ISHK History


The twenty-first century has seen a new view of human nature emerge as psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology and paleontology, among other disciplines, combine their discoveries. Scientists in many fields are now unraveling the mysteries of the human brain. Research in psychology confirms observations of classical thinkers such as Plato, Rumi, and El Ghazzali on conditioning, attention, and perception; the link between mind and health is well established; new discoveries since World War II have revealed more about the origins of Christianity than in any other period. Though vital to humanity and the world today, even in the twenty-first century digital age, this new knowledge has been slow to reach the general public and public policy makers. ISHK’s founders envisioned approaches toward solving some of the complex social, political, economic, biological and environmental issues facing humankind. They established ISHK in 1969 as an educational organization to begin the task of closing the knowledge gap in these areas.

A brochure entitled “We Are in a Race With Ourselves” in the 1970s laid out some of the problems and issues facing the world today. Are the solutions to these problem issues within our grasp, or are we still in a race with ourselves?

The race is still on… To read a little more about the history of ISHK, continue with the following chronological account.



Taking note of the great need for books and educational materials by at-risk kids throughout the country, in early 2000 ISHK began Hoopoe Books Share Literacy program under the directorship of Sally Mallam. Through generous support from donors, grants from organizations such as The Will J. Reid Foundation, eBay, H.E.B. Texas, Kaiser Permanente, and others, Share Literacy has been able to work with established programs providing, books, and CDs. Over 650,000 books have been donated to children, most of whom have no books in the home.

As an adjunct to this project, with the help of professional educators and researchers, in 2004-2005, ISHK developed and piloted early education curricula for teachers and developed free parent-teacher manuals for all the Hoopoe Books offering home and school activities to help develop a love of reading in children. In 2006, ISHK began pilot programs for training teachers on the use of the Hoopoe Books in a program called “Teaching-Stories: Learning That Lasts.” Since that time, Hoopoe Books Curriculum and Training programs have been successfully used and critically acclaimed by educators all around the country.

A 2010 study involving 70,000 students from 27 countries revealed that having books in the home was more predictive of children’s educational attainment than the parent’s occupation or the family’s standard of living. The greatest impact of book access was seen among the least educated and poorest families.*
*(Citation: Evans, M.; Kelley, J.; Sikora, J; and Treiman, D. 2010. Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Volume 28, Issue 2, June 2010, 171–197.)

In 2005, after the success of Hoopoe Books in the United States, ISHK began a program to provide Idries Shah’s traditional teaching-stories to the children of Afghanistan as an aid to literacy. Hoopoe’s Books for Afghanistan program prints and distributes Dari-Pashto bilingual and English books, ancillary teacher guides and provides teacher training. In 2011–2012 ISHK obtained a Public Diplomacy Grant from the US Department of State to provide books, teacher guides and teacher training, audio versions of the stories and to produce a program of the stories for local radio. An independent evaluation of the Government-funded program found that the program was a great success. By the end of 2015, over 4.5 million books have been printed and distributed throughout Afghanistan, and over 500 teachers have been trained to use modern best-practice strategies to teach reading and thinking skills. Teacher trainings have been curtailed due to lack of funds.

In 2011 ISHK expanded its Hoopoe literacy program to Books for Pakistan, providing bilingual Urdu-English, Urdu-Pashto, Urdu-Sindhi and Urdu-Balochi Hoopoe titles and classroom Teacher Guides to schools, orphanages and libraries throughout Pakistan. So far we have provided just over 70,000 bilingual English-Urdu and Urdu-Pashto Hoopoe Books. We have just produced pre-press files for Urdu-Sindhi and Urdu-Balochi editions, and are seeking funds to print and distribute these.

Hoopoe is motivated to provide books for underserved children because youngsters whose primary language is not the language of instruction in school are more likely to drop out of school or fail in early grades. Research has shown that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school. (UNESCO, 2008).

If a child develops good reading skills in her native tongue, she can apply these skills when she learns to read a second language. Reading and comprehending good fiction and non-fiction in our own language first makes the task so much easier because she does not have to struggle with a less familiar language its vocabulary, sentence structure or written form, all of which are different. And the pleasure of the reading habit itself transfers to the second language.*
* Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. Heinemann.



In 2009, Hoopoe Books expanded its offering to include the All About Me series of books for ages 12-18,
and other important works for children.

