top of page

Books We Love

ESALEN - American and the Religion of No Religion.

An impressive new book ... [Esalen] is, by many accounts, the birthplace of the human potential movement, which advocates the raising of spiritual consciousness, human functioning, mystical awareness, and interpersonal connection. [Kripal] has written the definitive intellectual history of the ideas behind the institute.

This history of the Esalen Institute describes how the Big Sur hot springs became a crucible for a brand of secular metaphysics known at ''the religion of no religion.'' Founded in the early 1960s, Esalen drew eccentrics and artists like Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, Henry Miller, and Joan Baez, and soon became a sort of sybaritic commune, where life consisted, according to Kripal, of ''sodomy in the baths, glossolalia in the lodge, fistfights in the parking lot, folk music in the cabins, and meditation in the Big House.''

Here was ground zero of the 1960s social revolution: the sweaty hot-tub commingling of free love, tantric yoga, Buddhist meditation and Gestalt therapy-as well as the academy for the propagation of the human-potential movement. Outlaw all-stars like Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg and Hunter S. Thompson felt the pull of the place. Now scholar Jeffrey Kripal has produced the first all-encompassing history of Esalen: its intellectual, social, personal, literary and spiritual passages.

Kripal explains the institute ' s mixing of popular and political culture with the transformative spiritual practices of humanistic alternative education; its embodiment of East/West philosophies and dedication to the continual exploration of human potential. Upon finishing this book, readers will feel compelled to visit this remarkable place, where all are accepted.

"Esalen" recounts in fascinating detail how these two maverick thinkers sought to fuse the spiritual revelations of the East with the scientific revolutions of the West, or to combine the very best elements of Zen Buddhism, Western psychology, and Indian yoga into a decidedly utopian vision that rejected the dogmas of conventional religion.

In their religion of no religion, the natural world was just as crucial as the spiritual one, science and faith not only commingled but became staunch allies, and the enlightenment of the body could lead to the full realization of our development as human beings.

The Esalen Institute was one of the cradles of the modern human potential movement, a dynamic environment for the synthesizing of Eastern Buddhist and Tantrist beliefs with Gestalt, Freudian and Jungian psychology.

Anyone who had anything to do with consciousness raising, psychic research, sports psychology, self-help, or New Age philosophy either taught at, or visited, one of the most scenic campuses in the world.

A clear and detailed accounting of the historical significance of Esalen in the forefront of the human potential movement. The author is a scholar and so the book has an intellectual focus on the writings and philosophical import of the remarkable individuals that Esalen provided a venue.

He provides a narrative that runs through the book making the reading very enjoyable and accessible. Highly recommended for those who want to have a deeper understanding of how the 60's and 70,s unfolded.

You won't be disappointed!

To buy:

bottom of page