Books for the News, History, Philosophy, Religion

Sex, Spirituality, and the Esalen Institute

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The March 21st issue of Publishers Weekly contains an intriguing article by Donna Freitas on Jeffery J. Kripal and his latest work Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. The article leads off with Kripal claiming, “All of my books are about sexuality and sprituality.” Freitas goes on to unpack Kripal’s alluring statement:

This chair of religious studies at Rice University is explaining why he chose Esalen—the eclectic spiritual retreat in California’s Big Sur region—as the subject of six years of research and his most recent book, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion.

Freitas continues:

Kripal said what he discovered there was “an American mysticism that allowed the body and spirit to form a unity of erotic and spiritual energies. At Esalen, the Western religious traditions’ rules about a male divine didn’t apply anymore. The divine is anything at Esalen. There is no creed. There is no orthodoxy. If anything, it’s a pantheistic worldview which opens up hundreds of possibilities for images of divinity… Esalen was born during the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, so it integrated these into its history and intellectual life. All of the battles you see going on today in Western traditions are passé there,” he said. “Every tradition has a skeleton in its closet, but at Esalen the skeletons are hanging in the living room and everybody is laughing at them.”

Read an excerpt from the book.