The Founding of Unity
"In the Beginning"
"I have made what seems to me a discovery. I was fearfully sick; I had all the ills of mind and body that I could bear. Medicine and doctors ceased to give me relief, and I was in despair when I found practical Christianity. I took it up and I was healed. I did most of the healing myself, because I wanted the understanding for future use. This is how I made what I call my discovery.
"I was thinking about life. Life is everywhere — in worm and in man. 'Then why does not the life in the worm make a body like man's?' I asked. Then I thought, 'The worm has not as much sense as man.' Ah! intelligence, as well as life, is needed to make a body. Here is the key to my discovery. Life has to be guided by intelligence in making all forms. The same law works in my own body. Life is simply a form of energy, and has to be guided and directed in man's body by his intelligence. How do we communicate intelligence? By thinking and talking, of course. Then it flashed upon me that I might talk to the life in every part of my body and have it do just what I wanted. I began to teach my body and got marvelous results.
"I told the life in my liver that it was not torpid or inert, but full of vigor and energy. I told the life in my stomach that it was not weak or inefficient, but energetic, strong, and intelligent. I told the life in my ab-
domen that it was no longer infested with ignorant thoughts of disease, put there by myself and by doctors, but that it was all athrill with the sweet, pure, wholesome energy of God. I told my limbs that they were active and strong. I told my eyes that they did not see of themselves but that they expressed the sight of Spirit, and that they were drawing on an unlimited source. I told them that they were young eyes, clear, bright eyes, because the light of God shone right through them. I told my heart that the pure love of Jesus Christ flowed in and out through its beatings and that all the world felt its joyous pulsation.
"I went to all the life centers in my body and spoke words of Truth to them — words of strength and power. I asked their forgiveness for the foolish, ignorant course that I had pursued in the past, when I had condemned them and called them weak, inefficient, and diseased. I did not become discouraged at their being slow to wake up, but kept right on, both silently and aloud, declaring the words of Truth, until the organs responded. And neither did I forget to tell them that they were free, unlimited Spirit. I told them that they were no longer in bondage to the carnal mind; that they were not corruptible flesh, but centers of life and energy omnipresent.
"Then I asked the Father to forgive me for taking His life into my organism and there using it so meanly. I promised Him that I would never, never again retard the free flow of that life through my mind and my body by any false word or thought; that I would always bless it and encourage it with true thoughts and words in its wise work of building up my body temple; that I would use all diligence and wisdom in telling it just what I wanted it to do.
"I also saw that I was using the life of the Father in thinking thoughts and speaking words, and I became very watchful as to what I thought and said.
"I did not let any worried or anxious thoughts into
my mind and I stopped speaking gossipy, frivolous, petulant, angry words. I let a little prayer go up every hour that Jesus Christ would be with me and help me to think and speak only kind, loving, true words. I am sure that He is with me because I am so peaceful and happy now....
"I want everybody to know about this beautiful, true law, and to use it. It is not a new discovery, but when you use it and get the fruits of health and harmony, it will seem new to you, and you will feel that it is your own discovery."
In two years, Myrtle Fillmore was no longer an invalid. Through her prayers she was made absolutely whole. "I want everybody to know about this beautiful, true law, and to use it," she wrote; and as she became well many did come to know about it, for her neighbors who knew how sick she had been saw the change that was wrought in her and became curious as to what she had done to bring about such a miracle. People began to come to her for help.
The Fillmores did not deliberately set out to found an organization. Mrs. Fillmore set out first to find healing for herself. Having found that, she wanted to share her discovery with others and she found that people wanted that discovery as much as she wanted to give it to them. People, hearing of the change in her, came to her and asked her for help.
Mr. and Mrs. Fillmore were then living in a house on Wabash Avenue in Kansas City, and one of the first persons who came to Mrs. Fillmore was an Irishman, named Caskey, who lived across the street. He was crippled and had to walk on crutches. It took him a long while to comprehend the idea she was trying to get across to him, for at first he did not believe that he could be healed. The two
would discuss her ideas and pray together; then she would tell him to put down his crutches and walk. He would often say, "How do I know I can walk?" But again and again she would give him affirmative statements of prayer and have him repeat them with her. However much he might question and doubt, she knew that he could walk. So one day when she told him to put down his crutches and walk, that is what he did. He laid his crutches down and walked across the room. The crippled condition completely disappeared.
