Charles and Myrtle Fillmore

Hearing the Word

   In the late 19th Century, Middle America was flourishing economically. The railroads were bringing people and goods beyond anyone’s expectation—but, somehow, the churches were not filling the spiritual hunger of the people.  During those years a tradition of lay-led meetings and church societies was established that became one of the defining characteristics of life in the Midwest through the 1950s. 

It was in that context that one of Emma Hopkins’ students came to speak in Kansas City, Missouri.  And it was in that culture that Silent Unity and the Unity School of Practical Christianity was founded. [30]

Charles Fillmore was a self-made man.  Coming from a broken home, he went to work on the railroads at an early age.  During those years, he injured a leg so badly that it was shrunken—requiring him to walk with a crutch or cane.  No longer able to work as a laborer, he went into real estate.  He met with some success in Pueblo, Colorado, where he and his wife met the Brooks sisters (who later founded the Church of Divine Science with Melinda Cramer).  Then, when the boom wore out in Pueblo, he moved his family to Kansas City.  Things went well there too until, again, the market “busted” and he and his wife Myrtle were left struggling.

Myrtle Fillmore was the college-educated daughter of a family with a history of “consumption,” which we call tuberculosis.  She was well read and opinionated—a strong woman for the times—until the family illness struck and she was weakened by its symptoms.  Nothing they tried seemed to help, and the downturn in their finances was aggravating the condition.

Then a friend recommended that the couple go listen to the lectures of Dr. E. B. Weeks, whom Emma Hopkins had sent to teach in Kansas City. While Charles found nothing useful in the talk, Myrtle heard one sentence that, she said in later years, turned her life around: “I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness.”

Although it took nearly two years for the healing to be complete, Myrtle was sure from that moment that she would be healed.  She was a changed person and people around her wanted to know what had made the difference.  She began sharing her new insight and understanding, and others began to experience healings as a result. In a matter of months, she had established a reputation in the area as a healer and teacher. In her own words:

I was once an emaciated little woman, upon whom relatives and doctors had placed the stamp "T.B." And this was only one of the ailments—there were others considered beyond help, except possibly the changing of structures through an operation. There were family problems too. We were a sickly lot, and came to the place where we were unable to provide for our children. In the midst of all this gloom, we kept looking for the way out, which we felt sure would be revealed. It was! The light of God revealed to us—the thought came to me first—that life was of God, that we were inseparably one with the Source, and that we inherited from the divine and perfect Father.

What that revelation did to me at first was not apparent to the senses. But it held my mind above negation, and I began to claim my birthright and to act as though I believed myself the child of God, filled with His life. I gained. Others saw that there was something new in me. They asked me to share it. I did. Others were healed, and began to study. My husband continued his business, and at first took little interest in what I was doing. But after a time he became absorbed in the study of Truth too. [31]

Charles, the businessman, took over a year to be convinced, but the evidence of his own wife’s increasing health and that of those she worked with began to bring him around.  They began to study with another of Emma’s students, Joseph Adams, and in time, left their children with a relative for a few weeks and went to Chicago to study with Emma, herself.  At that point, Charles began applying the principles to his own withered leg, and felt considerable improvement as a result.


By 1889, these ideas were the center of the Fillmores’ life.  Charles continued to maintain his real estate business, but his heart, and much of his time, was devoted to these teachings.  He launched the magazine Modern Thought, in which he wrote about “all the metaphysical schools” as forms of a new, Christian, Science, referring to “Mrs. Eddy’s Christian Science” as one of many.

During these years, Myrtle’s success with her neighbors led her to the conviction that it was possible to bring about healing at a distance. So, in 1890, she launched Silent Unity. Initially, it was a group of Kansas City residents (Myrtle and a few neighbors and friends) who had agreed to meet “in silent communion every night at ten o’clock all those who are in trouble, sickness, or poverty, and who sincerely desire the help of the Good Father.” She invited the readers of the magazine, Modern Thought, to join the group, and “sit in a quiet retired place if possible, at the hour of ten . . . for not less than fifteen minutes, and hold in silent thought the words that shall be given every month . . .” in the magazine.

