Psychiatrist • Author, The Divided Self

This is the transcript of a video interview produced and directed by Michael O'Callaghan as part of his Future Tapes interactive video exhibit in 1988.
Full transcript (176 words, slightly edited for clarity).
© 2019 Global Vision Foundation.
R.D. Laing (1927-1989) - known to his friends as Ronnie - was a visionary Scottish psychiatrist whose books The Divided Self (1960) and The Politics of Experience & The Bird of Paradise (1967) exploded like psychedelic firecrackers in the hallowed halls of the psychiatric establishment in the 1960s. By including context of family and society in the understanding and diagnosis of mental illness, Laing introduced a whole systems perspective which revealed that madness can be distributed throughout large groups of people, including whole societies, and that non-ordinary states of consciousness are often the pathway to healing. Laing pointed out that since the self-destructive society in which we live is itself psychotic, saving the planet requires a personal examination of our own insanity.

Ronnie Laing was an early participant in the Global Vision Project. This short interview - a time capsule from 1988 - is a sound bite recorded during the height of the nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the USA, when the global military budget was at an all all-time high of one trillion dollars per year.
How do you feel about the future?

We have achieved, in the last two or three generations, the capacity to kill ourselves. We are the only species we know that can do that. We've got to make up our minds about this. This is a crisis for the human species. We have biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and chemical weapons that can wipe us out - and all life-forms in the world - at the snap of a finger. We're very close to doing that. We need not do that. Are we going to do that?

Now we've got the capacity to do that, and capacity is sweet. Oppenheimer, when asked why he went for the hydrogen bomb, said "Well, it was so sweet, the capacity to do it was so sweet it was irresistible."

Can we resist species suicide? Whether we're good or evil, whether we're in power or not, are we going to keep this show on the road or not? If we want to, then we've got to put all our hearts and minds and souls into that project of survival.