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Consciousness Timeline by Steve Dinan

Steve Dinan's Consciousness Timeline, which comes to Enlightenment.Com under Special Arrangement with the Transformative Community Network, is a marvel of brevity and depth. While any timeline can be expanded, and while one might quibble with some of the things that are included or excluded, there is no doubt that this is a superb resource and tool for those interested in consciousness, transformation, and spirituality.

Steve formerly directed and helped to create the Esalen Institute's Center for Theory & Research, a think tank where leading scholars, researchers, and teachers can explore the frontiers of human potential. He graduated from Stanford University, holds a master's degree in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and has studied Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, and Christian and Jewish mysticism, as well as transpersonal psychology. He is the editor of an anthology, Radical Spirit: Voices of Vision and Hope from the Teachers of Tomorrow (March 2002, New World Library), and the author of various books in development: The Call, In Kali's Garden, and Savoring Samsara. His volume of mystical poetry Angelfire is available as a pdf file via email. Steve, who is now associated with the Institute of Noetic Sciences, can be reached at stdinan@transformunity.com.

Consciousness Timeline
by Steve Dinan

The following timeline is by necessity somewhat arbitrary and quite partial. The point is not to chart the minutiae of events constituting what I am loosely calling the "consciousness movement," but to give a sense for a few prominent milestones. The last hundred years have witnessed the gradual creation of a new world philosophy, one that sees human beings engaged in an evolutionary process to access a deeper, richer, more playful consciousness and to manifest the fruits of that work in the world. This new amalgam of ideas and practices has drawn from dozens of traditions, thousands of books and experiments, and millions of collectively focused lives. Drawing a firm boundary around this "movement" is thus misleading. It is better likened to the flow of a tumultuous river, its millions of eddies and currents creating, when seen from afar, a cohesive sense of direction. This timeline is best viewed as a snapshot of that river from high above.

1875 Founding of the Theosophical Society in New York, spurs interest in spiritualism. The Society propounded the notion of spiritual evolution in an attempt to bridge the religious world view with that arising in science. (Nov. 17)

1890 William James, Principles of Psychology.

1893 First Parliament of World Religions, Vivekananda electrifies the gathering and brings Vedanta to the West.

1894 Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom, first of his four "foundational" books.

1900 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. Birth of the psychoanalytic movement.

1901 William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, lays the groundwork for the cross-cultural study of mystical experience.

1903 Frederic Myers, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.

1905 Richard Maurice Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness.

1906 James Mark Baldwin, Thought and Things.


  • D. T. Suzuki's Outline of Mahayana Buddhism introduces Zen to the West.
  • Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution.

1909 Alexandra David-Neel's The Buddhism of the Buddha and Buddhist Modernism, presents a non-academic account of Buddhist practice.

1911 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism.


1913 Rudolf Steiner founds anthroposophy.


  • James H. Woods, The Yoga System of Patanjali, considered the first full-length scholarly work in America on Indian philosophy.
  • Caroline Rhys Davids, Buddhist Psychology, offers the first well-developed discussion of the compatibility between Western psychology and Buddhism.

1917 Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy.

1918 Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, especially influential on J. Campbell.

1920 Arrival of Paramahansa Yogananda in Boston, an important figure in the spread of Hinduism in the West.

1921 Carl Jung, Psychological Types.





  • Rudolf Otto, Mysticism East and West, helps create the discipline of East-West comparative mysticism.
  • Jan Smuts, Holism and Evolution, argues that each subsequent level of evolution is more encompassing than the last, that what was once a whole becomes part of a greater whole. Influential in systems theory.

1927Wilhelm Reich, Die Funktion des Orgasmus.

1928 Richard Wilhelm invites Jung to write a commentary on the Taoist text The Secret of the Golden Flower in which Jung aims "to build a bridge of psychological understanding between East and West."


  • Alfred North Whitehead, in Process and Reality, introduces the notion of prehension, that interiority is fundamental all the way down to the most basic levels of the universe.
  • Krishnamurti, who had been chosen as the next World Teacher by the Theosophical Society, rejects the organization and states that "truth is a pathless land," setting the stage for the nondoctrinal teachings of his next sixty years.

