Contemplative Mind in Society Board meeting
by Norman Fischer | May 09, 2006 at 7:25 PM
May 9, 2006. Charlotte's Way
The Contemplative Mind in Society Board meeting in Kalamazoo was fine. Very full schedule of talk, with a short meditation to lead each session (I led one of these, as did Father Thomas Keating, originator of Centering Prayer, who also attended; I was delighted to see him again, having missed his talk in San Francisco). By the time I'd gotten to the meeting, having read the rather voluminous Board materials on the plane, I already had a plan: that we extend the academic fellowship program, making CMS a fellowship network that identifies and supports talented contemplatives in various fields. I discussed this idea at meals and in our sessions and it occasioned much feedback and lots of interest. I was very impressed in the meetings with the contributions of the academic fellows, Ed Sarath, jazz flugelhornist from University of Michigan (whose two albums are wonderful, I've been listening to them); Hal Roth, Religious Studies, from Brown (Hal's an old Sazaki Roshi student), and Arthur Szionjic (I am sure this is not how his name is spelled, pronounced to rhyme with "science"), a physics professor from Amherst. They're all doing great work and had a lot to say.
I'm amazed by the amount of money Fetzer must have put into this meeting: to fly everyone to Kalamazoo (not only Board members, also many "advisors") and put them up at the Seasons, the Institute's guest house, also to pay for the facilitator and "graphic recorder," who reduced all our various conversations to huge colorful cartoon drawings with various bullet points and catch phrases. I'm not sure exactly what, if anything, emerged from our nearly three full days of conversation.
I took an interest though in John Fetzer himself, the founder of the Institute (Fetzer Institute has been a key financial backer of CMS, and hosted this tenth anniversary Board meeting). He was for twenty years owner of the Detroit Tigers, which was what captured my attention. Two books about him were available and I read them both. One was about his baseball career (though very poorly written); the other was an Institute-sponsored publication that discussed his whole life. It seemed fairly typical of lives of all the early American tycoons, late 19th early 20th century — starting from simple pious roots, inspired, yet plain-speaking nervy risk-taking combined with a very conservative almost Spartan lifestyle and personality.
Fetzer was obsessed with radio waves — invisible forces in the universe that, he found, could be harnessed for particular purposes. He tinkered. He designed and built early radio stations in the Midwest (near Kalamazoo), later TV, and bought and sold them, thus amassing a considerable fortune. I suppose the idea of invisible forces that could be discovered and worked with, that were there all along but had not been known before, caused him to wonder about what other sorts of forces could be out there. Consequently he became, as time went on, a rather far out fellow, though publicly no one knew of it, with interests in Ouija boards and spirit mediums, various sorts of electrical or energy boxes for curing illness, alpha and other brain wave research and training, reincarnation, mystical visitations, UFO's etc. Hence the mission of the present Fetzer Institute is rather unusual (right now key words in the mission statement are "love and forgiveness").
Apparently, Fetzer, having spent his life in the media, mistrusted it, and understood that the public mission of the Institute would have to be a cover for what he was really trying to do: instill Cosmic Consciousness in the human race so that love and freedom would reign on earth and the Age of the Archangel Michael would finally be caused to dawn.