Born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Charles Fillmore founded Unity, a spiritual organization within the New Thought movement, with his wife, Myrtle Page Fillmore, in 1889. He became known as an American mystic for his intuitive guidance and his contributions to allegorical interpretations of Scripture.
An ice-skating accident when he was 10 broke Fillmore's hip and left him with longtime physical challenges. In his early years, despite little formal education, he studied Shakespeare, Tennyson, Emerson and Lowell as well as works on spiritualism, Eastern religions and the occult.
He met his future wife, Myrtle Page, in Denison, Texas, in the mid-1870s. After losing his job there, he moved to Gunnison, Colorado, where he worked at mining and real estate.
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Myrtle was the eighth child (of nine) of an Ohio businessman-farmer. Born Mary Caroline Page, she adopted the name Myrtle in early childhood and used it the rest of her life. Her parents were strict Methodists, but Myrtle rejected their puritanical teachings. She contracted tuberculosis at a young age.
At the age of 21, Myrtle enrolled in the Literary Course for Ladies at Oberlin College. After graduating in 1867, she taught in Clinton, Missouri. She spent the next 13 years there, with the exception of 1877-78, when she spent a year in Denison, Texas, hoping to recover from tuberculosis.
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Introduction to New Thought
Charles married Myrtle in Clinton, Missouri, on March 29, 1881, and the newlyweds moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where Charles established a real estate business with the brother-in-law of Nona Lovell Brooks, who was later to found the Church of Divine Science.
After the births of their first two sons, Lowell Page and Waldo Rickert Fillmore, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Two years later, in 1886, Charles and Myrtle attended New Thought classes held by Dr. E. B. Weeks. Myrtle subsequently recovered from chronic tuberculosis and attributed her recovery to her use of prayer and other methods learned in Weeks' classes. Subsequently Charles began to heal from his childhood accident, a development that he, too, attributed to following this philosophy. Charles Fillmore became a devoted student of philosophy and religion.
A Growing Movement
In 1889, Charles left his business to focus entirely on publishing a new periodical, Modern Thought. In 1890 they organized a prayer group that would later be called "Silent Unity" and in the following year, the Fillmore's Unity magazine was first published. On December 7, 1892, Charles and Myrtle penned their Dedication and Covenant:
We, Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore, husband and wife, hereby dedicate ourselves, 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 Unity.
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 A.D. 1892.
Dr. H. Emilie Cady published a series titled Lessons in Truth in the new magazine. This material later was compiled and published in a book by the same name, which served as a seminal work of the Unity movement. Although Charles had no intention of making Unity into a denomination, his students wanted a more organized group. He and his wife were among the first ordained Unity ministers in 1906. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore first operated the Unity organization from a campus near downtown Kansas City. Unity began a formal program for training ministers in 1931.
Myrtle Fillmore died in 1931. Charles remarried in 1933 to Cora G. Dedrick who was a collaborator on his later writings. Charles Fillmore made his transition in 1948.
Unity Village, located 15 miles southeast of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, was originally established by the Fillmore's as a place for people to be refreshed from the activities of daily life. The Unity School of Christianity was eventually organized, and Unity Village became its home. The Mediterranean-style grounds include 1400 acres of gardens, woodlands, and recreational facilities that attract thousands of spiritual seekers every year. Unity School is world headquarters for the 108-year old and still-growing movement. Unity groups are now found all over the world ... in North, South, and Central America; the West Indies; the Caribbean; Africa; Europe; Russia; the Middle East; India; the Pacific Rim; and Australia.