Truth Comes to Myrtle Fillmore
"The Two Shall Become One"
Myrtle Page was next to the youngest of the nine children of Marcus and Lucy Page. She was born in Pagetown, Ohio, August 6, 1845. Her family had been early settlers of the town and were influential citizens. They were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Myrtle became a member as a child. Her religious training was strict. The family frowned upon most forms of amusement, and the children were not permitted even such diversions as playing cards or dancing. Myrtle, however, was the favorite of the father, and in lighthearted moments, when the rest of the family were not around, he taught her how to dance the Highland fling, which she loved to do.
Myrtle had been christened with the name Mary Caroline but she never liked the name. From her infancy she could remember her father calling her by the pet name, "Myrtilee, Myrtilee." As a little girl, she adopted the name Myrtle. She had a better than ordinary education for young women of her time, for when she was twenty-two, she enrolled at Oberlin College where she took the "Literary Course for Ladies." When she left college, she did not go home but went to live with a brother, David Page, who had moved his family to Clinton, Missouri, a small town about seventy miles southeast of Kansas City. Here she secured a position teaching in the village school.
Myrtle was not a robust person, for she had been brought up in the belief that she was an invalid and had inherited a tendency to tuberculosis. She did not, however, let this belief interfere with her life. She lived an active life, working hard as a teacher and entering enthusiastically into many of the activities of the local Methodist church. When she was about thirty years of age, she secured a position as a teacher in Denison, Texas. It was here that she and Charles met.
Myrtle had the same literary interests that Charles had. She loved to read poetry and philosophy and she loved to recite. It was through a recitation that she gave that Charles Fillmore first took notice of her. He had gone to spend a literary evening at the home of some friends, and there a good-looking, vivacious, red-haired young woman got up and recited a poem for the group. Charles later told friends that at that first moment, as he watched her and listened to her, something inside him said: "There's your wife, Charles."
In a short time, the two were exchanging books and ideas; and since they were also interested in scientific matters, they often went out into the countryside together, searching for fossils. When, in 1878, Myrtle left Denison and returned to Clinton to teach school there again, Charles wrote to her asking if they could carry on their acquaintance by correspondence. She replied:
"I was truly pleased to find, when I returned from my visit in the country Thursday, among my other mail, a letter from you. Such a correspondence would prove rather a treat than a burden to me. I shall ever feel grateful to you for contributing so much to my literary enjoyments and for new thoughts and suggestions, yes, and for a kind of sympathy I seldom meet.
"I have learned many lessons in the past year.
"'What the world teaches profits to the world.
What the soul teaches profits to the soul,
Which then first stands erect with Godward face,
When she lets fall her pack of withered facts,
The gleanings of the outward eye and ear,
And looks and listens with her finer sense;
Nor Truth nor knowledge cometh from without.'
James Russell Lowell
"You question my orthodoxy? Well, if I were called upon to write out my creed it would be rather a strange mixture. I am decidedly eclectic in my theology. Is it not my right to be? Over all is a grand ideal God but full of love and mercy. And dear to my heart is Christ, the perfect man, who shared our earthly sorrows, yet ever lived blameless, and taught such sweet lessons of patience, forgiveness, and tolerance. Outside of ourselves must we go for a strength to trust and rely on. Trusted, that strength proves a help. Call it by what name you choose, the soul understands it.
"Last Sabbath I had a glorious time. They sent for me to visit down in the country among my old Fairview friends, and Sunday there was a 'basket meeting' 'way off in the woods.' I went. The sermons were quite good, and the spot was divine. Near the preacher's stand rose a great ledge of rock that overhung a small stream. It stretched for a half mile or more. Oh, it was grand! I went up on the top, gathered ferns and mosses — the most beautiful mosses! One's foot sunk down among them, green and silver gray they were. And the most picturesque nooks and grottoes. Oh, to me came the messages then, from the divine Spirit, more direct than through His human messengers!
"The good, simple-hearted country folk enjoyed seeing me enjoy it so and confessed, 'It was mighty nice.' They saw rock and moss, listened decorously to the man of God, while I, in a kind of charmed life, was a part of all I saw — and a part of God. What have I said? But you understand me, you know there are times when we go out and seem to become a part of this great Spirit
of the universe. Now, I seldom dare confess to this foolish (?) other life I keep within myself, but I couldn't live without it. And when I try to choke it out, I am the most miserable creature on earth."
Meanwhile Charles continued to work in Denison, but a year later, in 1879, he lost his job with the railroad. This came about over a friend who also worked in the freight office. When a visiting dignitary on the railroad came through Denison and in the presence of Charles made a false accusation against this friend, Charles's sense of fair play and loyalty sprang vigorously to his friend's defense. After a furious argument in which he told the official in no uncertain terms that the accusation was untrue, he was dismissed.