Silent Unity was a quick success.  Letters poured in from people seeking help.  The hour was changed from 10 p.m. to 9, to make it easier for people to gather and participate, and Charles and Myrtle began responding to the letters they received, providing counsel and advice. People were invited to form their own prayer groups, starting with as few as two people, for “Two persons in perfect harmony will do more than a hundred in discord.”  And still, today, people all over the world meet in Unity prayer circles or sit quietly at home and repeat the month’s Silent Unity prayer. At Unity Village, a prayer team works 24 hours a day for the good of all who call or write and ask for support.  About 150 people are needed to respond to the many requests.

The Fillmores worked closely with other metaphysical groups in the area, sharing offices and developing a library.  They began holding informal, participatory, prayer-and-song gatherings on Sunday afternoons and evenings (so as not to interfere with regular church) at which different metaphysical leaders would speak.  And they invited speakers from out of town, including Emma Hopkins. In 1893 they went to the Chicago World’s Fair and the World Parliament of Religions, with its concurrent New Thought Congress.  They participated in the International Divine Science meeting there in 1895, as well.

By 1898 the donations from their spiritual activities were large enough to support the family, so Charles finally gave up his real estate business, and in 1905 the organization built their own building in Kansas City—using what was left of Charles’ resources to finance it. The building included a vegetarian lunchroom, a meeting hall, and offices. Employees could count on ample coffee and tea and free “seconds” at the nominally priced meals. They also were provided recreational facilities.

By the end of World War I, it was clear that more space was needed. The Fillmores’ sons worked with them to find and develop a small farm outside of Kansas City, in the town of Lee’s Summit. Through gifts and volunteer efforts, that farm has since grown to 1300 acres, with a seven-story office tower, printing facilities, residences, a swimming pool, golf course, tennis courts, picnic places, and a hotel for students to stay in while taking courses.  It’s incorporated as Unity Village, and is the home of Unity Press, publishers of Unity magazine, the Daily Word, and numerous books, the Unity Association of Churches, Silent Unity, and a flourishing school for students, ministers and teachers from around the world.

Practicing Principle

With the formation of Silent Unity, Charles and Myrtle had turned a corner in their lives.  From this point forward, they understood religion not as something separate from daily life, but integral to it.  The important thing in their life was seeking, sharing, and living by Truth, wherever it might be found.

They studied the Bible diligently, and Charles developed his Metaphysical Bible Dictionary as a tool to understand the allegorical meaning behind the surface stories.  They were also open to other teachings.  They met with Yogananda and Krishnamurti, read the Vedas and The Quran, and Charles was well acquainted with developments in atomic physics, even writing a book on the subject.

They spent a minimum of 30 minutes a day in prayer and meditation—as they recommended to all who came to them.  This “silence” or “stillness” was a source of Wisdom and Peace for them, and they knew all could benefit from that daily practice.

Both of them wrote and taught and they worked with individuals seeking help.  Their classes were held in Kansas City and Colorado, and by correspondence—at first for “one’s own spiritual unfoldment,” then later to train teachers and ministers. Their books and collected writings comprise dozens of volumes and continue to form the bulk of publications sold through the Unity Press.  Besides the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Charles’ Twelve Powers of Man and Christian Healing continue to be important resources for Unity students, teachers, and ministers.

