“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’”
Though my first exposure to Unity was through the writings of Emilie Cady, I would discover later that she wrote as a representative of the Unity Movement, co-founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. Prior to this discovery, I had no knowledge of Unity as an organization.
Cady’s book, Lessons in Truth, first appeared as a series of articles in Unity. This series was the Fillmore’s response to a Unity subscriber’s request to “…have one of your clearest writers, one who understands the principles, and the uninformed mind of a student, write an explanation of this grand Truth in very simple form and in simple, clear words.” As a regular contributor to a number of Unity publications, the Fillmores selected Cady for the task. In my opinion, her work still represents the gold standard of presentations of Unity’s core teachings.
In the meantime, Fillmore continued developing his own writing skills, and deepening his understanding of spiritual principles. In much the same way science has been on a quest for the theory of everything (a single theory linking all aspects of the material universe), so Fillmore was in search of a spiritual key for resolving the full range of human problems. Having explored many of the world’s religious and occult teachings, he narrowed his search to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. There he found his theory of everything, his universal key that, in his view, held the promise of ending all human suffering. This key was his concept of regeneration, which he defined as:
“A change in which abundant spiritual life, even eternal life, is incorporated into the body. The transformation that takes place through bringing all the forces of mind and body to the support of the Christ ideal. The unification of Spirit, soul, and body in spiritual oneness.”
Once it solidified in his own thinking, this concept provided the logic that inspired Fillmore’s elaborate vision of humankind’s ultimate goal, a snapshot of which we find in the opening paragraph of his book, The Twelve Powers of Man:
“Jesus prophesied the advent of a race of men who would sit with Him on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This book explains the meaning of this mystical reference, what and where the twelve thrones are, and what attainments are necessary by man before he can follow Jesus in this phase of his regeneration. Regeneration follows generation in the development of man. Generation sustains and perpetuates the human; regeneration unfolds and glorifies the divine.”
The scriptural support for this lofty vision comes from the King James Version (KJV) of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus and his disciples are in conversation, with the disciples expressing their concern of having given up everything to follow Jesus. What rewards await them?
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Given the fact that he makes this text and the concept of regeneration the central theme of his teaching, his theory of everything, scholars today would find Fillmore’s interpretation of the above scripture problematic. In the entire Bible, there are but two occurrences of the word, regeneration (Matthew 19:28, Titus 3:5). As we’ve seen, the Matthew reference appears only in the KJV. Modern translations drop regeneration from Matthew, favoring instead phrases like “in the new world” and “at the renewal of all things.”
That the followers of the Jesus movement would have seen this passage as a mystical reference to body and soul regeneration is doubtful. Every aspect of the Bible is, of course, fair game for metaphysical interpretation, but Matthew’s passage obviously points to the literal second coming, the ushering in of the new age, and the rewards for those who have sacrificed everything for their faith.
“And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”
As one trained in the foundation principles of Unity, I attribute my early understanding of the soul as an evolving entity to Charles Fillmore. Though Cady certainly implied it, she was far less energetic in her discourse on the particulars of the subject. We will see in the remainder of this chapter that Fillmore presented Jesus as the sole example of the highly evolved, spiritually unified, completely regenerated human being. Based on my respect for Fillmorian authority, this is the view I endorsed before I had the confidence to draw my own conclusions. Presenting the reasons why I have now come to a different understanding of the soul and of Jesus and his role is the subject of this chapter and the one that follows.
From the writers of the New Testament to now, all generations of Christian leaders have utilized the words and actions of Jesus to lend authority and credibility to the advancement of their organizational causes and personal agendas. There was much tension between Paul and his appeal to embrace the Gentiles, and those who sought to limit passing the message of Jesus exclusively to the Jewish community. Using Jesus and his messianic credentials as their authority, each side accused the other of preaching a false gospel.
Some years ago, a couple asked me to perform a wedding in a well-known chapel in the foothills near Denver. When the Evangelical Christian owners of the chapel learned that I was a Unity minister, they barred me from performing the ceremony. They said Unity was “theologically impure” and, therefore, non-Christian.
It was attitudes like these that I believe motivated Fillmore to go to extreme lengths to not only prove Unity was theologically pure, but to show it was the purest and truest representation of the Christian message. “We believe all the doctrines of Christianity spiritually interpreted” He applied his interpretation of Jesus, a mighty, larger-than-life, fully regenerated type-man, very much alive and standing at the head of the Unity movement, as the primary means of advancing his system of thought. He insisted that long established ideas about Jesus did not go far enough, that Jesus was all they said and so much more. He was the ultimate Wayshower of the human race, the great example of what the fully regenerated human being was to look like.
