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lunedì 10 marzo 2014

LONDON CALLING: Anthony Stadlen's 2014 SEMINARS []

from a mail:

Dear colleague,

I should like to draw your attention to the overall pattern of the Inner Circle Seminars for 2014. This year includes the 50th anniversary of Laing and Esterson's fundamental book Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics, published in 1964. It also includes the 25th anniversary of Laing's death.
We shall be starting a new subseries of eleven seminars, over the coming three years, one devoted to each of the eleven families in the book. This year, 2014, all seminars explore in some way the context of this book, in ways I shall sketch below. (The first two of the eleven have, of course, already taken place.) As you will see, six most distinguished international speakers will be conducting six of the eleven seminars.


On 19 January, Professor Paul Weindling, who in 2012 conducted a horrifying seminar on the Nazi extermination of the "mentally ill" and "mentally handicapped", reported on his extraordinarily comprehensive research on Dr John W. Thompson, the psychiatrist who, starting from his experience with victims of the Nazi concentration camps, was responsible for ensuring the criminal trials of some of  the doctors involved. He also pioneered a form of existential therapy that impressed Laing -- who said Thompson was the only person who knew more than he about "schizophrenia" -- and many other leading psychiatrists, psychotherapists, writers and poets. Thompson thus prepared the way for existential psychotherapy and for Laing and Esterson's epochmaking research and book.


On 16 February, Dr Susannah Wilson, who had already conducted an acclaimed seminar on Camille Claudel's incarceration in a madhouse, conducted a seminar on the autobiography of an earlier incarcerated French "madwoman" of the 19th century, Hersilie Rouy. Susannah Wilson took issue with most of the secondary literature on Rouy, including Jeffrey Masson's account in Against Therapy. She argued that much of this literature tries to prove that Rouy was "sane", as if her incarceration would have been justified if she were "insane".


On 16 March, we shall study Laing and Cooper's Reason and Violence: A Decade of Sartre's Philosophy 1950-60, published the month before Sanity, Madness and the Family. Laing and Cooper, with Sartre's strong endorsement, give a lucid, closely argued exposition of Sartre's Saint Genet, Questions of Method, and Critique of Dialectical Reason. This is the philosophical groundwork for Sanity, Madness and the Family. It also shows admirably how psychoanalysis, American sociology, anthropology, Marxism etc. may be integrated dialectically into an overall deveoping view of history always acknowledging, above all, the individual's freely chosen praxis is axiomatic. But we shall ask whether all this complexity is necessary to understand that human beings are free agents not automata. (Might not Thomas Reid's Scottish Common Sense Philosophy have served as well?)

We shall also note that, while Laing and Cooper make much of "violence" as the opposite of "love" or "reason",  they follow a trend that  Hannah Arendt was to criticise in Sartre's Critique (which influenced Fanon, as we shall see later in the year): the idealising by intellectuals of violence by the oppressed as a good in itself. We shall also look at how Laing and Cooper use the word "violence": Laing claims that the mother's first kiss is an act of "violence" and Cooper looks forward to a revolution entailing the "compassionate" use of machine-guns and bombs.


On 27 April we celebrate the fact that this is both the 50th anniversary month of the publication of Sanity, Madness and the Family and the 450th anniversary month of Shakespeare's birth. This is, in a way, the key seminar of 2014. We shall point to parallels between what might be termed Shakespeare's existential-phenomenological social studies and Laing and Esterson's family dramas. This will be the first of a set of seminars on "'Sanity', 'Madness' and Shakespeare" interlacing the eleven seminars on the eleven Laing and Esterson families.


On 18 May, anyone tempted to create an idealising personality cult of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir will be rudely brought down to earth by the distinguished author Carole Seymour-Jones's devastating and disillusioning account of the squalid way in which these people, with their "necessary" relationship, actually conducted their "contingent" personal and political relationships. She will present material from her researches on which her book A Dangerous Liaison: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre is based. Those who attended Carole Seymour-Jones's superb seminar on the psychiatric incarceration of T. S. Eliot's first wife Vivienne know the quality of her work.  


On 22 June, Sarah Wise, author of the fine book Inconvenient People, will focus on another celebrated 19th-century alleged "lunatic", John Perceval, whose autobiography, republished with an introduction by Gregory Bateson, was recommended by Laing, Esterson and Cooper in lectures and seminars at Kingsley Hall in the 1960s. Bateson's profound introduction to Perceval's Narrative was taken by Laing as a paradigm of how to understand a "psychotic breakdown" as a "voyage in inner space and time...a natural way of healing our own appalling state of alienation called normality". Thus began the 1960s romanticising of "madness", a distraction from Esterson's serious work in Sanity, Madness and the Family. Esterson deplored Laing's messianic manner and mannerisms, but he too endorsed Bateson's understanding of Perceval. Susan Wise will report her further research findings to help us make socially intelligible how John Perceval came to be locked up.


On 6 July and 28 September, we shall start the eleven detailed seminars on the eleven families of Sanity, Madness and the Family: Family 1, the Abbotts; Family 2, the Blairs.