Myrtle Fillmore’s Ideas

Myrtle’s writings were the letters she sent to the many people asking for help or offering thanks.  Some of these were published in a book, Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters. In one letter she responds to a close co-worker:

You call me the mother of Unity! Well, now, I know of nothing that would give me greater joy than to feel that God could work so perfectly through me … But in reality, I feel that I am only the soul who caught the first vision of this ministry, and who nurtured that vision until others came along …

It is my great joy to perceive somewhat of the mother side of God—the divine love that never fails and that is equal to the drawing of souls to itself. It is my prayer to be able to radiate the qualities of this divine love to all. You too are the mother of Unity, because in your heart you have the same ideals, and the same great generous spirit, and the endless and tireless service, and the love that never fails! The mother of Unity is the universal mother. How happy we are, to represent this mother! [32]

And, as the letter proceeds it includes rare, personal insight into Myrtle’s experience and thought.

… I work here every day, and receive a salary, just as several hundred other workers do. I think a very capable businessman or woman would not consider working for this salary. But it meets my personal needs; and usually I have a little each week with which to do what my heart prompts. …

 … we have always had to launch out on faith without visible evidence of the ultimate success. We know that God is in His work, and that it is the Spirit of God operative in a given service that provides whatever is required in doing that work.

I'm going to tell you a secret: I don't get to keep house as much as I should like. I'm not supposed to have time for it—folks demand so much of my time. So I have a woman to keep house for us. But do you know, I like to carry the dishes away from the table at the close of the meal; and make a nice hot suds and wash the dishes, wipe them, and put them away in nice rows in the china closet! So if sometimes you find yourself doing work that isn't supposed to be desirable, remember that there are other good folks doing the same sort of work, and that still others would like to be doing it, even though circumstances have placed them at something else. Whatever you undertake, do it the very best you can. Folks will note your good work, and soon you will be given more important positions. …

I often think that we are all in too much of a rush trying to do too much, and failing to discern and do the things that would mean most. So much that we think and do, surely, would not be done by one in the Jesus Christ consciousness.

Like her teacher, Emma  Hopkins, Myrtle Fillmore was committed to a mystical relationship with the power she called God.

 … I know that God would not have me struggle with unknown things, or talk of that which I have not proved. I realize that that which God would have me do God inspires in me, that it is very easy to do God's will, and that when I thus conduct myself, a great peace and friendliness comes and abides.

We must have quiet and opportunity for inward searching, for we must go beyond what we have heretofore attained. There is nothing in hearsay or in observation or in the evidence of the senses, apart from spiritual discernment, that can take us beyond our present footing. [33]

Myrtle’s religious background was, she felt, a hindrance to her life in the early years.

I was very religiously trained and suffered a lot from the theology taught … But I am rejoicing in the doctrine of our wise and loving heavenly Father who chooses that none shall perish but that all shall have eternal life. [34]

Part of Myrtle’s practice was to limit the things she owned. 

Know this, dear, that I know I must be beautiful within, and in my fellowship with others, and in my sharing with them the good things of life if I am to become beautiful without. Anything that makes me have the feeling of selfishness cannot result in more beauty to me. Anything that awakens in me the loving desire to have others happy and adorned with beautiful things, and anything that helps me to express this loving desire in my living is sure to bring forth its fruit in my life. Now, I am sure that you understand, and approve my passing on to another the use of the beautiful gift that you with so much love sent to me. You did mean for me to use it in the way it would give me most joy, didn't you? [35]

Charles Fillmore’s Ideas

If Myrtle was the “relationship” side of this couple, Charles was the “idea” side. Throughout his writings, Charles held to a few basic principles. These were based on his interpretation of the Bible, in the light of the understanding he gained working with Emma Hopkins. 

First among these is that thought expressed as the spoken word creates our experience according to a fundamental, divine law of the universe.

 Every idea originating in Divine Mind is expressed in the mind of man; through the thought of man the Divine Mind idea is brought to the outer plane of consciousness. 

… Following the creative law in its operation from the formless to the formed, we can see how an idea fundamental in Divine Mind is grasped by the man ego, how it takes form in his thought, and how it is later expressed through his spoken word. If in each step of this process he conformed to the divine creative law, man’s word would make things instantly, as Jesus made the increase of the loaves and fishes.  But since he has lost, in a measure, knowledge of the steps in this creative process from the within to the without, there are many breaks and abnormal conditions, with more failures than successes in the products.

