Reminiscences of Mary Baker Eddy
From Addresses by Martha Wilcox
Whenever the name of Mary Baker Eddy is spoken, all hearers think of “an unusual and brilliant woman.” Mr. Clemens, our beloved Mark Twain, in speaking of Mrs. Eddy, said: “Closely examined, painstakingly studied, she is easily the most interesting person on the planet, and in several ways as easily the most extraordinary woman that was ever born upon it.” Charles Francis Potter, in his book, The Story of Religion as Told in the Lives of Its Leaders, says: “Mary Baker Eddy is the most compelling figure in American religious history.” Perhaps Mr. Orcutt, who attended to the business of the University Press with Mrs. Eddy, has best expressed her appearance and characteristics. He says: “She was a slight, unassuming woman, very real, very human, very appealing, supremely content in the self-knowledge that, no matter what others might think, she was delivering her message to the world.” These impressions of Mrs. Eddy are given in Clifford P. Smith’s Historical and Biographical Papers, and these impressions were very pronounced to all of us who knew Mrs. Eddy personally. But the characteristic that endeared her to every member of her household was her motherliness. Indeed, she was nearly always addressed as “Mother” by the members of her household.
We never felt awed in her presence, but never for a minute were we allowed to let our thought rest upon her personality. We understood that that would be a hindrance to her. It was her instructions to us that were paramount, so much so that we could be in the house for weeks and not think of her personality. We attended to her wants and necessities, but always in our mind was what she had given us to be demonstrated. In fact, we all were there not only to help our Leader, but to learn how to demonstrate Christian Science. From morning till night, we were busy applying the instruction she gave us to work at hand, and trying to demonstrate the truth of Christian Science. (See My. 229:9-18)
The members of her household were not supposed to talk or discuss Christian Science at the table or among themselves. We were to live Christian Science and not just talk the letter. This was one place in the world where the chatter about Christian Science was not heard.
I have been asked to tell some of my personal experiences with Mrs. Eddy while a member of her household. These reminiscences may sound ultra-personal because I shall tell you only of my own personal experience with Mrs. Eddy. But my experience will give you an idea of what other members of the household were experiencing in varying degrees according to their individual states of growth. Please bear in mind that I was a very young student in Christian Science, just beginning my sixth year; and although the Principle of Christian Science to be demonstrated was the same for all members of the household, the instructions that Mrs. Eddy gave me were different in their degree from those who were more experienced in Christian Science practice, and it is only fair to Mrs. Eddy and to others that this be taken into consideration. Mrs. Eddy came to Chestnut Hill January 26, 1908, and I became a member of her household Monday morning, February 10, 1908, just two weeks later. After removing my wraps, Mrs. Sargent took me in to Mrs. Eddy’s study and introduced me as “Mrs. Wilcox from Kansas City.” Mrs. Eddy said to me, “Good morning, Mrs. Wilcox, I felt your sweet presence in the house.” Then she seated me directly in front of her and asked: “What can you do?” I replied that I could do almost anything that one would do who has kept house and had a family to care for. Then she asked me: “What are you willing to do?” I replied that I was willing to do anything that she wanted me to do. Then she said: “My housekeeper has had to go home because of the illness of her father, and I should like to have you take her place for the time being.”
Then she began to talk to me on the subject of MENTAL MALPRACTICE. In effect, this is what she said:
Sometimes a sense of personality arises before your thought and leads you to believe that a personality is something outside and separate from your thought that can harm you. She showed me that the real danger was never this threatened attack from outside my thought where the personality seemed to be, but that the real danger was always within my thought. She made it clear that my sense of personality was mental, a mental image formed in my so-called mortal mind, and was never external nor separate from my mind. This supposititious mortal mind outlined itself as a belief of a material personality, with form and conditions and laws and circumstances; in fact, with all of the phenomena that are embraced in what is called a material life or personality; and then she showed me that not one solitary fact in this whole fabric of supposititious evil was true. She showed me that I must detect that all these mental phenomena were only aggressive mental suggestion coming to me for me to adopt it as my own thought.
She showed me that, because mental malpractice is mental, the only place that I could meet it was within what seemed to be my mentality; and the only way that I could meet it was to give up the belief in a power and presence other than God, or Truth. She showed me that this seeming within enemy could never harm me if I were awake to the Truth and active in the Truth; and she illustrated this statement by saying that the cobra (copperhead), a very poisonous snake, never strikes its victim except when its victim is asleep.
