Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Duane Elgin

In late 70s, Duane Elgin had a tranformative awakening where he "saw, and directly experienced, that everything, including 'empty space,' is visibly alive". It changed his life forever. He first burst into the public eye in 1981 with his now-classic book Voluntary Simplicity, a book that helped to identify a new movement toward more simple and balanced ways of living. For the last 25 years, he has been exploring the broad sweep of human evolution and working towards a sustainable and soulful future.

Today, as a renowned author, speaker, and activist, Duane has an approach that might "best be described as carrot and stick, encouraging individuals and institutions to begin to honestly reflect on both the extraordinary opportunities and the sobering dangers of our moment in history. And while he sees the spiritual journey as crucial in coming to terms with the issues we face, for Elgin, that journey must, now more than ever, be both individual and collective."


Duane was formerly a senior social scientist at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in California, where he co-authored numerous studies on the long-range future. During the 1980s, Duane founded and directed the non-partisan and non-profit organization, Choosing Our Future that worked to revitalize citizen participation in the San Francisco Bay Area through the development, for example, of a pioneering "electronic town meeting" process with the ABC-TV station. Duane has an MBA from the Wharton Business School (1968) and an MA in economic history from the University of Pennsylvania (1969).

Champion for the idea of a "living universe", Duane most recent book is titled The Promise Ahead. "Science has traditionally regarded the universe as nonliving at its foundations, but it's extraordinary that now, at the frontiers of science, we're beginning to find out that the universe itself is functioning as if it were a living system. [...] This is an amazing miracle, and as we discover this, I think that it is going to begin to shift who we think we are and what we think our life-journey is about. It's transformative."

Random Quotes

Jung defines schizophrenia as mistaking the dream for reality. We have been so inundated with the televised-generated version of the American Dream (each person watching roughly 25,000 commercials a year) that we have mistaken it for reality. We're literally going crazy--on the one hand knowing we need to learn to live with less, and on the other hand being continuously encouraged to consume ever more. We are being divided against ourselves. Something has to give.

Simplicity of living means meeting life face to face. It means confronting life clearly, without unnecessary distractions. It means being direct and honest in relationships of all kinds. It means taking life as it is--straight and unadulterated.

For the next several hours I stood virtually rooted in one place, physically stunned and mentally shocked to the deepest core of my being. Everywhere I looked, I saw an infusing radiance of immense intelligence, creativity, and love. I saw, and directly experienced, that everything, including 'empty space,' is visibly alive. Space was not simply the absence of form but the formless expression of infinite possibility.

We can describe "voluntary simplicity" as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living. This way of life is not a static condition to be achieved, but an ever changing balance that must be continuously and consciously made real. Simplicity in this sense is not simple. To maintain a skillful balance between the inner and outer aspects of our lives is an enormously challenging and continuously changing process. The objective is not to dogmatically live with less, but is a more demanding intention of living with balance in order to find a life of greater purpose, fulfillment and satisfaction.

Awakening Earth: Duane Elgin's Official Website
WIE: Interview With Duane Elgin