Years later, Lowell Fillmore was walking down a street when an express wagon drove up beside him and the driver jumped down from the street. "Aren't you Lowell Fillmore?" the man inquired and went on to say that he was Mr. Caskey whom Myrtle Fillmore had prayed with many years before.
Other persons began to hear about this woman on Wabash Avenue whose prayers were able to bring about healing.
The colored laundress of the Fillmores had asthma. To her too, Myrtle Fillmore suggested prayer, and in a short time she was whole again.
One day, an agent came to the door. He was selling picture frames and molding. He had a suitcase filled with samples of frames to show. Myrtle Fillmore was the kind of person who never turned people away. In a few minutes, he was inside the house and had his things spread out on the floor. Her son Lowell was there, and he crowded forward to see what the agent had.
"This is my little boy," said Mrs. Fillmore to the agent. "Well," said the latter, "my little boy will never see again." This, of course, she immediately and vigorously denied. She told him of her own experience with prayer, and after a while he asked her if she would come to see
his son who had advanced cataracts on both of his eyes. When she first saw the boy, Myrtle Fillmore said his eyes looked as though they were covered with something like the white of an egg, but she was not dismayed by these appearances. She worked with him as she had with the others, helping him to realize that he was the beloved child of God, that God loved him, that God's will for him was perfect sight. The second time she went to see him, he had improved so much that he could come to the door and let her in. In a short time, his eyes were completely healed. Her fame spread beyond her own neighborhood. People from other parts of Kansas City and even from nearby towns started coming to ask for help. To all of them, she gave the same response: that they were God's beloved children and His will for them was health, that the healing power of the Christ was in them and they too could have perfect wholeness by realizing this Truth.
In the meantime, Charles Fillmore had come but slowly to accept what to his wife had been an instant and overwhelming revelation.
"Although I was a chronic invalid and seldom free from pain, the doctrine did not at first appeal to me," he later wrote.
To Myrtle Fillmore, the realization of the Truth about herself and her relationship to God had come suddenly, in a flash of inspiration. She had a new conviction, a burning flame of faith. Charles Fillmore had a different kind of mind. He thought of himself as a hard-headed businessman, and he had a family to provide for. He was reluctant to let his business friends and associates know that he was interested in a new-fangled religious idea such as his wife had. Still, because he was a practical man, when he saw the liv-
ing, tangible results of his wife's faith, saw bodies rebuilt, crippled limbs renewed, and sight restored, he could not help but become interested.
Charles Fillmore was not one to take things on blind faith. He had an inquiring, scientific turn of mind. When he saw the healings that were coming as a result of his wife's prayers, he began to question why they should come to pass. If people were being healed, there was a reason for the healings. He commenced to inquire into this reason. He read all the books that he could find on the subject; and where courses were available, he took them. The Fillmores studied with Joseph Adams, who published a metaphysical journal called "The Truth Gleaner" in Chicago, when he came to Kansas City. They went to Chicago to study under Emma Curtis Hopkins.
At first, Mr. Fillmore was mentally disturbed by the many conflicting statements about Truth made by various teachers. He could not understand why there should be so many divisions and schools and such an assortment of opinions about an exact science. "The muddle was so deep," he wrote, "that for a time I was inclined to ridicule, yet I couldn't get away from the evidence of a great power back of the flood of contradictory statements."
There might be a doubt as to which one of the teachers was right, but as to the results there could be no doubt whatever. His eyes could see the results. About his doubt he wrote:
"I noticed, however, that all the teachers and writers talked a great deal about the omnipresent, omniscient God, who is Spirit and accessible to everyone. I said to myself, 'In this babel I will go to headquarters. If I am Spirit and this God they talk so much about is Spirit, we can somehow communicate, or the whole thing is a fraud.'
"I then commenced sitting in the silence every night at a certain hour and tried to get in touch with God. There was no enthusiasm about it; no soul desire, but a cold calculating business method. I was there on time every night and tried in all conceivable ways to realize that my mind was in touch with the Supreme Mind.
"In this cold, intellectual attitude one can easily understand why I did not seem to get any conscious result, but I kept at it month after month, mentally affirming words that others told me would open the way, until it got to be a habit and I rather enjoyed it.
