrs. Eddy’s thought was like a thermometer. She rebuked them for their work, not because of results, but because of the way the work was done. A slight touch on a radiator will indicate whether a furnace is working properly. Mrs. Eddy’s sensitivity was uplifted if any of the work in and for the home was done scientifically, even when it came to the preparing of her meals; but if it was done by the letter, and the spirit was lacking, it depressed her. For this reason she was unerring in her ability to know whether the students needed reproof or praise.
Her home was the only spot on earth in which every activity was used to restore spiritual thinking. A student who failed to do his tasks from the standpoint of spiritual thinking, therefore, deserved a rebuke and received it. The ultimate of the entire teaching of Christian Science is to restore to man his consciousness of divine Mind as his only Mind. Whatever was done in Mrs. Eddy’s home, apart from divine Mind, was a wasted opportunity, a sin of omission, that God rebuked through her. This same proposition holds true in the home of every Christian Scientist who desires and seeks to pattern his home after hers.