Seminar: Big Sur; Michael Murphy and George Leonard, part one
Within a single lifetime our physical environment has been changed almost beyond recognition. Yet there's been little corresponding change in how we as individuals relate to the world and experience reality. New tools and techniques of the human potentiality are now at hand presenting to us an exhilarating and dangerous from Tir renewing in our minds the old questions what are the limits of human ability the boundaries of the human experience. What does it mean to be a human being. Seminar big surgery a series of discussions focusing attention on the front tiers of human development presented in cooperation with the Aslan Institute of Big Sur California a center would study those trends in religion philosophy and the behavioral sciences which emphasize the potentialities of human existence. This week we present and introduction to the discussions in this series by Michael Murphy president of the SLN Institute and George Leonard. West Coast editor for a look magazine and vice president of the Aztlan Institute. Mr. Murphy
begins. To introduce this series George I think it would be fitting for you to read the introduction. To the talk that Abraham Maslow gave at Grace Cathedral last January actually after this entire series that will be was over. I think as well as any statement that the institute has put out this captures the spirit of profound and at the same time soaring optimism. I think that night too was. A fitting capstone to the whole series. On a rainy day or rainy January day in San Francisco when suddenly the rain gave way and then the full moon came up and there are a few wisps of fog as this great crowd gathered in this great cathedral to hear Abraham Maslow talk about this great reconciliation between religion and
science that is leading us to a new view of human possibilities. I think if you read that statement it would be a good way for us to begin our comments about this whole series. It was a beautiful night and I try to bring it back here. On this night of the festival of a perfectly we gather to celebrate a new Kairos a joyful and awesome moment in mankind's long day Kyra's history unfolding like a bursting star the present opening upon itself so that every scientist may become a seer. Every academic a prophet Kyra's a time when ten thousand voices in a multitude of strange new times struggled to utter a single thought. The album Soul is nothing but energy. Spirit blazes in the dullest play the life of every man the heart of it is pure and holy joy. How can we
speak of joy on this dark and suffering planning. How can we speak of anything else. We have heard enough despair. We have heard enough clever restatement of the same sick o doctrine of original sin. Those who dismay at humanity's condition have had their turn upon the stage. They have offered entry critiques send us analyses of everything that is wrong with and can leaving unanswered only the questions they have almost forgotten how to ask. What do we do now. How do we change it. How do we act to make our society and ourselves whole. At a time when at last we have all the means at hand to end war poverty and racial insanity. The prophets of despair discover no vision large enough to lead men to the merely possible. This is a time for action not analysis. No man can sleep
secure while others suffer. Every one of us must go on working in the usual social and political ways to help reduce the fever that saps men of their natural joy. But this is not enough. We must not merely ameliorate a man's heritage of pain. We must create a new must not merely analyze melodies. We must show people the way towards their own true selves so that filled with the joy of learning. Loving and being there will study hatred and war no more. We must build new societies that seek not empires on the face of the earth but ever receding from tears and the infinitely rich and varied common countryside of humanity. Listen to the new voices in the time of Kyra's. Here is what they are saying. Ever since the race of men first learned to think and hope men have been haunted by the irrepressible dream that the limits of human ability lie beyond the boundaries of the imagination
that every human being uses only a fraction of his abilities. That there must be some way for everyone to achieve far more of what is truly his to achieve history's prophets mystics and saints who dreamed even more boldly saying that all men are somehow one with God. The dream has survived history's failures are in his and uneven tribes sustained more by intuition than by facts. Now however the facts are beginning to come in. Science has at last turned its attention to the central questions of human capabilities. Looking deep into the brain it finds and suspected waveforms so subtle and complex to suggest that for all practical purposes the human creative capacity is and. Looking afresh into human action it finds new ways for ordinary people to achieve what appear to be miracles of feeling and doing.
It's a beginning a glimmering a creative opening. What the mystics promise is upon us now not out on some apocalyptic plane but in the laboratory. The church the classroom the home here is the century's biggest news. If we read it right life on this planet will never again be the same. Tonight we speak for scientists religious leaders educators and interesting interested citizens who have cast their lot with the future. We believe that all men somehow possess a divine potentiality that weighs maybe worked out a specific systematic ways to help not the few but the many towards a vastly expanded capacity to learn to love to feel deeply and to create. We reject the tired dualism that seeks God in human potentialities by denying the joys of the senses the immediacy of an postponed life. We believe that most people can best find God and themselves through heightened awareness of the world.
