Houston’s Human Potential

Dr. Jean Houston is said to be a fore-thinker in the art of “human potential.” Her lectures are based in the metaphysical concepts of human progress combining spirituality, culture, leadership and creativity. She has written over 26 books with titles that both confuse and clarify her base concept of human potential.

With titles like “Jump Time: Shaping Your Future in a World of Radical Change” and “Public Like a Frog: Entering the Lives of Three Great Americans,” one could expect to extract any number of ideas from these ambiguous titles. All of Houston’s concepts seem abstract and a bit intangible, so UC Irvine invited Jean Houston to describe her understanding of our modern, progressing world.

An audience of 300 was ushered into the Crystal Cove Auditorium Tuesday night, Nov. 19, to hear her anecdotes and ideas on society, culture and spirituality. UC Irvine undergraduate and graduate students, community members, activists, professors and researchers attended this first lecture in the Women’s Empowerment series.

The Women’s Empowerment series is a brand new initiative comprised of lectures, leadership luncheons and opportunities aimed at encouraging young women to take action in their own empowerment. Houston was introduced by Dr. Mandy Mount, director of the CARE office, but a group of five community members and one professor were responsible for bringing Jean Houston to UCI.

Jean Houston came to the stage dressed in a green, velvet top and pants, with a green floral neck scarf. She joked about her appearance, calling herself half-dog because of her hairstyle, yet she astounded a group of students when she expressed she is 76 years old.

She is a powerful orator and has developed an optimistic ethos for motivating and mystifying.

She can weave through different personalities of the people who have inspired her, from Margaret Mead to Eleanor Roosevelt. She describes her travels throughout the world, having flown 250,000 miles in the past month, looking at what she considers to be “a new social order” in which “women are challenging the most sexist institutions” from medical institutions to organized religion.

Houston believes women to be the “entrepreneurs of progress” because of their emphasis on process and growth rather than product, “systemic over systematic.”

She cites lessons learned from women she has interacted with like Eleanor Roosevelt who told a young, high school-aged Houston that women will undoubtedly receive backlash for trying to dismantle the centuries-old system of patriarchy. This is to be expected but not to fear because, as Eleanor Roosevelt told her, “a woman is like a tea bag: you put her in hot water and she only gets stronger.”

Jean Houston is regarded as a spiritual thinker who uses abstract thought to discover the potential of the human being. She believes human beings can achieve their greatest potential by enveloping themselves in the arts: “singing, dancing, praying, painting,” she repeats when explaining the difference between thinking and thoughts that are superior. Houston believes in the importance of spirituality.

She founded the Mystery School and attached the concept of “Renaissance of Spirit” or the idea of looking at the intersectionality between science and spirit. Yet it isn’t just her school of thought that seems to be rather open ended, but Jean Houston herself is an enigma.

While participating in government-sanctioned LSD experiments, she met her future husband, Dr. Robert Masters. Together, they started the Foundation for Mind Research in which they experiment straddling the line between mental and physical experience.

According to the couple’s book, “Mind Games,” they created an “Altered States of Consciousness Induction Device” in which people undergoing sensory deprivation experience enhanced fantasies and alterations in consciousness.

Inducing people into quasi-conscious states is supposed to help them think more abstractly and therefore more profoundly about themselves and their reality. If we are to think as so, we can master the art of “social artistry” and create “human development in the light of social change.”

Houston believes in the human race as stewards of the world, and it is our responsibility to be the “neurons or cancer of the planet” and the capacity to “direct enhancement or the destruction of ourselves, the earth, and all its creatures and forms.”

Houston left the audience excited when she admitted that we have “barely tapped into the depths of human potential,” yet she didn’t clarify where to begin the cavernous explorations, besides our own minds, and how to recognize personal progress.