Ingebretsen, James C.

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The child of a Norwegian-immigrant father, James Ingebretsen was born on November 21, 1906, in Salt Lake City, Utah. His father, a lapsed convert to Mormonism, practiced law in Utah. The Ingebretsen family enjoyed considerable affluence and James benefited from this. In the late 1920s, he attended Stanford University and graduated magnum cum laude in 1930. During the Great Depression, he attended Stanford University Law School; then, practiced corporate law in Los Angeles. The Second World War brought Ingebretsen to Washington, D.C., where he served as counsel for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. In 1942, he received the distinction of being appointed General Counsel and Director of Governmental Affairs for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. Ingebretsen returned to Los Angeles after the war and became partner at the firm of Musick, Burrell, and Ingebretsen. Moreover, he became active in the growing city’s business community and, through his investments, he came to control considerable amount of what is today the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In 1945, over the opposition of waterfront labor unions, L.A. Mayor Fletcher Bowron appointed Ingebretsen to the board of Harbor Commissioners and, in 1949, he was elected to head this organization.

Given that Ingebretsen did not experience the Great Depression as most Americans did, it may not be surprising that he became an opponent of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. Ingebretsen’s opposition was channeled in large part through his participation in the Spiritual Mobilization (SM) organization. Begun in southern California by Presbyterian minister Jim Fifield, Spiritual Mobilization became a nation-wide, non-denominational Christian organization that brought together a variety of social, economic, and political ultra-conservatives during and after the 1930s. Fifield became a lighting rod for anti-communism. Moreover, SM supported the John Birch society as well as Senator McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade. Ingebretsen served as the Society’s general council and as an executive vice-president before agreeing to head the organization in 1954, at the height of the country’s anti-communist crusade. Later in life, Ingebretsen expressed doubts about his spiritual commitment to SM; nevertheless, he remained at its helm until 1961 when the organization was disbanded.

Ingebretsen’s spiritual misgivings with SM stemmed in part from a life-changing event that occurred in New York City in 1955. Ingebretsen experienced a “spiritual awakening” at age forty-nine that prompted him to interrogate the meaning of his life. Ingebretsen decided that hearing the voice of his dead infant daughter meant he needed to attain spiritual balance in his life. He took the name Kristifer and said that he dedicated his life to changing the world through inner, spiritual refinement. A friend, Gerald Heard, became central to this transformation. A philosopher, scholar, and close associate of Aldous Huxley, Heard guided Ingebretsen in meditation and “attunement,” and he introduced Ingebretsen to his own variety of spiritual libertarianism. Heard guided Ingebretsen in “wayfaring,” a method of individual spiritual development intended to bring about liberation and positive change in the world.

Ingebretsen credited Heard with being his “soul guide,” yet Ingebretsen also drew on other belief systems. Ingebretsen said he wanted to merge “Eastern and Western” beliefs in his spiritual study and practice. He did so by studying with Wen-Shan, Ira Progoff, and Pir Vilayat. Ingebretsen adopted Tai Chi Ch’uan from Wen-Shan; he learned about “the deep, personal psyche” from philosopher and mystic Ira Progoff; and he learned Sufi’ism from Pir Vilayat. Ingebretsen became a Sufi cherag and was initiated into the seventh degree of Ancient Chisti Order. Between the late 1950s and the 1970s, Ingebretsen drew from other thinkers and mystics and their ideas including Shibayama Roshi (hatha-yoga), Virginia Warner (Tai Chi Ch’uan), Harry Butman (Congregationalism), Darrell Miya (Advaita philosophy and Zen instruction), Alan Watts (philosophy), Robert Gerard (psychology), Joseph Campbell (mythology), Peter Drucker (business management), Dane Rudhyar (astrology), J. Krishnamurti (religious philosophy), and Douglas Johnson (psychic).

Ingebretsen’s personal spiritual journey drew from many different people and ideologies, and he gave in return. In 1957, he purchased land in San Jacinto and began a spiritual retreat center called Academy of Creative Education (ACE), later known as Koan of the Cross. Ingebretsen hosted retreats that brought these spiritual instructors together to think and teach. He also offered them grants and legal advice and he managed their business affairs. Soon after meeting Pir Vilayat, Ingebretsen helped incorporate a U.S. Sufi Order and he served on its governing board. Ingebretsen’s patronage extended to numerous foundations with which he was involved including the Foundation for Social Research, the Blaisdell Institute for Advanced Study in World Culture and Religion (at Claremont College and associated with Heard), Dialogue House Associates, Mid-Life Opportunities for Renewal Experience (started in 1974), the Gnostic Society, and the Philosophical Research Society (which published his autobiography).

