Skip to main content

H. Emilie Cady: Physician and Metaphysician – Part 1

Graphical portrait of Emilie Cady in Unity Magazine August 1918

H. EMILIE CADY: Physician and Metaphysician – Part I


Download PDF of this page

(Go to Part II)


HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of copies of Unity’s textbook Lessons in Truth, by H. Emilie Cady, have been sold since its first publication in 1895. Inasmuch as each copy of a book of this kind is usually read by several people, over the years literally millions of people have read Lessons in Truth.

How famous, how widely known an author would be today if his or her book sold a million copies! That author would be on talk shows and television, lecturing in colleges, becoming more and more widely known every day. But it is safe to say that the thought of becoming widely known, famous, or rich never occurred to the author of Lessons in Truth. H. Emilie Cady just did not think in those terms.

For one thing, metaphysicians of her school of thought were very distrustful of what they called “personality.” They desired that their reader’s attention be directed, not toward them, but toward God, or Spirit.

So well did Emilie Cady succeed in this respect that, as a person, little was known about her, even to officials of Unity School of Christianity. Because of their clear, simple, and effective teaching, linked with a distinctly religious element, her books gained wide circulation among church people, Unity students, and readers of New Thought. She was invited to teach at Unity headquarters but never accepted the invitation. Even the Fillmores never met her until they visited New York in either 1926 or 1927.

Emilie Cady was as good at shunning publicity and keeping herself in the background as she was at writing. And at writing, she was highly skilled. Her literary ability, her mastery of a clear, universal, almost timeless prose style, is evident. Her books were written in the nineteenth century, and most books of that era reflect the literary tastes and styles of their period. There may be flowery speech, words strange to our ears, classical allusions now lost on most of us. But Miss Cady, like the Fillmores, wrote “plain style” for readers of all time. How did she master this style? As she herself said, she was divinely commissioned to write. As a result, though not a line from her writings found its way into Bartlett’s Quotations, her message found its way into many a human heart, there to influence human affairs for good, perhaps throughout eternity.

June 19, 2020. Willow Creek Cemetery, Dryden New York

Emilie Cady

Emilie Cady

Emilie Cady

Emilie Cady

Emilie Cady

Many of those who found in her writings an answer to their life problems must have wondered about the author. Who was she? Where did she come from? Was she young or old, married or single? It happens that I can throw a little light on these questions, because when I was minister of the Unity Church of Truth in Syracuse, New York, in 1949, a member of our church discovered Dr. Cady’s grave at Dryden, a town south of Syracuse. Along with this member and two others, I made a “mini-pilgrimage” to Dryden, where we met Dr. Cady’s niece, Carolyn E. Cady, who was employed by the public library.

We introduced ourselves to her and she very kindly accompanied us to the cemetery. There I photographed her beside the large, beautifully polished family tombstone, which bore the following inscriptions: “Oliver B. Cady, 1815-1897. Cornelia A. Phillips, (his wife), 1819-1897, Helen Cady Moore, 1846-1920. Harriet E. Cady, 1848-1941 ” So the author had a long life, just seven years short of the century mark.

It appears that Dr. Cady, as an author, disguised her family connections somewhat by stressing her middle name, Emilie, instead of Harriet, by which she was known to the family. We were fortunate to have her niece for our guide. She took us to the old Cady farmhouse where Emilie was born, lived as a child, and to which she liked to return for vacations from her medical practice in New York City.

After visiting the old farm and also the one-room schoolhouse (at that time being used as a residence) where Emilie taught at one period of her life, Carolyn Cady invited us to her home, where she had some things of her aunt’s. She was very friendly and was interested in our desire to know more about her aunt. There was a certain family resemblance in Carolyn to the photographic portrait of Dr. Cady which had a prominent place in her living room. Unlike Dr. Cady, however, who appeared from her picture to be a large, robust woman, Carolyn was small, almost frail in body; she had dark hair and eyes, and features tending toward ruggedness in a feminine way. Some of the independence of thought and adventurous disposition of Emilie Cady was apparent in her niece. She also shared her aunt’s attitude toward publicity.

After my return to Syracuse, she became much concerned that the pictures I had taken might be published, and draw curiosity seekers to her aunt’s grave. I reassured her that the pictures would not be published, and they never were.

We learned from Carolyn that she and Dr. Cady had toured Europe together. One travel souvenir which she said Dr. Cady had purchased in Italy was a large hand-colored photograph of Mt. Etna in eruption. I remember wondering what the good doctor had found attractive in this. Perhaps as a teacher in the little country school she had taught her pupils about volcanoes, and this had satisfied her desire for first-hand knowledge. Or, who knows? perhaps she visualized an “eruption” of Truth over the earth mind!

At any rate, to understand the person who later became a distinguished metaphysical author and healer, one should know her early background. She was bom in rural upstate New York, a beautiful and prosperous part of the state. James Knox Polk was the eleventh President of the United States when she was born, and she lived through the terms of twenty other Presidents, until at least the third term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt! What a life span! Evidently she shared the modem idea that the passage of time need not necessarily cause old age.

She was the daughter of a hardy pioneer. She tells us in How I Used Truth that her father was well known and respected in the neighborhood. He must have had, as a pioneer, a built-in ruggedness and persistence, as well as ability to cope with whatever need developed. (I was told that some of the old rail fences in the neighborhood were constructed with wooden nails; there being no metal nails available, pegs whittled out of hard wood were used instead.)

