Like the ancient Greeks, Dick Price and I believed that civic responsibilities in an open society were a necessity for a healthy developing consciousness. In the 1960s I was helping Dick build the first American community dedicated to mental health skills at Esalen. He did not believe the traditional mental health treatments (psychiatry and psychiatrists) were effective in helping people grow out of their psychic distress. He believed that it would take a conscious communal village to do the job.
For the past ten years, and accelerating in the last five, our Community has been invaded by a foreign ideology. We now have a repressive corporate structure based on strict hierarchical principles, enforced by insensitive bureaucrats deaf to those below them. We have a cadre of people hired for their obedience to corporate principles — ignorant of our historical and social legacies, ignorant of our Humanistic traditions and values which are anti-authoritarian to the core.
With increasing frequency the Community of Esalen is being treated by a new executive staff without civility or personal dignity. The Esalen Community is filled with fear and indignation. People have learned to fear speaking the truth of their situation in our departmental groups. The trust in our group processes has been shaken and perhaps lost.
I think Dick Price would be thrashing in his ashes if he knew what was happening here at Esalen. His precious healing Community being devalued, and its profundity being sold as a boutique spa experience.
1. The prices at Esalen have steadily risen and are now so high that our traditional constituency — seekers, young professionals, graduate students, and young teachers and professors, essential to the future of the Esalen idea — cannot come any more. In recent years, fewer and fewer young people are seen on our campus.
2. Our traditional four day work week has been dropped. This four day rhythm has been a major factor in Esalen’s creation of itself, permitting working staff time for personal development and connection with guests, and active participation in our civic activities. With its absence, I see signs of an exhausted, burnt out, and dispirited Community.
3. Community meetings scheduled for last December’s annual staff week were canceled. Our tradition of Community meetings was started by Dick Price in the late 1960s. This Community meeting was to be our central meeting of the year, and it was abruptly called off with no discussion. The reason given was that these meetings just stirred everyone up and led to no useful results. Under such notions, democratic town meetings around the world would be banned.
4. Many of the students, workers, and long-time seminarians at Esalen have been given gag orders not to speak out in dissent about a recent series of abusive management policies.
We who were once a Wisdom School known throughout the world — devoted to transformational experiences, creativity, and self-responsibility. At Esalen we championed the rights of a deeper and more sustaining personal subjectivity. We created and maintained this possibility for the world for over 40 years at Esalen.
I can no longer lend my silent presence to this neglect and erosion of Dick’s lifework; the health, vitality, and safety of the Esalen Community. I am appalled and saddened with the current management’s lack of support of our founding principles and highly esteemed reputation.
Out of respect for the Esalen Idea, Dick Price, and the real Esalen Community, I do hope we will find the strength, will, wisdom and vision to restore Esalen to its rightful place as an important and viable element in the Human Potential Movement and the precarious struggle to make a deeper personal consciousness a part of Human Society.