An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Integral World Forum

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 Using the Offerings of the World’s Greatest Growth Center
To Build Your Own Integral Program for Personal Growth

This is the third in a series of eight excerpts from our book-length study on the fabled human potential growth center, Esalen Institute – on Northern California’s dramatic Big Sur Coast.  The entire series (to be posted on successive weeks) is as follows:

1.      REPREIVE FROM DEATH: Hugh Martin’s Journey from Terminal Cancer to Personal Transformation.

2.      THE MAGIC OF ESALEN: The Special Features that make Esalen Institute One of the Most Extraordinary Places on Earth.

3.      ESALEN AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF INTEGRAL: The Key Role Played by Esalen Institute in the Development of Ken Wilber’s Integral Worldview.

4.      THE HEALING POWER OF PSYCHIC TRANSFORMATION: How the Processes of Growth offered by Esalen Institute Aided Hugh Martin in His Battle Against Terminal Cancer.

5.      THE ESALEN REPORT CARD: A Frank and Candid Evaluation of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Esalen Institute.

6.      ESALEN VERSUS INTEGRAL INSTITUTE: How Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute Stacks Up Against Esalen Institute.

7.      THE PHENOMENON OF GROWTH CENTERS: How Growth Centers and Holistic Growth Situations Can Support in Your Own Journey to Personal Transformation.

8.      TRANSFORMING YOUR LIFE IN SEVEN STEPS: How You Can Use the Offerings of Esalen Institute To Create a Life-Changing Program of Personal and Professional Growth.

You can view or download an MS Word or PDF version of the full study. 

For other excerpts from this study, and for detailed descriptions of other articles by Hugh & Kaye Martin, click here.

For biographical background on the authors, Hugh & Kaye Martin, see the end of this excerpt and the end of the full study.

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The Key Role Played by Esalen Institute
in the Development of Ken Wilber’s Integral Worldview

Hugh & Kaye Martin


In all the trends in psychology that lead to the development of the Integral Worldview, Esalen has played a central role.  Let’s see how – by journeying through the evolution of growth psychology in the 20th century.[1]  In italics, we’ll describe Esalen’s part in each stage of this evolution.[2]

{     Psychology as Pathology.  Up until the 1960’s, the field of psychology was dominated by the Old Guard of Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis.  On the experimental, academic side, Watson’s Behaviorism studied external, observable, measurable behaviors, and sought to manipulate human behavior toward positive ends by a system of rewards and punishments.  On the clinical side, Freud’s Psychoanalysis studied unconscious, hidden instincts and motivations, and sought to resolve neuroses by resurrecting and reliving past traumatic experiences.  Although one was external and one internal, both Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis focused on Pathology.  They viewed patients as dysfunctional or sick – and sought no more than to bring them back to the unexceptional level of ‘normal.’

{     From Pathology to Potential.  Abraham Maslow (and others) overthrew the Old Guard with a ‘third force’ alternative known as Humanistic Psychology.  Instead of viewing people as crippled or disturbed, Maslow envisioned a healthy human psyche with unlimited potential for vitality and enrichment, expansion and enlightenment.  As a path to Self-Actualization, Maslow delineated an ascending series of Human Needs which, when nourished and satisfied, enable us to rise to progressively higher and more meaningful states of being.  As each successive layer of Need is healed and satiated, we actualize that level of Human Potential, while simultaneously opening higher levels of Potential above it. 

The concept of Human Potential struck like a lightening bolt in the dank and murky corridors of psychotherapy.  It brought hope for exuberant joy, rather than mere alleviation of misery.  It brought deliverance from mediocrity, rather than conformity to the status quo.  It lit a path to authenticity and enlightenment, instead of dooming us to a long march from normalcy to oblivion. 

{     Esalen – Showcase for Human Potential. Esalen Institute was conceived (in part) under Maslow’s inspiration and guidance as a showcase for the new Human Potential paradigm.  Through its cutting-edge seminar and Workshop offerings, it sought to give participants a glimpse of their Potential -- a taste of those Peak Experiences and break-through insights that make life meaningful, memorable, and significant.  Once experienced, those recognitions could be converted over time from temporary flashes to permanently-elevated states of mind through intensive therapy and application to real-life experiences. 

Esalen stumbled in the early 1970’s.  Those early Esalen workshops drastically broke down people’s defenses, yet provided few resources for reassembling the pieces.  With sometimes devastating consequences, Esalen had failed to recognize that break-through recognitions were only the first phase in a long and arduous journey toward health and fulfillment.  Esalen recovered her balance by accepting her role as Catalyst in the growth process (the ‘Transition’ Dimension of the ADAPT model), and relinquishing the job of permanent therapeutic Transformation to long-haul professionals (the ‘Stages’ Dimension of our model). 

It is Esalen’s role as Catalyst that makes her a great choice as the foundation for an Integral growth program coordinated by a skilled Life Counselor -- but a doubtful choice as a self-contained growth program (or full-time lifestyle).

