Wednesday 1 January 2020

Seeing Ourselves. 2. Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science. Raymond Tallis conducts Inner Circle Seminar 262 (6 December 2020)

Seeing Ourselves
2. Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science

Raymond Tallis
conducts by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminar No. 262
introduced by Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 6 December 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Raymond Tallis 

Raymond Tallis is one of our best-loved invited speakers. Today he conducts his seventh Inner Circle Seminar (his first was on 2 December 2012). It is the second seminar of a pair with the joint title Seeing Ourselves. The first, on 2 June 2019, had the subtitle Rescuing the Self from Science, and the second of the pair, today, has the subtitle Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science. He explicitly regards it as a summation of the symphony of seven seminars which culminates today. (He reassures us, though, that there are still more seminars to come.)

Tallis has shown in six profound Inner Circle Seminars that he is one of the world’s leading demystifiers of what he calls the ‘neuroscience delusion’ (‘neuromania’) and the ‘intellectual plague of biologism’ (‘animalism’). His ruthless, good-humoured exposure of reductive natural-scientism continues the tradition of Heidegger and Szasz, for example, but is utterly his own. Psychotherapists are free to choose to go on pretending to be ‘validated’ by ‘neuroscience’; but their work, such as it is, sometimes radically transforming and helpful, sometimes best passed over in silence, speaks for or against itself as the case may be, and no pseudo-scientific ‘validation’ (or ‘invalidation’) can disguise this.

Raymond Tallis is one of the select few who affirms and advocates human language to depict and describe the human world and human relationships.

In his book Logos Professor Tallis exposes the absurdity of the argument that evolutionary biology or neuroscience show that our thinking is merely a function of our bodies-as-objects-for-science and therefore can have no truth-value of its own unless it is in some way itself derived from evolutionary biology or neuroscience, which are taken to be ‘objectively true. But those sciences are themselves human creations, and therefore, by this argument, not ‘objectively true. Professor Tallis remarks that those who use this argument are worthy successors of the Cretan of old who said all Cretans were liars.

In todays seminar he continues to focus on the so-called problem of the self . 

Raymond Tallis writes about todays seminar:
The seminar will bring together and build on themes from my previous seminars. Their central thesis was that humans are neither supernatural beings hand-made by God nor mere pieces of nature. The human subject is transcendent in ways that will be discussed. I will argue that the most important task for humanism is to reclaim this transcendence from religious discourse.
I will challenge the notion that a secular vision is necessarily that of a disenchanted universe. The common view that science has proved the world to be meaningless is undermined by the fact that the human subject and science itself cannot be accommodated in the scientific world picture.
The question then arises as what we shall do with a positive vision of humanity? I will address the fear that,  in the absence of belief in God, humans will lack a moral compass. The response will examine the empirical evidence regarding godless societies; will discuss whether religion will make us better or worse behaved; and will look at secular sources of morality.
The seminar will then examine ways in which we might flourish in the face of the knowledge that we die and that our aims and ambitions are necessarily transient, even if they are fulfilled. A life without religion lacks sacred spaces, a certain profound sense of belonging,  the convergence of meaning and purpose in one’s life comparable to that enjoyed by believers whose life is devoted to  praising, serving, and worshipping God, and the consolation of a hereafter and the restoration of the losses and injustices  of earthly life.
I will touch on the perils, pitfalls and disappointments of life devoted to the good of others. I will look at other secular sources of salvation: gratitude; love; art; and philosophy. An overarching theme will be that of an enduring project that binds our days each to each and exorcises the banality of mere ‘and’. I will then discuss the idea of humanism as a religion. Finally, I will discuss the potential for a dialogue between believers and non-believers at the very least discussing what each may learn from the other about the dangers of a descent from beneficent visions to collective thuggery.
The seminar will raise more questions than it provides answers.

The heart of these seminars is dialogue, and it will of course be possible to argue in depth with Professor Tallis if you disagree with any of his points or positions.

For an account of how Raymond Tallis writes his extraordinary books, see his article ‘My writing day: In my favourite pub, the staff turn down the speaker in my writing corner’, in The Guardian Review of 29 April 2017:

Raymond Tallis was a Professor of Geriatric Medicine and consultant physician in Health Care of the Elderly. He has published two hundred research articles in the neurology of old age and neurological rehabilitation, as well as a novel, short stories, three volumes of poetry, and thirty books on philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art, and cultural criticism. He has received many awards and honorary degrees. In 2009, the Economist listed him as one of the world’s twenty leading polymaths.

