Friday 1 January 2021

Freedom: An Impossible Reality. Raymond Tallis conducts Inner Circle Seminar 272 (12 December 2021)


Freedom: An Impossible Reality

Raymond Tallis
conducts by Zoom
 Inner Circle Seminar No. 272
introduced by Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 12 December 2021
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Raymond Tallis 

Raymond Tallis is one of our best-loved invited speakers. Today’s seminar, Freedom: An Impossible Reality, is his eighth Inner Circle Seminar (his first was on 2 December 2012).
Professor Tallis has shown in seven 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 takes up again the question of human freedom, which he discussed in Inner Circle Seminar No. 216, Tensed Time and Free Will (28 June 2015).
Raymond Tallis writes:
Many of us have been persuaded by philosophers and psychologists that we do not have free will. We are not the ultimate source of action; nor do we have the capacity genuinely to choose between possible courses of action. The most compelling arguments against free will rest on the fact that actions are material events and our bodies (including our brains) are material objects. All such events and objects are stitched into a net of causation regulated by the unbreakable laws of nature. 

I will argue that the processes by which we discover the laws of nature and identify causes of events demonstrate the extent to which we stand outside of nature. This is further highlighted by our deliberate exploitation of those laws and the transformation of causes into handles by which we manipulate the physical world.

These unique powers are dramatically illustrated by the landscape of artefacts in which we pass much of our lives and the vast bodies of knowledge by which we guide ourselves. The fact that the most recent geologic age has been called the Anthropocene testifies to our ability – for good or evil – to shape the material environment in which we find ourselves.

I will then examine how this is possible. I look for explanation to the intentionality of consciousness in virtue of which we both engage with material world and yet are separate from it. This opens up a space that lies outside of nature. The space is vastly expanded by the unique degree to which intentionality in humans is developed. A trillion, trillion cognitive handshakes weave a distinctive human world.

That world is populated with possibilities that are not part of nature: nature is confined to actuality whereas possibilities exist only insofar as they are envisaged. Actions are the realization of possibilities envisaged by individuals or groups of individuals. As such they are neither the products of external causes nor expressions of the law-governed unfolding of nature. Nor, on the other hand, are they in breach of those laws.

The seminar will end with a discussion of the limits to human freedom. While the biological and cultural constraints on agency, the role of unconscious influences, and of accident and luck, will be acknowledged, they serve only to highlight, by contrast, the role of true freedom in much of day-to-day human life.

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.

Raymond Tallis is a philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic, and a retired physician and clinical neuroscientist. He ran a large clinical service in Hope Hospital Salford and an academic department in the University of Manchester. His research focussed on epilepsy, stroke, and neurological rehabilitation.
He trained in medicine at Oxford University and at St Thomas’ in London before going on to become Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant physician. He was an editor and major contributor to two key textbooks in the field, The Clinical Neurology of Old Age and Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, and author of over 200 original scientific articles, mainly in clinical neuroscience, including papers in Nature Medicine, Brain, Lancet. In 2000, he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in recognition of his contribution to medical research. Among many prizes, he was awarded the Lord Cohen Gold Medal for Research into Ageing. He played a key part in developing guidelines for the care of stroke patients in the UK. From 2011-14 he was Chair, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD). He was a member of the Council of Royal College of Physicians between 2016 and 2019. He is a member of the criteria-setting group for the UK Research Excellence Framework 2021 in philosophy.
He has published fiction, poetry, and 30 books on the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophical anthropology, and literary and cultural criticism. Aping Mankind (2010) was reissued in 2016 as a Routledge Classic. Of Time and Lamentation. Reflections on Transience (2017; 2019) a comprehensive an inquiry into the nature of time was widely praised. NHS SOS (2012), co-edited with Jacky Davis, examined the destructive impact of Tory policies on the NHS. Logos. An Essay on the Mystery of the Sense-Making Animal was published in Spring 2018. His most recent volume of verse – Sunburst – was published in November 2019.
A series of eight seminars on Humanism given in the philosophy department of Charles University Prague, formed the basis of his book, published in 2020, Seeing Ourselves. Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science. A defence of free will – Freedom. An Impossible Reality – was published in September 2021. His seminar today will expound its argument.
His current projects include Prague 22. A Book of Tenuous Connections – which is a collection of essays; and De Luce. Reflections on My Time in the Light – a philosophical autobiography.
In 2009, the Economist Intelligent Life Magazine described him as one of the world’s leading polymaths. The critic Stuart Kelly said of him in Scotland on Sunday in 2016 that he is one of the very few contemporary thinkers whom I would unequivocally call a genius. He has four honorary degrees: DLitt (Hull, 1997) and Litt.D. (Manchester, 2001) for contributions to the humanities; and DSc (St George’s Hospital Medical School, 2015; University of East Anglia, 2017) for contributions to research in medicine.

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:
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 eighth 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 £140, others £175, some bursaries; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +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.

Kierkegaard 16 October 1843. George Pattison, Marilyn Piety, C. Stephen Evans, John Lippitt, Jerome (Yehuda) Gellman, Mariam al-Attar conduct Inner Circle Seminars 263, 264, 265, 268, 269, 271 (14, 28 February; 21 March; 23 May; 13 June; 31 October and 28 November 2021)

Kierkegaard 16 October 1843

Fear and Trembling
Three Upbuilding Discourses

Text and Context 

George Pattison   Marilyn Piety   C. Stephen Evans
John Lippitt   Jerome (Yehuda) Gellman   Mariam al-Attar
conduct by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminars Nos. 263, 264, 265, 268, 269, 271
introduced by Anthony Stadlen
14, 28 February; 21 March; 23 May; 13 June; 31 October and 28 November 2021

