Skip to main content
Select Source:

unity

u·ni·ty / ˈyoōnətē/ • n. (pl. -ties) the state of being united or joined as a whole, esp. in a political context: European unity economic unity. ∎  harmony or agreement between people or groups: their leaders called for unity between opposing factions. ∎  the state of forming a complete and pleasing whole, esp. in an artistic context: the repeated phrase gives the piece unity and cohesion. ∎  a thing forming a complex whole: they speak of the three parts as a unity. ∎  in Aristotle’s Poetics, each of the three dramatic principles requiring limitation of the supposed time of a drama to that occupied in acting it or to a single day (unity of time), use of one scene throughout (unity of place), and concentration on the development of a single plot (unity of action).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"unity." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"unity." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/unity-0

"unity." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/unity-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Unity

Unity, religious movement incorporated as the Unity School of Christianity, with headquarters at Lee's Summit, Mo. Although the movement used the name Unity after 1891, it was founded earlier by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore as a spiritual healing movement, with affinity to Christian Science and close ties with New Thought. Unity strongly affirms its Christian identity and has an ordained ministry. The Bible is interpreted allegorically, not literally; revelation is seen as a continuing process. Individuals attain salvation through development of their Christ consciousness, and ultimately all will be saved. Emphasis is placed on the ability to heal ills of mind and body by prayer and right thinking.

See M. Bach, They Have Found a Faith (1946, repr. 1971); E. Butterworth, Discover the Power Within You (1989).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Unity." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Unity." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/unity

