James C. Ingebretsen papers , 1919-1998

Overview of the Collection

Ingebretsen, James C., 1906-
James C. Ingebretsen papers
1919-1998 (inclusive)
160.15 linear feet, (313 containers)  :  3 record storage boxes, 284 manuscript boxes, 2 flat clam shell box, 3 (5.5") small flat boxes, 6 (2") small flat boxes, 7 (11") small flat boxes, 1 album, 1 oversize folder
Collection Number
Coll 147
James C. Ingebretsen (1906-1999) was a lawyer, developer, and conservative who lived in the Los Angeles area from the 1930s to the 1990s. His papers consist of documents related to his religious and spiritual undertakings that began in the mid-1950s, as well as documents related to his legal career and his real estate investments. The collection includes documentation on a variety of libertarian organizations and correspondence related to his activities in these organizations.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Collective Name Index to the Research Collection of Conservative and Libertarian Studies for a cross-referenced index to names of correspondents in this collection, if any, and 37 related University of Oregon collections, including dates of correspondence. See index instructions on use.

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

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, became partner at the firm of Musick, Burrell, and Ingebretsen, and became active in L.A.'s business community. 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 Congregationalist 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 lightning rod for anti-communism. 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 document 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. 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 – Dorothy Lee Ingebretsen and Kaaren Elizabeth Ingebretsen Hoffman – survived him.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collected papers of James C. Ingebretsen are a rich source of information related to religious, political, economic and spiritual topics that characterize American social thought and action during the mid- to late-twentieth century. The early portion of the collection provides a close look at the evolution of libertarian and conservative causes during the turbulent periods before and after the Second World War. These causes and their philosophical underpinnings encompass both secular and religious domains; however, the collection is preeminently a source of material related to the development of an evolving spiritual libertarian perspective. This emerging perspective is grounded initially within a religious and ethical, and later, within an alternative spiritual framework. This scope and content statement provides an overview of the collection's physical and thematic contours. Its contents are specified, detailed, and ordered in the series description that follows.

Early sections of the collection focus on the activities of Christian layman and local clergy active within a constellation of inter-related organizations. A large portion of this early section pertains to the activities of Spiritual Mobilization, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that countered the rise of social action as a nationally significant force within denominational Protestantism. This project dovetails with a conservative dissatisfaction with New Deal Liberalism. Proponents regarded the pre- and post-war expansion of the state as inimical to free enterprise, individual self-reliance, and personal liberty. Ingebretsen played a pivotal role in these organizations and in their subsequent internal transformation.

Ingebretsen's perspective was not static; apropos of his personal spiritual transformation in 1955, he sought to cultivate a less orthodox Christian, growing-edge spirituality within several of these organizations. Eventually he created or participated in a set of new organizations and ventures, including a 270-acre retreat he established in San Jacinto, California. These efforts were premised on his quest for spiritual growth and the desire to support an atmosphere conducive to such growth in others. Ingebretsen coined the term "spiritual libertarianism" as a way to describe his conviction that spiritual development, personal liberty and freedom are intertwined.

Ingebretsen's spiritual activism, transformation, and continuing spiritual quest provide an organic framework that introduces researchers to the political, philosophical, religious, and spiritual work of a number of outstanding thinkers. These thinkers include intellectuals and creative individuals of international as well as national repute. Unfortunately, the list of remarkable individuals and influential mentors who shaped the trajectory of Ingebretsen's life is too numerous to mention here. Their lives and work are detailed and cross-referenced in the series descriptions.

In sum: the collection provides a close and sustained look at a host of organizations and individuals that played important historical roles within American Protestantism, and society at large, during the middle years of this century. The papers also contain a wealth of material related to spiritual leaders and intellectuals who were in the vanguard of a burgeoning spiritual movement. Researchers using this collection can access a wide spectrum of spiritual and religious traditions and practices, some of which can be productively examined under the rubric of new religious movements. (There are also numerous references that give voice to the many lesser-known participants who played important roles in these dynamic processes.)

While many of these organizations described are now defunct, other organizations (and individuals) profiled in this collection continue to fill an important niche American culture. Several provide a locus for alternative spiritualities as they continue to evolve within the United States. Others, such as the Sufi Order, have an international scope.

In conclusion, the latter portions of the collection emphasize various forms of "growing-edge spirituality" (a term coined by Gerald Heard) that frequently conjoin Western Gnosticism and Jungian analytical psychology. A related strength is the collection's focus on the nexus of science and spirituality. The (now defunct) journal, Growing Edge, is one testimony both to this synthesis and to the seminal role played by Heard in Ingebretsen's development.

Ingebretsen's activities acquire a unique historical, social, and cultural context as they are integrated within the extremely wide range of organizational, and personal papers, voluminous correspondences, journals and large collection of unique audiotapes that comprise the bulk of the collection. Ingebretsen's personal journals and practices (which describe and record external events in light of their spiritual significance to him) complement the more linear unfolding of experience in Ingebretsen's life – activities documented in organizational and biographical papers. This juxtaposition is consistent with Ingebretsen's exploration of socio-psychic interplay between external and internal events and coincides with his emphasis on the acquisition of a personal mythology. Both of these pursuits were defining elements of Ingebretsen's spiritual orientation. Journal entries provide a unique vantage point from which to examine his changing worldview and they highlight his pride of place in the evolution of human consciousness. Ingebretsen's emphasis on interior growth was deepened by the almost total loss of vision he experienced in 1976.

In addition to detailing religious and spiritual activities on organizational and personal dimensions, the collection provides valuable information describing and chronicling Ingebretsen's numerous career achievements as an attorney, both in private practice and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His numerous business ventures, political engagements, and wide-ranging civic contributions can be profiled through documents contained in this collection. Ingebretsen's storehouse of energy, his openness to experience, and commitment to growth is apparent in the full spectrum of activities and practices that are document in this rich and multi-faceted collection. James Ingebretsen fervently intended that his papers prove useful not only to researches, but to all individuals who seek inspiration for their own spiritual sojourn.

One box of prints is included in the collection.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christian leadership--United States
  • Congregational churches--Societies, etc.
  • Congregational churches--United States
  • Congregationalism
  • Congregationalism--Societies, etc.
  • Conservatism--United States
  • Human potential movement--United States
  • Lay ministry--United States
  • Libertarianism--United States
  • Social action--Societies, etc.
  • Social action--United States
  • Social ethics

Personal Names

  • Andelson, Robert V. (Robert Vernon), 1931-2003
  • Barrie, Jay Michael
  • Buckley, William F., Jr., 1925-2008
  • Clinchy, Russell J. (Russell James), 1893-1981
  • Clise, James William, 1900-1961
  • Cornuelle, Herbert C.
  • Cowling, Donald J. (Donald John), 1880-1965
  • Greenfield, Edward W., 1913-1964
  • Heard, Gerald, 1889-1971
  • Hutchinson, B. E. (B. Edwin), 1888-1961
  • Inayat Khan, Pir Vilayat
  • Mullendore, William Clinton, 1892-
  • Opitz, Edmund A., 1914-
  • Peale, Norman Vincent, 1898-1993
  • Pew, J. Howard (John Howard), 1882-1971
  • Progoff, Ira
  • Rand, Ayn
  • Read, Leonard E. (Leonard Edward), 1898-1983
  • Robinson, Sondra Till
  • Watts, Vervon Orval, 1898-

Corporate Names

  • Council for Social Action (U.S.)
  • Foundation for Social Research (U.S.)
  • League to Uphold Congregational Principles
  • National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (U.S.)
  • Pamphleteers, Inc.
  • Spiritual Mobilization (Organization)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Lectures