Thursday, 1 January 2015

Heidegger's Zollikon Seminars. A 50th-anniversary revaluation. 7. Seminars of 1 and 3 March 1966. Inner Circle Seminar 224 (6 March 2016)


Martin Heidegger
at home in Freiburg
Heidegger's Zollikon Seminars

A 50th-anniversary revaluation


7. Seminars of 1 and 3 March 1966


‘Unburdening and burdening are possible only through the human being's ecstatic being-outstretched
Martin Heidegger and Medard Boss
on the Feldweg south of Messkirch

Anthony Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 224
Sunday 6 March 2016
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Venue:  ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE

Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com

For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

‘Slips of the Freudians’. A dispute between Marxists – 40 years on. Inner Circle Seminar 222 (24 January 2016)

Sebastiano_Timpanaro.jpg (288×385)
Sebastiano Timpanaro

‘Slips of the Freudians’
A dispute between Marxists
40 years on

Sebastiano Timpanaro’s book The Freudian Slip (1974), criticisms by Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose (November/December 1975), and Timpanaro's response (January/February 1976)

Anthony Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 222
Sunday 24 January 2016
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Venue:   Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ (http://www.durrantshotel.co.uk/)
Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

Laing & Esterson. 3. The Churches. 50 years on. Inner Circle Seminar 221 (6 December 2015)


R. D. Laing
Aaron Esterson

Laing and Esterson
Sanity, Madness and the Family
(1964)

Continuing research on the families
50 years on

Family 3
The Churches

Anthony Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 221
Sunday 6 December 2015
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We believe that the shift of point of view that these descriptions both embody and demand has an historical significance no less radical than the shift from a demonological to a clinical viewpoint three hundred years ago.

Thus, in 1964, R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson introduced their revolutionary descriptions of eleven families of ‘schizophrenics’ in their epochmaking book Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics. But fifty years on, the ‘clinical viewpoint’ still rules supreme. Are Laing and Esterson ‘discredited’, as is claimed? Have they been proved wrong? Or are they not yet understood?

Laing and Esterson wrote: ‘No one can deny us the right to disbelieve in the fact of schizophrenia.’ Their fundamental question was:

Are the experience and behaviour that psychatrists take as symptoms and signs of schizophrenia more socially intelligible than has come to be supposed?

But most psychiatrists and psychotherapists will tell you that Laing and Esterson said: ‘families cause schizophrenia’  the very ‘schizophrenia’ they insisted they disbelieved in. In other words, most psychiatrists and psychotherapists find it difficult to read the plain English that Laing and Esterson wrote. They dont contradict it  they simply manage not to see it. Is this because it would be too threatening to them to see it and to consider it seriously?

What Laing and Esterson recorded and wrote about is the very stuff of life. As Hilary Mantel put it, in her moving introduction to the first seminar in this new subseries, it is the simple words the people speakThere is no psychology’ or metapsychology’ deeper than this, or behind’ itAs  Esterson said, these are the deepest secrets. But they are open to all. Everything is there, in a sense, on the surface, in what people say to one another.

Mantel described in 2008 how the book gave her the courage to become a writer:

The people in it seemed close enough to touch... Each interview is a novel or play in miniature. So many of these family conversations seemed familiar to me: their swerves and evasions, their doubleness... For most of my life I had been told that I didn't know how the world worked. That afternoon I decided I did know, after all. In the course of my twenty-one years I'd noticed quite a lot. If I wanted to be a writer, I didn't have to worry about inventing material, I'd already got it. The next stage was just to find some words.

She also wrote:

All the patients profiled in the book are young women. I know their names are pseudonyms, but over the years I've wondered desperately what happened to them, and if there's anyone alive who knows, and whether any of them ever cut free from the choking knotweed of miscommunication and flourished on ground of their own: Ruth, who was thought odd because she wore coloured stockings; Jean, who wanted a baby though her whole family told her she didn't; and Sarah, whose breakdown, according to her family, was caused by too much thinking.

(http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/sep/06/1)

From my historical research, I am able to answer some of Hilary Mantels questions. In this seminar I shall report my findings on Claire Church and her family, including a follow-up investigation of her life during the more than fifty years since the family discussions conducted by Esterson in 1959 and reported in the book of 1964. I shall draw on my conversations with Claire Church herself over the last fifteen years.