Nicholas Fearn wrote in The Independent:

When Kirsty Young was asked to name her favourite guest on Desert Island Discs, the rock star Paul Weller was beaten into second place, for her own luxury item would be the writer Raymond Tallis.

Raymond Tallis, whose seventh Inner Circle Seminar this will be, kindly confirms that our seminar structure, in which dialogue is of the essence, enables him to communicate and reflect on his ideas. He wrote, after his first Inner Circle Seminar, The Intellectual Plague of Biologism, on 2 December 2012:

The seminar was for me an incredible experience. I have never previously had the opportunity to discuss the topics we covered in such depth with a group of people who came at it from such different angles but in a way that I found illuminating. I learned a lot. It was a tremendous privilege.

This will be an online seminar, using Zoom.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; 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  or: +44 (0) 7809 433250  

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 universities.

Doing ‘Nothing’: The Phenomenology of Mothering and of Psychotherapy. Naomi Stadlen conducts Inner Circle Seminar 261 (13 September 2020)

Doing Nothing

The Phenomenology of Mothering and of Psychotherapy

Naomi Stadlen
conducts by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminar No. 261
Sunday 13 September 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Naomi Stadlen

Naomi Stadlen writes:
It’s impossible to do nothing. Mothers often say: ‘I’ve got nothing done all day.’ This can’t be a literal statement. It’s a statement of value. While I was writing What Mothers Learn, I noticed many similarities between the work of mothers and that of psychotherapists. Both can feel as if they are ‘doing nothing’ exactly when they are working well. So ‘nothing’ must be ‘something’ that we seem to undervalue. We will use this seminar to identify and explore some of the actions that so easily get dismissed as ‘doing nothing’. Psychotherapists, mothers, and interested others are warmly invited to take part.
Mother, grandmother, existential psychotherapist, supervisor and teacher Naomi Stadlen has conducted weekly discussion groups, Mothers Talking, for nearly thirty years. Her books What Mothers Do – especially when it looks like nothing (2004) and How Mothers Love – and how relationships are born (2011) are translated into many languages and enjoyed by mothers round the world who say that their experiences are described and valued in them. Her third book, recently published, is What Mothers Learn – without being taught (April 2020).

Since 1993 she has worked as an existential psychotherapist and has taught psychotherapy and counselling students at Birkbeck College and the College of North East London, also for many years teaching and supervising existential psychotherapy and the phenomenology of families, particularly the family studies of Laing and Esterson, at the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, London.

She has edited journals and published many articles. She has also contributed chapters to books: ‘Families’ (with Anthony Stadlen) in Existential Perspectives on Human Issues, A Handbook for Therapeutic Practice edited by Emmy van Deurzen and Claire Arnold-Baker (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); ‘The Challenge of Intimacy: Fear of the Other’ in Existential Perspectives on Relationship Therapy edited by Emmy van Deurzen and Susan Iacovou (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); and The Existential Freedom of Mothers’ in The Existential Crisis of Motherhood edited by Claire Arnold-Baker (to be published, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 4 January 2021).

This seminar is a comparative phenomenological study of the work of mothers and psychotherapists, drawing on Naomi Stadlens decades of listening to mothers, as well as on her practice, supervision and teaching of existential psychotherapy and family studies.

The seminar will not be about motherly’ therapists or therapeutic’ mothers; nor will it be about the unconscious phantasy’ of the therapist-as-mother in the clienttransference’ or in the therapistcountertransference’ (important as these may be in other contexts).

Rather, it will be an examination, in the manner pioneered by Naomi Stadlen in her highly original books, of what mothers and psychotherapists do, which they may experience at times as nothing.

Why are her extraordinary books on mothers known, translated, and treasured by mothers and others round the world?

The heart of the books is what Hilary Mantel has called, when speaking in Inner Circle Seminar No. 205 about the families in Laing and Esterson’s Sanity, Madness and the Familythe simple words the people speak’: the words of mothers, talking about what they and their babies and children actually do, rather than what textbooks by self-appointed experts imagine that they do, or dictate that they should do. The mothers hesitantly and carefully struggle to find words, both simple and subtle, to describe what has often not been described before. At the same time, these books are philosophically, phenomenologically, existentially steeped in what has been most deeply thought.

