R.D. Laing in the 21st Century: What is Ethical? What is Moral?
June 27 – July 1, 2022
June 27, 2022
 - 
July 1, 2022
with Michael Guy Thompson, Fritjof Capra and Nita Gage
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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 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 many others.

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. He was a regular presenter at Esalen until his death in 1989.

One of the most seminal aspects to Laing’s approach to the human condition was his exploration into how human beings treat each other: the ethical dimension to our relationships. Laing was psychoanalyst, philosopher, and existentialist, with a no-holds barred critique of the dark side of the human condition, as well as its virtues.

Our program this year will explore what it means to be ethical from the broadest possible perspective, including secular, religious, and philosophical dimensions as conceived over the millennia, including the Greek era, spirituality, and common wisdom.

This program, designed for those seeking answers to what is right and wrong, is a continuation of our previous Esalen programs that focused, in turn, on Laing’s take about the nature of sanity and madness, the therapeutic relationship, altered states, the nature of love, authenticity, spirituality and, last year, happiness.

Our three program leaders will be joined by guest speaker attendees, (many of whom worked intimately with Laing) to assess the question of morality at the most fundamental level. The program will consist of theoretical presentations, panel discussions, and experiential exercises to demonstrate practical aspects of Laing’s legacy.

Among the questions we will explore:

  1. What is the relation between the ethical and the moral? Or is there a difference?
  2. How have our views about the nature of the moral evolved over the millennia?
  3. Does the ethical person have a better chance at happiness? Does it insulate us from suffering, or increase it?
  4. How does the Greek conception of ethics differ from the modern conception, rooted in the social contract?
  5. Is it possible to transcend good and evil? What role does love play in our notions about morality?

Join us for four breathtaking days to explore how we can promote more humane and effective ways of helping those suffering from everyday life.

Note to prospective participants: This program is not structured as an experiential workshop, and contains more lecture and witnessed dialogue than group discussion. Please read the description thoroughly to ensure this is the right fit for your personal growth goals.

This program is best suited for those who are familiar with Laing’s work and who wish to explore it further.

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).

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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).

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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.

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Workshop Schedule

Mon 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tue - Thu 9:30 am – 1:00 pm
Tue - Thu 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Fri 9:30 am – 12:00 pm

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

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

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