Increased commitment to the eternal in time. We believe too that if the divine is present in the individual so it must be sought and found in men's institutions as well for people will not readily achieve individual salvation without a saving society. We envisage no mass movement for we do not see people in the mass. We look instead to a revolution through constant and a play between individual and group each changing the other. This revolution has begun. Human life will be transformed. How it will be transformed is up to us. That's a beautifully written statement George and packed full of meaning. We could take these points one after another and I I think we. Just might be a good way to introduce this whole series. The first point I think is to consider how these various
people in the series people as with backgrounds and interests as diverse as J.B. Rhein who are investigator press psychology. And B.F. Skinner say the father of operant conditioning. What do they share. Why bring them together in one series of seminars. Well this is the amazing thing. I feel that the scientists themselves until they become too big so hotsprings they don't realize that they have anything in common at all. Frequently they get tied up in the particularities of their work and their method and the language they use. But if you really get down to the heart of it Professor Skinner and J.B. Rhein and call Rogers all share a belief in the tremendous potentiality of the human individual to learn to create to love to feel and in a sense you really have to go back to a word that has gone out of style it's word utopian reason people feel that
people can be changed for the better. All of them might share I think this this basic sentiment the tremendous change is possible. One statement one sentence there which could become a motto of this whole movement is this is not the time for analysis but action. And most of the people in this series I would say are action man rather than men of analysis. I think that's certainly true. Wouldn't you say that if there is a kind of watershed right now in the modern temper it's one that is going from the literary minded critical. Positivistic attitude which has had a lot to do with. Shooting down older more conventional more naive notions about human perfectibility but which is not offered any positive vision and is certainly not offered much in the way of methods.
That the the at this watershed between this order viewpoint and what is emerging as a new action oriented group is characterizing the work of these men. Skinner and Rogers for example are preoccupied with with practical systematic methods for changing human behavior and human experience for the good. I know this is an important. Statement in your philosophy and the way you see things that. I think is is superseding in our system towards which I finally I would say because certainly in these post-war years since World War 2 this nation has presented the amazing spectacle to the world of a people criticizing them so brilliantly doing it very very well if you look at most of the great works from the lonely
crowd to the causes of World War Three. Even the very popular work such as it hadn't persuaded the organisation man you'll find that. American society has really taken to pieces we seem to get a kind of a pleasure in finding many flaws and defects in the way that we relate to one another in the way that our business organisations work and so forth. But in most of these works maybe the time wasn't ready yet. But about nine tenths of them of the book for example in the lonely crowd have very marvelous book was devoted to analyzing what was wrong primarily negatively. The last 10 suggested means for reform which ought change but nobody really took that seriously and nobody was interested in that part and it was really in a sense it was more fun to take ourselves to pieces. And this is also a character characteristic of it. How analytical verbal society I think perhaps we reached the zenith of the whole Western movement.
Now we see it has fragmented the world in a minute we'll look at some of the action methods and some of the practical methods are being developed. But why don't we just explore it just for a minute. The possible. Natural progression here from the critical attitude to the positive action oriented attitude show Connally's book the modern movement describes 100 years of literary criticism of our literature 100 years of literature which has been characterized by irony by a critical temper and by. An analysis of only the conventional limitations of European and American social thought. And in a way like the Indian god Shiva that must come and dance to destroy before Vishnu can create. Perhaps this whole movement is swept
away. A lot of small minded ideas about human perfectibility. It really seems to have left a vacuum. I know that I sense that a great deal as I travel around the country on my assignments that people seem to be waiting for seems to be a real appetite for change for somebody to suggest something that people can commit themselves to and I believe that time is coming you know this whole modern movement could be characterized in the life of the layout of Huxley one of the men who inspired this whole Aslan movement because in the 1920s when he was a young man there was no one more brutal more analytical of the sort of delicious. Tell us which you can start with delicious tartness. And then he went through these really enormous transformations which will largely miss understood by the rest of the literary culture. He was really so far ahead of him. He began seeing that there were other aspects to life than the variable. Again
it's almost like a renaissance. The perennial philosophy and after as many a summer dies the swan rather west is rediscovering some of the insides of the east and by putting these cultures together you get almost a renaissance with new methods. It was interesting that he went through this progression from the cynical world weary highly sophisticated. Into the ascetic mystical philosophy of then in the late 30s and 40s and ended up in at the end of his life with a kind of this worldly mysticism such as in his last he wrote about his last essays and Island. He's one of the few men who you know in one lifetime I've read both a dystopia and the utopian brave new world is the most famous and I think certainly the best of all the dystopia you know I can tell utopia. I'll and he ended up his last major work was a true utopia.