{     From cognitive to comprehensive.  Abraham Maslow was also pivotal to another revolution in psychology – in the field of Human Development.  Before Maslow, developmental psychology was dominated by Jean Piaget’s emphasis on cognitive Stages[3] in children.  Through Maslow’s Human Needs hierarchy (and other pioneers like Loevinger and Kohlberg), researchers began recognizing that observable, predictable Stages occurred not only in abstract reason, but across the full spectrum of human behavior – ranging from needs, sexuality, emotions, and ego through leadership, aesthetics, ethics, and worldviews.[4] 

Furthermore, Maslow’s insights also indicated that substantial development takes place not just in childhood, but across the whole span of the human Life Cycle.  In fact, higher and higher orders of Potential reveal themselves at progressively later Stages of life – thereby promising a personal future that is continually brighter, more delicately articulated, more deeply fulfilling. A robust, full-bodied theory of human development had now been birthed – encompassing all major Arenas of the human psyche and all major Stages of life.

Esalen’s Workshop offerings embrace the same broad spectrum of Arenas that have been investigated by developmental researchers.  Her programs are designed for the very people who seek to grow throughout adulthood.  Here again, Esalen is perfectly positioned as foundation for Integral growth.

{     From comprehensive to Integral.  Amid the plethora of developmental sequences discovered by innumerable researchers, Ken Wilber burst on the scene – ushering in what Jeffrey Alexander[5] calls the ‘Age of Synthesis.’  Through a tour de force of scholarship, Wilber demonstrated that the Stages delineated by researchers and practitioners in the various Arenas and Lines of psychology (and in the other Realms as well) bear remarkable points of correlation.[6]  So clear were the relationships, in fact, that Wilber could posit one vast system of correspondences – a Great Nest encompassing every facet of existence.  That Great Nest is the basis of what Wilber calls Integral.

As stated above, Esalen’s offerings do not in themselves constitute an Integral program for human growth.  However, as is the theme of this article, those offerings can be used as the foundation of richly diverse Integral growth program.

{     From Esalen to ITP.  Like many idealistic experiments of the 1960’s, Esalen began to unravel a few years after its founding.  Things were too loose, too free-wheeling, too experimental.  Spontaneity begat recklessness.  Freedom begat irresponsibility.  There were breakdowns and break-ups, bad trips and bad karma, collapsed marriages and collapsed fortunes – even a suicide limply floating face-down in the hot tub.

Both Mike Murphy and Dick Price, the founders of Esalen, were deeply disturbed by these developments.  Each began in the own way to refine the original vision.  Among other approaches, Murphy decided to develop a program of growth that addressed Esalen’s deficiencies by meeting four criteria.[7] First, it must be safe: No more abrupt and violent disruptions of marriages, values, egos, and other wholesome, life-sustaining structures.  Second, it must produce long-term beneficial results: No more ecstatic experiences, followed by a resounding thud of failed expectations.  Third, it must be broadly applicable: No more elitist experiences accessible only to the privileged few.  Fourth, it must be fully-diversified: No more one-note therapies that exercise only a single human faculty.  Probably influenced by Wilber, the result was a program called Integral Transformative Practice (ITP) – a diverse set of activities and practices[8] that produced demonstrable and measurable physical, psychological, and spiritual improvement.  ITP was conceived as the first truly Integral growth program.

In our view, ITP is an outstanding Program, but is only one way to integrate the diverse strands of personal growth.  In this article, we propose another solution which is adequately safe (although some risk may actually be desirable), will produce a richer blend of long-lasting benefits, has broad (though not universal) applicability, and exercises an even broader and more diversified range of human faculties.  We view ITP as a welcome complement to ADAPT – one that can help give it consistency and staying power.

{     From ITP to ILP.  For many years, Michael Murphy and Ken Wilber have been good friends, and have exerted considerable influence on each other.[9]  There are indications that Wilber may have had a number of Esalen or Esalen-like experiences in his own life.  Murphy was a founding member of Integral Institute.

Ken Wilber views ITP as an important and effective set of practices, but (one infers) not sufficiently diversified and comprehensive.  Therefore, he has developed his own program, Integral Life Practice (ILP) – similar to ITP, but incorporating a broader set of Modules and a broader range of Methodologies.  Further, Wilber conceived a whole new growth organization, Integral Institute, which offers an array of growth experiences even broader than ILP.

As is the theme of this article, ILP is an excellent Program, but can be significantly augmented using our ADAPT model.  Likewise, Integral Institute appears to be developing into an outstanding growth center, but still falls far short of Esalen in many important features.[10]

Thus, Esalen is in the surging mainstream of the entire evolution of growth psychology, from Freud’s psychoanalysis to Wilber’s ILP.  Esalen is the original showcase for Maslow’s Third Force, the foremost exemplar of the extension of developmental psychology into all Arenas and all Stages of life, and the inception point for Murphy’s ITP, which leads in turn to Wilber’s ILP.  Esalen has been central to all these developments, and remains even today at the pinnacle of the Human Potential Movement.



