Member Login







In Person

Art & Literature


Philosophy & Religion

Shamanism & Rebirth

Politics of Diagnosis

Therapeutic Communities

·SLS Annual·

Submit a Paper

·About the SLS·

Site Staff


Patrons & Sponsors

Join the Society

Contact us

· Resources ·

Search the Site

Notes and Notation

A Timeline

Further Links

About this site


This Site
is made possible through the auspices of

The International R.D. Laing Institute


Bibliography Main Page [link]
Biography & Critique Index

The Politics of Truth: The World of R.D. Laing

Theodor Itten & Noel Cobb, Editors.
Booklength: approx. 275-326 pages
Publication Forthcoming


· Introduction ·

The purpose of this book is to present a coherent and comprehensive examination of the work of R.D. Laing (1927-1989). First conceived by R.D. Laing in cooperation with Theodor Itten (cf letter: Laing to Itten, August 1, 1989), the project has lain dormant for nearly a decade, due to Laing's death, less than a month later.

The editors' plan for the book takes up the original chapter divisions proposed by Laing and supplements these with additional ones which they feel will help round out the features of this complex subject.

The book is envisioned both for readers who are well-versed in the work of Laing or who are drawn to it by "elective affinity" (Goethe). In his letter to Itten, Laing said that he "would like contributors to commit themselves to an actual examination of the work of RDL-- not vague programmatic manifestos". Over the past year, the editors have taken up this plan with a view to bringing it to fruition. As co-editors they first discussed the kind of book they wanted, keeping Laing's words in mind. Their choice of contributors, they agreed, should first of all reflect Laing's wishes. Next, they decided to select individuals whom they felt would do a superb job, prioritizing those who knew Laing personally and valued his ideas; who also made them a significant part of their own lives and work. Contributors, they felt, not only had to write well but also should be well-qualified to take on a major aspect of Laing's work and do it justice. The editors want the book to stand out for its honesty, its depth and breadth, and its eloquence. They are determined to create a book which will be true, above all, to Laing's complex and brilliant mind. They have admonished contributors to take Laing's words to heart and to make "an actual examination of the work" with respect to the aspect they are covering.

Many of the authors chosen have already published books and articles on Laing's work, and are thus well-suited to present "The Politics of Truth" to a new generation of readers, whether these be in the world of psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, social science or the humanities. The current debate on Community Mental Health issues will also benefit from such a book as well, and debating participants on issues of managed care or the therapeutic approach must certainly welcome such a compendium of experience and reflection, along with a wide range of insights into a sagacious theory-making in process.

In the outline that follows, chapter divisions largely follow those indicated by Laing in the August "89 letter to Itten (Laing quotes in italics). The editors will endeavour to weave the various contributions into an elegant tapestry of critical thought.

· The Editors ·

Noel Cobb - Clinical Psychologist/ Psychotherapist, Author of Prospero's Island --The Secret Alchemy at the Heart of the Tempest and Archetypal Imagination-- Glimpses of the Gods in Life and Art. Ten years experience as editor, working as chief editor of annual anthology, SPHINX --Journal of Archetypal Psychology and the Arts. Joined Laing, living and working at Kingsley Hall, in 1966, stayed until 1968. Wrote a novel, The Building, based on experiences at Kingsley Hall, published in Norway in 1970. Immersed himself totally in Laing's thought and work for many years. Remained a devoted, personal friend of Laing until his death.

Theodor Itten -Psychologist BPS/Psychotherapist UKCP --was an apprentice to Laing from 1976-1981. Since then, Associate Member of the Philadelphia Association, colleague and friend of the late R.D. Laing. Lectures and writes on Laing for various publications.


· The Politics of Truth ·

The Introduction:
An overview explaining the vision in, and of, the world and work of R.D. Laing, as expressed in the title of the book: THE POLITICS
Noel Cobb & Theodor Itten

Chapter 1: Poetry and Psychiatry
Explores Laing's artistic psychiatry in relation to the poetic moods of writers and Laing's relation to the art of healing in the theatre of health.
Martin Esslin

Chapter 2: Laing and Tradition
Situates Laing's work in the context of Tradition be that of Aesclepian medicine, moral treatment, western psychiatry in the wake of Bleuler, Jung and existential analysis as well as the Scottish school, such as Sutherland and Fairbarn, intermingling psychoanalysis with modern, person-oriented treatment in social- and community-psychiatry.
Noel Cobb, Theodor Itten and Salman Raschid

Chapter 3: Laing and British Psychiatry
Will show that Laing was the right person at the right time and at the right place to voice what was happening in psychiatry in the 1950's and thus to comprehend and reveal a new paradigm for a new generation of doctors of psychological medicine, well-versed in philosophy and the Arts. Why this change of mood and perspective took place in Britain. -- This chapter is also a unique contribution to the history of psychiatry.
Salman Raschid

Chapter 4: The Shift of Perspective
"all through from the Kraeplelin interview in 'The Divided Self to the carefully worded relevant part of Intro to 'Sanity, Madness & Family' to the point by point contrasting vignettes in 'The Facts of Life' to the complete de-anchoring from 'clinical' coordinates in the vignettes in 'Voice of Experience'." This chapter can help clarify many misconceptions by those who do not understand the evolution of Laing's thought and how his vision of experience and the world changed over time.
Noel Cobb

Chapter 5: Praxis and Process
"1 went into this in detail in my Burghhoizi talk this year -- they all seemed completely bemused, but, this time, very respectful" By introducing these concepts from J.P. Sartre, Laing was able to add a more subtle theoretical tool to his findings in Family Research and express himself more explicitly, in terms of what he saw was 'going on' in families and groups and what was 'being done' by various members to each other. This is the 'political' aspect in Laing's work as expressed in The Politics of Experience, The Poltics of the Family and, this book, The Politics of Truth.
Theodor Itten & Ljiljana Filipovic

Chapter 6: The Focus on Person-Person Conjunction-Disjunction
"as the unacknowledged 'cleavage', Spaltung, in the I-Thou non-actualized ontologically possible human connection; again, present from beginning of my oeuvre, to now . . ." What is 'ordinary' and what is 'disturbing'. behaviour, experience, communication and fantasy? A look at the aims of disturbed and disturbing people to establish a new identity and the implications of that authentic being-in-the-world. Who is 'normal' and who is 'not normal', and who decides who can say so. Diagnosis as a social activity and a social datum.
Michael Guy Thompson

Chapter 7: The Actual Data in the Work
"The presentation of actual metanoiac transformations & modulations of experience, which 'sometimes, not always', as said in 'The Politics of E,' seems to have a healing value. This metaphor of a 'journey' has been persistently treated with scorn & contempt."

Part One: An overview from Kingsley Hall onwards to the Soteria project and further developments in Community Mental Health projects.
Loren Mosher

Part Two: The Experiment of the Community Therapy Project in Kingsley Hall, London and what came afterwards, by one of the most experienced and knowledgeable associates of Laing's 'team'. How these experiences and visions shaped and changed lives and were themselves changed. The reality of the day to day caring and being with others undergoing such experiences.
Leon Redler

Part Three: The story of one of Laing's gifted students, who took the vision of his mentor further, and, back home in the United States, founded the Therapeutic Community of Burch House, New Hampshire, offering, through his innovative environment, a fresh way to be with individuals going through psychotic episodes.
David Goldblatt

Chapter 8: The Theoretical and Practical Study of Social Context
"Reason and Violence via Sartre, Oxford Companion of Mind article. Phoenix Arizona article" -- Whatever happens always takes place within a social and cultural, historical context. What is the content and the role of 'context' in the work of RD Laing? It is here that a well-founded philosophical reflection of the theme of social context in the work of Laing is presented.
Douglas Kirsner (Author of The Schizoid World of J.P. Sartre and R. D. Laing)

Chapter 9: Interpersonal Perception
Following Maurice Merleau-Ponty's The Primacy of Perception, Laing wrote--together with co-researchers at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations-- a book on this theme, and showed how disturbed and non-disturbed interpersonal perceptions, and their meta-level components/ influence relationships at their core.
Theodor Itten

Chapter 10: The Look, the Way of Seeing
" constitutive of what is seen etc, who sees whom how". The way we look at disturbance and disturbing people is itself disturbed by how we look. Here Laing provided a new paradigm, by giving examples of how he sees what he sees, in the way he presented his case histories/stories.
Leon Redler

Chapter 11: Analysis and Therapy
What is the Laingian approach to the analysis and therapy of social situations, interpersonal relationships and the coping-, experience- and behaviour-patterns of people who come into psychotherapy? The way we treat each other is the treatment.
Andrew Feldmar

Chapter 12: Women and the Work of R.D. Laing
This chapter explores the role women have in the work and research of Laing, as well as to situate Laing in relation to significant feminine figures in his life and the feminine archetype in his own work of soul-making. Psyche as a leading figure in his vision of health.
Ginette Paris

Chapter 13: The Love of Truth and the Truth of Love
Presented here, in a deep philosophical context of being authentic and finding an ontologically secure basis in being with others, openly and honestly. Laing's notion of Truth and his search for truth in love is explored with a fine and gentle flair for the veiled aspects of his work.
Steven Gans

Chapter 14: Coda on the Art of Living with the Politics of Truth
Highlights the findings of previous chapters and weaves these major themes into a whole sound of Laingian phronesis.
Noel Cobb and Theodor Itten

Chapter 15: Dreams and Beyond
Suggests that dreams of Laing may have direct importance for the art of healing and a wider vision of communal health. Possibilities of a fresh thread of mythmaking from our time into the Soul of the World (Plato)
Theodor Itten
and Noel Cobb

Chapter 16: An Unpublished Work by R.D. Laing
ject to the approval of the heirs etc)

Chapter 17: Chronology of R.D. Laing's life
Theodor Itten & John Clay

Chapter 18: Bibliography
The first comprehensive bibliography of all the books, chapters in books, papers, essays
, talks, reviews, interviews and secondary literature
Jack Baldwin
(Specially appointed librarian and archivist
of Laing Collection, Glasgow University Library)

Chapter 19: Contributors

Chapter 20: Acknowledgements

Comments and suggestions on the content and/or any problems with the display of this page would be appreciated by the admin. Thanks.