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RD Laing in the Twenty-First Century: What Is Healing?
September 24–29, 2023
September 24–29, 2023
Michael Guy Thompson, Nita Gage and Fritjof Capra

Please note: On Wednesday September 20, online registration may be unavailable for up to 15 minutes while system maintenance is performed. If the 'Register Now' page does not load, please wait about 15 minutes and try again.

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Need a scholarship? Apply here.

Need a scholarship? Apply here.

Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, social critic, author, poet, and mystic —  RD Laing wore many robes. At the peak of his fame in the 1970s, Laing was the most widely-read psychiatrist in the world. Arguably the most controversial psychoanalyst since Freud, he experienced a meteoric rise in the 1960s by making complex ideas accessible with best-selling clas­sics The Divided Self (1960), Sanity, Madness and Family (1964), The Politics of Experience (1967), and many others.

Laing’s impassioned plea for more humane treatment of society’s most vulnerable catapulted him into the forefront of intellectual and cultural debates about the nature of sanity and madness. A generation of psy­chology students, intellectuals, and artists turned this disarming Scotsman into a social icon, and Laing was a regular presenter at Esalen until his death in 1989.

One of the most seminal aspects of Laing’s approach to the human condition involved an exploration of how we treat one another. As a psychoanalyst, philosopher, and existentialist, he had a no-holds-barred critique of the dark sides of the human condition, as well as its virtues — the healing dimensions of our relationships. Our symposium this year will explore what healing entails in all of the many contexts we experience it, including psychotherapy, altered states, psychedelics, education, and any experience that brings us peace of mind and a more meaningful existence.

In previous Esalen workshops, we have explored the meaning of sanity, therapy, authenticity, love, happiness, spirituality, and ethics. The focus of this year’s Esalen symposium and workshop will shift to psychotherapy and training in existential psychoanalysis, a more philosophical yet personal approach to therapy initiated by Laing at the Philadelphia Association in London. Two of our workshop leaders trained with Laing and founded Free Association, Inc., and the New School for Existential Psychoanalysis to further this approach to healing. The workshop will consist of theoretical presentations (including several student presentations), panel discussions, and experiential breathwork exercises to demonstrate practical aspects of Laing’s legacy.

Among the questions we will explore:

  1. What is the relationship between healing and treatment?
  2. What experiences have we enjoyed that we believe were healing, and why?
  3. Does healing require “treatment,” or can extra-clinical experiences be just as healing, or more so?
  4. Is love an essential aspect of healing, or does it get in the way?
  5. Does healing reduce suffering, or does it simply increase our capacity to suffer with less distress?

Join us for five revelatory days to explore how we can promote more humane and effective ways of helping those suffering from the anguish of living.

Note to prospective participants: This program is best suited for those who are familiar with Laing’s work and who wish to explore it further. This program is not structured as an experiential workshop. There will be more lectures and witnessed dialogue than group discussions. Please read the description thoroughly to ensure this workshop is right for your personal growth goals.

Recommended Reading: The Death of Desire: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness and Essays in Existential Psychoanalysis: On the Primacy of Authenticity by M. Guy Thompson

Learn more about the requirements to receive continuing education credit.

Lead photo:
Ali Kaukas
Michael Guy Thompson

Michael Guy Thompson

Michael Guy Thompson, PhD, is a psychoanalyst who worked with R.D. Laing for many years in London. He continues to work with extreme states, and has been training therapists for more than 30 years. He has lectured all over the world and his books include The Death of Desire: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (2nd, revised edition) (Routledge).

Read More

Nita Gage

Nita Gage

Nita Gage, DSPS, trained with R.D. Laing at the Philadelphia Association in London. She also trained with shamanic teachers and specializes in integrative psycho spiritual healing, and is a teacher with Hoffman Institute. Nita is the author (with Linda Star Wolf) of Soul Whispering: The Art of Awakening Shamanic Consciousness.

Read More

Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra, PhD, is the author of several international bestsellers, including Uncommon Wisdom, which features his extensive conversations with R. D. Laing. His latest work, co-authored by Pier Luigi Luisi, is The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Cambridge University Press).