However, every word has its effect, though unseen and unrecognized. … A weak thought is followed by words of weakness. Through the law of expression and form, words of weakness change to weakness the character of everything that receives them. . . . Talking about nervousness and weakness will produce corresponding conditions in the body; on the other hand, sending forth the word of strength and affirming poise will bring about the desired strength and poise. . . . The usual conversation among people creates ill health instead of good health, because of wrong words. [36]

Charles’ second principle is that the Bible is to be understood as metaphor or allegory more effectively than as literal accounts or “fact.”  Over and over again, he would state that “a high place” or “mountain” was a reference to a higher state of consciousness, or that a “storm” or “flood” was a reference to our internal storms and floods when we lose sight of Truth, or God. For example,

When Moses was instructed by the Lord to furnish the tabernacle, the command was, “See . . . that thou make all things according to the pattern that was shown thee in the mount.” “The mount” is the place of high understanding in mind, which Jesus called the kingdom of God within us. The wise metaphysician resolves into ideas each mental picture, each form and shape seen in visions, dreams, and the like. The idea is the foundation, the real; when understood and molded by the power of the word, it creates or recreates the form at the direction of the individual I AM. . . .

Esau represents the natural man. Jacob represents the intellectual man supplanting Esau; hence Jacob is called the “supplanter.” Historically, he seems a trickster, taking advantage of those of less wisdom, but this incident merely shows how the higher principle appropriates the good everywhere. Imagination was the leading faculty in Jacob’s mind. He dreamed of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, the angels of God ascending and descending upon it.  This is prophecy of union between Spirit and body; . . . Farther along in his development Jacob awakened all his faculties, represented by his twelve sons. [37]

Next, there are twelve qualities, or “powers” in humanity, as illustrated by the twelve sons of Jacob (the tribes of Israel) and the twelve disciples of Jesus. Each of these powers, Fillmore believed, corresponded to what the Hindus call “chakras” or energy centers in the body.

The following outline gives a list of the Twelve, the faculties that they represent, and the nerve centers at which they preside:

Faith—Peter—center of brain.


Discrimination or Judgment—James, son of Zebedee—pit of stomach.

Love—John—back of heart.

Power—Philip—root of tongue.

Imagination—Bartholomew—between the eyes.

Understanding—Thomas—front brain.

Will—Matthew—center front brain.

Order—James, son of Alphaeus—navel.

Zeal—Simon the Cananaean—back head, medulla.

Renunciation or Elimination—Thaddaeus—abdominal region.

Life Conserver—Judas—generative function.

The physiological designations of these faculties are not arbitrary—the names can be expanded or changed to suit a broader understanding of their full nature. For example, Philip, at the root of the tongue, governs taste; he also controls the action of the larynx, as well as all vibrations of power throughout the organism. So the term "power" expresses but a small part of his official capacity. [38]

Like the other faculties, faith has a center through which it expresses outwardly its spiritual powers.  Physiologists call this center the pineal gland, and they locate it in the upper brain. . . . The physiologist sees the faculties as brain cells, the psychologist views them as thought combinations, but the spiritual-minded beholds them as pure ideas, unrelated, free, all-potential. . . .

Peter (faith), James (judgement), and John (love) were the three disciples who were very close to Jesus, and they are more prominent in His history than any of the other disciples.  This indicates that these three faculties are developed in advance of the others, also that they are closely associated. [39]

Another of Charles’ major principles was the importance of Love as the divine idea of unity and its expression as both natural and essential for the healthy functioning of any body or group.

Among the faculties of the mind, love is pivotal.  Its center of mentation in the body is the cardiac plexus. The physical representative of love is the heart, the office of which is to equalize the circulation of blood in the body. As the heart equalizes the life flow in the body, so love harmonizes the thoughts of the mind.

