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Wealth & Spirituality went hand-in-hand with John Fetzer

Posted on 23 July 2018, 8:55

I have friends and relatives who think I have gone too far in my spiritual quest – that I am too unorthodox, too unscientific, too gullible, too delusional, even too unhinged in my pursuit of existential, metaphysical and spiritual truths.  I sometimes wonder if they are right, and so now and then I’ll make an effort to focus more on mundane matters.  However, I find it difficult to sustain that focus when I stop to think how utterly trivial most of our daily activities are. Moreover, it becomes increasingly difficult to find new, exciting toys to play with when one is in his 80s, and so the tendency is to revert to the esoteric.  It was thus with some justification and vindication that I just read about a man who seems to have been more “unhinged” than I am, even though he found time to become one of the richest men in America. 

John E. Fetzer was ranked by Forbes as one of the 400 richest Americans. His quest is set forth in a book titled John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age, (below) published by Wayne State University Press and due for release August 6 (although available for pre-order by book sellers).  I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy from the publisher.  My initial reaction upon seeing the cover and the title was one of disinterest, but I noted in the promotional material that Fetzer was owner of the Detroit Tigers from 1956 to 1983, and, being an ardent baseball fan, that fact prompted me to open the book. I’m glad I did, as it turned out to be a very interesting read about a very intriguing man.


Born in 1901 in Indiana, Fetzer (below) was brought up in the Methodist Church, but, following his mother’s conversion to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he joined that faith sometime during his teens.  He went on to graduate from Emmanuel Missionary College, an Adventist institution, before taking graduate classes in physics and mathematics at the University of Michigan. Sometime around 1930, Fetzer gave up on Adventism and explored Spiritualism, Theosophy, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, UFOlogy, New Thought, and Buddhism, adopting something of an amalgamation of all those belief systems as a worldview, at the same time clinging to his Christian roots while attending a Presbyterian church. 


Along his journey, Fetzer read the works of Alice Bailey, Frederic Myers, Edgar Cayce, Arthur Findlay, Carl Jung, Charles Leadbeater, George Meek, Jane Roberts, and countless others. He was especially enamored with The Urantia Book, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, the Seth material, and A Course in Miracles.  He seems to have been very discerning in what he held on to and what he rejected.

“Spiritualism and divination had a decided impact on Fetzer’s spiritual quest,” author Brian C. Wilson, professor of comparative religion at Western Michigan University, writes, “but it was only the beginning of his investigation into metaphysical traditions and techniques.  After his experience with [Adventism], never again would Fetzer be tied down to one belief system, and indeed, from this point forward, a fundamental pattern developed in his spiritual quest in which Fetzer acted as the consummate bricoleur, sampling many spiritual traditions, accepting some of their elements and rejecting others, all in the attempt to create a worldview that would work for him.  In this sense, Fetzer’s worldview was always a work in progress, with one discovery leading him on to another and new discoveries continually enriching his approach to life, the universe, and God.”

All the while, Fetzer was pursuing a career in radio.  After buying radio station WKZO in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while in his 20s, he expanded to WJEF in Grand Rapids, and then, during World War II, accepted an appointment by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as assistant director for broadcast censorship, then later an appointment from General Dwight Eisenhower to survey the state of radio in postwar Europe.  After the war, he moved into television and gradually built a media empire.  Various other investments along the way apparently gave him enough wealth to buy the Tigers baseball team, as an investor in 1956 and then outright in 1961. 

All of Fetzer’s business ventures and successes do not seem to have distracted him from his spiritual quest.  He attended many Spiritualist activities at Camp Chesterfield in Indiana.  Through one medium there, he heard from his deceased younger brother and father, reinforcing in him the idea that family bonds are eternal.  According to Wilson, Fetzer found in Spiritualism, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism “a [spiritually] monistic cosmos composed of conscious energy; the conception of the body as microcosm; the reality of psychic powers and the possibility of scientific discovery of spiritual laws; the operation of karma and reincarnation; the continuing centrality of Jesus; the contemporary relevance of ancient wisdom from past civilizations such as Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu; the divine destiny of the United States under the watchful eye of a brotherhood of secret masters; the harmony of science and religion; and the impending global spiritual transformation leading to the New Age.”  However, it was, Wilson suggests, Theosophy that wove them all together in a comprehensive cosmic scheme for Fetzer.