Michael Murphy, the founder of Esalen, and Ken Wilber have enjoyed a close relationship with each other for many years, and have had a significant influence on each other.  Some of the most significant references by Wilber (and in works about Wilber) to Murphy and Murphy’s works are shown below – along with references by Murphy to Wilber, and dialogues between the two of them.  Quotes most pertinent to the topics of this article are underlined.


Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, 1995. 

P. 579.  “I would like to especially single out the work of Michael Murphy, whose book The Future of the Body is a magnificent study of the bodily correlates of a transforming and evolving consciousness -- yet more evidence that all manifest holons anywhere possess the four quadrants.  Murphy almost single-handedly has been representing the great importance of the Upper-Right quadrant in human transformation (without merely reducing human evolution to the Upper-Right).”

Brief History of Everything, 1996.

.  P. 190. “…as the sensorimotor dimension is taken up and enfolded in higher development, some extremely advanced sensorimotor skills can emerge.  That there is a "psychic side of sports," for example, is now widely acknowledged.  As Michael Murphy has documented, many great athletes and dancers enter some very profound psychic spaces, and this translates into almost unbelievable performances…”

Eye of the Spirit, 1997.

P. 256-59. “The Future of the Body

The fact that the physiological (or "material") and the cognitive (or "mental") are two of the most fundamental lines in the human being ("matter" and "consciousness," Right and Left) means that a truly integral spiritual practice would, at the very least, put an equal emphasis on both body and mind at each and every stage of general evolution, gross bodymind to subtle bodymind to causal bodymind.

As straightforward as that conclusion might sound now, it is historically a rather radical idea, as Michael Murphy knows.  Drawing on the pioneering insights of Aurobindo, but extending them in many profound and significant ways, Murphy has been arguing for many years that what is sorely needed is a truly integral practice.  His masterwork, The Future of the Body, is devoted to just that topic.  Charles Tart noted that "The only way to adequately describe this book is to state that it is the most important work on the relationship between mind and body ever written."

But by "mind" and "body" Murphy does not mean the standard and rather narrow notions of material flesh and immaterial soul.  He rather means the entire sweep of the Upper Left quadrant ("mind" or consciousness in the broadest sense) and the entire sweep of the Upper Right quadrant ("body" in the broadest sense).  And his point is: you cannot actually have one without the other at any level of human development, and therefore we ought to consciously engage both, equally, intensely, fully.  This integral engagement then acts as an accelerator of evolution from the gross bodymind to the subtle bodymind to the causal bodymind, each stage of which embraces and radiantly transfigures its predecessors, uniting the ascending current of evolution with the descending current of involution, transforming the self, the body, and the world in the process. 

Murphy is also fully aware of the importance, in overall practice, of integrating not just the Upper Left and Upper Right, but also the Lower Left and Lower Right-intentional, behavioral, cultural, and social-that is, an "all-level, all-quadrant" approach to integral practice.  Thus, in his latest book, The Life We Are Given, coauthored with his friend George Leonard, the authors develop a program of balanced practice set in the context of family and community and service, which they call Integral Transformative Practice. 

Mike and I have often discussed the "three waves" that the human potential movement itself has gone through in the last several decades.  The first wave was the introduction, in the '60s, of the initial human potential movement.  Although a varied beast, it tended to focus on the quick fix, the peak experience, the weekend workshop, the satori-in-seven-days seminars.  It was a wild explosion, marvelous and frightening, wonderful and warped, glorious and grotesque.  It was centered at Esalen Institute, cofounded by Mike and his friend Richard Price. 

Within a decade or so, the goal of a "peak experience" started to give way to the goal of a "plateau experience," and the second wave of the human potential movement began.  The limitations of the quick fix started to become all too apparent; useful as it was for an initial wakeup, the results tended to fade rapidly, sometimes leaving the individual in even worse shape than before.  In any event, it soon became obvious that to engage in genuine transformation requires time, effort, work, and sustained intentionality-in a word, practice.  People began to take up actual transformative practices: perhaps Zen, or yoga, or sustained psychotherapy, or prolonged body work, or extended dream work, or physical/sports/body training, and so on.  The five-day fix gave way to the five-year engagement. 

But even those forms of commendable practice had a profound limitation: they usually exercised only one faculty of the human organism-perhaps awareness, or dreams, or physical skill, or insight training, or emotional openness-while neglecting the others.  That is, these approaches picked up only one line of development and followed it through its various levels-they grabbed one stream and surfed its waves-only to find, at the conclusion of that otherwise commendable practice, that the other lines of development were still rather immature, undeveloped, poorly evolved, or even withered, but now with the added difficulty: the person was burdened with a very unbalanced constitution.  The poor self, which has to juggle all the various developmental lines, often found itself saddled with one giant and a dozen pygmies.  And the more its particular practice genuinely advanced, the worse the situation got, which totally confused everybody. 

Thus, the second wave of specific practice gave way to the third wave of integral practice.  Once again the field transcended and included, negated and preserved, as it went through its own three waves of learning. 

In other words, the field itself evolved from its initial sensory-dominated explosiveness ("lose your mind and come to your senses!") to its second wave of concrete practice, all of which were necessary for its third wave, just now starting, of universal/integral practice-its own precon, con, and postcon waves. 

