The latest VOBM features a revealing piece about Burning Man’s relationship with the Esalen Institute, “the high church of the religion of no religion”.
The links between Esalen and Burning Man run deep. PR gal Megan Miller has been attending the
cult luxury yoga hotel since the age of 3. For the last ten years, BMOrg have taken most of their team there to an exotic luxury locale to debrief, after Black Rock City is wrapped up. And during the year many BMOrg employees, allies and associates regularly attend events at the facility – which even has an “Aldous Huxley Room”.
The stunning 120-acre retreat is an intentional community devoted to meditation, yoga, organic food, and spirituality and was established by Michael Murphy and Dick Price. The two were introduced in San Francisco by a Stanford religion professor with whom they had both studied. Murphy, who had traveled to an ashram in India, held family property at Big Sur, previously a health spa with natrual hot springs that employed Hunter Thompson and was frequented by Henry Miller. Price had continued his studies in psychology at Harvard before joining the air force. Living in San Francisco, he experienced a psychotic episode and spent time at a mental hospital before returning to the City. Their combined experiences soon took off, as their experiment gained traction with the counter-cultural movement.
Esalen still exists as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and weekend workshops there start at $1,750, covering subjects from mindfulness to permaculture and ecological sustainability.
So what do they get up to at the base? Do any of them drop LSD?
The two entities have much in common — the adversity, the freedom, the challenge to the status quo, the suspicion of strangers, even the absence of a guiding monotheism.
Adversity? In Big Sur – really? Have you seen photos of this place? Does he mean that cellphone reception is patchy and Internet can be slow? Or does he mean getting up at sunrise to do yoga after a big night?
Image: Esalen Institute via SFist
They both provide stages for transformation, without dictating the outcome of that transformation, Esalen on a personal level, Burning Man on a more overtly societal scale.
If Burning Man is overtly transforming society, I’d like to see some evidence of that. Do they mean the art car in Zappo’s lobby?
“So what can we expect from this meeting of the minds,” Goodell asked from the audience as the two men spun their yarns. “Can we discuss our plans for world domination?”
Harvey said that, like Archimedes, they both might be looking for a lever long enough to move the world. Murphy was coy, maybe a bit embarrassed, and blurted: “We’re flirting!”
The people at the summit tackled many big topics: What is Burning Man culture? What is Burning Man art? What does Decommodification really mean? How can the organization foster new affiliations? How can they deal more effectively with political affairs, government relations and law enforcement? How can they facilitate fundraising? Why isn’t Burning Man more diverse? How will the 2016 theme (“DaVinci’s Workshop”) spark conversations about money?
For the record, many of the discussions were passionate and strong. The 2016 theme, especially, provoked divergent views. “The thing is,” Harvey said at one point, “is that we’re taking on the money thing directly. That’s good. That’s what we should be doing.”
The summiteers also could pursue more personal development. They could be guided on a Hero’s Journey. They could seek their North Star. They could take part in any number of movement and meditation exercises in the very early mornings. They could “co-learn” with Esalen staff about sustainability, or go on hikes to hidden hot springs.
Through it all, the participants seemed to get the intention of the outing: They were being asked to work on integrating the interior with the exterior, to be mindful, and as the organization continued to expand, there was a need, and an expectation, to look within, maybe now more than ever.
“This is my worlds colliding,” CameraGirl was saying as she made her way back to the lodge from a session on Personal Transformation. “It’s been a dream forever … (and) it’s never seemed more critical.”
Harvey and Murphy were getting at it during their face-to-face in the tent, too: Murphy went off on a tangent about the art of Norman Rockwell, about how beautiful it was and how deeply it was appreciated, but also how it only captured “things that people know.” On the other hand, he said, “We like to open our hearts and minds to the unknown, (to) find the courage to acknowledge that you are not in control.”
Seeking the North Star is a military concept, that has become part of New Age management culture mumbo-jumbo. And while I see a lot of value in Campbell’s studies of common cultural archetypes, I observe that one result of contemplating “The Hero’s Journey” is to make you think that YOU are a hero yourself, just for thinking about it. We’re all heroes, we’re all on this mythological journey, and along the way we face the challenges and learn the skills necessary for a happy ending. Although this might generate warm fuzzy feelings, it does nothing to build the intestinal fortitude required to instinctively act with real heroism when the proverbial excrement hits the air conditioning.
