A Unity minister challenges the idea of what healing and wholeness look like.
I was born with a rare form of dwarfism in the 1950s in small-town southern Missouri. The doctors told my parents I was “too deformed to survive” and discouraged them from holding me to avoid getting too attached.
I was isolated in the back of the nursery until I was 3 days old, when my daddy demanded to take his perfect baby girl home to love as long as he had her. I survived quite nicely.
You might think attitudes would evolve throughout time, yet 30 years later when I gave birth in a modern, metropolitan medical center, the doctors warned my family to prepare to see a “very deformed baby.” Upon seeing her granddaughter, Sarah, my mother exclaimed, “Oh, she’s perfect! She looks just like her mom!” Deformity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Given my experience, I was taken aback by the following passage in Rev. Eric Butterworth’s Practical Metaphysics:
You may not see yourself in relationship to the Allness, the wholeness, yet you are whether you know it or not.
You will experience the degree to which you know it, so if you see yourself in part, then you have a partial experience. Even in the midst of that partial experience, which may be in terms of not enough money or not a good job or poor relationships or physical difficulties or deformity, in every case, this is a partial expression … of the expression of the wholeness, of the Allness.
In every case, Butterworth was saying, our physical difficulties, as well as what many judge as deformities, are only a partial expression of our true, whole selves. I challenge this idea. I propose that spiritual wholeness can be fully expressed in physical bodies deemed “less than able” by others—a concept I call “Radical Wholeness.”
The ability of New Thought writers to embrace an evolving picture of diversity in our humanity and yet cling to a single image of manifesting wholeness as “able-bodied” baffles me. We must put greater emphasis on how individuals see themselves rather than convince them their expression of physical wholeness is limited, based on our judgment and perception of their physical expression.
Opening ourselves to new and unfamiliar possibilities always reveals new vistas—once we overcome our resistance. What if more than one picture of wholeness is manifesting in the physical realm?
As our spiritual teachings begin to embrace the diversity of humanity, we move away from seeing wholeness manifesting with specific characteristics of race, sexual orientation, gender identification, or ability.
That’s good, but it’s not quite enough.
What if …
- … we no longer associate descriptions of “blind, deaf, and lame” with people we perceive as failing to manifest spiritual wholeness and needing a specific healing?
- … we move beyond believing we already know what healing for others would look like?
- … our teaching examples began to embrace the language of changes in consciousness, the foundation of true healing into wholeness?
Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore describes wholeness as the “perfect unification and expression of [hu]man as Spirit, soul, and body. True healing means to make whole.”
Radical Wholeness, then, is the idea that wholeness can present in a variety of physical expressions. The language of Radical Wholeness allows each of us to discern for ourselves where our spiritual wholeness might seek greater expression.
This concept accommodates the diversity of human expression without judging any as superior. When we speak about spiritual wholeness, we must put down the “perfect” Barbie-doll examples flouted by society and instead lift up the true image of divine wholeness within each of us.
A New Way of Seeing: Understanding Old Stories
A few familiar healing stories illustrate how shifting language might reveal a new perspective. The ninth chapter of John contains a lengthy story of a man born blind. It opens with the disciples pondering the karmic debt related to the man’s physical limit—was it the man’s fault or his parents’ fault?
The response Jesus gives is a clear foundation for understanding every challenging circumstance we find ourselves in. “Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him’” (John 9:3).
To me, Jesus’ response says that everyone is born with a clean slate and with a unique path for revealing their own divinity. Every condition we deem as adversity is an opportunity to reveal the depth of power, wisdom, and love in our true nature. “God’s work revealed in him” describes the work of everyone—it’s not a special charge to individuals with physical challenges or disabilities.
As the story unfolds, we learn that the man was originally known as a beggar, although healing has given him a new way of being—a confidence and poise that has completely transformed him.
What if the only sight restored in this man is his ability to see himself as the expression of divine wisdom, power, and love that he was created to be? That’s so much more powerful of a healing than restoring mere physical sight. The man then becomes aware of his wholeness, and with that healing, his life changes.
The vision of self-awareness doesn’t rely upon what physical eyes see in the outer world. In Mysteries of John, Fillmore writes about the healing process in this story:
“By putting the clay upon the blind man’s eyes Jesus illustrated how man makes opaque his understanding by affirming the power of material conditions to hamper and impede his spiritual and material growth. The washing away of this clay by the man himself shows that by our own volition and our own efforts we must deny away these seeming mountains of environing conditions.”
Touching on a consciousness of wholeness transforms how the man sees himself. From then on, he integrates his new attitude into his everyday choices, casting aside old habits and beliefs until he appears as a new man.
Taking Healing Action
The Gospel of John in the fifth chapter tells the story of a man who stays by the healing pool of Bethzatha for 38 years. Jesus asks the man if he wants to be made well. The man first launches into his list of excuses, whining that no one will help him into the pool as others take their turn ahead of him.
Are there times when we wait for someone else to fix the situation we find ourselves in? Have we lamented that others are unfair to us and languished unhappily where we are?
Jesus tells the man to “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Healing is the connection of wholeness to wholeness. Spirit takes no notice of physical appearance or even a mind cluttered with error thoughts. Jesus gives a simple directive here to take action and be accountable: Spirit calls our wholeness into action.
Each of us creates a life that reflects our relationship with inner wholeness or a consciousness of outer limits and victimhood. When we stop blaming the outer world for unhappy conditions and instead recognize our wholeness, we claim the healing of “taking up our mat” and tap in to our spiritual power to take responsibility for our lives.
How to “Take up Your Mat” Every Day
Similar “take up your mat” language appears in the second chapter of Mark when a man, described as paralyzed, is carried by others and lowered through the roof of a house to gain access to Jesus. Initially, Jesus says the man’s sins are forgiven, which stirs contentious discussions in the house. So Jesus says, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?” (Mark 2:9)
Looking at this Bible story metaphysically, we can see that the “helpers” might be spiritual characteristics (like faith, strength, wisdom, and zeal) or spiritual practices (like denials and affirmations).
Whether the individual is “paralyzed” or “laying by the pool,” we note both stories are about an inability to take action based on what we in Unity call error thoughts (which other religions refer to as sin) or limiting beliefs. We must overcome any belief that the essence of who we are is broken or limited.
Awakening to divine power as us, whatever our physical expression looks like, we learn to “take up our mat” as we make decisions and choices in alignment with the power of our spiritual self.
Powerful Proposal: A New Language
I have no doubt that touching the wholeness in consciousness activates changes that radiate out into our health, finances, relationships, and more. The experience of wholeness is experience—it is the consciousness of the individual discerning a self-image of wholeness; a feeling of health and wealth; and a sense of gratitude for life.
I propose we recast our language and examples to be more inclusive and empowering, so the healing experience speaks to everyone.
To perceive ourselves as powerful creations of the Divine is “clear sight.” To have “ears to hear” is to be able to discern the Truth and apply it to our lives. To “take up our mat” is to take those confident actions that shine our spiritual light in the world. We move beyond any judgment of “physical difficulties or deformity” to accept that spiritual wholeness may express through each one of us in ways we cannot measure or discern from outside.
My daddy may not have known it at the time, but this is exactly the Radical Wholeness he declared for me the day he and my mother plucked me from the bassinette in the back of the hospital nursery and took me home. Radical Wholeness is my birthright. It’s everyone’s birthright.