Human Potential Movement  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Human Potential Movement (HPM) arose out of the social and intellectual milieu of the 1960s and formed around the concept of cultivating extraordinary potential that its advocates believed 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.



The movement has its conceptual roots in existentialism and humanism. Its emergence is linked to humanistic psychology, also known as the "3rd force" in psychology (after psychoanalysis and behaviorism, and before the "4th force" of transpersonal psychology—which emphasizes esoteric, psychic, mystical, and spiritual development). Some commentators consider the HPM synonymous with humanistic psychology. The movement is strongly influenced by Abraham Maslow's theory of self-actualization as the supreme expression of a human's life.

Some sources credit the name "Human Potential Movement" to George Leonard.

Relationship to other fields

The human potential movement is sometimes categorised under the broader umbrella of the New Age movement. HPM distinguishes itself ideologically from other New Age trends by an emphasis on the individual development of secular human capabilities—as opposed to the more spiritual New Age views. However, some participants rarely make this distinction, and some who embrace the ideas of the human potential movement also tend to embrace more spiritual ideas within the New Age movement.

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."

The HPM in many ways functioned as the progenitor of the contemporary industry surrounding personal growth and self-help.

Authors and essayists

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. Aldous Huxley gave lectures on the "Human Potential" at Esalen in the early 1960s, and some people consider his ideas as also fundamental to the movement.

George Leonard, a magazine writer and editor who conducted research for an article on human potential, became an important early influence on Esalen. Leonard claims that he coined the phrase "Human Potential Movement" during a brainstorming session with Murphy, and popularized it in his 1972 book "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

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Human Potential Movement" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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