“If there is no way, we do not need a Wayshower. If we do not need a Wayshower, why do we need a minister?”
This quotation is a rough adaptation from a Methodist bishop taken from p.182 of The Churching of America. It ought to be a wake-up call to Unity leadership at all levels. Here is another warning, taken from Acts of Faith (p.34), which is direct and needs no interpretation:
“That doctrines can directly cause ineffective leadership is widely evident in contemporary New Age and ‘metaphysical groups’. If everyone is a ‘student,’ and everyone’s ideas and insights are equally valid, then no one can say what must be done or who is to do what, when. The result is the existence of virtual nonorganizations -- mere affinity or discussion groups incapable of action. In similar fashion, some of the early Christian gnostic groups could not sustain effective organizations because their fundamental doctrines prevented them from ever being anything more than a loose network of individual adepts, each pursuing secret knowledge through private, personal means.”
So I open this exploration into the human side of Unity, as did Charles Fillmore, by going to headquarters; not to God, but to leadership.
Religious Explanations and Religious Commitment
If you have a copy of Acts of Faith, go to the Index. Skim through it and you’ll find many interesting topics. Notice which topic has the most entries than all others, there on page 328, “commitment, religious.” In one sense all of these writings I’ll be using are all about religious commitment: what religious commitment is, why religious commitment drives the success of religious movements and how religious commitment is obtained.
In Acts of Faith, Stark and Finke open their theory with religious explanations and quickly tie them to the health and success of religious organizations. Here’s a summary in three steps:
- Explanations are teachings about how life works, a “conceptual simplification or model of reality” that helps one to navigate life. Religious explanations provide such a roadmap for living by including “the supernatural”, or “the gods” into the mix. Religious explanations are risky. Because they include the supernatural, they are not fully open to being proved, except sometimes in another lifetime. We accept this risk because some human needs have no alternative but to trust God, such as a desire for eternal life or a desire for justice in face of overwhelming oppression.
- Religious commitment is the degree that we will follow the religious explanation, in practice and in belief, regardless of the risk. In practical terms, religious commitment determines the degree that we will make sacrifices and provide support to the religious organization.
- Religious organizations are social groups that propigate religious explanations by various means, such as ritual, prayer and teaching and therefore generate religious commitment. Religious organizations flourish when religious commitment is high and religious organizations flounder when religious commitment is low.
Here’s the deal:
if you have a religious organizaton that is floundering, you have low levels of religious commitment. If you have low levels of religious commitment, you have a lousy religious explanation.
If you have a lousy religious explanation, you have no way. If you have no way, you do not need a Wayshower. If you do not need a Wayshower, we have no need for you, the minister. That is why we’re not committing to your church or your church organization.
Classic Unity’s Religious Explanation
Classic Unity has a consistent religious explanation. It is called metaphysics. The fundamental construct in metaphysics is Mind, Idea and Expression. God in this construct is creative principle, omnipotent. We know God as a presence, omnipresence. And we meet God in a secret place in consciousness, where we share one Mind and became part of the omniscience of God. Yes, it is a simple explanation, but it is a way.
Here are some references and audio clips that summarize Classic Unity’s religious explanation of God:
God as Mind or Principle
Emilie Cady described the way in Lessons In Truth (chapter two, Statement of Being):
21. Many have thought of God as a personal being. The statement that God is Principle chills them, and in terror they cry out, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (John 20:13).
22. Broader and more learned minds are always cramped by the thought of God as a person, for personality limits to place and time.
23. God is the name we give to that unchangeable, inexorable principle at the source of all existence. To the individual consciousness God takes on personality, but as the creative underlying cause of all things, He is principle, impersonal; as expressed in each individual, He becomes personal to that one -- a personal, loving, all-forgiving Father-Mother. All that we can ever need or desire is the infinite Father-Principle, the great reservoir of unexpressed good. There is no limit to the Source of our being, nor to His willingness to manifest more of Himself through us, when we are willing to do his will.
This description of the way might be most appreciated by those who see God as present in the world as part of the web of life. Imagine yourself as Charles Darwin, pondering the rich variety of life and attempting to know the source of such variety. Darwin discovered such a “principle”, or fundamental cause of life, in his theory of natural selection. Seeing God in this way can be a transcendent experience because contemplating how Principle works does not necessarily require our participation (but it may).
