In preparing for our ongoing Unity Basics Series, I did some research on Connie Fillmore Bazzy, the great-grand-daugher of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, who developed the “five basic principles.” in an attempt to provide a simplified summary of Unity’s teachings about the laws of the universe.
To be honest, my knowledge of Connie Fillmore was limited to knowing she was the last Fillmore to serve as the President & CEO of Unity School (1987-2001), and the first woman. She succeeded her father, Charles R. Fillmore, in the position and then as Chairman of the Board, upon resigning as CEO.
I learned that she had an impressive background. Just for starters, “she grew up at Unity Village, was valedictorian of her graduating class at Lee's Summit High School, attended Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Pomona College in Claremont, California. There she received a bachelor's degree in psychology and graduated with honors. She later graduated from Unity's ministerial program and received ordination, and then studied business at Rockhurst College, and counseling at the University of Missouri, both in Kansas City.” (Catherine Ponder, New Thought Magazine, 2004)
But what I found most enlightening was an article entitled “What Is Unity” written for Unity Magazine by Fillmore Bazzy in September 1994. Following is an abbreviated version…if you’d like to read the entire article, go to https://unityoncapecod.org/unity-by-its-founders-2/
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.
“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. 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 intended to present teachings and practices that could be used in everyday life, regardless of one’s formal religious affiliation. But many people who became familiar with the Unity teachings wanted to adopt them as their primary religious affiliation. 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. However, Unity…continues 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.
“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 prayer 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 am grateful for the rich heritage in which our Unity teachings have evolved, and proud to be a part of it.