This lesson on mental malpractice was quite apropos for one entering the household comprised of never less than seventeen and up to twenty-five personalities. After this talk on mental malpractice, Mrs. Eddy opened her Bible and read to me from Luke 16:10-12:
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
Mrs. Eddy, no doubt, realized that at my stage of growth, I thought of creation, that is, all things, as separated into two groups: one group spiritual, and the other group material, and that somehow I must get rid of the group I called material. But during this lesson, I caught my first glimpse of the fact that all right, useful things, which I had been calling “the unrighteous mammon,” were mental and represented spiritual ideas. She showed me that unless I were faithful and orderly with the objects of sense, that made up my present mode of consciousness, there could never be revealed to me the “true riches” or the progressive higher revealments of substance and things.
The two lessons that I received that first morning were fundamentally great lessons:
I was to handle mental malpractice within my own mentality.
That the “objects of sense,” when correctly understood, are really “ideas of Soul;” and that there are not two groups of creation, but just one.
When she had finished, she said: “Now, take your child down into Egypt and let it grow up until it is strong enough to stand alone.” And, by this she meant that I was not to talk to anyone about what was given me until I had made it substance in my own thought.
Then Mrs. Eddy said to me: “I should like to have you make a pudding for my dinner today, an apple betty pudding. No one seems to get pudding to taste as it used to taste when I lived at Lynn.” It seemed she was not so much concerned about the pudding, and finally I caught from her reflected thought that what she really wanted was for me to see that taste is not in the pudding, that the pudding has nothing to do with the sense of taste. She wanted me to demonstrate that taste is in Mind, or consciousness, and remains unchanged by time or years. I can assure you that this was quite enough instruction for one day. I made the pudding and, when it was served to her, she said to the maid: “Tell Martha that the pudding was very good, but no better than Mrs. Scott made yesterday.” Then I knew that others, too, were learning what and where the senses are.
Exactness and Orderliness
All are familiar with Mrs. Eddy’s exactness and orderliness of thought and action. She showed forth to an unusual degree the exactness and divine order of God, her Mind; and she required perfection of thought and action from those of her household. She, herself, never made a false movement. Even the different lengths of pins had their respective corners in her pin-cushion, and she took out the pin she needed without taking out and putting back the different lengths. No one would have thought of changing a pin in her cushion. Mrs. Eddy believed that if one’s thought was not orderly and exact in the things that make up present consciousness, that same thought would not be exact to give a treatment or use an exact science. These qualities in Mrs. Eddy’s mind were very pronounced far beyond what my so-called human mind could comprehend and sense. She taught me that the Mind I then had was God, and that I was to show forth God, my own Mind, in order and exactness and perfection. I had not been there long until she asked me to make her bed every morning for a month and turn down the upper sheet exactly two and one-half inches. As my thought seemed not sufficiently exact to measure this, I took a tape measure and made a pencil mark where the sheet was to be turned down, so that I might be obedient, and at the same time I gave thanks that she had taught us in Science and Health that God, our Mind, guides us into the right use of temporary as well as eternal means.
She required that we place the furniture just so; and in order to have it at the right angle, I put a tack in the carpet. But I will admit that keeping the numerous things on her “what-not” just at the proper angle was almost my Waterloo. We were to express “man’s dominion” in all things; whether the potatoes to be baked were large or small, they were to be neither over-done nor under-done at the proper time, and mealtime never varied a minute in her house. The meals were exactly on time.
Mrs. Eddy loved a new dress as well as any other woman. And the little lady who made her dresses, while she used a dress form, was expected to have the dresses perfect without fittings. If they were untrue one-sixteenth of an inch at the cuff or neck lines, or anywhere else, Mrs. Eddy was aware of it. Mrs. Eddy knew that Mind’s work and Mind always fit, they are one and the same; and the sense of anything being too large or too small was not found in Mind. Therefore, excuses and alibis were of no avail with Mrs. Eddy.
Perhaps someone is wondering what happened if an individual did not bring out perfection and exactness concretely. Mrs. Eddy clearly discerned if one were striving to show forth God, his own right mind, in and as everything; but if an individual were not spirituallyminded enough to discern Mrs. Eddy’s real purpose in these requirements, or thought them unnecessary, or thought Mrs. Eddy was just exacting and concerned only about the so-called material things, or did not see the necessity of being obedient, such a one did not remain long in the home.