"Unity." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/unity

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

unity

unitybanditti, bitty, chitty, city, committee, ditty, gritty, intercity, kitty, nitty-gritty, Pitti, pity, pretty, shitty, slitty, smriti, spitty, titty, vittae, witty •fifty, fifty-fifty, nifty, shifty, swiftie, thrifty •guilty, kiltie, silty •flinty, linty, minty, shinty •ballistae, Christie, Corpus Christi, misty, twisty, wristy •sixty •deity, gaiety (US gayety), laity, simultaneity, spontaneity •contemporaneity, corporeity, femineity, heterogeneity, homogeneity •anxiety, contrariety, dubiety, impiety, impropriety, inebriety, notoriety, piety, satiety, sobriety, ubiety, variety •moiety •acuity, ambiguity, annuity, assiduity, congruity, contiguity, continuity, exiguity, fatuity, fortuity, gratuity, ingenuity, perpetuity, perspicuity, promiscuity, suety, superfluity, tenuity, vacuity •rabbity •improbity, probity •acerbity • witchetty • crotchety •heredity •acidity, acridity, aridity, avidity, cupidity, flaccidity, fluidity, frigidity, humidity, hybridity, insipidity, intrepidity, limpidity, liquidity, lividity, lucidity, morbidity, placidity, putridity, quiddity, rabidity, rancidity, rapidity, rigidity, solidity, stolidity, stupidity, tepidity, timidity, torpidity, torridity, turgidity, validity, vapidity •commodity, oddity •immodesty, modesty •crudity, nudity •fecundity, jocundity, moribundity, profundity, rotundity, rubicundity •absurdity • difficulty • gadgety •majesty • fidgety • rackety •pernickety, rickety •biscuity •banality, duality, fatality, finality, ideality, legality, locality, modality, morality, natality, orality, reality, regality, rurality, tonality, totality, venality, vitality, vocality •fidelity •ability, agility, civility, debility, docility, edibility, facility, fertility, flexility, fragility, futility, gentility, hostility, humility, imbecility, infantility, juvenility, liability, mobility, nihility, nobility, nubility, puerility, senility, servility, stability, sterility, tactility, tranquillity (US tranquility), usability, utility, versatility, viability, virility, volatility •ringlety •equality, frivolity, jollity, polity, quality •credulity, garrulity, sedulity •nullity •amity, calamity •extremity • enmity •anonymity, dimity, equanimity, magnanimity, proximity, pseudonymity, pusillanimity, unanimity •comity •conformity, deformity, enormity, multiformity, uniformity •subcommittee • pepperminty •infirmity •Christianity, humanity, inanity, profanity, sanity, urbanity, vanity •amnesty •lenity, obscenity, serenity •indemnity, solemnity •mundanity • amenity •affinity, asininity, clandestinity, divinity, femininity, infinity, masculinity, salinity, trinity, vicinity, virginity •benignity, dignity, malignity •honesty •community, immunity, importunity, impunity, opportunity, unity •confraternity, eternity, fraternity, maternity, modernity, paternity, taciturnity •serendipity, snippety •uppity •angularity, barbarity, bipolarity, charity, circularity, clarity, complementarity, familiarity, granularity, hilarity, insularity, irregularity, jocularity, linearity, parity, particularity, peculiarity, polarity, popularity, regularity, secularity, similarity, singularity, solidarity, subsidiarity, unitarity, vernacularity, vulgarity •alacrity • sacristy •ambidexterity, asperity, austerity, celerity, dexterity, ferrety, posterity, prosperity, severity, sincerity, temerity, verity •celebrity • integrity • rarity •authority, inferiority, juniority, majority, minority, priority, seniority, sonority, sorority, superiority •mediocrity • sovereignty • salubrity •entirety •futurity, immaturity, impurity, maturity, obscurity, purity, security, surety •touristy •audacity, capacity, fugacity, loquacity, mendacity, opacity, perspicacity, pertinacity, pugnacity, rapacity, sagacity, sequacity, tenacity, veracity, vivacity, voracity •laxity •sparsity, varsity •necessity •complexity, perplexity •density, immensity, propensity, tensity •scarcity • obesity •felicity, toxicity •fixity, prolixity •benedicite, nicety •anfractuosity, animosity, atrocity, bellicosity, curiosity, fabulosity, ferocity, generosity, grandiosity, impecuniosity, impetuosity, jocosity, luminosity, monstrosity, nebulosity, pomposity, ponderosity, porosity, preciosity, precocity, reciprocity, religiosity, scrupulosity, sinuosity, sumptuosity, velocity, verbosity, virtuosity, viscosity •paucity • falsity • caducity • russety •adversity, biodiversity, diversity, perversity, university •sacrosanctity, sanctity •chastity •entity, identity •quantity • certainty •cavity, concavity, depravity, gravity •travesty • suavity •brevity, levity, longevity •velvety • naivety •activity, nativity •equity •antiquity, iniquity, obliquity, ubiquity •propinquity

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"unity." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"unity." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/unity

"unity." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/unity

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Unity

UNITY

UNITY is the largest movement in the New Thought tradition and shares New Thought's formative influences and general worldview. Founded in Kansas City, Missouri, by Myrtle Fillmore (18451931) and Charles Fillmore (18541948), a married couple, Unity is the second oldest and most distinctly Christian community within New Thought. The impetus to the formation of Unity was Myrtle Fillmore's recovery from tuberculosis through the use of mental healing rituals.

The founding of the movement occurred in 1889, one year after Myrtle Fillmore pronounced herself healed. The first venture for Unity, the periodical Modern Thought, began publication in 1889, and in 1890 the movement's original prayer ministry was establishedThe Society of Silent Help. In 1891 the name Unity was given to the Fillmores' enterprise, and the couple began publishing a new periodical, Unity, whose masthead bore what would become the traditional symbol for the movement, a winged globe. Concurrent with the initiation of the movement, the Fillmores studied with New Thought founder, Emma Curtis Hopkins (18491925), who had established a Christian Science ministry and seminary in Chicago, which was independent of the Boston-based religion of Mary Baker Eddy (18211910). Of the various influences on the Fillmores' religious development (e.g., Spiritualism, Vedānta, New England Transcendentalism), Hopkins's teachings were the most significant.

