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Mary Baker Eddy: Teacher and Educator

Eighth in a series of twelve articles about Mary Baker Eddy commemorating the first century of Christian Science.

From the August 1966 issue of The Christian Science Journal

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After her great discovery of Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy faced an unparalleled challenge: to find ways of sharing her revelation with others.

Mighty was this challenge. It demanded awakening people to the opposite of their deepest convictions—to the allness of Spirit and the nothingness of matter. It called for showing them a totally new way of thinking: how to reason from a purely spiritual basis; how to practice the rules for metaphysical healing; how to proceed with deep, systematic, scientific prayer and treatment. It required steps to guard and transmit the pure teachings through the defiling centuries.

Among these steps was the founding of the educational system of Christian Science. Through an understanding of this educational system, Mrs. Eddy's magnificent achievements as a teacher and educator can best be appreciated.

From 1867 to 1898 Mrs. Eddy taught many students. In the process she perfected her methods and developed the text for classroom use we know as the chapter "Recapitulation" in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Today her educational system continues to carry on her work, bringing spiritual enlightenment and liberation to thousands.

What constitutes this system? Outwardly it includes provisions in the Manual of The Mother Church by Mrs. Eddy for preparation of teachers of Christian Science, for primary classes, and for annual association meetings of pupils. It includes the Sunday School. Also, Mrs. Eddy provided the means for orderly self-instruction in Christian Science. These include the Lesson-sermons, outlined in the Christian Science Quarterly, which, with their twenty-six subjects, deal thoroughly and systematically with the basic teachings of Christian Science. Christian Scientists have also as invaluable auxiliaries to individual study and practice the Concordances to Mrs. Eddy's writings, initiated under her direction, and the standard Concordances to the Bible.

These are outward components. But the value of this educational system is to be found in its inner character.

Mrs. Eddy showed a consistently high regard for education and culture. But her system transcends commonly accepted teaching and learning processes. Yet her methods do not lower the worth of human concepts of education; rather do they uplift and enrich them.

Mrs. Eddy speaks of Christian Science as leading the ages (see her Message to The Mother Church for 1901, p. 21). This applies to its educational system. The system is revolutionary. It offers radical new insights into the art of enlightenment and effective communication.

This educational system does not rely on processes of the human mind but on revelation from the divine Mind. It does not include speculation from the standpoint of mortal ignorance but inspiration from the standpoint of Mind's omniscience. Its method of learning is not the accretion of finite human knowledge from without, but an unfolding of infinite divine consciousness, the kingdom of heaven, within.

One finds it illuminating to examine closely certain of the leading elements of Science. He will learn something of its scope and depth, its practicality and revolutionary power. He will recognize also the remarkable consistency between Mrs. Eddy's own example as teacher and the requirements she has set for the educational system she established. What she herself demonstrated in teaching, she has enshrined in the standard provided for others.

Two main sources bear witness to these statements. One is the authorized reminiscences and biographies which tell of Mrs. Eddy's own classroom work. The other is her own writings, with their specific instructions and abundant guidance for both teaching and learning.

From these sources one gains a new sense of the magnitude of Mrs. Eddy's work as teacher and educator. The wholeness, coherence, and beauty of her educational system emerge in luminous grandeur and detail. One feels the God-impelled inspiration which animated her own teaching and which continues to invigorate the teaching work today.

Consider, for example, a leading element of this educational system: its purpose. Clearly the purpose is to prepare the student to practice Christian Science in healing.

Mrs. Eddy stressed this purpose in the classroom. In the class of 1885 she concluded the third day by saying, "Now go home and take your first patient."We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Second Series, p. 9; When a student in the class of 1883 said she did not know what she was to do with what she was learning, Mrs. Eddy responded, "You are going to heal with it."Historical Sketches by Clifford P. Smith, p. 136;

With logical consistency our Leader makes clear in the Manual and in her other writings that the purpose of class instruction today is to enable the learner to heal and uplift others. Also, it is worthy of note how frequently the Lesson-Sermons stress the point that what is learned must be made practical in healing and actual demonstration. And how significantly for the Sunday School does Mrs. Eddy write, "The entire education of children should be such as to form habits of obedience to the moral and spiritual law, with which the child can meet and master the belief in so-called physical laws, a belief which breeds disease."Science and Health, p. 62;

The aim of this educational system is consistent throughout: to equip the learner to demonstrate the Truth-power in healing.

Consider also, as another leading element, the standpoint from which the teaching is to be done. Mrs. Eddy illustrated the right standpoint in her own teaching. One of her students recalls, "She effaced the sense of her personality so completely that she thought, spoke, and acted from the standpoint of her oneness with the Father."We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Second Series, p. II;

Others have noted that Mrs. Eddy seemed to be a transparency for Truth to shine through; that she appeared to be conscious at all times of a wisdom beyond her own; that she maintained a listening attitude to hear what God would give her to say. Her selflessness and humility turned the students away from personality to the divine Principle of being.

Mrs. Eddy has called upon her followers to maintain this same standpoint in carrying on her educational system. She writes, "That teacher does most for his students who divests himself most of pride and self, and by reason thereof is able to empty his students' minds of error, that they may be filled with Truth."Retrospection and Introspection, p. 84;

Another outstanding element of this educational system is its teaching method. Nothing could be more illuminating of Mrs. Eddy's greatness as a teacher than the record of how she taught. She dealt directly with the thought of each student. She taught by means of searching questions and answers.

