SALINAS IS MICHAEL Murphy’s hometown. His grandfather, Dr. Henry Murphy, delivered author John Steinbeck. Murphy, in turn, has interacted with such notables
as Aldous Huxley, Arnold Toynbee, Abraham
Maslow, Bishop James Pike, Ansel Adams,
Susan Sontag, Paul Tillich and Timothy Leary.
These associations, Murphy says, resulted
from his cofounding — at age 32 — the world-famous Esalen Institute in Big Sur in 1962,
which, over its 50-plus years of existence, has
been described as a “personal growth think
tank.” A nonprofit organization focused on
personal growth, meditation, massage, ecology, yoga, psychology, spirituality and more
— there was nothing quite like it at the time.
Many refer to it as the modern birthplace of
the human potential movement. On average,
more than 15,000 people a year from all over
the world attend Esalen classes and seminars.
In 1950, while a premed student at
Stanford, Murphy wandered into a class dis-
cussing Eastern and Western philosophies
and religions. The miscue changed his life.
Soon he was meditating and, after earning a
bachelor of arts in psychology and serving in
the U. S. Army, he lived on an ashram in India
for 18 months. Upon returning to America,
he and the late Richard Price started Esalen
on property the Murphy family owned in Big
Sur. Murphy, now 83, and Dulce, his wife of
The Mill Valley octogenarian cofounded the Esalen
Institute, wrote Golf in the Kingdom and ran with the
literati of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. BY JIM WOOD