Watkins’ Spiritual 100 List for 2012

Sunday 12th, February 2012 / 21:26
~UPDATED: We release a new list every year. CLICK HERE TO SEE Spiritual 100 List 2014 ~

100 Most Spiritually Influential Living people 2012

Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine issue 29 features the Spiritual 100

We are delighted to share with you our 2012 list of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People. This marks the second year that we are publishing our 100 list. Last year’s list was extremely popular and we received a great deal of feedback. We’ve done our best to consider as many people as possible and our spiritual database includes the names of approximately 500 candidates. This list is meant to serve as a positive guide to some of the leading modern teachers that are alive today, and we hope that you are as inspired as we are by their impact. There are a few interesting newcomers to this year’s list. Meanwhile, we are sad to report that three members of last year’s list recently passed away: Kenneth Grant, Sai Baba, and Jerry Hicks.

There are several factors that were taken into account when compiling the list. The main three criteria are:
1) The person has to be alive
2) The person has to have made a unique and spiritual contribution on a global scale
3) The person is frequently googled, appears in Nielsen Data, and is actively talked about throughout the Internet

It’s interesting to think about the amount of times that a person is googled; in a sense, being googled is a form of digital voting, and illustrates just how often someone is being sought out.

Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine (previously Watkins Review) is a quarterly publication by Watkins Books, London’s oldest and largest independent esoteric bookshop, established in 1893. Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine is now available from most WHSmith high street stores in the UK, as well as in Canada, Australia and over 700 Barnes & Noble stores in the USA. You can also get a copy of the current issue (£3.50) or take out a subscription directly from Watkins Books. We appreciate your support!

~UPDATED: We release a new list every year. CLICK HERE TO SEE Spiritual 100 List 2014 ~

2012 LIST AT A GLANCE: (scroll down for the top-10 in detail)

1. Dalai Lama 34. Marianne Williamson 67. Caroline Myss
2. Eckhart Tolle 35. Lisa Williams 68. Michael Newton
3. Thich Nhat Hanh 36. Francis Chan 69. Daisaku Ikeda
4. Deepak Chopra 37. Don Miguel Ruiz 70. Vadim Zeland
5. Paulo Coelho 38. Masaru Emoto 71. John Bradshaw
6. Elizabeth Gilbert 39. Gregg Braden 72. Richard Bandler
7. Iyanla Vanzant 40. Andrew Weil 73. Jean Houston
8. Ken Wilber 41. Erich von Däniken 74. Starhawk
9. James Redfield 42. Adyashanti 75. Daniel J. Siegel
10. Rhonda Byrne 43. Krishna Das 76. James Lovelock
11. Alice Walker 44. Sonia Choquette 77. Judy Hall
12. Nelson Mandela 45. Joseph Ratzinger 78. Gary Snyder
13. Dr Wayne W Dyer 46. Louise Hay 79. Patrick Holford
14. Doreen Virtue 47. Amma 80. Oberto Airaudi
15. Michio Kaku 48. Vladimir Megre 81. Dr Azmayesh
16. Oprah Winfrey 49. Ervin Laszlo 82. Mother Meera
17. Alejandro Jodorowsky 50. Elaine Pagels 83. Rabbi Michael Lerner
18. Mantak Chia 51. Jeff Foster 84. Lynne McTaggart
19. Desmond Tutu 52. Seyyed Hossein Nasr 85. Michael Beckwith
20. Alex Grey 53. Neale Donald Walsch 86. Satya Narayan Goenka
21. Peter Russell 54. Drunvalo Melchizedek 87. Satish Kumar
22. Byron Katie 55. Pema Chödrön 88. Paramahamsa Nithyananda
23. Ram Dass 56. Diana Cooper 89. Rowan Williams
24. Esther Hicks 57. Bruce Lipton 90. Prem Rawat
25. Bernie Siegel 58. Dan Millman 91. Mooji
26. Richard Bach 59. Karen Armstrong 92. Stanislav Grof
27. Brian Weiss 60. Graham Hancock 93. Grant Morrison
28. Andrew Cohen 61. David R. Hawkins 94. Jon Kabat-Zinn
29. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 62. Jack Canfield 95. Dolores Cannon
30. Robin Sharma 63. Clarissa Pinkola Estés 96. Gangaji
31. Steve Taylor 64. Sogyal Rinpoche 97. Shakti Gawain
32. Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi 65. Swami Ramdev 98. Claudio Naranjo
33. Andrew Harvey 66. Philip Berg 99. Mastin Kipp
100. Marion Woodman


Dalai Lama (c)Darko Sikman

1 – Dalai Lama.