At one time she called me to be her personal maid, and as I knew nothing about the requirements of such a position, she gave me seven finely written pages stating the things that were to be done. These necessitated continuity of action without false moves or forgetting.
When night came I had tucked her in bed, and I said: “Mother, I did not forget once nor make a mistake, did I?” She smiled up at me from her pillow and replied, “No, you didn’t. Night-night.” That night about midnight, she rang my bell. I went to her and asked what she wanted. She said: “Martha, do you ever forget?” I replied, “Mother, Mind never forgets.” Then she said, “Go back to bed.” Mrs. Eddy always required us, whenever appropriate, to answer her questions with the absolute statement of Science. The next morning, after she was seated in her study, she said: “Martha, if you had admitted last night that anyone can forget, you would have made yourself liable to forgetting. Whatever error you admit in yourself as real or in another, you make yourself liable to that error. Admitting error as real produces error and is all there is to it.”
There was another incident that occurred while I acted in the capacity of maid for Mrs. Eddy that was a great lesson to me. It was when Mrs. Eddy wrote and added to Science and Health the two lines at the bottom of page 442: “Christian Scientists, be a law to yourselves that mental malpractice cannot harm you either when asleep or when awake.” She wrote almost constantly for three days. She consulted the dictionary, the grammar, studied synonyms and antonyms, and when she had finished, she had these lines to add to Science and Health. I marvelled at her perseverance and the time she consumed in writing two lines. But she had worked out a scientific statement for Christian Science students that would stand through the ages. After writing for three days, she gave us the two lines. But who of us can estimate the value of these two lines?
Those closely associated with Mrs. Eddy knew when she was giving birth, in thought, to some important decision, such as a change in the church, or the making of a new by-law, or something in connection with her writings. Many times there seemed to be great travail when these things were being born of the spirit. I remember such a time when she abolished the Communion season of The Mother Church, and again when certain by-laws were brought out.
On page 242 of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mrs. Eddy has given us instructions for Christian Science practice. This instruction was given in 1910, just a short time before she left us, and illustrates the quality and vitality of her thought in her ninetieth year.
She wrote as follows: “You can never demonstrate spirituality until you declare yourself to be immortal,” etc. (My. 242:3-7)
Frequently Mrs. Eddy would say to some member of her household, “Now remember what you are,” meaning that if we, to ourselves, do seem to be human, we are instead divine, even though seen “through a glass darkly.” She meant that if we will dispose of the false sense about ourselves, we leave present only noumenon and phenomena, or God and man as one.
I was greatly impressed with Mrs. Eddy’s moods of thought. Sometimes her spontaneity almost took my breath away. One day, upon her return from the drive, we were all asked to come into her study. As we stood about her, Mr. Dickey said: “Mother, this is the cream of the country.” Instantly she flashed back, “The cream? I want them to be the butter!”
Mrs. Eddy expected me to know where everything was in the house, even though she had not had it herself forty years; and why not, when consciousness includes all? She taught me that there was only one consciousness, and that this consciousness was my consciousness and included all ideas as present and at hand; and she expected me to demonstrate it.
In her personal instructions she gave nothing to me but what she had given in her writings to all her students of Christian Science. But what so impressed her instructions upon my mind was that she required of me immediate application and demonstration of what she taught. Without this required application and demonstration, Mrs. Eddy knew that the instruction she gave would be of little value to me.
At one time, I was under her personal instruction and was a mental worker for seven weeks. One evening she gave me a problem to work, and, of course, I had a great desire to prove the reality at hand; so I worked the greater part of the night. In the morning she called me to her and said: “Martha, why did you not do your work?” I replied, “Mother, I did.” She said: “No, you didn’t. You had a good talk with the devil. Why did you not know God’s allness?” I said: “Mother, I tried.” And her reply was, “Well, if Jesus had just tried and failed we would have no Science today.” Then she had a card hung on the inside of my room on which was printed in large letters, “Faith without works is dead.” I looked at that for two weeks!
Another day she said: “Now, Martha, you go upstairs and write out a treatment for rain. We need rain.” And on that special day while it was very sultry, the sun never shone brighter. I had hardly seated myself to write out the treatment when my number rang and I had to go to her. She said, “Well, give me the treatment.” I said: “Mother I did not have time to write it out.” She said: “Well, just tell it to me.” So I started in to show God’s allness, etc. But she soon stopped me and said: “Now, Martha, come down from sailing around up there. It’s rain we need. Let’s have rain.” With the greatest feeling of humility and in tears, I said, “Mother, I can’t do it.” Then she said: “It took Calvin Frye and Laura (meaning Mrs. Sargent) a long time to do it; but you can see that it must be done, and learn somewhat how to do it.”
