BIG SUR, CALIF. – February 19, 2016 – Esalen Institute, a nonprofit center for exploring and realizing human potential through experience, education, and research, has elected Jeffrey Kripal as chair of its Board of Trustees. Kripal succeeds Sam Yau who was elected chairman in 2008 and who will continue to serve on the board.
“Jeff is a rising star in the field of comparative religious studies, and an important new voice in the American Academy,” said Michael Murphy, Esalen co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees. “We are excited by the new talents and initiatives he will bring to the Institute. We are also grateful for the strong leadership provided by our colleague, Sam Yau, and we look forward to his continued contributions as a valued Trustee.”
Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University, where he chaired the Department of Religious Studies for nine years.
He has taught at Esalen and has been involved with Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research (CTR) since 1998, most recently as co-director. Many view Kripal’s best-selling Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (Chicago, 2007) as the definitive history of the Institute. He was appointed to the Esalen board in 2014.
“In writing the history of Esalen I realized that the genius of the early Institute laid largely in its inter-generational alchemy,” said Kripal, who sees a role for Esalen today for seekers of all ages. “The intellectuals who ‘made’ the place (Huxley, Maslow, Perls, and Rolf, for example) had been writing about and teaching their ideas for decades. What they lacked was a new generation of readers and thinkers to take up their visions and practices, and give them life in the broader culture.”
Kripal holds a Ph.D. in the history of religions from the University of Chicago and has written eight other critically acclaimed books, including: Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014); Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal (Chicago, 2011); and Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred (Chicago, 2010).
Founded in 1962, Esalen is nonprofit center for exploring and realizing human potential through experience, education, and research. Esalen sponsors pioneering initiatives and offers personal, spiritual, and social transformation practices for workshop participants, residential staff, and interns. Located on California’s scenic Big Sur Coast, Esalen welcomes more than 17,000 visitors each year.