Dr. Jean Houston (PhD) is an innovative scholar, philosopher, futurist, and researcher in human capacities, social change, and systemic transformation. She is one of the principal founders of the Human Potential Movement and one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time. She has been a key player in the empowerment of women around the world. A powerful and dynamic speaker and renowned for her gifts as a mythic storyteller she holds conferences, seminars, and mentoring programs with leaders and change agents worldwide. Known also as a “midwife of souls”, inspiring people with her powerful stories, her magic touch of humor, and transformational perspectives that engage us into the lure of our becoming.
Houston was born in New York City to Mary Todaro Houston who was of Sicilian descent, and Jack Houston who was related to Sam Houston of Texas. Her father was a comedy writer who developed material for stage, television and the movies, including for comedians Bob Hope and George Burns. His work required him, and the family, to move frequently. After the breakup of her parents' marriage, she spent her teen years in New York City.
Her current interests involve whole systems design for a thrivable civilization, by applying cutting edge science and praxis from the fields of informational dynamics, cosmology, quantum physics, evolutionary development, depth psychology, and social innovation. Additionally, she has for many years done intensive study and teaching of the powers of myth.
Buckminster Fuller, a renowned American inventor, architect, and cosmologist, and a friend of Dr Houston, said: “Jean Houston’s mind should be considered a national treasure”. His observation is shared by the thousands of individuals, communities, organizations and nations that have been and continue to be inspired by her ideas, trainings, and teachings.
Dr Houston is Chancellor of Meridian University, and has authored nearly 34 published books and a great many unpublished books and manuscripts, including A Passion for the Possible, Search for the Beloved, Life Force, The Possible Human, A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story, Jump Time, Manual of the Peacemaker, The Wizard of Us: Transformational Lessons From Oz, What is Consciousness, and soon to be published The Future Human series with Dr Anneloes Smitsman.
She has worked intensively in over 40 cultures, lectured in over 100 countries, and worked with major organizations such as UNICEF, UNDP, and NASA, as well as helping global state leaders, leading educational institutions, business organizations, and millions of people to enhance and deepen their own uniqueness.
As advisor to UN and related agencies in human and cultural development, she has worked to implement some of their extensive educational and health programs. For many decades she has been working with the UN Development Program, training leaders in developing countries throughout the world in the new field of social artistry, human development in the light of social change.
Dr. Houston has developed a worldwide network of leaders including Joseph Campbell, Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller, Jonas Salk, US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, giving her unique insight into the human potential as well as helping Mrs. Clinton write, It Takes A Village To Raise A Child. She has also counselled leaders in high positions in many countries and cultures. The great anthropologist Margaret Mead considered her to be her “adopted daughter”.
Dr. Houston has served on the faculties of Columbia University, Hunter College, Marymount College, The New School for Social Research, and the University of California. She has lectured at many Universities around the world, and holds doctoral degrees in both psychology and philosophy of religion.
In 1965, along with her husband Dr. Robert Masters, Dr. Houston founded The Foundation for Mind Research. She is also the founder and principal teacher since 1983, of the Mystery School, a school of human development, a program of cross-cultural, mythic and spiritual studies, dedicated to teaching history, philosophy, the new physics, psychology, anthropology, and the many dimensions of human potential.
Dr Houston was also President of the American Association of Humanistic Psychology and is presently the Chair of the United Palace of Spiritual Arts in New York City, where she helps orchestrate and facilitate many of their core programs. Through her studies of the effects of the labyrinth, Dr Houston is considered the core founder of the world wide movement to put labyrinths in many places.
As a young woman she was a fencing champion and starred in off Broadway productions and received a New York’s critics award for acting. Dr Houston grew up in show-business, the daughter of a well known comedy writer. Her mother was Sicilian and her father was from an old American family, originating from Scotland. Her paternal ancestors arrived in America in 1630.
In 2008, the Jean Houston Foundation was formed to teach Social Artistry in the United States and overseas. This training has been conducted in Albania, the Eastern Caribbean, Kenya, Zambia, Nepal, and the Philippines.
Dr. Houston is considered one of the most evocative and entertaining speakers on aligning the human spirit, potential and action with the needs of the time. Her talks are legendary for their ability to inspire, inform and activate her audience. Her lifetime passion is to encourage the inherent possibilities, visions and capacities that lie within each person, group, and communities, and translate these into positive action.
Dr Houston holds a B.A. from Barnard College, a Ph.D. in psychology from the Union Graduate School and a Ph.D. in religion from the Graduate Theological Foundation. She has also been the recipient of honorary doctorates.
