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 fifth edition of our annual event, Laing's former students and colleagues from around the world, including Fritjof Capra, Michael Guy Thompson, Douglas Kirsner, Nita Gage, and others, will meet for five days at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, 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, and love. This year we will continue our conversation by exploring one of Laing's favorite themes, the nature of authenticity. There is no better term to characterize Laing's uncommonly ethical approach to clinical intervention. Joining us again will be some of the leading lights in the burgeoning Psychiatric Survivor Movement, including Will Hall, Michael Cornwall, Dina Tyler, Michelle Anne Hobart, and others, to help us share alternatives to contemporary, often abusive psychiatric treatment for those in extreme mental and emotional distress.



Among the questions we will explore:

1. What is the relation between authenticity and morality?

2. What does authenticity tell us about the nature of character? honesty? genuineness? the self?

3. Does behaving authentically make us happier or simply less prone to deception?

4. How may the search for authenticity drive us mad? or lead to sanity?

5. Can one strive for authenticity… or is it inherently spontaneous?

6. How can we determine if we are genuinely coming into our own… or being narcissistic by another name?


Plus a presentation of this classic video featuring R.D. Laing, "Eros, Love & Lies," directed by Mark Elliot. A documentary featuring Laing's views about the nature of love and the importance of bringing honesty into our lives.

Join us for five days at breathtaking Esalen Institute on the Pacific Coast to explore how we can promote more humane and effective ways of helping those suffering from extreme states.