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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
… 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
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
outline gives a list of the Twelve, the faculties that they
represent, and the nerve centers at which they preside:
Judgment—James, son of Zebedee—pit of stomach.
Imagination—Bartholomew—between the eyes.
Order—James, son of
Cananaean—back head, medulla.
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.
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.
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
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
. . . 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. . .
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
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
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
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.”