. . . We connect our soul forces with whatever we center our love upon.  If we love the things of sense or materiality, we are joined or attached to them through a fixed law of being. In the divine order of being, the soul, or thinking part, of man is joined to its spiritual ego. If it allows itself to become joined to the outer or sense consciousness, it makes personal images that are imitations. . . .

One should make it a practice to meditate regularly on the love idea in universal Mind, with the prayer, Divine love, manifest thyself in me. Then there should be periods of mental concentration on the love center . . . Think about love with the attention drawn within the breast, and a quickening will follow; all the ideas that go to make up love will be set into motion.  This produces a positive love current, which , when sent forth with power, will break up opposing thoughts of hate, and render them null and void. . . . The love current is not a projection of the will; it is a setting free of a natural, equalizing, harmonizing force that in most people has been dammed up by human limitations. . . . [40]

And perhaps the most revolutionary principle that Charles held, with his wife Myrtle, was that abundance is part of God’s plan for all beings, and those people whose consciousness is filled with abundance both give and receive abundantly, without effort.

The love of money, not money itself, is the root of all kinds of evil.  Money is a convenience that saves men many burdens in the exchange of values. . . . Trusting in God, we have faith in Him as our resource, and He becomes a perpetual spiritual supply and support; but when we put our faith in the power of material riches, we wean our trust from God and establish it in this transitory substance of rust and corruption. . . . The man who blindly gives himself up to money getting acquires a love for it and finally becomes its slave.  The wise metaphysician deals with the money idea and masters it.

Mastering the Money Idea

The Fillmores had, early on, made a commitment to “prove” this last idea, providing whatever services they could freely, with no price, according to the principle that as “ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.” The price for the magazine was the minimum the law would allow.  Food served in the lunchroom was based on donation until they realized people were embarrassed to give too little, so they put nominal prices on the dishes and freely served seconds. They never charged for their healing work—and Unity still does not, to this day.  Gifts were gladly accepted, but never requested.

   Over a hundred years later, their work proceeds. With no grants or contracts or fees for service, it supports a staff of several hundred people and the infrastructure for a whole village.  All based on the Principle that we reap what we sow.

Like their teacher, Emma Hopkins, the Fillmores made it a point not to talk about their intentions or their successes. The extent of their commitment, the “secret of their success” was found in Myrtle’s papers after she died in 1942.  It reads as follows:

We, Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore, husband and wife, hereby dedicate our selves, our time, our money, all we have and all we expect to have, to the Spirit of Truth, and through it, to the Society of Silent Unity.

It being understood and agreed that the said Spirit of Truth shall render unto us an equivalent for this dedication, in peace of mind, health of body, wisdom, understanding, love, life and an abundant supply of all things necessary to meet every want without our making any of these things the object of our existence.

In the presence of the Conscious Mind of Christ Jesus, this 7th day of December, 1892 AD.

Some time after Myrtle’s death, Charles married a woman named Cora and they continued the work. Charles wrote, preached, met with clients, and did radio shows well into his 90s, when, according to Unity’s poet-laureate James Dillett Freeman, he still said “I reserve the right to change my mind.”


[30] Most of the biographical material on the Fillmores comes from Charles Braden’s Spirits in Rebellion.

[31] From Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters

[32] from Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters

[33] from Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters

[34] from Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters

[35] from Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters

[36] This and the following quotes are from Charles Fillmore, Christian Healing, a series of twelve lessons he started teaching in 1897 and compiled for publication in the 1920s. This one is from Lesson Six, The Word.

[37] From Fillmore’s Christian Healing, Lesson Nine.

[38] From Fillmore’s Twelve Powers of Man, ch. 1.

[39] From Fillmore’s Christian Healing, Lesson Eight.

[40] From Charles Fillmore’s Christian Healing, Lesson Twelve.

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