Born Lhamo Dondrub, Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama. Tibetan Buddhists believe him to be a reincarnation of his predecessors and the Buddha of compassion. He is a vocal activist for Tibetan independence and has made an incredible contribution to global spirituality. His visit to Mongolia in November 2011 was criticized by China, but his popularity shows no sign of waning. Time Magazine call him “The most influential person in the world”, while The Times commented “He draws crowds that no other spiritual leader or politician could hope to match…he seems to look at life in a different way to everyone else”. His latest book Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World was published in January.
www.dalailama.com ::  Born in Taktser, Tibet :: 06/07/1935 :: Spiritual Leader

Eckhart Tolle

2 – Eckhart Tolle.

Eckhart’s profound yet simple teachings have helped countless people throughout the world find inner peace and greater fulfillment in their lives. At the core of the teachings lies the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that he sees as the next step in human evolution. His books, The Power of Now and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth are two of the best-selling Mind, Body, Spirit books in the world. Eckhart Tolle TV is a subscription service offering monthly live streamed guided meditations and new teachings with Eckhart, an on-line community, and more.
www.eckharttolle.com :: Born in Lünen, Germany :: 16/02/1948 :: Spiritual Teacher and Writer

Thich Nhat Hanh

3 – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Buddhist monk, teacher, author and peace activist. He founded the Order of Interbeing and the Unified Buddhist Church, along with monasteries and spiritual centres in Vietnam, the USA and France, where he now lives. His latest book The Novice, a retelling of an ancient Vietnamese folk tale, proposes a real way of being in the world relevant to the twenty-first century.
www.plumvillage.org :: Born in Thua Thien, Vietnam :: 11/10/1926 :: Spiritual Leader


Deepak Chopra (c)Helga Esteb

4 – Deepak Chopra.

As a writer on Ayurveda, mind-body medicine and spirituality, Chopra has had huge success with titles such as Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. In 2011 he published The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes: Harnessing Our Power to Change the World with his son Gotham and apologised for his “unfair criticism” of Richard Dawkins, after a long-running feud. His latest book, War of the Worldviews: Science vs Spirituality, pits his views against leading physicist Leonard Mlodinow.
www.deepakchopra.com :: Born in New Delhi, India :: 22/10/1946 :: Physician, writer and public speaker


Paulo Coelho (c)cinemafestival

5 – Paulo Coelho.

The Alchemist is one of the top selling books in history, with over 65 million copies sold in 150 countries. Warner Bros bought the film rights in 2003, but the project stalled. In 2008, Harvey Weinstein bought the rights to the film. Laurence Fishburne is set to direct and play the lead role. Coelho has sold more than 100 million books worldwide and his work has been translated into 67 languages. His latest book Aleph was published in September.
paulocoelho.com :: Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil :: 24/08/1947 :: Novelist

Elizabeth Gilbert (c)Deborah Lopez

6 – Elizabeth Gilbert.

Gilbert is best known for her 2006 memoirs, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia. Oprah Winfrey so enjoyed the book she devoted two episodes of her show. The film appeared in 2010 starring Julia Roberts. Gilbert followed this up with a sequel, Committed: A Skeptic makes Peace with Marriage, covering her life after Eat, Pray, Love.
elizabethgilbert.com :: Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, USA :: 18/07/1969 :: Novelist and memoir writer

Iyanla Vanzant (c)J Lyons Photography

7 – Iyanla Vanzant.

An inspirational speaker, spiritual teacher, author, and television personality, Vanzant was named one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony magazine, which said that “Her books, lectures and television appearances have made her a multimedia high priestess of healthy relationships”. Her latest book is Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.
innervisionsworldwide.com :: Born in Brooklyn, New York, USA :: 13/09/1953 :: Lawyer, minister, talk show host and author.


Ken Wilber

8 – Ken Wilber.

Wilber has advocated Integral Thought and influenced figures as varied as Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, and Billy Corgan. He founded the Integral Institute and has written about adult development, developmental psychology, philosophy, worldcentrism, ecology, and stages of faith.
www.kenwilber.com :: Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA :: 31/01/1949 :: Author and Integral Theorist

James Redfield

9 – James Redfield.