"However, a time came when I began to observe that I was having exceedingly realistic dreams. For months I paid no attention to them, my business at that time being of the earth earthy — buying and selling real estate. The first connection that I observed between the dreams and my affairs was after closing the purchase of a piece of property I remembered that I had dreamed about the whole transaction some months before.
"After that I watched my dreams closely and found that there was a wider intelligence manifesting in my sleep than I seemed to possess in the waking state, and it flashed over me one day that this was the mode of communication that had been established in response to my desire for information from headquarters. This has been kept up ever since with growing interest on my part, and I could fill a large book with my experiences. Everything which it is necessary for me to know is shown to me, and I have times without number been saved from false steps by this monitor. Again and again, I have had mapped out the future along certain lines for months and years ahead, and the prophecies have so far never failed, although I have sometimes misinterpreted the symbols which are used."
This was the way in which Charles Fillmore came into Truth. Being practical, he sought for something that was an exact science. Being a student, he studied under many
teachers. In the end he turned, as must all who seek Truth, to the one true Source.
Perhaps it was because of this experience of his own that he was able to help so many others later on who, just as he had done, set out without much faith to go on — persons who could not accept simple statements simply because their intellect was continually raising doubts. To all these, Charles Fillmore could say because he had proved it by his own experience:
" 'Belief cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.' Set aside a time every day, a definite time, and pray whether you believe or not. Take a Truth Statement and repeat it over and over. It does not matter that at first you do not believe it to be true. If you will persistently affirm Truth, even though you do not believe it at first, you will find that your prayers have power. Faith is like a mustard seed and it will grow. Pray, pray, and keep praying; affirm, and yet affirm once more. Your persistent prayers will succeed."
Charles Fillmore was never a half-way sort of person. Once he became convinced that he was on the track of Truth, he threw all his mind and energies into its pursuit. Although he did not immediately discontinue his interests in real estate and mining, his absorption in spiritual matters became greater and greater. "My interest," he wrote, "became so pronounced that I neglected my real estate for the furtherance of what my commercial friends denounced as a fanatical delusion."
At this time, Charles Fillmore took the most important step of his life.
His income was the lowest it had been in years, for a depression was sweeping Kansas City, following the collapse of the real-estate boom. The needs of his family were
the greatest they had ever been; in 1889 a third child, Royal, was born. His friends were all telling him that his interest in this spiritual idea was a fanatical delusion. He had had no great amount of formal schooling. He had had no experience whatever in the publishing business. Nevertheless, he decided to publish a magazine.
Charles Fillmore had come to believe in the ideas that he had first learned from his wife. He had studied them and probed them as thoroughly as he was able. He had come to see that they made sense and presented a scientific view of life. He had seen them actually demonstrated as true, for he had seen his wife and others healed by them. "I had applied the healing principle to my own case with gratifying results," he stated. "My chronic pains ceased. My hip healed and grew stronger, and my leg lengthened until in a few years I dispensed with the steel extension that I had worn since I was a child."
Here was something of which he could say without reservations, "This is Truth." Here was something that he could believe in, live by. A timid man might have held back, but Charles Fillmore had the courage of his convictions. Having found a faith, he dared to step out on that faith. Having found something that he felt was worth saying, he said it.
In April, 1889, he brought out the first issue of a magazine that he called Modern Thought. It contained sixteen pages. The pages, which were divided into three columns, were about the size of the pages today in Weekly "Unity. Immediately under the name of the magazine appeared the motto: "Devoted to the Spiritualization of Humanity from an Independent Standpoint." The price was ten cents an issue, one dollar for a year's subscription. In the first number Charles wrote:
"The wave of spiritual thought that is sweeping over the land has created a demand in this vicinity for a publication devoted to its discussion and dissemination. With this object in view, Modern Thought had its birth. It is not the organ of any school of thought, but the mouthpiece of all honest souls earnestly seeking for spiritual light."
When Charles Fillmore began Modern Thought, he had come to the place where he was sure that there was a divine Principle and a science of Being; he had gained an insight into the nature of Truth; but he had not yet come to the place where he was certain as to the exact terms to be used in this science nor as to the exact approach that should be made to the Principle. He knew absolutely that the secret was hidden in himself, and it was clear from the first issue of Modern Thought that he thought of the Bible as a necessary guidebook to the Principle:
"Those who base their forms of worship on the Bible find that the fundamental truths are one. ... Modern research ... has thrown such additional light upon the original meaning of the Scriptures that it is not safe to assert positively that a single paragraph of the Bible is understood in our day as it was intended at the time it was written. It is the spirit, rather than the letter of the text, that those worship who have within them the true Christ principle."