The movement's first formal institutional expression was the Unity Society of Practical Christianity (1903), and in 1906 Unity ordained its first ministersincluding Myrtle and Charles Fillmore. In harmony with the practice initiated by Hopkins and consistent with all other New Thought groups, from this time onward Unity has ordained women along with men and maintained a thoroughgoing egalitarianism with regard to all ecclesiastical roles and functions. It is notable that the majority of Unity ministers are women, making it perhaps the largest Christian community in which this is the case.

When incorporated as the Unity School of Christianity in 1914, Unity was a fully developed religious organization with an international outreach. Unity School's withdrawal in 1922 from the International New Thought Alliance and its initiation of its own annual convention the following year accelerated Unity's growth and development, soon making it the largest and most recognized movement within New Thought. It remains so to the present, with nearly one thousand ministries in more than sixty countries worldwide.

Unity is represented by two major corporate bodies, Unity School of Christianity, located at Unity Village, Missouri (just outside Kansas City), and the Association of Unity Churches in nearby Lee's Summit. The two groups are independent but work in harmony with one another. Unity School, which was originally founded by the Fillmores, publishes religious books and periodicals, serves as a retreat and education center, and operates the movement's prayer and healing ministry (Silent Unity, the successor of the Society for Silent Help). Governance of the school is vested in a board of directors, with a president and chief executive officer holding senior executive authority. From its inception to the early twentieth century, members of the Fillmore family have served as president of Unity School, with Connie Fillmore Bazzy, the founders' great-granddaughter, being the last member of the Fillmore family to hold the office.

The Association of Unity Churches, a successor to the earlier Unity Ministers' Association, was established as an independent corporation in 1966. The association is responsible for management and direction of the vast majority of the movement's congregations, supervising ministerial education, granting ordinations, sanctioning churches, and assisting in the placement of ministers. The association is governed by a board of trustees that is elected by representatives from member churches, regional organizations, and the board itself. Senior executive authority is vested in a president and chief executive officer.

In the 1990s, two Unity organizations emerged, independent of and in some tension with Unity School and the associationthe Unity-Progressive Council and the Federation of Independent Unity Churches. A related organization, the Universal Foundation for Better Living, bases its teachings on the works of the Fillmores, although it affirms no formal linkage with the Unity movement.

Important to Unity has been its publishing enterprise. Although all of Charles Fillmore's books have remained in print, during the latter part of the twentieth century, Unity School began to reduce its list of titles, eliminating some of the movement's classic texts. Its periodical list has also shrunk, so that Unity now publishes only two magazines, Unity and Daily Word. By far the more popular is Daily Word, a prayer manual for each day of the month, initiated in 1924. Another important periodical, Wee Wisdom, Unity's children's magazine, was discontinued in 1991. First published in 1893, it holds the record as the longest continuously published children's periodical in American history.

In addition to the books by Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, Unity School has remained committed to the publication of Lessons in Truth, by H. Emilie Cady (18481941), a homeopathic physician and student of Hopkins. First appearing in serial form in Unity magazine in 1894, Lessons in Truth is Unity's all-time best-seller and the most widely circulated book in all of New Thought. Together with the works of Charles Fillmore (most notably Christian Healing [1909] and Metaphysical Bible Dictionary [1931]), Cady's book is the primary source of Unity's theological system.

The system itself is largely consistent with the general principles of popular religious idealism found in New Thought as a whole and, like other New Thought groups, Unity allows individuals and affiliated churches significant freedom in matters of belief and practice. Although decidedly Christian in its terminology and self-affirmation, Unity has no formal creed or doctrine. This has led to considerable variation in teachings and practices within the movement, with some congregations de-emphasizing ideals and practices deemed significant to the founders. This phenomena has become especially noticeable since the 1980s, largely due to the appeal of various New Age teachings to Unity teachers and ministers. Despite the evident diversity in the movement and the appearance of nontraditional teachings in individual churches, a number of beliefs can be specified as foundational and generally accepted throughout the movement. Derived from the works of Cady, Charles Fillmore, and other representative thinkers, the more important beliefs are:

