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At the Compassion Consortium, we celebrate diversity. We believe every being brings a unique view to the community that we co-create when we gather together. So, each month, we publish an essay which provides a view from our community, a slice of one human's journey of compassionate living. 

June 2024

A World That Works for All – Whole Planet Spirituality Retreat
by Reverend Carol Saunders

The following Compassion Consortium Essay has been contributed by Rev, Carol Saunders, who is a member and valuable contributor of the Compassion Consortium Advisory Board. (For a listing of the CC Advisory Board and bios, see Advisory Board | CompassionConsortium.) Carol has contributed this Essay in the honor of the legacy of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, who practiced and taught ethical vegetarianism before most of us had not even thought about it including why it was important then and is even more important now.

We share Carol’s thoughts below, and we also provide important information regarding the Whole Planet Spirituality Retreat October 17-24 to be held in the Kansas City area at the Unity Village. However, this Retreat is not just for Unity people. It is for anyone who considers themselves to be spiritual, planet-conscious and animal-loving. See details below and for more information visit thespiritualforum.org/retreat.

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When I first discovered Unity, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that its founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, practiced and taught ethical vegetarianism in their early years. I was vegetarian at the time (yes, I regretfully spent many years blind to the horror of dairy and eggs), and I didn’t know any other vegetarians, much less vegans. It was comforting to learn that the founders of my new spiritual home were like me, and way ahead of their time. But really, that’s all I knew about it. It took many, many years before I stumbled upon the true history of Unity and some of Charles Fillmore’s talks and writings. I realized then that this wasn’t just a practice for the Fillmores, but a way of living and an active spiritual teaching about the importance of humankind’s relationship with animals. They put feet to their beliefs by starting a food company that sold meat alternatives and selling Bibles bound in a leather alternative. This was back in the early 1900s!

To give you an idea, here are a few things that Charles wrote on this subject:

“We believe that all life is sacred and that man should not kill or be a party to the killing of animals for food; also that cruelty, war and wanton destruction of human life will continue so long as men destroy animals.” —From the Unity Statement of Faith, 1921

“Animals have souls they are developing and they create a certain thought atmosphere. Let them alone. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ The Bible does not say: ‘Thou shalt not kill man,’ but ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ We would remember that all life is sacred, it belongs to the one great Life and we have no right to destroy animals because we lust after meat.” —From “Dominion Over Appetite,” 1925

“When man eats an animal, divine order is disturbed; the animal is denied the right to expression and man clogs his system with sewage and secondhand food.” —From “As to Meat Eating,” 1903

“The master on the spiritual plane is not a slave driver. He does not use force. The only law that he recognizes is love. He must love every creature, every beast on the field, every fowl of the air. His love must flow in protecting streams when any creature is in danger of violence of destruction. He must recognize all life as God’s life.” —From “Flesh-Eating Metaphysically Considered,” 1910

Just as with most faith practitioners, Unity people have long since fallen away from these teachings of universal love, compassion, and peace. Breakfast plates at annual Unity conventions are sadly piled high with eggs, bacon, sausage, and butter laden pastries. When I became a Unity Minister, I felt called to bring these important teachings back to the forefront of Unity. I also wanted to provide a platform for spiritually minded vegans to build community and amplify their voices, as well as a loving space for spiritually minded pre-vegans to awaken. Thus, my annual "Whole Planet Spirituality Forum and Retreat" was born.

In our fourth year, this unique gathering will take place October 17-20, 2024, at Unity Village, Missouri (outside Kansas City). It is not just for Unity people. It is for anyone who considers themselves to be spiritual, planet-conscious and animal-loving. That is the intersection that makes the event magical.

 

Every year, we have a different theme and different keynote speaker. This year our theme is “A World That Works for All” and our keynote speaker is renowned nutrition/fitness consultant and dedicated activist, John Pierre. We also select a set of practical workshops led by people in attendance. Our first year was more of a conference, with lots of speakers back-to-back. We have evolved since then to a more experiential gathering with openings for learning, connection, collaboration, creativity, and fun. In addition to fabulous organic, plant-based meals, we incorporate art, music, group connection, inner work, ritual, nature walks, and spiritual practices. And everyone gets a small dose of the original Unity teachings and its revolutionary history. 

I am delighted with some of the feedback from last year:

“It is so amazing to be in this beautiful, relaxing place with other folks on their journeys and sharing with them their journeys and my journey. The education is so absorbing and the food is quite delicious.”

“My life has done a 180! This retreat was like a shot in the arm that saved my life for me. I was dying on the vine at my empty job, desiring to align with my core values and life purpose, needing community and love, healing and joy--and I received all that and more in full measure here! My heart overflowed with gratitude and I wept for the graces God was bestowing upon me at Unity Village in this beautiful retreat. I received insight and clarity into my next steps, my strengths and true heart's desires to serve in growing compassion for all life. I left completely inspired and lifted up.”

