“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, Glenn W. Shuck, Ann Taves, and Gordon Wheeler.