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Three Tenets of Metaphysical Christianity

How To Explain Fillmore Fellowships

Mark Hicks

Hi Friends -

What I have to offer this morning are the three tenets of Metaphysical Christianity, which is the first chapter of Credo of a Metaphysical Christian and is now available online by scrolling down.

In a nutshell, they are an awareness of our bondedness with a God who is active in our life, the desire to follow Jesus and practice his teachings, and the intention to align our thinking with our highest notions of virtue.

They are, for me, the foundation for defining what I will be devoting much of this year writing about, Fillmore Fellowships, a term I use to identify people who desire to explore and apply these three tenets through the study the Fillmore teachings.

Fillmore Fellowships are centers of practice, not faith communities. While they may assemble in church sanctuaries, they are more often found in classrooms, coffee shops and living rooms. Just yesterday, I received this email from a longtime Fillmore student:

As part of starting each day, [my spouse] and I spend time reading various books in an effort to remind ourselves of how we might like to live, and also as an opportunity to go inside to learn more about who we really are. We have a tendency to stick to books by Eric Butterworth, Cady, Florence Shinn, and many others. Just a chapter a day.

We especially follow the teachings of Jesus. The teachings of Jesus seem to be sadly neglected in unity churches these days. Even Unity magazine seems to be embracing other faiths and traditions in an effort to boost subscriber ship.

The time that we spend each morning varies from 15 minutes to an hour or more, and it is just the perfect way for us to start our day and communion with each other, and with the Christ spirit within us. There is a sense of awareness between the three of us; [my spouse and I] and God. Additionally, the studies seem to bring a sense of peace into our midst that continues throughout the day.

Eric Butterworth Great Teachers cover

Today I hope to lay a foundation for what is distinct about gatherings of Fillmore students. Over the next three weeks I will share how Eric Butterworth found his own foundation in three great teachers: Meister Eckhart, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Butterworth grew up in Unity but there is a good reason he reached back before Charles Fillmore for his spiritual foundation: These three great teachers embody the metaphysical foundations of what Butterworth found in Fillmore — Oneness with God (Eckhart), Jesus as our example (Emerson) and realignment of our thinking (Thoreau). A pocket-sized book of Butterworth’s Great Teachers is in the works.

What Butterworth did is what a Fillmore student does — seeking supplements, like Eckart, Emerson and Thoreau, to better understand the Fillmore teachings, rather than constantly seeking substitutes for the Fillmore teaching when the process becomes challenging.

I ask you to consider what a Fillmore Fellowship looks like for you, and to click reply and share your thoughts. That would be most helpful for me.

Mark Hicks
June 30, 2024


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01. Three Tenets of Metaphysical Christianity

This credo begins with tradition, which Phil White described as “formative factors referring to those aspects of a religious faith that are repeated again and again by an individual or a community.”

Charles and Myrtle Fillmore identified themselves and their teachings as Christian, and so do I. They distinguished their form of Christianity as “practical Christianity” and proceeded to convey their teachings in a belief structure they termed “Metaphysics.” After a decade of applying their teachings in my life, I have arrived at a point where I refer to their type of Christianity as “metaphysical Christianity.” That is to say that I self-identify as a metaphysical Christian.[1]

Metaphysical Christianity and Evangelical Christianity are two ends of a continuum in Christian theology. One is focused on the person of Jesus and the adoration of his divinity; the other is focused on the Christ within and the calling, in the words of Jesus, to love as he loved and do the works he did. A leading scholar of metaphysical religion today writes, “metaphysical religion ... is at least as important as evangelicalism in fathoming the shape and scope of American religious history.”[2]

If metaphysical Christianity is not evangelical, then it is also not what was known 100 years ago as Mind Cure, and it is not what is known today as New Age. Mind Cure and New Age are groups that have related but eclectic teachings. Unity teachings are far more specific. Charles Fillmore published Unity’s first “Statement of Faith” in 1921 in response to fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who accused Unity of abandoning the doctrines of Christianity. Charles responded that he had not abandoned the doctrines of Christianity and that he was entirely comfortable with the traditional language of his day, spiritually interpreted.[3]

The Unity Statement of Faith set standards for the movement, which Charles called “the Jesus Christ standard.” Deviation from these standards often set Unity apart from the New Thought movement.[4] It may be claimed that the success of the Unity movement over time, compared to other branches of New Thought, is due to his insistence on these standards, which held to the doctrines of Christianity.

Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science was the only other metaphysical movement in America that was as successful as Unity. Unity and Christian Science are the two metaphysical movements that have claimed and defended their rightful place as authentic and distinct expressions of the Christian faith. And they have been, over time, the most successful. Our identification as a Christian denomination is important because 50-75% of Americans who have dropped out of the church are not dropping out of Christianity; they are just looking for a better story and a better way to practice their Christian faith.[5]

It is difficult or perhaps impossible to distance Unity from Christianity without distancing Unity from the foundational teachings of the Fillmores. How are we to be open to the best of metaphysical religion without diluting the foundational teachings of the Fillmores with New Age? Having said that, how do we proclaim ourselves part of the historic Christian church without associating our theology with blood-atonement orthodox theology?

These are difficult questions. Regardless of the difficulty they pose, we must address them. Therefore, a foundational component of my credo and ministry is embodied in the mission statement of TruthUnity: “to proclaim and promote metaphysical Christianity as an authentic and distinct expression of the historic Christian faith — an educational movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ.”[6]

I define my beliefs as a metaphysical Christian in the Fillmore tradition by comparing them to evangelical Christianity as it is perceived in the West. I do so with three assertions:

We are not born in sin; we are born in bondedness.

The first task we have as newborn infants is to bond and understand to whom we go to get our needs met. So it is with our metaphysical Christian journey: we go to God.

It is hard to overstate the importance of bondedness. It is an idea that Jesus knew well. He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matt. 19:14). Speaking as his Christ nature, he also said, “What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).[7]

That our natural state is one of bondedness to a loving caregiver is much more understood now than it was in earlier times. Anthropologists have concluded that the human propensity to bond allowed defenseless early humans to survive in the African savanna.[8] Human bonding is the foundation of modern society and government (e Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one”). Psychologists now recognize that an essential element in the prevention of addictions and the process of recovery is healthy attachment and the strength of social relationships.

In the past 40 years or so, we have learned that solving many persistent social problems requires more than government intervention, commercial incentives, or technological breakthroughs. Metaphysical Christianity teaches that social evils are not overcome by theology but by human beings bonding in compassionate relationships. It teaches that loving one’s neighbor as oneself is not easy without bonding with God.

You and I have grown up hearing about being “born in sin” because the Christian traditions that predominate in our culture today — Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant — rely on teachings from Augustine, Anselm, and John Calvin. Augustine, ashamed for stealing some fruit when he was hungry, came to believe that all human beings are incapable of doing what they understand to be good. Anselm argued that since God is and we are sometimes not just, God needs to be “satisfied” by punishing us before he can love us. John Calvin taught that even though all humans by nature are depraved, some are also “elected” by God for salvation.[9]

These theories do not make sense to a metaphysical Christian. The idea that we are born in sin persists because we do not understand the function of desire. Emilie Cady wrote, “Desire in the heart is always God tapping at the door of your consciousness with His infinite supply.”[10] This means that desires can be misplaced, but they are not sinful. Our desires are good. Our task, as metaphysical Christians, is to direct our desire to what it is that God is calling us to do.

We are not born in sin. Instead, we are born in bondedness. Our deepest desire — the desire of God tapping at the door of our consciousness — is not sinful but loving and compassionate. It is a Truth taught by Jesus and revealed to us in the depth of every human heart. It is a Truth we know from science and the observation of children. And it is a Truth that provides the foundation for all sense of justice and social dignity in today’s world. It is a universal Truth, recorded in the Gospels and defended by many in Christian history, including the entire Eastern Orthodox church. That the evangelicals and Roman Catholics still hold to the mistaken notion of human depravity does not mean we need to abandon the teachings of Jesus or the teachings of the Christ Spirit within.