And, it might be noted, Michael Murphy was instrumental in all three waves.  It has been Murphy who, working quietly and often behind the scenes, has prepared much of the ground in which each of those three waves could unfold.  Michael Murphy very well might be the single most significant spiritual pioneer of Our generation, if for no other reason than the extraordinary spaces that he created in which others could transform as well. 

The third wave of integral practice is in its infancy, but, like all infants, growing at a dizzying speed.  Indicative of the trend is the book What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, by former New York Times reporter Tony Schwartz.  I think if Tony had the book to do over, there are a few small points he might change, but the book remains an extraordinary compendium of the best of the transformative technologies now available.  And the overall conclusion of the book is unmistakable: integral practice is now the only viable mode of human transformation. 

To catch the crest of the third wave: has there ever been a more exciting surfing adventure in consciousness?”

One Taste, 1999.

P. 61.  “Thursday, March I3  Just got off the phone with Mike Murphy (our exuberant conversations rarely last less than two hours).  He and his friend Sylvia Tompkins are doing a series of projects, including a CD-ROM and a book, focusing on an integral (or balanced) spirituality-an updated, modernized version of the perennial philosophy, which is also sympathetic with my own work.  Sylvia thought of putting this integral view on CD-ROM, and she and Mike eventually found themselves hooked up with James Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy and The Tenth Insight, who, because of his extraordinary commercial success (over fifteen million readers), would help these projects reach a much wider audience.

It looks like I will be going to San Francisco to speak to the Fetzer Institute, so I arranged to get together with Mike when I'm out there.  Mike is truly amazing.  Not only did he co-found Esalen Institute -- ushering in the Human Potential Movement-he has remained on the forefront of psychological and spiritual development ever since.  He's just finished writing The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, the avidly awaited follow-up to his classic Golf in the Kingdom.  Last I heard, Clint Eastwood was going to make, and star in, the film version of Golf, along with Sean Connery.  Lord, that will probably ruin Mike's life; he'll never have a quiet moment again.”

P.  67.  “Thursday, March 20. . .On the plane, back to Boulder.  Had dinner with Mike Murphy and Sylvia the other night.  We talked about the Integral Transformative Practice centers that he and George [Leonard] are starting.  Mike's got the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention on board to help document the progress and effectiveness of the integral training.  This is truly important work, ground breaking work, I think, and it will help to define an entirely new approach to psychological and spiritual transformation, one that includes the best of ancient wisdom and the brightest of modern knowledge.  No surprise that once again Murphy is at the leading edge.

P. 129.  “Wednesday, June 18.  “Speaking of integral practice, this is certain to be the "next big thing" on the spiritual circuit; but this "fad," for one, is going to last, at least among that I % who are serious about transformation.

There are many ways to talk about integral practice.  "Integral yoga" was a term first used by Aurobindo (and his student Chaudhuri), where it specifically meant a practice that unites both the ascending and descending currents in the human being-not just a transformation of consciousness, but of the body as well.  (Which makes it all the sadder that the California Institute of Integral Studies, founded by Chaudhuri, today has little if any integral practice, which is why I cannot, at this time, recommend CIIS to students.) Mike Murphy's Future of the Body is an excellent compendium of an integral view, as is Tony Schwartz's What Really Matters.  I outline my own integral approach in The Eye of Spirit.  Murphy and Leonard's The Life We Are Given is a practical guide to one type of integral practice, and is highly recommended.

P. 132.  “Friday, June 20… A pre-pub copy of Mike Murphy's The Kingdom of Shivas Irons arrives.  It's wonderful, a rip-roaring read.  I can't believe Murphy is slip ping this massive amount of mysticism into the golf section of every Barnes and Noble bookstore in the country-not just a little hint every now and then, but page after page of it.  John Updike called Golf in the Kingdom "A golf classic if any exists in our day," and it looks like Shivas Irons is going to pick right up where that left off.  I'm really happy for him.  All of this helps to break up the topsoil of the rocky inhospitality of pragmatic America to transcendental concerns.”

P. 213.  “… There are a few writers who today emphasize the importance of an integral approach, and although all of them are very preliminary, they are a good place to start.  You might try Michael Murphy and George Leonard's The Life We Are Given; Tony Schwartz's What Really Matters; Roger Walsh and Frances Vaughan's Paths Beyond Ego; and my The Eye of Spirit.

But the idea is simple enough: practicing on only one level of your being will not enlighten all of you.  If you just meditate, your psychodynamic "junk" will not automatically go away.  If you just meditate, your job or your relationship with your spouse will not automatically get better.  On the other hand, if you only do psychotherapy, do not think that you will be relieved from the burden of death and terror.  Render unto Freud what is Freud's, and render unto Buddha what is Buddha's.  And best of all, render unto the Divine all of yourself, by engaging all that you are.