Then she talked to me about the weather, and when she had finished, I went to my room and wrote down as nearly as I could remember and had understood, some of the things she had told me. In substance, she said: “God does not make sultry weather; and if we through belief have sultry weather, we must unmake it. God governs the weather. He governs the elements and there are no destructive winds or lightning. Love always looks out from the clouds.” And then she added, “Beliefs about the weather are easier healed than sickness.”
When those of her household failed to make a demonstration, there was no spirit of self-justification. We felt very much as I believe the disciples felt when taught by the Master. There were many demonstrations that we made and many that we did not make.
During the time that I was under Mrs. Eddy’s personal instruction and a mental worker, she gave us two lessons from the Scriptures that impressed me very, very much. One was animal magnetism, based on the man who was born blind. She showed us very clearly that “neither hath this man sinned nor his parents,” for they were both the divine man. For a long time I clearly saw that there was no such thing as a “sinning mortal man,” but only “the perfect man,” needing no healing. I saw that my so-called matter man was the divine in reversion, or “seen through a glass darkly,” as St. Paul says. The other lesson was an “Answer to Prayer,” taken from the first chapter of James and the first eight verses. When she read, “but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering,” I saw clearly that a doubleminded man could not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Mrs. Eddy’s Bible lessons were wonderful. She usually began each morning’s instruction with a lesson from the Bible. Holding her Bible between her hands, she let it open where it would, and began with what her eyes first fell upon. It seemed marvelous that the Bible always opened at the right place.
When Mrs. Eddy gave this personal instruction, it was not given to students as in a class, nor was it continuous for a definite period of time. When Mrs. Eddy so desired, she called a student to her, or called her group of mental workers to her, sometimes several times a day. And the individual student or the group of mental workers always stood while she instructed them.
Mrs. Eddy sometimes had guests for dinner, twelve o’clock dinner. And while she always had her place at the table, her dinner was usually served privately in her room. She liked to have to dinner such persons as Bliss Knapp, of whom she was very fond, Mrs. Knott, Mr. Dixon, and others with whom she had interviews. Mr. Bicknell Young was out to dinner and had an interview with Mrs. Eddy a short time before he taught the Metaphysical College in 1910. And when he told Mrs. Eddy that “that was the best dinner that I ever ate,” she expressed just as much satisfaction as any other human woman would have done.
Mrs. Eddy sometimes read the advertised bargains in the Boston newspaper. She was always interested in the affairs of the day and especially was she interested in all inventions. To her these things were “expansive and promoted the growth of mortal mind out of itself.” I think it was in the summer of 1908 that the Wright Brothers gave an exhibition of flying near Boston. Usually Mrs. Eddy did not want the members of her household to be away, but on this occasion she insisted that several of us go to see these flights. Comparatively speaking, it was not much of an exhibition, but it was wonderful in that day. And to Mrs. Eddy it was the appearance of advancing thought, and she was interested in every detail of the exhibition.
Little Tokens of Appreciation
Mrs. Eddy appreciated little remembrances from her friends. She and Mother Farlow, Alfred Farlow’s mother, who lived not far from Mrs. Eddy’s estate, sometimes sent each other flowers from their gardens. Once on Washington’s birthday Mother Farlow sent Mrs. Eddy a little inexpensive token, a miniature cherry tree in a little green bucket. Mrs. Eddy prized this gift greatly. It was on her desk for many months, and I believe it is now on her what-not.
Her Love for Children
Mrs. Eddy had a great love for children and young people. Perhaps some of you remember Mr. and Mrs. Clark, who lived in the northwest and who were miraculously cared for during the raging forest fire. An account of their particular case came out in the Sentinel at that time. This Mr. and Mrs. Clark, with their year-old baby boy, visited Mrs. Eddy’s home and while they were having an interview with Mr. Dickey in the library, I took charge of the baby. When Mrs. Eddy heard there was a baby in the house, she sent immediately for me to bring the baby to her. I held him out before her and she patted his fat little legs and caressed him, but the baby was very much interested in the silver paper cutter and stamp box. So he carried it away, held tightly in his chubby fist, very much more interested in the stamp box than in his distinguished hostess! No doubt he now prizes his souvenir very much. One week later, Mrs. Eddy wanted to know the fare to Montana. She wanted them to bring the baby again.
