Saturday, November 22, 2008

Esalen Institute

(Photo: Hot springs at Esalen Institute in 2006 by boltron, Creative Commons License.)

The greatest accomplishment of the Esalen Institute, founded in Big Sur in 1962 by Michael Murphy and Dick Price, is the incubation of a powerful psychological school of thought, the human potential movement. It proposes a positive, "self-actualized" future for humanity (a contrast to the Freudian and Skinnerian notions that long dominated mainstream psychological thinking). The phrase "human potential movement" was coined at Esalen in 1965 by Murphy and author George Leonard, based on the phrase "civil rights movement" and Aldous Huxley's "human potentialities." For almost 50 years now, Esalen has been a world-renowned gathering point for scholars and students. Many people who got their start there, or passed through, have written important books, including Murphy's encyclopedic "The Future of the Body." "Esalen has had a profound effect on American culture," says Jeffrey J. Kripal, an author and noted scholar of religion.

(Video: Esalen photo essay by Alyce Faye Cleese)

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