Søren Kierkegaard and the three books he published on 16 October 1843

Repetition by Constantin Constantius

Fear and Trembling by Johannes de silentio

 Three Upbuilding Discourses by Søren Kierkegaard

Abraham, Isaac, and the angel
(by Rembrandt)
Everyone now seems to be talking about ‘mental health’. But is this the best way of understanding what people are experiencing in this pandemic crisis? Are these not existential, ethical, spiritual, religious problems? But what does ‘existential’ mean? And do not many existential therapists object to the ‘religious’, whatever that means? But do not some existential therapists find religious experience, their own or others’, of fundamental importance? Should not all existential therapists at least understand what their religious clients, or clients who say they have had some religious experience, are talking about?
Existential therapists, whether or not they are aware of this, are implicitly identifying the already existing English word ‘existential’ with the Danish word ‘existentiel’ apparently subsequently coined by Søren Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855). His pseudonym Johannes Climacus introduced it in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Crumbs (1846), described in its subtitle as An Existential Contribution, and containing discussion, for instance, of ‘existential pathos’, to convey thinking with all one’s being, as an ‘existing’ thinker: as opposed to constructing a ‘system’ which, as his pseudonym Anti-Climacus wrote in The Sickness Unto Death (1849), would be like building a house in which one does not live.
Ludwig Feuerbach used the word ‘existence’ in a similar sense, but he wanted to secularise religious thinking, whereas Kierkegaard affirmed authentic religion as irreducible to social ethics (Sædelighed’ in Danish, Sittlichkeit’ in German).
Martin Heidegger translated Kierkegaards ‘existentiel’ into German as existenziell’ but restricted it to what he called the onticfor the ontological he used existenzial’, a word rare in German, though Edmund Husserl had used it in Philosophy as Rigorous Science (1910-11), and Kierkegaard had even on occasion used, perhaps coined, a Danish word existential’, meaning for him the same as existentiel’, in his private writings. He is alternatively alleged to have adopted the word(s) after he learned from a conversation with, or about, the Norwegian poet and critic Johann Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven that he used the Norwegian existensiell’ in this way. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge had used existential as an English word and meditated on the nature of existence’ in The Friend as early as 1809, before Kierkegaard was born. The philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling influenced ColeridgeKierkegaard, and Heidegger, and was said by Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz to have termed his own later philosophy, orally, Existenzialphilosophie’; but it is by no means clear that Coleridge's use of existential’ or Kierkegaards use of existentiel' or existential' were themselves directly suggested by, or derived from, SchellingNone of these usages, of course, should be confused with, or reduced to, the bare existential quantifier (there exists an x such that...) in subsequent logic and mathematics.  
Kierkegaard insisted that, whether pseudonymous (‘with the left hand’) or in his own name (‘with the right hand’), his writing was always religious, though he denounced institutionalised religion (such as Danish 19th-century ‘Christendom’) as a perversion of authentic, existential religion. Much writing by ‘existential’ therapists censors (and implicitly censures) Kierkegaard’s always-religious writing at the outset, claiming to find its ‘relevant’, secular-‘existential’ meaning. Ludwig Binswanger secularises The Sickness Unto Death in this way in his ‘The Case of Ellen West. But this is just what Kierkegaard was attacking as a betrayal.
Nowhere is this more explicit than in Fear and Trembling: A Dialectical Lyric by Johannes de silentio, published in Copenhagen on 16 October 1843, together with two other books, Repetition: An Essay in Experimental Psychology by Constantin Constantinus and Three Upbuilding Discourses by Søren Kierkegaard. Our seminars on this extraordinary event in publishing history, its context, and its implications, started on 14 October 2018, celebrating these three books’ hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary.
The author of all three books was Kierkegaard, as he acknowledged in ‘A First and Last Declaration’, the further postscript that he, in his own name, added to Concluding Unscientific Postscript.
We are exploring this astonishing creative incandescence in two series of seminars: one series (‘Søren Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling’) a close reading of this text over a few years, with a fourth seminar in this series this May, conducted by Professor John Lippitt from Sydney, Australia, on its central section of maximal tension and intensity; the other series (‘Kierkegaard: 16 October 1843’) a detailed study of its context, in five ‘satellite’ seminars between February and July.
Fear and Trembling focusses with terrible intensity on the dialectical tension between Abraham’s love and awe for God and his love for his son Isaac. It is a ‘dialectical lyric’ on the Akedah, the account (Genesis, 22:1-19) of Abraham’s ‘binding’ of Isaac in preparation for a sacrifice prevented only by an angel’s last-minute intervention. The meaning of the Akedah has been debated for millennia by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and (more recently) atheist thinkers. It is chanted from the Torah scroll in synagogues at the New Year, with great textual precision, though everyone is free to propose his or her own interpretation. In Christianity it is held to prefigure the crucifixion of Jesus. The Qur’an does not name Ibrahim’s son in this narrative, and Islamic scholars have debated whether it was Ishmael or Isaac; today it is held to have been Ishmael; animal sacrifices on Eid al-Adha commemorate Ibrahim’s sacrifice of a ram instead of Ishmael. The Akedah has been the basis of many great works of art, music, drama, and poetry.
