Kurt Johnson

Co-founder of the Light on Light Magazines and Press
New York

Kurt Johnson 

Born in 1946, Kurt grew up in western Nebraska where his father was a college professor and curator of the Native American museum at Fort Robinson, Nebr., where legendary Lakota Chief Crazy Horse was assassinated.  This connection to the land and native peoples led to Kurt’s future in ecological science and trans-traditional spirituality.  An early “whiz” in science, he began publishing professional research on plains-prairie ecosystems even while still in high school.  He went on to get his bachelors degree in biology at the Univ. of Wisconsin where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and recipient of UW’s James H. Albertson Leadership Award.  In an interlude between academic pursuits Kurt also played professional rock and toured with three gold record groups.  A lesson in “small worlds” is that the bass player from those tours is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

After this time, and his MA in biology in 1969, he continued publishing widely in academic journals which led to his MPh and PhD in evolution and ecology later in New York City in 1980.  Then followed, for 30 years, professional positions at NYC’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and Kurt’s writing of over 200 academic articles, seven technical books, and officially naming over 300 species of butterflies around the world. 

Kurt landed in New York in 1969 in sync with his becoming a cloistered monk, in the Christian tradition, north of New York City and then later being stationed by his religious order at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, where he could continue his work at the AMNH and in social activist work during the Civil Rights Movement and War on Poverty.  He was a co-convener of the lst National Conference on Church Social Action at Fordham University in 1978 and co-editor of two church-published books on social and racial issues.  Aligning early with the “Interspiritual movement” of leaders like Br. Wayne Teasdale and Fr. Thomas Keating, Kurt left formal denominational association, after more than 10 years, in 1980.  He continued at the AMNH and working with the interfaith and interspiritual movements, also taking a position on the Board and Faculty of One Spirit Interfaith Seminary (OSLA) in New York City where he has also served since and become ordained or certified in five other religious traditions.  During the time of his tenures at the AMNH and OSLA Kurt published his first well known, and award-winning, popular books Nabokov’s Blues (McGraw-Hill 2000) and The Coming Interspiritual Age (Namaste 2013) which capstoned interfaith work by Teasdale and others.  Continuing as a major biographer of Russian novelist/scientist Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt co-authored Fine Lines (Yale Univ. Press 2015) which received the Brian Boyd Prize for scholarly writing.  He began serving on several committees at the United Nations during that time and those activities continue today.

Kurt was elected to the Evolutionary Leaders Circle (ELs) and in 2016 and, in 2021, co-edited with Robert Atkinson and Deborah Moldow the ELs book Our Moment of Choice:  Evolutionary Visions and Hope for the Future (which received Gold Nautilus, COVR Visionary, Gold Now Living, and NY Book Festival awards). 

During this time he published dozens of articles on multi-faith spirituality and the new movements in mainstream evolutionary science toward the cooperative view of evolution, also convening numerous conferences and programs on these themes.  He accompanied other scientists for dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2019. 

With other ELs he co-founded the Light on Light Magazines and Press (https://issuu.com/lightonlight; https://www.lightonlight.us/) and The Convergence Series on VoiceAmerica radio.  In 2021 Kurt also took on the task of coordinating the Synergy Circles (arenas of activist engagement for the ELs).  The fifteen Circles, each aimed at different arenas of engagement (https://www.evolutionaryleaders.net/synergycircles) have participated in significant media and social activities, including some two dozen publications, conferences, initiatives, broadcasts and on-line programs.  He is looking forward to all that is unfolding in 2022-23, and beyond!

Kurt has raised two children and now has two grandchildren, all of whom live in the New York State.