So 50 BMOrg insiders get together to discuss our future. Then what happens? Burning Man is a do-ocracy, right? Not just a gabfest? So what gets DONE?
Well, luckily for all of us, BMOrg have announced a new team to preserve the volunteer spirit of our culture. Naturally, the team will be all made of volunteers. What will they DO? Well, Harley will attend the first four meetings. Problem solved! Burning Man saved. Of course, if volunteer culture falls apart at Burning Man, we’ll now know who to blame…(well, if they name the hand-picked members of the new team, we will). They’re also still looking for someone to raise money for the non-profit from donors, a position that seems to have been open for a while now.
This, then, is the last hope for our floundering culture. Not that our voices will be heard, or that anyone will require the Org to live by its own Principles. Not that the vast amounts of money flowing in to the sold-out and mainstream-marketed event will be redistributed in some small way to the Regional network and the artists. Not even that BMOrg will just deliver some of the things they already promised us (like transparency, or a fair contract for the artists).
Just this: that by this NPD-fuelled insider navel-gazing, deep questions and discussions about the soul and future of the event going down in hot tubs and during nature hikes, that these groups will make all the correct decisions to keep Burning Man for the Burners for the next century – and out of the hands of spectators who care nothing for our culture.
Hey, it’s working great so far, right? As BMOrg like to say “we’ve been doing it for 30 years and people have always said we’re doing it wrong. We’re still here, therefore we can’t be doing it wrong”…or something to that effect. Any problems in the culture are due to “social media trolls” or a lack of funding (please donate now).
In keeping with this year’s theme of “re-writing history in favor of the Banksters”, John Curley (who confesses to never having received a professional massage before) attempts a white-wash of the darker side of the secret base at the edge of Hearst’s kingdom (and, like so many other location settings in counter-culture history, next to a major military base).
A lot of people didn’t like, or were threatened by, what was happening, or what they thought was happening, at Esalen. Dick Nixon targeted the place for dirty tricks, like the time his henchmen tried to convince the press that Charles Manson had hatched his murderous plans for Sharon Tate while on retreat there. (For the record, Manson never stayed at Esalen.)
Shadow history has Manson going to Esalen to receive a briefing just 3 days before the Tate/La Blanca “Helter Skelter” murders in the Terry Melcher/Doris Day house. The “Summer of Love” and the hippie age ended abruptly, just as the Church of Satan was building momentum at the edge of the Presidio (staffed by military intelligence). The “Manson Murders” in LA happened around the same time as the infamous “Altamont” concert in SF, where Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by the Hell’s Angels in the crowd while the Rolling Stones played Sympathy for the Devil on Their Satanic Majesties Present tour. Esalen janitor Hunter S Thompson got his big break writing about the Hell’s Angels and then infiltrating them for 2 years. George Lucas happened to be at Altamont next to the incident with a ready-to-roll movie camera, after which he got his big break to make THX 1138 – a Brave New World for the 21st century which, like it progenitor, has turned out to be presciently true; and the Star Wars series – which was heavily based on both Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” Esalen courseware, and actual military intelligence occult research into psy-power going on at Esalen, SRI, and the Presidio including PROJECT JEDI.
Manson even played a concert there on his last visit – he was a frequent attendee. “Oh but he never STAYED” – weasel words. Interesting that they still feel a need to distance themselves from the consequences of their mass brainwashing, and even more interesting that they partner up with Burning Man and its Propaganda Department as a channel to do that.
Esalen was started in the Sixties by Aldous Huxley and two Stanford guys with military and elite ties. Huxley died there, when his wife Laura injected him with a
lethal fatal dose of LSD on November 22, 1963 – the day of the Kennedy Assassination, and also the day Narnia author C.S. Lewis died.
It has been the center of the “Human Potential Movement”, which from very early on was infiltrated by Army Intelligence (specifically Lt Col James Channon and Task Force Delta, under General Albert Stubblebine who was head of INSCOM – see The Men Who Stare At Goats for more of this story).