As Laing and Esterson wrote:

Surely, if we are wrong, it would be easy to show that we are, by studying a few families and revealing that 'schizophrenics' really are talking a lot of nonsense after all.

Might not new light also be thrown on this question by answering Hilary Mantel’s question about what happened later to the eleven women in Laing and Esterson’s book and studying the development over the next half-century of the very same families that they studied? This is what I have done, over the last fifteen years, and I invite you to collaborate in assessing their findings and mine at the seminar on 22 March.

‘The highly respected Anthony Stadlen, who has practised as an existential-phenomenological psychotherapist in London for over thirty years, continues to this day to hold well-attended and regular seminars in London on a wide variety of existential-psychotherapy-related topics, including dedicated all-day sessions focusing on the individual families featured in the ground-breaking work Sanity, Madness and the Family, first published over forty years ago.’
Adrian Laing, son of R. D. Laing (R. D. Laing: A Life, 2nd edition, 2006)

Venue: ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail: stadlen@aol.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/


The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

Heidegger's Zollikon Seminars. A 50th-anniversary revaluation. 6. Seminars of 23 and 26 November 1965. Inner Circle Seminar 220 (22 November 2015)


Martin Heidegger
at home in Freiburg
Heidegger's Zollikon Seminars

A 50th-anniversary revaluation


6. Seminars of 23 and 26 November 1965


‘Whence comes the insight that ... the Sein of the Da is ecstatic ...?
Martin Heidegger and Medard Boss
on the Feldweg south of Messkirch

Anthony Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 220
Sunday 22 November 2015
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Between 1959 and 1969 the German philosopher Martin Heidegger conducted seminars for psychiatrists in the Swiss psychiatrist Medard Bosss house in Zollikon near Zürich. Fifty years later almost to the day, we focus on his seminar of 23 and 26 November 1965, the last of his five seminars that year.

Heidegger says his psychiatrist listeners will have noticed that he doesnt want to make philosophers of them; but, rather, only to help them attend to what unavoidably (unumgänglichconcerns the human being yet is not immediately accessible (zugänglichto him or her. He says: The practice of this attentiveness demands both from you and from me a particular methodological attitude about which we have not spoken until now, because I wanted first to try practising this matter with you in order in due course to speak with you explicitly about the method.

He begins by addressing the criticisms by seminar participants that Daseinsanalysis is anti-scientific, anti-objective and anti-conceptual. He asks what Freud means by analysis. He alleges that Freud nowhere in his writings explains why he chose the word analysis’. He also alleges that Freud intends his analysis’ to provide a reductive causal explanation. We shall see in our own seminar that the first of these two allegations of Heidegger’s is simply false and that the second is itself crudely reductive. We shall also see that the authorised American translation further confuses Heideggers already flawed argument.

Heidegger is then diverted by a participants (possibly prearranged?) question into a lengthy attack on Binswangerpsychiatric Daseinsanalysis’, which, he says (with considerable justification), misunderstands and distorts Heideggers thinking, by redundantly supplementing Heideggers (ontological) care with Binswanger’s (ontic) love. Heidegger elucidates his own use in Being and Time of the terms Daseinsanalytics and DaseinsanalysisHe gives an interesting account of how Aristotles assertion, ‘Being is said in many ways’, was the lightning-flash that sparked the question Heidegger explored in Being and TimeWhat then is the unity of these manifold meanings of Being? What does Being mean, anyway? This led to the next question: How is Being related to time? And so to the discussion of 'Da-sein, human existence, and 'the insight that ... the Sein of the Da is ecstatic’.

This complex discussion occupies the first of the two evenings of the seminar. On the second evening, Heidegger returns to the criticisms that Daseinsanalysis is anti-scientific, anti-objective and anti-conceptual. He shows that they cannot be addressed without a searching investigation of the meaning of 'science'object and 'concept. Anxiety and fear are not objects. Rigorous science is not necessarily exact science. Exactness is only one form of rigour. To try to calculate the incalculable is unscientific, unobjective, misplaced.

You are cordially invited to participate in our attempt to go over the ground of what is (despite its errors mentioned above) Heideggers carefully reasoned exposition and argument, and to reflect on its practical relevance for our everyday practice as psychotherapists.