In the first number, he had articles by Christian Scientists, Theosophists, and Spiritualists. He also had articles reprinted from occult magazines about the development of psychic power. The Modern Thought Publishing Company advertised and sold books of many kinds. In ensuing issues, there were articles about Buddhism and Brahmanism, and advertisements of periodicals and books written by all the schools of metaphysical thought. Charles Fillmore wrote:
"We want the address of every lecturer and healer working on the Spiritual plane. Our aim is to spread all over this great West the good which we know lies in wait for those who are willing to receive it. We are not wedded to any school of metaphysics, hence shall be strictly impartial in our efforts."
The pages of Modern Thought were at first not even limited to metaphysical subjects, but contained articles on cheaper houses for working men, the Haymarket riots that had just taken place in Chicago, and excerpts from such works as Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward."
This state of affairs did not last long, however. Modern Thought soon began to take a direction of its own. Charles Fillmore wrote:
"Modern Thought aims to occupy a broad platform, and to sympathize with reform movements of every kind, as we believe them to be all parts of a great forward movement of humanity under the direction of unseen intelligence, but it is not our province to become identified with them all, nor to give them a hearing in these columns."
In a few months, he felt called on to write an editorial divorcing himself and his magazine from spiritualism. Still later he repudiated occultism.
The Fillmores were moving steadily toward the teaching of practical Christianity that is today put forth by Unity School. They were moving away from the isms and the cults that had influenced them. In a short time, they were to write:
"These columns are open to teachers and healers who advocate and practice Pure Mind Healing only. This does not mean magnetism, hypnotism, mesmerism, psychometry, palmistry, nor astrology. Not that we con-
demn any system, but ... we find by experience that concentration is necessary to success and we wish to confine these pages to that specific doctrine, and Holy Ghost power, taught and demonstrated by Jesus Christ."
In April 1890, a year after the publication was begun, the name of the magazine was changed from Modern Thought to Christian Science Thought. Many persons have wondered if Unity was an offshoot of Christian Science. It was not.
Charles Fillmore declared in the second issue of Modern Thought:
"We are asked if the ideas set forth in these columns are endorsed by Christian Science. In order that persons who are ignorant of the teachings of the new philosophy may not be misled by statements made herein, we deem it a duty to inform them that our views are not those of orthodox Christian Science.
"There are, however, many schools of metaphysical thought sailing under the general name of Christian Science. The initial impetus to the movement is attributed to Mrs. Eddy, of Boston, the author of 'Science and Health.'
"As yet we know but little about this hidden force that is so potent in bringing health and happiness to mankind. Like all powerful agents, it is unseen, and thus affords scope for a universe of theories as to its character and modes. Any and all claims of exact knowledge of its nature are beyond the horizon of proof. However, it is enough to know, in our present condition of ignorance of spiritual things, that such a power for good to the human race is within our grasp, and the momentous question is, through which of the present schools can the people best be reached. Experience proves that Christian Science has outstripped all its competitors in spreading the Truth. It is better organized and reaches the masses more readily than any other
movement for the benefit of mankind. A wise mechanic uses the tools at hand best adapted to the work he has to do. He may often wish that they were not quite so cumbersome, but he finds it expedient to throw his energy into the work, rather than stand around and growl at the tools. On this ground, we are partial to and endorse Christian Science, and by Christian Science, we mean all the metaphysical schools. It is doing a wonderful work for humanity; has spread with a rapidity that has no parallel in history. It has kindled a fire in the hearts of men that cannot be extinguished, and is silently finding its way into every household in the land."
In 1890, the name Christian Science was used not only by Mary Baker Eddy, but also by many others who were teaching what we today call Truth, or Christian metaphysics. The Fillmores were never students of Mary Baker Eddy. For their inspiration, the Fillmores had gone, as all great teachers do, direct to God. Mr. Fillmore had written, "In this babel I will go to headquarters." He and his wife never thought of Truth as something to be learned out of books alone or to be absorbed wholly from teachers. They thought of Truth as something that each individual must finally discover for himself in himself.
