Contact, encounter, and exchange at Esalen: A window onto late twentieth-century American spirituality

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Approximately 20 percent of Americans today resist traditional religious classification and practice a personalized, eclectic faith. California's Esalen Institute reflects this development. Since its inception in 1962, this human potential center, which drew on San Francisco's vibrant East-West scene, has offered a cornucopia of spiritual possibilities. Leaders and participants from around the world shared religious beliefs and scientific theories there. Through these exchanges, Esalen, both a physical and spiritual borderland along the Pacific Rim, served as an experimental hothouse for germinating a variety of religious hybrids and contributed to the changing nature of religion in late twentieth-century America. In the process, it helped revitalize religious notions within a scientific culture. By highlighting this cross-fertilization of ideas and practices, this article adds to our understanding of the dynamic process in which religion is made, remade, and rejuvenated by combining and adding beliefs and practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-487
Number of pages35
JournalPacific Historical Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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