This month marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Esalen co-founder Dick Price, who died in a hiking accident in Hot Springs Canyon. “Dick Price’s influence lives on at Esalen in countless ways, among them our emphasis upon psychophysical healing, intelligent risk taking, independence from cult, and regard for each person’s uniqueness,” said Michael Murphy, co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Esalen’s Board of Trustees. “He embodied a wondrous combination of strength and compassion, skepticism about extravagant claims, and freedom from dogma. He was a great partner when the going got tough. For me, he was a comrade for the ages.”
In addition to his pioneering work in creating the curriculum of human potential and lifelong personal growth at Esalen, Dick was also a leader in the ideas of Milieu therapy as exemplified in a joint venture of the National Institute of Mental Health and Esalen at the Agnew State Hospital in Santa Clara, California. Many developmental crises labeled as clinical psychosis, Dick believed, were better understood as critical episodes or psychotic breaks that might hold great potential for personal and spiritual growth for the individual and the community.
The Agnew Project, the largest of its kind on first episode psychosis, resulted in a 75 percent lower re-hospitalization rate for the group receiving Milieu therapy without medication versus those who were medicated.
“Dick Price’s voice was silenced early but lives on in the place in which he came to live and die; a memory and evidence of what can happen when the best of mind, body, spirit and community are given a chance to come together,” said Michael Cornwall, an Esalen workshop leader and psychotherapist who has worked with people in extreme states since 1980 in medication-free sanctuaries and community settings..
Read an interview with Dick Price conducted in 1985.