This portrayal, like those of his more traditional counterparts, set an idealized standard of spiritual and physical accomplishment that, in my observation, has driven some, including Fillmore himself, to obsess over unrealistic expectations of the body. In an article written in 1920 he wrote,
“The Spirit showed me several years ago that I must quit having my picture taken; that I must quit looking into the mirror and seeing myself as a murky imagination had formed me. I had within me the concept of a fine looking young man, but when I looked into the glass, or when I had my picture taken, he did not appear. And other people did not see him and they began to impress me with error both within and without.”
Though the legends persist that Fillmore, through vigorous affirmative prayer work, did manage to regain some of his youthful appearance, an outside observer saw him at age 84 as a “white-haired man” bearing the same failing physical and mental characteristics typical of that age. According to Myrtle, he became reluctant to appear in public “until he has completed his demonstration of healing his leg,” the result of a childhood injury that plagued him his entire life. Showing any signs of age or illness would have run counter to his declaration that the human being was capable of living in the body forever. Asked if he expected to live forever in his body, Fillmore responded in this way:
“This question is often asked by Unity readers. Some of them seem to think that I am either a fanatic or a joker if I take myself seriously in the hope that I shall with Jesus attain eternal life in the body. But the fact is that I am very serious about the matter.”
Though he did not succeed, there is no doubt that he was committed to the idea. The force with which he advanced his ideal influenced many Unity followers to adopt this type-man he saw in Jesus as the Holy Grail of spiritual attainment. One woman I knew, steeped in Fillmore’s denial of old age, was adamant about not speaking her age, believing that acknowledging it would make it so. I am certain that any stranger meeting her at any point in her life would have been able to guess her age based on her bodily appearance. To many who knew her, including myself, this all seemed an overly dramatic game.
I support much of what Charles Fillmore taught and I encourage all to read the full body of his works. But I have never been able to accept his ideas on the potential for physical immortality, or that Jesus pioneered and advocated eternal life in the physical body. My sense is that Fillmore’s life-long struggle with his own physical condition is the thing that made soul and body regeneration his personal focus.
Soul Evolution and Reincarnation
This glorified portrayal of Jesus, put forward as our ultimate example of spiritual achievement, has forced us to accept that the soul of the average person, far from hitting this extraordinarily high mark, must be evolving toward the perfection of Christ Consciousness. Fillmore taught that all people could eventually reach this level, making it necessary to include the concepts of soul evolution and reincarnation as bridging mechanisms needed to carry out this lofty achievement.
He was not alone in adopting soul evolution as the means of facilitating the individual’s march toward spiritual perfection, but Fillmore was especially emphatic in tying soul development directly to the condition of the physical body. He saw the body as “the highest-formed manifestation of creative Mind, and that it is capable of unlimited expression of that Mind.” As we have seen, this unlimited expression would ultimately translate into physical immortality.
“When man realizes that there is but one body-idea and that the conditions in his body express the character of his thought, he has the key to bodily perfection and immortality in the flesh.”
The body, according to Fillmore, projects the condition of the soul. The degeneration of the body, through aging and death, indicates the soul has not yet evolved to full alignment with the Christ ideal that rests in the mind of God.
“If you believe in old age and bodily decrepitude and decay, you will find that all the little cells throughout your organism are carrying in their depths just such pictures, as the clear waters of the lake reflect the trees and the clouds.”
The body, then, is a kind of barometer that reflects the state of the soul. The aging process and any separation of spirit, soul, and body brought on by physical death are due to a “transgression of the divine law.” According to this view, the soul contains many ideas that are not in alignment with what is true of Spirit. Because Fillmore believed the “soul makes the body,” the body displays, in the form of disease and death, the untruths held at the soul level. The remedy is to regenerate the soul, bringing its sum of ideas up to the standard of the I Am, the support of the Christ ideal. In the meantime, the soul is in a constant state of evolving from a mortal to an immortal condition, which the body follows.
As I’ve pointed out, this evolution of soul and body takes place through multiple incarnations. This belief, perhaps inadvertently, elevates reincarnation to the status of an evolutionary requirement or, as Fillmore calls it:
“… a merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may have opportunity to attain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus.”
In other words, Fillmore does not present reincarnation as a choice-based option, but instead makes it an evolutionary inevitability, a required link in his chain of logic. In addition to merciful, we are compelled to accept reincarnation as a necessary provision of our soul’s continued progress, and we are forced to measure this progress by the present condition of our physical body.
I believe it is an unnecessary burden to think the body and its present condition represent the condition of the soul. According to this association, if the body is expressing disease and limitation of any kind, it is because a similar condition exists in the soul. This problem is the result of considering the terms soul and consciousness as having the same meaning. We’ll take an in-depth, alternative look at the terms, soul, consciousness, and self-image in Chapter 4.