Anne Karpf wrote: ‘I threw away the baby care manuals ... virtually all of them infantilise mothers.’ But, she wrote, Naomi Stadlen’s What Mothers Do is ‘something miraculous ... brilliantly insightful ... the best book on parenting’. ‘Her book is being passed from mother to mother like contraband.

Thomas Szasz wrote:
I love this book. A work from a pure heart and informed head. It is at once simple and profound, as is the subject it addresses. It reads as if the author were in the room speaking to the reader. No pseudo-science, no psychobabble. Just the truth.
Richard Smith, Professor of Education at Durham University, wrote of what he called Naomi Stadlens ‘philosophy of mothering’ (Paul SmeyersRichard Smith and Paul StandishThe Therapy of Education, 2007, Basingstoke and NY, Palgrave Macmillan: 213-215):
The new mother has no map, and the available maps that display the techniques of motherhood cannot be trusted. In offering help, Stadlen too acknowledges that the map is under construction. And although she does not say so, the problem is essentially a philosophical one, and her efforts are philosophical in the way that Ludwig Wittgenstein conceived of philosophy as non-dogmatic and therapeutic. 
Professor Smith expanded in that book on his earlier review in the Journal for the Philosophy of Education (Volume 39, Issue 1, February 2005, p. 179):
Naomi Stadlen argues persuasively in What Mothers Do: especially when it looks like nothing (Piatkus Books, 2004) that motherhood has fallen victim to the language and dominant ideas of our time. When confronted with new challenges, we expect to be trained and equipped with skills to deal with them. As one of her interviewees notes, ‘the dominant culture…is all about planning and controlling’ (p. 48). We are used to jumping through hoops and over hurdles – examinations, Duke of Edinburgh’s awards, applications for jobs and for promotion – and so childbirth too comes to seem another hurdle, after which life will surely go back to normal (p. 34). When it turns out, by contrast, that life will never be the same again, we naturally look to the appropriate experts to tell us how to manage, and the bookshops are of course full of guides to the appropriate techniques.

Being a mother to a small child, however, ‘is all about feeling your way’, as the same interviewee puts it. According to Stadlen it is less a matter of techniques than of something like responsiveness, a constant alertness and attuning of oneself to the needs and nature of this particular child now, to whom no one else is responsible in the same way. And this is all the more difficult for us to understand because we do not have the words for it: which is why what mothers do can look like nothing from the outside and often feels like not very much from the inside either. At the heart of being a mother is the state which can only be described as ‘Being instantly interruptible’ (the title of Chapter Four): the condition in which she is endlessly there for her child to the point that she may feel she has no life of her own. We have many words for being a bad mother – Stadlen gives a list of over thirty words and phrases – but the list for being a good mother is much shorter and the words (e.g. caring, nurturing, patient) do not so much describe what mothers do as what they are like as persons (pp. 18–19).

Part of what is at issue here is that our world recognises and values busy-ness and activity, but mothering requires a kind of passivity, being there for the baby rather than exercising techniques on her. It requires the mother almost ‘to loosen her active conscious mode and sink into something older and simpler in order to get close to the world of her baby’ (p. 89). We generally expect people to become more focused and confident as they begin to get the measure of new demands made on them, but this may not be the mother’s experience, and she may be right not to experience things like this:

If she feels disorientated, this is not a problem requiring bookshelves of literature to put right. No, it is exactly the right state of mind for the teach-yourself process that lies ahead of her. If she really considered herself an expert, or if her ideas were set, she would find it very hard to adapt to her individual baby. … Each child will be a little different and teach her something new. She needs to feel uncertain in order to be flexible. So, although it can feel so alarming, the ‘all-at-sea’ feeling is appropriate. Uncertainty is a good starting point for a mother. Through uncertainty, she can begin to learn (p. 45).

In this implicitly Wittgensteinian way Stadlen sets about the difficult task of assembling the reminders that help us to achieve a new way of looking at things (Philosophical Investigations 1, 127 and 401). It is the essentially philosophical business of exploring ‘what it makes sense to say’, as Peter Winch put it (The Idea of a Social Science, p. 72). In its emphasis on alertness and attunement, flexibility and the ethical nature of motherhood (see especially p. 106) Stadlen’s description comes very close to the Aristotelian picture of phronesis or practical wisdom. She claims an historian’s rather than a philosopher’s background but the whole book is of great philosophical, as well as educational, interest. And thanks apparently to Thucydides (this must surely be the first time that Thucydides has been credited as a major influence on a book on childcare), it is well and sensitively written.
This is a sensitive and perceptive review; its author clearly understands that Naomi Stadlen’s books are not on childcare’, in the degraded sense in which this term is used today: it was manuals on childcare’ that Anne Karpf ‘threw away’.