The All About Me is a series of books to help students from 12 to at least 21. This is a time described by the psychologist Dr. Robert Ornstein in the Foreword to this series: when your brain is, as it were, open during remodeling. These entertaining and informative books help young people understand what is going on, and enable them not only to help themselves, but to take advantage of this important time in their lives. This is fundamental information, but we often forget to teach students about it in school. For example, what psychologists know about how we see, think, and feel, how these abilities work, how they change, grow or get stuck and how reliable they are as we try to make sense of ourselves, our friends, our relatives and the world around us. There is good, solid information readily available and scientifically validated.

The All About Me series provides an all-inclusive program designed to meet the American Psychological Association’s National Standards for Psychology at the high school level, the standards established for the College Board AP Psychology course, and the National Board Standards for Science/Adolescent and Young Adulthood.

The All About Me series is also correlated to the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (available in the Free Resources section for each title) and to the WIDA PRIME Inventory by a WIDA-trained correlator.


In 2005-2006, ISHK embarked on developing a new website to follow humanity’s evolution, its origins in Eastern Africa and the Middle East to the present day, with an eye to the future. The Human Journey presents the significant stages of this journey and what we know of how we adapted physically and culturally to conditions along the way. ISHK hopes that an examination of these determinants will provide a better understanding of who we are as humans and why we do what we do.

As part of the Human Journey, in April 2006, ISHK sponsored a one-day symposium in Cambridge, MA, entitled The Core of Early Christian Spirituality: Its Relevance to the World Today bringing together leading researchers speaking on some of the latest discoveries and their implications for contemporary spirituality. In the past 60 years, more has been revealed about the origins of Christianity than perhaps in any other period in history. “At a point when religions are seen by many to be in conflict, when some call for an end to faith, others for a split between spirituality and religion, we are bringing together leading thinkers on the new, radical evidence about early Christianity and what it means for us today,” says moderator Robert Ornstein in a pre-conference interview.

The eight main sections displayed in The Human Journey are:
Discovering Our Distant Ancestors
The Evolution of Language
Tools and the Development of Contemporary Society
Ideas That Shaped Our Modern World
Sustainable Energy
The Changing World Economy
Health and Education in the Modern World
Intercultural Understanding and Empathy


ISHK responded to the tragedies of September 11 by offering information that stresses the need for educating ourselves about brainwashing and conversion, as well as the rich cultures and contributions to human history from the regions of Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Central Asia.


In conjunction with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and under the direction of Margaret Caudhill, M.D., we are offering an accredited program of CME courses that for the first time gives physicians not only a choice of topics, but their choice of when, where, and how long to take to complete the work. Our current course offering is based on the recent explosion of research into the connection between the body and mind. This field is not only fascinating but holds the potential for a radically different approach to healing. Now you can purchase books and tapes, and register for CME Medicine courses online.



ISHK’s CE@Home Program for Psychologists, founded in 1979 under the direction of Charles Swencionis of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, began as a direct extension of the Brain, Mind and Psychology seminars of the 1970s and 1980s. ISHK is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education. ISHK set up a structure to insure compliance with the APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and, today, there are over 400 courses offered to psychologists in states that require CE accreditation in such fields as Clinical Psychology, Ethics, Cognitive Psychology, Gender Studies, Psychology of Consciousness, and many others. By the end of 2015, 37,000 courses had been taken by psychologists.


Because of the explosion of knowledge about the role of mental and social factors in health and longevity, from 1992-2000, under the direction of David Sobel, M.D., who was then Director of Preventative Medicine at Kaiser Permanente, ISHK began publishing The Mind/Body Health Newsletter, the first newsletter dedicated to bridging the gaps between mind and body, research and practice, in the fast-moving new fields of behavioral medicine, psychoneuroimmunology and health psychology. For nearly a decade, ISHK’s Mind/Body Health Newsletter (originally Mental Medicine Update) was an important resource for more than 35,000 readers — lay persons and practitioners. The fundamental health information from the newsletter is now available in the Mind & Body Health Handbook by David Sobel and Robert Ornstein.


As part of ISHK’s mission is to make available definitive works in the fields of health, psychology, education, cross-cultural studies, and spirituality, in 1995 ISHK founded Malor Books to publish new or reprints of significant and thought-provoking works. The first publication brought back the important work of Gordon Claridge, The Origins of Mental Illness, and subsequent printings included works by Denise Nessel, Paul Ekman, Robert Ornstein and many others. ISHK has made the Malor publication New World New Mind by Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich available in a free downloadable version on our website, and ISHK plans to offer more downloads for future works.


