Pioneer humanist and human potential advocate Bennet (‘Ben’) Wong died Wednesday September 25 in Nanaimo British Columbia, at the age of 83, from complications of a fall and Parkinson’s disease. Nanaimo is twenty minutes by ferry from Gabriola Island, home to the The Haven, co-founded by Wong in 1983 with his business and life partner Jock McKeen.
Bennet Wong knew from childhood that he wanted to become a psychiatrist and to help people. His life as a specialist in Adolescent Psychiatry and as an early advocate of holistic health and unencumbered authentic living makes him an important part of the theories and practices that have helped to define an entire generation.
The ‘human potential’ movement grew out of the cauldron of ideas that characterized the 1960s fervor for change, during which time Wong was becoming known for his innovative work in adolescent psychiatry in Vancouver. While Aldous Huxley and Abraham Maslow became synonymous with Esalen in California, Wong was among the Canadian academics and intellectuals that explored alternatives at the Cold Mountain Institute located on Cortes Island off British Columbia’s Pacific coast. There, on weekends and holidays, Wong worked energetically with Alan Watts, Jock McKeen and many others in fashioning a Canadian emphasis to the humanistic psychology that emerged, building upon the work of Perls, Satir, Bugental and others who believed that the individual was capable of much more than what they were educated or trained to become by society and family, if only they could get in touch with their essence, their will and their energy.
It was those ideas that drew Wong and McKeen into relationship, first professionally at the Cortes Center for Human Development, then personally in a life-long commitment to explore and research ‘intimacy’ as it related to human relationships in all areas of life and development. The foundations of their now famous awareness and energy course, Come Alive, began at Cortes remains the flagship program at The Haven on Gabriola Island thirty years on.
Wong is considered a giant in his field. His work in adolescent psychiatry was widely published and he co-authored (with Jock McKeen) several books about how Chinese and Western medicine can be successfully integrated to unlock human potential. Today these ideas about of wellness and holistic health are becoming more commonplace. At the time Wong’s work on the body, gestalt, meditation and breath work, was groundbreaking.
Today Ben Wong is remembered by thousands of students, clients and admirers all over the world who have participated in his workshops, attended his lectures and read his books. He is survived by his life partner Jock and sons Kevin, Randy (Lisa), and Justin (Renee) and granddaughter Katrina. He is also survived by siblings Pat, Albert (Darlene), Joyce, (Charles), and Allan (Deanna) and many nephews and nieces.