Unity Masters: Rev. Robert Brumet
By Rev. Thomas W. Shepherd, D.Min.
Robert Brumet didn’t start out as a Unity minister. The Unity movement’s best-known “Christa-Bu”(Brumet’s tongue-in-cheek term for Christians with Buddhist inclinations) came to the ministry from a career in computer science and higher education. In 1973, while working in computer systems analysis and serving as adjunct mathematics professor at Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Brumet had a self-described “spiritual experience.”
“I was having migraine-type headaches for which my doctor could find no medical explanation,” Brumet remembers. “They were so debilitating I almost took medical leave. Then I attended some weekend intensives at a local self-awareness center. I began to have visions and hear voices and recognized I was being contacted by something I didn’t understand.” Initially frightened, Brumet opened up to this communication after much prayer and meditation. “It told me I needed to choose if I was going to do the work I came here to do,” he says. “I thought I was already doing that. After all, I had studied hard for my master’s and my career was just taking off when this grabbed me by the neck and said, ‘This is not why you’re here.’ Once I surrendered to that, it quickly led me to the local Unity church, and I felt as though I had come home. Once I accepted my path, my headaches diminished, and eventually they totally went away.”
In years to come, this soft-spoken, affable native of Toledo, Ohio, would lead the Unity movement as its unofficial guru of transition, mindfulness, and transformation. As a gifted, natural teacher in his mid-30s, Brumet found himself drafted to teach the Youth of Unity (YOU). Inspired by the experience, he decided to see if adults would also respond to his easygoing style of spiritual mentoring.
In 1978 he applied to the ministerial school at Unity, receiving ordination in 1980. In his years of pulpit ministry, Brumet served churches in Kansas and Indiana. He was called to the faculty of Unity Institute and Seminary in 1989, where he taught generations of students preparing to be licensed Unity teachers (LUT) and Unity ministers. In 2016 Unity Institute and Seminary conferred the Doctor of Divinity degree on Brumet. He continues on the faculty of the revitalized Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute, which provides ministerial and LUT education through a variety of online and on-campus programs.
Rev. Rachel Simpson, a Unity Institute and Seminary class of 2013 graduate, who now serves as senior minister at Unity of Anchorage, Alaska, recalls her years under Brumet’s tutelage: “Robert created a space for connection and self- discovery, a rock of stability throughout the sometimes complicated seminary experience. With Robert, you knew he would listen, ask really good questions, and not let you settle for less than your best.” Brumet walked the talk, she says. “He was an example of pastoral presence, even more than a wonderful teacher of the skills of ministry.”
Brumet is also known as one of the Unity movement’s finest authors. His Unity writing career began in 1993 with a 10-article series in Unity Magazine. Unity expanded the series into a book called Finding Yourself in Transition (Unity Books, 1994), which invites readers to envision change—whether joyful or painful—as an excellent opportunity for spiritual awakening. Instead of recoiling, Brumet advises, we can choose to apply ancient teachings of mindfulness and nonresistance to help us lean into change. In doing so, he assures, we will undoubtedly discover support that seemed previously invisible.
To help the reader navigate change, Brumet’s book weaves together psychology, Eastern and Western mysticism, Bible interpretation, and personal history. It quickly became a Unity best-seller and has been taught continually in Unity churches since its publication.
Brumet’s next work, The Quest for Wholeness (Unity Books, 2002), applies a transformative model to the healing process. Using Unity principles, he expands the definition of healing to include mind, body, soul, relationships, and the environment.
“Most healing books focus on restoration rather than transformation,” he explains, noting they often start with the wrong premise. Wholeness means transformation, not simply repairing the damage done by illness, injury, or aging. To get this process underway, he insists, requires awareness that “we are not our former selves anymore. We are humans who are beginning to fulfill our fuller potential as human-divine beings.”
Brumet suggests we no longer think of ourselves as Homo sapiens, but instead as Homo Divina, humanity expressing its divine nature. Eastern Orthodox Christianity calls his process theosis, based on the idea that humans can become one with the Divine. Brumet’s sole objection to that definition is that humanity does not need to become divine. We need only realize we already are divine.
“Think of the oak tree in an acorn,” he advises. Transformation is not about conversion from lowly mortal to oneness with God but expressing the divinity already part of our nature.
In Birthing a Greater Reality (Unity Books, 2010), Brumet continues exploring the transformative model for spiritual growth. “Our personal transformation is intricately connected to global transformation,” he says. “Our awakening contributes to collective awakening.” This book combines ideas from current psychology and other Unity thinkers to discuss the evolution of human consciousness. Brumet’s ambitious goal is to give humanity a little push as we climb the ladder of spiritual evolution.
In his fourth book, Living Originally (Unity Books, 2013), Brumet discusses how most of what we see as problems originates with a false sense of self. The solution, he says, is to live originally. In other words: Live to know the truth of who we really are and live from that higher consciousness. To that end, he lays out 10 spiritual practices for rediscovering our true selves and transforming our lives.
Brumet is also known for spiritual leadership beyond Unity. He has practiced Insight Meditation (a type of Buddhist meditation traditionally known as Vipassana) since 1988 and taken facilitator training from the renowned Shinzen Young, an American-born monk who collaborates with the likes of Harvard Medical School on contemplative neuroscience. In 1995, Brumet began conducting meditation retreats. In 2000, he completed a Community Dharma Leader training program led by Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock Meditation Center near San Francisco.
In 2004, Brumet founded Mindfulness Ministries, an alternative ministry affiliated with Unity Worldwide Ministries. He serves as spiritual director to individuals and groups and has presented programs on meditation, self-awareness, and spiritual development at more than 100 Unity churches throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. Brumet also leads a local sangha (now meeting on Thursdays at Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri). It’s no surprise that in 2012, Unity Worldwide Ministries honored Brumet with its Light of God Expressing Award for outstanding service to the Unity movement.
I consider myself honored to have served with such a great minister and daily source of insight as Robert Brumet on the faculty of Unity Institute and Seminary for 11 years. He became my friend and pastoral guide. When I felt gloomy, a knock on his open door brought a few moments of calm reflection that restored my flagging spirits. He is one of the finest human beings I have ever known. When I taught, students gained knowledge; when Brumet stood before them, they saw wisdom in action.
(This article was originally published in the July/August 2018 issue of Unity Magazine)