Composite image representing the road to the future

About Us

This is a civilization that is going down, not because it hasn’t got the knowledge that would save it, but because nobody will use the knowledge.” —Idries Shah

The Human Journey website is a project of The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK). For 50 years, under the direction of the late Robert Ornstein, PhD, ISHK has been at the forefront of the effort to highlight the growing body of research on human nature and the human mind.

Perhaps never has this endeavor been more important. Thanks to the internet, we can now access an astonishing amount of scientific, archeological, historical and neuroscientific information in a few seconds. Unfortunately, the same technology brings more to distract and misinform. The result is a culture expanded drastically in reach, but often drastically reduced in scope and thought.

According to a July 2017 Gallup poll, 38% of Americans believe that God created humans just 10,000 years ago and another 38% believe that God directed evolution. Creationism is the most prevalent “alternative fact,” and according to Gallup, there’s been a major increase in people who doubt that objective facts exist at all.

Though not political, ISHK aims to influence society’s understanding of truth. Over the last fifty years, with the collaboration of leading thinkers and pioneers in their fields including Doris Lessing, Jonas Salk, Idries Shah, Rene Dubos, Paul Ehrlich, James Burke, Edward T. Hall, Hans Selye, William Dement, Philip Zimbardo, Paul Ekman, and many others, we have helped change the world in significant ways:

  • The idea of two different kinds of thought in the brain is now widely established
  • Understanding the role of mind in health has helped change medicine
  • ISHK’s at-home education helps thousands of psychologists stay abreast of new developments in the field
  • Millions of underprivileged kids here in the United States, in Canada, South America, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon have received storybooks in their own languages that foster self-awareness and multi-cultural understanding.

The goal of The Human Journey project is to present the basic background information everyone should have at their fingertips to answer the questions of who we are, how we got that way, and what we might become – a comprehensive understanding now available thanks to the recent work of anthropologists, neurobiologists, psychologists, historians, philosophers, and others.

A cadre of dedicated professionals and interested ISHK supporters contributed to the launch of this project and continue to expand and update it with the latest research and information available.

Follow the Journey

We begin with a review of our hominid ancestors and our own evolution—how we, our cultures, beliefs and societies evolved, what our priorities were and why, and how they led to the world we live in today.

Road to the Future

We then examine the development and roles of religion, technology, education, economics and international aid against the background of a constantly changing climate. How can we leverage the increased understanding of our human nature—our strengths and weaknesses—to make better decisions, direct our own evolution, and create a sustainable human future?

Support our work

Robert E. Ornstein

Founder of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge and The Human Journey

Considered one of the foremost experts on the brain, Robert E. Ornstein, PhD, authored more than 20 books on the brain, mind, and health, providing an ongoing legacy inviting readers to rethink our origins, human nature, and the necessity of extending human capacities toward “conscious evolution.” He founded the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge in 1969 and The Human Journey project in 2008 to bring important discoveries concerning human nature to the general public. Read more…

Coming soon!

Human Journey Live Action Role-Playing Games (LARPs)

An exciting new series of role-play immersion games, to be held in classrooms and museums, is now in development. The goal of each LARP is to provide students with the opportunity to delve deeply into each section of The Human Journey website and attain a deep, experiential understanding of the related challenges and solutions, and the consequences of those solutions. In a LARP, groups of 13-21 students are assigned specific character roles related to key aspects of the section. Using dramatization and dialogue, they process information from the website, from additional readings, and from their own research. Over the course of about nine sessions, they gain a much deeper, more experiential understanding than simply reading texts can provide. They will appreciate:

  • What we share with our distant ancestors and what sets us apart
  • How humanity’s ability to solve problems enabled us to survive and flourish
  • How our view of the world is influenced by our culture and the time in which we live
  • Parallels to what is going on here and now, how what they’ve learned relates to their own lives and current world affairs

Mind and Cave

In the first LARP, Mind and Cave, now in development, students explore and discuss the parietal art of the Paleolithic period. Taking on the roles of Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola and his daughter Maria, Eduard Lartet, Abbe Henri Breuil, 18th century missionaries, Pablo Picasso, contemporary anthropologists, the San people and others, they react to and discuss the cave art of Altamira, Trois-Frères, Niaux, Lascaux, and Chauvet, and the later rock art of South Africa and the American West. Was there a purpose or meaning to the astounding art created during the last Ice Age, 35,000 years ago? Over the nine sessions, as they explore this question in character, the students experience, among other things, how our appreciation and understanding is shaped and limited by our experience, and by the time and place in which we live.

Further LARPs will explore other key periods in the Human Journey when surges in population posed new challenges that resulted in new solutions, creating further changes and challenges to our lives and our worldview. Included will be the challenges that humanity faces today, such as how we might create a global lifestyle for a sustainable planet.

Your help is needed to continue this exciting new way to expand the reach of The Human Journey. Please consider making a donation today.

Support our work

To stay abreast of progress and availability of the Human Journey LARPs, subscribe to our newsletter.

Other ISHK Programs

Continuing Education

CE@Home Psychology


Share Literacy
Books for Afghanistan
Books for Pakistan


Malor Books
Hoopoe Books


Conscious Evolution
Traditional Psychology