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 third edition of this newly inaugurated annual event, Laing's former students and colleagues from around the world, including Fritjof Capra, Michael Guy Thompson, Douglas Kirsner, Ralph Metzner, Nita Gage, Edie Irwin and others, will meet for five days at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, to continue our critique of Laing's contemporary legacy. Last year we explored one of Laing's most fervent questions: What Is Therapeutic?, from a variety of perspectives; the year before that we explored the nature of sanity and madness.

This year we will continue our ongoing and multifaceted conversation by asking, What Are Altered Realities?, in all their clinical, philosophical, and political permutations. Joining us again will be some of the leading lights in the burgeoning Alternative to Psychiatry Movement, including Will Hall, Michael Cornwall, Chuck Knapp, Dina Tyler, Yana Jacobs and others, to share alternatives to the contemporary, often abusive psychiatric treatment for those in extreme mental and emotional distress.



Among the questions we will explore:

1. What does the term, altered realities, or states, connote?

2. What is the nature of the variety of altered realities we are capable of experiencing, including mindfulness, yoga, meditation, breath work, or imbibing a drug, whether psychedelic or psychotropic?

3. What are the variety of ways that our realities are altered spontaneously, such as falling in love, losing one's temper, achieving equanimity, going mad, or succumbing to extreme fear, and how can such states help us?

4. How might we employ ways of altering our reality deliberately, in such a way that our capacity to live well and more lovingly is enhanced?

5. What are the spiritual dimensions to altered states, and how might traditional spiritual practices inform our ability to achieve higher planes of consciousness?

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.