The Early Publications
"And He Saith unto Me, Write"
Where today the Unity publications encircle the earth, in April 1889 there was only one small magazine of sixteen pages called Modern Thought, read by a handful of subscribers. At the end of its first year of publication, there were only a few hundred readers. Today there are more than six hundred workers employed in the production and circulation of the magazines. In 1889, all the work was done by one couple, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. They had had no experience in the publishing business but they had an idea, an idea that they felt it was important for other persons to know about and they were willing to work as hard and as long as they had to in order to get this idea before the world.
To publish a magazine presenting new religious beliefs was not easy. To support his family, Charles Fillmore had to continue in the real-estate business and because his friends ridiculed his religious works as a fanatical delusion, he tried to keep as quiet as possible about the writing that he was doing in connection with the magazine. For many years, he wrote under the pen name of Leo Virgo. Myrtle Fillmore merely signed her articles M. or M.F.
Charles Fillmore published the magazine from his real-estate office in the old Journal Building, which has since been torn down but was then located at the northwest corner of Tenth and Walnut streets in downtown Kansas City. As the real-estate boom had collapsed in 1888 and business
was slow, there was not at first much money to spend on the magazine. Mr. Fillmore had to buy a little at a time the paper on which it was printed, so that today the paper in the bound files of the early issues is not always uniform in color and texture. He would go down to the paper house, pick up the best value he could find for the money, and carry it home with him.
When the magazine was five months old, the office of Modern Thought was moved to the Deardorff Building at Eleventh and Main.
In the September-October issue a want ad was inserted:
The ad produced no results, for in December Charles wrote:
"WANTED — We want the services on this paper of a young man or woman who can set type and who is interested in the reforms we advocate. To such a one we will give a home and small wages. Address Chas. Fillmore, Kansas City, Mo., care of Modern Thought."
"We beg the pardon of our contributors and readers for the typographical and other errors that appear in these pages. Could they understand that everything but the typesetting is done by one man, and that that one man also labors in another field for the support of himself and family, they would certainly judge leniently. Our correspondents should also be charitable and not expect prompt responses to their letters — in fact they should consider themselves fortunate if they get any response whatever."
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were indefatigable workers. There was no limit to the amount of time that the two were willing to spend to promote the teaching of Truth. In the early days, however, the magazine was not always published on time. Once it did not appear at all. Charles
Fillmore merely inserted this terse, self-explanatory notice:
"Our typographical force is bent on taking a holiday, and the editor having urgent business of a personal nature, we have decided to omit the September number of Modern Thought."
The typographical force at that time consisted of a Mr. Palmer who owned some fonts of type and set up the type for the magazine in his own home, where Mr. Fillmore would take the copy to him. It was several years before the Fillmores were able to buy type and hire their own typographers. This was some years after they had moved into the Hall Building at Ninth and Walnut streets, a move that was made in September 1890. Here Unity rented three rooms, in one of which type cases were later set up. In this room Harry Church, Unity's first hired printer, set the type for the magazine. He had a long brown beard, was a Seventh Day Adventist and a vegetarian.
On Saturdays, the oldest son Lowell Fillmore, who was then in grade school, would go down to the rooms in the Hall Building and help wrap the magazines, for which his father would pay him ten cents.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore did almost all the work. They wrote most of the articles, edited all of them, wrote and addressed the letters, and took care of the details relating to the handling of subscriptions.
In 1898, the Unity offices were moved to a house on McGee Street. Here the composing room force consisted of two women.
When he finished high school, Lowell went to work for Unity at five dollars a week. He ran the small job press, printed the envelopes and stationery, and helped write letters. The forms were sent out to a printing shop where the magazines were printed. Lowell would hire an express
wagon, carry the heavy forms down to it, careful not to spill one and "pie" a page, which would mean that it would have to be reset, lift them onto the wagon, inserting quilts between the forms so that they would not be damaged by the jolting ride, accompany them to the building where the printing shop was located, load them onto the elevator, and carry them into the pressroom. After the magazine was printed, he would take the type back to 1315 McGee. Also Lowell helped mail the printed magazines. The wrapping paper was bought in big sheets, and Lowell cut it into wrappers of the proper length with a hand cutter that was in the back room of the house.
