Are we "fretting" or healing?

In the first section of this week's lesson on Probation After Death, Mrs. Eddy has a very startling comment and an unusual use of the word "fret" in her Glossary definition of “Death”.  The definition includes: "The flesh, warring against Spirit; that which frets itself free from one belief only to be fettered by another, until every belief of life where Life is not yields to eternal Life." (SH 584:9–15)

The definition of the word "fret" in the dictionary of Mrs. Eddy's time, the Noah Webster's (NW), includes this:

“Fret - To be worn away, be corroded; to wear away by friction; to be agitated or in violent commotion; to be vexed, irritated or angry.” 

In researching Mrs. Eddy's use of the word "fret" in her writings, I found the following helpful thoughts which cast light on this definition of death in our lesson:

"Prophets and apostles suffered from the thoughts of others. Their conscious being was not fully exempt from physicality and the sense of sin. Until he awakes from his delusion, he suffers least from sin who is a hardened sinner. The hypocrite's affections must first be made to fret in their chains; and the pangs of hell must lay hold of him ere he can change from flesh to Spirit, become acquainted with that Love which is without dissimulation and endureth all things. Such mental conditions as ingratitude, lust, malice, hate, constitute the miasma of earth. More obnoxious than Chinese stenchpots are these dispositions which offend the spiritual sense."  (Un. 56:18–2)

Miasma is defined as “an infectious or noxious vapour…which pollutes the atmostphere.” “The noxious exhalations from diseased bodies.”   (Oxford and NW Dict.).

Chinese stench pots or stink pots were an incendiary and suffocating weapon used in the 19th C., Qing Dynasty, especially in naval battles to create sufficient confusion for the enemy crew to be overcome.

"Animal magnetism fosters suspicious distrust where honor is due, fear where courage should be strongest, reliance where there should be avoidance, a belief in safety where there is most danger; and these miserable lies, poured constantly into his mind, fret and confuse it, spoiling that individual's disposition, undermining his health, and sealing his doom, unless the cause of the mischief is found out and destroyed."   (My 211:20)

And from Mrs. Eddy's powerful Christmas Sermon on Christ Jesus:

"From this dazzling, God-crowned summit, the Nazarene stepped suddenly before the people and their schools of philosophy; Gnostic, Epicurean, and Stoic. He must stem these rising angry elements, and walk serenely over their fretted, foaming billows. ...Materiality, worldliness, human pride, or self-will, by demoralizing his motives and Christlikeness, would have dethroned his power as the Christ.  To carry out his holy purpose, he must be oblivious of human self."  (Mis.162:6, 25–29)

"It is doubtful if the Cause of Christian Science could prosper, in any particular, on the basis of fretful or reluctant sacrifice on the part of its people." (My 10:17–20)

"... Your love and fidelity cheer my advancing years. As Christian Scientists you understand the Scripture, “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers;” also you spiritually and scientifically understand that God is divine Love, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite; hence it is enough for you and me to know that our “Redeemer liveth” and intercedeth for us."  (My 135:26)

In a letter to Clara Choate:

“May God give you all you need for this and every other hour, and He will.  You are growing and the furnace is where He brings out His image.  Fret not thyself because of evil doers they can never get me to believe a lie about you and they get lessons from me every time they tell one, that at least, they ought to remember.  Do not grieve dear student I am sad every time I think of your dispirited look at Sabbath.  There will come a change for you soon and remember we are never in danger when we are in affliction, we only are in danger from prosperity.  Your success in healing will tell the truth of you and shame your enemies if you have any.”  [L02468]

In case you would like to dig deeper, here is a link to a document that has some more extracts from the unpublished letters of Mary Baker Eddy—examples of when she talked about “fretting”. Some of the first few letters are to students who did not listen to her warnings and ended up leaving Christian Science (E.J. Foster Eddy (Benny) and Augusta Stetson; in one letter to Benny, she adds to the letter three times in an attempt to get him to wake up!). One is a letter to a Committee on Publication (McCrackan) and the last two are Mrs. Eddy’s thoughts on her own fretting over evil and evil fretting over good.

Dig deeper - Fretting vs. Healing


Christine Driessen