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Human Potential Movement

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Title: Human Potential Movement  
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Collection: Counterculture of the 1960S, Human Potential Movement, Humanism, Personal Development
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Human Potential Movement

The Human Potential Movement (HPM) arose out of the counterculture milieu of the 1960s[1] and formed around the concept of cultivating extraordinary potential that its advocates believe to lie largely untapped in all people. The movement took as its premise the belief that through the development of "human potential", humans can experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity, and fulfillment. As a corollary, those who begin to unleash this assumed potential often find themselves directing their actions within society towards assisting others to release their potential. Adherents believe that the net effect of individuals cultivating their potential will bring about positive social change at large.


  • Roots 1
  • Social influence 2
  • Authors and essayists 3
  • Notable proponents 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8


The emergence of HPM is linked to humanistic psychology. The movement is strongly influenced by Abraham Maslow's theory of self-actualization as the supreme expression of a human's life.

As Elizabeth Puttick writes in the Encyclopedia of New Religions:

"The human potential movement (HPM) originated in the 1960s as a counter-cultural rebellion against mainstream psychology and organised religion. It is not in itself a religion, new or otherwise, but a psychological philosophy and framework, including a set of values that have made it one of the most significant and influential forces in modern Western society."[2]

In the middle of the 1960s, Look. In his research, he interviewed 37 psychiatrists, brain researchers, and philosophers on the subject of human potential. He found that "Not one of them said we were using more than 10% of our capacity",[3] which should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the Ten percent of brain myth but which is a more general claim. During the course of this research, Leonard met Michael Murphy, the founder of the nascent Esalen Institute that at the time was running educational programs for adults on the topic of "human potentialities". Leonard and Murphy became close friends and together put forth the idea that there should be a human potential movement.[4]

Social influence

HPM was related to Psychedelic culture such as hippies and Summer of Love.[5] In addition, it developed into New Age mysticism, Large-group awareness training and Multi-level marketing.[6][7] For the youth who does not know such a process, the UK Apologetics has warned in this way.

"Where speakers and organizations use this approach and imply that to disagree with their doctrines is stupidity, there is no doubt that they are using the mind control techniques of the cults. In some cases the teachings of Scientology have also infiltrated such courses. The god of the 'human potential' cult is THE SELF and the worship demanded is financial success." [6]

Authors and essayists

Abraham Maslow published his concept of a hierarchy of needs in a paper in 1943. He argued that as people's basic survival needs are met, so their desire to grow in mental and emotional dimensions increases. He also coined the term 'metamotivation' to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.

Michael Murphy and Dick Price founded the Esalen Institute in 1962, primarily as a center for the study and development of human potential, and some people continue to regard Esalen as the geographical center of the movement today.

In 1964, Virginia Satir became Esalen's first Director of Training, which required her to oversee the Human Potential Development Program. At the time, Satir was well established as an author, trainer and consultant.[8] Twenty years later, Satir actively encouraged therapists to shift their focus to relationship education to help clients discover "more joy, more reality, more connectedness, more accomplishment and more opportunities for people to grow."[9]

Aldous Huxley gave lectures on the "Human Potential" at Esalen in the early 1960s. His writings and lectures "on the mystical dimensions of psychedelics and on what he called the perennial philosophy were foundational. Moreover, his call for an institution that could teach the 'nonverbal humanities' and the development of the 'human potentialities' functioned as the working mission statement of early Esalen.[10]

Christopher Lasch notes the impact of the human potential movement via the therapeutic sector: "The new therapies spawned by the human potential movement, according to Peter Marin, teach that "the individual will is all powerful and totally determines one's fate"; thus they intensify the "isolation of the self." [11]

The Transformation: A Guide to the Inevitable Changes in Mankind. Leonard worked closely with the Esalen Institute afterwards, and in 2005 served as its president.

Notable proponents

See also


  1. ^ Martin, Douglas (2010-01-18). "George Leonard, Voice of ’60s Counterculture, Dies at 86". The New York Times Co. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  2. ^ Puttick, Elizabeth (2004). "Human Potential Movement". In Partridge, Christopher Hugh. Encyclopedia of New Religions. Oxford: Lion. p.399. ISBN 9780745950730.
  3. ^ Author quoting George Leonard in Quantum Integral Medicine: Towards a New Science of Healing and Human Potential, by Michael Wayne
  4. ^ Wayne, Michael. Quantum Integral Medicine: Towards a New Science of Healing and Human Potential. 
  5. ^ 20 Years After Hippie Invasion : The Summer of Love That Left Its Imprint on S.F. June 21, 1987. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Lifespring for Christians? Christian Research Institute. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  7. ^ The Dangers of the Human Potential Movement! Robin A. Brace, 2006. UK Apologetics. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  8. ^ Woolf, Linda. "Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society". Webster University. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ Eisenberg, Seth (February 21, 2011). "Revolutions of a Lifetime at Home and Abroad". Fatherhood Channel. 
  10. ^ Kripal, Jeffrey (2007). Esalen America and the Religion of No Religion. University of Chicago Press. excerpt.
  11. ^ Lasch, Christopher (1979). The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: Norton. p. 9.  


  • Salerno, Steve (2005). SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. New York: Random House.  
  • Trevisani, Daniele (2009). Il Potenziale Umano. Franco Angeli Editore.  

Further reading

  • Bendeck Sotillos, Samuel "Prometheus and Narcissus in the Shadows of the Human Potential Movement" AHP Perspective, December 2012/January 2013, pp. 6–12.
  • Enablers, T.C., 2014. 'Realising Human Potential'. Internet Source sighted Jan, 2015. Available:
  • Enablers, T.C., 2014. 'The Fastest Growing New Social Movement on the Planet'Internet Source sighted Nov. 2014. Available:
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