Unity by its Founders
What Is Unity?
By: Connie Fillmore Bazzy
What is a religion but not a religion?
What is Christian but not only Christian?
What is a denomination and not denominational?
What honors individual difference while seeking universal similarity?
In a word, UNITY!
I am often called upon to define and explain Unity. Although I grew up in Unity and have been tackling this task for many years, I still find it challenging. I must admit, though, that I have a lot of fun with it, too. It is fun to try to explain something that falls outside the usual definitions that people find comfortable. It is fun to try to explain something that draws its existence from God, because humankind has been trying to explain God for centuries, and look how far we gotten with that!
“What is a religion but not a religion?” At the time of its founding, Unity was not intended to be a new religion. When my great-grandfather, Charles Fillmore, was working out the details of this work in his mind, he set out to establish something that would help all people, no matter what their religious beliefs. Even today, many Unity students prefer to think of Unity not as a religion, but as a way of life. The Unity teachings were drafted to be a help in everyday life, and this is still their finest application. The teachings–and we hope, materials we create based on the teachings–provide a path to personal spiritual unfolding. They are available to and can be used by anyone, no matter what his or her nationality, language, or religion.
“What is Christian but not only Christian?” The Unity teachings are based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Bible is our basic textbook. This is only natural, for we are a religion that was born in the United States of America at a time when Christianity was the predominant religious belief of the country. We recognize Jesus Christ as our divine Teacher and Way-Shower, and we strive to apply His teachings to the situations of life today. But just because we designate Jesus Christ as our teacher and model does not mean that we do not recognize other religious teachers and movements of the world. We believe that there are many paths to God and to spiritual awareness, and that regardless of the individual religious beliefs, all people everywhere are seeking the same thing: God. We strive always to honor and to bless people on their individual quests for God, at the same time that we use the teachings of Jesus Christ as our blueprint for learning the ways and wonders of the Divinity.
“What is a denomination and not a denomination?” When Unity was founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in the late nineteenth century, it was not intended to be a distinct and separate religion. As I mentioned before, Unity was created to be a support to people within their own religions. It was intended to present teachings and practices that could be used in everyday life, regardless of one’s formal religious affiliation.
But Charles and Myrtle did their job so well that many people who became familiar with the Unity teachings wanted to adopt them as their primary religious affiliation. Rather than use the teachings as a support to their current religious practice, they wanted to release the old ideas altogether and become fully “Unity”. It was at this point that Charles Fillmore began to hold Sunday worship services as well as weekday classes, and the Unity church was born. Today there are more than 1000 Unity churches and centers, and thousands of people call themselves “Unity”. So Unity is indeed a full-fledged denomination.
However, Unity does not stop there, for we continue to serve the needs of friends of all religious persuasions throughout the world. Silent Unity is our strongest non-denominational outreach today, just as it was in Charles and Myrtle’s time. Silent Unity prays with people from all walks of life about anything that concerns them. When you call or write Silent Unity, we never ask what your religious faith is, just your name and your prayer need–and then we pray.
“What honors individual difference while seeking universal similarity?” When Charles Fillmore’s ideas about spiritual reality were first incubating, he did not have a name to call them. He just knew that he had a certain awareness about the nature of life and of human beings From studying the information about world religions that was available to him, and from his own inner payer work, he came to see that there is universal oneness. All aspects of life interact and support one another; there is a “unity” of all things.
Meditation can lead to an overpowering awareness that everything is part of the one Life, part of that great Something we call God. However, just as precious is the awareness that all parts of that one Life are necessary to it. So all our individual differences–differences of color, gender, nationality, temperament, language, age, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, everything that makes us the individuals we are–are absolutely necessary for the full expression of God in our world. Our differences are meant to be savored and honored just as fully as are our similarities. It takes all of us to make up our world, and each of us is beloved of God. We are many, and we are one.
I do not know how you choose to define yourself, but I am willing to bet that it is in a unique way, a way that expresses only you. You have found Unity and Unity has found you. Welcome to the family.
Reprinted from Unity Magazine, September 1994.
The Adventure Called Unity
By Charles R. Fillmore
I suppose that the question most often asked me is, “What is Unity?” I find that trying to answer this question meaningfully is an interesting challenge.
I believe that Unity can make one’s life an adventure, because Unity arouses interest in our spiritual nature. It stimulates our desire to find out what our true relationship with God is. It poses questions to which we must seek understandable answers.
