OUR HISTORY - Pre-1980
The Ojai Foundation began in 1975 as Human Dimensions Institute/West, a nonprofit organization exploring the interface between science and spirituality, situated on 40 acres of land in the Upper Ojai Valley in Southern California.
This 40-acre parcel was part of 450 acres purchased in 1927 by visionary Theosophist Dr. Annie Besant to provide for an eclectic community devoted to artistic, agricultural and educational projects that would encourage a rich cross-cultural environment in a spiritual climate. The Happy Valley Foundation was created to steward the land and her vision, including overseeing the Happy Valley School, their first formal institution, founded in 1946.
The early years were guided by a young visionary, Luke Gatto, who worked to develop an ecologically self-sufficient environment—or Bio-Shelter—designed by Sean Wellesley-Miller of MIT. Then in 1979, anthropologist Dr. Joan Halifax (at that time research assistant to mythologist Joseph Campbell) was asked to lead the organization in a new direction, which was then renamed The Ojai Foundation (TOF).
Dr. Halifax, with a background of personal study with shamans, Zen masters, Tibetan Lamas, Native American elders and spiritual leaders from around the world, had recently published two books, now classics in the field: Shaman: The Wounded Healer, and Shamanic Voices. Her wide-ranging ties with indigenous peoples and her Western academic connections helped to draw an extraordinary faculty to the rustic facility that came to be known informally as the "Wizard's Camp."