IF THEY'RE NO longer doing group gropes and public spankings and deciding communally who picks the tomatoes, how does Esalen plan to move into the future?
Founder Michael Murphy is currently working on a "mission statement," the first such declaration in the institute's 25 years. He sees the place "less dominated by the metaphor of therapy and more by the arts, contemplation, intellectual inquiry and social outreach."
The new direction will result in some additions to the institute's collection of bedrooms, houses and meeting rooms, including one or two large houses to accommodate invitational conferences. This will allow visiting scholars to share quarters while they brainstorm topics not usually covered at universities. Recent conferences have included one led by UC Davis molecular biologist David Deamer on "New Directions in Biological Research and Evolutionary Theory." Former Yale philosophy professor Jay Ogilvy is using a Laurance Rockefeller grant to organize a conference called "Dialogues on Philosophy."
James Garrison, executive director of Esalen's International Exchange Program and Democratic candidate for the 12th Congressional District, organized a Chinese-American forum on science and technology. Dulce Murphy (Michael's wife) led a U.S.-Soviet conference on behavioral and medical research. The program has been credited by Joseph Montville, a State Department foreign affairs analyst, with originating what he terms "track-two" diplomacy--people-to-people exchanges with the Soviet Union.