On her birthday in June 1909, I believe, Mrs. Eddy’s two grandsons visited her. They were young men about twenty and twenty-two years of age. One of the boys was a Reader in his little home church. Mrs. Eddy was so pleased with him and wanted them to stay in Chestnut Hill. The older boy said: “Grandmother, we would like to stay, but we are needed on the farm.” She gave them each a Science and Health, and I can assure you that there was plenty of home-made cake and ice cream for those boys, to which they did ample justice. By the way, Mrs. Eddy was very fond of ice cream. She had it always twice a day, for her dinner and for her supper.
Duties of Members
The members of Mrs. Eddy’s household were nearly all experienced practitioners and teachers. There was a group who did mental work, cared for the secretarial work and saw to all the correspondence. Then there was a group of women, usually five in number, practically all of whom left their homes, some of whom were practitioners, and each one a good working student in Christian Science, who took care of Mrs. Eddy’s entire home of thirty rooms and ten bathrooms. We washed and stretched all lace curtains, and washed and ironed Mrs. Eddy’s personal things. There were two colored women, students of Christian Science, who did the household laundry.
Every room in the house was carpeted, and many of them with velvet carpets. These were kept in perfect condition with brooms. There were no vacuum cleaners until I had been there several months. I think we had almost the first one that came out. Then there was all the cooking and the planning of the meals for a family of seventeen regularly, up to twenty-five at times. I usually went to Faneuil Hall Market twice each week, to buy the meats and fish. Most of the groceries were bought at Brookline; and during the summer months a Greek boy came to the house with fruits and berries and vegetables each day.
During the spring of 1908 Mrs. Eddy had her suite of rooms remodeled. A shift of men worked during the day and another shift worked at night. This made the housekeeping quite difficult. Finally, she was again settled in her study and everything was finished but the pink parlor. The men were coming out from Boston to lay the carpets and they were to be put down while she was out for a drive. The floor was covered with fresh plaster. John (Salchow?) usually took care of such jobs, but he was away that morning. So I cleaned the floor and the carpet paper and laid it and had the room ready for the man to lay the carpet, but I myself was a sight to behold. The men were through and gone by the time the carriage returned, and I had a few minutes to freshen myself.
In a very short time, Mrs. Sargent came down and said: “Martha, Mother wants you.” I shall never forget how grateful I was that I had the opportunity to make myself presentable, because I had to go when she called. When I entered, the mental workers were all standing about the room. I went to her and said: “What do you want, Mother?” With tears rolling down her cheeks, she replied: “I have been praying for God to send someone who will stand, no matter what comes up, and He has told me to call you. Now come in every day with the mental workers and have your lessons and do your mental work.” It was at this time that I was under her personal instructions every day for nearly seven weeks.
I would not in any way lead you to believe that I, more than others of her household, was greatly blessed. But it seems only just to let each one in the home tell of his own personal experience. It was quite impossible for Mrs. Eddy to have those who are termed servants care for her home. So this duty fell to those of us who were willing to serve her in that capacity. I have tried here to show something of what we did while in the house, and we were busy from early morning until late at night. Mrs. Eddy’s home was a very practical home. There was nothing mysterious going on, but it was necessary to have around her those who could in a small way understand her mission to the world.
About two weeks before she left us, she called me into her study about five o’clock in the evening. She was resting on her couch, as she usually did before her evening meal. I wish you might have heard her expressions of gratitude for her home and her gratitude to those who were caring for her home. She commented on how clean and beautiful we were keeping it, and what it meant to her to have such a place in which to do her work and carry out the Movement of Christian Science. She said: “You girls are so good to do this for me.” Then she said: “Martha, is there any reason why you should not stay with me forever?” I replied: “Mother, I will stay with you as long as you need me to stay.”
I learned later from Mr. Frye just why Mrs. Eddy wanted my assurance that I would stay with her. Mrs. Eddy decided that I was to go through the Metaphysical College within a very short time, and she thought that I might desire to go home and teach. When I assured her that I would stay with her as long as she needed me, she patted my arm and said: “Oh Martha, I do not like to be fat.” Then she said: “Well, I once weighed one hundred and forty pounds.” This is just one of the many examples of her motherliness.
Perhaps Mrs. Eddy had best expressed her feelings about her home and the members of her household in her “Paean of Praise” in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, with which I shall close: (My. 355:18 to 356:9) “Behind a frowning Providence He hides a shining face.” etc.