Mission, History & Values
Through innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit, Omega provides hope and healing for individuals and society.
In the late 1970s fresh ideas were sprouting in American culture. Modern medicine was beginning to consider the value of prevention, nutrition, and the mind-body connection. Science, psychology, and religion were entering into creative conversations. Seeds from Eastern philosophies were being planted in the West, cross-fertilizing, and blossoming into a new, global spirituality. Music, dance, literature, and art from all over the globe were influencing each other in exciting ways, and social change movements like feminism, civil rights, and environmentalism were transforming our cultural identity and societal structures.
Omega Institute came to life in these rich and changing times. Founded in 1977 by Eastern scholar Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, holistic medical doctor Stephan Rechtschaffen, and educator Elizabeth Lesser, Omega was conceived as a university for lifelong learning. We took our name from the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a 20th century Jesuit priest and evolutionary biologist who spoke of the “Omega Point,” or the point of unity toward which all of life is evolving. This movement toward unity, balance, and wholeness—within an individual and in the culture at large—is also expressed by the word “holistic.” And so, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies was born.
Omega has served as a gathering place for great thinkers, creatives, spiritual teachers, and social visionaries. Four decades ago our holistic studies coursework was far from the mainstream, but today Omega has grown into an institute of influence way beyond our early imaginings. When our doors opened in 1977, a few hundred inquisitive participants walked through. Today we welcome close to 23,000 people annually, and reach nearly 2 million people around the globe on our website and social media platforms. We have become one of the largest and most trusted centers for lifelong learning in the world, offering an integrated approach to personal growth and social change, and continuing to connect our work with innovators around the globe.
Interdependence is at the foundation of Omega’s world view. We believe that the well-being of each of us is deeply connected to the well-being of all living things. We honor our inherent diversity, belonging, and contribution to the greater whole and value the fullness of every human being—mind, body, heart, and spirit.
We believe human beings thrive in connection with one another. We celebrate human diversity and strive for the broadest representation of perspectives in all that we do, recognizing that it enriches our lives and our learning community. We adopt a stance of mutuality and invite people to find belonging, to feel safe, to be nourished, and to create community.
We hold an optimistic view that each of us can contribute toward a regenerative future. We recognize that the natural environment cannot be protected without creating social cohesion, economic stability, universal human rights, and a culture of peace. We are committed to developing paths forward by demonstrating actionable solutions.
We believe that people the world over want to make a meaningful contribution to the well-being of others. Service is a path toward greater understanding of ourselves, others, and the world we share. It requires presence, self-awareness, compassion, and empathy. Service is a cornerstone of self actualization and of our organizational culture.
We conduct ourselves with honesty, fairness, candor, and respect in our personal, organizational, and business relationships. We learn from our mistakes, speak truthfully, and stick to our principles even when it’s difficult. We treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated, and focus on the collective good.