R. D. Laing wore many robes in his career, including psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, social critic, author, poet, and mystic, and at the peak of his fame and popularity in the 1970s he was the most widely-read psychiatrist in the world.

Arguably the most controversial psychoanalyst since Freud, Laing's meteoric rise in the 1960s was the result of his rare ability to make complex ideas accessible with such best-selling classics as The Divided Self (1960), Sanity, Madness and Family (1964), The Politics of Experience (1967), and Knots (1970). Laing's impassioned plea for a more humane treatment of those in society who are most vulnerable catapulted him into the vanguard of intellectual and cultural debate about the nature of sanity and madness, and inspired a generation of psychology students, intellectuals, and artists to turn this disarming Scotsman into a social icon.

Now, in the sixth edition of our annual event, Laing’s former students and colleagues from around the world, including Fritjof Capra, Michael Guy Thompson, Nita Gage, and guests will meet in our first ever international Zoom-based symposium to continue our critique of Laing’s contemporary legacy. In previous years we explored the nature of sanity and madness, the therapeutic relationship, altered realities, the nature of love, and authenticity. This year we will continue our conversation by exploring Laing’s relationship with spirituality. Born into a Scottish protestant family, Laing was a voracious explorer of all the world religions, especially mystical Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, culminating in a journey to India where he studied with mystics and gurus. Joining us again will be more of Laing’s former colleagues and some of the leading lights in the Psychiatric Survivor Movement, to help us explore alternatives to abusive psychiatric treatment for those in extreme mental and emotional consternation.

Among the questions we will explore:

1. What does it mean to be spiritual?

2. What role does spirituality play outside organized religions?

3. Does a spiritual path make us happier human beings, or simply more compassionate?

4. Does a spiritual path always further mindfulness, or can it also occasion madness?

5. What is the relation between spirituality and morality? therapy? equanimity?

6. How does one become more spiritual?

We hope you will join us for the online symposium beginning July 31-August 2 which includes four monthly follow-up sessions to explore how we can promote more humane and effective ways of helping those suffering from extreme states.

PLUS: a presentation of Phil Borges' 2017 documentary about spirituality and madness, "CRAZYWISE," directed by Phil Borges, includes a free link to the film to everyone who registers for the symposium to watch at your leisure and participate in the discussion.

REGISTRATION: Since you will not have to register with Esalen for this program, the registration process will be EASY. We are charging only $100 registration fee for the entire program, including the four monthly follow-up sessions. To register simply RSVP to Michael Guy Thompson and use PayPal (michaelguythompson@mac.com) or Venmo (@mguythompson) to send the $100 fee and you will be registered.

Once you have registered you will receive an email with the link to the Zoom sessions in their entirety. You may elect to view and participate in selected portions of the Program or choose to attend every meeting. The same link will allow you to participate in all of the monthly follow-up sessions. See the Program page for more information.