1933 Beginning of the Eranos seminars, started with the purpose of finding common ground between Eastern and Western religious thought. Participants included C.G. Jung, Heinrich Zimmer, D. T. Suzuki, Martin Buber, and Mircea Eliade.


1936 Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being.

1937 Anna Freud, The Ego and Mechanisms of Defense.

1938 Jung travels to India and upon his return warns against the Western adoption of the practice of yoga, instead calling for the development of a Western form of yoga.

1939 First East-West Philosophers' Conference, organized by Charles A. Moore in Honolulu, attempts to forge a global philosophy.

1943 Albert Hoffman accidentally ingests LSD-25 (first synthesized in 1938), a mistake leading eventually to the widespread use of psychedelics. (4/16)

1944 Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy.


  • Merleau-Ponty, inPhénoménologie de la Perception, creates a methodology for the study of subjective experience.
  • Rene Guénon, Man and His Becoming According to Vedanta.


1947 Fritz Perls, Ego, Hunger, and Aggression.



1950 L. L. Whyte, The Next Development in Man.

1951 Carl Rogers, Client-Centered Therapy.



  • Joseph Needham, in Science and Civilization in China argues for the scientific side of Taoism.
  • Aldous Huxley, with The Doors of Perception, piques the interest of many as to the possible benefits of psychedelic experience.
  • Mircea Eliade, The Myth of Eternal Return.






  • Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death.
  • Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology, first volume of Masks of God series.
  • Edward Conze, Buddhism: Its Essence and Development
  • John Blofeld, The Zen Teaching of Huang Po.
  • Arrival of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to San Francisco, start of the enormously influential Transcendental Meditation movement. Peak hits about 1967 or 1968.
  • Arrival of Shunryu Suzuki to San Francisco as a priest for the Japanese Zen Buddhist congregation. He eventually creates the San Francisco Zen Center which plays an influential role in introducing Soto Zen practice to America. (5/23)
  • Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupying force leads to bloodshed and the flight of the Dalai Lama and much of the core of the Tibetan religious hierarchy, setting the stage for the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhist teachers and practices.



  • Alan Watts, Psychotherapy East and West establishes parallels between Western psychotherapy and Eastern spirituality.
  • Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness.
  • Michel Foucault, Histoire de la Folie.
  • Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person.
  • J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey, fictional account of the turn towards mysticism.
  • George Leonard, "The Explosive Generation" article in Look, first major piece to foretell the tumultuous times to come.
  • Founding of The Journal of Humanistic Psychology. (Spring)
  • Founding of The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.



  • Civil rights march on Washington, M. L. King's "I Have a Dream" speech (8/29).
  • Betty Friedan, Feminine Mystique.
  • E. N. Lorenz publishes the first paper on chaos theory.
  • Gerald Heard, The Five Ages of Man.
  • Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning.
  • Charlotte Selver and Charles Brooks begin teaching Sensory Awareness at Esalen.




  • Norman O. Brown, Love's Body.
  • Lama Govinda, The Way of the White Clouds.
  • Bell's theory of nonlocality proposed, precursor of physics and consciousness movement to follow in 1970s and 80s.
  • San Francisco Zen Center purchases Tassajara Hot Springs, which becomes the center of gravity for intensive practice of Soto Zen in the West.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh arrives in the U.S. for a three-week speaking tour.


  • R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience.
  • Alexander Lowen, The Betrayal of the Body.
  • Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine.
  • Will Schutz, Joy, turns group therapy into an important national movement. (May approx.)
  • Summer of Love
  • Stanislav Grof suggests the term "transpersonal" to describe an emerging orientation in the consciousness movement.
  • Ford Foundation grant starts the Confluent Education program at Esalen, directed by George Brown, applying humanistic principles to education. This program is eventually incorporated into UC-Santa Barbara's School of Education.


  • Haridas Chaudhuri founds the California Institute of Asian Studies (CIAS) in San Francisco to spread Sri Aurobindo's integral philosophy. (April 8)
  • Thomas Merton travels to South-East Asia in order to build bridges between Christian and Asian monasticism.
  • Von Bertalanffy, General System Theory.
  • Carlos Casteneda, The Teachings of Don Juan, first in his series of influential semi-fictional tales of a Yaqui sorcerer.
  • Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Catalog.
  • George Leonard, Education and Ecstasy.
  • Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology.
  • Ralph Metzner leads a series of dialogues at the Esalen San Francisco center on ecology and psychology.