"Many things," wrote Lowell Fillmore, describing the work as it was then carried on, "that I did as a part of the daily routine and that took me just a few minutes to do alone constitute whole departments now."
There were still only a few thousand subscribers. Copies of the mailing list were hung on an upstairs closet door. Every time a new subscription came in the name was written on the bottom of the list.
Only a small stock of bound books ready for sale was kept on hand. Lowell was the order-filling department. "I often found," he said, "that we were out of some of our books, which had been printed but not yet folded or bound. So I would go and get the printed sheets of paper, fold them by hand, get them ready, and stitch them and trim them. "We kept our finished stock in the office in the front room; the printed pages, covers, binding materials, and other things in the pantry of the old house. I would wrap and stamp the books and take them to the post office. Often my brother Rick would take them in his pony cart. We had time out to mow the lawn and run errands."
Today in the Unity print shop there are twelve presses,
all many times larger than the original job press on McGee Street.
[TruthUnity note: the later edition of this book reads "Today the printing is no longer done by Unity School of Christianity, but by commercial printers. In 1974 when this change was made ...]
There are linotype machines, folders, stitchers, and binders of the latest types. A force of a hundred men and women operates this array of machinery. A battery of graphotype and addressograph machines is needed to print the names and addresses of subscribers on the labels attached to the magazines. The files that contain these names and addresses fill a large room.
The spirit of unity has always activated the work. It pervades the vast buildings at Unity headquarters where hundreds of people carry on the work as it pervaded the small office in the Journal Building where there were only two people to do what had to be done.
In June 1891, after the name Unity had been selected by Charles Fillmore as the right name for the work, the first issue of Unity magazine appeared and the name of the company was changed to Unity Book Company. The magazine Thought also continued to be published, but Unity was started as a special organ for the Society of Silent Unity, which also began at that time. Most of the articles in it were reprinted from Thought.
With the first issue of Unity magazine, there appeared across the top of the first page the winged globe that through the years has been Unity's emblem and appears on all the Unity letterheads and literature. Charles Fillmore wrote that the idea of having such an emblem came to him as a revelation:
"It is an ancient Egyptian symbol; and I remember that when I first saw it I felt that I had had something to do with it in a previous incarnation. I went to a local artist by the name of Filleau and described to him what I wanted, and he made it under my directions.
"The winged globe or sun disk, as a religious sym-
bol, had its earliest use in Egypt, but it is found in various forms in the religions of other races. It represents the relation existing between Spirit, soul, and body. Soul gives wings to the body. Spirit is the enveloping principle, like the atmosphere in which both soul and body exist, and from which they draw their original inspiration.
"The winged globe is also a symbol of the earth and its soul. The earth has soul, as have its products of every description. All exist in the ether, the anima mundi, the divine mother. When the people of the earth lift up their thoughts to God, the Animus Dei or directive Spirit, then the planet takes wings into a higher radiation of universal life — the mortal puts on immortality.
"As man develops spiritual consciousness, he attains the realization of the soul as the wings of the body. Back of the soul is Spirit, which quickens and energizes the soul; that is, gives the soul wings. Artists paint their angels with wings, representing in this way their freedom from physical fetters. But the soul does not have wings like a bird. The life activity of the soul is quickened by Spirit until it rises above the thoughts of matter and floats free in the ether or fourth dimension, which Jesus called the kingdom of the heavens."
Although the Fillmores knew little about the publishing business when they first entered it, they did their best to make Unity a magazine that was attractive to the public. They were not afraid to make changes. At first, Unity was an eight-page paper, the pages being about the size of those in the present Weekly Unity, with two columns of type on a page. After about a year, the number of pages was increased from eight to sixteen. This number was increased through the years. Also the size of the pages was changed. Most of the covers were white. Today color is used generously throughout the magazines published by Unity
School, but when in the 90's the Fillmores tried dressing up the magazine with a colored cover, some of the subscribers wrote in to say that any color except white was inappropriate for a magazine devoted to such a serious subject. For several years, the magazine was published twice a month, and the idea was advanced of making it a weekly. However, Charles Fillmore decided that there were not enough subscribers to warrant a weekly. In 1895, Thought and Unity were consolidated. By 1898, Unity had become a monthly periodical of approximately the size it is today.
