The Vision And The Law
by Andrew Hartsook
Roscoe Drummond once said that the state of the world depends upon the state of the Christian Science Movement, not the other way around. In the book of Proverbs, we find a related thought, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Prov. 29:18).
Christian Scientists understand the discovery made by Mary Baker Eddy in 1866 to be the vision of the Modern Age. Truly one may say that without this vision of the new-old Science civilization, itself, would perish. Science represents the vanguard of thought pushing back the frontiers of mortal mind, and in its wake humanity follows until, one by one, each of its members seeks the source of that which has benefited him.
This represents the Christian Scientists’ view of human progress out of itself and into spiritual identity. Even secular historians recognize that there is a spark which accompanies a rising civilization and cooling embers which point to a declining one.
Today an observer must look at the world since Mrs. Eddy’s passing in 1910 and wonder where the vision went. On every side we see the advance of atheistic materialism under the name of communism. It has already engulfed most of Asia and Eastern Europe and has made inroads into Africa and even the Western Hemisphere. It has become a tide which is approaching our own southern border. Its progress has become a relentless surge sweeping through admittedly stagnant countries which formerly caught their light and inspiration from the West which has now gone limp. All efforts to stem this tide have been strangely confused and ineffectual. Changes in national leadership which promise decisive action result only in more of the same. Somehow good is paralyzed and evil runs rampant.
In Western society the breaking up of the ancient states of Europe in the First World War was followed by the now famous “lost generation”, the degeneration of music into aimless atonality and discord. Philosophy took refuge in existentialism, and later everyone was trying to get in touch with his feelings.
The great Depression of the 1930s was mental as well as economic, and its solution was sought in charismatic leaders — Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt — who excited the passions and promised a way out.
Finally, today, there is a renewed spiritual hunger among people evidenced by the growth of fundamentalism worldwide. In the bewildering maze of human beliefs, people are striving to find the simplicity of Truth. Yet Christian Science is all but passed over in this desperate search for God. Why?
The second half of the Bible proverb on vision already quoted above seems to hold the key to what has happened since 1910, “…but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” To Christian Scientists the Church Manual by Mary Baker Eddy is the law which governs the Christian Science Movement. It insures that the vision will not be infringed, distorted, or hampered by the well-meaning or malicious zeal of humans. Obedience to the by-laws should protect this Science which Mrs. Eddy labored to present to the world, but this seemingly has not been the case.
In the author’s own early experience in Christian Science, he can remember stumbling over phrases in the Manual such as, “…subject to the approval of the Pastor Emeritus”, “…the consent of the Pastor Emeritus given in her own handwriting”, “…after the candidate is approved by the Pastor Emeritus.” (Man. pp. 25, 26) The Manual and the continuing Boston organization were clearly in direct conflict with each other. It was then that the pamphlet, “Permanency of the Mother Church and Its Manual” was given to the author to explain away these troublesome contradictions, and for a time the issue was put aside. But then books and articles by Alice Orgain, Myrtle Stewart, and Helen Wright reopened the question with irrefutable evidence that Mrs. Eddy knew perfectly well and intended that compliance with all the by-laws in the Manual would dissolve the Mother Church organization, but not the Christian Science Movement or the Publishing Society. Churches would continue to function as before, societies would continue to form, each state would have its own committee on publication answerable to the churches therein, and individual Christian Scientists would be compelled to think, grow, and work.
At the same time, it also seems clear that Mrs. Eddy recognized that her followers were not ready to take this step just as the Israelites rejected their God and said, “Nay, but set a king over us.” (I Sam. 10:19) Mrs. Eddy wrote, “When God speaks to you through one of His little ones, and you obey the mandate but retain a desire to follow your own inclinations, that is not obedience. I sometimes advise students not to do certain things which I know it were best not to do, and they comply with my counsel: but watching them, I discern that this obedience is contrary to their inclination. Then I sometimes withdraw that advice and say: ‘You may do it if you desire.’ But I say this not because it is the best thing to do, but because the student is not willing – therefore, not ready — to obey.” (’00 8: 27-7)
May not this be why Mrs. Eddy constructed her Church Manual as she did? After her passing, the Board of Directors, rather than obey the by-laws as written, obtained legal opinions saying the Boston organization could continue even if the Manual by-laws could not be complied with, namely the obtaining of Mrs. Eddy’s consent, approval, or signature. They published these opinions in their “Permanency of the Mother Church and Its Manual”, and the field has accepted this. On the subject of lawyers’ opinions, Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Lawyers may know too much of human law to have a clear perception of divine justice,…” (My.149:18, 19)
A careful reading of the Manual reveals that Mrs. Eddy did provide for the continuity of her Movement when all by-laws are complied with, even though they made the Mother Church organization inoperative. These fingerposts are there to guide everyone who is willing and ready to obey, but they are invisible to those who blindly follow the traditions of the elders (the Board) rather than their Leader.