Read More

Categories:
Category :   
Workshop Schedule

Sunday
7:15 pm – 9:30 pm
Monday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Tuesday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Wednesday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Thursday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Friday
9:30 am – 12:00 pm

Summer Groovers will experience Esalen in a format similar to our Self Guided Explorations workshops. Each Summer Groove week or weekend will open and close with a circle, and be filled with festive, nostalgic activities that harken back to those days of yore.

More activities can be found on our open class schedule.

See general schedule information including arrival, departure and meal times.

Accommodations & Tuition

Click Register Now to view availability of accommodations and all-inclusive, program-specific tuition. Please note that not all accommodation levels are available for every workshop and additional faculty fees may apply.

We offer scholarship funds for those with financial need. Learn more.

Please note: On Wednesday September 20, online registration may be unavailable for up to 15 minutes while system maintenance is performed. If the 'Register Now' page does not load, please wait about 15 minutes and try again.

Accommodations & Tuition

Click Register Now to view availability of accommodations and all-inclusive tuition that includes lodging, three meals per day, access to the baths, and all activities on the Summer Groove schedule.

We offer scholarship funds for those with financial need. Learn more.

Accommodations & Tuition

For this workshop, you will register and pay for accommodations and tuition in two separate steps.

First, sign up and pay tuition directly to

Second, click Book Accommodations from this page and enter the password to complete your reservation to stay at Esalen.

Prices for accommodations include your lodging, meals, open classes, and use of the baths and other facilities. View partner program accommodations pricing.

COVID Update

As of June 30, 2023 we no longer require a negative COVID test at the time of check in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

All guests and faculty must provide proof of negative test results at time of check-in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests and faculty must provide proof of negative test results at time of check-in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective January 7, 2022 in response to the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant, all guests and faculty will provide proof of negative PCR, NAAT, or antigen test results at time of check-in. The test must be taken within 72 hours nd results must come from a laboratory or healthcare provider.Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective December 15 in accordance with new guidance from Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Health, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks (December 15, 2021 through January 15, 2022). Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective November 19, 2021, in accordance with new guidance from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are no longer required to wear masks indoors on campus. Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Starting November 5, 2021, due to substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission in Monterey County, a mask mandate established by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will go into effect. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

All guests will be required to provide proof of vaccination upon arrival starting September 3, 2021. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Masks are no longer mandated indoors or outdoors, except during massage sessions. Guests are not required to provide testing or vaccination verification before arriving on campus. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

All-inclusive Pricing

Michael Guy Thompson, Nita Gage and Fritjof Capra

September 24–29, 2023
Register Now

Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, social critic, author, poet, and mystic —  RD Laing wore many robes. At the peak of his fame in the 1970s, Laing was the most widely-read psychiatrist in the world. Arguably the most controversial psychoanalyst since Freud, he experienced a meteoric rise in the 1960s by making complex ideas accessible with best-selling clas­sics The Divided Self (1960), Sanity, Madness and Family (1964), The Politics of Experience (1967), and many others.

Laing’s impassioned plea for more humane treatment of society’s most vulnerable catapulted him into the forefront of intellectual and cultural debates about the nature of sanity and madness. A generation of psy­chology students, intellectuals, and artists turned this disarming Scotsman into a social icon, and Laing was a regular presenter at Esalen until his death in 1989.

One of the most seminal aspects of Laing’s approach to the human condition involved an exploration of how we treat one another. As a psychoanalyst, philosopher, and existentialist, he had a no-holds-barred critique of the dark sides of the human condition, as well as its virtues — the healing dimensions of our relationships. Our symposium this year will explore what healing entails in all of the many contexts we experience it, including psychotherapy, altered states, psychedelics, education, and any experience that brings us peace of mind and a more meaningful existence.

In previous Esalen workshops, we have explored the meaning of sanity, therapy, authenticity, love, happiness, spirituality, and ethics. The focus of this year’s Esalen symposium and workshop will shift to psychotherapy and training in existential psychoanalysis, a more philosophical yet personal approach to therapy initiated by Laing at the Philadelphia Association in London. Two of our workshop leaders trained with Laing and founded Free Association, Inc., and the New School for Existential Psychoanalysis to further this approach to healing. The workshop will consist of theoretical presentations (including several student presentations), panel discussions, and experiential breathwork exercises to demonstrate practical aspects of Laing’s legacy.