One of the outstanding features of the early issues of Unity was the advertisements. Sometimes one fourth of the space was given over to advertising. They were not commercial ads. Of these Charles Fillmore had written:
"Do not send us commercial advertisements. This is not a trade publication, and we do not desire to cultivate the cupidity of our readers beyond its present capacity. The world is now stark mad with the moneymaking thought — it is the most formidable disease we have to heal. Should we give up our pages to descriptions of schemes that will increase this crazy whirl, so potent in paralyzing brain and nerves? We had as well commend the advantages of live arc light and trolley wires as conducive to the health of those who will lay hold of them."
The advertisements were those of healers and other metaphysical publications. Although most of them were simple announcements, some of them made sensational claims.
The June 1894 issue of Unity printed this notice:
"To maintain the religious dignity of the doctrine we advocate, we must hold to the pivotal thought that it is a spiritual ministry, and not a new system of healing. ... The tendency on the part of healers is to give
curing too much prominence, and thus the world comes to regard the divine doctrine of Jesus Christ as merely a new departure in materia medica. This feature became so prominent in the advertising columns of Thought and Unity, and it was so rapidly increasing, that we were compelled to call a halt. We never object to printing the dignified announcements of those who trust to the Spirit of God to do that which is needful for the people whom the Father may draw to them; but we do have qualms of conscience when we give place to alluring bids for healing patronage that smack loudly of patent medicine methods.
"Realizing that by so doing we can raise the standard of the doctrine we advocate, we have decided to discontinue display advertisements, and in their stead print regularly a 'Teachers and Healers Directory.' There will be no specific charge made for the carrying of names in this directory. We leave the compensation to the Spirit of justice working through each one. We want to co-operate with all true, honest, faithful Christian workers and will do any right thing to further the cause. We are one with you in advocating the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and the only title we need is 'Christian Teachers and Healers.' Let us be true to this modest yet dignified title, and impress upon our patients that it is their spiritual welfare that concerns us first, last, and always — that when this is made right the desirable things of the external shall be added."
Even after this announcement, ads crept into the magazines. The Fillmores had numerous friends in the metaphysical movement, friends with whom they had taken classes and attended conventions. These friends wanted to advertise, and it was hard to turn them down. The Fillmores were friendly, and as Truth students they had learned to respect individuality. No matter how much they disagreed with the methods of their friends, they continued to be
friendly. It was several years before they were able to reduce the ads to a simple list of the names and addresses of Truth teachers, printed at the back of the magazine.
The Fillmores continually struggled against turning their organization into a commercial venture. For this reason, they changed the name of the Unity Book Company to the Unity Tract Society, by which name the organization was known until it was incorporated in 1914 together with the Society of Silent Unity as Unity School of Christianity. (This organization, which is today located near Lee's Summit, Mo., conducts all the Unity publishing activities as well as the ministry of Silent Unity. It supervises the work of independent Unity centers throughout the world and distributes free literature through Silent-70. Unity School is sometimes confused with the Unity Society of Practical Christianity, which was incorporated in 1903 and conducts the local Unity work in Kansas City from Unity Temple, which was completed on the Country Club Plaza in 1950. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were the leaders of both organizations; although with the growth of Unity the two aspects of the work were separated, they remain very closely allied, as does Unity School with all other Unity centers.)
"We have changed the name," wrote Mr. Fillmore, "to relieve the Publication Department of the appearance of a commercial venture. The dollar tag has been so persistently hung onto this movement in its various departments that it has become known to the public at large as a new system of therapeutics, with the usual financial appendix, instead of a religion. That people may more fully understand that there is no element of financial gain in our Publication Department we purposely adopted the word 'tract,' which is a synonym of religious literature issued without the idea of gain.This is not a business but a ministry."