  • Abraham Maslow and Anthony Sutich create the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology.
  • Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture, helps define the epochal social changes occurring in America in the sixties.
  • Charles Tart, ed., Altered States of Consciousness.
  • James Lovelock first proposes, but does not name, the Gaia hypothesis.
  • Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim.
  • Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying.
  • Rollo May, Love and Will.
  • Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom.
  • F. M. Alexander, The Resurrection of the Body.
  • S. N. Goenka returns to India to teach vipassana courses, a pivotal event in the dissemination of Dharma practice in the world.
  • Samuel Bercholz founds Shambhala Publications.
  • Launching of the Agnews Project by Esalen, an alternative approach to psychosis in a state mental hospital.
  • Ashley Montagu, Sex, Man, and Society.
  • Lawrence LeShan, "Physicists and Mystics: Similarities in World View." (Nov.)
  • First Council Grove, Kansas, conference on voluntary control of internal states.
  • First Association of Humanistic Psychology conference with a transpersonal subsection.


  • First Earth Day (April 22), a significant launching point for the environmental movement
  • Robert Bellah, Beyond Belief.
  • John Blofeld, The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet.
  • Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, opens channels for the bridging of the Western consciousness movement with similar work in the Soviet Union.
  • Chogyam Trungpa, Meditation in Action.
  • Jacob Needleman, The New Religions, examines the emergence of Eastern disciplines and cults and the growing number of spiritual seekers, especially in California.
  • Moshe Feldenkrais, Body and Mature Behavior.
  • Esalen contingent visits Roberto Assagioli, bringing his system of Psychosynthesis back to the United States and leading to its popularization. (June)




  • Arne Naess, The Shallow and Deep Ecology Movements.
  • E. F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful advocates the adoption of Buddhist principles in the Western economic system.
  • New Dimensions Radio first begins to broadcast as a voice for the emerging new perspectives.
  • Chogyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.
  • Michael Harner, Hallucinogens and Shamanism.
  • Founding of the Institute of Noetic Sciences by astronaut Edgar Mitchell as a research and educational institution to explore human consciousness.
  • First national conference of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology.
  • Conference on "Spiritual and Therapeutic Tyranny: The Willingness to Submit" addressed abuses of power in human potential arena. (Dec. 7-8, SF)



  • Stanislav Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious, adds perinatal (birth) matrices between the personal unconscious and transpersonal realms and chronicles the results of thousands of psychedelic sessions.
  • Terrence and Dennis McKenna, The Invisible Landscape.
  • James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, deconstructs the hero myth and ego psychology.
  • Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, explores parallels between Eastern mystical systems and the worldview of modern physics.
  • Charles Tart, States of Consciousness, proposes the idea of state-specific sciences and pioneers the scientific study of altered states of consciousness.
  • Ken Wilber, "Psychologia Perennis: The Spectrum of Consciousness." Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. First exposition of Wilber's spectrum model, in which all psychologies and traditions are situated on one continuum.
  • Peter Marin, "The New Narcissism" in Harper's begins self-critical phase of consciousness movement.
  • Raymond Moody, Life After Life, brings near-death experiences and their potential meaning into the public consciousness.
  • Jeffrey Mishlove, The Roots of Consciousness.
  • Herbert Benson, The Relaxation Response, influential in medical/scientific circles as a paradigm for understanding meditation and its effects.
  • George Leonard, The Ultimate Athlete, applies human potential philosophies and principles to sports, games, and the growing fitness movement.
  • Founding of the journal Anima as a forum for psychology, religion, and women's studies.
  • Founding of Yoga Journal (May)