Stadlen’s second book, How Mothers Love – and how relationships are born (2011), rediscovers, finds evidence for, and reflects on Kierkegaard’s phenomenology, in Works of Love, of what he termed in Danish the Hjerterum’ (heartroom’) that a mother makes for her baby, a word also coined earlier in English by Coleridge, unknown to Kierkegaard, and later in German (Herzraum) in a poem by Rilke and an essay on Rilke by Heidegger. 

We are far, here, from technological toolkits’ for childcare and ‘mental health’ taught by health professionals’ and parenting counsellors’.

In todays seminar, Naomi Stadlen draws particularly on findings of her latest book, What Mothers Learn – without being taught (April 2020).

Naomi Stadlen conducted Inner Circle Seminar No. 77, Listening to Mothers, on 25 April 2004; and (with Anthony Stadlen) Inner Circle Seminar No. 125, Merleau-Ponty: The Childs Relations with Others, on 16 March 2008.

This will be an online seminar, using ZOOM.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; payment must be made in advance by bank transfer; a ZOOM invitation and instructions will then be sent; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  iPhone: 07809 433 250
E-mail:  or:
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 universities.

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers. 15. Claude Eatherly. Hiroshima Bomb Pilot. Christopher John Müller and Anthony Stadlen conduct Inner Circle Seminar 260 (9 August 2020)

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers

15. Claude Eatherly
(2 October 1918 – 1 July 1978)

Repentant Hiroshima Bomb Pilot
An investigation into his alleged ‘insanity’
75 years after Nagasaki (9 August 1945)
and into the responses to the threat of nuclear war of
 Günther Anders, Martin Heidegger, and Bertrand Russell

Christopher John Müller   Anthony Stadlen
conduct by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminar No. 260
Sunday 9 August 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Claude Eatherly
Günther Anders

Bertrand Russell

Friday 6 August 2020 and Sunday 9 August 2020 are the 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Major Claude R. Eatherly was the pilot of the weather reconnaissance aircraft Straight Flush from which he gave the go-ahead for the crew of the plane Enola Gay to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

Robert Jungk wrote:

It is said that after the shattering experience of Hiroshima Major Eatherly spoke to no one for days on end.

In striking contrast to the other servicemen involved, who were feted as heroes, he could not reconcile his conscience with what he had done. He was, as a result, certified and incarcerated as ‘mentally ill’.

The philosopher Günther Anders, former student of Martin Heidegger and former husband of Hannah Arendt, initiated a correspondence with Eatherly in the asylum where he was imprisoned. Their letters were published in 1961 as a book, Burning Conscience, with a Preface by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who wrote:

No unbiased person, after reading Eatherly’s letters, can honestly doubt his sanity. [...] The world was prepared to honour him for his part in the massacre, but, when he repented, it turned against him, seeing in his act of repentance its own condemnation.

Lord Russell also wrote that, if the man who wrote these letters is considered mad, then:

I shall not be surprised if my last years are spent in a lunatic asylum – where I shall enjoy the company of all who are capable of feelings of humanity.

However, it is important to realise that, as Thomas Szasz has recounted in Faith in Freedom (2004), Russell was not opposed to all psychiatric incarceration. He vigorously sought the committal to an asylum of his own son John whom he did regard as insane. 

Russell did himself commit carefully considered civil disobedience later that year, 1961, at the age of 89, by sitting down in Trafalgar Square to protest against preparations for thermonuclear war; he was not arrested on that occasion, but not long afterwards spent seven days in Brixton Gaol (where he had already spent six months for pacifist activity during the First World War) for refusing to be of ‘good behaviour’ by refraining from inciting further civil disobedience.

Heidegger, who had a position as preeminent philosopher in West Germany comparable to Russell’s in the United Kingdom, did not become involved in his former student Anders’s collaboration with EatherlyHeidegger once signed a petition against a nuclear power station, but otherwise limited himself to observing that the atomic bomb was merely the ‘last emission’ of the ‘atomisation’ effected centuries earler by Descartes. In other words, insisted Heidegger,

The Dreadful [‘das Entsetzliche’] has already happened.’
          (R. D. Laings report of Joseph Schorsteins translation)

If the hydrogen bombs did not go off and destroy all life on earth, he warned, a far worse danger would threaten humanity. Men and women were in danger of losing their essential nature as meditative rather than merely calculative beings.