Ingebretsen identified the purpose of his life to be his personal spiritual development. This orientation merged his spiritual seeking with his libertarian philosophy. Ingebretsen wanted to popularize his own spiritual journey in order to offer his experience as a model for others to follow. Consequently, he wrote his autobiography and collected a considerable amount of documents related to his life – which he donated to the University of Oregon Special Collections beginning in the 1980s. His penchant for testimony of his experiences has distinct similarities to the religious experiences of many other Americans during this period in U.S. history who were drawn to evangelical Christianity. Indeed, the terms and ideas he presented in his autobiography – such as “freedom,” “change,” and “inner and outer balance” – remain sufficiently vague so as to appeal to readers who do not share his conservative philosophy. Despite the many twists and turns in Ingebretsen’s spiritual life, he remained committed to spiritual and ethical libertarianism throughout his life. Thus, his papers offer a unique contribution to the University of Oregon’s special collections pertaining to libertarians and conservatives.

Ingebretsen’s active involvement in spiritual change and research organizations declined in 1976 when he developed health problems and began to lose his sight. He recounted that he used his blindness as an opportunity to further self-examination. He focused inward even more following the death of his wife Dorothy (nee, Dorothy Blanche Hitchcock). He also began to write and to compile documents associated with his life. In the 1980s he wrote, with Sondra Till Robinson, Primordia: A Glimpse of Hermes, and he completed his autobiography, Apprentice to the Dawn, prior to his death in 1999. His autobiography was published in 2003. Two of Ingebretsen’s daughters – Doroty Lee Ingebretsen and Kaaren Elizabeth Ingebretsen Hoffman – survived him.

From the guide to the James C. Ingebretsen papers, 1941-1977, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Greenfield, Edward W., 1913-1964. Papers, 1957-1965. University of Oregon Libraries
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Peirson M. Hall papaers, 1908-1979 The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
referencedIn Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation, Sub-Committee on Music Papers, 1941-1946 Library of Congress. Music Division
referencedIn James W. Clise papers, 1932-1961 University of Oregon Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn James C. Ingebretsen papers, 1941-1977 University of Oregon Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Clise, James William, 1900-1961. James W. Clise papers, 1932-1961. University of Oregon Libraries
creatorOf James C. Ingebretsen papers, 1941-1977 University of Oregon Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Andelson, Robert V. (Robert Vernon), 1931-2003 person
correspondedWith Barrie, Jay Michael person
correspondedWith Buckley, William F. (William Frank), 1925-2008 person
correspondedWith Clinchy, Russell J. (Russell James), 1893-1981 person
associatedWith Clise, James William, 1900-1961. person
correspondedWith Cornuelle, Herbert C. person
associatedWith Council for Social Action (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Cowling, Donald J. (Donald John), 1880-1965 person
correspondedWith Fifield, James W. person
associatedWith Foundation for Social Research (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith Greenfield, Edward W., 1913-1964. person
correspondedWith Green, John F. C. person
associatedWith Hall, Peirson M. (Peirson Mitchell), 1894-1979 person
associatedWith Heard, Gerald, 1889-1971 person
correspondedWith Hutchinson, B. E. (B. Edwin), 1888-1961 person
associatedWith Inayat Khan, Pir Vilayat person
associatedWith Ingebretsen, James C., 1906-1999 person
associatedWith James W. Clise, 1900-1961 person
associatedWith League to Uphold Congregational Principles corporateBody
correspondedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
correspondedWith Mullendore, William Clinton, 1892- person
associatedWith National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Opitz, Edmund A., 1914- person
associatedWith Pamphleteers, Inc. corporateBody
correspondedWith Peale, Norman Vincent, 1898-1993 person
correspondedWith Pew, J. Howard (John Howard), 1882-1971 person
associatedWith Progoff, Ira person
correspondedWith Rand, Ayn person
correspondedWith Read, Leonard E. (Leonard Edward), 1898-1983 person
correspondedWith Robinson, Sondra Till person
associatedWith Spiritual Mobilization (Organization). corporateBody
correspondedWith United States. Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation. Sub-Committee on Music corporateBody
correspondedWith Watts, Vervon Orval, 1898- person
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Political Campaigns
Social action--Societies, etc
Lay ministry--United States
Congregationalism--Societies, etc
Human potential movement--United States
Sound Recordings
Congregationalism
Congregational churches--United States
Libertarianism--United States
Conservatism--United States
Social ethics
Christian leadership--United States
Religion
Photographs
Congregational churches--Societies, etc
Social action--United States
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Birth 1906

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