Good grief, I sound like a commercial for the Marines: "Be all that you can be." But the point, really, is that the more of your own dimensions you engage in the quest to find the Source of this Game of Life, the more likely you are to discover the stunning fact that you are its one and only Author.  And that's not a theoretical proposition, it is the very best chance we have to get our ticket to Athens.”

P. 259-60.  “Friday, OctoberI7.  Mike [Murphy] is in the middle of a book tour for The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, which took him through Denver and Boulder, and he made arrangements to stop by.  Mike's book The Life We Are Given (coau thored with his friend George Leonard) outlines an excellent version of an integral transformative practice (ITP), and Mike reports that there are now around forty ITP groups that have sprung up around the country, which is good news indeed.  There are now the same number of KW study groups around the country, so we discussed ways of perhaps getting them together.  When Mike left, Marci said, "He sparkles.  What exactly does 'endearing' mean?" "Adorably lovable." "Mike is adorably lovable."”

Integral Psychology, 2000. 

P. 113.  “In the simplest terms, an integral therapy would therefore attempt to address as many facets of the quadrants as is pragmatically feasible in any given case.  Mike Murphy's Future of the Body is an excellent compendium of an integral view, as is Tony Schwartz's What Really Matters.  I outline aspects of an integral approach in The Eye of Spirit.  Murphy and Leonard's The Life We Are Given is a practical guide to one type of integral practice, and is highly recommended.

But anybody can put together his or her own integral practice.  The idea is to simultaneously exercise all the major capacities and dimensions of the human bodymind-physical, emotional, mental, social, cultural, spiritual.

Theory of Everything, 2000. 

P. 139-140.  “In short, integral transformative practice attempts to exercise all of the basic waves of human beings-physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual-in self, culture, and nature.  One is thus as "all-level, all-quadrant" as one can be at whatever one's actual wave of development, and this is the most powerful way to trigger transformation to the next wave-not to mention simply becoming as healthy as one can be at one's present wave, whatever it might be (no small accomplishment!)…

Michael Murphy and George Leonard pioneered the first practical ITP in their book, The Life We Are Given.  I have continued to work closely with Mike and George in elucidating the theoretical underpinnings of such a practice.  There are now approximately forty ITP groups around the country (if you are interested in starting or joining such, you can contact Murphy and Leonard at  The Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention (of the Stanford University School of Medicine) is monitoring several groups of individuals engaged in this practice, which has already had some rather extraordinary effects, testament to what an integral transformative practice can facilitate.  There are many other, similar types of all-quadrant, all-level approaches being developed around the country, and I expect to see an explosion of interest in these types of more comprehensive programs, simply because they are more effective in initiating transformation.

My recommendation for those who want to take up an integral transformative practice is therefore to read One Taste and The Life We Are Given; those books have all the necessary details to get started on your own ITP.  I also recommend reading Robert Kegan's In Over Our Heads (a superb discussion of psychological transformation); Tony Schwartz, What Really Matters-Searching for Wisdom in America (an overview of many growth technologies that can be included in an integral practice); and Roger Walsh's Essential Spirituality, which I believe is the single best book on the great wisdom traditions, stressing that, at their core, they are spiritual and contemplative sciences (good science, not narrow science)…”

Integral Spirituality, 2006.  297-98.

Pp. 297-98.  “The Future of the Body, by Michael Murphy.  Some of the same problem-the myth of the given, or the failure to address postmodern intersubjectivity-also affects the equally profound work of Michael Murphy, whose "natural history of meta-normal phenomena" is surely the most important treatment of that topic.  But it is marred-and equally dismissed by the postmodernists (and hence virtually all of academic humanities)-because of its failure to take into account the constitutive nature of intersubjectivity.  The "natural history" Murphy gives is not the simple objectivist account he imagines, but is a view seen only from turquoise or higher, by an educated-Western-white male, acknowledging and using three particular injunctions, whose own para-normal and meta-normal and transpersonal states and stages enact and bring forth a perceptual capacity that can disclose phenomena that reside in those specific worldspaces-and then, and only then, can Murphy's data can be seen.  And that data, those facts, are definitely real.  But they aren't just lying around out there waiting for a universal, objective, natural historian to stumble on them and objectively report them.  Assuming otherwise has gotten his entire corpus dismissed by postmodernists, which is tragic.  Integralists, of course, include his magnificent work, but that's not the issue.

This is a brilliant work of a true pioneering genius, mandatory reading for integral.  But synoptic empiricism is a synoptic myth of the .  given-or a vastly expanded and still mono logical phenomenology, as is a natural history of meta-normal and super-normal phenomena.  This is easily remedied, as so many of the approaches in this appendix are.  In the meantime, this is simply using expanded modernist epistemologies to support premodern metaphysics, and both the "modernist" and the "metaphysics" are in need of overhauling to take into account Spirit's postmodern turn.  This research will never get the respect it richly deserves in academic circles until this epistemological and methodological partialness (not wrongness) is addressed.  This is truly tragic, in my opinion, because for what it does, it is a crucial ingredient of any integral worldview.”

Life We Are Given (Murphy, 1995).

