Thompson, William Irwin (1938– )
Author of books analyzing society in the light of contemporary
New Age movements and founder of Lindisfarne Association,
a commune based on a ‘‘new planetary culture.’’ Thompson
was born on July 16, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois. He was
educated at Pomona College (B.A., 1962) and Cornell University
(M.A., 1964, Ph.D., 1966). He became an assistant professor
of humanities at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for
several years (1965–68). Afterward, he joined the faculty at
York University, Toronto, in 1968 and remained there for
many years.
In the 1970s, Thompson began to explore the possibility of
a new culture emerging in the light of occult, spiritual, and new
consciousness movements. In Passages About Earth (1974), he
analyzed the alternative cultures of Paolo Soleri, H. G. Wells,
Werner Heisenberg, Aurelio Peccei and his Club of Rome, the
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Thompson, William Irwin
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Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, the Institute for World Order
and W. Warren Wagar, C. F. von Weizäcker of the Max Planck
Institute, and the Kundalini yogi Pandit Gopi Krishna. The
book contains observation into the nature and impact of various
New Age movements and lifestyles of the established technological
nation-states.
Thompson was most favorably impressed by the alternative
culture of Findhorn Foundation, the pioneering Scottish New
Age community established by Peter and Eileen Caddy in 1962
as ‘‘a training center for the embodiment of universal consciousness
in those who recognize their path is one of world service.’’
He also visited the ruins of Lindisfarne, a monastery on
Holy Island off the coast of Northumberland, England; it was
founded by St. Aidan in 635 C.E. Later, Thompson founded the
Lindisfarne Association in Southampton, New York, as an educational
community for cultural transformation in a new synthesis.
In Thompson’s view, the original Lindisfarne typified a historic
clash between esoteric Christianity and ecclesiastical
Christianity—between religious experience and religious authority.
As with Eileen Caddy’s experiments at Findhorn,
Thompson’s Lindisfarne has great significance as an attempt
to extend intellectual theories by practical community work. In
such a setting, occultism and higher consciousness movements
are integrated into a truly New Age ‘‘planetary culture’’ rather
than a counterculture.
Sources
Thompson, William Irwin. At the Edge of History. New York
Harper, 1971.
———. Coming Into Being Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution
of Consciousness. New York St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
———. Evil and World Order. New York Harper & Row,
1976.
———. Gaia 2 Emergence The New Science of Becoming. Hudson,
N. Y. Lindisfarne Press, 1991.
———. Islands Out of Times. Garden City, N.Y. Dial Press,
1985.
———. Passages About Earth An Exploration of the New Planetary
Culture. New York Harper & Row, 1973.