During the last decade of his life, an interviewer asked him about his thoughts on life after death.  “I don’t believe that man comes into this life to have a shallow experience, make some improvements and developments, only to fade away to nothing,” he responded. “There’s something more.  Five minutes after man discards his material body in this world, he could assume another body, another form.  He could be operating on another channel, a new frequency, a new plane of existence. I think that every person will transfer to that new plane, but he or she will be precisely in the same place of life status as when the person was in the previous plane….” 

Fetzer transitioned at age 89, while living in Honolulu, but the John E. Fetzer Institute exists today in Kalamazoo to encourage spiritual development for all people, while supporting inclusive communities and institutions around the world that are grounded in spirit and exploring the relationship between science and spirituality to support a fuller understanding of our existence.

In the Hall of Records of the Fetzer Administration Building there are eight busts done in bronze.  They represent Socrates, Ramses II, Francis I, Joseph of Arimathea, Louis XIV, St. John of the Cross, Henry II and Thomas Jefferson – men who Fetzer believed brought humanity to a new level of awareness and potential. 
The “New Age” label in the title also discouraged me in the beginning, since as Wilson points out, the New Age movement “has devolved to the point that many contemporary observers see it as a shorthand for shallowness and reject the label outright.”  However, Fetzer accepted it before it began to devolve and saw it as signifying “the path of attainment and complete personal fulfillment.”

So many people react to such a spiritual mindset by saying “one life at a time for me” or something to that effect.  They don’t grasp the fact that seeing and embracing the larger picture can make this life more meaningful and fulfilling.  There is no indication in the book that Fetzer read the works of Stuart Edward White, a popular author on spiritual matters during the 1930s, and ‘40s.  I suspect he did, and, if he did, I’m sure he would have agreed with White and his wife Betty that “habitual spiritual consciousness” is the key to enjoying this life.  As it was explained to Betty, a medium, by the spirits she was in contact with, the objective is getting to know the higher self “and a gradual training of your spiritual muscles to maintain it, once recognized.”  Habitual spiritual consciousness does not mean retirement into some cloistered nunnery.  “It means simply that each day, when you finish your practice, you do not close the experience like a book, but carry it around like a treasured possession.  Instead of being completely forgotten, it remains in the back of your mind, communicating its influences automatically to your actions and reactions, and ready at any moment, if specifically called upon to lend a helping hand.” 

In finishing this book, I saw Fetzer as the personification of “habitual spiritual consciousness.”  That said, it’s back to the mundane for me.  It’s time to watch baseball. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.  

Next blog post:  July 23

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Life After Death: the Many Faces of Skepticism

Posted on 09 July 2018, 9:03

As Brian Inglis explains it in his 1986 book, The Hidden Power, recently republished by White Crow Books, the pioneers of psychical research realized that no single case would be convincing in itself as the skeptic could always find some reason to question it; thus, they believed they could make their case by combining many cases that would give all the single cases “the strength of a faggot” – an analogy that holds that while a single twig can be easily snapped, a faggot, composed of many twigs bound together, is not so easily broken.  But the skeptics countered with the analogy of the “leaking buckets.”  No matter how many buckets you have, if each one has a hole in it, water will not be conserved.


Inglis asserts that there are similar holes in the bucket called “neo-Darwinism,” but mainstream scientists seem to ignore them   He goes on to point out that reliance on any single case is contrary to the established scientific method.  “Science relies on cumulative evidence,” he writes. “...Anybody who claims to be waiting until a single absolutely conclusive bit of evidence turns up is in reality a man who is not open to conviction, as he would realize if he were a logician, because in logic single facts can never be proved except as part of a system.” 

In Part 3 of his book, “The Case Against Scientism,” Inglis sets forth a number of syndromes or afflictions affecting many scientists, or, more properly, the pseudo-skeptics or the debunkers.  Walter Franklin Prince, in his book, The Enchanted Boundary, also deals extensively with the different types of skepticism. It seems like a good time to pull all these afflictions together from those two references and others to summarize them. Adding a few ideas of my own, I came up with the following:

Doubting Thomas Disorder:  Just as the Apostle Thomas refused to believe in the resurrected Christ until he could touch him and feel his wounds, there are many skeptics who say they will not believe anything that exceeds their boggle threshold until they see if for themselves.  This is most basic type of skepticism and is often a disorder of the common man – the one who has no scientific dogma to cling to and is still subconsciously smarting over being duped by his parents about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Manichean Heresy Syndrome:  In a nutshell, this affliction results from a belief that creation is divided into two forces – good and evil and that the afterlife is a very black and white one, i.e., heaven and hell.  This might also be called Frozen Dualism Syndrome or God Betrayal Syndrome.  Most victims of this condition begin by viewing God as an anthropomorphic (humanlike) being, and after suffering a serious loss conclude that “He” must not exist, as no loving God would permit such bad things to happen to them or such evil to exist in the world.  They assume that a humanlike God is necessary for a spirit world.  They lose their faith and become skeptics or non-believers.   

