Unity School of Christianity*

Christian or Cult?

Unity School of Christianity, also known as Unity (with headquarters on a 1,400-acre campus in Unity Village, Missouri -- near Lee's Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City), was "founded" in 1889 (with the publishing of a national monthly magazine called Modern Thought -- renamed Unity Magazine in 1894) by Charles S. Fillmore (1854-1948), a spiritist with no Christian background, and Myrtle (Paige) Fillmore (1845-1931), a Methodist; this was after Myrtle said she was healed of tuberculosis by repeating an occultic mind-over-matter affirmation, "I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherent sickness" (she had been dabbling heavily in Christian Science). It was later incorporated as a church in 1903 by the Unity Society of Practical Christianity. In 1948, the control of Unity was assumed by the Fillmore's two sons, Lowell and W. Rickert Fillmore, and has since experienced tremendous growth. Unity currently claims about 200,000 U.S. members and 1.5 million members worldwide.

Unity's leader is now Connie Fillmore Bazzy, a great-granddaughter of the founders. She controls everything from publishing Unity's magazines to the 24-hour Silent Unity Prayer ministry that generates the majority of the organization's approximately $30 million in annual income. Charles R. Fillmore is the grandson of the founder and acts as Chairman of the Board for Unity.

Unity's roots are to be found in the ministry of Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, who practiced what was called "animal magnetism." His work involved manipulating the "subconscious" mind, and he was the first modern user of hypnotism (hence, the term "mesmerism"). Some years later, Unity joined the International New Thought Alliance (along with Christian Science and New Thought) from which many of their doctrines have emanated.1

The Fillmores studied Spiritualism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Brahmanism, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, New Thought, Christian Science, and other Mind Science religions, believing that there was some good in every religion. (They did disagree, however; with the Christian Science doctrine that matter is not real.) Charles Fillmore admits that he and Myrtle had taken "more than forty courses (in metaphysical subjects)" (The Story of Unity, James Dillet Freeman, Unity Books publishing, pp. 35, 41-42). The Fillmores also took "several courses" from Emma Curtis Hopkins to further their understanding of New Thought. Hopkins had been an editor on the Christian Science Journal, Mary Baker Eddy's publication (The Story of Unity, pp. 43-45).

Charles Fillmore chose the ancient Egyptian winged disc, an occult symbol, as the symbol to represent Unity. Steeped in Hinduism, Fillmore felt that he had been associated with the symbol in previous lives. (He believed he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul!) A Unity video states that this symbol is a representation of the "Earth being lifted in consciousness." Unity Magazine says it is "a soul giving wings to the body." These are thoroughly pagan ideas. (Frank Yurco, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, says the "winged disc" symbol represents "a fear of demons and evil gods. ... It represents the sun-god, Ra, as he flees across the sky.")

This occultic fixation eventually led to the formation of a group which would pray, or meditate, for the healing of others. This became the Society of Silent Help, later changed to Silent Unity, that extolled the virtues of creative thinking and the power of the human mind to cure any ailment. The Fillmores never thought of starting a church, so they took the name "Unity School of Practical Christianity." "Practical" was dropped from the name in 1914, at which time the Unity Tract Society and Silent Unity incorporated under the name of Unity School of Christianity. Fillmore, during a time of silent prayer, is said to have received the name Unity. Fillmore explained he heard the name "just as the voice of Jesus was heard by Paul" (The Story of Unity, p. 61). 

Today the "school" is a centralized group with churches in many areas. They distribute millions of pieces of literature a year; their most popular publications (with a total circulation of about three million) are Unity Magazine (articles on metaphysical topics) and Daily Word (their daily devotional magazine). There are many "authoritative" Unity writings, two of which are Mysteries in Genesis and Christian Healing, both by Charles Fillmore. They also air a number of radio broadcasts. They have over 500 churches and/or study groups in America, with an additional 100 or so congregations and study groups in 15 foreign countries. 

Unity's doctrines are a mish-mash of borrowed teachings from different religions and philosophies -- Hinduism, Spiritism, Theosophy, Christian Science, and Christianity. At the heart of Unity's teachings is a "health and wealth" philosophy so popular to many in the professing Christian church today. But according to a Unity booklet by Elizabeth Sand Turner, What Unity Teaches, Unity has no dogmatic statement of faith to which the people must adhere. Instead, the follower is to "accept what he finds helpful to lift his consciousness to a higher level." Nevertheless, Charles R. Fillmore, grandson of Charles S. and Myrtle, wrote The Adventure Called Unity in 1963, which clearly delineates Unity's teachings. 