Now we can say that in a way these two books characterize these two attitudes one superseding the other. First the dystopia brave new world and and following that island the island is a much poorer book by practically every literary standard and highly criticised but in a way it reflects the state of this new attitude which is coming to bear it. It's raw it was a it was a patchwork block like a patchwork quilt the way it was all put together didn't have his marvelous style and I didn't that fit together in that beautiful jewel like way that his other books did and you know my good good good life often makes bad literature and vice versa. I can imagine William Faulkner writing about people who were not corrupted to generated incest to us and everything else he would have had nothing to write about. And it goes back as far as Plato in the Republic saying that there will be no place for poets and and utopia I don't feel that's true. But certainly in the conventional literary sense good life
does make for better. And and in a way to this rough and ready frontier spirit with a lot of the work that would be described in the series is is reflected in this in this kind of shape less and less of that book Island. I think one of the most interesting things is to the extent to which a laymen are taking the lead in this movement. They seem to be freer perhaps than many professional psychotherapists and educators from all prejudices and fears about what people can do. Now we're going to we're going to be talking about these encounter groups whose basic encounter groups now some of the horrendous things that go on and encounter group would shock a university administration right out of its credits. And and they can't afford to take on a lot of this kind of thing. Certainly a lot of the the wanton use of LSD fits into this. Life magazine said a
million doses were it would have been taken last year in the United States. All this smacks of the rough and ready spirit that sued probably American to the core of the thought that anybody can take control of his own destiny and he doesn't have to have a board of doctors or Board of Regents checking him out every minute. And there's something healthy about this and there are also some dangers that we might talk about. With this one I think your analogy with the physical frontier now that you have this new frontier of the human spirit is certainly very apt because it is not understood by many of the people. Perhaps we use the word loosely in the east eastern United States who have a devoted so much of their lives to perfecting and refining one tiny aspect of existence one you might call it a box. And it's very hard for them to get outside of that box and see that anything else any of the
disreputable solutions would be meaningful. I don't know. But more and more I believe educators. I met quite a few just recently beginning to see the dangers of this box. For example in the current Harper's magazine. Will America Smith writes her story Callie. It's a lead article. The shame of our graduate schools in which she points out that the college senior is as a human being is a lot better organised thing than the man I just have to get a Ph.D. because I'm getting a Ph.D. in the humanities today. It generally consists of knowing more and more about less and less narrowing your sights and this puts a man in such a box that he really cannot make these explosive new breaks that we've been talking about. But more and more educators are beginning to see it. Iris Metts article some of the things that are going on in Santa Cruz even over at Berkeley. I think there's a growing awareness that the age of the specialist is ending and a new kind of
generalist or. Extra professional is going to emerge. So there's a there's a split here isn't there between an older idea of how education should be organized and a world in which the technology is changing so fast and in which our social institutions are at times changing so fast that we have to be ready flexible enough adaptable enough to to go with this change. And yet our our systems are training to specialize and often neglecting the key aspects of a person which makes for resilience and adaptability. Carl Rogers in a paper which is a critique of graduate education makes this point very clearly that we need people who can change and who can. Develop with the developing world
and yet we don't encourage them to do this when we make them shape up every minute to fit certain expectations that are laid down for them by some board of examiners. That's right and these expectations are seen less and less pertinent as the years go by because we are developing seriously computers who can do a lot of what you can do I said who is almost the case. I can do a lot of the detailed scholarship that's not being done by new people and perhaps the kind of Ph.D. which we're now putting out will in the future appear sort of cultural janitor for the society. But I do feel that a lot of educators are becoming aware of this and certainly this series and series has brought this very forcibly to the attention of a lot of a lot of people a lot of educators come to this I mean go away shook up this is a first step. Education too is a good general.
