Michael Murphy


American Author, Co-Founder of the Esalen Institute, key figure in the Human Potentials Movement

Author Quotes

Esalen is based in the whole idea that human nature itself is capable of tremendous growth and transformation.

If you’re an Evolutionary Panentheist you believe that the divine involved itself in the big bang and is unfolding in the course of time through the whole entire cosmos. With utterly new formations of matter that have never been seen before and will never be seen again, … creativity and novelty rule the universe. It’s a giant light show of the divine disclosure. But on this planet, now, humans are leading the advance and we’re not going to breakthrough to new realms of consciousness and transformations of the flesh unless we have a vision of such, and practices of such, and communities to support it.

Question: Will Esalen invite the Republican and Democratic leadership out to Big Sur for some conflict resolution?
You’re not going to believe this — we had a conference with Chinese leaders [who said], “Why don’t you tackle the one the world really needs? Trying to get the Democratic and Republican leadership together?” I said I’d much rather do nuclear confrontation than the Democrats and the Republicans. That’s above my pay grade!

I discovered that golf is a mystery school for Republicans. If I go to country clubs, someone’s going to tell me their latest mystical [golf] experience. I’ve been interviewing athletes for 40 years. I’ve been an anthropologist of the occult and mystical in sport. Bill Bradley told me he was reading “Golf in the Kingdom” when he played for the New York Knicks.
We’ve worked with Russian and Soviet Olympic committees with training methods sports psychologists are using, visualization exercises, and athletes start having these experiences. They don’t have a language to handle it, and you can think you’re getting cuckoo when you suddenly have this loss of boundaries in a mystical experience. The original Olympic Games in Greece acknowledge this — they were for the gods.

Question: I was surprised to read about some Esalen initiatives: sessions with CIA and KGB people, Ford Foundation projects, programs to bring your techniques into the schools.
We’ve collected about 10,000 studies [on] growth and exceptional human functioning.
We have fellowships, people doing things they cannot do at their respective institutions. We’ve sponsored at least 100 exchanges with Russian — formerly Soviet — groups. To do it, we’ve had to stay in touch with intelligence agencies on both sides. Sen. Claiborne Pell [D-R.I.], the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was a great friend of ours.
I tell you, KGB guys in the same room as CIA guys — it was just astonishing to see the friendships that developed. I’m not saying that Esalen [is] taking credit for anything in particular, but we did contribute to the events that led to the end of the Cold War.

Question: ”Spiritual but not religious” is a phrase far more Americans use to describe themselves now than in 1962.
That’s been a dominant theme at Esalen: people seeking spiritual depth, and the undiscovered country of our human potential. This is huge historic sorting out of these things, a winnowing of authentic religious yearning and aspiration and a contemplative practice, even, mystical practice.
Our friend John Cleese says religion is two things: The minority [of it] is the authentic search for God, and the rest is crowd control.

We have to keep reminding everybody we’ve really held to our mission as we conceived it. We are concerned with both personal and social change and growth and transformation, but we have been privileged to have the freedom to go where mainstream academia and religion can’t or don’t want to go. [We do] things that aren’t getting done [elsewhere]. We said from the beginning, this is not for therapy, it’s for expanding consciousness — that’s the language we used — but without a strict dogmatic framework. Our motto was “no one captures the flag.”

Love in all its greater expressions requires dedication as well as natural attraction, and steadfastness through many kinds of difficulty. But it is always renewable, and it can take root anywhere. Indeed, it is part of the genius of love that it can be summoned in situations where its existence at first seems impossible.

We live only part of the life we are given.

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.

[There are] four destructive effects of religious and therapeutic disciplines: 1) A practice can reinforce limiting traits, preventing their removal or transformation. 2) A practice can support limiting beliefs, giving them greater power in the life of an individual or culture. 3) A practice can subvert balanced growth by emphasizing some virtues at the expense of others. 4) A practice can limit integral development when it focuses on partial though authentic experience of superordinary reality.

By any criterion, life meanders more than it progresses.

One-pointed involvement; by disregard for immediate results; by spontaneity, freedom, and effortless mastery; and by a sense that the self is somehow larger and more complex, or conversely, that it disappears into something beyond itself.

All of our capacities, whether normal or metamornal, somatic or extrasomatic, are subject to the limitations and distortions produced by our inhereited and socially conditioned nature.

Exceptional abilities develop most fully in cultures that prize them... no aspect of human nature is immune to social influence.

Love transcends normal needs and motives, revealing a unity among people and things more fundamental than any differences between them. It is its own reward.

No discipline is immune to excess or lack of wisdom. All programs for human betterment can be undermined by ignorance, imcompetence, or moral perversity.

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American Author, Co-Founder of the Esalen Institute, key figure in the Human Potentials Movement