Venue:    ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE

Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com

For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

Existential Pioneers. 21. Paul Tillich. Inner Circle Seminar 219 (25 October 2015)

tillich-2-sized.jpg (241×261)
Paul Tillich
Existential Pioneers
21. Paul Tillich
(1886–1965)
Existential theologian of the ‘God above God’

Anthony Stadlen

conducts Inner Circle Seminar No. 219
Sunday 25 October 2015
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Paul Tillich (20 August 1886 – 22 October 1965) was a leading twentieth-century existential Christian theologian. In Systematic Theology (1951, 1957, 1963) he wrote: ‘God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him.’ He insists that God is the ‘God above God’: not a god called ‘God’, not a being among beings.

Tillich found God in non-Christian religions and in ‘secular’ art, in ways often lacking in ChristianityAs a German, he courageously opposed the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews, and had himself to escape to the United States. In The Shaking of the Foundations (1949), he movingly invoked Isaiah and other Hebrew prophets. But he wrote, in The Courage to Be (1952), after the extermination of millions of Jews during the second world war, that Stoicism is the only real alternative to Christianity in the Western world’; thus he exemplified the standard Christian-theological blankness on Judaism. 

Tillich’s son questioned his theologian father’s hypocrisy over his sexual affairs, but Tillich said he had never spoken on adultery; and his student, the existential analyst Rollo May, said Tillich ‘did enjoy good pornography’. May called The Courage to Be ‘the most existential book written in America’. R. D. Laing ended his last book with an allusion to Tillich’s power to disturb. You are invited to help evaluate the work of this complex and controversial, radical existential thinker.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
                  Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

Fort! - Da! A century of speculation on Freud's grandson's game. Inner Circle Seminar 218 (4 October 2015)

Fort!–Da!
1915–2015
A century of speculations on Freud’s grandson’s game

Anthony Stadlen
conducts Inner Circle Seminar No. 218
Sunday 4 October 2015
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In September 1915 Sigmund Freud watched his 18-month-old grandson Ernst ‘very skilfully’ throw a wooden reel on a string into his cot with a cry ‘o-o-o-o’, which Freud thought meant ‘fort’ [gone], and then make it reappear with a joyful ’da’ [there]. This became the paradigm case for a century of far-reaching speculations, including Freud’s own on the ‘death instinct’ in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) and the philosopher Jacques Derrida’s in The Post Card (1980). Our existential-phenomenological exploration of this history will draw on the psychoanalyst Daniel Benveniste’s research on Ernst reported in his recent masterly biography, The Interwoven Lives of Sigmund, Anna and W. Ernest Freud: Three Generations of Psychoanalysts (2015).

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost:  Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
                  Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

Heidegger's Zollikon Seminars. A 50th-anniversary revaluation. 5. Seminars of 6 and 8 July 1965. Inner Circle Seminar 217 (19 July 2015)


Martin Heidegger
at home in Freiburg
Heidegger's Zollikon Seminars

A 50th-anniversary revaluation


5. Seminars of 6 and 8 July 1965


‘Is the body and its bodying ... something somatic or something psychic or neither of the two?
Martin Heidegger and Medard Boss
on the Feldweg south of Messkirch

Anthony Stadlen
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 217
Sunday 19 July 2015
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.



Between 1959 and 1969 the German philosopher Martin Heidegger conducted seminars for psychiatrists in the Swiss psychiatrist Medard Bosss house in Zollikon near Zürich. Fifty years later almost to the day, we focus on his seminar of 6 and 8 July 1965, the fourth of his five that year.

He begins with a whole sack full of questions arising from the previous seminar  sixteen of them  which Boss has given him on his arrival. He continues to bewilder his psychiatrist listeners by invoking a way of bodily thinking that precedes any split into soma and psyche.

He asks how such a clever’ and reasonable’ person as Descartes could come up with such a strange’ theory, in which the human being exists at first only for him- or herself alone without a relation to things. (This is yet another of Heidegger's pregnant observations made nonsense of by the authorised American translation, which mistranslates the last phrase as alone by himself in relationship to things. One of the purposes of these Inner Circle Seminars on the Zollikon Seminars is to correct some of these bizarre and confusing mistranslations for existential therapists and others who do not know German.)

He invokes a more primordial meaning of count and measure. He points out that, although the theory of relativity refers to the position of the observer, natural science cannot understand or even ask what this means. He invites the astonished participants to experience bodily the simple act of measuring the diameter of a table.