Earlier Career Experience
While participating in a US Government sanctioned research project on the effects of LSD, Houston became acquainted with Robert Masters, a writer and researcher into the varieties of human behavior and potentials. The two married in 1965 and soon became known for their work in the Human Potential Movement. Together they conducted research into the interdependence of body, mind, and spirit at The Foundation for Mind Research for 14 years.
The psychedelic experience research Houston and Masters conducted culminated in the 1966 publication of The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience. The U.S. government banned psychedelic research that same year. This classic in psychedelic studies detailed the expanded cognition and creativity participants experienced under the influence of LSD. After the research ban, Houston and Masters shifted their focus to explore other ways of achieving altered states of consciousness without the use of drugs. Houston and Masters' 1972 book Mind Games detailed their findings that guided imagery and specific programs of bodily movement could reprogram the brain toward more integrated ways of experiencing the world. John Lennon called Mind Games "one of the two most important books of our time."
Houston taught at Marymount College, Tarrytown from 1965 to 1972. She was a lecturer at Hunter College for less than a year in 1961. Her interest in anthropology brought about a close association with Margaret Mead, who lived with Houston and Masters for several years before her death in 1978.
In 1982, Houston began teaching a seminar based on the concept of "the ancient mystery schools." Houston explores the ancient idea of entelechy and proposes that individuals possess an innate potentiality which motivates their experience and actions. A technique she advocates for acknowledging and developing this inner spiritual self involves imagining the realization of one's potential in full embodied form in order to integrate it with one's present physical self.
- Mystical Dogs: Animals as Guides to our inner Life Inner Ocean Publishing (2002) ISBN 1-930722-13-3
- Jump Time: Shaping Your Future in a World of Radical Change Sentient Publications (2nd Ed. 2004) ISBN 1-59181-018-3
- The Passion of Isis and Osiris: A Union of Two Souls Wellspring/Ballantine (1998) ISBN 0-345-42477-8
- A Mythic Life: Learning to Live our Greater Story HarperSanFrancisco (1996) ISBN 0-06-250282-4
- Manual for the Peacemaker: An Iroquois Legend to Heal Self (with Margaret Rubin) Quest Books (1995) ISBN 0-8356-0709-7
- Public Like a Frog: Entering the Lives of three Great Americans Quest Books (1993) ASIN B0026SIU0G
- The Hero and the Goddess: The "Odyssey" as Mystery and Initiation Ballantine Books (1992) ISBN 0-345-36567-4
- Godseed: The Journey of Christ Quest Books (1988) ISBN 0-8356-0677-5
- A Feminine Myth of Creation (with Diana Vandenberg, in Dutch) J.H. Gottmer (1988) ISBN 90-257-2118-4
- The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology and Sacred Psychology Tarcher (2nd Ed. 1997) ISBN 0-87477-871-9
- The Possible Human: A Course in Extending Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities Tarcher (2nd. Ed. 1997) ISBN 0-87477-872-7
- Life Force: The Psycho-Historical Recovery of the Self Quest Books (2nd. ed. 1993) ISBN 0-8356-0687-2
- With Robert Masters
- Mind Games Doubleday (1972) ISBN 0-385-28650-3
- Listening to the Body: The Psychophysical Way to Health and Awareness Delta (1979) ISBN 0-385-28577-9
- The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience Park Street Press (2000 edition) (1966) ISBN 0-89281-897-2
Film and television appearances
- Nightline Face-Off: Does God Have a Future?" ABC Nightline program March 2010. With Deepak Chopra, Sam Harris, and Michael Shermer.
- Oprah and Jean Houston on the Hero's Journey Super Soul Sunday (OWN TV), November 2012.
- Houston, Jean 1996 A Mythic Life. New York: Harper Collins
- Berger, Joseph (1996-06-25). "Performing Seances? No, Just 'Pushing the Membrane of the Possible'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-03.
- "Mythic Imagination Institute". www.mythicjourneys.org. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- McLellan, Joseph (1978-12-02). "Jean Houston: A Matter of Mind Over..." Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-07-03.
- Rubin, Howard Jay (May 1985). "Vision of the Possible: An Interview with Jean Houston". The Sun Magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
- Scott London, "On Soul, Shadow and the American Psyche: An Interview with Jean Houston," Salt Journal (November/December 1997), portions of this interview were broadcast on the NPR series "Insight & Outlook."
- Heron, John (1992). Feeling and Personhood: Psychology in Another Key. London: SAGE. p. 70. ISBN 0803987293.