It was indeed a ministry that the Fillmores conducted. Despite the fact that they were having a constant struggle to find the finances to keep publishing Unity and take care of their family, Myrtle Fillmore felt that they could be of still further service than they were. At the very beginning of the Unity movement, she had had a vision. It had seemed to her that she was one of a vast congregation of people, many of whom were children. The children were completely undisciplined; in great confusion they were pushing and squirming through the crowd. As she watched them, the thought came to her that they needed someone to look after them. "Who will take care of the children?" she asked.
Even as she asked the question, it seemed to her as though a tremendous force took hold of her and impelled her to the front of the throng. As she was thus thrust forward, a voice spoke to her and said: "You are to take care of the children; this is your work."
Then she awoke; but the vision remained. As soon as she was able, she began a Sunday school that met before the regular Sunday meetings of the Unity Society, and commenced the magazine Wee Wisdom. In August 1893, the first number, a small, eight-page paper, was published.
The publication of Wee Wisdom brought new financial problems to the struggling couple. The subscription price was only fifty cents a year, far less than necessary to pay the cost of publication, and the subscribers were few.
"The fact is," wrote Mrs. Fillmore in 1895, "that this little paper costs us more than we get for it, and during the past two years the cash outlay over and above the income has been about seven hundred dollars, not allowing anything for editorial services. It has been a debatable question whether to discontinue its publication, raise the subscription price, or cut its size. We are daily
reminded by appreciative letters that it is doing a good work among the little ones, so we dismissed the idea of discontinuing its publication. It was not deemed wise to raise the price, so the one thing is to reduce its expense until it shall at least pay printing bills. The subscription list is steadily increasing, and just as soon as the income is sufficient, the former size will again be issued."
Most persons faced with getting out a magazine that cost more than it brought in would have discontinued publishing it; but Myrtle Fillmore was not in the business of publishing magazines, she was in the business of helping people and serving God.
Several times she had to reduce the size of the magazine. For a short time, it was combined with Unity. Once it was sent automatically with a subscription for Unity, being treated as a sort of bonus. Nevertheless, the little magazine continued to be published. "You are to take care of the children; this is your work," she had been told.
Today Wee Wisdom is the oldest children's magazine in America, and it goes into almost two hundred thousand homes. It is published in Braille for blind children and sent to them free of charge whenever Unity is made aware of a need for it.
The statement, "This little paper costs us more than we get for it," has been true throughout its history, but this has never deterred Unity from publishing it.
Myrtle Fillmore was the editor of the magazine for almost thirty years and contributed many stories and poems to its pages. As a result of her vision as to the purpose of the magazine, Wee Wisdom has always presented the Unity idea and expressed a positive Christian philosophy of life, but it has kept its material so free from "preaching" that
the majority of parents, teachers, and children do not even class it as a religious publication.
Only one book by Myrtle Fillmore was published during her lifetime. This was Wee Wisdom's Way, a story about children. This story originally appeared as a serial in Wee Wisdom, its initial installment appearing in the first number of the magazine in August 1893. Not only the children but grownups wrote in to comment on the simple language in which it presented metaphysical ideas. Brought forth as a book, it proved to be one of the most popular of the early day publications of Unity.
As Myrtle wrote the story, she would read it to her oldest son Lowell. "When he would tell her, "Boys don't say it that way," she would rewrite it. Years later in a letter to a friend she wrote of the book:
"I'll send you the little book that I wrote when the boys were little. The healings were all true, the characters, of course, fictitious. Trixie really was my own little girl-self. I loved to keep a journal. Some people love this little story. Lowell, my eldest son, who was my critic, almost cried when I told him I had finished the story, and said, 'O Mama, please write more, nobody can tell it like Aunt Joy or write like Trixie.'"
Sometimes Myrtle Fillmore turned the publication of Wee Wisdom over to her sons Lowell, Rickert, and Royal. Usually the boys, who referred to themselves as "Wee editors," would edit the August birthday issue. When they were in charge, all the material in the magazine was provided by Wee Wisdom readers.
