February 18, 2006

Consciousness Timeline: 1875-1945

Compiled by Stephen Dinan
The following timeline is by necessity somewhat arbitrary and quite partial. The point is not to chart the minutiae of events of 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 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.
Carl Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious, break from Freud.
P. D. Ouspensky, Tertium Organum.
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.
Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id.
Martin Buber, I and Thou.
Otto Rank, The Trauma of Birth.
Jean Piaget, Judgement and Reasoning in the Child, demonstrates how structures of thought evolve.
C. D. Broad, The Mind and Its Place in Nature.
Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World
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.
Carl Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious.
Arnold Toynbee, in A Study of History, explicates his theory of the rise and breakdown of civilizations.
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.
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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