  • Ken Wilber, Spectrum of Consciousness, important synthesis of a variety of approaches to consciousness, situating them on one spectrum, bridging Eastern mysticism and Western psychology in influential ways.
  • Amory Lovins, Soft Energy Paths.
  • Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures.
  • Haridas Chaudhuri, The Evolution of Integral Consciousness.
  • Elmer and Alyce Green, Beyond Biofeedback.
  • Stanislav and Christina Grof create Holotropic Breathwork during an Esalen month-long workshop.
  • Ken Wilber and Jack Crittenden found the journal Revision: A Journal of Knowledge and Consciousness as a forum for the consciousness movement.
  • John Welwood, "Meditation and the Unconscious: A New Perspective," JTP, proposes four grounds of consciousness: situational, personal, transpersonal, basic.
  • Daniel Goleman, The Varieties of the Meditative Experience, outlines a dozen major meditative disciplines, popularizes distinction between awareness and concentration paths, a distinction derived from Theravada Buddhism.
  • James Ogilvy, Many-Dimensional Man.
  • Russell Targ and Harold Putoff, Mind Reach.
  • Robert M. Anderson, "A Holographic Model of Transpersonal Consciousness," JTP.
  • Don Hanlon Johnson, The Protean Body.
  • Ida Rolf, Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures
  • Founding of the journal Consciousness and Culture.
  • Release of Star Wars, first movie to show significant influence of human potential movement through Lucas' study of J. Campbell, tai chi, and other related fields. (summer)






  • James Hillman, "Anima Mundi: the Return of Soul to the World"
  • Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point, examines the parallel changes occurring in multiple fields to support his thesis that one historical epoch is coming to a close and another is arising.
  • Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice, extends Kohlberg's work with moral development, examining ways in which women's moral growth differs.
  • Michael Sabom, Recollections at Death.
  • Arthur Deikman, The Observing Self.
  • Huston Smith, Beyond the Postmodern Mind.


  • First Leonard Energy Training at Esalen, an eight-week program of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. Early attempt at long-term, integral transformation program.
  • N. Katz, Buddhist and Western Psychology.
  • Founding of Common Boundary.
  • Peter Russell, The Global Brain.




  • Hameed Ali, under the pen name A.H. Almaas, publishes Essence, the first exposition of his Diamond Approach, synthesizing Sufism, object relations psychology, and Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Frances Vaughan, The Inward Arc.
  • Donald Rothberg's "Philosophical Foundations of Transpersonal Psychology" addresses philosophical assumptions underpinning the consciousness movement.
  • Sam Keen publishes Faces of the Enemy, foundational work on the psychology of enmity and propaganda.
  • Ken Wilber, Jack Engler, and Daniel Brown, eds.,Transformations of Consciousness.
  • Beginning of David Ray Griffin's SUNY Press series on constructive postmodernism, drawing from many works of the human potential movement.










  • Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Wilber's magnum opus, presents a four-quadrant model of evolution (inner/outer, individual/collective) in an attempt to create a comprehensive integral philosophy.
  • Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, argues that our emotional intelligence might be more central to our capacity to deal succesfully with the world than traditional measures of intelligence.
  • Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe, a version of complexity theory which posits "order for free" as the result of sufficient diversity and complexity. His basic ideas are extended into human domains as well.
  • Daniel Matt, The Essence of Kabbalah, popularization of mystical Judaism, part of the revitalization of Western traditions.
  • Andrew Harvey, The Return of the Mother, articulates the revival of the divine feminine principle in major world religions.
  • O. J. Simpson verdict provides compelling evidence for field effects from collectively focused intention. Random-event generators in several locations show highly improbable deviations in randomness precisely correlated with collective attention (est. 500 million people) focused on verdict. (10/3)
  • George Leonard and Michael Murphy, The Life We Are Given.
  • Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, From Age-ing to Sage-ing, introduces concept of Spiritual Eldering, revising visions of retirement and old age.
  • Don Hanlon Johnson, ed., Bone, Breath, and Gesture: Practices of Embodiment, the first of three edited volumes that articulate the contours of the Somatics field.
  • Frances Vaughan, Shadows of the Sacred: Seeing Through Spiritual Illusions.
  • First State of the World Forum (October).





  • Collected Works of Ken Wilber, a first for a living psychologist, reflects the growing popularity of the integral vision.


This timeline was heavily influenced by three sources in particular: Jorge Ferrer's unpublished chronology of the East-West encounter, Richard Tarnas' timeline in Passion of the Western Mind, and John David Ebert's timeline in Twilight of the Clockwork God: Conversations on Science and Spirituality at the End of an Age.

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