Mitchell Ginsberg, Ph.D.
Ronnie (R. D.) Laing


Ronnie (R.D.) Laing

R.D. Laing, MD (1927-1989) was a Scottish-born psychiatrist, who later trained at the Tavistock Institute in London as a psychoanalyst. His revolutionary ideas about therapy and mental illness raised some fundamental questions for the world of psychiatry and psychotherapy. His earlier books included The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (1960), The Self and Others (1961), and The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise (1967). His study with senior author Aaron Esterson of families that demonstrated the rationality behind schizophrenic manifestations, Sanity, Madness, and the Family (1964), and his The Politics of the Family (1971) are two books that are less known but quite insightful and questioning of the then-dominant understanding of schizophrenia and mental illness.

His work at Kingsley Hall (earlier known as the London residence of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, was an alternative approach to the treatment of schizophrenia. With Laing present at this center, under the administration of the Philadelphia Association, it was visited by Loren Mosher before he took a position at Yale and later became Head of NIMH’s Center of Studies for Schizophrenia, and the Kinsley Hall model was the basis of the Soteria Project.

On a personal note, my various contacts and personal discussions with Laing, first in New Haven in the spring of 1973 and last some ten years later, in San Diego in 1973, were always quite intense, inspiring, and challenging. A lecture he gave in Geneva in 1978 that I was able to attend showed his brilliane in thinking and articulating highly defined concepts of understanding of our human nature. His discussion there of experience before birth was perhaps a preliminary articulation of what later appeared in The Voice of Experience: Experience, Science and Psychiatry (1982).

Interested readers may also find further relevant discussion at Metanoia and The Laing Society.


© Mitchell D. Ginsberg, Ph.D.