History, Philosophy, Religion, Reviews

Review: Kripal, Esalen

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The current issue of the Atlantic Monthly is running a great review of Jeffrey Kripal’s new book Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. The review begins by describing Esalen as “equally a phenomenon and an institute” responsible for fostering many of the revolutionary ideas of the 1960s counterculture and playing host to its most notable figures—people like Kerouac, Leary, and Ginsberg, just to name a few. The review goes on to praise Kripal’s new book for managing a rather lucid investigation of this counter-cultural hothouse, despite his psychedelic subject matter:

Kripal, a religious-studies professor at Rice University, examines Esalen’s extraordinary history and evocatively describes the breech birth of Murphy and Price’s [Esalen’s founder’s] brain child. 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. The he reconciles all this while barely batting an eye is remarkable; that he does so while writing with such élan is nothing short of wondrous.

Read an excerpt from the book.