The ‘satellite’ seminars, conducted by world authorities, including George Pattison, Marilyn Piety, C. Stephen Evans, Jerome (Yehuda) Gellman and Mariam al-Attar, will focus in turn on: the problem of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms; the two other works (Three Upbuilding Discourses and Repetition) published with Fear and Trembling on 16 October 1843; the interpretations of the Akedah in Kierkegaard and the Hasidic masters; and whether or not some form of ‘divine command theory’ is advocated by Kierkegaard, his pseudonyms, or any or all of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. (In a dialogue of Plato’s, Euthyphro is confused when Socrates asks him whether the gods love the good because it is good or whether the good is good because the gods love it. Many philosophers have thought that Socrates’s question presents a severe problem for divine command theory, but recently other philosophers have argued that there are forms of this theory not vulnerable to the problem Socrates raises for Euthyphro.)
Kierkegaard insisted in ‘A First and Last Declaration’:
... if it should occur to anyone to want to quote a particular passage from the books, it is my wish, my prayer, that he will do me the kindness of citing the respective pseudonymous author’s name, not mine.
Johannes de silentio, Johannes Climacus, and the other pseudonyms are like characters in a drama written by Kierkegaard. He called it ‘indirect communication’, a dialectic of perspectives which invites the reader to work out his or her own point of view. Much commentary on Fear and Trembling and the other pseudonymous works ignores Kierkegaard’s urgent request to respect their pseudonymous nature.
Here is our sequence of six seminars:
Søren Kierkegaard
Three Upbuilding Discourses
George Pattison
Inner Circle Seminar No. 263
Sunday 14 February 2021
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.    2 p.m. to 5 p.m.   London time (GMT)
Professor George Pattison, English theologian and Anglican priest, has been Professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow since 2013. He was previously Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. Among his books are Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, Kierkegaards Pastoral Dialogues (with Helle Møller Jensen), Kierkegaard and the Theology of the Nineteenth Century, The Mystical Sources of Existentialist Thought, Heidegger on Death; he has translated and edited a selection of Kierkegaard’s Spiritual Writings (including the first two of the Three Uplifting Discourses he will discuss today); and he has edited The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard (with John Lippitt). Today he will explain, in the first seminar on the context of Fear and Trembling, the complexity and subtlety of the problem of the pseudonyms. He will then guide us through Three Upbuilding Discourses (1843), discussing among other things why Martin Heidegger regarded these and Kierkegaard’s other upbuilding writings as his most important works philosophically.
Constantine Constantius
Marilyn Piety
Inner Circle Seminar No. 264
Sunday 28 February 2021
2 p.m. to 5 p.m.    6 p.m. to 9 p.m.    London time (GMT)
Professor Marilyn Gaye Piety is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of English and Philosophy at Drexel University, Philadelphia. She is author of many scholarly articles on Kierkegaard and of the book Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard’s Pluralist Epistemology. She has translated Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs. She is working on a book, Fear and Dissembling: The Copenhagen Kierkegaard Controversies. She is the author of the blog Piety on Kierkegaard. Her insistence on honesty and integrity in academic discourse is exemplary. Today, in the second seminar on the context of Fear and Trembling, she will help us make sense of the brilliant, perplexing short book Repetition, and the many conflicting interpretations it has received; and she will relate it to the other books, Fear and Trembling and Three Upbuilding Discourses, also published on 16 October 1843.
Kierkegaard and Divine Command Theory
C. Stephen Evans
Inner Circle Seminar No. 265
Sunday 21 March 2021
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.    2 p.m. to 3.45 p.m.    4.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.    London time (GMT)  
Professor C. Stephen Evans is University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. He has been Curator of the Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library at Saint Olaf College, Minnesota. His books include Kierkegaard’s Fragments and Postscript: The Religious Philosophy of Johannes Climacus, God and Moral Obligation, Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love: Divine Commands and Moral Obligations, Foundations of Kierkegaard’s Vision of Community: Religion, Ethics and Politics in Kierkegaard, A History of Western Philosophy: From the Presocratics to Postmodernism, Kierkegaard and Spirituality: Accountability as the Meaning of Human Existence, and many others. He has edited, with Sylvia Walsh, a new translation of Fear and Trembling. In todays seminar, the third on the context of that book, Anthony Stadlen will lead a two-hour morning discussion on the phenomenology of ancient and modern divine discourse, the Euthyphro dilemmaand ‘divine command theory’; and in a four-hour afternoon session (with half-hour break) C. Stephen Evans will disentangle the subtle varieties of that theory in Fear and TremblingWorks of Love, and more recent philosophical writing.
Johannes de silentio
Fear and Trembling 4
Problemata 1 and 2
John Lippitt 
Inner Circle Seminar No. 268
Sunday 23 May 2021 
2 p.m. to 5 p.m.    6 p.m. to 8 p.m.    9 p.m. to 10 p.m.   London time (BST)
Professor John Lippitt is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute for Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame Australia, based in Sydney. He is also Visiting Professor at the University of Hertfordshire, UK where he previously worked for twenty-eight years. He is author of many papers and books on Kierkegaard, including the Routledge Guide to Fear and Trembling, Love’s Forgiveness, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard’s Thought, and editor of The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard (with George Pattison) and Narrative, Identity and the Kierkegaardian Self (with Patrick Stokes). He has already guided us in the second and third seminars on the text of Fear and Trembling. In the fourth seminar in the series on the text, we shall discuss, in a structured way suggested by him, his brilliant pre-recorded reflections on the intense central section, Problema 1: Is there a teleological suspension of the ethical? and Problema 2: Is there an absolute duty to God? The seminar will culminate in his personal interactive Zoom presence from Australia in his early Monday morning and our British late evening. 
The Akedah in Kierkegaard and the Hasidic Masters
Jerome (Yehuda) Gellman
Inner Circle Seminar No. 269
Sunday 13 June 2021