This is an extraordinarily rich seminar, in which Heidegger covers a great deal of ground, fundamental to what we try to do as psychotherapists. We shall seek to recapture some of the spirit of this great seminar by trying to re-think some of the questions he asks. We shall, for example, ourselves meditatively reenact the measuring of a table while trying to maintain awareness of the body and its bodying.

Heidegger says there is a need for doctors who think. Professor Wilhelm von Herrmann praises Boss as just such a thinking doctor. But we shall ask whether, in his focus on doctors, Heidegger is himself colluding unreflectingly with Bosss vision of Daseinsanalysis as a medical enterprise.

Most of us – even if we call ourselves existential therapists and phenomenologists – have been corrupted and confused by the ideology of scientism. In this seminar we shall strive, through dialogue, to do justice to Heideggers clarifying vision. If we cannot, then our therapy’ remains technological tinkering and our righteousness is as filthy rags.

Venue:    ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE

Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com

For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

Tensed Time and Free Will. Raymond Tallis conducts Inner Circle Seminar 216 (28 June 2015)


Tensed Time and Free Will
                
Raymond-Tallis-008.jpg (460×276)
Raymond Tallis

Raymond Tallis
conducts
Inner Circle Seminar No. 216
introduced by
Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 28 June 2015
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Raymond Tallis gave the memorable Inner Circle Seminar No. 184 on 2 December 2012 in which he showed how biologism aspires to turn the ‘humanities’ into ‘animalities’. Today, he will continue to show the absurdity of reductionism. He will demonstrate the falsity of the purported use of neuroscience to disprove free will.

In the spirit of Samuel Johnson, Martin Heidegger and John Horton Conway, it may be asked why philosophers, psychotherapists or anybody at all should be trying to prove free will. Is not the onus on those who deny it to explain their reasons? However, those who are wavering, tempted by the seduction of neuroscientism dressed as neuroscience, perhaps sensing its wrongness but unsure how to resist, will surely gain heart from the clarity and rigour of Raymond Talliss elucidation.

He will present his argument in two parts during the first hour or so of the seminar. We shall then discuss it in depth and detail. 

Raymond Tallis summarises his argument as follows:

1. Determinism and Neurodeterminism: The Case Against Free Will

The traditional case for determinism is based on the assumption that humans are ultimately material objects – specifically their brains - wired into a causally closed universe. This metaphysical argument against free will has recently been supplemented by interpretations of experimental findings in neuroscience, notably those associated with Benjamin Libet and John Dylan-Hayes. Attempts to escape determinism and neurodeterminism by appeal to chaos theory, quantum indeterminacy, and the notion that humans break the laws of nature in virtue of being uncaused causes will be criticised.

2. Tensed Time and Human Freedom

The second part of the seminar will undermine the case for determinism first by critiquing the fundamental assumption that humans are their brains and human consciousness identical with neural activity. The discussion will begin with intentionality and its failure to fit into a world that seems to be causally closed. This will ground a critique of the notion of causation as an inherent property of the material world and will help us to understand how voluntary actions are possible in a world of material events (that include actions). The co-evolution of first-person being, selfhood, agency, and freedom will be examined. All of these will be connected with the temporal depth – made explicit in tensed time  that is unique to human consciousness. Freedom will be shown to be neither impossible nor an illusion.

Raymond Tallis BM BCh MA FRCP LittD (Hon Causa) DLitt (Hon Causa) F Med Sci FRSA was Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant physician in Health Care of the Elderly in Salford until 2006. He also advised the government on health care of older people and in particular on the development of stroke services. He has published 200 research articles in the neurology of old age (epilepsy and stroke) and neurological rehabilitation, and original articles in NatureMedicineLancet and other leading journals. In 2000 he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He received the Dhole Eddlestone Prize; the Founders Medal of the British Geriatrics Society; the Lord Cohen Gold Medal for Research into Ageing. He is Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.

He has published a novel, short stories, three volumes of poetry, and 23 books on the philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art, and cultural criticism. These offer a critique of current predominant intellectual trends and an alternative understanding of human consciousness, the nature of language and of what it is to be a human being. For this he has been awarded two honorary degrees: DLitt (Hon Causa) University of Hull, 1997; and LittD (Hon Causa) University of Manchester 2002. 
In 2008 he was appointed Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of English at the University of Liverpool. He writes op-eds for The Times and has a column in Philosophy Now. He is a regular at the leading literary and science festivals. He is a frequent broadcaster, with recent appearances on Start the WeekNightwavesInside the Ethics Committee and The Moral Maze. Among his recent books are Aping Mankind. Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity (2011) and Reflections of a Metaphysical Flaneur and Other Essays (2013). 