Nowhere has Unity's wish to maintain a nonsectarian spirit been so clearly displayed as in Wee Wisdom. From the beginning, Unity School published the magazine with one purpose in view: to meet the needs of children. It has
refused to use the magazine to advance Unity as a movement. The connection of Unity School with it has always been kept in the background. A worker at Unity once told about a neighbor of hers who expressed antipathy toward Unity School and all its works. Yet one day, the worker discovered that this neighbor's children were readers of Wee Wisdom. Unity had so submerged its own connection with the magazine that the neighbor was not even aware that Unity was the publisher.
The most popular single item ever published by Unity School first appeared in Wee Wisdom. This is The Prayer of Faith, by Hannah More Kohaus:
Click here for more about The Prayer of Faith by Hannah More Kohaus.
God is my help in every need;
God does my every hunger feed;
God walks beside me, guides my way
Through every moment of the day.
I now am wise, I now am true,
Patient, kind, and loving, too.
All things I am, can do, and be,
Through Christ, the Truth that is in me.
God is my health, I can't be sick;
God is my strength, unfailing, quick;
God is my all; I know no fear,
Since God and love and Truth are here.
For years, this prayer-poem has been circulated on cards and in booklets and in the Unity periodicals. Today millions of people are familiar with its message. Adults and children write to Unity School to tell how during some crisis of their lives they clung to one of the lines of this poem and found it a life line — their "help in every need."
Because of the faith of Myrtle Fillmore, thousands of children have learned to think of God as their help when they have things to meet in their life. They have learned to
meet life courageously. They have learned to pray. They have learned to value honesty and kindness and co-operation. They are better, stronger, happier children; and they grow to be better, stronger, happier adults.
How much Myrtle Fillmore's insistence on taking care of the children has influenced the Unity movement was shown when work on Unity Temple, the present home of the Unity Society of Practical Christianity on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, was begun in the 1940's. As construction proceeded, it became apparent that the entire building could not be completed at one time as it was going to cost over a million dollars. This was an immense sum of money for an organization to raise that had no wealthy backers but depended for its income on small contributions. It was finally decided to build only part of the building and wait before finishing the rest. It was not the Sunday-school rooms but the sanctuary that was left unfinished.
The vision of the Fillmores found expression in many ways. It was not only through the things that they themselves wrote and said and did that they accomplished good. From the beginning of the movement, they showed a talent for calling forth the talent of others.
Among those whom they inspired to write about Truth was a doctor by the name of H. Emilie Cady. She had been a teacher in a little school in Dryden, New York, but had left to study medicine and had been a practicing physician in New York City for several years before the Fillmores heard of her. A little book that she had written fell into Myrtle Fillmore's hands. From that time, Doctor Cady was to have a tremendous influence on the Unity movement although she never visited Unity School and the Fillmores never saw her until 1926 when they met her in New York.
The title of the booklet that Myrtle Fillmore found and was impressed by is "Finding the Christ in Ourselves." Mrs. Fillmore passed it on to her husband to read, and he also was impressed by it, so they wrote to Doctor Cady and asked her permission to print and distribute the article in booklet form. They also asked her for contributions to their magazines. In the January 1892 number of Unity, the first article by H. Emilie Cady, "Neither Do I Condemn Thee" appeared. In ensuing numbers, there were a number of articles written by her, as well as some personal letters to the Fillmores. In August 1894 she wrote:
"My heart leaped within me when I read some time ago in your answer to a correspondent: 'We do not need to battle for the right or for Truth. We do not need to resist evil. There is a higher way; just be still and know,' and so forth.
"I was so glad to have that thought given to the hundreds of persons who maintain that they must resist evil in order to overcome it. 'This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith,' and faith does not need to strive or battle.
"And then all my soul blessed you when you said, 'We will no longer print ads or personal puffs.' Will not Spirit do its own advertising if trusted? If Spirit desires to heal through me, does not the same Spirit live in those it would help through me, and will it not bring the supply and demand together if fully trusted? Surely.
"Oh, how the mortal needs this lesson of being willing to sink out of sight if only Spirit is manifest! How hard it is for this John the Baptist to say, 'He must increase, but I must decrease.' God does abundantly bless you for having taken the stand. Fear not. With great desire He has desired from the beginning to manifest Himself through you as your supply of money, without
intervention of human hands outside of yourself. 'Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.'