One of her students records: "Her method in teaching was first to question the pupils. Her clear insight could detect at once whether they answered by merely repeating the words or from an understanding heart. After listening to the answers, she unfolded spiritual truths according to the need."We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, First Series, p. 82;

Another student has written that when the class of 1885 first assembled, Mrs. Eddy stood before her pupils and looked quietly and searchingly at each one, taking direct mental cognizance of each; only after that did she speak. The biographer Lyman P. Powell observes that Mrs. Eddy understood the character and mental makeup of each one who attended her classes and sought to meet the need of each.

There is nothing superficial about the educational method of Christian Science. It goes far deeper than the activity of human intellect. The inspired teachings reach to the very foundations of one's consciousness. They awaken and purify. They work a transformation in one's whole being, filling consciousness with light.

Many of those who knew Mrs. Eddy have stressed her use of the question and answer method. She herself has specified that this same method is to be used in the teaching today. She writes, "Christian Scientists should take their textbook into the schoolroom the same as other teachers; they should ask questions from it, and be answered according to it,—occasionally reading aloud from the book to corroborate what they teach."Ret., p. 83; She has also provided in the Manual that the question and answer method shall be used in the Sunday School.

Mrs. Eddy makes clear that Christian Science cannot be thoroughly taught to large audiences, because the teaching requires addressing the pupils individually and examining critically the thoughts expressed. Clearly Mrs. Eddy felt that the teacher must deal with the thinking of each pupil. This calls for a thorough dissection of thoughts, a process which is necessary if the teacher is "to empty his students' minds of error, that they may be filled with Truth."

Another important element is the substance of what is taught. While the letter is important, the spirit is paramount. Much more is imparted than words alone. It is the Christ-spirit that makes the teaching effective. Only those imbued with the spirit of genuine Christianity can teach Christian Science effectively. Only those imbued with the spirit of genuine Christianity can learn it effectively.

Mrs. Eddy's students uniformly record that she permitted no note-taking. One of them writes: "Her impartations transcended the medium of words. Words served only to convey her revelations. She gave both the letter and the spirit, but she took away the letter lest any should substitute it for the wine of the Spirit." We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Second Series, p. 8;

Throughout the chapter in Science and Health entitled "Teaching Christian Science"—and, indeed, throughout her writings—Mrs. Eddy stresses the importance of imbibing the spirit of Christ, and demonstrating it daily, if one would really understand Christian Science. Repeatedly she stresses the truth voiced by Christ Jesus, "It is the spirit that quickeneth." John 6:63;

Still another vital element of this educational system is the standard of scientific exactness to be observed. Mrs. Eddy carefully specified this standard: the teaching must be systematic, thorough, characterized by law and order, purely spiritual and not merely mental; and however little may be taught or learned, it must be correct.

Mrs. Eddy's students have recorded that she was quick to detect any deviation by students from clear, correct Science and to point out the discrepancy. And she established careful safeguards to protect her educational system against adulteration or quackery. The Manual provides that students shall not be guided by their teacher's personal views but by the Bible and Science and Health. It specifies that members of The Mother Church shall not use written formulas in treatment; that they shall not learn hypnotism or read spurious literature; and that teachers shall counsel their pupils habitually to study the Bible and Science and Health.

Divine Science is exact because it is the emanation of perfect Mind. In expressing it, the letter as well as the spirit must be right.

Science and Health stresses the necessity, in demonstrating Truth, of never deviating from pure and genuine Science, "Strict adherence to the divine Principle and rules of the scientific method has secured the only success of the students of Christian Science." Science and Health, p. 456; And Mrs. Eddy has provided that the same standard shall apply to the Sunday School, "The instruction given by the children's teachers must not deviate from the absolute Christian Science contained in their textbook." Man., Art. XX, Sect. 3;

Much more could be said of other aspects of Mrs. Eddy's teaching and of her educational system. We could speak of the central place of the Scriptures in her teaching and her wonderful illumination of their spiritual meaning; of the vitally important requirement that teachers shall open the eyes of their pupils to the ways and deceptiveness of evil and its nothingness, thus equipping them to handle it and to protect themselves on the basis of evil's unreality and Truth's allness; of the moral and spiritual demands made on the teachers; of the requirements that pupils be morally sound, receptive, and ready for deep systematic thinking; and of the admonition that teachers are obligated, after the class term, to promote the continuing spiritual progress of their pupils but not to take personal control of them.

From start to finish the stress is on practice and proof in healing. What greater joy than to partake of such education!

It is revealing to make a list, from the sources mentioned above, of the moral and spiritual qualities expressed in Mrs. Eddy's own teaching. Her students have spoken of the courtesy, gentleness, tenderness, and love she expressed; of the youthfulness, wit, joy, radiancy, and beauty; of the discernment, incisiveness, lucidity, and brevity of statement; of the simplicity, humility, meekness; of her grasp, comprehensiveness, and depth; of the demonstrated spiritual power which so often had brought instantaneous cure; of her constant consciousness of divine Love's nearness and goodness and allpower of her self-effacement and constant turning of the students' thoughts to the wondrous glories and immediate practicality of divine Love.

One recognizes here the redeeming power and presence of the immortal Christ. Here is the essence of effective teaching. It is the Christ that enlightens mankind, uplifts, heals, saves. The spirit of Christ reveals to the receptive thought man's absolute oneness with his Father-Mother God. When both teacher and student are imbued with the true spirit of Christ, the Scriptural prophecy is fulfilled, "They shall be all taught of God." John 6:45;

Mrs. Eddy stressed this in her own teaching. And she has emphasized it in the loving provision she has made for the continuing work of her educational system, for example, "Of this also rest assured, that books and teaching are but a ladder let down from the heaven of Truth and Love, upon which angelic thoughts ascend and descend, bearing on their pinions of light the Christ-spirit."Ret., p. 85.

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