Wilber quoted on back cover.  “The Life We Are Given is a powerful, compelling, comprehensive approach to individual transformation and community enrichment."

Integral Life Practice (Wilber et al, 2008).

Affirmations can be used within an ILP to cultivate not just ordinary, but even extraordinary changes. In fact, some leading experts, including Michael Murphy, author of the authoritative volume The Future of the Body, believe they're among the most powerful tools for developing supernormal abilities.


Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, 1995.

Back cover.  "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality is enormous in scope, insightful from beginning to end, and immensely courageous.  By assembling material from the physical, biological, and human sciences, from religious studies, the arts, and other fields, Wilber helps us see the world as a whole and liberates us from narrow perspectives on the human adventure.  This book will be history-making."

Embracing Reality (Reynolds, 2004).

P. 51.  “Wilber/Phase 4 emerged in full force in the mid-1990s with the publication of Wilber's magnum opus, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution (Shambhala Publications, 1995), often shortened for convenience to SES.  Michael Murphy, the founder of the Esalen Institute, claimed that "Along with Aurobindo's Lift Divine, Heidegger's Being and Time, and Whitehead's Process and Reality, Wilber's Sex, Ecology, Spirituality is one of the four great books of the twentieth century."

Where’s Wilber At? (Reynolds, 2006).

P. 21.  “By providing a viable Theory of Everything or AQAL Model that embraces both science and spirituality, both the ancient and the modern/ postmodern worldviews, Wilber is attracting many contemporary theorists and people who deeply appreciate the vast scope of his integral enterprise (although, naturally, they'll still beg to differ on certain points, as we all should).  For instance, human potential pioneer and philosopher Michael Murphy recognized where Wilber's at when he confirmed: "By assembling material from the physical, biological, and human sciences, Wilber helps us see the world as a whole and liberates us from narrow perspectives on the human adventure."

Pp. 310-11.  “Originally inspired by "Integral Transformative Practice" (or "ITP"), this idea was developed by two of the principal pioneers in the "human potential movement," i.e., Michael Murphy (founder of the famous Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California), and George Leonard (aikido master and well-known writer for Look magazine during the 1960s).  Based upon years of leading-edge research conducted by some of the brightest minds in the human potential movement, their idea is to promote an all-level (body, heart, mind, soul, spirit) approach to human health by exercising the full range of human capacities and structural potentials.  In their summary book on the subject, The Life We Are Given: A Long-term Program for Realizing the Potential of Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul (1995), they stress the necessity for each person to engage in a "long-term program for personal growth, joining physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual disciplines."63 They also maintain that this project should be guided by scientific research as well as by the traditional injunctive practices, thus Murphy summarizes: "lIP is the integration of evolutionary theory with contemplative lore, and modern discoveries related to personal and social transformation."  Murphy, also the author of the monumental book The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature (1992), clearly outlines the basic principles behind a genuine integral transformative practice:

By integral we mean an approach that deals with the body through an emphasis on a sound diet and exercise.  Such an approach addresses the mind through reading, discussion, and the deepening of our cognitive abilities.  It also deals with the heart through group processes and community activities while touching the soul through meditation and imagery processes.  By transformative, we mean a set of activities that produces positive change in a person or group.  By practice, we mean long-term, regular, disciplined activities that, beyond any specific external rewards, are valued in and of themselves.

Consequently, Wilber has easily integrated this type of all-level, full-spectrum approach by adding the specific interests of the four quadrants into his conception of integral practice, thus placing it within a fully AQAL context in A Theory of Everything (2000): "Integral Transformative Practice attempts to exercise all of the basic waves of human beings-physical, emotional mental, and spiritual-in self, culture, and nature." The point is to go around each quadrant, and then exercise the various levels of development which appear in those domains or quadrants of self/aesthetics/consciousness, culture/ morals/ ethics, and nature/ science/environment.  The directions, again, are easy:  "The general idea of integral practice is clear enough: Pick a basic practice from each category, or from as many categories as pragmatically possible, and practice them concurrently -- 'all-Ievel, all-quadrant' [or AQAL]."

Murphy quoted on inside front cover.  “Ken Wilber and the authors of this clearly written, sensible, well-informed book are fellow explorers with George Leonard and me in the development of integral transformative practices. Such practices grow out of a philosophic vision dawning across the world that joins our aspiration for personal and social transformation with both science and the contemplative traditions. This book will advance this developing woridview and the dis­ciplines needed to actualize it.”


THE INTEGRAL NAKED DIALOGUES – Wilber and Murphy (with Leonard on ITP)

Integral Transformative Practice 1 (1/5/2004).

The most influential modern pioneers in Integral Transformative Practice, together for the first time, in a wide-ranging, vibrant, history-making conversation covering all aspects of ITP.

The discussion begins with background information and the historical roots of Integral Transformative Practice.  The essential idea of ITP is that the more human capacities one exercises simultaneously, the more rapid is human transformation.  Think of it as spiritual cross-training: the exercise of body, mind, soul, and spirit in self, culture, and nature.

