By Paul Liberatore
George Leonard, author, journalist and pioneer in the field of human
potential whom Newsweek magazine called "the granddaddy of the
consciousness movement," died Wednesday at his home in Mill Valley
after a long illness. He was 86.
Annie Styron Leonard, his wife of 28 years, was at his side when he
died at 2:45 a.m. "As someone said who was here this morning, 'The
world is a better place because of George Leonard,'" she said.
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 "The Transformation."
A former senior editor of Look magazine, Mr. Leonard won 11 national
awards for education writing during his stint at the national
publication, from 1953 to 1970. He also covered science, politics,
the arts and foreign affairs and helped Look win the first National
Magazine Award in 1968 for his reporting on the civil rights movement.
Despite his revered position among New Age seekers and practitioners,
Mr. Leonard once protested, "I am not a guru. I'm very suspicious of gurus."
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.
"He was one of America's great social observers, not only for his
breadth, but for his depth," Murphy said. "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."
Called a "legendary editor and writer" by Psychology Today, Mr.
Leonard 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.
He wrote about his adventures on the front lines of the '60s in his
1988 memoir, "Walking on the Edge of the World." And his cutting-edge
reporting prompted the San Francisco Chronicle to say that he "has
been right so many times about prevailing zeitgeists that you have to
wonder if he has a third eye."
Before he died, he was at work on another memoir he titled,
"Fragments of a Life in No Particular Order."
A fifth-degree black belt in aikido, Mr. Leonard co-founded a school
in the martial art in Mill Valley 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. American health magazine called him "the poet philosopher
of American health in its broadest sense."
Mr. Leonard was born in Atlanta, Ga. on Aug. 9, 1923. He earned a
bachelor of arts degree from the University of North Carolina and a
doctorate in humanities from Lewis and Clark College, John F. Kennedy
University and the Saybrook Institute.
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 controversial 1977 production of the original
In addition to his wife, Mr. Leonard is survived by three daughters,
Emily Fraim of Phoenix, Burr Leonard of Sausalito and Mimi Fleischman
of Los Angeles; two brothers, Edward and Wesley Leonard, both of
Texas; and six grandchildren.
A memorial service is being planned. Contributions in Mr. Leonard's
name may be made to ITP-International.org.
Contact Paul Liberatore via e-mail at email@example.com