“Every man is the inlet, and may become the outlet, of all there is in God.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were greatly influenced by the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the transcendental essayist, philosopher, and poet. In 1889 in Modern Thought—which later became Unity Magazine®—they explained Emerson’s work. “All students of metaphysics should read Emerson. His writings contain the essence of all the higher thoughts that are now being lavishly given to the world … Emerson anticipates the modern school of metaphysics and gives voice in his essays to all the truths which have been formulated in Divine Science.”

The Fillmores were such fans of Ralph Waldo Emerson that years before Unity was founded, they named one of their sons after him: Waldo Rickert Fillmore. Emerson was also frequently quoted by Charles Fillmore. Interestingly, Charles often paired Emerson quotes with quotes from or references to Jesus.

Charles Fillmore described Emerson as “the greatest spiritual teacher America ever had,” and he credited Emerson with expressing the truths that he and other metaphysicians used to formulate their teachings.

Emerson’s Background

Emerson was born in Boston in 1803 into a family that had deep roots in Massachusetts. His father was a Unitarian minister in Boston, and his mother was the daughter of a well-known and prosperous distiller in the area. Emerson was mainly raised by his mother, his aunt, and other women after his father died when he was 8.

He became a Unitarian minister after graduating from Harvard. He was an inspirational and eloquent speaker. However, he resigned after six years because of a disagreement regarding the Lord’s Supper.

In the early 1830s, he began writing the essays that would bring him fame. In 1838, he gave an address at Harvard Divinity School outlining the tenets of Transcendentalism and disavowing some of the teachings of traditional Unitarianism.

Charles Fillmore described Emerson as “the greatest spiritual teacher America ever had,” and he credited Emerson with expressing the truths that he and other metaphysicians used to formulate their teachings.

Diving Deeper Into Emerson

Emerson believed God was an all-powerful presence that could be found everywhere in the universe. He believed those seeking God only needed to look within. He wrote that prayer and meditation were both essential practices for connecting to the Divine within. Furthermore, he saw Jesus as the great example of divinity manifesting itself and believed traditional Christianity often misinterpreted the teachings of Jesus.

Writing in his essay “History” about oneness and the connection of all people, Emerson said:

There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand.

In his journals and notebooks, Emerson wrote about the divine nature of human beings:

The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself. He is not to live to the future as described to him, but to live to the real future by living to the real present. The highest revelation is that God is in every man.

Emerson also described a spiritual awakening:

Excite the soul, and the weather and the town and your condition in the world all disappear; the world itself loses its solidity, nothing remains but the soul and the Divine Presence in which it lives.

Fillmore later taught many of the same principles.

Influence on the Fillmores

Charles Fillmore frequently acknowledged that the teachings of the Unity movement were not his or Myrtle’s original ideas. The Fillmores were greatly influenced by not only the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson but also Warren Felt Evans and Emma Curtis Hopkins. Charles said:

We have been readers among all schools of thought and we find good in all of them … We do not claim to have discovered any new truths, nor have had any special revelation of truth. There is truth in every religion. It is my privilege to take Truth from any source, put it into my religion, and make it a fundamental rule of action in my life.

Reading these works by Emerson—particularly his essays—provides a better understanding of the Fillmores and the formation of the Unity movement. When immersing yourself in the writing of Emerson, it’s easy to see how the Fillmores arrived at the teachings of Unity.

About the Author

Sara Crawford is a digital content specialist at Unity World Headquarters. She is also a playwright and the author of Time After Time as well as The Muse Chronicles trilogy. For more information, please see saracrawford.net.

Sara Crawford


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