The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) is an American non-profit research institute, co-founded in 1973 by former astronaut Edgar Mitchell[1][2] and investor Paul N. Temple,[3] to encourage and conduct research on noetic theory and human potentials.[4][5]

The institute conducts research on such topics such as spontaneous remission,[6][7] meditation,[6] consciousness, alternative healing practices, consciousness-based healthcare, spirituality, human potential, psychic abilities, psychokenesis[7] and survival of consciousness after bodily death.[8][9] The institute maintains a free database, available on the Internet, with citations to more than 6,500 articles about whether physical and mental health benefits might be connected to meditation and yoga.[6]

Headquartered outside Petaluma, California, the organization is situated on a 200-acre (81 ha) campus that includes offices, a research laboratory and a retreat center (originally the campus of World College West).[10]


The institute was co-founded in 1973 by Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut who was part of the Apollo 14 mission,[1] investor Paul N. Temple and some others.[11] Willis Harman served as its president from 1975 until his death in 1997.[12][13][14]

The word noetic derives from the Greek nous, meaning "mind or ways of knowing."[15] Writing in The Huffington Post, the institute's director of research pointed to philosopher William James' 1902 definition of the word as

states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority....[9]

The institute figures prominently in The Lost Symbol, a work of fiction by best-selling author Dan Brown.[16] Twitter postings on the day before the book's release led institute director Marilyn Schlitz to purchase the book and read it in one sitting, into the early morning hours of the next day. She told NPR that she found 10 experiments conducted by the real-world institute referred to in Brown's fictional account. NPR reported that after its publication "traffic to [the institute's] Web site ... increased twelvefold," applications for membership increased and "journalists from places like Dateline NBC — not to mention NPR..." were seeking interviews with Schlitz.[17]

The institute confers the Temple Award for Creative Altruism,[18][19][20] biennially.[21] The $25,000 award fund is divided among recipients selected by an independent jury.[21]

The institute hosts EarthRise, a monthly drum circle.[22]


Projects sponsored by the institute include a bibliography on the physical and psychological effects of meditation and yoga.[6] and a spontaneous remission bibliography.[6][7] The institute has also conducted a number of parapsychological studies into extra-sensory perception,[6] lucid dreaming, telekinesis,[7] and presentiment.[23]

According to The Roanoake Times, the institute is "...devoted to exploring psychic phenomena and the role of consciousness in the cosmos." Further, the Times noted that co-founder Mitchell's assertions "...have often been criticized by skeptics."[1]

Told "your research goes into a number of territories that are regarded with skepticism in some circles," Mitchell replied

That's what's fun about it. We're breaking down barriers and finding things. That's what science is all about: new discovery. ... There's nothing that we have done or have demonstrated that doesn't have good science behind it. Skeptics be damned.[1]

Documentaries and publications

In 1994, TBS broadcast a three-part, six-hour documentary based on work at the institute, entitled The Heart of Healing and narrated by actress Jane Seymour.[24][25]

Since 2009, the Institute has published a semi-annual bulletin, The Noetic Post.[26] From 2003 to 2009, it published a quarterly magazine, Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness.[27]

See also

  • Noetic theory
  • Marilyn Schlitz - President and CEO of the Institute of Noetic Sciences


External links

  • Institute of Noetic Sciences official website
  • Institute of Noetic Sciences entry in the University of Virginia course guide for "New Religious Movements"
  • Pfeffer, Elizabeth, "Stars aligned: Astronaut's mission seeks to answer life's big questions", Contra Costa Times, Feb. 21, 2010.

Coordinates: 38°10′31″N 122°36′20″W / 38.1753°N 122.6055°W / 38.1753; -122.6055

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