In 1998 ISHK’s Hoopoe Books, under the editorship of Sally Mallam, began publishing an award-winning series of large-format, illustrated children’s books by Afghan author Idries Shah featuring traditional teaching-stories the author wrote especially for children. In part, this endeavor was to enhance the scientific research initiated in the Mind, Brain and Health seminars over two decades earlier that supported the evidence that these traditional teaching-stories enhance the learning process in children and adults alike. There are now 11 children’s books by Idries Shah, in English, bilingual Spanish-English and Spanish only. Since its inception, Hoopoe books continue to garner praise from major educational reviewers, including the School Library Journal, NEA Today, Children’s Bookwatch, and featured on NPR News in “All Things Considered.” Hoopoe continues to gather traditional and modern tales from around the world from which young readers can both be entertained and learn.

Stories exist in all cultures and an analysis of the stories throughout the world shows that the same stories occur time and again in different cultures. The two recently published titles WISDOM OF AHMAD SHAH and THE STRANGER’S FAREWELL are retold from Afghan sources by the Afghan school teacher and storyteller Palwasha Bazger Salam.


“On the positive side, the brain possesses highly refined mechanisms to maintain and restore health. We are not helpless and defenseless in the face of the stresses of everyday life.” —Robert Ornstein, in The Healing Brain


Poster for the seminar The Healing Brain

From the Mind & Body, Health and Psychology series of seminars in the 1970s, ISHK developed the popular Healing Brain Seminars, under the direction of Dr. David Sobel (Director of Preventative Medicine, Kaiser Permanente). The seminars were established to give a much-needed forum to pioneering researchers in mind/body health, and much of what we now know about mind-body relationships come from this important series. The seminars were attended by over 20,000 health professionals, and they helped bring psychosocial factors such as stress, depression, optimism, and social support to the forefront of health care. The work by Robert Ornstein and David Sobel entitled The Healing Brain touches on much of the material from these seminars. (See also The Healing Brain: A Scientific Reader, edited by Robert Ornstein and Charles Swencionis, in the ISHK CE at Home program.) Click here for a full list of Symposia.


In 1989, ISHK’s Road to the Future symposia convened a distinguished panel of thinkers to address pressing issues of our time: cross-cultural communication, the environment, and effects of technological progress. Participants included historian James Burke, anthropologist Edward T. Hall, novelist Doris Lessing, and ecologist Paul Ehrlich.


“The educational system, both past and present, has specialized in verbal analysis and the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic. What it has neglected, perhaps, is the development of relationships between ideas, between people, and the perception of whole systems—the development of the whole person.” —Paul Brandwein, Ph.D., from “Educating Both Halves of the Brain” seminar


Because of the growing understanding among scientists and educators on the complex, yet subtle relationships between the body and the mind, ISHK began the groundbreaking seminars on mind and body health. New scientific discoveries on the brain and consciousness were emerging, and there was a growing recognition of the differences between people and of the need for new and better techniques for educating the whole person. ISHK’s intention was to present a new synthesis and a new understanding of the brain, the duality of the mind, and the implications of the newer knowledge of split-brain and normal brain research for the purposes and processes of education. A long list of eminent faculty in these early seminars, including Idries Shah, Rene Dubos, Linus Pauling, Robert Ornstein, and others, presented scientific evidence that tools such as the Teaching-Story, meditation, biofeedback enhance our understanding of ourselves. The information developed and taught in ISHK’s early Mind & Body seminars was, indeed, part of the foundation upon which current successful practices in education, medicine, and psychology are based. Read More…


Seminar Poster

Much of ISHK’s work through the 1970s evolved to the development and initiation of continuing education programs in partnership with major academic and professional institutions, such as the Universities of California, The New School, Boston University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Stanford University, and others. In 1972, ISHK became one of the first organizations approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Because psychology overlaps many professional fields of study and covers a broad range of populations and service settings, ISHK began with seminars on psychological advancements in biofeedback, meditation and self-regulatory therapies and, in the 1990s, developed course work that covered fundamental skills that are essential for competent functioning as a clinical psychologist within the areas of health and mental health. (See CE at Home for Psychologists program.)


During the 1970s, ISHK began to see a need in the U.S. for books and collections on ancient and new ways
of thinking, so in 1972, the ISHK Book Service was formed as a central source for important contemporary and traditional literature. ISHK became the sole US distributor of the works of Idries Shah published by Octagon Press Ltd. Libraries, universities, trade booksellers, and the general reading public began to find out about this wealth of knowledge. In the past five decades, more than 2 million books have been distributed in the US through the Book Service.



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This