"The impression is abroad," he wrote, "that each school of Christian Science, mind-healing, mental science, metaphysical healing, psycho-therapeutics, mental cure, spiritual science, pneumatophony, old theology, ontology, Christian metaphysics, mental healing, and so forth, has the power to confer upon the individual certain distinctive qualities not possessed by the other schools, and which qualities are exclusive, God-given and attainable only at denominated shrines. ... "Many people are also blinded by a name, and labor under the delusion that because they have taken lessons in Christian Science they are in possession of
truths that cannot be obtained anywhere in the universe, unless that magic name is over the door. ... People of limited spiritual unfoldment are sticklers for names and creeds, and are thus worshipers of idols. ... They quarrel over names, names, names, vapid, unmeaning names, that never were anything of themselves and do not even represent that which they allege to represent."
There had been a tendency for some time for the leaders of all metaphysical movements, even those most violently opposed to Mrs. Eddy, to include Christian Science in their name; thus it was after Mrs. Hopkins changed the name of her school from the Hopkins Metaphysical Institute to Christian Science Theological Seminary that the Fillmores changed the name of their magazine to Christian Science Thought. Neither Mrs. Hopkins nor the Fillmores meant, however, that they were teaching the doctrine taught by Mrs. Eddy. As Charles Fillmore wrote in 1890:
"To the public understanding the name 'Christian Science' stands for all the different schools of metaphysics regardless of the technical differences by which their leaders try to distinguish them ... we believe that the word Christ as applied to Truth represents an idea that has behind it the occult power necessary to make it the dominant tone in the great symphony which is to harmonize all the discords of earth."
The name Christian Science Thought was retained only for a year. Mrs. Eddy made it known that she felt that the name Christian Science was her exclusive property and if the Fillmores wanted to use it they must also follow her teaching. This, of course, they had never done. They and other independent metaphysical leaders decided that it was right that Mrs. Eddy should have exclusive use of the name and since their teaching was not the same as hers, they gave up the name. For the next few years, the magazine was called
simply Thought. Charles Fillmore said many years later:
"We have studied many isms, many cults. People of every religion under the sun claim that we either belong to them or have borrowed the best part of our teaching from them. We have borrowed the best from all religions, that is the reason we are called Unity. ... We studied Christian Science. [They studied all the religions.] We were also classed as New Thought people, Mental Scientists, Theosophists, and so on, but none of these sufficiently emphasized the higher attributes of man, and we avoided any close affiliation with them ... Unity is not a sect, not a separation of people into an exclusive group of know-it-alls. Unity is the Truth that is taught in all religions, simplified and systemized so that anyone can understand and apply it. Students of Unity do not find it necessary to sever their church affiliations. The church needs the vitalization that this renaissance of primitive Christianity gives it."
The name Thought, however, was also of brief duration. The Fillmores were not satisfied with this name. It was too general a term and did not exactly describe the movement. As Charles Fillmore had said of Modern Thought:
"The name was not an index to the principles which the paper advocated, and we were in consequence inundated by communications of a nature we did not care to publish, and were also constantly obliged to explain our exact place in the great maelstrom of modern thought."
In the spring of 1891, he and his wife and a few students met together one evening to pray. As they were sitting in the silence, suddenly into the mind of Charles Fillmore flashed the name UNITY. At the moment, he had not even been thinking about a name and when it came to him it startled him.
"That's it!" he cried out. "UNITY!" he told the others.
"UNITY! that's the name for our work, the name we've been looking for."
Later he told friends the name came right out of the ether, just as the voice of Jesus was heard by Paul in the heavens. "No one else heard it, but it was as clear to me as though somebody had spoken to me."
Then and there the name UNITY was adopted. It was an apt and fortunate choice. The Fillmores had borrowed the best from all the religions. Where the churches had put the emphasis on controversial doctrinal points that had caused division after division in the Christian world, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were to put their emphasis on the things that are practical, the things that apply to everyday thinking and living. They were not to found a new religion but were to work within the framework of existing religions and appeal to church members without causing them to divorce themselves from their church. They were to propound a teaching that people of all faiths could study and apply to their lives. They were to be a force for unity in the world. The movement that Charles and Myrtle Fillmore had founded was to live and grow under the name UNITY.