ⓘ Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge


ⓘ Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge

The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge is a non-profit educational charity and publisher established in 1969 by the noted and award-winning psychologist and writer Robert E. Ornstein and based in Los Altos, California, in the United States. Its watchword is "public education: health and human nature information."


1. Founder

Robert Ornstein, psychologist, writer and professor at Stanford University, founded and chairs ISHK. He has published over 25 books on the mind and won over a dozen awards from organizations over the years, including the American Psychological Association and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO. His work has been featured in a 1974 Time magazine article entitled Hemispheric Thinker. Ornstein is best known for his research on the hemispheric specialization of the brain and the advancement of understanding into how we think. He has also contributed to the London-based Institute for Cultural Research set up by his associate, the writer and Sufi teacher, Idries Shah. The ICR and its associate, Octagon Press have since been replaced by The Idries Shah Foundation and ISF Publishing, respectively.

Ornsteins The Psychology of Consciousness 1972 was enthusiastically received by the academic psychology community. More recent works include The Right Mind 1997, described as "a cutting edge picture of how the two sides of the brain work".

Robert Ornstein died in December 2018.


2. Aims and activities

ISHKs primary aim is public education, by providing new information on health and human nature through its book service, through its childrens imprint Hoopoe Books and adult imprint Malor Books, which includes the works of Robert Ornstein. Hoopoe Books focuses on publishing traditional childrens stories from Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East, including works by Idries Shah, such as The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water.

The Institute also operates philanthropic projects, including Share Literacy, which provides books for children; support for caregivers; training and support for teachers, and independent program evaluation. Through its Share Literacy Program, Hoopoe Books has partnered with other organizations to give books away to children in low-income areas. It also provides books free of charge to lending libraries.

ISHK has worked with organizations such as The Institute for Cross-cultural Exchange to provide children in Afghanistan with desperately needed books for distribution to schools, orphanages and libraries throughout the country, in order to address the literacy crisis.

Events organized by ISHK include a symposium in 2006 on "The Core of Early Christian Spirituality: Its Relevance to the World Today" which featured presentations by Elaine Pagels, well known for her studies and writing on the Gnostic Gospels Beyond Belief: A Different View of Christianity; New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman Jesus and the Apocalyptic Vision, and scholar of religion and Professor, Marvin Meyer Magdalene in the Gnostic Gospels: From the Gospel of Mary to the DaVinci Code, Mary Magdelene in History and Culture. In 1976, Robert Ornstein and Idries Shah presented a seminar, Traditional Esoteric Psychologies in Contemporary Life, in cooperation with The New School, New York City.

In 2010, ISHK set up a web site for a project entitled The Human Journey. It aims to "follow humanity from our origins in Eastern Africa and the Middle East to the present day, with an eye to what comes next."