What Are You? by Imelda Octavia Shanklin is a classic of Unity teaching. Shanklin makes a lovely distinction between “who we are”—the personal self—which can be changed and “what we are”—our impersonal or divine nature—eternal and changeless. The spiritual path involves recognizing the difference between our personal self’s conscious desires and the desires of our “super-consciousness” or the Mind of God.
From the perspective of our ego self or personal self, we may set goals that are too small for our real happiness. Shanklin says, “There is an objective that embraces all your good. That objective is service.” How may we, as Unity, as a movement and as individuals, best serve our own spiritual growth and thereby serve the world at large?
This is not an easy question. We must discern the voice of God in our lives to choose wisely the path(s) to follow. As we clear the window of our consciousness, and as we hear more clearly the Mind of God, we will naturally redefine our goals. Shanklin says it this way:
The ideal always keeps a little in advance of you. As your vision clarifies you will see that the improvement which you first dreamed of making was but the initial step toward the goal. Your guiding star is not a stationary one. Having gained the eminence from which the light first shone, you find that the beacon has moved to higher ground.… Always far enough ahead to keep you climbing…. It is leading you along the hills of God to the summit of His consciousness.
What would the Fillmores say about our guiding star? The Fillmores stand in the lineage of Emma Curtis Hopkins who broke with Mary Baker Eddy, largely over the issue of evolution of the teaching. Eddy famously wrote that hers was the “final revelation.” Hopkins believed, on the other hand, that if God is infinite, there will always be something new being revealed.
Charles Fillmore himself said, “The true church is not made of creeds and forms, nor is it contained in walls of wood and stone; the heart of man is its temple and the Spirit of truth is the one guide into all Truth.”
Polarities and More
So how are we to know? To choose? This may be a time to embrace not only polarities, but also trinities. In polarity thinking we look at two virtuous opposites and try to bring them into a dynamic healthy relationship. This is not about finding a mid-point and standing in the middle—rather it is about inhaling and exhaling. It is a dynamic movement between the poles, using both of them in service of the higher goal. See the article “Polarities Help Us Live Our Vision” for more on polarities in general and the Standardization and Flexibility polarity in Unity.
As we discern our way forward, we are dealing with interconnected polarities, and perhaps trinity-thinking. One trinity in particular needs our attention: Past and Present and Future. We need to honor our past, act in the present, while also attuning to the future. If we think only in polarities (Past and Future) we might miss the nuance here. Standing in the present is the only place where we can discern, where we can decide, and where we can act. “Be still” as the words in the Peace Chapel remind us. In silence we can link our intuition into the wiser mind.
Over the history of our movement, new teachers and teachings have emerged who have moved Unity forward. Rev Eric Butterworth is a prime example. He took the foundational principles laid down by Fillmore and H Emilie Cady and spoke them to his own generation. Where are the new Butterworths?
What About Group Think?
And what is our collective wisdom, our collective “God-mind,” calling forth? Our teachings about cause and effect and manifestation often focus on our individual goals and our individual beliefs, thoughts, words and deeds. Is there another polarity here: Individual and Group?
What is the role of our collective consciousness? We are in numerous groups: spiritual communities, Unity as a movement, our states, our countries, and our species—homo sapiens. What is each group focusing on? What is each collective thought process and belief system manifesting or attempting to manifest? What larger systems are at play? What is our role in the unfolding of Spirit in the world?
Our global and national problems are complex. The shift to “second tier” (in Spiral Dynamics language) is going to demand a great deal of us. Perhaps the next step for Unity will involve our ability to engage in a collective manifestation of a peaceful world?
The current position of our ever-advancing guiding star will probably not be found in writings from past teachers, no matter how awesome those resources are (and they are awesome). What we admired about those people was their insight and openness to the voice of God, to the guidance of the “Spirit of Truth” as Charles Fillmore put it. We owe it to both the past and the future to experience fresh insight in the present moment. “What are we?” This is a question absolutely rooted in the present moment—“What are we now?”
It is only in the present moment that we can look to our history, seeing whose shoulders we stand upon, making meaning of our past. And it is only in this moment that we can look to tomorrow, asking ourselves what choices can we make today that will align us with the vision that calls to us, to our guiding star? What are we? We are a movement.
This is not a rigid or a static thing, but rather something that is evolving, becoming, revealing. As we look to our principles to ground us, we must also look upward—and outward—to discern the movements of Spirit in the times in which we live, and see where it is we should hold fast and where it is that we must adapt and change.
This can be scary business, unless we remember that our God is bigger than our problems. May we be still, and know that God is not done with us yet. Our fullest blooming lies ahead.