“I have been to three of these retreats so far. Each one has been unique and full of new information and inspiration. Each time I felt like I was home with my family of dear people who care so deeply about all sacred life and about each other. I will be back.”

"Being on Unity's beautiful grounds and spending time with the most loving and authentic people I have ever met has deepened my spiritual journey and consciousness in ways I could not have predicted."

“Unity Village is the most peaceful setting for this spiritual retreat. You will find yourself surrounded by wonderfully compassionate people who care so much about all beings on our planet. You will be inspired and renewed. You’ll also make new friends who share your compassion."

“I truly benefited from all that was offered....the presenters, breakout sessions with other attendees, the morning and midday prayers, the documentary, the evening cafes, and the closing ritual, and just being on the beautiful grounds of Unity Village. I feel empowered and emboldened to do my own inner work and to share this message more effectively.”

“This event was well thought-out, and had the right amount of activity, reflection, study and individual time. It provided a comfortable and welcoming environment to meet people and express oneself and their experience and have respectful and caring exchanges with the other persons attending. The speakers and activities engaged our attention throughout, even as we sat towards the back of the room. The people who came were all approachable, interesting, and surprising. This is the second year that we attended and we are anxious to go again to learn, be in community and eat delicious food.”

"I can't stop thinking about how great this retreat was. I already can't wait for next year!"

You can attend in person or virtually. We do our best to provide a fully immersive experience for our virtual attendees and we have several who return each year virtually. If you have the budget, I highly recommend the in-person experience because there is nothing like being with people together in a physical space. Additionally, Unity Village, sitting on 1200 wooded acres, is a gorgeous place in the fall. The event is offered at a budget friendly price of $389 (includes all programming and six plant-based, organic meals) and there is a lovely hotel on the grounds with double rooms for $139/night. I would love nothing more than to have a group from the Compassion Consortium and Animal Chaplaincy program join us this year. You will walk away with new connections and maybe even an awakening of your own. Join us this October as we co-create a world that works for all!

If you want more information, everything including the schedule is on the retreat website: thespiritualforum.org/retreat. I’ll also be featuring it on my podcast in the coming months. You can tune in to The Spiritual Forum podcast on any podcast app or YouTube.

About the Author

 

Rev. Carol Saunders is an ordained Unity and Interfaith Minister (One Spirit Interfaith Seminary), founder/host of The Spiritual Forum, a podcast ministry in Chicago, creator of wolfandthelamb.com, an online ministry to awaken the world to the truth that we are all One; and author/compiler of the booklet, The Forgotten Teachings of Charles Fillmore: How Our Relationship with Animals Connects to Universal Love, Ethical Living, Spiritual Development and World Peace.  Her ministry is dedicated to the next moral frontier, widening our circle of compassion to include all sentient beings and to being a voice for the voiceless.

Previous Essays: 

Miss Liberty: A Film Whose Time has Come

The Interfaith Vegan Coalition: Its Values, Goals, and Mission

The Animal Interfaith Alliance

A Short History of Animal Advocacy in the Catholic Church

At the Graves of Craving

Animals and AI

 

Veganism, Yoga, and Me

 

Recognizing My Liberator in the Mirror Contextualizing Animal Chaplaincy through the Lens of an Activist for Collective Liberation
 

Who is Social Justice for? A Call for a De-Anthropocentric Social Justice

 

Buddhist Narrative Re-Weavings of Animal Liberation

 

Newsflash! Animal Chaplaincy Has Become a Growing Profession

Loving Animals, Hating Cruelty. Meeting in the Middle?

A Vegan in Kenya

 

Cod Skin Graft for my Surgical Wound?  I Chose to Say No

The Taboo Topic: Sickness and Vegans by Victoria Moran

 

Defining interfaith, interspiritual, and interspecies. (And why these words matter.) by Rev. Sarah Bowen

The Stages of Becoming a Compassionate Vegan by guest essayist Angela Crawford, PhD, VLCE

Are Birds Real? Feathered ones get appropriated by humans… again. (sigh) by Rev. Sarah Bowen

 

Animal Liberation, Atheism and Spirituality by guest essayist Jon Hochschartner

Is it Time for Alternative Animal Blessings by Rev. Sarah Bowen

 

My Life as an Animal Lawyer by guest essayist Ginny Mikita

Are You a Compassionate Person by Rev. William Melton

The Birth of a Go(o)d Idea by Rev. Carol Saunders

All Means All by Rev. Erika Allison

 

Vegan Yoga, Ahimsa Bliss by Victoria Moran

 

Was Jesus Vegetarian? by William Melton 

Why the Compassion Consortium? by Rev. Sarah Bowen

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