Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is the co-founder of the Esalen Institute, a key figure in the Human Potential Movement and author of The Future of the Body and other books on topics related to extraordinary human potential.

In 1960, while in residence at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco, he met a fellow Stanford University graduate, Dick Price. In 1962, they founded Esalen Institute together in Big Sur, California on 127 acres of property owned by Murphy's family.

In 1972 he retired from actively running Esalen to do more writing. He remains chairman of the board at the institute, and continues to be a key contributor to research projects at the Esalen Center for Theory and Research. He presently resides in Sausalito, California.

He is also an avid golfer and has written two fictional books relating golf and human potential. His 1971 novel, Golf in the Kingdom has been in constant publication since its release and has become one of the best selling golf books of all time. It is considered by many to be a classic of sports literature. In 1992 it spawned The Shivas Irons Society, a not-for-profit organization to explore the transformational potential of sport, of which Michael is the co-chairman of the advisory board.

God and the Evolving Universe
The Next Step in Personal Evolution
by Michael Murphy, Sylvia Timbers, James Redfield
(Bantam Press, 2003)

In a world racked by violence and conflict, James Redfield and Michael Murphy-leading cocreators of today's spiritual boom-present a message of hope and a vision for the future.

It is no accident, they argue, that the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have witnessed a revolution in new human capacities. Daily we hear and read about supernormal athletic feats; clairvoyant perception; lives transformed by meditative practices; healing through prayer-and we ourselves experience these things.

The authors contend that thousands of years of human striving have delivered us to this very moment, in which each act of self-development is creating a new stage in planetary evolution-and the emergence of a human species possessed of vastly expanded potential.

The Kingdom of Shivas Irons
(Broadway Books, 1998)

In the final moments of the 1995 British Open, Michael Murphy sees something shadowy on his television screen. The unlikely word visitation juxtaposed with golf? But this is the Michael Murphy of Golf in the Kingdom, his 1972 bestselling novel in which he discovers a guru in Scottish golf master, Shivas Irons. Murphy, cofounder of the Esalen Institute (1962), which in turn launched the human potential movement, has a good handle on the transforming experiences of human consciousness.

Written as an old-fashioned quest story but with the new-age questor's theme, this novel picks up where Kingdom left off. There the initiate was serendipitously drawn to the teacher; unable to handle the mystic experiences, he fled the scene, only to recollect in tranquility the extraordinary nature of the lessons and the bond. In this sequel, Murphy returns to Scotland to explore the myriad Shivas sightings; here he determines that the old master is indeed engaged in much more than golf—rather, an experiment in consciousness. "The game," Murphy reads from a 1893 tome he unearths while in Scotland, "irresistibly leads to prayer."

The Kingdom of Shivas Irons has much for readers to relish: there is Scotland; mystery, atmospherically evoked; Plato and Kant; whiskey; and for golfers, an enchanted journey to some of the world's most famous and odd golf courses, from Scotland and Russia to Pebble Beach in the U.S.

Golf in the Kingdom
(Penguin, 1997)

When a young man en route to India stops in Scotland to play at the legendary Burningbush golf club, his life is transformed. Paired with a mysterious teacher named Shivas Irons, he is led through a round of phenomenal golf, swept into a world where extraordinary powers are unleashed in a backswing governed by "true gravity." A night of adventure and revelation follows, and leads to a glimpse of Seamus MacDuff, the holy man who haunts a ravine off Burningbush's thirteenth fairway—the one they call Lucifer's Rug.

Esalen Institute founder Michael Murphy's divine meditation on the royal and ancient game defied categorization when it was first published in 1972, and it still does. Instantly hailed as a classic, Golf in the Kingdom is an altogether unique confluence of fiction, philosophy, myth, mysticism, enchantment, and golf instruction. The central character is a wily Scotsman named Shivas Irons, a golf professional by vocation and a shaman by design, whom Murphy, as participant in his own novel, meets in 1956 on the links of Burningbush, in Fife. The story of their round of golf together culminates in a wild night of whiskey and wisdom where, as Shivas demonstrates how the swing reflects the soul, their golf quite literally takes on a metaphysical glow. The events alter not only Murphy's game, but they also radically alter his mind and inner vision; it's truly unforgettable. For a golfer, Murphy's masterpiece is as essential as a set of clubs.

The Future of the Body
Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature
(JP Tarcher, 1993)

The author of Golf in the Kingdom writes a magnus opus that Darwin would have written if he had looked to the future instead of the past. By synthesizing more than 30 years of research from more than 3,000 sources, including ancient and modern records of sports, medicine, the arts, and religious practices, Murphy identifies the techniques that all transformative disciplines use and forms them into a coherent program for personal transformation.