The “Aquarian Conspiracy” (they actually called it that!) written by Margaret Ferguson described 15 million agents of the New Age, taking positions throughout business and government as the Baby Boomers grew up, and helping to usher in a Progressive New World Order. She worked for Willis Harman. For those interested in delving down this rabbit hole further, check out The Tavistock Roots of the Aqurian Conspiracy, The Beatles and the Aquarian Conspiracy and this and this.
As we outlined in an earlier post on Constance Cumbey’s The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, there are some incredible parallels between the ideologies espoused by the New Age movement, and those of the Nazis. This is unsurprising if you understand the history of eugenics and propaganda, which were massively funded by tax-free foundations like Rockefeller and Carnegie at Stanford and later in Germany. They wanted to control large numbers of people mentally, electronically, chemically, and genetically.
This book is out of print, but luckily the PDF is readily available. An earlier version with 100 extra pages is much rarer.
The Human Potential Movement and the Aquarian Conspiracy were designed at SRI (Stanford Research Institute), a major Defense contractor, by its director Willis Harman (who also founded IONS, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, based in Petaluma and featuring in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code series). They conducted a multi-year, multi-disciplinary study called “The Changing Images of Man”
, funded by the Charles Kettering Foundation (Kettering developed the first missile
). The research combined anthropology, computer simulations, business strategy – and maybe even channelling of interdimensional entities
– to envisage a number of future scenarios. They then worked back to determine what the ideal “Man” would be to adapt to the coming new worlds. Once their desired outcome was defined, they engaged the tools at their disposal to reshape the world in their image. Burning Man is one of those tools.
Esalen and the Aquarian Conspiracy were employed to transform the self-image of Man from “Frontier Man” or “Pioneer Man” (the original American dream), to “War Hero Man” (the Democratic personality archetype engineered during World War II), to “Self Help Man” (the Nietzchean uber-mensch product of the Human Potential Movement that went from fringe thinking to mainstream over the 70s and 80s), then to “cyber punk hackers” in the 90s (used to launch the Web, the same way that hippies were used to launch the PC)…and then again to today’s “Burner/hipster” synthetic psychological archetype that is being used to bring in the Sharing Economy. A new prototype is no doubt being shaped now for the imminent Virtual Reality/Robots/Gene hacker world.
MKULTRA’s “Johnny Appleseed” of LSD Al “Captain Trips” Hubbard was a special agent advising Willis Harman at SRI.
Shadow history researcher Jim Keith fell off a stage at Burning Man, injured his leg, then mysteriously died of a blood clot while being treated at the hospital in Reno. His book Mind Control, World Control discusses the spread of LSD and the role of OSS/CIA agent Al Hubbard:
One associate of Hubbard’s was New World Order theorist Willis Harman at the Stanford Research Institute. SRI had earlier recieved grants from the US Army to research chemical incapacitants. When visited by a representative of the underground press [Michael Rossman of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement] at SRI, Harman told the man, “There’s a war going on between your side and mine. And my side is not going to lose.”
Willis Harman hired Al Hubbard in 1968 as a “Special Investigative Agent.” From Todd Brendan Fahey’s The Original Captain Trips:
Hubbard was specifically assigned to the Alternative Futures Project, which performed future-oriented strategic planning for corporations and government agencies. Harman and Hubbard shared a goal “to provide the [LSD] experience to political and intellectual leaders around the world.” Harman acknowledges that “Al’s job was to run the special sessions for us.”
You can learn more about the links between SRI, Esalen, and the counter-culture at Red Ice: Scientists on Acid, and also in Jan Irvin’s article about Darwin, Huxley, Esalen and the Psychedelic Revolution.
How could Burning Man be used as a tool of Esalen and SRI to reshape personalities as Silicon Valley’s counter-culture designers require? We’ll let Navy robot guy Danger Ranger explain this:
It’s all about building consensus reality – while at the same time, detaching people from their previous psychological patterns, breaking their personality apart and getting them into a state of hyper-suggestibility, then surrounding them with the desired ideology. Groupthink is heavily used in this environment to reinforce the new patterning.
The epicenter of Groupthink on the West Coast is the Esalen Institute, and their greatest tool to spread it is Burning Man.
We’re saving the world! From the hot tub!
I’ll let another military intelligence guy and Esalen aficianado have the last word: