Growing up in rural America, my early life was naturally involved with Christian Fundamentalist subcultures. We often had Mormon missionaries appear on our doorstep. My family would invite them in to hear what they believed. We were taught by our parents how to examine the nature of Christian belief systems — to ask ourselves whether these Christian ideals, these concepts and their terms, formed a coherent and logical world view.
So picture a young woman Mormon missionary on your doorstep, alert, emotionally honest, inspired, full of herself, on a mission from God for humanity. Now imagine that same young woman, Tricia McEntee, grown up and CEO of the famed Esalen Institute, still on her Salvationist mission for humanity.
There she was, introducing this year’s 2011–2012 Esalen Staff Week. Ms. McEntee proceeded to give her talk outlining the future of Esalen, as she sees it, with the title “Inspiration into the Future.” What followed was actually a mostly incoherent, rambling monologue. She followed the standard form of Salvationist Mormon missionary rhetoric, about how this vision of hers will change the world as we know it. She even broke down in tears, filled with the emotion of potential salvation she was bringing to us with her testimony.
Like Sarah Palin, she spoke as a provincial, with a very limited range of existential terms. She failed to muster even the least of philosophical vocabularies, and resorted to superlatives — amazing this, awesome that. How different from the distinguished leaders and teachers of our past: Aldous Huxley, Gregory Bateson, Allan Watts, George Leonard, Buckminster Fuller, and so many others.
And then, toward the end of the week, community members were instructed to perform an exercise in which we were to don paper capes, which were supposed to represent our “super-hero nature.” Our paper capes were to be worn in order to remind us that we were all super-heroes. How soon can we expect the mandatory investiture of Mormon Sacred Underwear at Esalen Institute? How long until Esalen philosophy and spirituality are fully consumed by shallow religiosity?