Mike points out that every age has had its integral pioneers.  George points out that every age has also had its anti-integral impulses—whether it was the monotheistic religions’ repression of the body by the mind, or today’s sensory glorification where the mind is repressed by an overemphasis on the body (“Lose your mind and come to your senses”).  Opposed to both forms of repression is the integral approach, which honors equally both the body and the mind in an integral embrace.

Because new truths constantly emerge, the integral endeavor has to be re-invented afresh with each new era.  In today’s world, the integral embrace must include the very idea of evolution and development itself.  It appears that in the modern era, evolution became conscious of itself, and thus a new form of enlightenment—evolutionary enlightenment—also became available.

Integral Transformative Practice appears to be the most effective and most powerful method of human growth, development, and conscious evolution yet devised, as empirical evidence is starting to convincingly demonstrate.

Integral Transformative Practice 2 (4/26/2004).

The most influential modern pioneers in Integral Transformative Practice, Mike Murphy and George Leonard, continue their landmark discussion on the history, evolution, and pragmatic application of the most effective approach to human transformation known to date.

In this dialogue, Mike, George, and Ken discuss how ITP has evolved over the past forty years into a deeper expression of the integral impulse that has been its lifeblood from day one.  The essential idea of ITP is that the more human capacities one exercises simultaneously, the more rapid is human transformation.  Think of it as spiritual cross-training: the exercise of body, mind, soul, and spirit in self, culture, and nature.

Mike recalls how the sixties were a kind of "Cambrian explosion" of human growth technologies.  At one point he and several others had catalogued over 200 different approaches to transformation, and within those approaches about 10,000 separate techniques.  At no other time in history did humanity have access to so many perspectives on human growth.  It was a pluralistic celebration like nothing we had ever seen before, and wonderfully so.  But lest the human drown in too much information, we must place these technologies into a navigable framework.

One of the most crucial components of an integral framework is an understanding of the relationship between states and stages.  A person at any stage of development (magic, mythic, mental, etc) can have profound spiritual state experiences (nature mysticism, deity mysticism, causal formlessness, or nondual One Taste), but the individual will interpret those experiences through the lense of their current developmental stage.  Furthermore, research has shown that repeated state experiences help "grease" the spiral of development, and therefore help people move more quickly through stages.  The higher your stage of development, the more those temporary states become permanent traits in your own heart and mind.

Integral Transformative Practice 3 (8/30/2004).

In this trialogue, Mike, George, and Ken raise some of the fascinating questions at the very edge of our knowledge of how Integral Transformative Practice works.  The central idea of ITP is that the more human capacities one exercises simultaneously, the more rapid is human transformation.  Think of it as spiritual cross-training: the exercise of body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature. 

Now what if we take this idea of cross-training a couple steps further and ask, "What are the most crucial lines of development to work on?" And, "What are the most effective combinations of practices to take up?" Even just a preliminary survey of the experience of the past 30 years yields some valuable insights, as well as ideas for future research.

Ken then suggests a computer application that could serve as an assessment tool to help personalize an ITP program based on a set of variables including: available time, essential lines of development, personality type, and specific preferences.  The point is to allow as a wide a selection of practices as possible within a set of essential "modules," each of which represents an important developmental line.  The beauty of this idea is its combination of sturdiness and flexibility, since there are literally hundreds of practices one might choose for any particular module.  And yet all the essential modules are represented, so nothing important is left out.

Lest we lose our sense of humor amidst such attempts at systematization, Mike reminds us that, ultimately, spiritual practice is supposed to be fun! As the great integral pioneer Sri Aurobindo demonstrated, the spiritual journey need not be a sterilized and boring affair, but an ever-evolving play and experiment involving our deepest, most joyous potentials.

The Secret of Transformation 1 (7/9/2007).

Esalen was the first major growth center, and the single largest source of transformation, in Michael and Ken's generation—and it's still going strong, particularly with the recent influx of first-rate management and leadership.  The techniques used there are still those that are the major sources of consciousness transformation for anyone who is interested in doing so.  Michael Murphy, George Leonard, and Ken Wilber are the three people who have done the most work—often together—on integral transformative practices.  Mike and George's version they call Integral Transformative Practice (ITP), and Ken's version (developed with his associates at I-I) he calls Integral Life Practice (ILP)—with both sharing the same roots, aims, goals, and many of the same practices.

Using this rich history of working in similar and complementary veins as a base, Michael and Ken leap into sharing what's new and exciting on the very leading edge of transformative practices, as well as their lives.  For Michael, this includes organizing research—actual empirical research—on reincarnation, participating in several book projects, and furthering his uniquely vast knowledge of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo (a spiritual-integral pioneer of the first order).  For Ken, he just happened to knock off two books this summer—Overview and Superview—both being new and brilliant volumes on development through structures of consciousness and states of consciousness, what can go wrong in each of those dimensions, and suggested therapies in each case.  Overview will serve as an introductory volume for the interested layperson, and Superview will explore this territory in much greater detail for the serious student (together they will be known simply as Transformations).

