From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
If the teaching of Christian Science be correct, that the spiritual method is always the reverse of the material, might not this same rule apply to the writing of the life of its Discoverer and Founder, Mary Baker Eddy? The human method selects outstanding events in one’s life, incidents of significance and moment, and records them as characteristic and explanatory of the life of the individual in question. Logically, the reverse of this would be, to set forth the spiritual cause from which came not only the thought-arresting events but the minutiae of experience, and to emphasize and interpret it so correctly, that the life and purpose of the individual are revealed in their true greatness, comprehended through countless consistent revealings, much as the beauty of woman’s hair is the summation of numberless individual strands.
The Master said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” If every effect has a mental cause, the hairs of the head might represent the entire mental life of man, as revealed through his daily thoughts. Hence, the correct effort to write such a life of Mrs. Eddy should be to number her hairs, or to recount the orderly way in which she brought every thought into captivity to Christ, until her work was completed.
If feet symbolize spiritual understanding, then, when Mary Magdalen wiped the Master’s feet with her hair, as is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, that act represented a pledge to bend every effort of her mind to the attaining of Jesus’ spiritual understanding. Thus, her future endeavors would comprise the numbering of the hairs of her head, as she spiritualized each thought that it might measure up to the Christ ideal. It was as if she said, “I dedicate my life to the attainment of right thinking as revealed through the Christ, and I will not neglect one thought in this effort.”
Every act in one’s life signifies something, and reveals that individual’s ebbing or flowing state of thought. Hence, properly to number the hairs of one’s head requires having the spiritual insight to write his or her mental history, as traced through the outward experiences, thereby determining the orderly development of that one’s thought as it approaches the Christ ideal.
This unfolds the possibility of each student of Christian Science writing our Leader’s mental and spiritual history, through the effort to understand the spiritual footsteps which she took, in their order. But this is a history which is inscribed in the heart and mind, imperishably established in the understanding.
In the following pages will be found, not a complete exegesis of this conception of portraying Mrs. Eddy’s history, but a specimen analysis intended to stimulate the minds of those who read it to a similar attempt. There has been made no effort to set forth any definite continuity, but rather to present a series of sketches, which will serve to illustrate the vast possibilities presented by the life of our beloved Leader to the spiritual perception of the student; a perception, the development of which marks the only true method of attaining spiritual growth.
The importance of writing a life of Mrs. Eddy from this standpoint may be deduced from the following: The value of studying Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures lies in the fact that it expounds an operative principle, and develops in man a spiritual sense, whereby the things hidden from material sense are seen and understood. The study of the Bible is equally important, because it offers the opportunity, in gaining its spiritual meaning, to develop the use of this spiritual inspiration until it becomes demonstrable and permanent. Furthermore, the same spiritual method necessary to unfold the hidden meanings of the Bible, is requisite to gain a right understanding of God. With these points in mind, it can be perceived that the study of these two books must always go together, as the warp and woof of the student’s growing spiritual understanding.
At this point a third element must be added, namely, the life of Mary Baker Eddy, recorded not only from the standpoint of material cause and effect, but also analyzed from the basis of spiritual cause and effect. This third study is vital, because her experience illustrates not only how animal magnetism appears in the life of a Christian Scientist determined to overcome it, but how it may be detected and overcome as well. This study of animal magnetism is essential to the seeker after Truth, since it brings out the fact that many things which a sense of good that is purely human would condemn, are imperative steps demanded by progress on the road from sense to Soul. Without this knowledge, the weary pilgrim might weep over what seemed to be mistakes and failures in his own efforts to attain the spiritual goal, lacking the understanding of animal magnetism, which operates maliciously to induce this misunderstanding in order to stop his further progress.
Mrs. Eddy styled herself the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. She was both the Revelator and Demonstrator. As the former, she was the Son of God, and as the latter, the Son of man. As the Son of God, she thundered forth the revelation of Truth to humanity; as the Son of man, she stepped down from the pulpit to join with the congregation in the demonstration of Truth. This analysis solves the enigma of her life, giving a perfect rule. Whatever of God she reflected, whatever of revelation she set forth, belongs to the Son of God. Whatever struggles she had, whatever of the human that she had to overcome, belongs to the Son of man. We find the Revelator in her textbook and the Demonstrator in her life. The importance of this classification is embodied in the fact that, because Mrs. Eddy was one with us in the demonstration of her revelation, it becomes possible for every child, man, and woman to follow in her footsteps and gain the inspiration from God which she gained. The human record of her experience must be expunged when she is set forth as the Discoverer, and explained spiritually when she is portrayed as the Founder.
The following pages, setting forth spiritual cause and effect, represent an effort to provide a life of our Leader as the Demonstrator, based on the realization that, whereas the Bible and Science and Health teach by precept, Mrs. Eddy’s life teaches by practice.