About the Collection
Dr. Marcus Bach, noted philosopher, teacher, ordained minister, author and lecturer, devoted a lifetime to increasing understanding and appreciation of diverse philosophical and religious perspectives until his death at age 93 on March 26, 1995. He was familiar with the strength and challenges facing all religions and cultures. He was born into a Protestant family on December 15, 1901 and grew up in Sauk City, Wisconsin, surrounded by religious revivals and rivalry. As a boy he could not understand why different religious denominations could not work together. These early experiences motivated his later efforts at breaking down barriers among denominations.
Dr. Bach and Lorena Otto Ernest were married during the early years of their careers on August 19, 1932. Mrs. Bach was born in South Bend, Texas on October 31, 1907 and was raised in Wisconsin. She was devoted to Dr. Bach and her photography throughout their careers until her death at age 94 on September 29, 2002.
Dr. Bach studied music at the University of Wisconsin in 1920-22. He studied and trained for the ordained ministry at the Mission House College and Seminary in Plymouth, Wisconsin during the years 1924-25. During his first pastorate at the Fairfield Evangelical Church in Fairfield, Kansas, he worked closely with a young Baptist minister to unify the neighboring Protestant and Baptist denominations. Although the experiment worked for a time, it was cut short by the arrival of another minister who refused to work with the “rival” religion. Dr. Bach was engaged in research and creative writing supported by a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1934-36. In 1936 he went to the University of Iowa to study and develop his talent for playwriting. He published many plays in these years submitting a play for his master’s thesis in 1937 and three original full length plays on regional and religious aspects of American life for the thesis for his Ph.D. that was conferred upon him in 1942. In addition to his Ph.D., he received numerous awards and five honorary degrees from other universities. The Rockefeller Fellowship, his association with the renowned University of Iowa School of Religion in 1942, and as a professor from 1945-1964 mentoring students on tolerance and respect toward people of all faiths, enabled him to pursue a serious study of religious programs throughout the world.
In their quest for spiritual understanding, Dr. and Mrs. Bach believed in, encouraged and practiced holistic living, the balance between the physical and spiritual disciplines, body-mind-spirit. He and Mrs. Bach were great examples and proof of the importance of holistic living. Being active physically, mentally and spiritually well into their nineties is a marvelous example. In his book, “The Power of Total Living”, he wrote, “Only by developing all of these parts of our being can we hope to fulfill the highest potential for which we are created.”
Wishing to expand spiritual understanding to all cultures throughout the world and to pursue his lecturing and writing and Mrs. Bach her photography, they moved to Palos Verdes Estates, California in 1964 and founded the Fellowship for Spiritual Understanding (FSU). From 1967 to 1994 they published approximately 270 issues of the newsletter, “Outreach”. During this period Dr. Bach wrote articles for Science of Mind and Unity Magazines, and was frequently a guest speaker at Unity and Religious Science churches where, like Religious Science founded Ernest Holmes, he emphasized the universal and practical nature of Truth teaching. Dr. Bach through his writing and lectures and Mrs. Bach through her photography, provided direction and leadership in the FSU and other audiences around the world, working with the young and the old in the development of meaningful perspectives in spiritual understanding.
Dr. and Mrs. Bach traveled the globe together for nearly forty years, immersing themselves in different cultures and faiths, exploring religions from animism in the Australia outback to Catholicism in Rome, and psychic healing in the Philippines. On July 15, 1947 Dr. Bach joined, by special permission, the reenactment of the Mormon trek from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah on the 100th anniversary of the early saint’s arrival into the valley. The experience led him to remark of the Mormons that “rarely had an American religion been more persecuted”. He interviewed many religious and world leaders, including Pope John XXIII in Rome, Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa, Prime minister Nehru and Indira Gandhi in India, Zen Master D.T. Suzuki in Japan, and Shoghi Effendi, leader of the Bahai’s in Haifa. He worked extensively with cultural and religious leaders in Japan and Soviet Union to help build bridges to better understand and respect individual beliefs. Dr. Bach authored 46 books, among which are Major Religions of the World, The Mormon, Adventures in Faith, The Will to Believe, The Quest for Spiritual Understanding and The World of Serendipity. Of his books, one of his favorites was, I Monty, an allegory about a butterfly.
Mrs. Bach was an award-winning photographer and her photographic works illustrated most of Dr. Bach’s books and writings. She took her first photography class in the journalism department at the University of Iowa and was immediately intrigued. She continued her education and received a degree in nutrition from UCLA but her passion was in photography. She captured images of people from royalty to native children as well as wildlife and architecture, actively traveling and taking photographs of people from around the world right up until a few months before her death. She visited many far-flung locales including India, Morocco, Turkey, Ethiopia, Russia, Kenya, as well as Europe, Asia, and North and South America. Just a few months before her death, she returned from her eighth trip to India. Her enthusiasm for photography never waned. Just a few weeks before her death, when she was too weak to go by herself, she was still making plans for a photographic trip to Oregon for a “horse roundup.”
Dr. and Mrs. Bach communicated well with their listeners, readers and viewers. They treated the groups, organizations and persons they described with their writing and photography with respect as they sought to understand the spirit they represented. Their works and tireless energy will continue to influence the sincere heart and curious intellect of human kind everywhere.