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Robert E. Ornstein

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Robert Evan Ornstein
Born(1942-08-21)August 21, 1942
Brooklyn, New York[1]
DiedDecember 20, 2018(2018-12-20) (aged 76)[2][3]
Pen nameRobert E. Ornstein, Robert Ornstein
OccupationPsychologist, researcher and author
EducationBA in psychology, City University of New York's Queens College; PhD, Stanford University
Alma materQueens College, City University of New York, USA
SubjectScientific research into the mind, consciousness, split-brain; wisdom traditions such as Sufism
SpouseSally Mallam[3]

Robert Evan Ornstein (August 21, 1942 – December 20, 2018)[2][3][4] was an American psychologist, researcher and author.

He taught at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, based at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, and was professor at Stanford University[5] and founder and chairman of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK).


Early life and education[edit]

Robert Evan Ornstein was born in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York, USA,[3] and grew up in the city. He was twice high school math champion in a city-wide contest, and "wavered between physics and poetry before compromising on psychology" at the City University of New York's Queens College.[1]

In 1964 he was awarded a bachelor's degree in psychology at Queens College, and went on to gain a PhD at Stanford University, California in 1968.[1] His doctoral thesis was On the Experience of Time.[1]


Ornstein was involved in reconciling the scientific understanding of mind and consciousness with other scientific and cultural traditions. His work has been featured in a 1974 Time magazine article entitled Hemispheric Thinker.[1]

In 1969 Ornstein founded the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK) an educational 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to cross-cultural understanding and to bringing important research on human nature to the general public, most recently The Human Journey website.[6] He was the President of ISHK until his death.

Ornstein's book The Right Mind[7][8] deals with split-brain studies and other experiments or clinical evidence revealing the abilities of the right cerebral hemisphere.

He also wrote on the brain's role in health in The Healing Brain with David Sobel of Kaiser Permanente; the way in which human consciousness is unable to understand the fast paced modern world in New World New Mind: Moving Toward Conscious Evolution with Paul Ehrlich; and the way in which our current consciousness has developed in The Axemaker's Gift, with James Burke, a book that addressed the way in which Western culture has developed and our minds along with it.

Ornstein worked to reconcile the wisdom traditions of the East and science in The Psychology of Consciousness and was interested in promoting the modern Sufism of Idries Shah.[9] Shah and Ornstein met in the 1960s.[9] Ornstein's The Psychology of Consciousness (1972)[10][11] was enthusiastically received by the academic psychology community, as it coincided with new interests in the field, such as the study of biofeedback and other techniques designed to achieve shifts in mood and awareness.[9]

The Psychology of Consciousness and The Evolution of Consciousness introduced the two modes of consciousness of the left and right brain hemispheres and a critical understanding of how the brain evolved. Ornstein considered these, along with his latest book, God 4.0: On the Nature of Higher Consciousness and the Experience Called "God", his most important writings. The three books together provide a fundamental reconsideration of ancient religious and spiritual traditions in the light of advances in brain science and psychology, exploring the potential and relevance of this knowledge to contemporary needs and to our shared future.


Robert Ornstein died on December 20, 2018.[2][3] He is survived by his wife, Sally Mallam; his brother Alan Ornstein; sister-in-law Rachel Hawk, and niece Jessie Ornstein.[2]

Partial bibliography[edit]

Books written[edit]

  • On the Experience of Time (Penguin Books, 1969)
  • The Psychology of Consciousness (Harcourt Brace, 1972). ISBN 0670581984[10][11]
  • On the Psychology of Meditation, coauthor to Claudio Naranjo (Allen & Unwin, 1973)
  • The Mind Field (Viking Press, 1976)[5]
    • paperback (Malor Books, 1996)
  • The Amazing Brain, with Richard F. Thompson (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984)
  • Multimind (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986)
  • The Healing Brain, with David Sobel (Simon & Schuster, 1987). ISBN 0671619454
  • New World, New Mind: Moving Towards Conscious Evolution, co-authored with Paul R. Ehrlich (Methuen, 1989)
  • The Evolution of Consciousness, illustrated by Ted Dewan (Prentice-Hall US, 1991)
  • The Roots of the Self, illustrated by Ted Dewan (HarperCollins US, 1993)
  • The Axemaker’s Gift, with James Burke, illustrated by Ted Dewan (G. P. Putnam's Sons US, 1995)
  • The Right Mind: Making Sense of the Hemispheres (Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997)[7][8]
  • MindReal: How the Mind Creates its Own Virtual Reality illustrated by Ted Dewan (Malor Books, 2008)
  • Humanity on a Tightrope: Thoughts on Empathy, Family, and Big Changes for a Viable Future co-author Paul R. Ehrlich (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010))
  • God 4.0: On the Nature of Higher Consciousness and the Experience Called "God", with Sally M. Ornstein (Malor Books, 2021)[2]

Books edited[edit]

Academic monographs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Staff (8 July 1974). "Behavior: Hemispherical Thinker". Time. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-08. On page 2, the Time article gives the place of birth as Brooklyn, New York.
  2. ^ a b c d e Staff (27 January 2019). "Robert Ornstein". SFGate via Legacy.com. Archived from the original on 20 March 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2019. Obituary states "Robert E. Ornstein: August 21, 1942 – December 20, 2018".
  3. ^ a b c d e Shah, Tahir (29 December 2018). "Remembering Robert Ornstein". The Idries Shah Foundation. Archived from the original on 29 December 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  4. ^ Staff. "Ornstein, Robert E. (Robert Evan) (1942–)". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-08. The web page gives the birth year as 1942.
  5. ^ a b Lingeman, Richard R. (10 November 1976). "Psychologist Sheds a Mystical Light on Technology". The Dispatch. Lexington, North Carolina, USA. p. 10. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  6. ^ Staff. "The Human Journey". Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. Archived from the original on 23 January 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  7. ^ a b Golden, Frederic (10 October 1997). "Second Thoughts About Brain Hemispheres / Psychologist revises theories about left-side right-side functions". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 20 March 2019. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  8. ^ a b Burne, Jerome (28 August 1998). "Science: Two brains are better than one". The Independent. Archived from the original on 20 March 2019. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
  9. ^ a b c Westerlund, David, ed. (2004). Sufism in Europe and North America. New York, NY: RoutledgeCurzon. pp. 53. ISBN 0-415-32591-9.
  10. ^ a b W. G. (June 1973). "Review: The Psychology of Consciousness by R. E. Ornstein". The Review of Metaphysics. 26 (4). Philosophy Education Society Inc.: 761. JSTOR 20126325.
  11. ^ a b Lex, Barbara W. (June 1976). "Review: The Psychology of Consciousness by Robert E. Ornstein". American Anthropologist. 78 (2). American Anthropological Association: 395–396. doi:10.1525/aa.1976.78.2.02a00680. JSTOR 675298. New Series. Published by Blackwell Publishing for the AAA.
  12. ^ Robert E. Ornstein, Physiological studies of consciousness, ICR Monograph Series No. 11, Institute for Cultural Research, 1973, ISBN 0-904674-00-2.

External links[edit]