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Reminiscences of
Mrs. Eddy's Classroom
HANOVER P. SMITH


         [Mary Baker Eddy's] lectures before her students are in conversational form. Here she displays profound qualities of mind, having charms of virtue which are as attractive as those of the Graces.

         Her lively ratiocination, with its radiations of spiritual excellence, is in striking contrast to the intellectual brightness of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu or Madame Recamier. There is a certain fascination about her genius that is pleasing, even to those who differ from her views. It reveals itself unconsciously in her fluent conversation, more than in her writings. The pathos which it excites in the listener is wonderful. She is superior to Madame Roland or Madame de Stael, in social influence and moral elevation.

         Her eloquence, good sense, and ready wit play spontaneously about her. Her mental products are rich with overflowing Soul, giving birth to ideas, like springs gushing from the fountainhead. She has no poverty of thought or expression, no vague abstractions. A humorous remark sometimes bursts from her in a ludicrous image or a surprising illustration. ...

         There is no want of elevation of thought, or of dignity and grace of expression. She utters no naked truths, but clothes them with vestments of immortality. Her thoughts enter the inmost sanctuary of Mind, and lift the student above all that is sordid, giving him aspirations towards heavenly virtue.

         Her power lies not in rhetoric, not in the spell of oratorical climax, not in excitement over exaggerated voice-pictures, nor in an artificial style of presentation, but in calm conversation, in gentle repartee; yet its forged links of iron logic give it the power of the welded chain.

         In the beginning with a class, she first analyzes the students' qualities of thought, extending her diagnosis to their habits, and the surroundings under which they were formed. She tries to eradicate the old, and plant the seed for a new harvest. She then brings questions to bear upon her student's wants and circumstances, seeking, in every way possible, to plant in their thoughts the Truth which is most lacking in their character and lives. Thus she may make a man five times more a man, in every point.

         Each subject is presented in all its aspects, developed to the greatest conceivable extent, and pointed with the most penetrating dialectical subtleties, which add greatly to its lucidity.

         She goes over the whole class in this manner. Then she passes over them again, cultivating what she has already sown, in an unexpected way adding fresh thoughts, with new unfoldings. She brings forth things both new and old, and with more impressiveness of manner and vivacity of tone than at first.

         After she has filled their minds with all they can digest, the pupils are dismissed for the day. She thus takes them step by step, day by day, teaching them how to rise to the point of forgetting the material present.

         Then we begin to realize that we are in a higher sphere...

         We pause now and then to gaze upon the scenes around us, with rapture unspeakable, while she demonstrates the superiority of the Divine Mind over the body. The scene suggests Raphael's masterly painting of this Mount, with the Apostles at its foot, attempting to cast out a devil.

         'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.' ...

         Rising once more to a sublimer elevation, each step of progress overwhelms us with wonder, as we climb the upward way. Each turn of the path reveals something new, which had never been thought of before. How near we feel to Infinite Mind, as we behold the vastness of the power of eternal Truth! Fear and falsehood and self-esteem are all that can cause a fall from this delightful elevation. At last we reach the Alpine height, isolated from all that is earthly. ...

         We never tire of listening to her voice, calling into existence that new world, without historical beginning. We are translated from matter to Mind, where we conceive of all Being as more than mortal. She unlooses Truth from these mighty heights of abstract thought, Truth that mounts up and up; and her mental wings seem never folded.

         Not knowing what we said, we lisped, How good it is to be in such a frame of Mind as this. Oh, if we could forever hold it thus!

'Ah, still delay, thou art so fair.'

         Shall we not pray with her: 'Let this supremacy of Spirit appear; the dream of matter disappear'?

         Our Teacher has unfolded the secret of Soul, which has been, to every age, like the Egyptian Pyramid, a riddle in stone.

         How it inspires one to think of it all afterwards! ...

         In the presence of this light we lay aside accumulated opinions as vulgar, vague, and maudlin, and for the first time we see things aright.

         Mortal life is appalling, seen beside the real. It is artificial, vapid, and evanescent, like some delusive chapter of fiction. We awoke, and lo, our past life was but a dream! All its pleasures had but delayed the dawn of eternal harmonies. ...

         Through the portals of spiritual consciousness there comes a sudden transformation. ...

         What before thrilled us with joy and happiness, gives now sorrow and discord. A sensuous thought, entertained by mortal mind, has lowered us suddenly down to earth, from these heights which we had with some difficulty ascended.

         We were not wholly pure. What was seen through the merits of another had not yet become our own. In moments of mental confusion, error has whispered into thought. We should lose no time in retracing our steps towards Truth.

         If we had gone directly to the field of action, and begun at once to do good, by healing and uplifting the race, and had not 'tarried in a solitary spot,' to enjoy this Truth in luxurious ease, those wrong thoughts could not have seduced and deluded us. ...

         By our mistakes, others suffer. By overcoming error in ourselves, we are helping others so to do. ... Truth gives nothing gratis; there must be honest effort. ...

         After our descent, how changed everything seems. How straight the path as we solve our problem in Science. Our Teacher has left no impassable walls of granite to hedge us in, no yawning chasms or horrible precipices to be shunned.

         She has admirable taste in teaching. Like Socrates, she rejects rubbish, and dissipates illusions, by separating the seeming from the real. ...

         ...She possesses what many great thinkers lack tact, to apply her spiritual thought to meet the understanding of those far beneath her. Truth destroys all illusions. Born on transcendent heights, instead of remaining an aerial abstraction, it becomes practical to the understanding.

         Emerson must have prophesied the Founder of Christian Science, when he said: 'I look for the new Teacher, who shall follow so far these shining laws, that he shall see them come to a full circle; shall see their rounding complete grace; shall see the world to be the mirror of the Soul.'

         Hear what Bronson Alcott said before one of Mrs. Eddy's classes: 'You are taught all there is worth knowing in our institutions of learning, and more than they can ever furnish.'

 

Excerpted from
"Writings and Genius of the Founder of Christian Science"
by Hanover P. Smith (1886)
 

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