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2015 CTR Conferences

Esoteric Anatomies and the Dual Aspect of the Soul
April 2015
Facilitators: Greg Shaw and Michael Murphy

This conference will focus on two related themes: (1) the doctrine and experiential lore of the subtle body in both Eastern and Western traditions, with particular attention on its contemporary expression in the West, including the widely held belief in the chakra system of yoga traditions; and (2) the metaphysical frameworks of the East and West that present a dual aspect of soul: embodied and disembodied, descended and undescended, heavenly and earthly, etc. We believe these themes are directly related and represent imaginative maps and philosophic strategies that establish a perceived continuity between spirit and matter, soul and body, and the transphysical and physical worlds. By bringing our shared focus to the comparative study of these traditions we hope to discern what they hold in common, what distinguishes them, and what this may reveal about their development. The chakras have become widely assimilated in the West, yet our knowledge of the chakras has largely been promoted through popular rather than academic writing. The same holds true for the subtle body, whether it is the sūksma sarīra of South Asian yoga traditions or the ochēma, the soul vehicle or astral body of Neoplatonism and the Western occult traditions. This conference aims to deepen our understanding of these “subtle bodies” by exploring and comparing them from cultural, historical, and experiential perspectives. This includes studies of how these “anatomies” have been culturally imagined and transmitted as well as exploring the therapeutic value of these anatomies for practitioners. The aim of the conference is to deepen our knowledge of esoteric anatomies by inviting academics with historical and philosophic expertise as well those who have therapeutic and experiential knowledge. We hope that through this engagement our understanding of subtle bodies and their metaphysical frameworks can be more clearly understand and more richly imagined.

International Abrahamic Network (IAN)
April 2015
Facilitators: Dulce Murphy and Joseph Montville

Led since 2007 by Dulce Murphy and Joseph Montville under the banner of IAN (formerly the Abrahamic Family Reunion), with much outside support from Fetzer Institute, Adelaide and Andrew Hixon and many others, we have united and built common cause among hundreds of Abrahamic leaders from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. This work has touched over 250 theology schools, seminaries, and graduate schools in the United States and Canada and now extends into the Middle East. We have also created a website: that has become the hub of much Abrahamic activity, which features a “guidebook” for Abrahamic reconciliation. In April 2014, the core group traveled to Israel and Jerusalem to strengthen established relationships and to introduce new organizations and individuals into the network. The trip was a resounding success and an 8th conference will be held in Big Sur in April 2015 to build on the relationships forged and network expanded in 2014. Click here to read Volume II of the Esalen eZine, Esalen Goes To Jerusalem.

The Food Reformation
May 2015
Facilitators: Sam Yau and Lisa Rayburn

Hosted by Esalen in collaboration with The Détente Group, this conference is part of the budding “food revolution” which promotes healthy and mindful eating as well as the protection of delicate ecosystems through sustainable farming practices. The inaugural gathering in 2015 will host leading nutritional scientists, activists in food reform, and thought leaders in conscious business practices in order to spark creative thought and new collaborations. Some questions to be addressed include: How can we re-vision the out-dated paradigm of nutrition and health? How do we more effectively educate the public about the risks of GMOs and pesticides? How do we encourage Americans to make healthy and sustainable diet choices? Some of the leading participants will include: T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., influential nutritional scientist, Lisa Rayburn, Esq., founder of the Détente Group, Myra and Drew Goodman, founders of Earthbound Farm. Overall, this conference will provide a unique opportunity for leaders in this movement to envision the next steps in this ongoing revolution that impacts all of our lives.

Citizen Diplomacy with Russia
September 2015
Facilitator: Dulce Murphy

Led by Dulce Murphy and Michael Murphy since 1980, and in conjunction with TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy and colleagues in Moscow, Esalen’s CTR is promoting Russian-American partnerships that are designed to improve the relationship between our two nations. For example, The Esalen Pacifica Prize was launched in 2012 and continued in 2013 to highlight the role of the arts in enriching and deepening ties between Russia and the United States across a range of common interests – cultural, scientific, business and economic. This project was commended by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul in a letter dated May 21, 2013, calling the project “a positive symbol of U.S.-Russia relations.”

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In fall 2014, CTR and TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy held a conference in Paris to explore the past and future relationships among Russia, the United States, and Great Britain with the overarching goal of figuring out why wariness and distrust continues among these nations and what can be done to improve this. Ambassador Jack Matlock, Jr., and Thomas Graham of Henry Kissinger Associates were among the luminaries who attended this conference. As in all TRACK TWO work, the goal was to increase mutual understanding among the ruling elites of the countries involved, and to promote saner policies and greater cooperation. Suffice it to say, this conference hit a home run for Esalen.

Details for the September 2015 Conference at Esalen are currently under discussion and an update will be provided.

Overcoming Political Polarization
October 2015
Facilitators: Sam Yau and Jay Ogilvy

The increasing polarization of American politics is the bane of our democracy and, as yet, no existing institution seems to have a handle on how to make a change. Well-meaning appeals for a return to pragmatism and centrism have failed, leaving the ship of state floundering in uncertain waters. The daunting complexity of the subject, which touches on all aspects of America’s political order, calls out for new perspectives, innovative thinking and unconventional approaches. Why has our nation become increasingly polarized? Why does the center lack sufficient cultural gravity to hold the electorate together? Are systemic issues at the root of the issue: campaign finance, gerrymandering, or the media’s obsession with the political horse races? Or are there deeper cultural issues at work, historical trends that can help us better explain and diagnose the clash of values that poisons our nation’s political system? In early October 2014, a small gathering of leading public figures, academics, pundits, theorists, insiders and activists met to address the most vexing and important issue facing the country today—the growing tribalism of America’s political order. The meeting was a beachhead in beginning civil discourse between conservatives and liberals to bridge the divide. A fellowship was formed of the initial participants, intense and ongoing blogging among the fellowship is taking place, and a 2nd conference will be held in October 2015 to carry forward the work begun at Esalen. Click here to read Volume III of the Esalen eZine, which covers the 2014 Conclave on Political Polarization.

The Further Reaches of the Imagination: Experience and Theory
November 2015
Facilitator: Jeff Kripal

This is the second in a series of symposia on the nature and scope of the imagination as something potentially cosmic. What if the imagination is not a simple spinner of subjective fantasies? What if sometimes—in rare but real moments—it becomes a mediator, translator, or communicator of information and worlds beyond the brain and body, beyond the senses, beyond even space-time. What if the imaginal can become a kind of psychic ability or real-world superpower? And if this is true, how might we re-engage these imaginal potentials in creative writing, in film, in sport, in our daily lives? How might we imagine ourselves into something and someone else? This symposium will bring together film-makers, writers, historians, philosophers, and scholars of religion to help frame anew and offer answers to these questions.


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