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"Our mission at Esalen to facilitate change within self and society has never been more vital than it is now." —Michael Murphy

Directed by Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy and Professor Jeff Kripal, Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research (CTR) sponsors research, theory, and action to promote positive social change and the realization of the human potential.

The Imagination and Invisible Presence
March 8-13, 2020
Facilitators: Michael Murphy and Tanya Luhrmann

For scientific research, mindfulness (a secularized version of certain strands of Buddhist meditation) has become the exemplar of contemplative practice and the focus of almost all empirical studies of spiritual practice. Thoughts, images, fantasies, hopes—in this particular understanding of mindfulness, these are distractions. Such an approach woefully misrepresents some of the most important and powerful strands of spiritual practice. For those who seek to experience an invisible presence—be that God, the goddess Tara, or an imaginary friend—imagination-rich practices are often central. This gathering seeks to explore both the use of imagination in the pursuit of invisible presence and the nature of invisible presence itself. We will bring together an intimate group of neuroscientists, anthropologists, psychologists, historians, clinicians, philosophers and experiencers to discuss invisible presence and the ways in which practice can help to evoke it.

Finding Fertile Ground for Peace
Co-sponsored by Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy
April 19–24, 2020
Facilitators: Dulce Murphy and Virginia Thomson

In this conference Track Two will focus on the Middle East with its One Network that includes representatives from Russia, the North Pacific Rim and the Middle East. Recently, a network member commented that change requires fertile soil. Divisions, built around resources, religious preference and tribal alliances, have made this fertilization process near impossible. And yet, in Israel and beyond, voices are getting louder for a cooperative relationship between religious factions as the toll of endless wars, growing environmental destruction and the movement of peoples is damaging all efforts to regain normalcy across the region.

In this conference, participants will be asked to discuss this very notion. Where might the soil be fertile enough to begin the peace building process? Can entrenched attitudes be shifted with new exercises, new experiences? Can Track Two bring practices from Esalen's history in the arena of human potential to these conflicts? Can our particular approach to perspective shifting be used to help peacebuilders actually see the impact of their work, as influencers across the area are moved to consider new stories? Is there a theme or project that can be launched, leveraging this powerful network, to seed a shift in perspectives in the Middle East?

Democratizing the Supernormal
May 31-June 5, 2020
Facilitators: Michael Murphy, Loriliai Biernacki, Greg Shaw

From its beginning, the Center for Theory & Research has focused on the discoveries of science, mystical experience and the actualization of supernormal abilities. These explorations, initiated at Esalen by Michael Murphy, may be seen within the trajectory of an evolutionary panentheism. In both Western and Eastern traditions, the realization of supernormal abilities has been imagined as the Incarnation of the divine, or the expression of humanity as self-transcendent. Incarnation, thus, may be seen as a telos of human existence, exemplifying our deepest yearning for what it means to be fully human. From May 31 to June 5, leading thinkers from diverse fields of research have been invited to Esalen to explore the significance of Incarnation, how it has been expressed in modalities of the body, traditions of the spirit and what role it continues to play in the unfolding of our human story.

Super Story Symposia Series 5
The Minded Plant: The Psychedelic Renaissance and Some Ontological Futures
June 7-12, 2020
Facilitators: Jeff Kripal and David Presti

This is the fifth annual symposium in the Super Story Series, conceived and led by Jeff Kripal and dedicated to the exploration and analysis of some of the new cosmologies, anthropologies and ecologies taking shape in the contemporary world in and around the natural sciences, particularly quantum physics and mathematics, evolutionary biology and ethnobotany, and cosmology and technology. The Super Story Series is generously sponsored by both the Center for Theory & Research and the Hummingbird Foundation.

Most broadly understood, the present symposium, co-hosted by David Presti and Jeff Kripal, is dedicated to the subject of evolutionary esotericism, that is, all of those modern forms of mystical experience that manifest around the scientific discovery of “evolution,” understood here in both a classical or conventional Darwinian sense and its present transformations (via the human genome and epigenetics, for example), but also in the esoteric sense of a metaphysical revelation of the really real that might point to or even manifest the future human (or superhuman). The fundamental question is this: Can a human being directly experience, know, or become the evolutionary impulse itself, say, in a psychedelic or mystical state? Or must the evolutionary worldview remain an abstract scientific model that can never be directly known or encountered as a living co-creative presence?

Sustainability Revolution
September 27-October 2, 2020
Facilitators: Patrick Holden, Richard Dunne

This is the second conference in a series led by Patrick Holden CBE, head of the Sustainable Food Trust, and co-led by Richard Dunne, expert in Harmony Education. Initiated by Michael Murphy and Jane Hartford, and inspired by HRH Prince Charles’s book Harmony: A Sustainability Revolution, this conference will gather some of the most influential and highly conscious leaders in the field of sustainability education in a move to make a difference in the transition to organic food systems and sustainable practices around the world.

Global Threats and Bridge Building
Co-sponsored by Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy
October 4-9, 2020
Facilitators: Dulce Murphy and Virginia Thomson

In 2019 Track Two explored four global threats with youth and elders from Russia and the United States in St. Petersburg, Russia. In this 2020 conference experts tackling these threats will join the Track Two One Network to reveal and better understand the nuances of relative dialogs and to develop approaches to mitigation.

Bringing Culture to Conflict
Co-sponsored by Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy
December 6-11, 2020
Facilitators: Dulce Murphy and Virginia Thomson

Track Two invites cultural leaders to explore cultural movements that have influenced peace-building in the North Pacific Rim, (China, Korea, Japan, Far East Russia, Canada, US), Russia and the Middle East. Design and creation will be drivers of a week of inquiry.


Underwriting is needed for project research, facilitators, translators, coordination, summary writers, occasional expert fees, travel and accommodation, and special outreach projects. 

To make a donation, please email Jane Hartford at

Esalen Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Donations to Esalen Institute are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Federal tax ID #94-6114235


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