"To me the same call came four years ago, and well have I known ever since that that is my work in the world: to prove to the multitudes that the God within them is their supply, and that it must come forth from within to each one, independently, as his very own supply. I know that we are free today from the law of poverty and want, and further, from the law of work-and-get-pay-for-it. We are freely justified by His grace (or free gifts). Let us stand if all the world turns the other way, for thereunto has He called us. ...
"I am going to write again. May I send some little message through Thought?"
At the same time, the Fillmores printed a letter from a subscriber suggesting a simple course of lessons:
"There are some who are taking your paper for the first time and do not as yet even understand the principles of divine healing. Would you be so kind as to have one of your clearest writers, one who understands the principles, and the uninformed mind of a student, write an explanation of this grand Truth in very simple form and in simple, clear words. It would be a great help to some I know of. H. Emilie Cady or Mrs. Militz or Mrs. A. W. Mills, I am sure, would respond most gratefully if you would request them."
Following this suggestion, the Fillmores wrote to Doctor Cady and asked her if she would undertake such a task. At first, she was reluctant to do so. She explained to them that she was a practicing physician as well as a metaphysician and that because her practice kept her so busy she had little time for writing. Also she doubted her ability, but the Fillmores had no doubt. As a Unity booklet, Finding the Christ in Ourselves had been extremely popular with their readers, as it had been popular with them. They felt that
this woman had the ability to present simply and clearly the fundamentals of the Jesus Christ teachings that they were endeavoring to propound in their magazine. They recognized in her a deep spiritual insight and they called forth from her, as they were to call from many others, the inspiration and talent that were innately hers. They persisted in asking her to attempt this work, for they knew how much it was needed by their readers. There was at that time no simple set of lessons that presented the principles that they were teaching.
In September 1894, this letter by Doctor Cady appeared in Unity as an announcement of the forthcoming series of lessons:
"Dear Mr. Fillmore: Yours, asking me to write a consecutive course of lessons for Unity, received. These are the words given to me in reply: 'Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt speak.' (Exod. 4:12)
"So there is nothing left for me to say but yes. I will send you the first one in time for the October Unity if you will let me know when it has to be in for that.
"I shall not give any stilted or set form of lessons, but just the utter simplicity of the gospel in words that the wayfarer, 'though a fool,' may understand; for I believe that to be the need of the hour. Will this be satisfactory to you?"
The first lesson appeared the following month. It was titled "Statement of Being," now the first chapter of Lessons in Truth. In subsequent months, eleven other lessons were published. There had been other attempts to present some of the fundamental teachings in Unity, but they had never before caught on. These lessons caught the readers' interest as nothing else that had been published in the magazine.
The response to them was immediate and great. The people who read them felt that here was a simple expression of the ideas they were endeavoring to assimilate. Here was something they could understand. Here was something they could pass on to friends and neighbors that would explain their belief for them.
Mr. Fillmore decided to print the lessons in booklet form. Shortly after the last one appeared in the magazine, he issued three booklets, each containing four of the lessons. These booklets sold for twenty-five cents apiece, or all three for seventy-five cents.
It was several years before the lessons were printed in book form and appeared as Lessons in Truth, as we know it today, the most popular book ever published by Unity. It has been translated into nine languages, and a million copies of it have been sold. Back in 1894, when the aspiring editors of the humble magazine Unity asked the homeopathic physician in New York to prepare a series of simple lessons presenting the fundamentals of Truth, they did not foresee the multitudes who were to be led by Lessons in Truth to a source of healing for their bodies and a light for their minds; neither did they foresee how the little magazine that after five years of publication still had a circulation of only five thousand subscribers would some day be expanded into the battery of magazines that today flow into more than a million homes.
But diligently, faithfully, they wrote about Truth as they saw it and inspired others, like H. Emilie Cady, to do likewise; and month in, month out, with little thought of personal remuneration but with the divine urge to serve, they sent their words out to all who would read them. Today because of their steadfastness these words echo around the globe.