Friday, November 11, 2011

Supernature--the Story of Esalen

Esalen Institute--a lab for exploring radical human possibilities.
I got my first glimpse of Esalen in February 1963. Stanford psychology grad student Allen Sidle and his wife told me about something hot happening in Big Sur. Together with Tom Records (who later joined a Gurdjieff group in New York) we drove south along the rugged California coast to a spot on the map labeled "Slate's Hot Springs", which boasted a cliff-side bath house, a lodge and several motel rooms.

We traveled down there to hear a Stanford religion professor talk about his mystical experience. Frederic Spiegelberg, author of many books on comparative religions, as a teacher at Stanford had deeply impressed both Dick Price and Michael Murphy, who were busy turning Slate's Hot Springs into a meditation and seminar center which they were calling "Esalen Institute".

Our little gang was privileged to witness Esalen in embryo--the place was barely six months old.

Professor Spiegelberg spoke that sunny afternoon to an audience of about 20 people, standing not in a traditional classroom but on the edge of a cliff with the Pacific Ocean as his backdrop. He told us of his trip to the ashram of Shri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, India. Aurobindo was seated in a chair in a small room with a long line of devotees at the door who one by one came forward to receive his blessing. Spiegelberg awaited his turn, stepped forward, met the Master's gaze and was suddenly "X-rayed to the core" by some psychic emanation flowing from that being in the chair. The encounter lasted no more than a few seconds in "real time" but to Spiegelberg it seemed to last forever. He spent an hour attempting to describe to us what he could remember and express of this powerful and unexpected shaktipat experience in the presence of Aurobindo. It sounded to me an awfully lot like LSD.

I returned to Esalen many times: to hear Tim Leary speak, to participate with Ed Maupin in his "Symbo Experiment" in group telepathy, to attend meetings convened by Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna and Jeffrey Kripal, to explore with wife Betsy near-by Lime Kiln Creek and sometimes just to enjoy the baths. For several years, with Saul-Paul Sirag, I led seminars on quantum physics which are mentioned in Rice University professor Jeffrey Kripal's authoritative history Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion.

Recently Kripal and Cinema Arts film producer Scott Hulan Jones have been constructing a film version of the history of Esalen with the working title Supernature: Esalen and the Human Potential. A big portion of the movie is already "in the can", and using material from the Esalen archives, they hope to complete a rough cut by September 2012, to coincide with the celebration of Esalen's 50th birthday.

You can view here the first Supernature trailer, featuring a few of "the hippies who saved physics", as well as founder Mike Murphy, Jeffrey Kripal and other Esalen worthies. To raise money for additional filming and editing, the Supernature crew is seeking funding via Kickstart. In its nearly fifty years of existence, Esalen Institute has transformed many thousands of lives. If you have benefited in any way from Esalen, kicking in to support Supernature would be a great way to return the favor.

Scott Hulan Jones at Esalen's Big House


Nilanjan said...

Telepathy is Quantum-Tantra.

My two Gematrias:

Sri Aurobindo & The Mother
together represent "Telepathic Act".
Telepathy is the borderline between
Nature & Supernature! said...

Hi I am back.
Relativistic travel you know.
Started HTHSP.
And you get to do Esalen in it's heyday.

You have been privileged to do so much.
I see why you think this is best of all possible worlds.

P.S What do you think of the FTL neutrino stuff?