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He spent the next two years in the army, stationed in Puerto Rico, administering psychological assessments to ferret out malingerers.

Listen to Michael Murphy, Co-Founder of the Esalen Institute now.

He returned to Stanford and spent two quarters in the graduate philosophy program. But in , he quit and went to India to live at Sri Aurobindo's ashram. Aurobindo, who died in , had developed a theory of evolution and human consciousness that resonated with Murphy's burgeoning philosophy. Unlike most Eastern philosophers, Aurobindo believed that enlightenment and maximizing human potential do not come through withdrawal from the world, but through participation in it, along with yoga and meditation. Eighteen months later, Murphy returned to California.

He meditated eight hours a day and supported himself working two days a week as a bellhop at Rickey's Hyatt House in Palo Alto.

Catalogue 229: Aleister Crowley

In , he moved to San Francisco to join a group that was studying and meditating with one of Aurobindo's disciples. There, Murphy first met Price although they had attended Stanford at the same time. The two had an almost immediate empathy for each other's philosophical and spiritual quests. They drove down to a acre property in Big Sur, land Murphy's family had owned since his paternal grandparents bought it in Murphy's grandmother was renting out the property, a motel-resort, whose main draw was the natural hot springs baths on one-time Esselen Indian tribal land.

Michael Murphy - A Natural History of Superhuman Powers

It was a gathering place for local bohemians during the week and for gay men from San Francisco on the weekend. The caretaker was year-old Hunter Thompson, the future gonzo journalist. When Price and Murphy first arrived, they found Thompson running around firing automatic weapons. Murphy saw the opportunity to develop an idea he'd been incubating -- to open a retreat center on the property.

Murphy's grandmother gave him a low-cost, long-term lease and permission to kick out the motley types and shape Esalen in his vision.

The Future of the Body : Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature

Today, Esalen owns 52 acres of the property, while the rest is held in a Murphy family trust. In the fall of , Murphy and Price presented their first seminar series, "The Human Potentiality," based on an Aldous Huxley lecture. Esalen's spring-fed hot baths and "do your own thing" ethic attracted hordes of young people looking to lounge about in the nude, experiment with drugs and make love. It was like the gold rush -- full of outlaws and saints, madmen and great professors. Unlike many causes and institutions forged in the heat of the '60s, Esalen didn't collapse under the weight of drug burnout, hedonism and charismatic leaders who became cult figures.

According to Murphy's friends and colleagues, Esalen flourished because Murphy and Price insisted that it serve as a site for ecumenical, open-minded inquiry in which no one discipline or belief system dominated. And there was no danger of making Murphy a guru. Secondly, I was too fond of cashmere sweaters.

And thirdly, I didn't buy into the enthusiasms for a lot of these techniques. I was constantly skeptical about what was being tried. I was kind of an in-house critic. Esalen had its share of outside critics as well. The media derided it for fostering the "Me Generation" and blamed it for being the fountainhead for many of the kooky ideas fomented in the '60s, from crystal worship to tarot cards.

New York Times columnist William Safire recently wrote that the term "touchy-feely" had its genesis at Esalen.

Indeed, Newsweek once labeled Esalen the "Harvard of the human potential movement. In a sense, Murphy reflects a classic American, can-do optimism. He has a Jeffersonian belief in the perfectibility of man and a Norman Vincent Peale-like confidence in the individual's ability to improve. Murphy not only created an environment in which others could learn and explore, but he also continued to refine his own philosophy.

Leonard, his colleague, have arranged the financing for a "transformative-practice center" in Marin County.

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With backing from a chain of San Francisco Bay-area health clubs, it would be a kind of maintenance center for the metaphysically prone. Murphy describes it as a cross between a health club, a community center and an ashram, where no Walkmans would be allowed and everyone would be required to meditate before using the Nautilus equipment.

Murphy, recently separated from his wife of 23 years, with whom he has a year-old son. The Ramakrishna said that the winds of grace are always blowing, but you've got to raise the sail. Later in the day, a fierce wind is blowing, and the sail of a foot sloop is raised. Murphy is out with some friends on the San Francisco Bay. Murphy, who raises his head to the sky, yells a thank you to God for the beauty of the day. He's big on the value of howling into the wind.

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interview w. Michael Murphy

It's one of his typically exuberant gatherings, and the spiritual-socio-political wheels are spinning. Lawrence Chickering, an economist, is on board, as is James Ogilvy, whose Global Business Network helps develop "alternative scenarios" for profit-making. There's talk of alternative education; of the strong entrepreneurial impulses of the poor in third-world countries, and of banks that loan money to women in those countries rather than men men spend the money on themselves, they say; women, on their children.

A flag whips in the wind, and the group sails on, a little Good Ship America of high-minded optimists. As the ship comes about through a puff of fog under a sunlit Mount Tamalpais, a seagull glides past Mr. Murphy's head. Ogilvy says. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems.

But that hot tub had to go. Murphy moans.

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And are there specific practices that ordinary people can do to develop these abilities? Michael Murphy has studied these questions for over thirty years. In The Future of the Body, he presents evidence for metanormal perception, cognition, movement, vitality, and spiritual development from more than 3, sources. Surveying ancient and modern records in medical science, sports, anthropology, the arts, psychical research, comparative religious studies, and dozens of other disciplines, Murphy has created an encyclopedia of exceptional functioning of body, mind, and spirit.

He paints a broad and convincing picture of the possibilities of further evolutionary development of human attributes. By studying metanormal abilities under a wide range of conditions, Murphy suggests that we can identify those activities that typically evoke these capacities and assemble them into a coherent program of transformative practice.

Such practice, he believes, if embraced by enough people, would constitute a crucial next step in the world's evolutionary adventure. Product details Format Paperback pages Dimensions x x 53mm About Michael Murphy In Michael Murphy cofounded, with Richard Price, the Esalen Institute, a learning center in California that fosters change in individuals and society, and has hosted thousands of human potential workshops and conferences led by such notables as Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, Joan Borysenko, Allen Ginsberg, and Linus Pauling, to name a few.


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In , he helped create the Esalen Institute's Soviet American Exchange program, which, among other things, initiated the first live television space bridges and hosted president of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin during his first visit to the United States.