Myrtle Fillmore, Healing, and the Unity Fifth Principle
Myrtle Fillmore is the cofounder of Unity, a movement founded on prayer. As the story is told, she was diagnosed with a group of chronic symptoms, often called tuberculosis in her day, and given a poor prognosis.
However, in 1886, she attended a lecture that introduced her to the idea of the capacity of the mind to heal. Not just “heal thyself,” but heal life collectively.
Myrtle had a practice for healing, whether it be individual healing of the body, mind, or soul, or healing the collective ills of society.
Most people know Myrtle only through the writings of How to Let God Help You and Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters. However, what I believe has gotten lost is Myrtle’s clarity that any healing experience must include being in service to others, offering your gifts, helping others see their own divinity, and giving of your resources.
“It is not always best for a person to continue doing that which he likes to do, or that for which he has been trained … We need to round out, to develop, all our faculties and powers to do that which brings us close to humanity and that which increases what the world needs most.”Myrtle Fillmore, Healing Letters
This is the essence of the fifth principle in Unity—doing what the world needs most.
The healing journey isn’t necessarily about “following my bliss.” Rather, it is about doing “what the world needs most.”
Most of us know the journey of healing—individually and collectively—is not free of pain, discomfort, or uncertainty. I believe Myrtle understood this. The woman I have come to know was passionate about giving of ourselves, focusing on another—prayer alone is not enough.
One of her blessings says, “Divine love, through me, blesses and multiplies you.”
The Fifth Principle
It is not enough to understand spiritual teachings. We must live the Truth we know.
Being in service to the world, to all forms of life, is the other half of the equation for healing and wholeness. If I believe in the interconnectedness of all life, then my spiritual growth, health, and well-being is informed and in part determined by yours. I can’t operate in a vacuum.
Sometimes it can be hard to accept. Sometimes I would rather stay safely cocooned in my own world, do my own work, and not have to worry about others or what is happening with climate change, racial inequality, and so many other challenges, which Myrtle referred to as the “great problem of life.”
The challenge is that I don’t live in a cave. I am connected: What happens for me, happens for all life.
A Living Religion: Going Beyond the “I”
Unity is what cofounder Charles Fillmore called “a living religion.” Living because Unity was founded on learning and practicing spiritual principles for a meaningful and abundant life, yet it has traditionally been individually focused—very “I-centric."
It isn’t often people think of Unity as socially active or working in the realms of social justice, but more than 130 years ago, revolutionary seeds were planted, essentially encouraging and teaching others what Myrtle was discovering for herself—we hold within ourselves the potential for healing and wholeness.
Since I have had the privilege for many years of teaching a variety of healing and wholeness classes at Unity Village, I have been able to dive deeply into the wealth of Myrtle's unpublished writings housed in the Unity Archives.
Reading her personal notes, lessons, poems, songs, affirmations, and even uncertainties, has greatly expanded my understanding and relationship with Myrtle’s methods and message.
Myrtle Fillmore’s Invitation to “Show Forth”
In large part, Myrtle’s writings are focused on individual healing, learning to understand God as principle, and how we can use that principle in our life to know joy, health, love, happiness, and peace.
Yet the prayer requests she responded to are often ones about how to heal the ills of society: alcoholism, poverty, marriage issues, women’s rights, and two social issues she was most vocal about, the health and well-being of children and Mother Nature.
In one meditation from 1913, she lets the listener know that by speaking to your “audience of millions,” which are the millions of cells in your body, you will be “setting them all aglow.”
She ends the meditation with a powerful reminder to take up the word and “go forth with it.” Go forth with it! That means get up and go do your work in the world.
Throughout her decades of writing, she repeatedly says we exist to express God. In 1890 in her “First Lesson in Christian Science,” she says, “We are Creation. We exist or show forth our Creator. Exist means to show forth.”
I believe she has always told those seeking healing that being in service is a necessary part of the healing journey. That is what going forth means. She even rewrote lyrics to “Ave Maria,” ending the song with the line “Help us to aid each other in life’s service everywhere.”
This facet of Myrtle often gets lost with so much focus on our inner world. Yet she clearly says many times in different ways that we are to do what humanity needs most—and this may not be something we are good at, or even something we love doing.
As she states, “There is a difference between a sage and a thinker. The thinker throws open the road, which leads from the seen to the unseen. The sage throws open the highway that takes us from that which we love today, to that which we yet shall love. And the paths ascend from that which has ceased to console—to that which shall be laden with deep consolation for a long time to come.”
Myrtle invites us to move beyond what is comfortable. It’s recognizing that perhaps what I am doing—in work, in service—I may not yet love, but I will.
In time, my actions will bring forth a world that offers nurturing, harmony, and belonging for the ages yet to come. I can add to the beauty of this. This is the Unity fifth principle.
Spiritual Centers Nurturing the Fifth Principle
Today, in Unity centers around the world, people are getting off their affirmations and stepping outside the four walls, to be in service. They are moving beyond their comfort zone, to create “that which we yet shall love.”
In a multitude of ways, I see spiritual centers asking what is needed most in their towns and communities and giving from that place of “Divine love, through me, blesses and multiplies you.”
By donating food, crocheting prayer shawls, planting gardens in cities, collecting clothing for the homeless, providing school supplies and resources for poor children, reading to the blind, holding AIDS babies, organizing Reiki healing circles, picking up trash on highways, and so many other ways.
A woman once wrote to Myrtle to ask what to do when people aren’t doing their fair share for the community.
Myrtle says, “Do you demand of others that which you demand of yourself, that they use good judgment, and self-denial when necessary? Do you make them understand that God prospers those who do their part and that you expect them to do their part to pay their bills, so that you can pay yours and go on with … the service you feel led to offer?”
Myrtle was asking if I demand enough of myself in healing what ails us—inside ourselves, as well as in our world. We must always remember it’s both: contemplation and action.
“I Make the World Wherein I Walk”
Myrtle invites me to be wherever I am needed most, even if afraid, uncertain, or unskilled and perhaps it’s not my passion.
I hear her telling me to be with whomever needs me most—friend, family, stranger, or foe—and words are not enough. She says, “If I speak Science and live not forth any words, I am silent. If you hear the words I speak but which I do not live, you are more visible than I. If I speak and live not, then I have not spoken … I do the words of truth, I tarry not in speech.”
Sometimes practicing this can be hard, or I may step into service begrudgingly. Yet it is that very action that shifts my thinking away from my own “problem called life” to that of another.
Just like me, she was a Truth student seeking to be a powerful force of her own expanded expression of healing, love, and life.
In her seeking she wrote, prayed, and affirmed over and over that God is Good, and therefore we are inherently good. This is what I have inherited, the capacity to seek, to be the restoration of that original goodness.
My Myrtle says, “I speak the Truth. I make the world wherein I walk.”
So I will ask you what she asks me. What are you doing? In her words, “Are you doing that which brings you closer to life, to goodness, because we need to be good for something in this world in which we live, this world we are creating.”