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.    2 p.m. to 5 p.m.    London time (BST)
Professor Jerome (Yehuda) Gellman is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He has published many papers and books on religion, Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, and Hasidism, including The Fear, the Trembling, and the Fire, Experience of God and the Rationality of Religious Belief, Mystical Experience of God: A Philosophical Inquiry, Abraham! Abraham! Kierkegaard and the Hasidim on the Binding of Isaac, This was from God: A Contemporary Theology of Torah and History, Perfect Goodness and the God of the Jews: A Contemporary Jewish TheologyThe History of Evil from the Mid-Twentieth Century to Today. Today, in the fourth seminar on the context of Fear and Trembling, he will explore the interpretations of the Akedah by Kierkegaard and the Hasidic masters, as well as the tradition of Hasidic therapy.  
Divine Command Theory in Early and Contemporary Islam
Mariam al-Attar
Inner Circle Seminar No. 271
Sundays 31 October and 28 November 2021
1 p.m. to 4 p.m. London time (GMT)
Professor Mariam al-Attar teaches Arab heritage, introduction to philosophy, and Islamic philosophy at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. She has taught at the University of Jordan and at King's Academy in Jordan. Her research interests include ethics in medieval Arabo-Islamic thought, modern and contemporary Arab moral thought, and women and gender in the Islamic tradition. She is also a qualified physicist and has worked as a clinical scientist in Jordanian hospitals and in the United Kingdom. Her papers include ‘Divine command ethics in the Islamic legal tradition’ and ‘Meta-ethics: A Quest for Epistemological Basis of Morality in Classical Islamic Thought’. Today, in the fifth seminar on the context of Fear and Trembling, she will continue our exploration starting from the story of Ibrahim (Abraham) in the Quran and in the Islamic tradition; and she will cite evidence from her book Islamic Ethics: Divine Command Theory in Arabo-Islamic Thought that, although many Islamic thinkers have endorsed ‘divine command theory’, Islamic tradition in general contradicts this.
This exceptional constellation of speakers and seminars on the foundational existential thinker Kierkegaard and the religious and philosophical context in which he wrote will perhaps help existential therapists to reach a deeper understanding of both him and his context.
Evaluations of Kierkegaard differ wildly.
For example, Ludwig Wittgenstein, himself a profound thinker of the 20th century, said Kierkegaard was ‘by far the most profound thinker of the last [19th] century’, ‘too deep for me’. But Ernesto Spinelli, an existential therapist, in 2017 denounced Kierkegaard’s ‘dangerous folly’ in allegedly admiring Abraham’s ‘self-evident lunacy’. This is in line with a long history of clinical-psychiatric thinking: for example, Dr Abraham Myerson in 1945 diagnosed Kierkegaard as ‘a psychiatric case’, and his writing as ‘a schizoid and certainly utterly incomprehensible presentation by a mind which is quite deviate’.
Are these demystifying insights? Or is the existential tradition here degenerating into abject uncomprehending psychiatric reductionism?
Those who have acknowledged indebtedness to, or have struggled with, Søren Kierkegaard include Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Edvard Munch, Miguel de Unamano, Rainer Maria Rilke, Martin Buber, Theodor Haecker, Ludwig Binswanger, Ferdinand Ebner, Igor Stravinsky, Viktor Emil von Gebsattel, Karl Jaspers, Franz Kafka, Rudolf Bultmann, György Lukács, Niels Bohr, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Charles Williams, Franz Rosenzweig, Georg Trakl, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Emil Brunner, Edith Stein, Herbert Read, Mikhail Bakhtin, Jorge Luis Borges, Jean-Paul Sartre, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hannah Arendt, Emmanuel Levinas, Abraham Joshua Heschel, W. H. Auden, Maurice Blanchot, Simone de Beauvoir, Rollo May, R. S. Thomas, Albert Camus, Emil Fackenheim, Iris Murdoch, Thomas Szasz, Alice von Hildebrand, Aaron Esterson, Paul Feyerabend, Frantz Fanon, R. D. Laing, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jacques Derrida, David Cooper, John Updike, David Lodge, Henrik Stangerup, and many others. 
Kierkegaard’s idea of authentic religion differed from everybody else’s. He had contempt for the Danish Church: for ‘Christendom’, as he called it. For him, religion was radically existential, individual. But his vision of the individual was the antithesis of an encapsulated, isolated, unsocial, worldless, reified ‘self’. Rather, as Anti-Climacus put it in The Sickness Unto Death, the ‘self’ is a ‘relation’ which ‘relates itself to its own self’; it is ‘that in the relation that the relation relates itself to its own self’, while ‘resting in the [divine] power that established it’; and, as Kierkegaard insisted in his own name in Works of Love (1847), this ‘self’ is only truly itself in loving God and, inextricably, the other: the other-as-‘neighbour, whether spouse, child, family member, friend, neighbour, stranger.
One of Heidegger’s most important early courses of lectures was on The Phenomenology of Religious Life (1920-21). Heidegger wrote in Being and Time (1927) that, of all Kierkegaard’s writings, his ‘upbuilding’ (i.e., explicitly religious) works had the most philosophical significance.
Kierkegaard’s work is a fundamental investigation of the existential phenomenology of individual, non-institutionalised, religious experience, as well as the religious implications of all experience, indispensable for unprejudiced understanding of both ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ clients.
Above all, perhaps, as Professor John Lippitt, who has been guiding our reading of Fear of Trembling, has pointed out in his book Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard’s Thought and elsewhereSøren Kierkegaard can be very funny. His readers take the risk of being compelled to laugh out loud. As his pseudonym Johannes Climacus wrote in Concluding Unscientific Postscript:
... an existing humorist is the closest approximation to one who is religious ...
It is hoped that these seminars, on the text and context of Fear and Trembling, will enable existential therapists, Daseinsanalysts and others, to reflect more deeply on the foundations of their discipline. All of the invited speakers hope to attend, or at least study reports of, some of their colleagues seminars, in addition to those they are themselves conducting. As one of them commented: ‘This looks like a real intellectual feast.’ Our dialogical tradition will surely be much enhanced.  