The health of our body, or the lack thereof, does indeed have a direct relation to the instabilities and stresses brought on by our consciousness. This is very different from suggesting the soul is flawed and these flaws are out-picturing in the body. The beliefs generated by the self-image act as a kind of weather system containing clouds that mask the sunlight of the soul. The soul’s radiance is perpetual, but the self-image produces a cloud cover of fear and stress that has a negative impact on our mental and physical well-being. We know that a person can display a perfectly healthy body and remain spiritually asleep. Likewise, one can be spiritually awake and still be afflicted with a physical malady or handicap.
Jesus and Soul Evolution
We can trace the association of soul evolution and reincarnation far back into the history of Eastern religions. The idea of the soul being reborn in another body as a further chance to attain higher consciousness, or to work out one’s karma, is a central tenet. Fillmore put a Christianized spin on this process by declaring Jesus the only person who had ever lifted his physical body to this fully regenerated condition. Through “conscious union with Jesus in the regeneration,” he wrote, each person could “transform his body and make it perpetually healthy, therefore immortal, and that he can attain eternal life in this way and in no other way.” Jesus “was the ‘first-fruits’ of those who are coming out of the mortal into the immortal.” According to the logic of these statements, one not only had to be Christian to gain eternal life, he or she had to be a metaphysical Christian.
This view of reincarnation explains why, with the exception of the ascended Jesus, we see no fully regenerated humans roaming planet earth.
“He [Jesus] was the type man, the Way-Shower, and, through following His example and taking on His character as a spiritual-minded man, we shall come into the same consciousness.”
To Fillmore, physical death, which he described as the “terror of humanity,” represents a complete breakdown in adherence to the law of regeneration.
At the point of physical death, Fillmore envisioned the soul entering a kind of sleep in which neither learning nor advancement of any kind took place. It is with the next physical incarnation that the soul resumes its evolutionary journey from where it left off in the previous incarnation.
“As death has no power to help anyone, the condition of the Adam man is not bettered by dying. Therefore, when people are re-embodied they ‘come forth . . . unto the resurrection of damnation,’ in other words, condemnation or correction. Everyone begins where he left off.”
This assertion clearly runs counter to the findings of researchers in the field of near-death studies, research that was unavailable in Fillmore’s time. Far from slipping into sleep or a coma, the majority of near-death experiencers report that they feel more alive than ever. A substantial number report tapping a universal wisdom and love beyond anything they can describe. They often see through the shallow interests and cares of their worldly pursuits. It is common for those devoted to chasing materialistic ends to lift their standards and aim for higher purposes. Atheists return believing in God. Religious believers have their minds opened far beyond the dogmatic parameters of their training. Virtually none of them “begins where he left off,” even when their episodes last but a few minutes. As researchers have discovered, the near-death experience often changes people to their core, and in moments. This is a sharp contrast to the view expressed by Fillmore:
“Awakening cannot be associated with dying. The idea that man awakens to spiritual or any kind of consciousness immediately after “death,” whether in heaven, hell, purgatory, or elsewhere, is opposed to Truth. His awakening must take place here, during the time of “life,” at least while he is partially awake and before he sinks into that deeper sleep or coma that we call death.”
Viewing physical death as he did, can we wonder that Fillmore failed to see any kind of spiritual value associated with the loss of the body? The evidence is now overwhelming that so-called death is neither a deeper sleep nor a coma, but a state of enhanced lucidity. In this state, the individual is more alive and alert, their ability to see, hear, and know more acute than at any time while in the body. In light of what we are learning from this research, the argument can and should be made that overcoming death has less to do with physical immortality and more to do with the revelation that there is, in fact, no death. “Death,” as one NDEr concluded, “is a really nasty lie.”
Carl Jung Testimony
There are some who pass off near-death research as merely anecdotal and, therefore, inconsequential and unreliable. The experiencer, they might say, is predisposed to a certain kind of imagery due to their beliefs. This may be true to some extent, but we cannot ignore the fact that there are common elements found in the overwhelming majority of cases from all cultures and demographics. Nor can we ignore the testimony of individuals we consider highly credible, especially when they gave it prior to the popularization of near-death studies.
One notable case is that of Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. After having a heart attack accompanied by an NDE, he wrote:
“I would never have imagined that any such experience was possible. It was not a product of imagination. The visions and experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.”
So real was this experience that Jung, like many before and after him, was quite reluctant to return to the confines of his physical body.