He used the same word, ‘das Entsetzliche’, that he had used to characterise the ‘Holy’ in the 1930s. This links today’s seminar with last Sunday’s seminar on the ‘Holy’ and Heidegger’s understanding of it. We shall try to make intelligible that Heidegger could use the same word for both. How should it be translated in each case?

We shall explore Claude Eatherly’s case as a paradigm of a procedure of locking up ‘inconvenient people that is still prevalent in our society today. We shall also compare and contrast the very different, but complementary, responses to the nuclear arms race of the philosophers Bertrand Russell and Martin Heidegger.

We will be joined from Sydney, Australia by Dr Christopher John Müller, author of Prometheanism: Technology, Digital Culture and Human Obsolescence: Thinking Finitude, Digital Technology and Human Obsolescence with Günther Anders (2016). He is a Lecturer in the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia and Honorary Research Associate of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University and Associate Teacher at the University of Bristol. His work draws on Literature, Philosophy and Critical Theory to address the manner in which technological and linguistic structures shape human perception, agency and interaction.

This will be an online seminar, using ZOOM.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165; or, for this seminar and the previous one (on 2 August) together, trainees £88, others £110 per seminar; some bursaries; payment in advance by bank transfer or PayPal; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled; a ZOOM invitation and instructions will then be sent.

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  iPhone: 07809 433250

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 universities.

The ‘Holy’. Buber, Heidegger, Lévinas on the ‘Holy’ and the ‘Sacred’: Implications for psychotherapy. Keith Hoeller, Frank Schalow, Anthony Stadlen conduct Inner Circle Seminar 259 (2 August 2020)

The ‘Holy’

Buber, Heidegger, Lévinas 
on the ‘Holy’ and the ‘Sacred’
What are the implications for psychotherapy?

Keith Hoeller   Frank Schalow
Rabbi Rodney Mariner   Anthony Stadlen
conduct by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminar No. 259
Sunday 2 August 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Martin Buber                   Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger   Martin Buber

Martin Heidegger
Mont Sainte Victoire

Emmanuel Lévinas

This seminar is devoted to questioning what people have meant by ‘the Holy’  and the possible implications for psychotherapy.

We start with the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s writings on ‘the Holy’, comparing and contrasting his thinking on the poetry of Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin with that of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Lévinas on the Biblical understanding of ‘the Holy’. We may also refer to the use of the word ‘Holy’ by other thinkers such as Dietrich von HildebrandAbraham Joshua Heschel and Jacques Derrida, as well as in philosophy generally, in poetry, religion, theology, psychotherapy, and everyday life.

Does ‘the Holy’ differ from ‘the Sacred’? Lévinas certainly thought so; one of his books of Talmudic Studies has the title From the Sacred to the Holy. How does Lévinas’s Biblical invocation of ‘the Holy’ differ from Heidegger’s Hellenic-Germanic meditation on ‘the Holy’ in his Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry and other fundamental works? Is Heidegger‘Holy’ merely a kind of Nature mysticism, divorced from Lévinass ethical imperative? Or is ethics implicit in Heideggers quest for the Ereignis, the seeking of Seyn and Da-seinBeyng and the human being, for each other?

Although Lévinas was present as a student at the epochmaking debate between Heidegger and the philosopher Ernst Cassirer in Davos in 1929, and even played the part of Cassirer in a satirical reenactment of the debate by the students attended by both the great philosophers, he developed his critique of Heidegger only after the war, after Heideggers turn to Nazism, and still maintained that Being and Time was one of the very few greatest works of philosophy of all time; he did not confront Heidegger face-to-face.

But Martin Buber did. After the war, Buber said he had made his criticisms of Heidegger, and they met in a castle on the Rhine, according to Buber walking up and down like like dwarves with large heads, gesticulating at each other, in what Heidegger later called ‘a beautiful conversation with Martin Buber. Did they discuss their differing understandings of ‘the Holy?

Perhaps the differing uses of ‘the Holy’ mean there is no single meaning, no essence of ‘the Holy’; rather, as Wittgenstein put it, ‘family resemblances’? But would that make it pointless to ask what ‘the Holy’ is, because this is all ‘subjective’? Is ‘holiness’ just a matter of ‘feeling’? This might be so, but it does not follow logically from the fact that people use the term in different ways, any more than it follows that a family is a figment of somebody’s ‘subjective feelings’.

