What is it about the Irish and altered states? From William Butler Yeats's fascination with the mystical Order of the Golden Dawn, to Tim Leary's public love affair with LSD, to silver-tongued Terence McKenna's devotion to Magic Mushrooms, to Michael Murphy's co-founding of Esalen Institute (which some have called the Large Hadron Collider of the human spirit), a lot of Irishmen in our time have participated in the Great Work--the project to expand human awareness and explore our unrealized potentials.
Through his many books, which include Golf in the Kingdom, Jacob Atabet
, The Future of the Body
, In the Zone
(with Rhea White) and (with George Leonard) The Life We Are Given
, Murphy has expressed his visionary insights and has been working to bring them to fruition both through his own practices and through the efforts of Esalen.
Since 1963, Esalen Institute
has been the leader in numerous areas of consciousness research including imaginative citizen connections with Russia and China, innovative psychological techniques such as gestalt, encounter and psychedelic therapies, new ways of incorporating the body itself into the academic body of knowledge--all this in context of the legendary beauty of Esalen's grounds and its fabulous baths.
In 1976 Michael Murphy had the brain storm to invite a group of physicists to Big Sur both to "put some spine in Esalen" and to observe how these "masters of matter" might be inspired by mixing it up with Esalen's own masters and mistresses of the mind and body arts.
Announcing the physics project in the Esalen catalog, Mike expressed his hopes this way:
Perhaps a new kind of inspired physicist, experienced in the yogic modes of perception, might arise to comprehend the further reaches of matter, space and time. A physicist (if he were still called that) trained in yogic perception would compare his discoveries with those derived from today's "normal" physics, and there would probably be a "principle of complementarity" existing between the insights derived from the various consciousness states, "normal" and "yogic". Physics would be entirely empirical (in this broadened sense), its findings with instruments ranging from the ordinary senses and their physical extensions (telescopes, radar, etc.) to the subtle yogic ways (indriyas) of apprehending the universe.
It was my good fortune to participate in Mike's Esalen physics initiative for more than a dozen years, and while we have yet to produce our first "yogic physicist", my "quantum tantric"
search for a radically new way of doing science
was certainly inspired by those Murphy-initiated encounters with other physicists and meetings with splendid Esalen denizens in the Big House, in the gardens, in the lodge and especially in the baths.
Michael Murphy is one of the most innovative and optimistic people I know. He brims with enthusiasm and you cannot help but be carried away by his youthful zest to climb the highest peak, descend the deepest cavern, break down stale old barriers, open up the mind and body to fresh new explorations.
A most remarkable human being--Michael Murphy. Today he celebrates his 80th birthday.
Happy Birthday, Michael.
May you continue, bold Celtic soul,
To follow the Gleam!