On 19 October, Professor Richard Rojcewicz, former Executive Director of the Simon Silverman Phenomenology Center at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, will give a careful reading of Martin Heidegger's 1954 essay "Die Frage nach der Technik" ("The "Question Concerning Technology"). Richard Rojcewicz is one of the world's finest Heidegger translators, and his book The Gods and Technology: A Reading of Heidegger stands out in a revelatory way from the other secondary literature on Heidegger's essay on technology. Laing gave a talk, "Violence and Love", at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1964, just before Sanity, Madness and the Family was published. Laing quoted Heidegger's sentence "The Dreadful has already happened" from his essay "The Thing", which is closely linked to his essay on technology. Thus Heidegger's thinking of the 1950s was -- with Sartre's -- very much part of the context of Sanity, Madness and the Family. It is likely that participants at this seminar, having heard Richard Rojcewicz's fundamental elucidation of  Heidegger's essay, and read his new translation of it (which he will supply), will feel they have really begun to understand it for the first time.

Please note that this a subscription seminar, which must be booked by 19 April.


On 16 November, we shall study the writings of Frantz Fanon (20 July 1925 – 6 December 1961), a Martinique-born, French-trained psychiatrist who worked in colonial Algeria. His writings (all in French) have inspired many independence movements. His Black Skin, White Masks (1952) was influenced by existential phenomenology and psychoanalysis. Jean-Paul Sartre, whose Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) was a major influence on Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961), enthusiastically endorsed in his preface to that book Fanon’s thesis of the ‘cleansing’ power of revolutionary violence, which Fanon stated thus:

Violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organised and educated by its leaders, makes it possible for the masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them. Without that struggle, without that knowledge of the practice of action, there’s nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of the trumpets. There’s nothing but a minimum of readaptation, a few reforms at the top, a flag waving: and down there at the bottom an undivided mass, still living in the middle ages, endlessly marking time.

As Sartre put it:

The rebel’s weapon is the proof of his humanity. For in the first days of the revolt you must kill: to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man, and a free man...

Hannah Arendt criticised this thesis in On Violence (1970). David Macey, in his biography of Fanon (2001), writes:

He certainly had a talent for hate and he did advocate and justify a violence that I can no longer justify. And yet, his first readers sensed in his work a great generosity.

There is, indeed, far more to Fanon than the advocacy of violence. To give just one example: his classic account of the police torturer who consults him as a psychotherapist to help him continue torturing but without feeling guilt is essential reading for psychotherapists of any school in any society.
R. D. Laing identified Fanon as one of a select few (“Artaud, Merleau-Ponty, Fanon, Marcuse, Grass”) with whom “truly contemporary experience and thought begins”. In today’s seminar we shall study Fanon as a great, if problematic, existential pioneer. We shall draw on his two books mentioned above, on his Studies in a Dying Colonialism (1959) and For the African Revolution (1964), and on Macey’s fine biography.

On 14 December, we bring the year to an end with a seminar on his father conducted by Adrian Laing, son of R. D. Laing. Throughout 2014 we have explored Laing and Esterson’s Sanity Madness and the Family (1964) and its social and philosophical context fifty years ago. By 1966 the collaboration between R. D. Laing and  Aaron Esterson was virtually at an end (though they wrote a fine preface to the second edition of 1970). Esterson saw Laing as engaged in a frivolous, destructive messianic quest. According to Adrian Laing, his father "loved sitting up on a stage, with disciples at his feet, being adored but never challenged. He loved being treated as a guru – too much for his own good." To this day there are former colleagues of Laing who suppose that his repeated insulting, drunken and violent behaviour to them and their friends was the subtle intervention of a master psychologist and spiritual guide, therapeutically and esoterically designed to correct their idealisation of him. Nevertheless,Laing’s brilliant writing an Esterson’s original, revolutionary research made their book of 1964 a masterpiece.

Adrian Laing is a barrister. He is a former student of Michel Foucault and friend of David Cooper, and author of R. D. Laing: A Biography (1994) [second edition: R. D. Laing: A Life (2006)] and the novel Rehab Blues (2012), written as "laughter therapy", which satirises "therapies" such as "rebirthing" practised by his father. He is uniquely qualified to facilitate our quest for a balanced assessment of his father.

Please note that this is a subscription seminar, which must be booked by 14 June.


There are significant reductions if you want to book for the remaining nine seminars of 2014.

You can find details of this year's remaining seminars and how to book for them below, or at I hope you will be able to come to at least some of them.  