God and the Evolving Universe

Amazon.com Review
In God and the Evolving Universe three spiritual visionaries--authors James Redfield and Michael Murphy, and filmmaker Sylvia Timbers--join together to offer a hopeful prophecy. Their basic premise is that we have reached an exciting point in history where human evolution and planetary evolution are about to collide, creating an entirely new and spiritually enlightened world. On the human track, the authors claim we have been working toward this era of enlightenment for some time. They point to the emergence of extraordinary human capabilities, such as clairvoyants and even amazing athletic feats that incorporate an altered state of consciousness. (They site baseball slugger Mark McGwire's mind-altering visualization techniques before a game.) The authors also offer stories and events that suggest an increase in love and spiritual growth around the world. Redfield gave us The Celestine Prophecy, a bestseller that was faulted for being too simplistic. While the writing in God and the Evolving Universe is not simplistic, it sometimes falters into metaphysical black holes and psycho-spiritual labyrinths. Yet the message is inspirational: We're on the right path and good things are ahead. And God knows, the world could use more of these positive visions.
--Gail Hudson

Publishers Weekly
When is perennial wisdom more perennial than wise? Perhaps when it follows this commonplace opener: "Today we stand poised at a threshold in human history." Popular and prolific author Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy) is teamed here with Esalen Institute cofounder Murphy and documentary filmmaker Timbers. This trio of writers presents the history of human consciousness as an unfolding map of human potential, extrapolating from empirically documented peak human experiences a future norm of sensation and sensibility. An emphasis on empiricism and an 80-plus page annotated bibliography (almost one-quarter of the book) anchor the text; a chapter of exercises provides application. Perhaps the historic framework dwarfs the picture of what is new: it's difficult to discern progress in the argument for forthcoming human advancement in this latest work from writers who have already persuasively or profitably ploughed the ground. It's also difficult to find the God of the title, except as the Divine One who primed the evolutionary pump at its outset and inspired many of the visionaries the authors cite. The text is accessible but dry; Redfield's visionary fiction and Murphy's genre-bending books (e.g., Golf in the Kingdom) offer more fun. The book may be most valuable to those not familiar with the work of Redfield or Murphy; as a synergistic addition to their work, there's not much new. -- Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
The universe, of which the earth and humans are a part, is still evolving. People, however, are so busy living that they are often unaware of that process. Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy) and coauthors Michael Murphy, cofounder of the Esalen Institute, and writer/producer Silvia Timbers aim to make readers more aware of their world and themselves. For those whose knowledge of evolutionary theory is scant, this book provides a good introduction in three parts: "Awakening," which summarizes both Western and Eastern visionary thinkers; "The Emerging Human Being," which explains the new spiritual potential; and "Participating," which looks at the possible outcome of people operating on a superhuman level. The authors point out that evolution is not an even process but one of spurts and jumps, and they present exercises to help readers participate in it more fully, develop psychic abilities, deepen education, work on social transformation, and the like. Now, they argue, regardless of the events of September 11, we are experiencing a spurt that could change the face of humanity. Informative, thought-provoking, and challenging, this is a worthwhile acquisition for public libraries.
-- John Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy, and Michael Murphy, one of the founders of the Esalen Institute and author of Golf in the Kingdom, team up with coauthor Sylvia Timbers for this surprisingly staid guide to "the next step in personal evolution." What the book lacks in excitement, it makes up for with solid coverage of religious and other meditative practices as well as an overview, spanning both time and geography, of the human-awakening phenomenon. The book is divided into three sections. In the first, the authors trace the emergence of human consciousness on the planet and then point out the moments in our history in which human potential took profound and sometimes unexpected leaps. The second section discusses the emergence of human capabilities and discusses further developments. The third and final section focuses on ways of transforming the culture and offers individual meditative techniques. This last section is the most disappointing. The authors provide little new for those who are already experienced visualizers and meditators--probably the primary audience for the book. The extensive annotated bibliography, on the other hand, is a definite plus. Expect the Redfield name to create demand, but don't expect Celestine-like success.
-- Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

The Kingdom of Shivas Irons

Amazon.com Recommended Book
The long-awaited sequel to Golf in the Kingdom takes Murphy back to Scotland in search of another encounter with the mystically enchanting Shivas Irons, a man—if that's indeed what he is—who's part golf professional, part shaman, completely wise, and thoroughly fascinating. Filled with myth, mysticism, metaphysics, advanced string theory (courtesy of fellow searcher and friend, physicist Buck Hannigan), and at times other-worldly golf sequences from Scotland, to Russia, to a climactic round at Pebble Beach, Kingdom resolves its quest in the most unlikely and hard-to-find place of all. "Keep coming," Irons implores his seeker. "Imagine. Practice. Start again. I'm not so far away." Indeed, more than fairways that glow in the dark and drives that can fly 450 yards, it's Irons's ultimate whereabouts that infuses Kingdomwith its magic and its mystery.

