Years ago, I approached an Esalen board member to express my concern that the collective wisdom of the community was being squandered in community meetings, which too often proved little use but to stall progress on a given issue. I shared his concern that community processes as they stood were a dead end, and imagined innovative ways of harnessing the community to guide Esalen successfully into the future.
The board member physically recoiled at the suggestion, and seemed to desperately want to escape from the conversation. Like many in the upper ranks, he saw the community as something to be tolerated and put to good use, but not empowered any more than low level employees would be in any other corporation.
These lame objectives for the community condemn Esalen to a profane future, one in which the wisdom accumulated over 50 years is preached piecemeal in workshops, but not integrated or understood or practiced in the institution itself, and is ultimately lost.
Esalen’s attempts at progress under a variety of outsider executive influences have shown miserable results. The worldwide Esalen community, which embodies the knowledge developed at the institution over many years, possesses the wisdom and talent to guide Esalen on a new path both sacred and successful. Rather than looking to accountants and hoteliers for the answers, the institute must look inwards to its wisest ranks and its global network of “graduates” for guidance.
Esalen, like a human being, has only its soul to save it from a descent into meaninglessness.