Best known for The Celestine Prophecy, which he self-published in 1992. Redfield produced and co-wrote the screenplay of the movie, which came out in 2006. Redfield’s latest book, The Twelfth Insight, is now available in paperback.www.celestinevision.com :: Born in Birmingham, Alabama, USA :: 19/03/1950 :: Writer


Rhonda Byrne

10 – Rhonda Byrne.

Well known for The Secret book and DVD, Byrne advocates the belief that we can all transcend our suffering by not falling prey to negative thoughts. She has been listed among Time Magazine’s list of 100 people who shape the world, and has also produced television shows. Her new book The Magic is published in March.
www.thesecret.tv :: Born in Australia :: 12/03/1951 :: Writer and TV/Film producer

To read the full Spiritual 100 list, please ask for a Spring issue of Mind Body Spirit magazine at your local newsagents, WHSmith (UK) or Barnes & Noble (US), or purchase a copy online directly from Watkins Books.


NextRead Spiritual 100 List 2014

~UPDATED: We release a new list every year. CLICK HERE TO SEE Spiritual 100 List 2014 ~



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48 Comments on “Watkins’ Spiritual 100 List for 2012

  • Pingback: Watkins’ Spiritual 100 List for 2012 « Padre Ralph

  • Hi Watkins!

    Thank you for taking the time to collate this list. I have read the list and it makes great reading.

    I have one criteria I would like to see considered when judging the top 100 in 2013 and would love to hear your views on this. I run Social Media accounts on Spirituality on Facebook and Twitter and have spent the past few months looking at the Social Media accounts of thousands of Spiritual practitioners online. It is apparent that Spiritual practitioners are embracing Social Media but the uptake is still patchy. Along with the listing the person’s website on the list I would also like to know if they maintain a regular blog and see their Facebook/Twitter/You Tube/Flickr accounts listed etc.. how many likes/followers/subscribers there are for each account and how much content they produce.

    Analytics tools such as Klout, Peer Index and Topsy exist to measure influence on Social Media, so if you are compiling a list of influential people these online tools may be useful to you if you include judging Social Media. When determining online influence it is also important note when people stop updating their Social media accounts, there is an example high up on the list.

    There are people on the list who have got Social Media right, for instance I know Paulo Coelho releases a blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (so I know when to look for it to feature on our Facebook page). I also know Doreen Virtue releases a weekly You Tube video and when to look for it. Although spontaneous Social Media posts are very welcome its also nice to know that some Spiritual practitioners plan to distribute regular content to communicate their spiritual message to their followers.

    A few stats: Oprah has 9,220,899 followers on Twitter; Paulo Coelho has 7,660,670 likes on Facebook. The Dalai Lama has 2,852,524 likes on Facebook. On 13th February the Dalai Lama made a post on his Facebook account which was liked 56,098 times, was shared 22,937 times and 1,490 comments were made about the post. I did see some reference to Social Media was made in entry No.99 on the top 100 list. I would love to see acknowledgement of Social Media influence across the whole list.

    I believe Social Media will have a big role in distributing the message of Spirituality in the future, open the subject up to new audiences and make the subject more accessible to the public.

    Thanks Watkins!

    • Paul is right–social media can make a huge difference for the online presence of someone. Justin Bieber, for example, became famous because of his diy youtube videos. Thanks to the internet, anyone can broadcast themselves.

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your message. Social media analytics could definitely be an interesting way to measure influence. Certainly, social media has the potential of introducing many new audiences to the messages of spiritual teachers. At Watkins, we’re very curious to see how the spiritual online community evolves in the next few years.
      Best wishes,

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  • I don’t know what “Nielsen Data” is, but it might be possible that all the other criteria/categories are being fulfilled in the case of “Dr. Grant McFetridge”, Founder of the Institute for the Study of Peak States. But maybe the ISPS isn’t well known enough yet. For more information you can go to http:/www.peakstates.com or just google “Grant McFetridge”, he has also published 2 heavy loaded books, called Peakstates of Conciousness Vol. I and Vol. II.

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  • Hi, glad to see you have included my master Paramahamsa Nithyananda in the list for the first time. Swami Nithyananda is rising in popularity at a meteoric rate due to the effectiveness of his meditation techniques and is impacting millions of people in a very tangible way. It is gratifying to see that being taken notice by Watkins and I thank the people there for it.

