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Taking the serpent by the tail
The object of any distraction is the serpent. This object is never the subject (the cause or purpose) of the error that makes us fail. We fail because we are distracted. While we are distracted, we cannot pray, we cannot hear God, and we cannot heal. Looking at the object and trying to figure out its derivation and purpose cannot bring us closure. Even from Eve's first noticing of an object of desire in the mist, the charade of objects has always been a mistake.
Before God changed Moses' thought about the proper operation of a shepherd's rod, he had wielded his weapon as a means of self-defense and as a help in guiding and caring for his flock. With forty years experience, he must have become quite adept at using his intelligence and physical prowess in handling that singular tool. Then, in a moment of divine hearing, God commanded him to throw it on the ground. As soon as he did so, all those years of learned skills were worthless. Moses was at a loss when his own personal intelligence was of no use. In this illustration, the serpent's head is the rod; its tail that immediately follows in the trail of events is fear and helplessness. The tail is never part of the serpent. Humbly helpless before God, Moses opened his ears, heart, and mind to divine intelligence and power. He heard Christ say, "Take it by the tail," that is to say, 'handle your fear.' "Wisdom bade him come back and handle the serpent, and then Moses' fear departed" (SH 321:10). "The illusion of Moses lost its power to alarm him, when he discovered that what he apparently saw was really but a phase of mortal belief" (SH 321:16). This discovery gave him real peace, assurance, and power with God. The rod became a spiritual staff upon which to lean, enabling him to supersede Pharaoh's stubborn arrogance.
In Mary Baker Eddy's illustrated poem,
Christ and Christmas, she illustrates how to take the serpent
by the tail in the third plate, titled Seeking and Finding.
"Seeking and Finding".
This woman has given up her personal ego - thrown down her rod - or it would not have become a serpent. The serpent is behind her because she has turned from it and is being drawn toward spiritual sense and away from material dependency. She is focused on the Scripture, which is illumined by the seven-pointed star, her halo, and by the lamp that is trimmed and bright, alluding to Jesus' parable of the five wise virgins waiting for the Bridegroom (see Matt 25). Her right hand (spiritual strength or rod of power) is under the Bible. Is she searching for the spiritual cause underlying her illumined consciousness and finding it without the effect of fear? Yes!
As long as we think of our body as an object, either to love or hate, we think we need to look at it and care for it, all the time being afraid for it, because it seems to change without our consent: growing, feeling, hurting, and aging. Like the children of Israel in Egypt, we have become ensnared in the belief that we are helpless before the authority of matter, but it is only fear that binds us to mind and body. From this vantage point, our sensual body is the serpent's head. What would the serpent expect to see? More serpents: childlike, beautiful, sick, old, and dying. The world is also an object of our own thought that would make us believe we are confined to a planet full of contradictions. All these material objects create the mental disturbance that perpetuates itself. Jesus rebuked the arrogance of serpent thought this way: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). We master the body by taking it by the tail - understanding that we are not an object of fear or container of serpents.
Only by focusing on our inner peace, undisturbed (unfocused on serpents), will we see past the objects of temptation to spiritual cause and effect. Taking the serpent by the tail is scientifically demonstrated when we witness the Comforter thinking itself. We are the identity of that understanding. The object of Mind is a perfectly formed idea. We live as infinite Mind and are only subject to Mind's dictation, which is all-embracing good. Spiritual understanding wounds (kills) the serpent's head: anything that would portend to make us afraid. "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day" because we now understand that in Spirit there is no arrow (Ps 91:5). It is time to prove Christ's method for ourselves by turning from our sense-justified egos and finding peace outside of adversity. In so doing, we gain dominion over the whole earth.
"Undisturbed amid the jarring testimony
of the material senses, Science, still enthroned, is unfolding
to mortals the immutable, harmonious, divine Principle, - is
unfolding Life and the universe, ever present and eternal"
(SH 306:25). That is the divine method of taking the serpent
by the tail.
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