However, for some time before this, Charles had been thinking of leaving Denison. His being a clerk in a freight office had proved to be no more satisfying than his working in a bank or a grocery store had been. His mind was reaching out for something more. He was restless for new enterprises. He did not know just what it was that he wanted to do but he knew that he was not content with the sort of thing that he had found. Out in Colorado, gold and silver had been discovered and people were making fortunes over night, so out to Colorado went Charles Fillmore.
The first work that he secured there was as a mule-team driver. The work was extremely hazardous and required so much stamina that it is difficult to believe that a man with his physical handicap could have done it, but he did. The life of a mule-team driver was the crudest sort of life imaginable and exposed to all kinds of peril. At night, Charles slept under his wagon, the only shelter that he had against the mountain weather. The trails through the passes were scarcely trails at all, and it was sometimes all that he
and the six mules he drove could do to get the wagonload of freight to its destination. "Once," he told a friend, "mules, wagon, and all went off the edge of a precipice." But he was able to fling himself from the wagon seat to safety.
One of the towns to which Charles drove his team was Gunnison, Colorado. This was a brand-new boom town when he went there in 1879. Buildings were going up on every side as fast as men and materials could be brought in to build them, and new mines were being discovered every day. Charles looked about him, discovered that Gunnison held much better prospects than driving a mule team over the mountain trails, and stayed. Here he learned to be an assayer and for the next two years engaged in the mining and the real-estate business. Some of the partners that Charles had at this time became important figures in the early development of Colorado.
With all his arduous activities, however, he did not forget the titian-haired schoolmistress in Clinton, Missouri, with whom he had so many ideas and interests in common. His correspondence with her continued and increased in ardor. In the spring of 1881, he took a trip back to Clinton, and there on March 29, in the little Methodist church, he and Myrtle were married. The Pages were well-liked in Clinton; Myrtle had many friends there; on the day of her marriage the little church was full.
Especially prominent among those who attended the wedding, were the pupils of the fourth-grade class that Myrtle had been teaching. They came in a body and sat in the front rows of the church. They had loved their teacher so much that some of them wept at the thought of losing her. Years later, one wrote to Unity, "We did not like Charles Fillmore then at all because he was taking our beloved teacher away from us." To this day letters are received
"This is the first work my pen has done since I crossed the 'delectable mountains.' (Charles smiles at my name for the Continental Divide.)
"Of the three weeks since the day, one was spent on the road, one in resting, and this last one in taking in the situation. Gunnison, like all rapid growths, has not stopped for the extras. We all live in one dooryard fenced in by the mountains. Children and burros seem to have spontaneous growth here and belong to no one in particular but rove round over the unfenced wastes, creating a melody that makes one unconsciously shield his ears.
"Three weeks ago, we left you. I seem to have an unsorted jumble of mountains, snow and strange experiences in my mind to fill up this space between now and then. Our journey was delightful — I might fib a little to include our trip over the range. We remained at Poncha Springs, the end of the rails, two days, resting for our stagecoach trip. We left Poncha in a stagecoach at 7 in the morning (Monday). At 11 we had a layover at a ranch till 8 o'clock at night, waiting for the snow to freeze on the mountains. We had Mark Twain's typical driver, by name 'Jack.' When we were finally transferred to sleigh runners, such an experience as we had. There were eleven men, I the only lady.
"The roads or passes were in such fearful condition that the men were obliged to walk the greater part of the way up. It was grand. The moon hung above, the stars seemed to crown the higher peaks. Constant changes seemed taking place, mountain on mountain
piled on one side, water pouring down in cataracts among the pines far, far below. Again fields of snow would rise till the stars seemed to have them for background. On the other hand one misstep would have landed us hundreds of feet below where the snow was pierced by the dark needles of the pines.
"It was a very dangerous ride. We were two days and one night getting through and had to contrive all manner of ways to get through at all. We had several breakdowns. Sometimes the men had to use all their strength to steer the sled clear of some steep precipice.
"I enjoyed it the first day and night, it was all so new and sublime. We reached the summit at midnight. Old Mount Ouray lay at our right covered with snow and crowned with stars. The moon, that had seemed to us to set two or three times, rose again and gave us light. We commenced our descent. The roar of the waters that seemed to make the road their bed gave a new touch to the sublime.