Two statements made by Mrs. Eddy have always retained a startling impact. On August 25, 1908, she instructed Adam Dickey to write a history which would include, “that I was mentally murdered.” On November 28, 1910, she dictated and signed, “It took a combination of sinners that was fast to harm me.”
It is now known that the Directors tried many times to get Mrs. Edy to make a provision in the Manual for them to assume power after her passing. This she steadfastly refused to do on more than one occasion. However, it now appears that the Directors continued to anticipate and prepare for her death and had contingency plans ready and waiting to seize power once she was out of the picture. Might not it be said that they had buried Mrs. Eddy already and were just biding their time? Would not this, in some sense, constitute mental murder however unintentional it might have been?
It now appears that the Directors had already altered the Manual’s printing plates without gaining Mrs. Eddy’s consent even though they did not actually print anything with them just yet. On these plates they removed her name and the office of Pastor Emeritus from the list of Church Officers on page 21 and added the words “and Branch Churches” to the headings on pages 120 and 127. They printed and issued these changes in a new Manual in January 1911 and called it the 89th Edition. They have never offered one shred of proof that Mrs. Eddy initiated and approved these changes with her signature. In their haste and stealth they forgot to alter the wording of these changes in the Table of Contents on page 14 until the year 1916. Mrs. Eddy’s name was restored to the list of Church Officers in 1924 after considerable protest from the field, but the other changes apparently escaped much notice. In another bold move in 1971, the Directors, themselves, approached the legislature of Massachusetts to change section one, Chapter 39 of the Public Statutes to read “resident” in place of “citizen” in the footnote on page 130 of the Manual. Today they say that the requirement that a Director be a citizen was never Mrs. Eddy’s “limitation”. But she could have approached the legislature, herself, if she thought it were important to have this change, and this she did not do.
Might not these changes by people who were her own students constitute the “combination of sinners that was fast” which harmed her and therefore her revelation?
Isn’t this a clear case of disobedience to the law (the Manual) and doesn’t it explain the waning of the vision (Christian Science) which the author of the Bible proverb has linked to the law? Doesn’t the loss of either one of these indicate the impending loss of the other? Isn’t it probable that the deteriorating state of the world is the result of the waning of Christian Science, the world’s highest vision?
These are questions of great import to all Christian Scientists. They are questions which require immediate answers if Christian Scientists and our civilization are to continue.
It is clear that thinking Christian Scientists must act soon to restore obedience to the Church Manual. Because it was Mrs. Eddy’s clear intent that the branches should continue, it is interesting to note a verse from Isaiah, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots,” (Isa. 11:1) It is noteworthy that the branch grows directly out of the roots rather than from a stem or trunk. It seems clear from this that the branch is not an adjunct of the Boston organization but is meant to grow and flourish in its own soil. It should not control or be controlled by any other branch or organization. It should grow and adapt to the needs of the area in which it is rooted, all within the wise provisions of the Church Manual.
It is clear by now that the Boston Board of Directors will not see this light any time soon. Therefore it is incumbent upon alert Christian Scientists to make these changes at the local level so that each branch can work freely within the oneness of Mind, Love, embracing the community and a desperate world. Now is the time to declare independence from a union which was never intended to continue once Mrs. Eddy’s direct supervision of the Mother Church ended in 1910. The Manual must be actively, widely, understandingly obeyed. Christian Scientists must leave the 75 year cradle of infancy and become real and consecrated warriors — fearless, free, mature Scientists intelligently going forth to do battle with sin, disease, and death.