On the Edge of the Future

On the Edge of the Future

Esalen and the Evolution of American Culture
Jeffrey Kripal and Glenn Shuck
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/20/2005
Format: Paperback 3 b&w photos, 2 figures, 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21759-2
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Esalen is on the edge. Located in Big Sur, California, just off Highway 1, Esalen is, geographically speaking, a literal cliff, hanging rather precariously over the Pacific Ocean. The Esselen Indians used the hot mineral springs here as healing baths for centuries before the European settlers arrived.... Today the place is adorned with a host of lush organic gardens; mountain streams; a cliffside swimming pool; an occasional Buddha or garden goddess; the same hot springs now embedded in a striking multimillion-dollar stone, cement, and steel spa; and a small collection of meditation huts tucked away in the trees. These are grounds that both constitute the very edge of the American frontier and look due west to see the East...." —from the Introduction

The renowned Esalen Institute, founded in 1962 by Stanford graduates Michael Murphy and Richard Price, was created as a place "where the body can manifest the glories of the spirit." It offered guests a heady mixture of world mythology, hypnosis and psychic research, spiritual healing, sport mysticism, and Tantric eroticism. Among the notables who have spent time at the Institute are Abraham Maslow, Timothy Leary, Paul Tillich, Carlos Castaneda, B. F. Skinner, and former California governor Jerry Brown.

Despite its cultural significance, remarkably little has been written about Esalen itself. In On the Edge of the Future: Esalen and the Evolution of American Culture, 11 original essays, plus an afterword by co-founder Murphy, examine the Institute’s roots, the place of its beliefs in American religious history, and its influence. This lively volume will fascinate anyone interested in the history of American religion as well as those who regard this remarkable place as the epicenter of the human potential movement.

The contributors are Catherine L. Albanese, Erik Erickson, Robert Fuller, Marion S. Goldman, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Don Hanlon Johnson, Jeffrey J. Kripal, Timothy Miller, Michael Murphy, Gl

Author Bio

Jeffrey J. Kripal is J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. He lives in Houston, Texas.

Glenn W. Shuck is visiting professor of religion at Williams College. He lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Introducing Esalen Jeffrey J. Kripal and Glenn W. Shuck
1. Human Potential Before Esalen: An Experiment in Anachronism Wouter J. Hanegraaff
2. Sacred (and Secular) Self-Fashioning: Esalen and the American Transformation of Yoga Catherine L. Albanese
3. Notes on the Prehistory of the Human Potential Movement: The Vedanta Society and Gerald Heard's Trabuco College Timothy Miller
4. Reading Aurobindo from Stanford to Pondicherry: Michael Murphy and the Hindu Tantric Transmission (1950<N>1957) Jeffrey J. Kripal
5. The Only Way Out Is In: The Life of Richard Price Barclay James Erickson
6. Spirit and Shadow: Esalen and the Gestalt Model Gordon Wheeler
7. Esalen and the Cultural Boundaries of Metalanguage Robert C. Fuller
8. Michael Murphy and the Natural History of Supernormal Human Attributes Ann Taves
9. From Sarx to Soma: Esalen's Role in Recovering the Body for Spiritual Development Don Hanlon Johnson
10. Satan's Hot Springs: Esalen in the Popular Evangelical Imagination Glenn W. Shuck
11. Esalen Institute, Essence Faiths, and the Religious Marketplace Marion S. Goldman
Afterword Michael Murphy