The same adventurous, self-reliant, and “can do” spirit must have led Emilie Cady to choose a career in medicine in the 1880s. Even today, nearly a hundred years later, men still predominate in medicine. What a drive within her it must have taken to leave schoolteaching, one of the few callings other than marriage sanctioned for women at that time, and braving the disapproval of society, to become a doctor of homeopathic medicine in New York City!

And she succeeded. It was as an established and successful physician that she first appeared on the Unity scene. Quite on her own she had written and published a booklet, called Finding the Christ in Ourselves. This came to the attention of Myrtle Fillmore, who was so impressed with it that she gave it to Charles Fillmore. He lost no time in asking permission to print and distribute the article as a booklet, and invited contributions for UNITY Magazine.

As a result, beginning in January 1892 a number of articles by Dr. Cady appeared in the magazine. The first one, “Neither Do I Condemn Thee,” later became a chapter in the book Miscellaneous Writings (later renamed How I Used Truth). Subsequent articles entitled “Oneness with God” and “God's Hand” were also included in this book. letter written by Dr. Cady, which appeared in the March 1892 issue of UNITY Magazine, shows that she had already established in herself a superb confidence in Truth principles.

She led a busy life of service, not only treating those who came to her for help in overcoming sickness, discouragement, or other personal problems, but after office hours seeking to aid persons in institutions, such as homes for “bad girls.” In this letter Dr. Cady tells how, after a busy day at her office, she gave a talk at one of these institutions to some twenty-five of those she calls “the younger sisters,” giving them words of love and encouragement instead of reproaches. After this talk, when as she says she was “alone in her home with the Father,” a feeling of discouragement came over her. Faithfully she released all the various cases to God.

To quote from her letter: “Dear Lord, I commit all these various cases to Thee. I do not know that I have helped any of these troubled hearts a bit, but thou knowest I have, in each case, given them the very best I knew how to give.”

Then she says, “As I looked into His face, great tears trickled down my own at the thought of my weakness and insufficiency.” How many times have you and I felt the same way, after our best efforts to help or heal another? How could we believe that we had helped them in any way? Here is one of the most outstanding metaphysicians of the early Truth movement overcome by the same feelings that often beset us.

How did Emilie Cady handle this? Actually she did not handle it, nor did she overcome it. God did it for her. She says:

“Quick as a flash, He said unto me, 'Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ As much as to say, 'My child, you went forth with love and tried to do faithfully and unselfishly My work. Now do not waste one moment thinking it over, for I, all unseen by you, have poured the living bread and water through it to my fainting, famishing children. The work is Mine, not yours, and it is all well finished by Me.’ ”

Truth principles never change, do they? Some years ago, several scientists reported on their experiments with the power of prayer. One of the key principles established was that each time, after making a prayer or a treatment, there must be a complete transfer of the problem to God, a total relinquishing of it to the Supreme Power. Emilie Cady learned this a long time ago. In her letter to Myrtle Fillmore she goes on to say:

“We are told 'delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart.’ It is not while we are worrying over results or failures that we get our desires, but while we are delighting ourselves in Him, just resting in Him, saying, 'Dear Father, while I am trusting Thou art working and Thou canst not fail ... I Hold yourself in peace and quietness with Him. 'In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.’ ”

Then she continues in language reminiscent of the chapter on “Finding the Secret Place,” in Lessons in Truth:

“The moment you are able to possess your soul in patience and in harmony, you will begin without effort to radiate health and harmony and all good, and whoever is looking to you for help will draw from you just the help they need, even if you never give a set treatment.”

Though she was self-effacing, nevertheless we get glimpses from her writings that tell of her struggles in proving her Truth principles. Her whole emphasis was primarily on proving the Truth. In How I Used Truth she tells us: “We ask no one to believe that which is written here simply because it is presented as Truth. Prove all things for yourself; it is possible to prove every statement in this book. Every statement given here was proved before it was written . . . but results that one obtains from them will depend on how faithfully and persistently one uses the helps given.”

The Master counseled persistence, in His parable of the widow and the unjust judge, and Emilie Cady was His faithful disciple. We sometimes read that one should pray only once for any object or purpose, and thereafter give thanks. Yet Jesus prayed three times for the same purpose in the garden of Gethsemane, and did He not say that men “ought always to pray and not lose heart”?

In her letter to Lowell Fillmore (which later became the preface to How I Used Truth, she says of the articles which make up the book: “Almost every one . . . was born out of the travail of my soul after I had been weeks, months, sometimes years, trying by affirmations, by claiming the promises of Jesus, and by otherwise faithfully using all of the knowledge of Truth that I then possessed to secure deliverance of myself or others from some distressing bondage that thus far had defied all human help.”

Think of it: weeks, months, sometimes years of continued prayer for one particular purpose, until the desired demonstration was made! Yes, Emilie Cady was truly persistent. And her persistence was always rewarded. Her elderly father was exiled from his home for five years, although innocent of a charge which she says was “the wicked machination of another man.” All due processes of law had failed to clear him of the false accusation. Years of her own prayers were fruitless, until one day she made an impassioned plea to God for his deliverance, and was told that she herself, acting as God’s agent, must decree his freedom. Un-questioningly she obeyed. As if by magic, in a few days her father came home, a free man, his innocence clearly established. Persistence had triumphed.

Another case in point was that of the healing of a young friend from drinking. For weeks, Dr. Cady tells us, she watched with awful anxiety as she saw him drinking day by day, until she reached the point where she could “loose him and let him go.” When she did gain to that place in consciousness where she completely transferred the problem to God, and stood steadfast in spite of appearances, it required only a few hours before she saw him healed. So thoroughly was he set free that in forty years he had never again touched alcoholic liquors, or indulged in any form of dissipation.

(Continue to Part II)