    — AC Narendran (Ananda Mokshapriyan)
    Bangalore, India

  • It is nice to see the name of Paramahamsa Nithyananda on this esteemed list. With a following of more than 2 million people, and being #1 most watched spiritual guru on youtube, with over 200 books in 26 languages till date, with over 3000 videos drawing over 13 million views, Paramahamsa Nithyananda definitely deserves to be in this list.
    Thank you for consolidating this list giving a worldwide view of the spiritual topography today!

  • Hi Watkins!
    Thank you for tdoing this incredible job of preparing this list.Thanks especially for Including Permahamsa Nithyananda’s name.

    His contribution in the spiritual science in the present times is cretainly the highest. Of course It has to reach to large part of the world yet.

  • Thank you for the list… I am not familiar with some of these amazing expressions of Spirit. Would like to see Barbara Marx Hubbard mentioned. I am grateful for the impact on my life from the sharings of these teachers. Namaste

  • Thanks for the list….. I am not familar with most of this amazing expressions of spirit. I am grateful for the impact on my life from sharings of HHDL ‘s teaching. Thash delek.

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  • I am disappointed that your list does not include Sylvia Browne and Michael Baigent. These two have some amazing messages that also need to be heard. Thank you!

  • There is a great Messenger in our midst, little known at this time but awareness is growing. Marshall Vian Summers is delivering a Revelation to humanity that is building a bridge to new future and a new life. It is not a reiteration of previous ideas and philosophies, it is not based on any existing world religion. It is a fresh a living message to the people. Well worth exploring!

  • Believe Paul Ferrini, the author of many spiritually-enlightened books, should have been included in this list.

    “Paul Ferrini is a modern-day Kahlil Gibran
    –poet, mystic, visionary, teller of truth.” ~
    Larry Dossey

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  • Check out Ilchi Lee from South Korea. He is influencing many people on how to heal themselves, others and their communities. His healing messages are helping people around the world through the practice of Dahn Hak or Dahn Yoga.

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  • I am very much glad to know that Your Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama listed in the first among giving 100th list. We ♥ You and have very proud to be a Tibetan though the nation was occupied by Chinese in 1959. Your presence makes Tibet alive.
    Congrats from all Tibetans

  • i honestly beleive that Reverand Michael Bernard Beckwith( wich is currently number 85 on the list ) should be number one hands down. He is much more then influential he IS the living I AM that is omnicient and a pure fragment of GOD.

    Peace and blessings ,Monquenta w

  • Thanks for the list! It’s a great way to discover new spiritual luminaries, and it certainly makes for spirited debate. Would it be possible to publish the list of 500 candidates? I’m sure your readers would be able to add to the list, and the result could be a more accurate top 100. For instance, is David Godman a candidate? Stephen Wolinsky? It seems like devotees of great 20th Century Indian sages such as Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi are under-represented on the list.

  • Not that it is important to Her Holiness Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi, yet for your list to be complete, you may like to include this global humanitarian, spiritual luminary, and embodied Master of Mother Divine here to remind humanity of who we are, that we are sound, light and vibration, that we are One, that this shift in consciousness is humanity’s opportunity to take responsibility to live in alignment with Source within, that suffering is our creation of separation from Source, and we are the creators of this awakening of Being the Love we came here to be, to become aware of our choices,decisions, focus and realize living a Life Divine. For further info on Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi go to: http://www.Sai-Maa.com

  • Her Holiness Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi is the author of the book, Petals of Grace, was bestowed the title among many other titles from Saint Societies as Jagatguru which translates to “Master of the Universe” at KumbhaMela in 2009, has been invited and has spoken at the United Nations, and at the Parliment of World Religions in Barcelona, embraces all Faiths as her Spiritual lineage includes Sai Baba, Satuwa Baba Maharaji of the Vishnu lineage, Master Jesus, Maha Avatar Babaji, Lord Maitreya, Shiva, Mother Mary, Quan Yin, St. Germaine , Mary Magdalene, Archangel Michael. “The new religion is Love!”

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  • Thank you,you are doing a great job,just want to add that pastor E A Adeboye of the rccg has influenced thousands of notable people,he writes,he teaches,he preaches,,he has touched lives positively,ones again i think he should b considerd…thank you.

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