The scientific method provides useful descriptions of physical patterns, laws and probabilities; however, the method is inherently incapable of answering some of humanity’s most important questions. Science cannot tell us what is good, right and just. It cannot tell us if there is a God and, if there is, what God’s nature is. It cannot tell us the meaning of poetry and sacred scriptures. The scientific method cannot penetrate into subjective experience, feelings or thinking processes as we experience them within our consciousness.
Because of the limitations of the scientific method, if we would answer or at least explore the questions of the spiritual and consciousness dimensions of being, we must use other resources and methods. We must look into our own minds and hearts, get in touch with our intuition, and think analogically and metaphorically to find answers. Science is not irrelevant to the questions; it simply is not sufficient.
We must use holistic and pragmatic methods to understand consciousness and arrive at spiritual and ethical theories to live by. Holistic methods employ self-exploration and resources of consciousness deeper than sense experience and broader than quantitative induction. And that is just what Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore did.
Charles Fillmore’s Explorations
He first explored into his own consciousness. He wrote, “I said to myself, ‘In this babel I will go to headquarters. If I am Spirit and this God they talk so much about is Spirit, we can somehow communicate, or the whole thing is a fraud.’ ” (All quotations from The Essential Charles Fillmore) Fillmore’s hypothesis was pragmatic: If I am Spirit and God is Spirit then we can communication. By looking for experiential verification of ideas, he took a fundamentally pragmatic approach: If it “works,” then it is true.
Fillmore sought proof of spirit-mind-body connection by inner exploration and spiritual practices. He meditated, he dreamed. He found that his dreams provided guidance and precognitions, once he discerned their meanings. He relied upon his intuition and meditative practice to experience the spiritual dimension of being. He found that his spiritual and mental practices resulted in a physical healing and regeneration. That was satisfactory proof for him that Spirit and mind influence the body.
Unlike other spiritual teachers, Fillmore did not limit his quest for truth to personal intuitions and revelations. He also attempted to apply logical reasoning. He said of this “Practical Christianity”: “It takes as the basis of its doctrine a fundamental truth … and from that truth, by cold, deductive reasoning, arrives at each and every one of the conclusions which are presented.” The “fundamental truth” for him was God the good as Primal Cause of all. From that premise, Fillmore sought to reason and, in that way of thinking, found healing and other “goods.” This deductive reasoning is the basis of affirmations. “God is omnipresent good, therefore good is present in my mind, body and affairs.” “God is omnipotent good, therefore all good is possible.” “God is the source of all, therefore I am an offspring of God and heir to all good.” “I am a child of God, therefore I do not inherit sickness.” And so forth.
To discern the meaning of scripture, Fillmore combined research into the meanings of Hebrew and Greek names and reasoned analogically and metaphorically to discern deeper archetypal meanings. He used intuition to make sense of metaphorical symbols and thereby discerned in the Bible practical clues for spiritual development. This was the basis of his spiritual or “metaphysical” Bible interpretations.
Fillmore did not ignore scientific theories and discoveries; rather, he attempted to connect science to ideas that emerged from his inner explorations and metaphysical and theological reasonings. At the 1933 World Fellowship of Faiths, he explicitly stated what he saw as a connection between modern science and spiritual teachings: “My aim is to prove that science, in developing the unseen forces of the ether, is merely revealing the mechanical side of that realm which Jesus called the ‘kingdom of the heavens.’ ”
In the above passage, Charles was referring to a then current theory of “ether” or (alternative spelling) “aether.” Basically scientific “aether theories” proposed a space-filling but undetected substance. Even Einstein had a relativity concept of aether, different from previous theories; but ultimately his terminology did not catch on in physics. Currently physicists hypothesize that 80% of the universe is filled with undetectable “dark matter.” The idea of “ether,” as Fillmore spoke of it, was not dissimilar to the modern theory of dark matter.
Metaphysics vs Physics
The fundamental point I want to make is this: Charles Fillmore sought to make his spiritual and metaphysical ideas coherent with scientific theory. In philosophy, metaphysics attempts to describe the first, universal or most general principles of the universe, not just of the physical but also of consciousness. The existence of God is not a physics question, but a metaphysics question. The nature of the physical universe is a physics question; what that nature says about the Source of the universe is a metaphysics or theology question.
Discussing his inner experience of regenerative healing, Charles compared the activity of faith to electricity. His inner experiences in meditation he likened to electrical feelings. He compared the process of regeneration of his body to the process of passing electricity through a liquid solution to precipitate solid minerals out of the solution. This is but one of many examples by which he spoke of spiritual things with analogies from science.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore both relied upon intuition, meditation, reason and experience to seek spiritual Truth. Charles was more focused on finding archetypal meanings in the Bible than was Myrtle. Another minor difference between Charles and Myrtle is that Charles was more interested in connecting physics to metaphysics and in using scientific examples to illustrate and support spiritual concepts. I do not believe there were significant differences between Charles and Myrtle in their pursuit of truth; only differences of focus and style of expression.
To be holistic in seeking spiritual and metaphysical truth is to direct every aspect of our being toward knowing. To be pragmatic is to make experience the final arbiter of truth. That is the example the Fillmores left and that model is still part of Unity teaching. As we consciously seek to be holistic and pragmatic in our quest for Truth, we will uplift our consciousness of spiritual reality and ultimately find satisfactory answers to our most important concerns. This is our best hope of understanding justice, developing compassion, deepening wisdom, and healing our bodies and our world.