Publisher description for Esalen : America and the religion of no religion / Jeffrey J. Kripal.

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Esalen has always been on the edge. Famous for its natural hot springs and stunning locale on the face of the Pacific coastline, the institute has long been a world leader in alternative and experiential education. Such luminaries as Henry Miller, Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, and others have gathered there to develop their revolutionary ideas, transformative spiritual practices, and innovative art forms.

Jeffrey Kripal here recounts the spectacular history of Esalen and its birth in the American counterculture. Forged in the literary and mythical leanings of the Beat Generation, inspired in the lecture halls of Stanford by radical scholars of comparative religion, the institute was the remarkable brainchild of Michael Murphy and Richard Price. Set against the heady backdrop of California during the revolutionary 1960s, Esalen recounts in fascinating detail how these two maverick thinkers sought to fuse the spiritual revelations of the East with the scientific revolutions of the West, or to combine the very best elements of Zen Buddhism, Western alchemy, and Indian yoga—particularly in its Tantric forms—into a decidedly utopian vision that rejected the dogmas of conventional religion. In their religion of no religion, the natural world was just as crucial as the spiritual one, science and faith not only commingled but became staunch allies, and the enlightenment of the body—through self-enhancement and, yes, free love—could lead to the full realization of our development as human beings.

Darwin, Tantric sex, cold war physics, psychedelic drugs, golf, and, of course, religion all come into play in a book that can only be described as monumental. Esalen is a prehistory of our nation’s current fascination with Eastern religions, our steadily growing acceptance of the supernatural in everyday life—and a surprising page-turner.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
United States -- Religion.
Religion and culture -- United States.
Esalen Institute.