With best wishes,

Anthony Stadlen

March 2014  to December 2014

Conducted by:  Anthony Stadlen (unless otherwise stated, in which case they are introduced by him)

Time:  Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Venue:  Durrants Hotel, 26-32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ ( (unless otherwise stated)

Cost: Students and psychotherapy trainees £116; others £145 in advance; all-day mineral water and liquorice allsorts, morning and afternoon coffee, tea and biscuits, included; some bursaries; reductions for a year’s seminars. and for some other combinations of seminars; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled

Apply to:  Anthony Stadlen, "Oakleigh", 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Telephone:  +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  Email: 

16 March 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 201
(R. D. Laing and David Cooper, March 1964)
A 50th-anniversary revaluation

27 April 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 202
1. For the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth (23 April 1564)
and the 50th anniversary of Laing and Esterson's Sanity, Madness and the Family (April 1964)

18 May 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 203
Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

22 June 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 204

6 July 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 205
Families of Schizophrenics
50 years on
Family 1: The Abbotts

28 September 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 206
Families of Schizophrenics
50 years on
Family 2: The Blairs

19 October 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 207
The Question Concerning Technology (1954)
An elucidation 60 years on

16 November 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 208

14 December 2014
Inner Circle Seminar No. 209
remembered by his son
25 years after his death
50 years after Sanity, Madness and the Family

Anthony Stadlen founded the Inner Circle Seminars in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as "Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness". But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

The Inner Circle Seminars take place on Sundays, and last from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (occasionally to 10 p.m.). Most are conducted by Anthony Stadlen, but many have been conducted by international authorities in a number of disciplines, including Laura Barnett, Alexandra Birkert, Rachel Blass, Vladimir Bukovsky, Havi Hannah Carel, Alessandra Comini, Barry Cooper, Susan Cooper, Ernst Falzeder, Tamás Fazekas, Antony Flew, "Emma Gold", Lawrence Goldie, Tom Greeves, Daphne Hampson, Jacqueline Hamrit, Salomé Hangartner, David Harsent, John Heaton, Gitta Henning, Susannah Heschel, Alice Holzhey-Kunz, Jim Hopkins, Allan Ingram, Han Israëls, Marianne Jaccard, Uta Jaenicke, Sheila Kitzinger, Claudia Koonz, Mette Lebech, Zvi Lothane, Franz Maciejewski, Malcolm Macmillan, Rodney Mariner, Sarah Menin, Kate Millett, Jack Newman, Hansjörg Reck, Nigel Reeves, Phyllis Roth, Peter Rudnytsky, Fred Sander, Jeffrey Schaler, Morton Schatzman, Carole Seymour-Jones, Gitta Sereny, Sonu Shamdasani, Ann-Helen Siirala, Martti Siirala, David Singmaster, Richard Skues, Naomi Stadlen, Peter Swales, Thomas Szasz, Raymond Tallis, Terence Tanner, Michael Tregenza, Hugo Vickers, Antti Vihinen, Edward Walden, Paul Weindling, Karin Weisensel, Susannah Wilson, Sir Christopher Zeeman.

The seminars themselves have an international reputation. They study thinkers whose work is of incalculable importance for the foundations of psychotherapy and related disciplines: Austen, Andreas-Salomé, Becker, Binswanger, Blass, Bleuler, Boss, Bowen, Breuer, Buber, Bukovsky, Cioffi, Coleridge, Collingwood, Condrau, Cooper, Eliot, Esterson, Ferenczi, Flew, Fließ, Flournoy, Freud, Heaton, Heidegger, Heschel, Hoch, Hoche, Holzhey-Kunz, Husserl, Jaspers, Johnson, Jones, Jung, Kierkegaard, Klein, Laing, Lévinas, Lomas, Marcel, Merleau-Ponty, Millett, Minuchin, Myers, Nabokov, Patočka, Reich, Rilke, Rogers, Sander, Sartre, Schaler, Scheler, Schiller, Schreber, Siirala, Stein, Straus, Szasz, Tallis, Thompson, von Hildebrand, Watsuji, Wittgenstein, Zeeman. The seminars are both for advanced professionals and for students of psychotherapy and other disciplines who seek a place where they can explore perplexities. The heart of the seminars is discussion and dialogue, though some people prefer not to speak. You may attend as many or as few seminars as you wish. They are recognised as Continued Professional Development for psychotherapists. You will receive a certificate of attendance if you ask.

Anthony Stadlen has practised since 1970 as an existential-phenomenological individual and family analyst. He is registered as an existential psychotherapist by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (Society for Existential Analysis and Regent's School of Psychotherapy and Psychology, London) and as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist by the British Psychoanalytic Council (Senior Member, British Psychotherapy Foundation) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (Association of Independent Psychotherapists). He is Independent Effective Member (UK) of the International Federation for Daseinsanalysis. He is an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Regent's School of Psychotherapy and Psychology, London. He is a former Research Fellow of the Freud Museum, London. His research has been sponsored by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Essex and supported by the Nuffield Foundation. He received the 2003 Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Services to the Cause of Civil Liberties (professional category) from the Center for Independent Thought, New York City.

Anthony Stadlen
2A Alexandra Avenue
GB - London N22 7XE
Tel.: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857
Founder (in 1996) and convenor of the Inner Circle Seminars: an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy
See "Existential Psychotherapy & Inner Circle Seminars: Anthony Stadlen, London UK" at for programme of future Inner Circle Seminars and complete archive of past seminars

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