Human Potential Pioneer George Leonard Dies
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To learn more about George Leonard and the integral movement that he helped
pioneer, you can listen to a three-part interview with George Leonard,
Michael Murphy, and Ken Wilber on Integral NHNE:
Integral Transformative Practice
Michael Murphy, George Leonard, Ken Wilber
--- David Sunfellow
HUMAN POTENTIAL PIONEER GEORGE LEONARD DIES
By Carolyn Jones
San Francisco Chronicle
January 7, 2010
George Leonard, a charismatic, tireless journalist who foresaw -- and then
pioneered -- the human potential movement, died Wednesday at his home in
Mill Valley after a long illness. He was 86.
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"He was a tremendous social observer. He was a guide for us," said his
longtime friend, Esalen founder Michael Murphy. "He saw California as a
window to the future, and he was right."
At 6 foot 4, with piercing blue eyes and a booming voice, Mr. Leonard was an
unforgettable presence, associates said.
"George was like a fine pinot noir: elegant, sophisticated, warm, moving,"
said Barry Robbins, a student of Mr. Leonard's and vice president of
Integral Transformative Practice, a Mill Valley human potential institute
co-founded by Mr. Leonard. "It sounds like a cliche, but the world is really
a better place for his soul being in it."
Mr. Leonard was a writer for Look magazine when, as early as 1961, he
foresaw the cultural changes that would soon sweep the nation. The "quiet
generation" of the 1950s "is rumbling and is going to explode," he wrote in
a piece for the magazine.
The next year, he predicted that California would be the origin of those
wide cross-cultural changes, which would spring from among other things a
technology boom and a New Age philosophy.
"He saw the fluidity of the culture, the free thinking," Murphy said. "He
saw that you didn't have to abide by so many rules."
Predicted major changes
Mr. Leonard's predictions, which also included an end to the sexual
revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union, later prompted The
Chronicle to comment, "Leonard has been right so many times about prevailing
zeitgeists that you have to wonder if he has a third eye."
Born in Macon, Ga., Mr. Leonard was a descendant of theologian Jonathan
Edwards. He attended the University of North Carolina, hoping to become a
fiction writer, but his literary interests shifted to journalism after
serving in World War II and the Korean War.
He went to work for Look magazine immediately after leaving the military,
serving as a writer and editor from 1953 to 1970. He wrote extensively about
education, the Iron Curtain, social change and civil rights. His reporting
on how people learn and educational alternatives earned him 11 national
In 1957, he and his family moved to San Francisco, where they hosted
gatherings of famous writers, activists and politicians at their California
In 1970, Mr. Leonard left Look, shifting his focus from an observer of
social change to being a participant in it, ultimately becoming an early
leader in the spiritual, psychological and physical movements taking root at
that time. He became active at the Esalen Institute, a countercultural
retreat at Big Sur, and wrote a dozen books intended to help readers expand
their consciousness and achieve their potentials.
Among his books are the best-sellers "Education and Ecstasy," "The
Transformation," "The Ultimate Athlete," "Mastery" and "The Life We Are
At Esalen, in seminars around the world and in his books, Mr. Leonard taught
hundreds of thousands of people how to think about problems differently,
change self-destructive habits and find a balance between physical and
Mr. Leonard also helped popularize aikido in the United States, earning a
fifth-degree black belt and founding an aikido school in Mill Valley.
He was still active at the Integral Transformative Practice months before he
died, leading workshops on exercise, communication, diet, relationships and
Esalen is still a thriving retreat offering classes and workshops on human
potential. Over the years, it has attracted celebrities such as Aldous
Huxley, Joseph Campbell, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Joan Baez.
"He was hugely influential, an icon in the field of human potential," said
Pam Kramer, president of the Integral Transformative Practice. "He really
was bigger than life."
Mr. Leonard is survived by his wife, Annie Leonard, three daughters and six
Services are pending.
GEORGE LEONARD, 1923 - 2010
By Pamela Kramer
From ITP Website
As many of you may already know, ITP co-founder and human potential pioneer
George Leonard passed away early on January 6th, with his wife, Annie, at
George had a profound effect on all of us through his vision, writing,
teaching and friendship. We celebrate him by carrying forward his
extraordinary creation of ITP through our practice, relationships and
service in the world.
As a way of honoring him, we would like to share some highlights from
George¹s remarkable life, drawn from the article that appeared in the Marin
A past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, he was the
author of numerous books, essays and articles on human possibility and
social change, and coined the term "human potential movement" in his book
A former senior editor of Look magazine, George won 11 national awards for
education writing during his stint at the national publication, from 1953 to
1970. He helped Look win the first National Magazine Award in 1968 for his
reporting on the civil rights movement.
Called a "legendary editor and writer" by Psychology Today, George was one
of the first journalists to recognize the youth movement that flowered in
California in the 1960s, producing a special Look issue titled Youth of the
Sixties: The Explosive Generation. Published in 1962, five years before San
Francisco's Summer of Love, it foretold the social and political idealism
and upheaval that was to come.
A president emeritus of Esalen Institute, he and Esalen founder Michael
Murphy, a friend for 45 years, co-authored The Life We Are Given,
chronicling a two-year experimental class in Integral Transformative
Practice (ITP), which they created to realize the potential of body, mind,
heart and soul. ITP groups are now active in the United States and abroad.
A fifth-degree black belt in aikido, George co-founded Aikido of Tamalpais
and wrote the The Ultimate Athlete in 1975, which helped shape the fitness
boom. He also developed Leonard Energy Training, an aikido-inspired practice
that teaches alternatives to dealing with everyday pressures and stress. The
LET Manual, which includes numerous LET exercises, was published in 2008.
American health magazine has called him "the poet philosopher of American
health in its broadest sense."
During World War II, he served as a fighter pilot in the Southwest Pacific
Theater and as an analytical intelligence officer during the Korean War. He
moved to Marin County in 1980.
A man of many talents, he played piano and wrote the music for the Mountain
Play's 1977 production of the original musical, Clothes. Before he died, he
was at work on another memoir he titled, Fragments of a Life in No
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three daughters, Emily Fraim of
Phoenix, Burr Leonard of Sausalito and Mimi Fleischman of Los Angeles, and
"He was one of America's great social observers, not only for his breadth,
but for his depth. He was a prophetic journalist, a true warrior in the
paradigm wars, a visionary philosopher and, finally, a creator of
transformative practices, bringing it down to earth. You could say he was a
Renaissance man." - Michael Murphy
We hold George in our hearts and are blessed by his presence in our lives.
We will be sending an email regarding a memorial service for George.
Warm wishes and blessings,
Wikipedia on George Leonard:
Who Is George Leonard?
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