Saul of Tarsus Complex:  Just as Saul knew nothing about Christian beliefs, he reasoned out of emotion that Christians were a bad lot and should be persecuted.  Likewise, the mainstream scientist or academician, unable to accept facts that conflict with his long-standing materialistic worldview, adheres to his own dogma and condemns anything that threatens it, even if he knows nothing about it, claiming that psychic or supernormal facts are “impossible” and opposed to accepted scientific laws.  It is nothing more than superstition.

Medawar’s Syndrome:  Sir Peter Medawar held that scientists tend not to take anything seriously until they can at least see the rudiments of answer. Medawar’s Syndrome may just be another name for the Saul of Tarsus Complex; however, those afflicted with Medawar’s Syndrome do not necessarily say various phenomena are impossible; they simply say that it is beyond scientific inquiry. 

Festinger’s Syndrome: This affliction has to do with the psychological distress (cognitive dissonance) experienced by people who struggle to reconcile conflicting facts or viewpoints.  Social psychologist Leon Festinger is credited with much research in this area.  As it relates to psychical research and parapsychology, Festinger’s Syndrome kicks in when skeptics or debunkers witness something that defies natural law as defined by orthodox science. They begin questioning what they observed and come up with various ways that they “could have” or “might have” been tricked or duped.  They “might have” even been victims of a mass hypnotism or something was put into the drink they had that night to make them hallucinate. What they observed was simply not possible and so it has to have been a trick that was beyond detection. If that doesn’t work completely, they throw out ad hominem arguments, finding fault with the person rather than the research.  The researcher must have had an affair with the medium. Or the researcher must have had a “will to believe” and unconsciously distorted the results.   

The Faraday Flout:  Michael Faraday, one of the leading chemists of the nineteenth century, was asked to investigate the mediumship of Daniel Dunglus Home, but asked what the point of it all would be since the purported spirits who had communicated and acted through Home were so “utterly contemptible.”  Like Faraday, many people seem to assume that if spirits were to exist, no matter how ridiculous that seems to them, they are all enlightened spirits and further that all mediums must be saints of some kind.  Moreover, if they are “of God” they should be able to communicate with much more clarity and wisdom.  Indications are, however, that there are many levels of spirits and that the lower-level spirits are better able to communicate with those of us on the earth plane, because they are at a lower vibration or frequency than the more advanced spirits.  Also, it is clear that people with mediumistic ability are not necessarily highly spiritual people. They come in all degrees of spirituality.  Those who don’t grasp this are victims of The Faraday Flout.

Browning Brashness:  This form of skepticism clearly arises out of emotion and not reason.  The best example is that of famous poet Robert Browning, who witnessed some amazing spirit phenomena with medium D. D. Home and initially attested to it.  However, he apparently became upset because his wife, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was so enamored of Home, that he, seemingly out of jealousy, called Home a cheat and impostor, writing a disparaging poem about a Home-like medium called “Mr. Sludge, the Medium,” in which he portrayed the medium as a psychopath and fraud.

Huxley Hubris:  Like Michael Faraday, Thomas Huxley was one of the leading scientists of the nineteenth century.  When asked by the Council of the Dialectical Society to cooperate with a committee for the investigation of mediums, he declined, commenting that he had no time for such nonsense and that it did not interest him.  “If anybody would endow me with the faculty of listening to the chatter of old women and curates in the nearest cathedral town, I should decline the privilege, having better things to do,” was part of his written reply.  Even though the question of eternal life far exceeds anything mainstream science has dealt with, most scientists seem incapable of thinking that deeply.  While James Hyslop was still teaching logic and ethics at Columbia, James Cattell, a fellow professor, sneered at Hyslop’s interest in psychical research.  When Hyslop published articles that strongly supported non-mechanistic theories, Cattell tried to have him fired.  In his defense, Hyslop, noting scientific efforts to find a species of useless fish to support Darwin’s theory, asked “why it is so noble and respectable to find whence man came, and so suspicious and dishonorable to ask and ascertain whither he goes?”  That was more than a hundred years ago and the question is still a very valid one.

