Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge

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Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge
ISHK Logo.jpg
Official logo
TypeNGO, educational charity, publisher
PurposeHealth and human nature information
HeadquartersLos Altos, California, US
Robert E. Ornstein
WebsiteOfficial website

The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK) is a non-profit educational charity[1] 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.[2] Its watchword is "public education: health and human nature information."


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.[3] Ornstein is best known for his research on the hemispheric specialization of the brain and the advancement of understanding into how we think.[4] He has also contributed to the London-based Institute for Cultural Research set up by his associate, the writer and Sufi teacher, Idries Shah.[4] The ICR and its associate, Octagon Press have since been replaced by The Idries Shah Foundation and ISF Publishing, respectively.

Ornstein's The Psychology of Consciousness (1972) was enthusiastically received by the academic psychology community.[5][6] More recent works include The Right Mind (1997), described as "a cutting edge picture of how the two sides of the brain work".[7][8][9]

Robert Ornstein died in December 2018.[10]

Aims and activities[edit]

ISHK's primary aim is public education, by providing new information on health and human nature through its book service, through its children's imprint Hoopoe Books and adult imprint Malor Books, which includes the works of Robert Ornstein. Hoopoe Books focuses on publishing traditional children's stories from Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East, including works by Idries Shah,[11][12] such as The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water.[13]

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.[14] It also provides books free of charge to lending libraries.[15]

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.[16]

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).[17] 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.[18]

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."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ISHK is a 501(c)3 educational corporation, incorporated in the State of California. Federal Tax ID #94-1705600.
  2. ^ Staff. "Charity details for Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge". Office of the Attorney General, State of California. Retrieved 2010-02-08. FEIN: 941705600. Type: Public Benefit. Corporate or Organization Number: 0586548.
  3. ^ Staff (8 July 1974). "Behavior: Hemispherical Thinker". Time. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  4. ^ a b Staff. "List of Monographs". The Institute for Cultural Research. Retrieved 2010-02-08. See biographical detail under Physiological Studies of Consciousness: Robert Ornstein.
  5. ^ Westerlund, David (ed.) (2004). Sufism in Europe and North America. New York, NY: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 53. ISBN 0-415-32591-9.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Staff. " The Psychology of Consciousness". Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  7. ^ Staff. " The Right Mind: Making Sense of the Hemispheres". Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  8. ^ Golden, Frederic (10 October 1997). "Second Thoughts About Brain Hemispheres / Psychologist revises theories about left-side right-side functions". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  9. ^ Burne, Jerome (28 August 1998). "Science: Two brains are better than one". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  10. ^ Shah, Tahir (29 December 2018). "Remembering Robert Ornstein". The Idries Shah Foundation. Archived from the original on 29 December 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  11. ^ Cole, John Y. (May 2006). "The Library of Congress, Information Bulletin, May 2006: New Reading Partners, Promotions". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  12. ^ Staff. " Children's Books: Publishers and Getting Published". Retrieved 2010-02-08. See entry for Hoopoe Books.
  13. ^ Staff. " The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water". Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  14. ^ Staff. "About Share Literacy". Share Literacy. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  15. ^ Staff. "About ISHK/Mission". The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  16. ^ Staff. "The Institute for Cross-cultural Exchange: Share Literacy Afghanistan". Institute for Cross-cultural Exchange. Retrieved 2010-02-08. In partnership with ISHK.
  17. ^ Staff (2006). "ISHK Symposium". Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  18. ^ Staff. "ISHK History East and West Seminar May 1976". Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. Retrieved 2010-02-08. Psychologies - East and West Seminar: May 1976.
  19. ^ Staff. "ISHK The Human Journey". Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. Retrieved 2010-02-08.

External links[edit]