From Publishers Weekly
Many readers will probably not have heard of Esalen—but that doesn't mean they won't find its history fascinating. Esalen is a legendary sacred place, but legendary among the privileged few like Aldous Huxley, Henry Miller and Joseph Campbell, for whom Esalen was a spiritual playground. Kripal, a professor of religious studies at Rice University, tells the story of this beautiful retreat in California's Big Sur region—its history at once sexy, salacious, intellectual and political—with reverence and playfulness, alternating between the hushed tones of awe and the glee of partaking in Esalen's infamous sinful delights. The community itself, Kripal explains, is centered around the idea of a "religion of no religion," which provides "a kind of American Mystical Constitution" for its visitors and "a spiritual space where almost any religious form can flourish." Kripal jumps among a wide range of historical moments, from Esalen's alleged relationship to the collapse of the Soviet Union to the idea of the disembodied erotic. Readers shouldn't be scared off by the book's heft. Kripal is an engaging storyteller, Esalen a worthy subject (a kind of Us Weekly
for the discerning intellectual), and it's as easy to jump from the introduction to chapter 14 as it is to continue in order. (Apr.)
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"The first all-encompassing history of Esalen: its intellectual, social, personal, literary and spiritual passages. Kripal brings us up to date and takes us deep beneath historical surfaces in this definitive, elegantly written book." - Playboy "Kripal tells the story of this beautiful retreat in California's Big Sur region - its history at once sexy, salacious, intellectual and political - with reverence and playfulness.... He is an engaging storyteller and Esalen a worthy subject (a kind of Us Weekly for the discerning intellectual)." - Publishers Weekly "An impressive new book.... Kripal has written the definitive intellectual history of the ideas behind the institute." - San Francisco Chronicle "Kripal examines Esalen's extraordinary history and evocatively describes the breech birth of Murphy and Price's brainchild. His real achievement, though, is effortlessly synthesizing a dizzying array of dissonant phenomena (cold war espionage, ecstatic religiosity), incongruous pairings (Darwinism, Tantric sex), and otherwise schizy ephemera (psychedelic drugs, spaceflight) into a cogent, satisfyingly complete narrative." - Atlantic Monthly"