God as Idea or Presence
May Rowland described the way in Healing Workshop (interviewed by Ernest Wilson in 1971):
Ernest: May, how to you personally look at God?
May: Well, I look at God as a presence, something I can feel. Not as a being, but as a presence that you feel. And as you sit quietly and think about the presence and power of God, well what is God? God is light, God is substance, God is intelligence, God is love. And you think of those qualities of God-Mind. Well the one I think the one we think of the most probably is God as light. Jesus said “I am the light of the world and ye are the light of the world.” Well when we think of God as light we start energies going in our mind that are healing to us. We release energies, the energy of this light into the body and this is healing. It brings about healing.
Ernest Wilson: God is Principle. Christ is the idea of Principle as it is brought into creation. And man is that creation on its way to the perfect expression of Christ. And it’s this Unity usage of this word ‘the Christ’ that is often confusing to many people who are not familiar with our teaching.
May Rowland: Well to me it seems very clear that God is the Principle of good, the Principle of Being. And the Christ is the Idea of that expression. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is God, there is Christ and then there is the idea of the manifestation. And if we keep using these Christ-like ideas we are on the way to the perfect expression of the Christ. “Christ in you the hope of Glory” as Mr. Fillmore used to say is the greatest teaching that we’ve ever had. That it means the most because in the old days we had Christ, Jesus Christ, and we didn’t know much about the Christ Principle. Well I think Unity and some of the other organizations have brought this Christ into our lives in a different way. We know that Christ is the activity of the God Principle. It works in and through man. I don’t know if that clarifies or not. I think that you have to think about and meditate upon and let them kind of lodge themselves in your own mind.
This description of the way might be best appreciated by those who see God as an entity to whom we relate. Just as a loving relationship with another person requires us to “be present”, so does May Rowland’s experience of God. Her faith in God is tangible and real because she experiences God as “presence.” Seeing God in this way can be both a transcendent and immanent experience in the same sense that all relationships have a sense of separateness and a sense of oneness.
God as Expression or the Source of Life
Both Myrtle and Jesus said it required the mind of a child to know such a way. Myrtle called it the Wee Wisdom’s Way.
On page 78, little Grace sums up Mind, Idea and Expression very well: “Christ’s ‘live if you’ll live.’im,” he realized the difference between “faith” and “form.”
On page 48, Aunt Joy explains how Ned was able to heal his leg: “Do you always abide in this knowledge, as the vine does in its roots, or as Jesus did in his Father? If you do, you are the true vine, for you have ‘the mind that was in Christ Jesus,’ and the Father-life flows through you, and your thougths are fruitful branches. Ned was abiding in the true vine or Christ-mind when the living thought fruited into perfect action in his paralyzed leg.”
Do you sense that for Myrtle, God is the Source of life flowing through us? Listen to Myrtle recite God's Garden:
Myrtle described the way in Healing Letters (chapter four, Drawing on the Source):
God is the one perfect life flowing through us. God is the one pure substance out of which our organism is formed. God is the power that gives us motive power; the strength that holds us upright and allows us to exercise our members; the wisdom that gives us intelligence in every cell of our organism, every thought of our minds. God is the only reality of us; all else is but a shadow that is cast by some foolish belief or unwise combination of thoughts and the elements of being. When we let light flood us with its sunshine, all clouds vanish and we begin to see ourselves in new ways of doing, which lead to wholeness and health and satisfaction and growth.
The free flow of God’s life through us becomes hindered in its expression if our thoughts and acts imply a belief in a limited number of years, in a hoarding of strength or substance or supply. We must prove here and now, for ourselves, our faith in God as omnipresent good and eternal life.
God in the midst of us is a great steady stream of renewing and cleansing and vitalizing life, and we can have the use of this life if we will open up the channels of its flowing and ourselves draw from this source.
This description of the way might be best appreciated by those who see God as the “ground of being” (Acts 17:28). Being, metaphysically, is wisdom brought into manifestation and Myrtle’s description of God flowing through her gives her life expression. So the experience of I AM can be the experience of God-Life flowing through us, our expression or manifestation of our God nature. Seeing God in this way is to experience God as immanent. We are, as Eckart said, "eternally begotton of the Father" (moment by moment).