While on the topic of ground-breaking books, Ken goes on to share why he considers Michael's masterwork, The Future of the Body, "a product of genius," and why Michael's book The Life We Are Given (co-authored with George Leonard) was and is such a pioneering and crucial contribution to our understanding of a truly comprehensive, integral approach to growth and development.  What all of their discussions share—a topic that is gone into in even richer detail in Part 2—is the very nature of human growth and transformation itself: what it is, why it happens, and the very secrets of how to make it happen for individuals who wish to do so….

The Secret of Transformation 2 (8/13/2007).

Michael and Ken discuss the core modules of any truly integral lifestyle and transformative practice routine.  Although Mike explains he’s not wedded to any particular formula, if he was forced to chose, he would choose body, mind, heart, soul—and will (or volition).  For Ken, and the approach taken at I-I, the core modules are body, mind, spirit, and shadow, to which you can add auxiliary modules such as ethics, sex, work, emotions, and relationships.  In both approaches, ITP and ILP, the general idea is the same: the more aspects of one’s being-in-the-world that are touched on with some degree of regularity—it can be as simple as ILP’s “One Minute Modules”—the more one is likely to grow, transform, and simply be a healthy, vital human being.     

Mike and Ken then move on to an equally fascinating topic of conversation: reincarnation.  As Mike comments, both he and Ken have more or less remained agnostic on the topic—except that now, there is a growing amount of evidence suggestive of the very real possibility of some kind of trans-migration between lives.  Mike, for one, feels a moral obligation—despite some of his more “rational” misgivings (to put it one way)—to begin to tell the world what the data appears to point to, because to ignore it would actually be irrational, so why fight it?


HUGH MARTIN.  Hugh Martin is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.  He has appeared on numerous talk shows, led seminars at many colleges and corporations, and spoken at numerous professional conferences and colloquia.  Mr. Martin is president of the FINRA-registered securities brokerage firm, Hugh Martin Securities, and of the California-registered investment advisory firm, Hugh Martin & Co.  Hugh is also an experienced Life Counselor.

AMALIA KAYE MARTIN.  Amalia Kaye Martin (‘Kaye’) is a ‘clairvoyant’ Life Counselor, gifted natural medicine practitioner, and early education specialist.  Kaye is also a dedicated homemaker, full-time mother, instructor in natural medicine and nutrition at Bauman College, certified natural foods chef, and dynamic community organizer.

HUGH AND KAYE MARTIN.  Hugh and Kaye are primarily qualified as Integral theorists and practitioners because they have led Integral lives.  Both Hugh and Kaye have extensive experience in personal transformation, natural medicine and health, early and advanced education, societal change, natural and cultural environments, and high-level academics.

Hugh and Kaye have been married for over 30 years.  They have five highly-independent, multi-gifted children with strong family ties. 


WHOLE LIFE COUNSELING.  Hugh and Kaye Martin are the founders and co-directors of the life planning and counseling firm Whole Life Counseling.  Whole Life Counseling is a comprehensive program for personal and professional growth, which empowers clients to achieve success and fulfillment in 12 key arenas of life -- education, career, marriage, family, community, emotions, sexuality, finances, health, recreation, nature, and spirituality. 

For more information, please contact the authors at [email protected].


Everyone in the Martin Family has attended an Esalen Workshop or Festival, participated in the Work/Scholar Program, and/or enjoyed the sunset from Esalen's steamy hot baths.
Counter-clockwise from lower right: Kaye, Hugh, Pat Dobbins, Mollie Martin Dobbins, Livvie, Josh, Becky, and Sam.


[1] For a history of Integral Psychology and its antecedents, see Cook-Greuter (AQAL, I-2), Resources section.

[2] For a history of Esalen and its antecedents, see Kripal (2007), Anderson (1983), and Schwartz (1995), in Resources section, page 106.

[3] Stages of thinking and reasoning only.

[4] See Arrays of Light – especially Section 4, Arenas of Psychological Development.

[5] Author of Theoretical Logic in Sociology (UCal Press, 1982) and Action and Its Environments (Columbia, 1990).  Described by Ken Wilber as ‘America's most gifted and influential social theorist.’

[6] For an extensive display of these correspondences -- covering the work of over 100 diverse authorities, including philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, gurus, and mystics – see Arrays of Light, especially Section 4, The Stages of Psychological Development. 

[7] For Wilber’s description of Murphy’s ‘three waves’ of the Human Potential movement, see the Appendix section Wilber and Murphy (Eye of the Spirit, 256-59), p. 92.  Murphy’s criteria are inferred from such comments and from the resulting ITP Program.

[8] The basic ITP Program consists of six Practices: affirmations, yoga-like exercises, visualization, meditation, physical exercise, and nutrition.  See Resources section, Leonard and Murphy, The Life We Are Given.

[9] For references by Murphy and Wilber to one another, see Appendix C: Wilber and Murphy, page 92.

[10] For a detailed comparison, see the section Esalen vs. Integral Institute, p. 41.  For extensive and detailed comparisons betweem Wilber and ADAPT, see AQAL, The Next Generation.