In 2009, the Economist Intelligent Life Magazine listed him as one of the world’s 20 leading polymaths.


Venue:   Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ (http://www.durrantshotel.co.uk/)
Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
                   Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: stadlen@aol.com
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen 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.

Magna Carta and compulsory psychiatry. For the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. (15 June 1215 – 15 June 2015)

Sarah-Rees-Yew-3.jpg (730×410)
This more-than-2000-years-old Ankerwycke yew
in the beautiful meadows by the Thames at Runnymede
witnessed the sealing of Magna Carta on 15 June 1215
Magna Carta and compulsory psychiatry
For the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta
15 June 1215 – 15 June 2015

Anthony Stadlen


On 15 June 2015, King John met his barons in the meadow at Runnymede on the Thames where his Great Seal was affixed to Magna Carta, the document universally acclaimed as the foundation of British justice and freedom. Over subsequent centuries, certain practices and institutions, hitherto accepted as part of the natural or divine order, came to be seen as violations of the principles of which Magna Carta was the fount and symbol. One such practice was slavery.

I propose that another such practice which violates the principles deriving from Magna Carta is compulsory clinical psychiatry.

The Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger, who is renowned as the founder or father of psychiatric existential analysis’, was, as Director of the Bellevue sanatorium’ at Kreuzlingen, an eminent psychiatric gaoler of the embarrassing relatives of the great and good, including such patients’ as Nijinsky, Aby Warburg, and Princess Alice, our present Queens mother-in-law. Binswanger claimed that his nineteenth-century precursor, the psychiatrist Wilhelm Griesinger, had written ‘the Magna Carta of clinical psychiatry’. This is an impertinent abuse of the name and prestige of Magna Carta in an attempt to legitimise practices alien to its spirit. Neither Griesinger nor Binswanger mentioned that the clinical psychiatry’ they practised routinely included psychiatric incarceration and compulsory treatment .

Thomas Szasz in 1963 denounced such practices as crimes against humanity and called for them to be legally abolished, just as slavery had been.

Aaron Esterson in 1972 wrote that, at the very least, even in the absence of outright abolition, whenever a psychiatrist orders that a designated patient’ be incarcerated or compulsorily treated’, a video-recording of the psychiatrists examination of the so-called patient’ should be evaluated by a panel of ordinary men and women, peers of the patient’, like the jury in a criminal trial. 

Esterson wrote that such a panel of lay persons should be guided by the principle that what they are examining is not the fact of mental illness but an attribution of mental illness to one person by one or more other persons, including the psychiatrist. Esterson proposed that the person alleged to be mentally ill’ should have the right: 

(1) the right to know exactly what he or she has done that the other persons, including the psychiatrist, regard as evidence of mental illness;
(2) the right to question or refute the psychiatrist;
(3) the right not to have his or her attempt to question or refute the psychiatrist taken as itself evidence of mental illness .  

Szasz and Esterson were both appealing to principles of accusatorial justice painfully developed through centuries of struggle starting with Magna Carta. These principles are utterly different from the primitive, persecutory, inquisitorial, police-state procedures of clinical psychiatry.

In our subseries of Inner Circle Seminars, Locked Up: ‘Patients and their Gaolers, we have seen, in every case, how people of moral integrity, creativity and originality have been incarcerated and tortured by being forcibly treated’ on the basis of arbitrary and unscrutinised psychiatric ‘diagnoses’ and decisions.

We shall continue to run the series Locked Up: ‘Patients and their Gaolers as a subseries of the Inner Circle Seminars as long as these seminars continue and as long as there exists a psychiatry which is expected and required to have arrogant disregard for the great principle enshrined in Chapter 39 of Magna Carta:

No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go against him, nor will we send against him, save by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.

The law has had to acknowledge more and more people, including women and slaves, as free, responsible citizens. Compulsive clinical psychiatry persists in seeing and treating those it designates as ‘patients as unfree, irresponsible non-citizens.