Esalen Institute

The Esalen Institute, is a non-profit American retreat center and intentional community in Big Sur, California which focuses on humanistic alternative education.

The Institute played a key role in the Human Potential Movement beginning in the 1960s. Its innovative use of encounter groups, a focus on the mind-body connection, and their ongoing experimentation in personal awareness introduced many ideas that later became mainstream.

In the few years after its founding, many of the seminars like the “The Value of Psychotic Experience” attempted to challenge the status quo.  Early leaders included many well-known individuals, including Ansel Adams, Gia-fu Feng, Buckminster Fuller, Timothy Leary, Robert Nadeau, Linus Pauling, Aldous Huxley, Carl Rogers, Virginia Satir, B.F Skinner, and Arnold Toynbee.

Rather than merely lecturing, many leaders experimented with what Huxley called the non-verbal humanities: the education of the body, the senses, and the emotions. Esalen has sponsored long-term resident scholars, including notable individuals such as Gregory Bateson, Joseph Campbell, Claudio Naranjo, Stanislav Grof, John C. Lilly, Sam Keen, George Leonard, Fritz Perls, Ida Rolf, Abraham Maslow, Terence McKenna William Schutz, and Alan Watts.


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