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2017 CTR Conferences

Spiritual But Not Religious: Pasts, Presents, Futures Conference
February 19-24, 2017
Facilitator: Jeff Kripal

This workshop was cancelled due to extreme winter weather and road closures in Big Sur.

“I am spiritual, but not religious.” We have all heard the phrase. Where did this expression come from? What does it mean today? And where is it going tomorrow? The symposium is designed to explore these questions, crystallize the scholarship on the same, and move the conversation forward.

We actually intend a number of projects and conversations. We hope, for example, to tackle the definitional problem: the empirical and sociological data (from which the phrase most recently arose), the economic and political factors, the question of race, the questions of gender and sexuality, the nature of categories like “religion” and “spirituality” themselves. We also hope to explore the multiple pasts of this new moniker, that is, the various complex historical and cultural roots that have aided its formation and rise, from nineteenth-century Transcendentalism and the metaphysical movements of the early twentieth century to the counterculture of the 1960s and the New Age movement of the 1980s and 90s. Finally, we hope to explore some of this demographic’s possible futures. And what of our present moment of Trumpian nativism, populism and xenophobia? Seriously, what now? What are the potential politics and ethics of this new spiritual orientation? How is it related to the comparative study of religion and what we as scholars do? How are we responsible for it? How are we answerable to it? What should we think, what should we do now?

Russia Conference in New York City
April 9-14, 2017
Facilitator: Dulce Murphy

In April of 2017, CTR and TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy will hold a working conference at Esalen to plan for the International conference that we will hold at the newly-established Yeltsin Presidential Center and Library in Ekaterinburg, Russia in September 2017 that will address the most difficult years in the relationship between the USSR and the USA and the events that moved things to a better understanding. In view of the increasingly worsening relations between the United States and Russia and mindful of the undercurrents in the government circles of both nations, we will call on renewed efforts of citizen diplomats. (Visit and to learn about this citizen diplomacy work and the many dozens of programs we’ve sponsored to foster constructive engagement between Russia and America.)

Russia Conference in Ekaterinburg
September 16-17, 2017
Facilitators: 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 Russia, Esalen’s CTR is promoting Russian-American partnerships that are designed to improve the relationship between our two nations. Having sponsored Yeltsin’s first trip to the United States in 1989, which led to his pioneering political and economic reforms in Russia during the 1990s we are sponsoring a conference at the Yeltsin Presidential Center and Library in September 2017 to establish goals and programs that can further promote improvement in the Russia-America partnership, reduce the threat of nuclear disaster, and move our two countries toward a peaceful relationship.

Of special note: The Esalen Pacifica Prize was launched in 2012 and continues 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.” For more information: (Visit and to learn about this work and the many dozens of programs we’ve sponsored to foster constructive engagement between Russia and America.)

Re-imagining the Attention Economy for Human Values
September 29 - October 1, 2017
Facilitators: Ben Tauber and Tristan Harris

This is the second in a series of conferences that seeks to address a novel, disturbing, and timely topic: how the decisions of a few leaders in the technology industry now have more influence on how billions people spend their time, live out their relationships, make choices, and develop beliefs about reality. These tech leaders are like the inadvertent urban planners of a new kind of “Attention Economy” by which media and technology companies compete to maximize how much attention they can get. Beyond the great this “race to the bottom of the brain stem” for attention yields many unintended consequences — from distraction, to fake news, to addictions to the challenges of online discourse. This conference will seek to imagine a positive and more empowering urban plan for the attention economy emerging out of technology. What might the world instead look like if companies were not appealing to our basest instincts and motives?  What currency of success besides clicks and attention would they compete for instead? This pioneering conference will host several of tech industry’s most empowered leaders to envision solutions to this problem. It will address these issues, as this landscape of competition expands to virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence as well as the future of how people will work with computers, and how tech companies can forge more responsible and positive solutions to all of these issues.

International Abrahamic Network
November 12-17, 2017
Facilitators: Dulce Murphy

Led since 2007 by Dulce Murphy and Joseph Montville under the banner of the International Abrahamic Network, (IAN) – formerly the Abrahamic Family Reunion – with original support from the 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: and a newsletter reaching more than a thousand people that has become the hub of much Abrahamic activity. It features bi-monthly up-to-date news on Abrahamic reconciliation. In November 2017, the core group will meet to strengthen connections with our Middle Eastern and American partners and see how we can support each other in continuing to expand our network. The presentations will include recent citizen diplomacy efforts in the forms of film, broadcast, social media and people to people efforts by our Network groups.

The Super Story Symposia Series: Mind, Matter and the New Real
December 3-8, 2017
Facilitator: Jeff Kripal

“Mind, Matter and the New Real” is an invitational symposium that will boldly explore some of the various roles that quantum physics and the nature of matter have played in shaping our understanding of who we are and what our place in the cosmos is. In particular, we will be looking at the mind-matter interface and the nature of time from the perspectives of psychology, philosophy of mind, and quantum theory and the obvious but still contentious resonances these display with the phenomenologies of mystical, imaginal, synchronistic and other “rogue” phenomena. We also hope to address the incredible “too good to be true” success of mathematics in modeling the physical universe from the smallest to the largest scales in space and time and what this might tell us about a cosmic dimension of mind itself. How do we explain the uncannily surprising mirroring between “mind” and “matter”? We presume no conclusions here, only new futures, new vistas, new conceptions of mind, matter and the human.


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