“In reality, a good three weeks were still to pass before I could truly make up my mind to live again. I could not eat because all food repelled me. The view of city and mountains from my sickbed seemed to me like a painted curtain with black holes in it, or a tattered sheet of newspaper full of photographs that meant nothing. Disappointed, I thought: “Now I must return to ‘the box system’ again.” For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box. And now I should have to convince myself all over again that this was important! Life and the whole world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond measure that I should again be finding all that quite in order. I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I—along with everyone else—would again be hung up in a box by a thread.”
Jung did not discount the value of the awakening he experienced during his near-death episode. Nor did he pass off the insight it provided as subjective fantasy. He treated it as a real experience that had a profound impact on his thinking. His case is important, not only for the name recognition, but also for the fact that he was a highly trained and respected observer of mental processes. Is it likely that Jung would have jeopardized his professional legacy speculating on these visions and experiences had he considered them anything but utterly real?
The Choice to Reincarnate
As I’ve mentioned, I like to think of reincarnation as a choice rather than as an evolutionary requirement. Seen this way, we can think of our earthly incarnation as something far more than Fillmore’s resurrection of damnation. With choice as the prime factor, we can logically conclude that we will incarnate on earth as long as something here holds our interest. When events or circumstances make it unattractive—a natural global catastrophe for example—it is quite conceivable that we simply refrain from taking up a body until conditions become more to our liking. It is also reasonable to consider that we may incarnate at a particular time to advance a cause, or to help rebuild a waning human population brought on by war or natural disaster.
Around seventy thousand years ago, Toba, a super volcano in Indonesia, exploded into one of earth’s largest eruptions. This environmental disaster triggered severe climate change and may have reduced the human population to as few as 3,000 to 10,000.Is it unreasonable to assume that, given the choice, many fewer individuals would incarnate in such a compromised environment? On the other hand, some, like first responders, might relish the chance to rush in and help the human species recover.
Without going too far afield here, can we discount the possibility of multiple, biospheric environments existing throughout the universe? New studies estimate that our Milky Way galaxy alone contains 100 billion planets. If this is true and one environment does not appeal to our interests or fill a need we feel compelled to address, is it out of the range of possibility that we may simply choose another?
Charles Fillmore placed the soul in an evolving continuum from which the only escape was full regeneration of soul and body. His conclusion that only one person, Jesus, had successfully run this evolutionary gauntlet casts a dim light on the average individual’s chances of a full awakening in this lifetime. That he believed absolutely in this model is shown in his advocating that an extraordinary spiritual revolution was underway:
“Everywhere true metaphysicians are preparing themselves to be members in the great colony that Jesus is to set up, by working to eliminate from their mind all selfish ideas, along with all other discordant vibrations that produce inharmony among members of the same group.”
I have little doubt that he envisioned Unity Village as the beginning of this great colony of true metaphysicians. In my earlier years, I would have gladly counted myself a willing and expectant resident of this great colony. I have since concluded that the image of Jesus put forward by Charles Fillmore is the product of his own speculation. The Jesus every author presents, and I include myself, is the Jesus that would exist if our specific lines of logic were correct. I’ll present my view of him in the following chapter.
The sheer ambiguity of historical facts have made Jesus fair game for a wide range of interpretations advanced as Truth. We wind up with a blend of emotionally charged imagery mixed with a line of spiritual logic that careful scrutiny or new research will likely expose as having little or no basis in historical or scientific fact.
 Matthew 21:23
 Fillmore, Charles. The Revealing Word. Unity Books
 Twelve Powers of Man. Charles Fillmore. Unity Books
 Matthew 19:28 KJV
 King James Version was published in 1612
 Revised Standard Version. 1946-1957
 New Revised Standard Version. 1989
 Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30
 Matthew 19:29
 #31, Unity’s Statement of Faith
 Quotation taken from, The Spiritual Journey of Charles Fillmore. Neal Vahle. Templeton Foundation Press. 2008
 Fillmore, Charles. Christian Healing. Unity Books
 Fillmore, Charles. Talks on Truth. Unity Books
 #21, Unity’s Statement of Faith
 # 22, ibid
 #19, ibid
 Fillmore, Charles. Twelve Powers of Man. Unity Books
 Fillmore, Charles. Keep a True Lent. Unity Books
 Fillmore, Charles. Mysteries of Genesis. Unity Books
 Jung, Carl, Aniela Jaffé. 1965. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage, a division of Random House
 According to the genetic bottleneck theory, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human populations sharply decreased to 3,000–10,000 surviving individuals. The theory is supported by genetic evidence suggesting that today’s humans are descended from a very small population of between 1,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs that existed about 70,000 years ago. (Wikipedia: Genetic Bottleneck Theory).
 Fillmore, Charles. Prosperity. Unity Books