Unity tells us that our minds are our connecting link with God and that if we are to control our spiritual growth and we must control our thinking. Such statements are highly motivating to that part of the intellect which seeks answers.
In this world of seeming turmoil, conflict, and unrest, Unity affirms the bold statement: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). To some, this may sound implausible, but it certainly makes one curious to find out the basis on which such a statement can be made.
Unity says that other spiritually illumined people – ministers, priests, or religious teachers – can help one get started on the right path for finding God, but ultimately each person must find God individually. In other words, Unity says that true religious growth is a “do-it-yourself project.” Others can help you find a beginning; books and lessons can get you started by pointing you in the right direction, but if you truly want to know God, you must become acquainted with God yourself.
Unity does not emphasize formal membership and has never been preoccupied with gaining converts merely for the sake of numbers. In fact, Unity says that one can subscribe to its teachings and still retain membership in any other church. Unity’s viewpoint is that there need be no conflict of religious beliefs. Unity believes that there is good in every religion and that we should keep our minds open in order to find the good when an opportunity is presented. In keeping with this attitude, people of various religions the world over find good in the practical Christian principles taught and promulgated by Unity. Unity has no strict creed or dogma. One might describe Unity as a religious philosophy with an “open end,” seeking to find God’s truth in all of life, wherever it may be. What Do We Believe?
What Do We Believe?
God gave us freedom of choice. Unfortunately, we have used this freedom to bind ourselves in chains of ignorance. As individuals, we have thrown up walls of self-incrimination and guilt in our consciousness, thus cutting ourselves off from the abundant good that God has in store for us. Collectively, people have built up false beliefs about sin, sickness, and death, causing us to lose sight of the true meaning of life, which is that we are all children of God. As such, it is our privilege, in fact our very mission, to be heirs to God’s kingdom.
Unity tells us that the number and seriousness of our past mistakes do not matter to God. God holds no grudges and has no account book. For those of us who have gone astray, who have wandered down the wrong pathway, Unity says that there is no depth to which we can sink where God cannot find us, that God is ever ready to give us a helping hand if we sincerely wish to be lifted up.
Unity teaches us that there is a divine law of prosperity, by means of which we can avail ourselves of the riches of the kingdom of heaven. By getting in rhythm with “the law of giving and receiving,” as it is often called, we can demonstrate unlimited supply to meet all our needs. The secret is that we must learn to become open, receptive, responsive, and obedient to the law in order to make ourselves channels for the inflow and outflow of God’s good.
Unity assures us that if just one person has learned the secret of successful living, then anyone can, because “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34 KJV).
Unity is an adventure because it teaches us how to pray affirmatively. Our prayer ministry, Silent Unity, has been answering requests for prayer from around the world since 1890. A group of dedicated people is in prayer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Have they learned how to help other people pray? I wish you could see the thousands of testimonials Silent Unity receives!
Prayer in its purest form is simple. It is a matter of concentrating one’s entire intellect on God, affirming a positive statement of truth, meditating on divine Principle, and finally turning within one’s own being in a wonderful time of quiet which Unity calls “the silence,” wherein one becomes receptive to the “still small voice” of God.
Finally, Unity is an adventure because it brings God and heaven right down to the here and now and makes God available as a full-time partner in our daily living.
Even in this space age, we have a tendency to visualize God on a golden throne, in a heaven with pearly gates, somewhere off in “the far beyond.” In times of trouble, some of us still pray to a great man with long, white whiskers. We often betray our belief in an anthropomorphic God when a seeming miracle happens in life, which causes us to say, “I owe it all to the man upstairs” or “Someone up there must love me!”
Today leading theologians realize that we must expand our thinking where God is concerned if we are to keep the findings of science and religion compatible.
Unity says that “heaven can’t wait.” Too many people are putting off heaven until some time in the future. But it can’t wait. It is around and about us here and now, pressing in upon us, waiting for us to acknowledge and accept it. Each of us is a unique, spiritual creation, a divine original with his or her own special God-given spark, capable of becoming a channel for God’s love to pour forth into the world. That is God’s plan, it is up to us to get into harmony with it.
Yes, life can become a thrilling adventure! Unity helps us on this magnificent adventure by arousing our curiosity about our spiritual nature, by telling us how to be open and receptive to our good, and by helping us learn to pray successfully and to make God a full-time partner in our lives.