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From the January 1924 issue of The Christian Science Journal

PERHAPS there is no term more commonly used, and misused, than "personality." All Christian Scientists should be clear as to its meaning; and yet to many, especially the beginner in the study of this beautiful, simple religion, it seems often to be an occasion for stumbling. The young student may hear it used captiously, and he may be warned against it; yet, try as he may to understand it correctly, he is much disturbed to find that, in the opinion of others at least, he is being victimized by it at every turn. If he is not careful, he finally becomes more or less mesmerized by it. Is it any wonder, then, that in this confused mental state, the subject of personality may assume grotesque and distorted shapes? The student, finally, may become so unhappy over it that nothing but a clear, sane, simple explanation of the truth will enable him to recover his poise, and relieve him of his almost superstitious fear in regard to it.

If any such should read these lines, let him remember, first of all, that fear never results in good. A horse may be afraid of a steam-roller, until he is led up to it and allowed to see and quietly investigate for himself; and the more intelligent the horse, the shorter the triumph of the steam-roller. There need be no panic over personality. Rather, let us walk right up to it, and see it for what it claims to be, but is not.

To begin with, personality should never be confounded with individuality. To put the two terms in the simplest possible English, personality is what a man to material sense seems to be; individuality is what he really is. The word "personality" comes from a Latin root-word, persona, meaning "a mask." Personality, then, is only a mask, a covering, a veneer, a cloak or disguise with which a mortal may appear to cover his true selfhood. Absalom was beautiful to look upon. We are told that "from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him;" and by means of this pleasing personality, together with blandishments, flatteries, subtle suggestions, and a show of insincere affection, he stood beside the king's gate and stole away the hearts of the men of Israel. For Absalom wanted to be king. Beneath all this outward veneer was hidden a wicked purpose. The day came when he openly rebelled against David, his father, and called the men of Israel to follow him into battle. And the Bible record says, "They went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing." Of course not. That is the nature of mesmerism, of "mere personal attachment." (See Rule for Motives and Acts, Manual, Art. VIII, Sect. 1.) It stupefies its victim, until he literally knows "not any thing." But the blind followers of personality awoke later to see their mistake. Absalom was killed in battle; and when they saw this, "all Israel fled." Naturally! They believed there was nothing left for them to lean upon. When the frail human prop of personality was gone, they seemed to be without anything at all, because there had been no real substance there in the first place—really nothing for them to rest upon. There is no Principle in personality to support it; no Mind in personality to direct it; no intelligence to supply it with anything. When Absalom was gone, all seemed gone. To lean on personality is a dangerous thing, now as in that bygone day. It indeed proves, sooner or later, to be what Mrs. Eddy says about "a material staff" in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 66), "a broken reed, which pierces the heart." No wonder "all Israel fled every one to his tent." To their mistaken sense they had not a thing left!

Now let us turn to the humble Nazarene, who had a larger following than Absalom, and see the difference. We read in Matthew: "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. . . . Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. . . . And great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all." Was it Jesus' personality, his physical beauty, his promises of rich reward, his high social position, that drew the multitudes? Or was it that pure spirituality, that real individuality which radiated, wherever he moved, such heavenly compassion and unselfed love that sin, disease, and death could not endure in his presence? It was this individuality of which the Master spoke when he said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." This was his real attraction, the Godlikeness which he reflected. Wherever he went, his fame preceded him. In Mark we read, "At even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. . . . And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns."

Does that sound very much like the one who sat beside the king's gate and waylaid the people, and stole away their hearts with false promises? Jesus made no attempt through so-called personality to win the heart of any one. That the people loved him was only one of the "signs following," the natural and inevitable consequence of his spiritual understanding and his mighty works in their midst. It was the truth he lived and practiced that drew them to his door. Wherever he went, the people thronged him. He had to push out in a boat, at times, by reason of the press. He had to go up into a mountain, and out into the wilderness; and even there, five thousand hastened after him. At Capernaum, "it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door. . . . And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay."

