John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age

John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age

by Brian C. Wilson


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John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age follows the spiritual sojourn of John E. Fetzer, a Michigan business tycoon. Born in 1901 and living most of his life in Kalamazoo, Fetzer parlayed his first radio station into extensive holdings in broadcasting and other enterprises, leading to his sole ownership of the Detroit Tigers in 1961. By the time he died in 1991, Fetzer had been listed in Forbes magazine as one of the four hundred wealthiest people in America. And yet, business success was never enough for Fetzer—his deep spiritual yearnings led him from the Christianity of his youth to a restless exploration of metaphysical religions and movements ranging from Spiritualism, Theosophy, Freemasonry, UFOology, and parapsychology, all the way to the New Age as it blossomed in the 1980s.

Author Brian C. Wilson demonstrates how Fetzer’s quest mirrored those of thousands of Americans who sought new ways of thinking and being in the ever-changing spiritual movements of the twentieth century. Over his lifetime, Fetzer's worldview continuously evolved, combining and recombining elements from dozens of traditions in a process he called "freedom of the spirit." Unlike most others who engaged in a similar process, Fetzer’s synthesis can be documented step by step using extensive archival materials, providing readers with a remarkably rich and detailed roadmap through metaphysical America. The book also documents how Fetzer’s wealth allowed him to institutionalize his spiritual vision into a thriving foundation—the Fetzer Institute—which was designed to carry his insights into the future in hopes that it would help catalyze a global spiritual transformation.

John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age offers a window into the rich and complex history of metaphysical religions in the Midwest and the United States at large. It will be read with interest by those wishing to learn more about this enigmatic Michigan figure, as well as those looking for an engaging introduction into America’s rapidly shifting spiritual landscape.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814345306
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
Publication date: 08/06/2018
Series: Great Lakes Books Series
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 400,544
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Brian C. Wilson is professor of American religious history in the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. He is the author of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living and Yankees in Michigan.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xv

1 Meeting Jesus in an Elevator: Fetzer's Earliest Spiritual Influences and Experiences (1901-1920s) 1

2 Fundamental Disagreements: Leaving Seventh-day Adventism (1926-1930) 19

3 Restless among the Spirits: Fetzer and the Spiritualist Mediums of Camp Chesterfield (1930s on) 33

4 Finding Ancient Wisdom in the Midwest: Freemasonry, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism (1930s on) 55

5 The Ascended Masters' Call: Fetzer Explores the Theosophical Cosmos (1930s on) 71

6 Unorthodox Science: Fetzer, UFOs, and the Paranormal (1950s on) 91

7 Articulating a Worldview for the New Age (1960s and 1970s) 109

8 The Science of Spirit: The Fetzer Foundation and Parapsychological Research (1970s) 125

9 Fetzer's Psychic Advisor: Jim Gordon and the Channelings (1980s) 153

10 Building for the New Age: The Fetzer Foundation's New Mission and Headquarters (1980s) 175

11 The Last of the Nine Lives: Fetzer's Transition and Legacy (Late 1980s to 1991 and Beyond) 197

Notes 213

Bibliography 297

Index 313

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