Below are the highlights of what Unity believes concerning its source of authority, the Godhead, Christ, sin and salvation, hell, sickness, and reincarnation:

1. Source of Authority. Because of Unity's philosophy that all religions teach truth, the Bible is simply another book of Scripture. Charles Fillmore wrote, "It is not necessary that you despise the scriptures of the Jews, of the Hindus, or of any people, but you are to take them for what they are: the records of men as to what their experiences have been in communing with the omnipresent God" (The Twelve Powers of Man, p. 115). Unity does not believe that the Scriptures are the complete and absolute authority, but that they are merely the "testimonials of men." They do not even consider their own teachings to be permanently binding, but believe that such teachings are always open to new revelation. They teach that the Bible is an "allegory" -- i.e., that experience, if you are 'in tune' with God, is more accurate and reliable than the Bible. They give metaphysical interpretations to many obvious truths in the Bible so that the normal meaning is twisted and the passage then fits their theology. (In other words, Unity says the Bible doesn't mean what it says.) They consider reason and "logic of the mind" to be their final authority. [HJB]

2. Trinity. Unity has given a metaphysical meaning to the word "trinity"; they say the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit refer to "mind, idea, and expression." They believe that God is Universal Law or divine Principle, not a person. [HJB] They teach the New Age/Pantheistic idea that God is All and All is God. They explain, "God is Spirit, or the creative energy which is the cause of all visible things. God is not a being or person having life, intelligence, love, power. God is that invisible, intangible, but very real, something we call life. Each rock, tree, animal, everything visible, is a manifestation of the one Spirit -- God -- differing only in degree of manifestation; and each of the numberless modes of manifestation, or individualities, however insignificant, contains the whole" (Lessons In Truth, H. Emilie Cady, pp. 6, 8).

3. God. Under the heading "spirit," Unity's Metaphysical Bible Dictionary states, "A name for God. Spirit and Mind are synonymous; therefore we know God-Spirit as Mind, the one Mind, or Intelligence, of the universe." The Dictionary continues with "The Father is Principle. Thus, we might also say, Father is Being in the absolute, the unlimited, the unrelated" (p. 629). "Childlike, untrained minds say God is a personal being. The statement that God is principle chills them, and in terror they cry out. 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" (Lessons In Truth, p. 11).

4. Jesus Christ. Unity teaches that Christ is an idea, the essence of "divine Mind." They claim that Jesus was merely a perfect man who fully possessed the Christ principle, which He obtained by advancing "through many reincarnations" (What Unity Teaches). They say that every person is potentially perfect, and that Jesus expressed that perfection, and while we are still only working toward it, we are part of the divine universal consciousness, and therefore, divine by nature. They believe that we can do anything Jesus did, in effect raising mankind to the level of the divine, and making us equal with Jesus Christ. [HJB] Unity tells us that studying about God and Jesus Christ is not enough. We must discover the Christ principles of successful living and then be ready to apply them to our own daily living. In summary, rather than viewing Jesus as the Savior from our sins, Unity views Him as merely the "Way Shower."2

Unity believes in the Second Coming of Christ, not in the flesh, but as the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit to all who are prepared to receive it. The Holy Spirit is a latent power within every man. This, they believe, is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to his disciples (e.g., Unity says, "In this day of great spiritual awakening, when the hearts and minds of many are turning to God, the Second Coming of Christ is taking place for them.").

5. Holy Spirit. Charles Fillmore, again in harmony with the Pantheistic ideology of his day, stated that the Holy Spirit was not a personal being, but rather only an impersonal force. He wrote, "The Holy Spirit in Divine Mind corresponds to our thought in our minds. So we can ideate the unlimited Divine Mind, but when this Mind is brought into our world or consciousness it is limited to our conception of it" (Atom-Smashing Power of Mind, p. 99).

6. Sin and Salvation. Unity denies the reality of sin and evil. They do not recognize man as being sinful or in need of salvation, because they believe that every person is part of God. They teach that we can overcome weaknesses and mistakes through wisdom and right thinking, not by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. [HJB] Instead, Unity tells us that man's mind is his connecting link with God, and that if man is to control his spiritual growth and fulfillment, he must control his thinking. They teach that the atonement is the reconciliation of our minds with the Divine Mind.

In Talks on Truth, Unity says: "Salvation is finally attained when the cycle of rebirth is broken and man comes to birth no more. The true spiritual body is to replace the physical body and the man becomes like Christ. This is to be done on earth ... eternal life means conscious existence in the body." For Unity, then, salvation and true religious growth are "do-it-yourself projects" (The Adventure Called Unity, pp. 6-7).

7. Hell.
With the Unity concept of the power of positive thinking, there is no talk about sin, and therefore, no eternal hell and no eternal punishment. They deny that hell is a real place, but claim that both heaven and hell are "states of mind," not geographical locations, that people experience as a result of their thoughts, words, and deeds. [HJB] Unity, thereby, is one of the most dangerous cults, because it lulls followers into thinking that they will never have to face the living God of the Bible.

