Fillmore, Charles Sherlock (1854-1948)

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Fillmore, Charles Sherlock (1854-1948)

Charles S. Fillmore, cofounder of the Unity School of Christianity, the largest of the New Thought metaphysical groups in North America, was born August 22, 1854, in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He had little formal schooling in his childhood years and was largely self-educated. Reading widely during his youth, he was fascinated by the few books he could find on Spiritualism, Eastern religions, and the occult. He moved about the West during his young adult years and eventually settled in Colorado in 1881, where he went into business with the brother-in-law of Nona Brooks, an early Divine Science leader in the state. While there, he married Mary Caroline Page, who, as Myrtle Fill-more, would work as Charles's partner in the development of the Unity School.

In 1884 the Fillmores moved to Kansas City. Two years later, E. B. Weeks, the student and representative of an independent Christian Science college in Chicago, came to Kansas City to lecture. Myrtle Fillmore attended the lectures and, taking their teachings to heart, was over the next year healed of the tuberculosis that had hobbled her young life. She gradually convinced Charles of the truth of the teachings, and thereafter Charles became an enthusiastic supporter of Christian Science. He began a magazine, Modern Thought, which went through several name changes over the next few years. It survives today as Unity.

In the meantime, the Fillmores became aware of the work of Emma Curtis Hopkins and gradually became convinced that she was the best of the many Christian Science and mind cure lecturers they had heard. They traveled to Chicago to study with her and in 1891 were ordained by her. Their magazine, which had been open to all of the varied interests of Charles, finally focused on the healing principles as taught by Hopkins. As suggested by Myrtle, Charles began the Society of Silent Help to tie together the readers of the magazine who could not travel to Kansas City. In 1891, while in Chicago, the two also decided upon a name for their work, Unity, and soon all of their activities were combined under that heading. The growth of the work allowed the launching in 1909 of a second magazine, Weekly Unity, as well as Charles's first book, Christian Healing, written from the notes of his healing classes in Kansas City.

By the end of World War I, Unity had become a large movement with a national following. A vegetarian restaurant opened, and Fillmore became one of the early radio preachers, beginning broadcasts on WOQ in 1922. In 1924 Unity purchased its own radio station. That same year Fillmore began one of the most important Unity projects, Unity Daily Word, now Daily Word, a day-by-day devotional booklet and the organization's most popular publication over the years.

During the 1930s Fillmore wrote a number of the books for which he is widely remembered today. They include The Twelve Powers of Man (1930), which explores some of humanity's psychic potentials; Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (1931), a guide to metaphysical Bible interpretation; Prosperity (1934), the Fill-mores' answer to the Depression; and Jesus Christ Heals (1931). In 1933 Myrtle died, and Charles married Cora G. Dedrick. He retired from the pulpit of Unity Church and began a period of lecturing and traveling until his death on July 5, 1948, at the age of 93.

Sources:

D'Andrade, Hugh. Charles Fillmore: Herald of the New Age. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

Fillmore, Charles S. Christian Healing: Science of Being. Kansas City, Mo.: Unity School of Christianity, 1909.

. Jesus Christ Heals. Kansas City, Mo.: Unity School of Christianity, 1931.

. Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. Kansas City, Mo.: Unity School of Christianity, 1931.

. Prosperity. Kansas City, Mo.: Unity School of Christianity, 1936.

. The Twelve Powers of Man. Lee's Summit, Mo.: Unity School of Christianity, 1930, 1955.