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 for ve 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, 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?


Join us for five breathtaking days at Esalen Institute on the Pacific Coast to explore how we can promote more humane and effective ways of helping those suffering from extreme states.
–MICHAEL GUY THOMPSON, NITA GAGE, FRITJOF CAPRA

Plus a presentation of Phil Borges' 2017 documentary about spirituality and madness: "Crazywise," directed by Phil Borges.