In our June 10th conversation, human potential pioneer Michael Murphy began poignantly, as he looked back on the 50 years since he founded Esalen, and identified the disappointments as well as the triumphs of the decades since.
He reminisced that Arnold Toynbee, Paul Tillich, and others—a total of eight of the forward-thinking “evolutionary panentheists” (more on what that is in a minute) who offered early workshops at Esalen—were influential enough in mainstream culture that they were pictured on the cover of Time magazine. The emerging synthesis of East and West , and an advance into the “undiscovered country” of consciousness was inspiring big-picture thinkers at Stanford and other leading universities.
And today? Big-picture thinking and meta-narratives that unify consciousness and matter (such as integral thinking and evolutionary panentheism) have been pressed to the “thriving margins” of mainstream cultural institutions (such as Esalen and Beyond Awakening). Which is a shame, because it is important to have good maps, and the culture seems to be “meandering” in a direction that is not all about progress.
So that is a disappointment, says Murphy. On the other hand, there have been remarkably fast cultural transformations.
For example, transformative practices have caught on and gone mainstream in a big way. 20,000 yoga studios dot the nation and meditation is taught at corporations and studied in leading universities while sports psychologists help athletes get “in the zone.”
And this is where he feels most optimistic. When we practice, there are “answering graces” and every one of us can, through practice further our own development and the world’s development. And if we marry it with social activism, we will have an even greater impact.
Meanwhile, the imagery of supernormal human capacities permeates popular culture through films, TV, science fiction, and extreme sports. So an evolutionary view of human potential may be coming up from the bottom, “up through the floorboards” and preparing us culturally for the piecemeal “stealth” emergence of an evolutionary panentheist worldview.
What does he mean by it? Murphy defined it as including 3 essential components (1) The acceptance of the facts of evolution as revealed by science; (2) Intuiting the divine (by any name) as both immanent and transcendent; and (3) Recognition that the deepest roots of our own human nature are at least profoundly intimate with the Divine if not identical with it. And, says Murphy, this has dozens of immediate benefits in terms of (a) Practice, (b) Research, and (c) Theory-building.
Murphy is now 81, and he has explored and led a vast sweep of the foundational breakthroughs that create the foundations for everything we explore here. My conversation with this scintillating, brilliant thinker, ranged through a vast territory, addressing supernormal abilities, “The Future Of Human Evolution”, reincarnation, Evolutionary Panentheism, and much more.
You’re invited to listen here.