From God's Garden to God's Jungle
Listen to what James Dillet Freeman had to say about the religious explanations in Unity (clip #13 from James and Billie Freeman Reflect on Unity):
And then the other thing, the thing that has made us angry with churches, sometimes. God! God, do you see what some of them do? And the incredible, fantastic and unbelievable things they teach? There is a limit. My only feeling is that Unity is a very free and liberal organization and within that free, liberal organization we permit you to go pretty much your own way from robes if you want them and maybe even kneeling benches -- out there on the far side (laughter) -- alter lights and crosses, we’ve got them. We haven’t squawked about that. And clear over to the other side to the guy who does nothing but get up and give a psychological lecture.
But, when you bring every kind of screwball New Thought organization that exists, we get irritated! You know, it is Unity -- we do have some kind of a teaching. And we do stand up for certain things in our literature, so that the people who take our literature expect a certain approach fundamentally. It’s free, but it’s still there it is. And we may go to a Unity center and get an approach that’s altogether different from this, or stresses something so -- anything from seances to life readings to what-have-you. We’re disturbed, because they’re disturbed.
We don’t think that this is what they ought to give in the name of Unity. Now we’re not against some people doing that; but go do it with some organization that believes in it. I’m for that. I’m for people having seances, life readings, anything they want to have. But not in the name of Unity. That’s all. That seems fair enough to me. And I think that basically to a great extent that’s why there has been some collision between the two, don’t you?
We see, we get those things and people write to us and we’re taken aback. Doesn’t seem to be unfair for us to ask if you want to be Unity, who don’t you stick, pretty much -- you can be very free. The teachings of the Fillmores and the teachings of Unity magazines and Unity books leave you very, very free, folks. But why not do it in the name of Unity if you want to do it in the name of Unity? That’s all. Go do it in somebody else’s name.
Sceances were only the beginning. The spiritual potpourri has transformed Unity from being God’s garden to being God’s jungle. Unity’s teachings are no longer comprehensible. The result is that Unity’s classic teaching on Mind, Idea and Expression has been choked off by the thorns of “every kind of screwball New Thought organization that exists.”
Unity’s Present Teaching and Religous Commitment
I ask Unity leadership to consider what type of people you want coming to Unity and to the Unity movement. Someone who will commit, who will contribute and sacrifice when necessary. Ask yourself if they have a clear sense of what Unity teaches and how that teaching will help them to navigate life.
Then give them a this link to a teaching by an author who’s ideas have been passed around Unity for the past five or six years, who’s ideas have had incredible amounts of money and time devoted to their advancement, who’s ideas are being used to transform Unity churches from top to bottom, who’s name and ideas have dominated the denomination’s attention. Are these the types of things we want in Unity’s teachings?
“We start with the simple observation that the ‘metaphysics’ of the spiritual traditions have been thoroughly trashed by both modernist and postmodernist epistemologies, and there has as yet arisen nothing compelling to take their place. So this paper begins with an overview of the methodologies available that can be used to reconstruct the spiritual systems of the great wisdom traditions but with none of their metaphysical baggage (pp.3-4) ...”
Thus, you can be highly developed in the cognitive line and poorly developed in the moral line (very smart but not very moral: Nazi doctors), but we don’t find the reverse (low IQ, highly moral). (p.29)
If ‘enlightenment’ (or any sort of unio mystica) really meant going through all of those stages, then how could somebody 2000 years ago be enlightened, since some of the stages, like systemic GlobalView, are recent emergents? These early attempts at integration were stalling around this issue of how to relate the meditative stages and the Western developmental stages, and there it sat stalled for about two decades... in whatever way that we define enlightenment today, can somebody 2000 years ago -- say, Buddha or Christ Jesus or Padmasambhava -- still be said to be ‘enlightened’ or ‘fully realized’ by any meaningful definition? (p.51)
“Start with a few facts. Depending on which scales you use, somewhere between 50-70% of the world’s population is at the ethnocentric or lower waves of development. This means amber or lower in any of the lines. To put it in the bluntest terms possible, this means around 70% of the world’s population are Nazis ... In the great developmental unfolding from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric and higher, 70% of the world’s population has not yet made it to worldcentric, postconventional levels of development.” (p.92)
I wish I were as smart as Ken Wilber. Then I would have no need for Unity’s metaphysical baggage. Then I would be moral. Then I could see that Jesus was just an advanced grunt in a brutish era. And then I would no longer be a Nazi. What a religious explanation!
This teaching is not sufficient to garner high levels of religious commitment. It is a lousy explanation for navigating life. If we want to transform Unity, let’s begin by letting go of Ken Wilber.