Rice: Unconventional Wisdom
Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen Center for Theory and Research (CTR)

Since Michael Murphy read my Kali's Child in the spring of 1998 and called me late one night in a state of extreme enthusiasm, "armed with a glass of wine and a cell phone," as he likes to put it, I have enjoyed a fruitful and increasingly profound relationship to Murphy and, through him, to the Esalen Institute.  Indeed, it was out of this professional and personal—I dare say metaphysical—relationship that I wrote my history of the institute, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion.  And it is out of the same that I have co-directed or directed a number of symposia through Esalen's Center for Theory and Research.

These have included, among many topics, a symposium on the history of Esalen itself, which led to the production of On the Edge of the Future, with Prof. Glenn Shuck of Williams College, and, ultimately, my own Esalen; a four-year symposia series on the history of Western Esotericism (with Prof. Wouter Hanegraaff of the University of Amsterdam), which led to the production of our recent Brill volume, Hidden Intercourse; an ongoing symposia series on the paranormal and popular culture, which helped produce my Authors of the Impossible and Mutants and Mystics; and Esalen's longest standing symposia series called Sursem (for either "[Big] Sur Symposium" or "Survival Seminar"), a collective of scientists, philosophers, scholars of religion, and human potential figures dedicated to the rigorous study and analysis of psychical and paranormal phenomena, particularly as they pertain to the question of post-mortem survival.  For descriptions of these symposia, and much more, go to http://www.esalenctr.org/. For a brief history of Sursem and some of its challenges to the consensus materialism of our present intellectual culture, see my "Mind Matters: Esalen's Sursem Group and the Ethnography of Consciousness," for Ann Taves and Courtney Bender, eds., What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a (Not So) Secular Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

There is a nice piece on CTR in EnlighteNext magazine whose title, "Closet Mystics," draws on my own work and an interview I did with the writer.  The same writer also did an interview with me about my work on superheroes and the paranormal.  It is available as a downloadable podcast at http://www.iamplify.com/store/product_details/EnlightenNext/Jeffrey-Kripal---The-Mystical-Roots-of-Science-Fiction/product_id/5492

On December 6, 2007, Mike and I spoke at the Aurora Forum on the campus of Stanford University with Mark Gonnerman.  We spoke in the very hall, Cubby Auditorium, where Mike was first inspired to pursue his vision as a young college student.  It was the day he heard Prof. Spiegelberg utter the Sanskrit word "Brahman!"  For the full story, see chapter 2 of my Esalen.  For a transcript and I-Pod download of this Aurora Forum, go to http://auroraforum.stanford.edu/event/esalen. Before the event, we took the photograph below. The boy in the painting is Leland Stanford, Jr., after whom Stanford University is named and to whom it is dedicated.  Little Leland died young and was contacted on the other side by the family through mediums, hence the early interest and funding of psychical research at Stanford University.

I was recently appointed Associate Director of the Center for Theory and Research. In this role, I continue to work closely with Mike on multiple symposia events.

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