These will be online seminars, using Zoom. All are on Sundays, but the times for some of them will differ (see above) from the usual 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time or British Summer Time, to accommodate invited speakers from distant lands.

Individual Kierkegaard seminars: psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165
Six Kierkegaard seminars 14 February 2021 to 28 November 2021: psychotherapy trainees £588 (= £98 per seminar), others £738 (= £123 per seminar) - a reduction of about 25% - payment may be spread over six months
Some bursaries; payable in advance by bank transfer or PayPal; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled 
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 7809 433250   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 universities.

‘Mindfulness’ East and West. Jyoti Nanda and Anthony Stadlen conduct Inner Circle Seminar 270 (15 and 22 August 2021)

Mindfulness East and West

Jyoti Nanda and Anthony Stadlen
conduct by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminar No. 270
Sundays 15 and 22 August 2021
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sri Aurobindo Ghose
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramana Maharshi
Martin Heidegger
Medard Boss

Erna Hoch                        Gobind Kaul

The existential psychotherapist Jyoti Nanda recently published a deeply moving account, ‘My Ramakrishna’ (Hermeneutic Circular, April 2021: 27-31), of her lifelong love of the Bengal sage Ramakrishna and his influence on and inspiration for her therapeutic practice, including a report of a brief but profound therapy. (Her beautiful account should be read as a whole, and we shall not risk distorting it by attempting to summarise it here.) She will continue to speak of this, and introduce us to her way of meditation, in this seminar
[Note, 11 October 2021:
Jyoti has now also published a response to her own first article, ‘Tread lightly in my heart space of the sacred’ (Hermeneutic Circular, October 2021: 16-18). It is an inspired essay on, and marvellous invocation of, the Goddess Kali, to whom Sri Ramakrishna was devoted; it concludes with  an important vignette from her practice as a supervisor of psychotherapy, contrasting invalidating with understanding responses to a clients religious experience.]
She and Anthony Stadlen will also discuss the leading Eastern and Western thinkers of ‘mindfulness’, and what they meant by it. We shall explore the links between them. In some cases, we shall make these links, tentatively; but in others, we shall show that the thinkers themselves made great efforts to get to know and to understand one another, even if at a great physical distance.
For example, the sage Sri Aurobindo Ghose studied at St Paul’s School in London and at Cambridge University before engaging as a leader in the Indian independence struggle, going to prison, and becoming a spiritual teacher and founder of an Ashram of great renown. He compared Eastern and Western thinking—Vedanta and the Presocratic philosophers—in his book Heraclitus (1941 [1916-17]). And in September 1955 the Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry was represented—along with the Sorbonne, Göttingen, and Princeton—at an international colloquium on contemporary British linguistic philosophy in Oxford.  
The philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote Mindfulness [Besinnung], one of his most important books, in 1938. It is not well known, as it was not published until 1997, posthumously, in German, and 2016 in English. He had long been influenced by personal contact with Japanese thinkers and by Martin Buber’s translation of the ancient Chinese writings of Chuang Tse. In 1946-7 he worked in his mountain hut at Todtnauberg with a Chinese colleague Paul Shih-yi Hsiao on a translation of the Tao Te Ching (unfortunately never completed).
Heidegger’s friend and colleague, the Swiss psychoanalyst and founder of psychotherapeutic Daseinsanalysis, Medard Boss (in whose home Heidegger conducted the Zollikon seminars from 1959 to 1969), visited India in 1956 as described in his book A Psychiatrist Visits India, and studied meditation and Indian philosophy with a number of sages, including the Kashmiri guru Gobind Kaul, whose disciple he became, and with whom he was reported by a colleague to have remained in telepathic contact on returning to Switzerland.
The psychiatrist Erna Hoch, herself a Daseinsanalyst and also a disciple of Gobind Kaul, worked for decades in India and Kashmir. In conversation with Anthony Stadlen she demonstrated contradictions in some of Boss’s claims about his relation with Kaul. Her book Sources and Resources: A Western psychiatrist’s search for meaning in the ancient Indian scriptures contains a profound and far-reaching investigation of the correspondences and subtle differences between ancient Indian thinking and Heidegger’s philosophy. The book includes a chapter, ‘Messenger between East and West’, describing how she put detailed questions on behalf of Heidegger and Boss to an Indian philosopher and professor of Sanskrit, and explaining how ultimately rather unsatisfactory this academic method of comparing or translating can be.

We shall discuss the following thinkers of East and West, and the links between them:
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (18 February 1836 – 16 August 1886)
Sri Aurobindo Ghose (15 August 1872 – 5 December 1950)
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (30 December 1879 – 14 April 1950)
Martin Heidegger (26 September 1889  26 May 1976)
Gobind Kaul [birth and death dates sought from Kashmir]
Medard Boss (4 October 1903  21 December 1990)
Erna Hoch (18 March 1919  29 August 2003)
The seminar will be divided, as usual, into four parts, of 1 hour 20 minutes each. But, in this case, they will be spread over two Sunday mornings.
Your contribution to the discussion will be warmly welcomed.

Jyoti Nanda is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and Existential Psychotherapist. She has taught on the Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology Programme at Regent’s University, School of Psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology.
She has received education in India and the UK and she brings a wide cross-cultural perspective and openness of world-view to her work. She has trained at Master’s level in Counselling Psychology and in Child Development and Family Relationships, and at the Advanced level in Existential Counselling Psychology, and Existential Psychotherapy. She has also trained at the Advanced level in teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the Center for Mindfulness, UMASS Medical School, Worcester, USA.
Jyoti is a long term practitioner of meditation in more than one tradition. Her research interests have centred on The Effect of Meditation on Existential Therapeutic Practice. Her love for spiritual practice and the company of sages draws much from the influence of her family lineage.
Her wide clinical experience includes working with out-patients in an NHS hospital and with clients in Private Practice. She has offered Mindfulness workshops and courses with the aim of exploring the ‘Domain of Being’ and its implications for therapeutic practice.  

This will be an online seminar, over two mornings, using Zoom.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; payable in advance by bank transfer or PayPal; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 7809 433250    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 universities.

