So just how did Charles Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity movement, incorporate the new science of psychology into the Unity theology? In this installment of “Inner Vision: Dream Work as Taught by Charles Fillmore and Carl Jung,” we’ll examine that question.
Since he was not formally educated as a psychologist, and in fact had no college education at all, it may be surprising to discover Fillmore did teach a coherent theory of the mind and how it functioned; however, articles from Unity magazine and Weekly Unity indicate that he was well versed in the advances of psychology in the first half of the 20th century. In fact, Unity magazine, while under the direction of Fillmore, had psychology as a principle focus. Its raison d’être was noted in this way:
Unity is a handbook of Christian Healing and Christian
The purpose of Unity is, not to found a new sect, but to
give people a practical application of what they already
have through their church affiliations.
Unity therefore stands independent as an exponent
of Practical Christianity, teaching the practical application
of the doctrine of Jesus Christ in all the affairs of life;
explaining the action of mind, and how it is the connecting
link between God and man; how mind action affects the body,
producing discord or harmony, sickness or health, and how it
brings man into the understanding of Divine law, harmony,
health and peace, here and now.
Unity explains how this power of mind action by every man
and woman, for it is as operative today as it was two thousand
years ago (Fillmore, 1921).
Although his knowledge of psychology did not reach the depth or breadth of that of Jung, the volume of similarities is of note. Many of them will be noted in the discussion below.
To Fillmore, the mind of man consisted of three distinctly different, yet interconnected phases: superconscious, conscious, and subconscious. In the September 1915 edition of Unity magazine, this insightful presentation of the three phases of mind was offered:
While there is but one mind, it has three distinct phases in man.
These the metaphysician has named superconscious, conscious
and subconscious. The majority of people know nothing about
any department of mind except the conscious, and they know
little about that because they do not study it. Every thought
passes through the conscious mind sinks back into what is
called the subconscious, or memory, and makes up a great
internal realm of forces that are always at work in the man to
build up or tear down, according to the character of the thoughts
he has held. In this great unknown, inner realm lie all the
causes of joy and sorrow, peace and pain, sickness and health.
Ignorance has always led men to look outside of themselves
for the cause of all their troubles. Now we are entering a new
dispensation of life and the wise are learning to correct their past
errors and cleanse their subconscious with the Word of Truth,
which enters into the conscious and sub-conscious from the superconscious or Christ Mind (Fillmore, 1915).
The subconscious realm of mind, which corresponds to the use of the term “unconscious” by Jung, was of particular interest to Fillmore and his contemporaries within the Unity movement. In 1914 the Unity Tract Society, noted above as owned and operated by Fillmore, published the 40 page booklet The Subconscious Realm of Mind written by Unity worker J.R. Rude. In it Rude says, “All the great psychologists agree that there is a phase or stratum of mind known as the subconscious, which is capable of independent action and which has powers distinctly its own. They have deduced this from certain psychical experiences and observations carried on by themselves” (Rude, 1914, p. 7). Regrettably, Rude does not name the “great psychologists” or their experiences; however, this quote does suggest that Fillmore knew that the subconscious functioned independently of the conscious mind.
Although Fillmore did not teach a clearly defined concept akin to the archetypes as did Jung, he did make mention of the many “types” of man found within the subconscious. Writing in 1920 he stated that the subconscious contained, “the wise man and the foolish man, the kind man and the cruel man, the loving man and the hateful man, the stingy man and the generous man” (Fillmore, 1920).
In August 1915, Unity magazine reprinted an article entitle “Exploring the Soul and Healing the Body,” written by philosopher Max Eastman that was originally published in Everybody’s Magazine. The article discussed the new field of healing called “Psycho-analysis,” which, in Eastman’s words:
…means analysis of the soul, or mind. And the theory of it is
that countless numbers of diseases that we call nervous, or
mental, and countless others that we do not name at all, are
caused by desires which dwell in our minds without our
knowing they are there; and that if we can be made clearly
aware of these desires, their morbid effects will disappear
(Eastman, 1915). N.B. italics in text
Unlike Rude’s booklet, Eastman’s article goes on to name the specialists in this new field: Freud, Charcot, and Janet in Europe along with several American doctors. And Jung. An exhaustive search of Unity literature for references to Jung has produced this one reference in Eastman’s article that occurs in a discussion of Freud:
Freud is now a professor of nervous pathology in the University
of Vienna. But his psychological theories, his interpretation of
dreams and his method of treating nervous and mental disorders,
developed not out of professorial speculations. They are the
result of twenty years’ practical experiment and concrete
observation not only by himself, but by a distinguished group
of physicians who have surrounded him.