Among the questions we will explore:

  1. What is the relationship between healing and treatment?
  2. What experiences have we enjoyed that we believe were healing, and why?
  3. Does healing require “treatment,” or can extra-clinical experiences be just as healing, or more so?
  4. Is love an essential aspect of healing, or does it get in the way?
  5. Does healing reduce suffering, or does it simply increase our capacity to suffer with less distress?

Join us for five revelatory days to explore how we can promote more humane and effective ways of helping those suffering from the anguish of living.

Note to prospective participants: This program is best suited for those who are familiar with Laing’s work and who wish to explore it further. This program is not structured as an experiential workshop. There will be more lectures and witnessed dialogue than group discussions. Please read the description thoroughly to ensure this workshop is right for your personal growth goals.

Recommended Reading: The Death of Desire: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness and Essays in Existential Psychoanalysis: On the Primacy of Authenticity by M. Guy Thompson

Learn more about the requirements to receive continuing education credit.

Lead photo:
Ali Kaukas
Michael Guy Thompson

Michael Guy Thompson, PhD, is a psychoanalyst who worked with R.D. Laing for many years in London. He continues to work with extreme states, and has been training therapists for more than 30 years. He has lectured all over the world and his books include The Death of Desire: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (2nd, revised edition) (Routledge).

Read More

Nita Gage

Nita Gage, DSPS, trained with R.D. Laing at the Philadelphia Association in London. She also trained with shamanic teachers and specializes in integrative psycho spiritual healing, and is a teacher with Hoffman Institute. Nita is the author (with Linda Star Wolf) of Soul Whispering: The Art of Awakening Shamanic Consciousness.

Read More

Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra, PhD, is the author of several international bestsellers, including Uncommon Wisdom, which features his extensive conversations with R. D. Laing. His latest work, co-authored by Pier Luigi Luisi, is The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Cambridge University Press).

Read More

Workshop Schedule

Sunday
7:15 pm – 9:30 pm
Monday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Tuesday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Wednesday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Thursday
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Friday
9:30 am – 12:00 pm

Summer Groovers will experience Esalen in a format similar to our Self Guided Explorations workshops. Each Summer Groove week or weekend will open and close with a circle, and be filled with festive, nostalgic activities that harken back to those days of yore.

More activities can be found on our open class schedule.

See general schedule information including arrival, departure and meal times.

Accommodations & Tuition

Click Register Now to view availability of accommodations and all-inclusive, program-specific tuition. Please note that not all accommodation levels are available for every workshop and additional faculty fees may apply.

Accommodations & Tuition

Click Register Now to view availability of accommodations and all-inclusive tuition that includes lodging, three meals per day, access to the baths, and all activities on the Summer Groove schedule.

We offer scholarship funds for those with financial need. Learn more.

Accommodations & Tuition

For this workshop, you will register and pay for accommodations and tuition in two separate steps.

First, sign up and pay tuition directly to

Second, click Book Accommodations from this page and enter the password to complete your reservation to stay at Esalen.

Prices for accommodations include your lodging, meals, open classes, and use of the baths and other facilities. View partner program accommodations pricing.

COVID Update

As of June 30, 2023 we no longer require a negative COVID test at the time of check in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

All guests and faculty must provide proof of negative test results at time of check-in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests and faculty must provide proof of negative test results at time of check-in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective January 7, 2022 in response to the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant, all guests and faculty will provide proof of negative PCR, NAAT, or antigen test results at time of check-in. The test must be taken within 72 hours nd results must come from a laboratory or healthcare provider.Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective December 15 in accordance with new guidance from Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Health, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks (December 15, 2021 through January 15, 2022). Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective November 19, 2021, in accordance with new guidance from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are no longer required to wear masks indoors on campus. Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Starting November 5, 2021, due to substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission in Monterey County, a mask mandate established by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will go into effect. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

All guests will be required to provide proof of vaccination upon arrival starting September 3, 2021. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Masks are no longer mandated indoors or outdoors, except during massage sessions. Guests are not required to provide testing or vaccination verification before arriving on campus. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

All-inclusive Pricing