Michael Murphy (author)

From Academic Kids

Template:Integral theoryFor other people with the same name, see Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is the co-founder of the Esalen Institute, a key figure in the Human Potential Movement and author of both fiction and non-fiction books on topics related to extraordinary human potential.


Michael Murphy was born in 1930 to an Irish father and Basque mother in Salinas, California. Legend has it that John Steinbeck modeled his East of Eden characters, Aaron and Cal, on Murphy and his younger brother Dennis. (Steinbeck was a family friend of the Murphy's since Michael's physician grandfather delivered Steinbeck into the world).

In April of 1950, while enrolled in the pre-med program at Stanford University, he mistakenly wandered into a lecture on comparative religions. This lecture so fanned the flame of his interest in the integration of Eastern and Western thought, that he signed up for the class. As a result of this class, he began to meditate.

On January 15, 1951, while in seated meditation by Lake Lagunita at Stanford, he had what he describes as a "hinge moment", after which he dropped out of the pre-med program with a new vision for the purpose of his life.

He did continue on with his formal education to earn his B.A. in psychology in 1952 from Stanford University. After graduation, he the spent two years stationed in Puerto Rico as a psychologist for the US Army. He returned to Stanford for two quarters of graduate studies in philosophy before he quit in 1956 to go to India.

During 1956 and 1957 practiced meditation for 18 months at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India. It is likely that his ideas related to the connection between human evolution, human potential, and spiritual growth developed further here.

In 1960, while in residence at the Aurobindo Ashram Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco, he met a fellow Stanford University graduate, Dick Price. In 1962, they founded Esalen Institute together in Big Sur, California on 52 acres (210,000 m²) of property owned by Murphy's family. (Previously, the natural hot springs baths were part of a run-down resort operated by Hunter S. Thompson).

In 1972 he retired from actively running Esalen in order to do more writing. He remains chairman of the board at the institute to this day, and continues to be a key contributor to research projects at the Esalen Center for Theory and Resarch.

In the 1980s he organized Esalen's Soviet-American Exchange Program which served as a unique form of citizen-to-citizen diplomacy. The program initiated the process that led to Boris Yeltsin's first visit to the US 1990.

In 1992 he published The Future of the Body which is a massive historical and cross-cultural collection of documentation of various occurrences of extraordinary human functioning such as healing, hypnosis, martial arts, yogic techniques, telepathy, clairvoyance, and feats of superhuman strength. Rather than presenting such documentation as scientific proof, he presents it as a body of evidence to motivate future investigation.

He is also an avid golfer and has written two fictional books relating golf and human potential.


  • Golf in the Kingdom (fiction) (1972)
  • Jacob Atabet (fiction) (1977)
  • The Psychic Side of Sports (non-fiction, co-written with Rhea White) (1978)
  • An End to Ordinary History: A Novel (fiction) (1982)
  • The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature (1992)
  • The Life We Are Given: A Long-Term Program for Realizing the Potential of Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul (non-fiction, co-written with George Leonard) (1995)
  • In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports (non-fiction, update to The Psychic Side of Sports, co-written with Rhea White) (1995)
  • The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Review of Contemporary Research With a Comprehensive Bibliography, 1931-1996 (non-fiction, 2nd edition) (1997)
  • The Kingdom of Shivas Irons (fiction - sequel to Golf in the Kingdom) (1997)
  • God and the Evolving Universe: The Next Step in Personal Evolution (non-fiction,co-written with James Redfield and Sylvia Timbers)

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