Brewster Bravado:  As bravado is a form of false courage, it seems more kind to label the form of skepticism displayed by Sir David Brewster, still another renowned British physicist, as Brewster Bravado rather than Brewster Spinelessness.  After praising medium D. D. Home, Brewster was criticized by his scientific colleagues and quickly retracted his testimony, calling Home a fraud, and saying that he must have hidden something under the table, and that nobody was allowed to look under the table. “Spirit is the last thing I will give in to!”  Brewster snarled.  After Brewster’s death, however, his daughter published his memoirs, inadvertently including a letter in which Brewster disclosed that he had been invited to make an inspection under the table and in which he implied that it was all beyond trickery.

Houdini Hoaxery:  Researchers have been known to plant evidence or otherwise cheat in order to be certain that nothing would be produced to conflict with known science or their own beliefs.  With the great Houdini, however, it seems to have been more a matter of someone not producing greater magic than he could.  Houdini was part of a team investigating the mediumship of Boston medium Mina Crandon, aka “Margery,” during the mid-1920s.  “All fraud – every bit of it,” was Houdini’s verdict, without hesitation, further calling it the “slickest ruse” he had ever uncovered.  However, when asked to explain, Houdini couldn’t really explain it and reasoned that she “must have had” an accomplice.  On one occasion, a fold-up six-inch ruler was found in a cabinet built by Houdini to restrain Margery.  It was later revealed by Jim Collins, an assistant to Houdini, to be a plant by Houdini to show she was a cheat. 

Polanyi’s Syndrome:  As Michael Polanyi, a chemist and philosopher of science, reasoned, “any contradiction between a popular scientific notion and the facts of experience will be explained by other scientific notions; there is a ready reserve of possible scientific hypotheses available to explain any conceivable event.”  Perhaps the best example of this had to do with the mediumship of Leonora Piper.  When information came through her said to be from spirits of the dead, it was reasoned that a “secondary personality” in her subconscious was telepathically picking up information from the sitter. When information came through that the sitter did not know, it was reasoned that the secondary personality could search the minds of people anywhere in the world for such information or tap into some “cosmic reservoir” for the information.  Even that explanation was rejected by the more fundamentalist scientists, since telepathy itself defies natural law as certainly a cosmic reservoir does.  Thus, the fundamentalists stuck with fraud as the only explanation, while the more open-minded scientists were able to reason that the subconscious had powers as yet unexplored and unexplained and went on to hypothesize Super ESP, sort of an amalgamation of telepathy, telepathy at a distance, and the cosmic reservoir.  Anything but the ridiculous notion that spirits of the dead were communicating.  Even today, while Multiple Personality Disorder, the modern name given to secondary personalities, is recognized as a real affliction, no recognition is given by mainstream psychology to the possibility that spirit possession is involved.  It is more scientific to believe it is all in the brain.  The tendency for scientists to accept the reality of certain phenomena but to twist the evidence to fit their preconceptions or to make it sound more scientific is also referred to as The Gregory/Mayo Syndrome.   

Debunker’s Mindlessness Syndrome:  The primary reason science has been resistant to studying mediumship over the past 90-100 years is that science begins with a priori assumption that there are no such things as spirits and therefore that everything produced through mediumship of one kind or another must be explainable by known scientific laws.  However, those who have studied mediumship the most understand that such is not the case. Early researchers accused mediums of ”fishing” for information from the sitters, when in fact they were fishing for interpretations of the symbolic pictures they were receiving.  They often couldn’t get names because many names do not have symbolic pictures to depict them.  Spirit materializations often looked weird because the spirits producing them lacked the power or the ability to project a more accurate picture of themselves or whatever was being materialized in the ectoplasm.  The know-nothing skeptics scoffed as they assumed the imperfections all pointed to fraud.  They expected the mediums to produce on demand, not understanding how harmony factors into the success of a mediumistic test or how discord discourages results. 

“Science can be a security system, a complicated way of avoiding anxiety,” said renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow.  “It can be a way of avoiding life.”

The Hidden Power by Brian Inglis is available from Amazon and other bookstores.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog July 23

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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