  1. The ultimate basis of existence is mental (God as Mind), and all material/physical conditions are secondary to and products of mental states and conditions.
  2. God (Divine Mind) is understood as supremely good (the Good) and the ground of perfection.
  3. God (the Good) is omnipresent and, as a consequence, evil (typically referred to as "error") is unreality.
  4. As spiritual beings, humans are innately divine and one with God. This innate divinity is referred to variously as the Christ within, the superconsciousness, and the Christ Mind.
  5. Through realization of their innate divinity and appropriation of ideas in Divine Mind, humans are able to transform their lives, replacing negative states and conditions with positive ones.
  6. Individuals have full freedom in matters of personal belief.
  7. Christian doctrine, idealistically interpreted, is nor-mative.

As with New Thought as a whole and individual movements within the tradition, Unity has received little scholarly attention, although it has received more attention than other New Thought groups, such as Religious Science, Divine Science, and the Universal Foundation for Better Living. In this regard, encyclopedias and general texts on new religious movements and religion in the United States often have brief sections on Unity. There are no critical histories of the movement and no significant scholarly treatments of its theology. Unity has published a biography of Myrtle Fillmore and two nonscholarly histories, all of which are generally reliable in terms of facts and data. In addition, a book by Hugh D'Andrade and two by Neal Vahle, although written for a Unity audience and largely informed by perceptions and understandings of Unity insiders, supply helpful information not found elsewhere. The chapters on Unity in Charles Braden's Spirits in Rebellion (1963) and J. Stillson Judah's The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America (1967) remain the best critical sources on the movement.

See Also

Fillmore, Charles and Myrtle; Hopkins, Emma Curtis; New Thought Movement.

Bibliography

Bach, Marcus. The Unity Way. Unity Village, Mo., 1982. Sympathetic but reliable sketch of Unity's history and teachings.

Braden, Charles S. Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought. Dallas, 1963. See chapter on Unity. Now dated, but highly detailed academic history of the movement from founding until the early 1960s.

D'Andrade, Hugh. Charles Fillmore: Herald of the New Age. New York, 1974. Sympathetic but reliable biography of Unity's cofounder. Contains historical information not found elsewhere.

deChant, Dell. "Myrtle Fillmore and Her Daughters: An Observation and Analysis of the Role of Women in Unity." In Women's Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explorations outside the Mainstream, edited by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 325350. Urbana, Ill., 1993. Study of Unity's theological supports for female leadership and the institutional structures of the Unity School and Assocaition of Unity Churches.

Freeman, James Dillet. The Story of Unity. Unity Village, Mo., 1954. Sympathetic but reliable history of Unity by major leader of the movement.

Harley, Gail M. "Unity in the Harmonial Family." In America's Alternative Religions, edited by Timothy Miller. Albany, N.Y., 1995.

Judah, J. Stillson. The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America. Philadelphia, 1967. See chapter on Unity. Now dated, but well-documented academic study of the history and teachings of the movement from its founding until the early 1960s. The most sustained critical analysis of Unity's teachings yet published.

Simmons, John K. "The Forgotten Contributions of Annie Rix Militz to the Unity School of Christianity." Nova Religio: Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 2, no. 1 (1998): 7692. Study of the impact of a major theorist from the movement's formative period.

Teener, James W. "Unity School of Christianity." Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1942. Hostile critique of the movement, but rich in historical data unavailable elsewhere.

Vahle, Neal. Torch-Bearer to Light the Way: The Life of Myrtle Fillmore. Mill Valley, Calif., 1996. Although written for a Unity audience and largely informed by perceptions and understandings of Unity insiders, supplies helpful information on the cofounder that is not found elsewhere.

Vahle, Neal. The Unity Movement: Its Evolution and Spiritual Teachings. Philadelphia, 2002. Although written for a Unity audience and largely informed by perceptions and understandings of Unity insiders, offers a reliable study of the movement's history.