The Myth of ‘Mental Health’ and of ‘Psychopathology’ in Existential Analysis and Daseinsanalysis. The Dialectic: Heidegger/Szasz. Anthony Stadlen conducts Inner Circle Seminar 267 with assistance from Miles Groth (9 May 2021)

The Myth of ‘Mental Health

and of Psychopathology
in Existential Analysis and Daseinsanalysis
The Dialectic: Heidegger/Szasz

Anthony Stadlen
conducts by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminar No. 267
with assistance from Miles Groth
Sunday 9 May 2021
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Martin Heidegger

Thomas Szasz

Aaron Esterson

Medard Boss


Heidegger was interested in psychiatry, especially with schizophrenics, with whom he sought contact and conversations when this was possible for him. On walks he regularly remained standing lost in thought for a while before the villa of the Freiburg psychiatrist Ruffin [...]. Once he said forthrightly that he was not convinced of the correctness of the solely medical interpretation of schizophrenia as illness. Could it not even simply be a question of an ‘other’ kind of thinking?

Wiesenhütter, E. Die Begegnung zwischen Philosophie und Tiefenpsychologie.

(1979: 158, translation by A. Stadlen)

What did Martin Heidegger mean? What Eckart Wiesenhütter says he said (above), three years after Heideggers death, is ambiguous. The words solely’ (allein’) and ‘simply’ (einfach’) in the last two sentences suggest two possible ways of understanding schizophrenia, the second more radical than the first.

The first sentence says Heidegger doubted the ‘solely medical interpretation of schizophrenia as illness’, implying ‘schizophrenia’ might be both an ‘illness’ and ‘an “other” kind of thinking’.
But the second sentence says he wondered if it was ‘simply a question of an “other” kind of thinking’, implying not an ‘illness’ at all.

Even if Heidegger did have the temerity to suggest the second, more radical, possibility on that one occasion, he was usually careful to explain that what he endorsed was the first possibility. He did revere as an “other” kind of thinking’ what were generally regarded as the maddest’ writings of HölderlinNietzsche, TraklCelan; but he tended to emphasise that the medical interpretation that they were ill’ was correct. For example, he called Paul Celan sick. He did, however, insist that the madman in Georg Trakl’s poetry was not mentally ill

Of course, when Heidegger used the word ‘correcthe usually meant wrong, in the light of his more profound understanding. But he still meant ‘correct! How, though, did he know that the medical diagnosis was correct? He was not a doctor. But he deferred as a layman to the medical expertise of such psychiatrists as Ludwig Binswanger and, especially, his friend Medard Boss.

With Heidegger’s help, Boss founded a form of psychotherapy, Daseinsanalysis, grounded in Heidegger’s philosophy. In Boss’s home from 1959 to 1969 Heidegger conducted the Zollikon seminars for psychiatrists and doctors. Both men opposed reductive natural-scientism. They insisted on a ‘holistic’ approach to illness. But they assumed, in relation to those who sought daseinsanalytic therapy, that it was ‘illness’ that they were ‘holistically’ approaching.

In the 1960s, the decade of the Zollikon seminars, the psychiatrists Thomas Szasz in the United States and R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson in the United Kingdom were also seriously questioning the foundations of psychiatry. Laing and Esterson endorsed much of Bosss work while deploring Bossrecklessness’ (Laing) and lack of clarity’ (Esterson). Szasz criticised Bosss claim to be available 24 hours a day to a patient as a shamThe crucial difference was that Szasz, Laing and Esterson questioned the presumption of illness.

Szasz, in The Myth of Mental Illness (1961), The Manufacture of Madness (1970), and many other books and papers, compared the presumption of illness to the presumption of guilt in inquisitorial legal systems. He held, on both scientific and ethical grounds, that people should be presumed healthy until proven ill, just as they are presumed innocent until proven guilty in accusatorial legal systems. He argued that both the presumption of illness and the presumption of guilt invalidate people.

However, the presumption of illness differs from the presumption of guilt in a fundamental way. The presumption of guilt at least attributes agency and responsibility; indeed, it insists on it. But the presumption of illness, and especially mental illness’, attributes lack of agency and responsibility: it literally invalidates by treating the person as an invalid.

A further twist, however, to the attribution of mental illness’, often made nowadays with the insistence that it should be regarded as an illness like any other, and that it should be given parity of esteem with physical illness, is precisely that this alleged ‘illness is not treated as an ‘illness like any other’. Mental illness, unlike physical illness, is taken as a legal justification both for compulsory psychiatry - coercing the innocent - and for the insanity defence - excusing the guilty.

Szasz was as committed as Heidegger and Boss were to holistic medicine. He was no dualist. His first papers and first book Pain and Pleasure were on psychosomatic medicine, and he stood by them at the end of his life more than half a century later, seeing this as an important field wide open for research. But he pointed out that illness (disease) still has first to be established by a natural-scientific criterion such as Virchows, of cellular pathology or pathophysiology. A holistic approach to illness, he insisted, makes no sense if there is no illness to approach. Holistic (or any other kind of) medicine should not betray the ancient principle ‘First do no harm by making the presumption of illness.

Laing and Esterson, in Sanity, Madness and the Family (1964), and Esterson, in The Leaves of Spring (1970), demonstrated in concrete detail how, in each of eleven families in which a daughter had been medically diagnosed as schizophrenic, the presumption by the other family members that this young woman was ‘ill served to mystify her and invalidate her experience. Some of the diagnosed women fluctuated between accepting and challenging the familys and the psychiatrists’ (not, of course, Laings or Estersons) definition of them as ill. Others simply accepted, in a defeated and demoralised way, that they were ill’.

Laing and Esterson emphasised in the preface to the second edition of their book that readers had ignored their question, namely (1970 [1964]: viii):

Are the experience and behaviour that psychiatrists take as [boldface added] signs and symptoms of schizophrenia more socially intelligible than has come to be supposed?

They were questioning the existence of schizophrenia. But for more than half a century they have been misread as if they had left out the seven words here in boldface.

This is not an obscure detail. It is the heart of their argument. But it is so simple that almost all readers manage not to see it.

