Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
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Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  67 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Jeffrey Kripal here recounts the spectacular history of Esalen, the institute that has long been a world leader in alternative and experiential education and stands today at the center of the human potential movement. Forged in the literary and mythical leanings of the Beat Generation, inspired in the lecture halls of Stanford by radical scholars of comparative religion, t...more
Hardcover, 594 pages
Published April 15th 2007 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 2007)
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I have a longstanding interest in the human potential movement, where Esalen stands as a kind of fulcrum between its origins in the first decades of the 20th century and its contemporary ubiquity. I picked up this book and went straight for its treatment of Terence McKenna, my late great friend and colleague, who was a major figure at Esalen for more than 15 years. Terence seems almost forgotten these days, so I was very happy to see that Kripal treats him with the weight and levity with which T...more
I liked the early chapters on the intellectual and spiritual-experiential influences and history of the founding and early years of Esalen. Some of the short biographies of principal figures in the development of Esalen are interesting. But the book is too long, repetitive, and becomes too much of a series of book summaries and reports of material produced by Esalen teachers and characters. The author is too much in love with his own conceptual schema, to the detriment of a more concrete, engagi...more
I read about 100 pages of this book and then skimmed the rest. The topic of Esalen was interesting to me because I am interested in mysticism and personal development without religious dogma. Unfortunately, this book was challenging for me. It felt like a textbook or a very long-winded dissertation. I wish it had flowed more and that the author did some editing. I did gain some new insights, but I hope that I can find a more readable book about this topic.
I gave it four stars because it's the most thorough history yet published on this crossroads of experimental education. John Heider's Human Potential Papers is a fascinating look in the the early Esalen, but not yet published.
Lori Korleski
I enjoyed many of the stories, but the narrative didn't hang together very well. And the goofs, well, for instance, Gov. George Brown, and putting the Watts Riots in 1963. I'm sure there are better books about this place out there.
Rod White
I have learned so much from this book this year! I read it rather exhaustively after I happened upon it while researching something else. It was like a small treasure of revelation about how religion has been developing in the United States. What I have always been running into was given definition. Kripal gives sympathetic definition to the "religion of no religion" of Emerson, Whitman, and the hippies of Big Sur that is intrinsically American, capitalist and democratic yet laced with Asian (Ta...more
Serena Jade
I thought the book was way too long but I enjoyed it. Esalen has so much history on the coast in Big Sur, California! It was and is The Center for Theory and Research.
Fascinating for bay area history buffs and dedicated counterculture history buffs, but very very thorough and long. Kripal is obviously quite taken with Esalen so he doesn't get into critical gender readings at all, despite the proliferation of hot waitresses braless under fishnet shirts in the Esalen 1970s.
Nancy Wilson
Apr 07, 2013 Nancy Wilson rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Gestalt Therapists, Shamans, Religious, Philosophers, Anyone interested in human potential
Recommended to Nancy by: Jay Tropianskaia - Gestalt teacher and Head of Faculty of the Gestalt Institute of Toronto
Was hard getting started but a book full of very important people who are involved in the evolution and innovative spiritual, intellectual pursuits of America and Beyond. A great historical perspective on the influences and outreach this school had and hopefully still has.
Steve Wiggins
A rare book that made me wish I had been in the right time and place to experience Esalen in its heyday. For a fuller review, see Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Jim Parker
For anyone wanting to understand how the human potential movement in this country began this is essential reading. Besides many fascinating stories the people involved become alive and are fascinating in their own right.
Sascha Altman-DuBrul
This book has been my guide through the strange and fascinating world of Esalen and has exposed me to so many new ideas and thinkers that I'm incredibly grateful to the author.
excellent book. nice complement to Albanese's "A republic or the Mind and Spirit".
Sep 26, 2007 Martinxo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: evolving people
Shelves: spirituality
Great overview of a key part of the human potential movement...thrilling and funny.
Dec 16, 2007 Rebecca marked it as to-read
Reviewed in New Yorker 9/24/2007
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