Research has shown that, among psychotherapists, both psychoanalytic and existential, there is a tendency to disparage religious experience. It may be acknowledged that such experiences are ‘comforting’ for those, including clients, who have them; but the implication is that they are merely ‘intrapsychic’, or ‘social’, or matters of ‘faith’, but do not refer to anything ‘real’. This is logically, scientifically, and phenomenologically unsound. The therapist claims that this attitude does not affect the therapeutic relationship with the client, but such a defence would be given short shrift in relation to any other prejudice. If it were a question of race or sex, the therapist would risk disciplinary action by the registering organisation.

This seminar will attempt a phenomenological exploration of the nature of ‘the Holy’, without starting from this prevailing preconception. It is hoped that there will be respectful and fruitful dialogue, in which we learn from each other, between those with differing positions on this.

There are curious links with next Sunday’s seminar on the Hiroshima pilot, Claude Eatherly, who was locked up as insane because he expressed guilt about his part in the atomic devastation. Not only was Heideggers beloved poet, Hölderlin, whose poetry he regarded as the very quintessence of ‘the Holy’, also locked up as insane (thereby giving us the subject of a crucial future Inner Circle Seminar in the subseries Locked Up: Patients’ and their Gaolers), but Heidegger also memorably observed that the atomic bomb was merely the ‘last emission’ of the ‘atomisation’ effected centuries earler by Descartes. In other words, insisted Heidegger, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as the arms race raged, despite the fact that human beings looked on helplessly at the prospect of universal devastation by perhaps imminent thermonuclear war, the reality was that

The Dreadful [‘das Entsetzliche’] has already happened.’
(R. D. Laing’s quotation in The Politics of Experience of, presumably, Joe Schorstein’s translation.)

If the hydrogen bombs did not go off and destroy all life on earth, he warned, a far worse danger would threaten humanity. Men and women were in danger of losing their essential nature as meditative rather than merely calculative beings. He used the same word (‘das Entsetzliche’) that he had used to characterise the ‘Holy’ since the 1930s. We shall try to make intelligible that Heidegger could use the same word for both, and seek an adequate translation in each case.

Professor Keith Hoeller, distinguished translator of Heidegger’s Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry (2001), will again join us from Seattle, USA, where he was Professor of Philosophy for many years. He edited the Review of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy from 1978, as well as a number of books of key papers on Binswanger, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Boss, Sartre, Szasz, Foucault, May. He is one of the very few authorities on both Szasz and Heidegger, and edited Thomas Szasz: Moral Philosopher of Psychiatry (1997), contributed a chapter on Szasz to Existential Therapy (ed. Barnett, L. and Madison, G., 2012), and received the Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Services to the Cause of Civil Liberties (professional category) from the Center for Independent Thought, New York City in 2002.

Professor Frank Schalow will also join us for an hour (12 noon to 1 p.m.) from New Orleans, where he is Professor of Philosophy. He will speak about addiction in relation to transcendence, drawing on his recent book Toward a Phenomenology of Addiction: Embodiment, Technology, Transcendence (2017). His areas of specialisation include 19th- and 20th-century German thought, Phenomenology, and Continental Philosophy. He has published numerous other books, including: The Incarnality of Being (2006), Heidegger and the Quest for the Sacred (2001), The Renewal of the Heidegger-Kant Dialogue (1992), and, most recently, the edited volumes Heidegger, Translation, and the Task of Thinking: Essays in Honor of Parvis Emad (2011), and The Linguistic Dimension of Kants Thought (2014). Currently, he is co-editor of the international journal, Heidegger Studies, which is published in three languages (English, German, and French).

Rabbi Rodney Mariner, emeritus rabbi of Belsize Square Synagogue, London, who brilliantly conducted Inner Circle Seminar No. 88, Freud on Jokes, on 8 May 2005, will also participate and be available for consultation on Judaism and the ‘Holy’. 

This will be an online seminar, using ZOOM.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165; or for this seminar and the next together (on 9 August) one third reduction, so trainees £88, others £110 per seminar; some bursaries; payment must be made in advance by bank transfer or PayPal; a ZOOM invitation and instructions will then be sent; no transfers or refunds unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  iPhone: 07809 433250

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 universities.