How Unity has taught Metaphysics
Hi Friends —
What I have assembled here are five sets of resources that Unity has used in teaching Metaphysics. They are, working from the present back to the earliest resource: Unity Metaphysics (1990s to present), the Unity Correspondence School Course (1909 to 1970s), Charles Fillmore’s Christian Healing (early 1900s to present), Emilie Cady’s Lessons in Truth (1895 to present) and the first and most foundational resource: Emilie Cady’s tract Finding the Christ in Ourselves (first published October 1891).
Let me comment on the first and the last resource, as a set of bookends to understanding how Unity teachings on Metaphysics has evolved. For an introduction to what Metaphysics is and how we have gotten off track, I offer “The Hinge is Off in Unity.” Hopefully, this will frame why we need a new perspective on how we teach Metaphysics.
Unity Metaphysics. The text known in Unity today as Heart Centered Metaphysics is the fourth edition of the Unity Metaphysics course guide. The first edition, known as the “Tan” version, was written by Marvin Anderson and Ed Rabel sometime in the early 1990s. Marvin chose the citations and Ed wrote the commentary. The Tan version was followed by what has come to be known as the “Blue” version a few years later. The Blue version was put together by Leona Stefanko and Susan Downs. These versions were replaced by a white covered version in 2006 and subsequently put in a book form as Heart Centered Metaphysics in 2010.
It is fair to say that each of these versions have a theological agenda. The tan version is thoroughly Fillmorian—it includes only references to the writings of Charles Fillmore. The blue version extends references to include other Unity authors and that change reflects a recognition that the authority for defining Unity doctrine has shifted from the Fillmores and Unity school to the broader, more universal teachings of the Unity field ministers.
The current version, Heart Centered Metaphysics, devotes nearly four pages to explaining changes in language, both to the earlier Unity Metaphysics books and to the Fillmore texts themselves, concluding that “the term God (should) be kept to a minimum and that it be explicitly defined when it is used... the term God is loaded with baggage from the spiritual traditions in which we were raised—some of it conscious and some subconscious.”
Not everyone agrees that the spiritual traditions in which we were raised is loaded baggage. Some of us have no trouble with how God has been presented in our spiritual traditions. We look to Unity for a practical application of those teachings, not disparagement. For nearly 100 years Silent Unity and Daily Word have provided spiritual resources to people in a wide rage of spiritual traditions without disparaging their beliefs.
As Lillian Daniel has written, “Generally, these critics are working off an old defintion of one narrow sliver of Christianity, and they expect me to apologize to them for it. Sorry, but no thanks. I am tired of apologizing for a church I am not a member of. Their bigoted description of church as a box full of backward Christians has worn thin for me. These days, I take these people on with vigor.”
In that spirit, I offer the full text of the tan and blue Unity Metaphysics books with over 15 hours of video commentary given in 1992 by Ed Rabel when he taught from the blue version. Ed’s personal copy of the blue version has dozens of hand-written comments. These comments are also inserted into the online text. These resources, the text, the video commentary and the hand-written comments are available here as a comprehensive multimedia guide for self-study or for group study of Unity Metaphysics, complete with theologiical baggage about God from the Fillmores.
Finding the Christ in Ourselves. The earliest metaphysical teachings were the essays by Emilie Cady, beginning with Finding the Christ in Ourselves, printed in Unity’s Thought magazine in October 1891. The latest version came out earlier this month (May 2019), in Arabic, translated and read by Mary Salama, a student of Eleanor Fleming. Thank you.
Finding the Christ in Ourselves is the seminal essay that caught the attention of Myrtle Fillmore. She and Charles recognized Dr. Cady’s high level of spiritual understanding. They published it in October 1891 and asked for more. That led to Unity’s first textbook on Metaphysics, Lessons in Truth. She opens the essay, saying:
THROUGHOUT all His teachings, Jesus tried to show those who listened to him, how he was related to the Father, and to teach them that they were related to the same Father in exactly the same way. Over and over again he tried in different ways to explain to them that God lived within them, that he was a “God of the living and not of the dead.” And never once did he assume to do anything as of himself, always saying: “Of mine own self I can do nothing. The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” But it was very hard then for people to understand, just as it is very hard for us to understand today.
How the “Father that dwelleth within doeth the works” is described as follows:
God not only created us in the beginning, but he is the very Fountain of Life ever abiding within us, from which Fountain constantly springs up new life to re-create these mortal bodies. He is the ever-abiding Intelligence which fills and renews our minds. His creatures would not exist a moment were he to be or could he be separated from them. “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them.”
This teaching shifts the divinity of Christ from the exclusive life of Jesus into the realm of all humanity (and all creation as well) and then declares that our Christ filled bodies are divine expressions of the image and likeness of God. At that point, Unity recognizes that God is immanent (residing within ourselves) and that the body is not an illusion. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years of Christian reflection, we have a credible explanation of how we are truly a temple of the living God and how God dwells in us.
No one claims or believes that God is an old, bearded man. If God is not a person, God is also far more than a principle. God is a presence—and an active presence at that, who is concerned about my life and my well being. God may not shift things around in my bank account, but God does shift things around in my mind. That is grace. And God does so in an active and loving way.
Why is this important? Last week I received an email from a TruthUnity visitor. She wrote, “What I’ve been studying within Unity is how God does not have a personal relationship with us.” In a follow up message, she explained “When I began to study Paul Hasselbeck’s work in more depth, I felt an emptiness for awhile, like my personal/intimate connection to GOD was no longer there. That didn’t feel good to me and so I shifted some of my perceptions to find a better balance.”
I get messages like this pretty regularly. They break my heart, not only because of the unnecessary challenge to this woman’s faith, but also because Unity has never taught that God has no personal relationship with us. In fact, if we can say anything about the teachings of Jesus, it is that our relationship to God is more than personal. It is intimate to the point of being existential.
Somehow the change in language is conveying that our personal/intimate connection to GOD is no longer there. It's true that the Fillmores taught that God operates according to principle, but they never denied that God also exists as a transcendent presence and they also never denied that the immanent presence of God is personal, intimate, benevolent and active.
For the life of me, I do not understand how one can establish a relationship with a principle. But I can and do love God as a presence in my life and that love is what guides and holds me in my life journey.
So what I offer here are some links to ways that Unity has taught Metaphysics—from the early days in the 1890s through the more recent Metaphysics books of the 1990s. I hope that they will be useful to establish that God is not only benevolent, but that God is active in our life in a very personal way.
Sunday, May 19, 2019