Indeed, most ‘readers’ acknowledge that they skip the Prefaces and Introduction and do not even see Laing and Estersons question, let alone see the point of the words here printed in boldface. Even within the chapters proper, with their readable transcriptions of family conversations and interactions, ‘readers’ ‘read’ the first section of each chapter, Clinical Perspective, as if this were the authors perspective. But the whole point of the book is to contrast the Clinical Perspective’ section with The Family Situation section in each of the eleven chapters. The Family Situation’ exemplifies the authors own social-phenomenological perspective.

Laing and Esterson explain, at the end of their Introduction:
We believe that the shift of point of view that these descriptions both embody and demand has a historical significance no less radical than the shift from a demonological to a clinical viewpoint three hundred years ago.
In other words, their shift is to a point of view that is neither demonological nor clinical, but social-phenomenological. Laing and Esterson are not just questioning the existence of a particular supposed grave ‘illness’, ‘schizophrenia’: they are questioning whether these women are ‘ill’ at all.
In ten of the eleven cases (the exception is the Blairs) the question of whether the diagnosed woman is ill at all is explicitly discussed and disputed, sometimes by the women themselves, e.g. Sarah Danzig, Ruth Gold, Mary Irwin; whereas others, notably Agnes Lawson, seem to have despairingly and without question accepted the attribution that they are ill.
So Laing and Esterson are suggesting something far more radical than most people who talk or write about them have realised. Most people assume that they are suggesting that family interactions play some part in the supposed aetiology (the supposed cause) of the supposed dread disease schizophrenia. But Laing and Esterson say in the Preface to the second edition:
No one can deny us the right to disbelieve in the fact of schizophrenia.
That does not mean they are suggesting the women have been misdiagnosed and are actually suffering from some other illness. To repeat: what they are disbelieving is that the women are ill at all.
And again, to repeat: Almost all ‘readers’ assume, as certainly do non-readers, that Laing and Esterson claimed families cause’ (contribute to the ‘aetiology’ of) a (hypothetical) mental illness’, ‘schizophrenia’. That is to say, readers mistakenly assume it was this presumed illness’, not the presumption of such an ‘illness, that these authors claimed was socially intelligible.

For example, Emmy van Deurzen and Raymond Kenward assert in their influential Dictionary of Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling (2005: 118): 

Laing […] believed schizophrenia was the result of the alienating power of the schizophrenogenic family.

This is what almost all the few existential therapists and Daseinsanalysts who claim to have looked at the book say Laing and Esterson were saying. They are supported in this belief by van Deurzen and Kenwards statement (2005: 118):

[...] Laings overall conceptualisation of his patients was deterministic.

This has been disproved in detail by Anthony Stadlen in Laing in a Lexicon(Existential Analysis, 18.2; 2007: 341-5). [See:

In two series of Inner Circle Seminars on the eleven families, for the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the book, we have seen how difficult it is for existential therapists, perhaps because their careers depend on it, to examine their belief in mental health, mental illness’, and schizophrenia. Daseinsanalysts have expressed similar puzzlement. But for the laywoman Dame Hilary Mantel, the great writer who introduced our second series of seminars, the phenomenological point was obvious. [See: 

Of course, as Szasz pointed out, it is possible that some persons now diagnosed as schizophrenic are indeed ill: they may have an undiscovered brain abnormality. If such an abnormality were discovered then it would constitute a bona fide disease with mental symptoms: the province of neurologists.

But often, as Esterson says in Families, Breakdown and Psychiatry (1976: 296),

Such was the hypnotic effect of the prior assumption of illness, that one had constantly to remind oneself that there was no evidence to substantiate this assumption.

And (302):
[…] study the designated schizophrenic directly in his relevant social context in a phenomenologically and dialectically valid manner, and to a significant extent the apparent signs and symptoms of the presumed illness disappear like morning mist before the sun […]