It is time to let go of the idea of original sin. It is time to affirm that our spiritual nature is based on a bondedness with God and each other. It is time for Christians to declare that we are one with God, our nature is good, and our relationships are bonded.

We may read or watch news reports on any given day depicting hate, alienation, and blame. We may find ourselves with family and friends with whom we once shared a belief in original sin. And we may find ourselves in conversations filled with judgment and shame. I believe the best thing we can do is to affirm, quietly to ourselves, “I am not born in sin. I am born in bondedness.”

Jesus did not say we should worship him; he said we should follow him.

Jesus always pointed beyond himself to the Father and became our shower of the way.[11]

Eric Butterworth and other notable scholars have reflected on how the movement started by Jesus quickly became a monument to Jesus.[12] In Unity, we often say that we follow the teachings of Jesus, not the teachings about Jesus. Many people have put Jesus on a pedestal that makes his teachings and journey no longer attainable by human beings.

That is not so for us. As its most recent expression, Metaphysical Christianity and Unity teach practical Christianity. That is to say, we practice what we preach, or more accurately, what Jesus preached. And what he preached was that we should follow him.

The biblical support for following Jesus and his words is rich and deep. We are all familiar with Jesus’ statement that those who love him will do as he does and shall do what he does and even greater things. We don’t need any more elaboration about this instruction by Jesus.

Instead, I wish to support the claim that we are to follow Jesus by pointing out one well-known message in the Gospels that is often overlooked. That message is embedded in the four Gospel accounts of the last supper, particularly in how the account of John differs from the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The last supper is the central ritual in all Christian traditions. Three of the four Gospels say Jesus said, “take, eat, this is my body.” What that means may be interpreted in many ways; it may be an actual sacrifice or, as in Jesus’ words, “in remembrance of me.”

It is nearly impossible to overstate these words’ importance to Christians’ spiritual life. No matter what our belief system may be, it must accommodate these words of Jesus in some meaningful way to claim that our beliefs are Christian. Unity published an excellent article in January 1925 about these words of Jesus and how we might appropriate them.[13]

However, the fourth Gospel, that of John, has an entirely different story about the last supper. According to John, two things happened, indisputably central to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. First, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Second, he said that we should do as he had done.

I won’t elaborate on what it means to wash the feet of one’s fellow human beings.[14] How you wash the feet of others is between you and God. But I will stress that Jesus’ instruction that we should do as he has done is as central to the Christian faith as is his instruction to “take, eat, this is my body.”

Mainstream Christianity has separated the ritual of communion from washing the feet of others. But the Gospel of John makes it clear that true communion — spiritual communion — is at its deepest level not about church ritual but instead about following Jesus. We cannot understand the Christian path until we look at these two seemingly different commands of Jesus at the last supper. What we will find is that, spiritually, they are the same. That is the claim of metaphysical Christianity.

We are not saved by confession; we are saved by transformation.

Many people today believe language is the key to salvation. But true metaphysical Christians know that we are saved by a change in what we see, not what we say. Confession is an expression through language. But true salvation, as will be pointed out in Insight 6, requires a change in experience. As Unity principle #3 says, we create our experience by the activity of our thinking, not by the activity of our tongue.

Unity explained its understanding of “being saved” in a 1910 article called Jesus Christ’s Atonement.[15] In the discussion about being born in bondedness, I listed how Augustine, Anselm, and Calvin explained atonement. This 1910 article describes how metaphysical Christians understand atonement. In a nutshell, we are saved by a change in consciousness.