A model for this this new kind of exploration I education as distinct from therapy and the least in the older sense. Therapy in the medical sense the man is something to be fixed up. Psychologists like Massimo and Rogers and Sidney Girard have emphasized the fact that as there is an implicit premise in practically all the therapeutic enterprises because as soon as you say a person is sick you imply that you know what well as you have a model of what is right now you and I believe and in the back of this whole program there is the belief that we really don't know the limit of human possibilities and I think this is the statement you made introduced me as those talk said it beautifully that the the vistas are opening up. So I think the model of lifelong learning and education model is better in many ways than the therapy model because right now here we're talking about education
not necessarily the kind that goes on in the formal institution but the whole the whole change of human organism creative change. And this education the one we just sketched rapidly what it would include it would certainly. Be more than education in symbols making education in conceptualizing. And this would. Certainly include then dimensions of feeling and sensing. Now the prejudice has been from the beginning that things like physical education and the creative arts are something our lower status. That speech that was given by Professor Marsh at San Francisco State recently criticizing the priorities that which leave physical education in creative arts somewhere down at the bottom of the totem pole education totem pole always is wrong because that's to
say that we shouldn't get the education since it is not as important. So education the senses of physical functioning generally would be I would be a dimension that would we pay a lot of attention to. Absolutely because now that we are beginning to learn something about creativity that is getting new solutions to problems that are blocking us. We're finding out that creative problem solving involves opening up all of your senses all of a body with a tremendous car lation between the. For example if a man wants to get a solution and some very abstract form of physics. Some frequently by going to their artistic model or to opening up his senses his body he will find it easier to get a solution. This comes up in all the problem solving and creative work is being done today. Yes and the study of creative persons It was conducted had Berkeley at the Institute for personality assessment research indicates that these people
who are more creative. Love complexity and ambiguity and asymmetry significantly more than a person who is not creative. And this indicates that he's open to more of his experience and relishes complexity of all sorts. You've broken through the linear idea of the verbal metaphor as if McLuhan would say yeah I would say yes. Another dimension another aspect of life that has been neglected that would not be is is in personal relationships. One school superintendent said to me that really we've got to take begin taking John Dewey more seriously the backwash of criticism of Ahmed Dewey as it was in part due to the Sputnik of course you know more about this and I do but it was also due to a premature criticism of the naive and the application of a lot of Dewey's ideas without realizing that he probably had an enormously important truth. Now we're coming around with more sophisticated
methods teaching people empathy teaching people some disclosure and how it engender is disclosure in others. Teaching people that by letting go your your imaginings of others that you can begin to see them more four way. And this kind of more sophisticated train of interpersonal relationships is bound to be an important part of this. I'm a new kind of education and as it emerges you know as you said one time is a rather ridiculous that we're teaching the new math before we teach people how to get along with each other not just in the old fashioned sense but how to do it in a really creative sense. Look at the tremendous level of just plain unhappiness throughout western society the desire of people to do something about it. The lack of any way to really do anything to help change people by the traditional therapies. When you see what's so important to break through the whole idea of therapy and go back to the idea of education and just training ways of working out change
for human individuals that it can be done. You can you can imagine a curriculum of the future that really with great beauty and great dignity and enormous flair teaches the many forms of love and not in terms of sex hygiene at that but in the Platonic sense that there are there are endless series in the ladder of law than that. And maybe someday this will be taught him colleges. Well you know that there's as part of that whole critical movement many people have written about the fragmentation of western society. And isn't this really where it comes from the fact that once in societies there were ways before everything was institutionalized. There are ways for teaching all of these things for example in the Polynesian cultures that we can still see that have been studied. Everything in life is sacramental the making of a canoe. Your relationships with other people all are taught by the tribe. There are ways to teach it in
the Middle Ages also. There are ways there was an apprenticeship for life really rather for today we created institutions or at least some time ago we still have them to an increasing extent. We created institutions but generally just to train the variable rational conceptual because this seemed so powerful and indeed it is powerful as Huxley said 66 percent of our life is spent in this mode just as we're doing it right now. But then when you ask why is man fragmented. It's because there are really no institutions to teach these other capacities. And I really think that the most significant part of the whole excellent program is its attempt increasingly to begin to find ways to teach these capacities of man. It certainly is true that we can learn a lot from other cultures. Again the quote Huxley said we really have got to be willing to go to the bottom
of muddy wells and lose part of our respectability if we're going to discover psychological truth. And some of these muddy wells are are so ready to take a good look at some of the tribes in Polynesia or the Indian culture. Which devoted. Thousands of years to the study of self transcendence to the mystical life and has evolved all sorts of methods for training days for training these capacities. Now it seems to me that what is going to happen the United States.
- Seminar: Big Sur
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the first of two parts, features Michael Murphy and George Leonard, West Coast Senior Editor of Look Magazine, on human potentiality.
- Series Description
- Discussion and lecture series from Esalen Institute at Big Sur, Calif., headed by Michael H. Murphy devoted to exploring the psychological nature of man.
- Media type
Producer: Esalen Institute
Speaker: Murphy, Michael, 1930 September 3-
Speaker: Leonard, George, 1923-2010
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-30-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Seminar: Big Sur; Michael Murphy and George Leonard, part one,” 1967-06-06, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bc3szp21.
- MLA: “Seminar: Big Sur; Michael Murphy and George Leonard, part one.” 1967-06-06. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bc3szp21>.
- APA: Seminar: Big Sur; Michael Murphy and George Leonard, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bc3szp21