The New York Times Book Review, Mark Lindquist
Michael Murphy's Golf in the Kingdom is the best-selling golf novel ever published, maybe because it's as much about metaphysics as it is about golf -- about golf as spiritual knight errantry.... Even the most earthbound N.F.L. lineman knows there are moments when we're in "the zone," operating well beyond our everyday performance levels. Though The Kingdom of Shivas Irons is ostensibly about Murphy's search for the elusive Shivas Irons, its true concern is our quest for these moments of transcendence, and the book succeeds as a handbook for spiritual adventure.

From Publisher's Weekly
One of the pioneers of the human potential movement, Murphy co-founded the Esalen Institute in 1962 and, 10 years later, expressed his beliefs in the bestseller Golf in the Kingdom, which told readers about golf pro and mystic Shivas Irons, with whom Murphy had played a transformative round of golf in 1956. Here, Murphy details his recent (beginning in 1987) search for Irons. The golf pro had introduced Murphy to supernatural practices resulting in amazing golf shots, but Murphy seems to have forgotten most of what he learnedor perhaps he never really understood it. Now he haunts golf courses in Scotland and travels to Moscow to spend a little time with a Sufi shaman, all in hopes of finding Irons. Eventually, he realizes that he must turn his attention inward to learn that the truth, the answer, the possibilities are all there, within him and everyone else. Murphy spins a good yarn and has the ability to inspire readers to want to change their lives, inner and outer. But his brand of self-transformation here, as in his major nonfiction work, The Future of the Body, relies heavily on the potentialities of the body and on whether humans can transcend their ordinary limitations in order to enjoy such powers as traveling instantaneously, appearing and disappearing at will, or becoming a "luminous embodiment" with only the vaguest cloud-like form. His emphasis on superhuman physical powers undermines his talk of heart, soul and spirit; after all, there's no substantial reason to assume that Moses, Jesus, Muhammad or Buddha could have shot par.

Michael Murphy has achieved a rare feat; he has penned a sequel that not only amplifies and extends his earlier masterpiece but creates a new vision of future possibility. The Kingdom of Shivas Irons describes a new place of mystical golf and unfolding spiritual adventure, and it could be our own kingdom...if we have the courage to enter it.
-- James Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy

The Kingdom of Shivas Irons a big hit? Doubt it not. Murphy [is] golf's greatest mystic humorist.
–- Kirkus Reviews

Shivas Irons and Seamus MacDuff formed the paradigm for the inner game of golf. The Kingdom of Shivas Irons takes you on a quest of altered states ... it will catch your imagination and proffer the questions of golf and soul. It is a beauty
-- Gary McCord, CBS golf commentator and author of Golf for Dummies

A brilliant and beautiful narrative of human possibilities. Murphy has written a spellbinding tale-provocative, compelling, immensely enjoyable-of the search for a deeper order, a more profound meaning, lying just within, and just beyond our grasp. It's about golf, yes, but it's really about the possible human being, struggling to grow into its own frightening greatness.
-- Ken Wilber, author of Grace and Grit, The Eye of the Spirit, and A Brief History of Everything

The Kingdom of Shivas Irons is a superbly written story, mixing fact, imagination, and wisdom, that carries the reader persuasively into the reaches of the mind. It is also a compelling story about the wonderful connections of friendship.
-- Richard Baker-roshi, former head of the San Francisco Zen Center

Murphy is the father of the New Age movement ... the Zen master of golf ... the man who turned the game into a mystical experience.
-- San Jose Mercury News

Entering The Kingdom of Shivas Irons I was immediately charmed, gradually enchanted, and eventually led to the edge of divine madness. I left with an expanded metaphysical vision, but firm in my resolve not to further risk my sanity by taking up the game of golf.
-- Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly and To Love and Be Loved

With audacious wit and wild good humor, Michael Murphy takes us on a magical mystery tour in search of a mythic golf pro who may or may not have entered a realm beyond both life and death as we now know them. If you liked Golf in the Kingdom you'll love this high-spirited metaphysical adventure story. And if you look past the mystery, the merriment, and the golf, you just might get a glimpse of the next step in human evolution.
-- George Leonard, author of Mastery and the Ultimate Athlete