"I wasn't aware at the time that I was doing anything remarkable by keeping cool during all this journey of hairbreadth escapes, but 'Jack' seemed to have conceived a great respect for me and laid aside all his adjectives and even compromised himself enough to enquire after the comfort of 'the lady.' I learned that I gained quite a reputation for bravery among the masculine part of our adventurers, who seemed to have discussed the subject and agreed 'that not one lady in a thousand would have shown such coolness and bravery.'
"We got into Gunnison about 6 o'clock Tuesday afternoon. The Halls had been worrying about us, having heard fearful reports of the treacherous mountain roads. And it was fortunate we got through when we did, for almost a week passed before the next coach got through."
The two adventurers did not stay in Gunnison long. Charles's enterprises there did not turn out favorably.
Pueblo, Colorado, was in the midst of a real-estate boom, so it was there that the enterprising young man took his bride.
When he arrived in Pueblo, Charles had exactly ten cents in his pocket but he had in his head and heart that which made up for his lack of money — he had courage, self-reliance, and intelligence. The first thing he did was go to a grocery store and order some groceries to be sent to the rooms where he had left Myrtle. Since he had no money, he told the grocer to send the order C.O.D.; but when the food was delivered and Myrtle had no money to pay for it, the delivery boy took it back. In the meantime, Charles had met a friend on the street and borrowed ten dollars with which he returned to the grocery store to pay for the groceries, giving the grocer the impression that he was outraged at having been embarrassed over such a trifling sum. He had observed that the grocer was not using all the space of the store and he talked the man into letting him use part of this space to open up a real-estate office for himself.
In the real-estate business in Pueblo, Charles Fillmore prospered. He was always a person of original ideas and he had ideas about how to sell real estate as he had about everything else. An early-day history of Kansas City was to write about him in regard to his real-estate activities there a few years later: "Fillmore & Company have always been governed by ideas original with themselves and have been eminently successful." Among the things he did in Pueblo to attract business — this was at a time before such methods of advertising became common — he fitted out a pony and wagon with huge signs made out of red letters on yellow cloth to advertise his business and drove the pony and wagon around the streets of Pueblo.
In Pueblo, two sons were born to the Fillmores, Lowell Page in 1882 and Waldo Rickert in 1884. Shortly after the birth of this second son, the real-estate boom ended. Charles's partner at that time was Charles Small, brother-in-law of Nona Brooks, who later founded Divine Science. The two men struggled along for a time to make a living, but their income grew less and less and at last they decided to break up the business.
Charles Fillmore was never one to be content with mediocre success. Since at the moment, he could see no place in Colorado where there was much prospect of immediate prosperity, he decided to move on. He paused briefly in Omaha, Nebraska, but in the winter of 1884 went on with his family to Kansas City and opened up a real-estate business there.
In 1884, there was no better spot in the nation than Kansas City for an enterprising real-estate operator. The town at the confluence of the Kaw and Missouri Rivers was just beginning to grow, and in the next four years an extraordinary real-estate boom was to take place there. The whole community was seized with the spirit of expansion. Real-estate values doubled, tripled, soared out of sight. Office buildings were sold, re-sold, and re-sold again in a single day, each time at a profit. When new subdivisions were opened up, people stood in line waiting for an opportunity to invest their money in a lot. It was a great period of growth. Downtown values rose and rocketed. Outlying farms sold at downtown prices. Population swelled. By 1887, the real-estate transactions of Kansas City were exceeding in value those of Chicago.
In the midst of this boom, Charles Fillmore brought his family and opened up his business. His experience in Pueblo had equipped him to move capably in conditions like these
and, in a short time, he was more prosperous than he had ever been before. He acquired some land in the northeast section of the city and laid out a real-estate subdivision that he named Gladstone Heights, the name it still bears.
Charles Fillmore was a shrewd businessman. He had abundant energy and original ideas and he put them to work for him. He bought and sold, and sold and bought, and he made money. Once he even sold the building in which he had his offices and made $10,000 on the deal. In a short time, he had accumulated a nice sum and had played a part in the development of Kansas City. To this day, some of the streets of that city still bear the names he gave them, among them Myrtle Avenue, which he named for his wife, and Norton Avenue, which he named for his brother.
During this time, Charles continued his interests in mining. He was a partner in a silver mine outside Silverton, Colorado, and one summer took his wife and oldest son there, leaving Rickert with "Grandma" Fillmore in Kansas City. For three months, Charles and Myrtle and Lowell lived in a tent high up on Red Mountain, with some crude furnishings that they had managed to contrive and one or two items that they had brought in on the backs of burros. Nearly every night, even in mid-summer, snow would fall and cover the tent. In the morning, they would beat the snow off the tent. It would melt as the sun rose in the heavens, but the next night everything might be covered by snow again. The boy, Lowell, played about the camp, and all three of them roamed among the mountains while Charles prospected for silver. The simple life and healthful mountain air must have been especially beneficial to Myrtle, who had been suffering from tuberculosis. The family was able to remain there for only a few months, for although at first it had appeared that the mine was going to be a rich one,
the vein of silver failed unexpectedly, and in the fall the three went back to Kansas City.
A period of depression now set in in the affairs of the Fillmores. The failure of the mine was followed shortly by the collapse of the real-estate boom in Kansas City. Charles and his family were left with no financial resources at all and were actually in debt. In the meantime, Myrtle underwent a spell of severe sickness. From her earliest childhood, she had been taught to think of herself as an invalid. In her early years, tuberculosis that she had been brought up to fear had developed in her, and in Clinton she had also contracted malaria. In the mountains, her condition had improved, but now, when the family was having its hardest financial struggle, the tuberculosis returned more virulently than ever.
At that time, Myrtle had great faith in medicine, and tried all sorts of medical remedies. Her son Lowell recalls that the medicine cabinet was always full to overflowing with pills and nostrums with which she was continually dosing herself and all the other members of the family. But doctors told her that if she remained in Kansas City she would probably have only a short time to live; there was nothing that they could do for her.
The Fillmores considered returning to Colorado. There seemed to be many reasons why they should make such a move. The mountain climate might alleviate Myrtle's condition. They had many friends in Colorado. Charles had excellent business connections there. It would be easy for him to re-establish himself. Yet in spite of all these reasons, they stayed in Kansas City. For at this time, Charles Fillmore had an unusual experience.
"I had," he wrote, "a strange dream. An unseen voice said, 'Follow me.' I was led up and down the hilly
streets of Kansas City and my attention called to localities I was familiar with. The Presence stopped and said: 'You will remember having had a dream some years ago in which you were shown this city and told you had a work to do here. Now you are being reminded of that dream and also informed that the invisible power that has located you will continue to be with you and aid you in the appointed work.' When I awoke, I remembered that I had had such a dream and forgotten it."
Charles Fillmore had always been interested in religion, though his approach to it was an unorthodox one. He had occasionally gone to church with his mother, who had been reared as an Episcopalian and knew the litanies by heart. But it was not from the standpoint of one who has been reared in a doctrine from childhood and simply accepts it as part of his life, that Charles approached religion. His approach was from a philosophic standpoint. Charles Fillmore was born to yearn after God, to seek Him with all his heart. He had an instinctive urge to seek out the meaning of life and he was the kind of person who had to find the meaning in his own soul. He had to find God for himself. Other persons might point the way, others might give him hints and clues, but he would have to test their ideas for himself and prove them in his own mind and his own life before they would have validity for him.
It is easy to imagine him as a young man poring by candlelight over the lines of masters like Shakespeare and Emerson, reading them over and over to himself, but he was not passively accepting what they said. He had his own thoughts about their conclusions. Charles Fillmore was innately religious in the highest sense. He was born with a curious and capable mind that was intended to inquire into Truth and into the nature of many things. His was a mind
on fire to know the Truth, and he sought for it everywhere. The statement that Myrtle Page had written of herself, "I am decidedly eclectic in my theology" could be even more aptly applied to Charles Fillmore. If he rejected anything, it was never arbitrarily; he had examined it, tested it, and decided that it was wanting in value. He studied many philosophies and religions.
As a young man, one of Charles's first interests had been spiritualism. He had a friend who felt that he had the powers of a medium, and the two of them had spent many evenings together in the dark facing each other silently across the table, their fingers pressed lightly against the table top to see if they could not waft it mysteriously into the air. Later Charles Fillmore repudiated spiritualism, but only after having thoroughly looked into it.
From the first issues of his magazine Modern Thought, we know that Charles Fillmore also had a knowledge of such teachings as Buddhism, Brahmanism, Theosophy, and Rosicrucianism, as well as of Christianity. In one of the early issues of the magazine, he wrote of himself and his wife: "We have taken more than forty courses (in metaphysical subjects), some of them costing as much as $100." Besides all this, he had a considerable understanding of the teachings of many Christian denominations.
Many years later, a Catholic friend was visiting him. The friend expressed a desire to go to Mass but had no means of getting to church from Charles's home. Charles said that he would take her. So they drove to the little Catholic church in Lee's Summit. Afterward Charles astonished his friend by explaining to her the symbolical meaning of every part of the ritual of the Mass.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore sought Truth freely wherever they could find it. They were not limited in their be-
liefs and were no respecters of labels. Perhaps it is this early eclecticism of theirs that is responsible for Unity's love for and appreciation of all religious teachings. To this day when Unity School receives a letter from someone who wants to argue about his belief, there is still only one answer:
"We see the good in all religions and we want everyone to feel free to find the Truth for himself wherever he may be led to find it." Unity does not stress the differences, but the points of agreement.
At any rate, when Charles Fillmore had this dream in which he was shown that Kansas City was the town where he should remain because he had a work to do there, the dream did not fall on unfertile soil. Years of study and meditation and an inquiring and receptive mind had prepared him to obey the promptings of the Spirit in him.
At about this same time, another important event happened. A lecturer named Dr. E. B. Weeks came to Kansas City and delivered a series of talks on a subject that was then being referred to by such names as "New Thought," "Christian Science," "Divine Science." Doctor Weeks was sent to Kansas City from Chicago as a representative of the Illinois Metaphysical College, which had been founded shortly before by Emma Curtis Hopkins.
Emma Curtis Hopkins was one of the most unusual figures that has appeared in the whole metaphysical movement. Originally she had been associated with Mary Baker Eddy as an editor of the Christian Science Journal, but as the two had not seen eye to eye on many questions, Mrs. Hopkins left the Eddy School of Christian Science. From Boston, she went to Chicago where she founded a school of her own, which was probably the most influential school of its kind at the time. Emma Curtis Hopkins was a teacher
of teachers. Many founders of metaphysical movements learned their fundamental principles from her. Besides Charles and Myrtle Fillmore there were: Charles and Josephine Barton, who published the magazine "The Life" in Kansas City and had a Truth movement of their own; Melinda Cramer, the first president of the International Divine Science Association; Dr. D. L. Sullivan, who taught Truth classes in St. Louis and Kansas City; Helen Wilmans, editor of "Wilmans Express" and a very influential New Thought teacher at the turn of the century; the popular writer, Ella Wheeler Wilcox; Paul Militz and Annie Rix Militz, who founded the Homes of Truth on the West Coast; Mrs. Bingham, who taught Nona Brooks, founder of the Divine Science movement in Denver; C. E. Burnell, a popular lecturer throughout the country for many years; H. Emilie Cady, who studied under Mrs. Hopkins on one of her trips to New York; and many others.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore took several courses of study under Mrs. Hopkins and became her fast friends. They were among her favorite pupils. Later she was often to write to them when she had cases for healing that seemed unusually difficult to her, for she felt that the Fillmores had superior ability as healers. Once she wrote to them from New York: "Please, please keep on praying for John. I cannot believe that it is merely a coincidence that he always rallies at the times when I know you are praying for him." It was this teacher who had sent Doctor Weeks to Kansas City.
The Fillmores went to the lecture by Doctor Weeks out of curiosity and need. How closely their experience in finding Truth parallels the experience of thousands since then in finding Unity! For over and over the letters that come to Unity declare: "We had tried everything. We had
given up hope. We did not know where to turn, and a friend told us about you, so now we are writing to you."
That was the way it was with Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. One evening, in the spring of 1886, when Myrtle was desperately sick and they did not know where to turn, they went to hear Doctor Weeks, who had been recommended by a friend who had been studying this "New Thought," as it was called and felt that Myrtle might get help from it for her physical condition. They did not know much about the subject but they had tried everything else that they knew about, and all had failed. They had reached the place where they were willing to try anything. Charles Fillmore came away from that lecture long ago feeling no different than when he had gone, but the woman who walked out of the hall on his arm was not the same woman who had entered it. A new, a different, a liberating, a transforming conviction was blazing in her heart and mind. Everyone has gone to hear a lecturer and had the experience of having some statement of the lecturer's stand out so vividly in his mind that he has felt, "He said that especially for me." That is the way it was with Myrtle Fillmore that night. As she walked from the hall, one statement repeated itself over and over in her mind:
"I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness."
Over and over in her mind the words tolled like a bell:
"I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness."
In one hour, Myrtle Fillmore's whole outlook toward herself and her life had been changed. Like a revelation — and surely such it was — this simple and divine idea that she was a beloved child of God and that God's will for her could only be perfect life and wholeness filled her mind and
possessed her being. The old belief that she was an invalid, that she had been born to be an invalid, was as waters that have passed away. Even as she stepped out of the doors of the hall this new, this divine realization was working in her, not only in her mind but in the very cells of her body:
"I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness."
Like the little leaven that leavens the whole loaf, this thought was to work in her until it had made her every whit whole. It was not to let her go until through her thousands had been made whole, too. It was not to let her go until she and her husband, who was soon set afire with it too, had founded a faith that reached around the world and blessed the lives of millions who with her would joyously declare:
"I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness."