Headquartered outside Petaluma, California, the organization is situated on a 200-acre (81 ha) campus that includes offices, a research laboratory and a retreat center (originally the campus of World College West).
The word noetic derives from the Greek nous, meaning "mind or ways of knowing." Writing in The Huffington Post, the institute's director of research pointed to philosopher William James' 1902 definition of the word as
states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority....
The institute figures prominently in The Lost Symbol, a work of fiction by best-selling author Dan Brown.Twitter postings on the day before the book's release led institute director Marilyn Schlitz to purchase the book and read it in one sitting, into the early morning hours of the next day. She told NPR that she found 10 experiments conducted by the real-world institute referred to in Brown's fictional account. NPR reported that after its publication "traffic to [the institute's] Web site ... increased twelvefold," applications for membership increased and "journalists from places like Dateline NBC — not to mention NPR..." were seeking interviews with Schlitz.
The institute confers the Temple Award for Creative Altruism, biennially. The $25,000 award fund is divided among recipients selected by an independent jury.
According to The Roanoke Times, the institute is "...devoted to exploring psychic phenomena and the role of consciousness in the cosmos." Further, the Times noted that co-founder Mitchell's assertions "...have often been criticized by skeptics."
Told "your research goes into a number of territories that are regarded with skepticism in some circles," Mitchell replied
That's what's fun about it. We're breaking down barriers and finding things. That's what science is all about: new discovery. ... There's nothing that we have done or have demonstrated that doesn't have good science behind it. Skeptics be damned.
The institute is on the Quackwatch list of questionable organizations.
Documentaries and publications
In 1994, TBS broadcast a three-part, six-hour documentary based on work at the institute, entitled The Heart of Healing and narrated by actress Jane Seymour.
Since 2009, the Institute has published a semi-annual bulletin, The Noetic Post. From 2003 to 2009, it published a quarterly magazine, Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness.
^Mitchell, Edgar, The Way of the Explorer, GP Putnam's Sons, 1996. "I wish to thank those who had faith in an idea that led to the founding of the Institute of Noetic Sciences: Henry Rolfs (deceased) and Zoe Rolfs, Richard Davis, Judith Skutch Whitson, Paul Temple, Phillip Lukin (deceased), and John White. And to those who came a bit later to carry the idea further: Osmond Crosby, Brendan O'Regan (deceased), Diane Brown Temple, and Willis Harman."