Mike Murphy, the co-founder of Esalen Institute (America’s pioneering center of transformation) shares his leading-edge thoughts on growth, transformation, and the fascinating life of Sri Aurobindo, a pioneer of Integral consciousness. Mike and Ken then go on to discuss personal transformation, the possibility of reincarnation, and the necessity of an integral approach to fully explore both.
Part 1: Esalen, Aurobindo, and Integral Practice
Esalen was the first major growth center, and the single largest source of transformation, in Michael and Ken’s generation—and it’s still going strong, particularly with the recent influx of first-rate management and leadership. The techniques used there are still those that are the major sources of consciousness transformation for anyone who is interested in doing so. Michael Murphy, George Leonard, and Ken Wilber are the three people who have done the most work—often together—on integral transformative practices. Mike and George’s version they call Integral Transformative Practice (ITP), and Ken’s version (developed with his associates at Integral Institute) he calls Integral Life Practice (ILP)—with both sharing the same roots, aims, goals, and many of the same practices.
Using this rich history of working in similar and complementary veins as a base, Michael and Ken leap into sharing what’s new and exciting on the very leading edge of transformative practices, as well as their lives. For Michael, this includes organizing research—actual empirical research—on reincarnation, participating in several book projects, and furthering his uniquely vast knowledge of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo (a spiritual-integral pioneer of the first order). For Ken, he just happened to knock off two books this summer—Overview and Superview—both being new and brilliant volumes on development through structures of consciousness and states of consciousness, what can go wrong in each of those dimensions, and suggested therapies in each case. Overview will serve as an introductory volume for the interested layperson, and Superview will explore this territory in much greater detail for the serious student (together they will be known simply as Transformations).
While on the topic of ground-breaking books, Ken goes on to share why he considers Michael’s masterwork, The Future of the Body, “a product of genius,” and why Michael’s book The Life We Are Given (co-authored with George Leonard) was and is such a pioneering and crucial contribution to our understanding of a truly comprehensive, integral approach to growth and development. What all of their discussions share—a topic that is gone into in even richer detail in Part 2 (soon to follow)—is the very nature of human growth and transformation itself: what it is, why it happens, and the very secrets of how to make it happen for individuals who wish to do so….
If you’re interested in how to change consciousness from un-Enlightened to Enlightened, an Integral Approach shows you what you need to know to cover all the bases. There are many practices for Waking Up, from the “power of now,” to asking “is this true?,” to bare attention, to “identify your meme”—all of which are important, and all of which are—desperately partial. It’s been clear for decades now that only by combining the most essential practices into a comprehensive or integral package—as small as possible (in order to be manageable), but comprehensive enough (to truly work). Only in this way, experience has consistently and unmistakably shown, will transformative practices or waking-up techniques actually stick. As mentioned earlier, Michael and George’s version of this comprehensive package is Integral Transformative Practice (see The Life We Are Given), and Ken and IL’s version is Integral Life Practice.
Part 2: Core Integral Practices and the Question of Reincarnation
In this second half of their dialogue, Michael and Ken discuss the core modules of any truly integral lifestyle and transformative practice routine. Although Mike explains he’s not wedded to any particular formula, if he was forced to chose, he would choose body, mind, heart, soul—and will (or volition). For Ken, and the approach taken at I-I, the core modules are body, mind, spirit, and shadow, to which you can add auxiliary modules such as ethics, sex, work, emotions, and relationships. In both approaches, ITP and ILP, the general idea is the same: the more aspects of one’s being-in-the-world that are touched on with some degree of regularity—it can be as simple as ILP’s “One Minute Modules”—the more one is likely to grow, transform, and simply be a healthy, vital human being.
Mike and Ken then move on to an equally fascinating topic of conversation: reincarnation. As Mike comments, both he and Ken have more or less remained agnostic on the topic—except that now, there is a growing amount of evidence suggestive of the very real possibility of some kind of trans-migration between lives. Mike, for one, feels a moral obligation—despite some of his more “rational” misgivings (to put it one way)—to begin to tell the world what the data appears to point to, because to ignore it would actually be irrational, so why fight it?
In the discussion, Ken draws upon the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism. The idea is not to uncritically accept all that this, or any, tradition (religious, secular, or otherwise) presents to us, but to give credit where credit is due—and there is arguably no culture that has explored these realms more thoroughly than the contemplative souls of Tibet. So how does Integral unpack the insights of centuries of Tibetan Buddhist practice, realization, and exploration? Want to know how Big Mind—the state of nondual union—enters the stream of time as an actual structureof consciousness?
Image by Philip Rubinov Jacobson [+view gallery]
About Mike Murphy
Michael Murphy is the co-founder and chairman of Esalen Institute, and co-creator of Integral Transformative Practice. During his long involvement in the human potential movement, Murphy and his work have been profiled in the New Yorker and featured in many magazines and journals worldwide.
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.