“Unity is a link in the great educational movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ; our objective is to discern the truth in Christianity and prove it. The truth that we teach is not new, neither do we claim special revelations or discovery of new religious principles. Our purpose is to help and teach mankind to use and prove the eternal Truth taught by the Master.” These words are taken from an essay Charles Fillmore wrote in the early years of the Unity movement. Mr. Fillmore’s statement offers what I consider the clearest, most powerful explanation of what our Unity movement is.
Before deciding that his spiritual path would focus on the teachings of Jesus, Mr. Fillmore had explored many spiritual teachings, including Hinduism, Theosophy, and even spiritualism. That’s right! Charles Fillmore, at one time in his life, was fascinated by the idea of communicating with disembodied spirits. He later came to the conclusion that, although communication with disembodied entities was possible, there was little value in it. One by one, Mr. Fillmore let go of his interest in other spiritual paths — spiritualism, I believe being the last to go — and focused his attention on the Christian Scriptures, with a special emphasis on the teachings of Jesus.
I grew up in a traditional Christian faith, Roman Catholicism. While I now appreciate Roman Catholicism as a spiritual path that is dear to more than one billion people, there came a time in my life when I completely rejected Roman Catholicism, Christianity, and even Jesus. I came to the conclusion as a young man that all religion was pretty much superstition, nonsense, “hooey.”
I discovered Unity when I was in my early 30’s. At first, I thought that Unity, like all religion, was “hooey.” (Well, I would have used a stronger word.) Over a period of about a year, though, I came to recognize that some — not all, by any means — followers of Unity enjoyed a centeredness, a serenity, dare I say a spiritual awareness and power that I admired and wanted for myself.
At first, I resisted the Christian focus I found in Unity. Even today, I can appreciate why some in Unity would prefer that we not call ourselves a Christian movement, that we disassociate ourselves not only from the name, “Christian,” but from all Christian traditions and ceremonies, including the Bible. I agree that at least some elements of institutional Christianity have “morphed” into something that Jesus would not be likely to recognize. I believe that the essential principles of Christianity have been very inadequately, even punishingly presented for a long time in Christian churches and I understand some people’s resistance to hearing more about them.
At the same time, I recognize that probably most of us come from Judaeo-Christian roots. The Dalai Lama has advised followers of other traditions to become familiar with the essential teachings of their own religion rather than starting over again in another faith. When we approach the Christian path without the baggage of whatever religious abuse we may have experienced in the past, I believe we can find the gateway to all Truth through our unencumbered study of Jesus’ teachings.
I say “unencumbered” because I believe that everyone has both the right and the responsibility to determine for him/herself what is True, based on his/her personal study, reflection, and experience.
The Bible has long been spoken of as “Unity’s basic textbook.” That idea is very definitely ignored in many Unity churches, but it’s how I view the Bible. It’s not a “basic textbook” in the sense that it tells us what we must believe. Rather, the Bible offers us invitations to exploration. It opens for us the minds and hearts of early followers of our Judaeo-Christian tradition. Through our metaphysical study of Scripture, we build our own understanding with the blessing of their insights and experiences.
Unity’s metaphysical approach to Bible study helps us to see every person, place, thing, and event in Scripture as an element of our own consciousness. Through metaphysical interpretation, the Bible comes alive for us. We “read the Bible again for the first time” as author Marcus Borg suggests in the title of one of his books.
People of all faiths and no faith will, I pray, always find welcome at Unity of Independence. Where we can, I pray we will open our facility to practitioners of other spiritual paths who need a space to meet. Where Eastern terminology fits a practice in which we are engaged –- for example “satsang,” a meditative meeting to share song, prayer and wisdom; “Namaskar,” the Divinity within me salutes the divinity within you, I enjoy using the terminology. My roots, though, are Christian and I must teach primarily the metaphysical understanding of Christianity that it has taken me a lifetime to develop and that I am continuing to develop. Simply stated, it’s what works best for me.