Murphy has a gift for delving into esoteric matters with genuine wit and a merry heart.... Does Murphy find Irons? Suffice it to say we're grateful he went a-looking, and that the spirit of Shivas Irons lives on.
-- Golf Digest

Students of the inner game of golf will find much of interest here, and Murphy's ability to move readers to transform their lives is as strong as it is in Golf in the Kingdom.
-- BookPage

It's quite a kingdom, too, full of metaphysics and philosophy and spirituality in which readers can easily get lost. But that's part of Murphy's point: He wants us to lose ourselves, because to do so may be to find ourselves-that is, our "real" selves, our "inner" selves that lurk beneath the surface of daily life.
-- Senior Golfer

Golf in the Kingdom

Amazon.com Recommended Book
Esalen Institute founder Michael Murphy's divine meditation on the royal and ancient game defied categorization when it was first published in 1972, and it still does. Instantly hailed as a classic, Golf in the Kingdom is an altogether unique confluence of fiction, philosophy, myth, mysticism, enchantment, and golf instruction.

The central character is a wily Scotsman named Shivas Irons, a golf professional by vocation and a shaman by design, whom Murphy, as participant in his own novel, meets in 1956 on the links of Burningbush, in Fife. The story of their round of golf together culminates in a wild night of whiskey and wisdom where, as Shivas demonstrates how the swing reflects the soul, their golf quite literally takes on a metaphysical glow. The events alter not only Murphy's game, but they also radically alter his mind and inner vision; it's truly unforgettable. For a golfer, Murphy's masterpiece is as essential as a set of clubs.

The Future of the Body

From Library Journal
Murphy, a cofounder of the Esalen Institute, believes that all human beings possess the capacity for extraordinary development, and that at least part of this capacity can be intentionally developed through what he calls transformative practices. He uses much of the text to provide examples of metanormal functioning in literature, religion, science, and psychology from many cultures and historical eras. The sheer magnitude of examples lends weight to his theory of the possibility of mind-body unity as a universally available phenomenon. In a brief final section, he suggests ways that individuals may begin searching for their own wholeness. This book will definitely appeal to a wide audience. Notes, appendixes, and a bibliography not seen, so the book's scholarly value cannot be assessed. Recommended for most libraries.
-- Lucy Patrick, Florida State Univ. Lib., Tallahassee

From Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1992
An impressively researched, authoritative, and absolutely mind-boggling survey of "the transformative capacities of human nature.'' As to be expected from a co-founder of California's Esalen Institute, the emphasis here is very much on mind-body phenomena, with the focus on individuals who apparently have extended the usual reach of human possibility -- saints, mystics, psychics, artists, geniuses, etc. Drawing on an astonishing array of eyewitness accounts, scientific studies, biographies, letters, monographs, etc., Murphy rigorously organizes his vast material into three categories: "Possibilities for Extraordinary Life''; "Transformative Practices''; and "Evidence for Human Transformative Capacity.'' In the last category, for example, he discusses and documents placebo effects, spiritual healing, hypnosis, "somatic'' disciplines such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, yogic powers, the charismas of saints, etc. All this fascinating if sometimes sensational information does serve a purpose, of course -- to illuminate the author's "central observations and proposals,'' e.g., that "the evidence for extraordinary human attributes strongly supports some sort of penentheism....the doctrine that Divinity is both immanent and transcendent to the universe.'' Whatever one thinks of Murphy's conclusions, even a casual dipping into his text, which will no doubt become a primary source for future mind-body investigation, will reveal a world of inspiring wonders.
-- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

A Brief Primer on Esalen, co-founded by Michael Murphy

The first trailer for SuperNature—An extraordinary documentary about what has been called "The closest thing to Hogwarts we have on the planet".

Michael Murphy: The Future Evolution of the Body (excerpt)
Thinking Allowed w/ Jeffrey Mishlove

Human beings are capable of extraordinary transformations that often go unrecognized in contemporary thought. Michael Murphy summarizes scientific efforts to document extraordinary human capabilities. He draws upon research in hypnosis, parapsychology, and biofeedback as well as medical accounts of the placebo effect and the uncanny remission of disease. Murphy suggests that programs of transformative training will enable individuals to cultivate capacities that are now considered extraordinary.

Murphy speaks of his studies with Sri Aurobindo in India, as well as his years of work with the Esalen Institute in California and his own involvement in athletic training. He proposes that integral transformative practices in the future will draw from the world's spiritual traditions and will be more inclusive and wholistic.

Michael Murphy is founder of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. He is author of Golf in the Kingdom, Jacob Atabet, The End of Ordinary History, The Psychic Side of Sports and The Future of the Body.

Email contact information is not currently available for Michael Murphy.