Witherspoon, Thomas E. Myrtle Fillmore: Mother of Unity. Unity Village, Mo., 1977. Sympathetic but reliable biography of Unity's cofounder. Contains historical information not found elsewhere.

Gail M. Harley (2005)

Dell deChant (2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Unity." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Unity." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/unity

"Unity." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/unity

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Unity

UNITY

Unity, or oneness, is generally regarded as the attribute of a thing whereby it is undivided in itself and yet divided from others. Since it is an ultimate philosophical notion, it cannot be defined strictly, i.e., in terms that are better known; it is also somewhat ambiguous in meaning. As an abstract noun it refers to a property or character common to everything that can be said to be and in this sense is enumerated among the transcendentals; as a concrete noun it refers to a unity, i.e., to some one thing. The diversity of usage can be traced back to early Greek thought.

Among the pre-Socratics, parmenides noted that the cosmos exists or simply is. He held that whatever is constitutes the realm of being, since he could not think that what is, is not. If all is being, there is nothing that is not being. Being becomes thus self-identical; it is one. A follower of Parmenides, zeno of elea, thereupon developed the paradoxes of the many. The "many," in his view, were also "ones" as parts or units of a quantitative whole, or as constitutive of plurality. The resulting positions, namely, that unity is a property of what is and that a unity is part of a whole, are respectively linked to the abstract and the concrete meaning. Although the parallel is not absolute, the abstract meaning envisages all being as participating in unity or as having the common character of unity, while the concrete meaning has reference to the parts of a whole.

In view of the influence of history on the development of this concept, we shall outline how unity is treated first in the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus; then in the medieval tradition as exemplified by St. Thomas Aquinas; and finally in modern thought, with particular emphasis on its role in recent mathematics.

Classical Thinkers. While aware of Parmenides's statement that whatever is, is one, plato understood "whatever is" as divided into this and that being. In his doctrine of forms (ίδέαι), a form expresses being as a nature, a type; and forms are stable, necessary natures. Changing things are intelligible insofar as they participate in some form, or unchanging nature. Plato thus stresses a plurality of natures. He raises the question whether this "many" can be reduced to anything more ultimate, and suggests, in the Republic, a reduction to the good. The Good, for him, is above natures or forms and is not strictly a form itself. Yet Plato makes no clear reduction of the Good to the One. His plurality of kinds of being, it should be noted, is not Zeno's plurality of units. Nor is his "one" a mathematical form, because Plato distinguishes mathematical forms from forms as natures. Forms as natures are of one specific kind, while there can be many instances of a mathematical form. Such instances resemble Zeno's idea of unity.

Stressing the origin of knowledge, Aristotle bases his theory of cognition on the plurality of sensible particulars. This plurality includes not only groups containing many instances of one kind, as many sheep, but also many classes or many different kinds, as men and animals. The Aristotelian view recognizes both the Platonic forms of nature and so the unity of being as self-identical, as well as Zeno's unity or part that is constitutive of a plurality (cf. Meta. 1001a ff., 1052a ff.).

The outstanding exponent of neoplatonism, plotinus, posits the principle that unity precedes multiplicity (Enneades 5.1.5). Thus, for him, all plurality must be reduced to the One. The One or Unity is consequently above being, and all else is one by participation. Plotinus's One expresses intense, unique perfection rather than the totality of the cosmos.

Thomistic Analysis. St. thomas aquinas further explains the unity of a nature or kind, and unity as one of many, through corresponding concepts associated with plurality or multitude: to the first corresponds transcendental multitude; to the second, numerical multitude.

Unity and Existence. Some Thomists maintain that St. Thomas gave new meaning to both unity and multitude by interpreting these concepts existentially (see existential metaphysics). When St. Thomas speaks of being, in this view, he means it primarily not as nature or intelligible content but as act of existence (In 1 Sent. 25.1.4; Summa theologiae 1a, 3.34). To say that a thing is, is to say that it is one; but it is one not primarily from what it is but rather through its act of existence. It is created to be a kind, and is not to be regarded as something that is already a kind and then given existence. As with both Plato and Aristotle, for St. Thomas unity does not add any reality to being; it is only the negation of division. Thus "one" means "undivided being," and this in the sense of an existent or a possible existent (ST 1a, 1114). To see the unity of a thing stemming from its manner of existence and not primarily from its nature as expressed through its definition allows such Thomists greater leeway in admitting unities of all sorts. For example, the parasitic plant is what it is only in a close conjunction with its host. Its unity taken from the point of view of its manner of existence includes this relationship, whereas from the point of view of "ideas" or definition it seems to exclude it.

St. Thomas contrasted unity with plurality in two ways: first, with different kinds of being, and secondly, with instances of the same kind. Among different kinds of being each could be said to be itself and not other. Each would be an existent individual. Unity here is not a property or characteristic of the thing in any accidental sense, but rather a transcendental property expressing the very being of the thing. Many such existents form a multitude, and here each being holds a determinate grade in being. St. Thomas refers to such a multitude as transcendental (ST 1a, 30.3); the best example is found in the realm of spiritual being. In this sense angel is not strictly a common noun, since there is nothing univocally common to Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, etc.

Unity and Number. Other instances occur in the material universe, which evidently is a quantitative whole constituted of many things as parts. It is this unity that St. Thomas considers the basis of number, for such parts or units are univocally alike, except for the fact that they are different parts of a whole or units of a group. They constitute a numerical multitude.

The first meaning of unity, as a transcendental property interchangeable with being, is not the basis of number, nor does it suggest any mathematical connotations. Like Plotinus, however, St. Thomas sees the necessity of reducing even transcendental multitude to unity. The many existents must be caused by the Pure Act of Existence that is Unique (see pure act). The Unique is one only in an analogical sense.

The distinction between numerical and transcendental unity is important for guarding the distinction between metaphysics and mathematics. For example, the principle of identity interpreted in metaphysical terms does not express a pure equality or a logical identity as in abstract mathematics (see identity, principle of). The distinction also enables the theologian to eliminate all mathematical connotations from his analogical use of terms, as, for example, when he speaks of the Trinity as one God in three Divine Persons. Mystery as this is, it becomes absolutely contradictory if it is thought of strictly in mathematical terms.

Descartes and Leibniz. The revival of mathematics and of Platonic and Neoplatonic currents in the 17th century centered the attention of modern philosophy on unity. Primarily interested in mathematics and then in its philosophical foundations, R. descartes sought not just the fundamental existent, the ego, but also clear and distinct ideas or simple natures as ultimates. He did not, however, clearly distinguish the unity of the ego in metaphysics from the unity studied in mathematics. His simple natures thus remain unclear. (Cf. Regulae; Meditations. )

For G. W. von leibniz, unity is the theme of his philosophy. His basic notion is the monad. "It is only indivisible substances and their different states which are absolutely real" (Correspondence with Arnauld ). "If there were no true one, then every true being would be eliminated" (Correspondence with De Volder ). The "true one" he likens to a spiritual soul. He was also a competent mathematician and a forerunner of much that is contemporary. While attempting to define unity and number in The Art of Combination, he says that unity is a notion abstracted from one being, whereas whole number is the idea of whole or totality formed by consideration of many unitiesa description that suggests the notion of set or class as used in modern mathematics. Unity, he holds, is the simplest notion; while number is a more complex notion presupposing unity; and part or fraction is more complex than either since it presupposes both.

Unity in Mathematics. Modern mathematics begins with the notion of set as containing one or more members or as being null or empty; it also employs the idea of one set succeeding another. With these notions it defines the cardinal and ordinal numbers, including one. The procedure may be explained through the simple example of counting. If a shepherd wishes to count his sheep, he can match a stick or bead to each member of his flock and so establish a one-to-one correspondence between the units of the two groups, which indicates that both groups have the same number. The stick or bead can be refined to a stroke, or replaced by a symbol, or simply be considered as an element of a group or set, having the features of a unit with no character other than being matchable with other units or elements of another set or group. Since it is only after the operation of matching that both groups are said to have the same number, the idea of number is seen as subsequent to the idea of the unit-element.

Mathematicians, trying to define their basic terms logically, establish a distinction between "one" as a unit or member of a class and the "number one." They define the number one as the set of all those sets that contain only one member. This set of sets, however, is the result of the operation of forming a one-to-one correspondence among the member sets, and this operation presupposes "one" in the sense of unit or member. The last-named unit is what St. Thomas considered as the basis of his numerical multitude.

Since the number one presupposes an operation or relation established between sets and their unit members, the modern mathematician does not think in terms of substance, as does the philosopher, but rather in terms of relation. The result is that the notion of unity as employed in the mathematical sciences becomes even more distinct from unity as it is metaphysically understood.

Unity in Other Disciplines. Of the three fundamental ideas of unity, namely, that of number, that of unit-element of sets, and that of the existent, the last or transcendental notion of unity is the most important. This unity is exemplified for man, who does not have direct experience of the spiritual, in the unity of higher living organisms and especially in the living rational person. Such organisms can be said to guard their unity as they guard their life.

The biological theory of organic evolution questions, for the modern mind, the concept of unity of natures. And as evolution has been extended to explain the entire material universe, the seeming progressive development from the simple to the complex modifies not only the unit-substance notion but also the concept of "this" being as distinct from "that" being. In fact, the very idea of substance seems to be negated by modern science. Perhaps this is an instance where the scientist intimates to the philosopher the importance of noting a particular manner of existence before making any attempt at definition. Even though the mode of existence of beings in evolution may have a strongly relational character, this does not eliminate the termini of such relations. From the outset these are the factors through whose interaction evolution comes about. As such their "unit" character is reexpressed whenever different, more or less stable levels are reached in the development through interaction. Since scientists study nature through its action and connections, their method does not lend itself to grasping substance in its unity. Moreover, since, as a general rule, they treat their data mathematically, relational aspects inevitably predominate in their analyses.

Analogous to the living organism with its integral coordination and functional unity is society, exemplified in the family or the nation. The Church is such a society, but one whose unity is so marked that it approximates the unity of a spiritual person. It is in this sense that unity is spoken of as one of the marks of the Church (see unity of the church).

See Also: individuality; individuation; monism.

Bibliography: l. de raeymaeker, The Philosophy of Being, tr. e. h. ziegelmeyer (St. Louis 1954). Enciclopedia filosofica, 4v. (Venice-Rome 1957) 4:13951406. p. foulquiÉ and r. saint-jean, Dictionnaire de la langue philosophique (Paris 1962). e. h. gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience (New York 1937). r. eisler, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 3 v. (4th ed. Berlin 192730) 1:307313. j. r. newman, The World of Mathematics, 4 v. (New York 1956). r. a. di nardo, The Unity of the Human Person (CUA Philosophical Studies 199; Washington 1961). l. oeing-hanhoff, Ens et unum convertuntur (Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters [Münster 1891 ] 37.3; Münster 1953).

[e. g. salmon]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Unity." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Unity." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/unity

"Unity." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/unity

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Unity

Unity

The Unity School of Christianity is in many respects a small mainstream Protestant religious denomination, but it also has strong affinities with the New Thought and New Age movements. Much of its activity is carried out through publications and the mail rather than primarily in church congregations. Worldwide, there are about 600 congregations with 70,000 members, but a considerably larger population is reached by the spiritual message communicated through literature, over radio, and now on the World Wide Web.

Unity emerged from the spiritual quest and ministry of Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore (Mary Caroline Page), who were influenced by Christian Science while they were living in Kansas City, Missouri. Like many founders of healing ministries, Myrtle suffered from chronic medical afflictions, which at one point were diagnosed as tuberculosis. In 1886, she and Charles attended a course on Christian Science, and in her desperation Myrtle focused upon these healing words: "I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness." She began studying the Gospels, sensing the presence of Christ and sharing the healing with her husband. The couple studied metaphysics, then were ordained in Christian Science. For a time, the Fillmores cooperated with Christian Science and the related New Thought Movement, but their ministry gradually established its independence from them, becoming incorporated in its present form in 1914.

In 1889, Charles founded Modern Thought, a periodical that was renamed Christian Science Thought in 1890 and took its current name, Unity, in 1891. Describing itself as "a spiritual resource for daily living," this inspirational monthly is widely read, even by many who may not accept Unity's metaphysical interpretations of the Bible. Standard columns in the paper at the present time include "The Spiritual Journey" ("A monthly thought for your daily walk along the path of spiritual enlightenment") and "Metaphysical Musings" ("An opportunity to explore the insights of metaphysics and the practical application of those insights in everyday life"). Readers in need of spiritual support are invited to accpt the free help of Silent Unity, a twenty-four-hour prayer ministry that claims to receive two million prayer requests annually.

Sociologically, it is important to recognize that Unity arose from a widespread cultural movement embedded in a social network, rather than being either the unique creation of the Fillmores or a schismatic splinter group from Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science church. The first Christian Science course the Fillmores took was taught by Eugene B. Weeks, from an independent Christian Science school in Chicago, the Illinois Metaphysical College. The sister-in-law of Charles's business partner was Nona Brooks, who later founded the similar Divine Science Church. A chief contributor to Unity magazine in its early years was Annie Rix Militz, who had been a disciple of metaphysical teacher Emma Curtis Hopkins in San Francisco before meeting the Fillmores and who founded a long-lived New Thought group called the Home of Truth.

Also important to realize is the fact that Unity arose from an equal partnership between Myrtle and Charles. Popular notions about new religious movements tend to assume that each is the creation of a lone individual, and the tendency of many groups to revere a figurehead supports this misconception. In fact, it is quite common for movements to be created by a couple, and examples range from Seventh-day Adventism to the I Am movement. Myrtle's spiritual healing provided the link to divinity required by a new religious movement, and Charles's writings provided much of the theology.

Unity holds that proper metaphysical interpretation of the Bible can reveal valuable spiritual truths. For example, Adam represents the movement of mind in relation to the world, whereas Eve is the principle of love and feeling in individual consciousness. Jesus is considered to be the most important individual expression of the Christ idea, but Christ resides in all human beings who love truth, especially in their intelligence, life, love, substance, and strength. Humans are not really separate persons but factors in the cosmic mind. It is wrong to call Jehovah "the Lord," because he is not a being who rules the universe from outside but a divine mind that creates existence and can provide spiritual peace.

The Unity School of Christianity teaches that humans are spiritual beings who can establish right principles of thinking through the spoken words of prayer, denials, and affirmations—like the sentence quoted above that healed Myrtle Fillmore. Right thoughts influence feelings and deeds, thereby shaping the life of the individual. Thus the doctrines and practices of Unity see Christianity in a new light and apply its principles for the practical betterment of human lives.


See alsoChristian Science; Healing; New Age Spirituality; New Thought.

Bibliography

Bach, Marcus. The Unity Way. 1982.

Braden, Charles Samuel. These Also Believe. 1949.

D'Andrade, Hugh. Charles Fillmore. 1975.

Fillmore, Charles. Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. 1995.

Simmons, John K. "The Forgotten Contribution of Annie Rix Militz to the Unity School of Christianity." Nova Religio 2, no. 1 (October 1998).

Witherspoon, Thomas E. Myrtle Fillmore, MotherofUnity. 1977.

William Sims Bainbridge

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Unity." Contemporary American Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Unity." Contemporary American Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/legal-and-political-magazines/unity

"Unity." Contemporary American Religion. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/legal-and-political-magazines/unity

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.