8. Sickness. Unity claims that pain, sickness, old age, and death are not real. Instead, they teach a process of healing that uses "denial" and mental power: "Unity believes in the creative power of thoughts and words. We can have neither good nor ill unless we think and speak it into manifestation. ... what we think and speak will act to lift the consciousness to a higher level" (What Unity Teaches).

9. Reincarnation. Unity goes a step beyond Christian Science in its teaching of "transmigration of souls." Unity believes in reincarnation, i.e., that through a long process of rebirths we eventually reach perfection and immortality. (Unity teaches that Christ had been David, Moses, and Elijah in previous lives.) This was borrowed directly from Hinduism, in effect, lifted right out of Hindu's sacred writings. (However, unlike Hinduism, Unity's reincarnation is only to a new human body, never to an animal body.) They claim that God never intended for man to die, but that reincarnation was His merciful provision (cf. Heb. 9:27). They teach that once we reach perfection, we become part of the "Divine Mind," an eternal state of peace and tranquility [HJB]. Fulfillment, for the Unity adherent, is to come to the end of countless reincarnations, because one has then finally arrived at his Christ-like perfection state -- "The second birth is that in which we 'put on Christ.' It is a process of mental adjustment and body transmutation that takes place right here on earth." [From Unity's Statement of Faith, Article 22: "We believe that the dissolution of spirit, soul and body caused by death, is annulled by rebirth of the same spirit and soul in another body here on earth. We believe the repeated incarnations of man to be a merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may have opportunity to attain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus."]

10. Summary. Following are quotes from Charles Fillmore's book Christian Healing (Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO). They are found at the end of the chapters in his book and are meant as summarizations and points of meditation:

11. Biblical Response. 


1 A religious movement that began in the United States in the late 19th century, New Thought stresses the power of the mind to heal disease and to improve life. Its individualistic orientation has hindered the development of centralized institutions. New Thought, however, has influenced many who claim no allegiance to its organizations. Phineas P. Quimby, a mental healer and metaphysician, is considered the founder of New Thought, even though the movement incorporates ideas of other thinkers, including those of the American transcendentalists. Warren F. Evans (1817-89) and Julius A. Dresser (1838-93) spread Quimby's teachings. The magazine New Thought, which is still published today as Unity Magazine, was begun in 1894. The National New Thought Alliance was formed in 1908, and the International New Thought Alliance (INTA) in 1914. The Unity School of Christianity, although not part of INTA, is a prominent New Thought movement.

New Thought was a philosophical school of thought that believed in the ability of the human mind to solve all of the problems one might encounter. According to New Thought, the tremendous power of mind is explained by the divinity of humankind. Unlike Christian Science, which New Thought resembles in some respects, New Thought does not accept any final revelation and is not opposed in principle to material medicine. New Thought's optimistic influence can be seen in such works as Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking (1952). New Thought has also paved the way for recent interest in faith healing and in non-Western religions. (Source: 1995 Grolier Electronic Multimedia Encyclopedia.)  [Back to Text]

2 As with other New Age/pantheistic groups, Unity distinguishes between Jesus, the man, and Christ, the divine consciousness. This view of Christ is also shared by the Christian Science church of Mary Baker Eddy. Unity states: "Jesus represents God's idea of man in expression; Christ is that idea in the absolute." Unity draws a similar concept of the birth of Jesus as many other New Age cults. The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, pp. 345-346, states: "In the individual consciousness, the meaning of Jesus' being born in Bethlehem of Judea is that the principles of truth have laid hold of the intelligent substance of Spirit (Bethlehem), and through praise (Judea) have brought the Christ into manifestation. It is wise to protect the newborn spiritual consciousness from contact with Herod, the personal ego; Herod seeks 'the young child to destroy him,' but under the guidance of Spirit, no harm comes to the child. He is taken into Egypt (down into the protected places of the subconsciousness), to remain until the personal ego destroys itself; then the Christ child is free to come forth and express."  [Back to Text]

*Some of the material in this report has been excerpted and/or adapted from seven sources: (1) the 4/93 issue of The Discerner; (2) the 10/96 issue of the Mount Carmel Outreach; (3) Evaluating & Exposing Cultic & Occultic Movements, Jack Sin, "Unity," April 2000, pp. 34-35; (4) "Unity School of Christianity," Rick Branch (Watchman Fellowship Profile, 1993); (5) Grolier's 1995 Multimedia Encyclopedia; (6) Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia; and (7) What They Believe, Harold J. Berry [HJB], BTTB:1990, pp. 289-304.  [Back to Top]

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 11/01