Biography of Gilbert Carpenter
Of all the workers in the Christian Science movement, aside from the Leader herself, none has left a more valuable legacy than Gilbert Carpenter. Whereas the unyielding policy of the Board of Directors has always been to hide the evidence of Mary Baker Eddy’s “difficult-to-explain” behavior in the Archives of the Mother Church, Mr. Carpenter took a diametrically opposite view. He brought the “evidence” out into the light and explained it for the benefit of all. “Without a correct sense of its highest visible idea, we can never understand the divine Principle.”(S&H)
Mr. Carpenter would not leave unchallenged the criticism of Mrs. Eddy by her own students, that she was testy, changeable, obsessive, etc., and instead provided a correct sense of her through his books “Mary Baker Eddy; Her Spiritual Footsteps” and “Mary Baker Eddy; Her Spiritual Precepts.” In these works, Mr. Carpenter explains Mrs. Eddy’s actions and interactions with the utmost clarity, leaving the reader with invaluable instructions on how to apply Christian Science in the minutiae of daily living.
The premise of his work was this: “When one begins to understand Mrs. Eddy’s effort to hold a scientific attitude toward every phase of human existence, he realizes that there was something about her private life and her rebukes that needs to be unfolded spiritually. Otherwise she must appear inconsistent, since she seemed to place a great deal of importance on the material side of her home, while in her teaching she set forth matter as being valueless and having no real existence.” (Precepts)
Mr. Carpenter served in Pleasant View, Mrs. Eddy’s home, for only one year. It was a profound, and we suspect, intense experience, which he thought about for many years before sharing with others. When reading his works, one is inclined to ask: How did Mr. Carpenter come to such a clear understanding where so many others took away negative impressions? We believe the answer lies in the Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” His love for Mrs. Eddy was in no way personal, but rather, entirely rational: If one could be used by God to bring forth the revelation of the Science behind Jesus’ works after almost two thousand years of Christian history, we are talking about somebody quite extraordinary — not someone to be regarded and judged as just another person!
In Spiritual Footsteps, Mr. Carpenter recalls incidents during his tenure at Pleasant View, each chapter containing an incident with explanation. The first chapter recounted Mrs. Eddy’s rebuke to her horseman, Mr. Stevenson, for his sloppy haircut. Was she unloving? Mr. Carpenter made it plain that she was addressing thought — the imperfect haircut indicating a lack of alertness, which, if left alone, could lead to an accident. This demonstrated how Mrs. Eddy applied the Science in practice, to maintain the harmony of her experience.
In Spiritual Precepts, Mr. Carpenter referred to business letters exchanged between Mrs. Eddy and the Board of Directors. Some letters indicated that Mrs. Eddy changed her mind frequently, which to the untrained eye would indicate an instability. Mr. Carpenter explained that these letters indicated the lengths Mrs. Eddy was willing to go in order to do the will of God, never too proud to change her mind if, through further prayer, she was guided differently. This constant turning to the Father for guidance, even after getting an answer, is another profound lesson in Christian Science practice.
For the tremendous body of work that Mr. Carpenter left us, of which these works were only a portion, he was rewarded with threats and intimidation, false rumors, alienation from the Mother Church. He was even ostracized by his own branch church, by people who knew him personally, his wonderful work as practitioner and teacher, his kind and gentle nature. The depravity of this treatment can only be explained as the Red Dragon in Revelation: “the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed.”
At this point, we would like to add that Gilbert C. Carpenter, Jr. was a saint in his own right. From what we can gather, he was the enabler, selflessly capturing the tremendous wealth of inspiration from his father and putting it to paper, and was at the fore-front of gathering and protecting the precious documents and literature that the Board of Directors wished to hide from the world. He was also subject to the wrath of the Red Dragon, but we have no doubt, like his father, has been rewarded in the hereafter!