Open Encounter, FIRO, Esalen

Ken Dychtwald’s celebratory and moving Tribute to Will Schutz quite by chance describes the operating philosophy of the Advanced Practitioners Group .

[ BTW, I was trained by Will Schutz and have been using his methods for many years, including within The Coaches’ Supervision Group.]

“During the heady period between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, when the human potential movement was coming into full flower, it was Harvard psychologist Will Schutz who wrote the blockbuster book “Joy” that catapulted provocative new ideas about human behaviour into the public sensibility.

When Hollywood chose to parody humanistic psychology’s philosophy of open and honest communications in the hilarious classic “Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice,” it was Will’s creation – encounter groups – that they targeted.

When venerable Johnny Carson elected to try out a “trust fall” live to prove his willingness to take risks – on his late night talk show, it was into the arms of Will Schutz that he fell.

When Rolfing and Feldenkrais were being combined with Gestalt Therapy — and Psychodrama and Body Imaging were being integrated into T-groups, it was Will Schutz who was the maestro.

Although many individuals have contributed enormous amounts to Esalen’s evolving nature, Will always stood apart, in my opinion, for five important reasons.

    • First, Will truly believed that each of us had an enormous reservoir of talents, capabilities, feelings and knowledge that could be discovered and unleashed. He didn’t just lecture about these themes (which by the way, he did brilliantly), he totally believed them. Will envisioned a holographic and humanistic universe that was conscious, sensible, evolving and driven by human intention.
    • Second, Will had the truly rare gift of being able to instantly see who you really were. And equally important – he could see who you could become. In fact, part of the exhilaration of being in a group with Will was watching him help people of every stripe and drama see or feel a glimpse of an unfettered, liberated version of themselves.
    • Third, the vastness of Will’s mind and his eagerness to always learn new things drove him to integrate the works of leaders such as Freud, Perls, Reich, Lowen, Keleman, Rolf, Selver, Rogers, Maslow, Huxley, Moreno, Leary, Lilly, Feng, Watts and Price (among others). In so doing, he demonstrated both an unrivalled capacity as a master synthesizer and a non dogmatic approach to learning and teaching the emerging modalities of human transformation.
    • Fourth, Will had an enormous yearning to make a difference in the world. While some teachers have modest dreams and aspirations, Will sought nothing less than a world populated by healthy humans, loving relationships and institutions that were both liberated and democratic. His ambitions were thirsty, bold and unrelenting. Through his contributions to psychology, medicine, management science and philosophy, he strove to be a modern day Johnny Appleseed.
    • Fifth, Will Schutz was 100% human. During his vast life journey, he made more than a few errors of judgement, pissed all kinds of people off, had his share of failures and disappointed himself and others – from time to time. When you looked into Will’s eyes you could always see his enormous strengths as well as his tender frailties.

I studied, trained, argued, played and laughed with Will Schutz and lived and worked at Esalen during those magical years. In the decades since, I have enjoyed reading accounts of how this teacher or that guru held centre stage at Esalen during the institute’s most dramatic and influential period. I was there — it was Will who was at the centre. During that historical turning point, it was Will, perhaps more than anyone else, who embodied and advanced – the spirit of Esalen and the global human potential movement. It was Will’s clever books, hopeful yet racy ideas, charismatic public appearances, and rascal personality that helped put Esalen on the map.

Over the years, tens of thousands of high-spirited men and women from all corners of the globe sought him out and descended upon Big Sur or wherever he was teaching – to co-create what has often been described as one of the greatest social revolutions of the late twentieth century.

Will Schutz was a truly unique and remarkable man. Will Schutz changed history. I’m honoured to have been his student and friend.

Ken Dychtwald is an Esalen Alumnus, supporter and friend.
He is the CEO of Agewave, LLC.
From ‘Remembering Will Schutz 19/12/1925 – 9/11/2002’

I am very grateful to Ken Dychtwald, author of the seminal ‘BODYMIND’, long time student and friend of Will’s for his permission to print this commemoration, which was first published in the Esalen Institute Newsletter 2003.

© Ken Dychtwald 2002 All rights reserved