The Future of the Body


In the oral and written histories of every culture, there are countless records of men and women who have displayed extraordinary physical, mental, and spiritual capacities. In modern times, those records have been supplemented by scientific studies of exceptional functioning.

Are the limits of human growth fixed?

Are extraordinary abilities...

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In the oral and written histories of every culture, there are countless records of men and women who have displayed extraordinary physical, mental, and spiritual capacities. In modern times, those records have been supplemented by scientific studies of exceptional functioning.

Are the limits of human growth fixed?

Are extraordinary abilities latent within everyone?

Is there evidence that humanity has unrealized capacities for self-transcendence?

Are there specific practices through which ordinary people can develop these abilities?

Michael Murphy has studied these questions for over thirty years.

In The Future of the Body, he presents evidence for metanormal perception, cognition, movement, vitality, and spiritual development from more than 3,000 sources. Surveying ancient and modern records in medical science, sports, anthropology, the arts, psychical research, comparative religious studies, and dozens of other disciplines, Murphy has created an encyclopedia of exceptional functioning of body, mind, and spirit. He paints a broad and convincing picture of the possibilities of further evolutionary development of human attributes.

By studying metanormal abilities under a wide range of conditions, Murphy suggests that we can identify those activities that typically evoke these capacities and assemble them into a coherent program of transformative practice.

A few of Murphy's central observations and proposal include:

  • The observation that cultural conditioning powerfully shapes (or extinguishes) metanormal capacities.
  • The proposition that we cannot comprehend our potentials for extraordinary life without an empirical approach that involves many fields of inquiry and different kinds of knowing.
  • The notion that a widespread realization of extraordinary capacities would constitute an evolutionary transcendence analogous to the rise of humankind from its primal ancestry.
  • The proposal that all or most instances of significant human development are produced by a limited number of identifiable activities such as disciplined self-observation, visualization of desired capacities, and caring for others.
  • The idea that a balanced development of our various capacities is possible through integrated practices.

In The Future Of The Body, Murphy states that such practices can carry forward Earth's evolutionary adventure and lead humanity to the next step in its development.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Esalen cofounder Murphy has produced a massive tome that could become a bible of the New Age movement. His main thesis is that each of us harbors latent metanormal capacities rooted in biological evolution: ESP, clairvoyance, extraordinary movement abilities, uncanny somatic awareness and self-regulation, superabundant vitality and universal love, among others. Our genetic inheritance, he argues, predisposes us toward developing these powers, which can be mediated by Christian grace, the Tao or the workings of Buddha Mind, and also can be developed through specific practices. These include psychotherapy, fitness training, martial arts, meditation, biofeedback and prayer. Murphy's claims for extraordinary human potential are annotated with references to 3000 sources, ranging from physiological studies of meditators to reports of near-death experiences. In closing he scans the impulse toward wholeness in ancient and modern cultures and warns of the mental imbalance that misuse of transformation discipline can cause. An exciting synthesis. Author tour. (May)
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874777307
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 993,479
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 2.25 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. I Possibilities for Extraordinary Life
1 Introduction 3
2 The Varieties of Evidence for Human Transformative Capacity 7
3 Evolution and Extraordinary Functioning 24
4 Analogies Between the Products of Separate Evolutionary Domains 36
5 Developing Human Attributes 64
6 Culture, Genes, and Extraordinary Functioning 160
7 Philosophy, Religion, and Human Development 171
8 Metanormal Embodiment in Legend, Art, and Religious Doctrine 201
9 Evolution in a Larger Earth 214
10 Evolution and Postmortem Survival 221
Pt. 2 Evidence for Human Transformative Capacity
11 Psychosomatic Changes in Abnormal Functioning 233
12 Placebo Effects 246
13 Spiritual Healing 257
14 Extraordinary Capacities of Disabled People 284
15 Mesmerism and Hypnosis 291
16 Biofeedback Training 350
17 Psychotherapy and Imagery Practice 369
18 Somatic Disciplines 386
19 Adventure and Sport 415
20 The Martial Arts 448
21 Extraordinary Capacities of Religious Adepts 464
22 The Charisms of Catholic Saints and Mystics 478
23 Scientific Studies of Contemplative Experience 527
Pt. 3 Transformative Practices
24 The Bases of Transformative Practice 543
25 Elements of Transformative Practice 555
26 Integral Practices 567
Frequently Used Terms 587
A.1 Sources of Information Regarding Parapsychology and Psychical Research 590
A.2 Highly Regarded Parapsychology Experiments 590
A.3 Studies of Spontaneous Paranormal Phenomena 591
A.4 Studies Concerning the Prevalence of Paranormal Phenomena 592
A.5 Psychiatric and Psychological Studies of Paranormal Phenomena 593
A.6 Studies of Parent-Child Telepathy 594
A.7 Experiments with Suggestion at a Distance 595
A.8 Paranormal Photography 597
B Scientific and Commonsense Assumptions Which Inhibit Belief That Paranormal Events Occur 600
C Scientific Meditation Studies 603
D.1 Spiritual Healing Studies and Psychokinesis Studies Involving Living Materials 612
D.2 Cross-Cultural Studies of Spiritual Healing 617
E Studies of Near-Death, Out-of-Body, Reincarnation-Type and Otherworld Experiences 618
F Experimental Studies and Historical Accounts Regarding the Subtle Body 622
G Creativity Studies 623
H Clinical and Experimental Studies of Progressive Relaxation 624
I Readings on the Cultural Shaping of Individual Development 626
J.1 Processes Critical to Living Systems 627
J.2 Some Analogies Between Activities in Different Evolutionary Domains 628
K.1 Incorruptible Cadavers of Roman Catholic Saints 630
K.2 Levitated Ecstatics of the Roman Catholic Church with References to Accounts of Their Lives 633
Notes 634
Bibliography 676
Permissions and Copyrights 762
Index 765
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