Boss says (Grundriss der Medizin, 1971: 506, translation by A. Stadlen):
[…] with no single patient can one speak of his being schizophrenic per se. Rather, one must always ask: schizophrenic under the excessive demands of what pattern of human relationships?
This is very close to what Esterson says. But Boss’s language is still characteristically ambiguous. It still begs the question of what ‘schizophrenic’ means. Is there, or is there not, an illness’, schizophrenia? Boss, one might say, from the point of view of Szasz and Esterson, is nearly there. But Boss has defined Daseinsanalysis, in the title of his book and elsewhere, as part of medicine. He and Heidegger constantly refer to ‘patients’ as ‘ill’. [See:
by A. Stadlen.]
Boss thought Daseinsanalysts should be medical doctors. But Freud had argued in the 1920s that ‘doctors form a preponderating contingent of quacks in psychoanalysis’, which he insisted was not part of medicine but ‘weltliche Seelsorge’ (‘secular [worldly] soul-care’). Boss, starting with a modest claim that, as a student, he had visited Freud for some sessions in 1925, eventually claimed to have had psychoanalysis with him six times a week for six months, though Boss’s deputy and successor Gion Condrau, collaborating with Stadlen on the historiography of Daseinsanalysis, proved from the records of Bosss Swiss military service that he cannot have been in Vienna for at least half that time. If he did visit Freud, as seems probable, though not on the scale he eventually claimed, his account is significant; he reported, memorably, his astonishment that Freud did not practise according to the alienated natural-scientistic theories of his metapsychology, but in a deeply human way. However, Boss may not quite have grasped that Freud did not regard their analytic or therapeutic meetings as medical. Heidegger appears to have accepted Boss’s apparent assumption that psychotherapy was a medical treatment without question.
Condrau, who was also a Christian-Democratic Peoples Party member of the Swiss National Parliament, succeeded in getting psychotherapy by non-medical psychologists legalised. But this did not in itself constitute psychotherapy as an autonymous profession, rather than a medical or quasi-medical practice, subsidiary or ancillary to medicine. In the United Kingdom, non-medical psychoanalysts and psychotherapists had always been legally accepted, and trained by the Freudian and Jungian societies, but until the 1970s they relied on medical cover by doctors, who were responsible for the treatment by the lay analyst or therapist, who also sheltered behind the covering doctors medical insurance.
Stadlen challenged this in 1973 (on behalf of the embryonic Guild of Psychotherapists, which was then followed by other psychotherapy organisations). This may be the moment psychotherapists, medical and non-medical, in the United Kingdom began to assert themselves as an autonymous profession, with, among other things, independent insurance.
However, almost all psychotherapists today, half a century on, remain devotees of mental health. They describe themselves as mental health professionals. They do not explicitly reject, or even intelligently address, involuntary psychiatry and the insanity defence: what Szasz called the Siamese twins’ of the mental health movement’, a movement whose structure he showed, in The Manufacture of Madness, to be formally isomorphic to that of the Inquisition.
It is true that Heidegger and Boss rejected the reification of ‘mind and consciousnessBut they accepted involuntary psychiatry. Heidegger had recourse to it in the case of a family member. Boss practised it as a psychiatrist. For Heidegger, this was just one more way in which he affirmed that the medical view was correctFor Bosswho had before the second world war been the director of a psychiatric sanatorium, Schloss Knonau, those colleagues or trainees who questioned his hospitalisations of ‘psychotics were in his view ignorant and incompetent, and ought to stick to treating neurotics’.
Was Heidegger in effect pleading the insanity defence by means of his nervous breakdown when, after the second world war, he was interrogated by the denazification authorities about his political activity in the 1930s?His breakdown appears to have been more a matter of difficulties with wife and mistress. 
The difference between the view of Szasz and Esterson and that of Heidegger and Boss may be seen by comparing Heidegger’s musings about ‘schizophrenics’, when he stopped outside Professor Hanns Ruffin’s villa on his walks around Freiburg, with the reflections, decades earlier, of the young boy Tamás Szász, on his walks with his governess around Budapest. The boy was shown large buildings: hospitals, prisons, and ... ‘mental hospitals’. He understood the first two. But the third, he protested, when he learned their nature and function, were wrongly named: they too should be called not hospitals but prisons. He saw ‘mental illness’ as the rationalisation invented to justify the incarceration of innocent people in these prisons disguised as hospitals. He never changed his position on this. As he explained, he never had to give up a belief in ‘mental illness’ because he had never had such a belief.
It is this conjunction and disjunction, this confrontation and dialectic, of Heidegger and Boss with Szasz and Esterson, that we shall explore today. 
Laing is a special case, as he equivocated about ‘mental illness’, after at first appearing in Sanity, Madness and the Family to concur with Szasz; and in at least one later interview he affirmed his belief in ‘mental illness’, in explicit disagreement with Szasz. But Esterson and Szasz remained largely in accord on this, though Esterson was critical of what he regarded as certain over-simplifications by Szasz, especially in relation to psychosis, of which Szasz had little experience, having deliberately avoided situations where patients would see him involuntarily.
In our Covid-oriented time, when everyone is talking about so-called mental health’, this seminar offers an urgently needed perspective, one which might actually help people come to terms with this unprecedented existential, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, spiritual, religious challenge better than the confused perspective of mental health’. This does not mean that people offering ‘talking therapy’ within the mental health’ system are doing no good; some may do much good; but this seminar asks: might they not do better, and perhaps even much better, if their thinking and practice were not muddled and muddied by the mystifying discourse of mental health’? Does not this pseudo-medical approach besmirch even the most sophisticated daseinsanalytic or existential therapy? The seminar will be an opportunity to examine the evidence without which answers to these questions can only be dogmatic or speculative.
This is an apparently difficult field, though, or rather because, the basic ideas are simple; perhaps too simple for most people to understand,  It is not clear how many seminars will be required. For this reason we shall devote not just a single seminar but a whole subseries to it. There can be no definitive final seminar in the subseries. In any event, your contribution to the discussion will be warmly welcomed.

Professor Miles Groth will participate in the afternoon of this first seminar in this subseries. He is a Daseinsanalyst who has practised since 1975; Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Wagner College, Staten Island, New York City; translator of Heidegger; author of books and papers on Heidegger and Boss, including Medard Boss and the Promise of Therapy (2020); collaborator with Todd DuBose in The Soul of Existential Therapy (2020) and a Society for Existential Analysis symposium in November 2020.

Professor Keith Hoeller and Dr Albert Pacheco will join Anthony Stadlen in conducting another seminar in this subseries (date to be announced).

Professor Keith Hoeller, translator of Heidegger’s Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry (2001), will again join us from Seattlewhere he was Professor of Philosophy for many years. He has edited the Review of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy from 1978, as well as books of key papers on Binswanger, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Boss, Sartre, Szasz, Foucault, MayHe is one of the very few authorities on both Heidegger and Szasz. He edited Thomas Szasz: Moral Philosopher of Psychiatry (1997). He contributed a chapter on Szasz to Existential Therapy (ed. Barnett, L. and Madison, G., 2012). He 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.

Professor Hoeller co-conducted (by Zoom from Seattle, heroically through the night) Inner Circle Seminars No. 258 (The Myth of Thomas Szasz) on 14 June 2020 and No. 259 (Heidegger and Levinas on the ‘Holy’) on 2 August 2020.

Dr Albert Pacheco is Director of Behavioral Health Services for South Central Family Health Services in Los Angeles, CA. He has over 20 years of clinical experience. His doctoral dissertation, based on the work of Medard Boss, was reviewed and approved by Boss himself, and he has discussed with both Boss and Szasz their positions on mental illness. He has published articles on Boss and existential psychology and is an editorial board member of the Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, which published (!) his important paper The Myth of Existential PsychiatryHe is completing a book,  An Introduction to the Existential Psychology of Medard Boss.

These will be online seminars, using Zoom.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; payable in advance by bank transfer or PayPal; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 7809 433250    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 universities.