The article was reprinted until 1979 when it was put out as a tract. To make the article easier to read and understand, I have slightly rearranged the content, added subheadings and bible references, and highlighted important text.[16] But the words are 100% as Charles Fillmore wrote them. It is available in the link found in the footnote.

The article declares that the saving power of Jesus Christ occurred because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, not the crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus Christ. The saving work through the incarnation of Jesus is in consciousness where a place has been prepared for us: “that where I am, there ye may also be.” In that place, we receive the words of Jesus, and with those words, we have power — transformative power. Our task is to keep the words of Jesus Christ in consciousness and allow them to transform us until we can consecrate ourselves “to the Truth they represent.”[17]

Furthermore, the article repudiates the notion that salvation comes out of confession. It states,

People have a way of dealing with sacred words that is too superficial to bring results. They juggle with words. They toss them into the air with the heavenly tone or the oratorical ring, and count it a compliance with divine requirements. These are but other forms of the prayer wheel and phylactery. It is that outer service which Jesus condemned, because its object is to be “seen of men.” To keep the sayings of Jesus means much more than this. It has a significance peculiar to the inner life, and it is only after the inner life is awakened that the true sense of the spiritual word is understood.

The article then explains how the work of Jesus opened a way for what Unity refers to as “overcoming”:

and Jesus Christ broke through the crystallized thought strata and opened the way for all those who will follow him. By so doing, he made a connection between our state of consciousness and the more interior one of the Father. He united them, made them a unit — a one; hence the at-one-ment, or atonement, through him. And he stands in the breach today, ready to mentally pass over all who will accept his way. He died for us, in that he destroyed in his own consciousness all the mortal beliefs that hold us in bondage, such as sin, evil, sickness, fleshly lusts, and death. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The “overcoming” accomplished by Jesus made a great rent in the sense consciousness and opened a way by which whoever desires may demonstrate easily and quickly.

This means that salvation comes about by transformation from one’s experience of union with God, not by the confession of particular beliefs or by the metaphysical use of words.[18]

* * *

These three tenets reflect how Unity has informed my understanding of what it means to be a metaphysical Christian. They establish my consciousness of unity with God, my journey with Christ Jesus, and my expression as a human being.

[1] Mark Hicks, Why I am a Metaphysical Christian:
[2] Catherine Albanese, A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2008).
[3] Unity Statement of Faith.
[4] Teener Dissertation, Part 3.
[5] Lillian Daniel. Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To. pp.38-49 Four Types of Nones.
[6] TruthUnity Mission and Vision statement is found at
[7] We are born in bondedness, not sin.
[8] More about that and nonverbal prayer is in Insight 21.
[9] These differences show that atonement in Christianity is not a doctrine. There has never been in Christianity a consensus on what the atonement is or how it works.
[10] Why We should Be Preaching Emilie Cady’s Theology of Desire.
[11] Jesus said to follow him, not to worship him.
[12] Antecedents of New Thought by Eric Butterworth. Clip 162.
[13] More about that is in Insight 20, Spiritual Baptism and Communion.
[14] My personal sense is that the teachings of Martin Buber about “I and Thou” and the teachings of the Arbinger Institute, about seeing others as people instead of seeing others as objects, are as close we will get today to what Jesus meant by washing the feet of others. See Insight 23, Seeing the Christ in Others, for more.
[15] Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
[16] It’s About Transformation, Not Confession.
[17] Mainstream Christians may still want to know more about the nature of Jesus. Was he God or man? The article is ambiguous regarding the special nature and person of Jesus. Metaphysical Christians do not deny the divinity of Jesus, but refer to him as way-shower (whom we can follow) and often refer to him as “the example, not the exception.” This is also ambiguous. But we need to keep in mind that the orthodox Christian doctrine of Jesus being one person with two natures is far more ambiguous for the modern reader to understand than the ambiguity of Jesus as a way-shower.
[18] More will be said about the experience of union with God in Insight 11, From Metaphysics to Mysticism.

Introduction 05. The Problem With Reason