Wednesday 1 January 2014

Existential Pioneers. 18. John Thompson. Paul Weindling conducts Inner Circle Seminar 199 (19 January 2014)

John Thompson

Existential Pioneers

18. John Thompson

Paul Weindling
Inner Circle Seminar No. 199
introduced by
Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 19 January 2014
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dr John W. Thompson (8 May 1906 – 18 August 1965) published little, preferring what Buber called ‘the life of dialogue’. But this almost forgotten psychiatrist was a true existential pioneer. Behind the scenes, he quietly influenced many leading psychotherapists, writers and poets. From his ‘annihilating and illuminating’ experience with victims of the Nazi concentration camps, he persuaded the Allied authorities to recognise medical war crimes as a special category for prosecution. He developed an existential and spiritual approach to psychotherapy that deeply impressed Auden, Spender, Yerushalmi, Layard, Laing, Berke, Sander, among others. Schatzman dissented, being sceptical about what he saw as a cult around Thompson. Auden, however, insisted that Thompson did not want a circle of admirers. He saw Thompson as in the healing tradition of the poet Novalis: every sickness a musical problem, every cure a musical solution. Auden said he had learned much as a poet from Thompson, and he based the character Malin in The Age of Anxiety on him. Berke was inspired by Thompson in his relationship with Mary Barnes, and told Weindling: ‘To me he is a constant presence.’ Laing is said to have said that Thompson was the only person who knew more about ‘schizophrenia’ than he.

Paul Weindling, Wellcome Trust Research Professor in the History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University, author of many books on Nazi ‘eugenics’, ‘euthanasia’, and other medical atrocities, conducted the horrifying Inner Circle Seminar No. 176, ‘Life Unworthy of Life’: ‘Euthanasia’ in the Third Reich, on 22 April 2012. He broke new ground with his extensively researched book John W. Thompson: Psychiatrist in the Shadow of the Holocaust (2010), whose findings he will discuss today.

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

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £116, others £145, 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:
For further information on seminars, visit:

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.

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