This is a historical study of the American human potential movement: its historical roots in Emerson’s Transcendentalism, Whitman’s ecstatic-erotic poetry, Wilhelm Reich’s orgone, Aldous Huxley’s writings on the perennial philosophy and psychedelic revelation, and early charismatic teachers like Gerald Heard, Alan Watts, and the Beat poets; its creation in the early 1960s in Big Sur and the Bay Area; its history of political and social activism, primarily via Soviet-American relations, in the 1970s and 80s; and its constant engagement with the history of mysticism, science and religion, psychical research, and Asian religions.
A deeply personal and eccentric note. As I neared the completion of this book, I found myself inexplicably fascinated with the X-Men comic books of my adolescence. Eventually, I located the source of my fascination. I realized that the evolutionary esotericism of Michael Murphy (originally inspired by the writings of the Indian philosopher-mystic Sri Aurobindo) on the West Coast resonated eerily with the evolutionary fantasy and fiction of the East Coast, as if the two very different cultural projects were mirroring one another. And, indeed, Esalen and the X-Men appeared at nearly the exact same time, in late 1962 and early 1963. What the comic books in New York imagined as a pure fantasy the vastly more sophisticated metaphysical movement around San Francisco located squarely in actual human experience and sought to practice, theorize, and create a community around. It was this strange insight that led to what would soon follow—a series of encounters, still on-going, with real-world mutants, the conception and writing of the Super Story trilogy, and a vision of an eventual School of the Superhumanities. This is my work in the future, realized or not in this little insignificant life.