Esalen Institute

Posted: December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Imagine a beautiful mountainous community that exists soley to discover the meaning(s) of life and the varying degrees of human potential. A community made up of a shifting collective of scholars who explore the connections between mind, body, spirit, and social change. An academic community that has made major contributions to psychology, religion, and ecology for the last 50 years. What I speak of exists. Big Sur, California is the home of the Esalen Institute, a non-profit organization founded in 1962 with the intended goal of “exploring work in the humanities and sciences in order to fully realize human potentialities.”

I first heard of Esalen because of their connection with the California School of Integral Studies.  Esalen was instrumental in founding a masters degree program in somatic psychology at the school. Though through a bit of internet browsing I have come to discover the broad and rich history of Esalen, a history which extends far beyond pioneering work in body psychology to include groundbreaking spiritual and ecological work, as well as so much more.

Some notable scholars that have contributed to Esalen’s work at some capacity are religious thinkers such as Paul Tilich and Matthew Fox, psychologists such as Alexander Lowen and Fritz Perls, and body-workers such as Ida Rolf.

Though I am unsure about the extend to which ideas flowing from Esalen’s corridors can be considered “radical” in the political sense, I am convinced of the project’s ability to break apart the foundations of our thinking, setting up the interpersonal groundwork for radical social change.

You can discover the work of Esalen on their website, or at the online  Esalen Center for Theory and Research.




  1. Doug Ellis says:

    Thanks for the well-written post!

    Abraham Maslow, Joseph Campbell, Alduous Huxley, Buckminster Fuller and others round out the pantheon of great minds that have pondered global and galactic topics on the cliffs of Big Sur.

    Another ripple effect of Esalen has been in political/global policy, particularly during the Cold War with Russia and foreign relations with the Chinese government, much of which has come out of work from the Center for Theory and Research.

    Thanks again for following the thread and your intuition from CIIS.

    Doug Ellis

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