Yet it sometimes happens that when some follower of our great Master in this age does possess, though in lesser degree, those spiritual qualities which naturally and necessarily draw to him the worn and weary ones of earth, to be sent away healed and comforted, the cry arises: Personality! Personality! They are following personality! So obnoxious is this to the true Christian Scientist, who knows that he can of himself do nothing, that he may be led to assume an indifference which he is very far from feeling. And that is exactly what mortal mind hopes for.

If those dear, consecrated workers who have this to meet will only be as wise as that other worker, many years ago, who, when he was busily engaged in building the wall of Jerusalem, was accused of so doing that his own personality might be exalted later on, and he be made king! Did the taunt disturb Nehemiah? Not a particle. Did he cry, I must stop at once, lest any one think it is true? He did not. He knew it was not true; so why should he be disturbed? He also knew that the most important thing just then was to finish the wall. So he stopped just long enough to send back this brief reply: "There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart;" and then quietly went on with his work.

The most important thing just now is that the healing work in Christian Science shall go on. Why can we not be as keenly awake as was Nehemiah, and recognize in these machinations of impersonal evil, not so much an attack upon the worker, as an attack upon the work? "Why should the work cease," demanded Nehemiah on another occasion, "whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" Why, indeed? Yet how can the work go on if busy, happy practitioners are to be continually frightened by this cry of "personality"? If not properly understood, it will so blight and wither the pure flowers of sweet, natural spontaneity and affection that the spiritual animus, so essential in healing, will be lost. There is a vast difference between honest gratitude and personal adulation; and we should have enough spiritual discernment to know the one from the other. After Jesus healed the Gadarene, the man was found later sitting at Jesus' feet, "clothed, and in his right mind." Did Jesus send him away? We have no record that he did.

The most convincing proof the Master ever gave that those among whom he walked for those three wonderful years of his ministry were not leaning on his personality, was given when he left them. We have seen what happened when those who were in the depths of personal mesmerism lost Absalom. But how different is the other picture! Of Absalom it is written, "And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent." But what occurred when those who had followed Jesus saw him disappear from their sight? We read: "He led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they ... returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God."

As we think of this, another picture arises in thought of some one else, many centuries later, lifting up her hands and blessing with the words of truth her band of humble followers. Like Jesus, our beloved Leader, Mrs. Eddy, had to tell her story to simple folk, and sometimes to dull and doubting disciples. But how sweetly and how faithfully she told it! It was not her personality but her individuality which drew students to those first early classes of hers in Lynn, Massachusetts: the Christ was lifted up by her in consciousness. No one will ever know what it cost Mary Baker Eddy to bring Christian Science to the world. Her mission was often misunderstood; her motives impugned; her words misinterpreted; her acts misrepresented. She was maligned and reviled and persecuted; attacked by pulpit and press; ridiculed by those she was seeking to bless; slandered by enemies; betrayed by friends. But she never swerved; and when she finally passed from human sight, another proof was given that personality had never governed the Christian Science movement; for the work has gone steadily, quietly, surely on, in spite of a cynical world's prediction to the contrary. When we think of that dear woman, as gentle as she was strong, as tender as she was fearless, so meek and yet so mighty, surely we can be grateful even if we have, as yet, glimpsed but feebly what universal, impersonal, impartial divine Love, reflected by man, really means.

Let us not be afraid to love. Let us not be laughed out of it, or frightened out of it, or criticized out of it, or mentally influenced out of it. Jesus was severely criticized because he allowed the woman whom he had healed to break the alabaster box of ointment at his feet; but Jesus had understanding enough to endure unjust criticism, and he was pure enough to understand the rightness of her motive. Jesus lifted little children in his arms, and they clung to him trustingly. Jesus let John lean upon his breast; and we are told that he "loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Christian Scientists should remember what Mrs. Eddy says in Science and Health (p. 25): "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus."

And I respond always to the appeal which the devoted Pilgrim paints on the rocks at the roadside: "Repent ye, for the Kingdom of God is at hand," and though I am certain that the Kingdom of God is already here, I stop always and repent—just a little—knowing that there is always room for it.—

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