The most notable of among these is Dr. Carl G. Jung of
Zurich, who stands at the head of another “school” of Psycho-
analysis. For in Europe this movement has gone so far as to
produce two, if not indeed more than two, different groups of
physicians, emphasizing different parts of the theory and its
method of application (Eastman, 1915).
To Rude and Fillmore, a central issue was how to control the subconscious. One reason for this was that “the objective mind has been pouring into the subconscious a stream of errors, false beliefs, and the husks of materiality…As these errors are incorporated into the organism, their blighting influence is seen” (Rude, 1914, p. 19). Thus to live a healthy life, one would want to ensure that whatever was put into the subconscious were words, concepts, ideas and the like that promoted good health and abundant living. Additionally, Rude recognized that “when the conscious mind loses control of the subconscious, insanity is the result” (Rude, 1914, p. 21). In other words, psychosis.
Although Jung was clear that the unconscious mind did contain potentially damaging elements and energies, it would appear by the following comment he was ambivalent about value of full cohesion of consciousness:
It is a long way indeed from primitivity to a reliable cohesion
of consciousness. Even in our days the unity of consciousness
is a doubtful affair, since only a little affect is needed to disrupt
its continuity. On the other hand the perfect control of emotion,
however desirable from one point of view, would be a questionable
accomplishment, for it would deprive social intercourse of all
variety, colour, warmth, and charm (CW 18:443).
In a Weekly Unity article from 1921 entitled “The Subconscious Realm of Mind, Doratha Avery, though not using the terms collective unconscious or archetypes, implies their existence:
The subconscious realm of mind is the storehouse of all the
knowledge which a soul has gathered from its experiences
and wanderings since it left the Father’s house in the Edenic
garden of innocence, up to the present time.
Many true and beautiful gems of thought are hidden away
in the recesses of this wonderful storehouse. There are
also hung on its walls undesirable, crude and ugly thought
pictures of man’s emotional nature (Avery, 1921).
Perhaps the “soul” she references is the soul of every person (the collective) and the “gems” and other “thought pictures” could be the archetypes. The other two phases of mind Rude identified in this manner: “The superconsciousness is the Mind of Christ, Heaven, the kingdom of God, the Holy of Holies. It is the realm of Divine Ideas. From it all things proceed and all things are enveloped in it” (Rude, 1914, p. 10). “The conscious mind knows itself as a living, intelligent being at work in the outer world. It reasons, compares, weighs, measures. It gathers its information through the sense from the surface of things. It is well fitted to cope with the changing environment of this life. In man’s normal condition, the conscious mind is at the helm…” (Rude, 1914, p. 4-5).
It is helpful to understand the three phases of mind as understood by Unity because Fillmore taught, as psychologists still teach, that dreams emerge from the subconscious mind. Moreover, dreams emerge from the subconscious to help man know himself and his wholeness. In 1915 Fillmore wrote:
Even when one understands that he has a great mental
housecleaning to do he discovers that he has much to
learn about what is really within him, and he is glad
for every means of finding out in his overcoming what
he has stored away in his subconscious. Just here
dreams are of value. When the conscious mind is still
in sleep, the subconscious has the opportunity to be
very active and it expresses itself in dreams; therefore
one can readily see that by studying his dreams he
can get a great deal of information about what is
going on in his subconscious mind (Fillmore, 1915).
Another central aspect of Fillmore’s psychology was the importance he placed on man’s capacity to think and the power of words. “One of the axiomatic truths of metaphysics is that ‘thoughts are things.’ That the mind of man marshals its faculties and literally makes into living entities that it entertains is also a forgone conclusion” (Fillmore, 1959, p. 193). In his first book, Christian Healing published in 1909, he said, “…every word has its effect, though unseen and unrecognized… and a close observation of the power of the mind proves this to be true. What we think, we generally express in words; and our words bring about in our life and affairs whatever we put into them” (Fillmore, 1909, p. 64). Fillmore’s focus on the creative power of one’s thought process could be considered a forerunner to the cognitive behavior therapy developed by Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. No discussion of Fillmore’s psychology would be complete with mentioning this crucial fact.