Claudio Naranjo




audio & video


site map







I was born in November 24, 1932 in Valparaíso, Chile. I grew up in a musical environment, attended school in Valparaíso and then in Santiago, and graduated as a Medical Doctor in 1959. I had an early start at the piano and studied musical composition but I quit the National Conservatoire as I started medical school. However, my graduate studies did not interest me as much as my unofficial training with the Chilean visionary poet and sculptor Tótila Albert, poet David Rosenman Taub, and philosopher Bogumil Jasinowski.

After receiving my MD I was hired by University of Chile's Medical School to be part of the pioneering Center for Studies in Medical Anthropology (CEAM) founded by Franz Hoffman in 1960. During those years my research focused on the dehumanizing effects of traditional medical education. At the same time, I served my psychiatry residency at the University Psychiatric Clinic, then under the direction of Ignacio Matte-Blanco, and underwent analysis with him at the Chilean Institute for Psychoanalysis.

At the end of these research years, I traveled to the U.S. sponsored by the University of Chile to explore the field of perceptual learning, and became acquainted with the work of Dr. Samuel Renshaw and with that of Hoyt Sherman - both at Ohio State University in Columbus, and interested in human perception of totality.

Thanks to a Fullbright scholarship, I spent time at Harvard as a visiting scholar. There I alternated my research days between the Center for Studies of Personality (then under the direction of David McClelland) and Emerson Hall, where I was a participant in Gordon Allport's Social Psychology Seminar and a student of Tillich. At the end of the academic season there, I spent some time with Raymond Cattell at the University of Illinois and became Dr. Cattell's associate at IPAT, the Institute of Personality and Ability Testing.

Later, invited by Frank Barron to participate in the activities of the Center for Personality Assessment Research (an enclave of the Henry Murray culture), I went to Berkeley, fell in love with it and had the chance to soak in the atmosphere of the counterculture.

A fellowship of the Guggenheim Foundation allowed me to return to Berkeley a year later to pursue and expand on my previous research on values. The Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR) in Berkeley, dedicated to research on personality and creativity, opened its doors to me and welcomed me as a Research Associate, with campus privileges that included use of the impressive IT center and of the magnificent library.

At that time, I became a close friend of Carlos Castaneda and became Fritz Perls' apprentice, becoming part of the early Esalen Institute community. I also attended sensory awareness workshops with Charlotte Selver and took part in the meetings of Leo Zeff's pioneering psychedelic therapy group (to which I later would successively contribute the use of harmaline, MDA, and ibogaine.

Back in Chile in 1967 after these studies, I sought to create a program of personal development, with the support of the Senate and the permission of my boss; an Esalen-in-Chile program mentioned at the time in the Esalen Catalogue, offered to a stable group of students who would receive a more systematic and integrated gestalt training curriculum compared to Esalen's: psychological exercises, fencing, spontaneous movement and bodily expression.

The time of my return to Chile also marked the start of my research in psychopharmacology: first studying the effects of harmaline and then, as an associate of Shulgin and Sargent, studying phenylisopropylamine and exploring individual psychedelic therapy and psychedelic group therapy.

Shortly after, I traveled to attend two pioneering conferences: the University of California LSD Conference of 1967 (where I presented my research on ibogaine-assisted psychotherapy) and a conference sponsored by the Karolinska Institute and named "Ethnopharmacological Search for Psychoactive Drugs" ("Búsqueda Etnofarmacológica de Medicamentos Psicoactivos"). .

After some time working at the center for medical anthropology of the University of Chile, I returned to Berkeley as an immigrant, and to IPAR, where I continued my activities as Research Associate. I also began conducting workshops at the Esalen Institute where, after a few years, I had become one of Fritz Perls' three successors after he had moved to Canada. Periodically, I would go to LA to receive additional training and supervision from Jim Simkin who had been the main associate of Perls in his last period at Esalen.

In 1969 I had the privilege to become a council member of the Education Policy Research Center, created by Willis Harman at the Stanford Research institute. I was asked to research and report about the domain of psychological and spiritual techniques in vogue with the human potential movement, considering their relevance and potential usefulness for education. My report was published as an SRI monograph entitled The Unfoldment of Man, and later appeared in my first book, The One Quest. At that time I also wrote The Healing Journey, a book that surveys my exploration of the use of substances in Psychedelic therapy.

I also accepted Dr. Robert Ornstein's invitation to co-author a book on meditation, and that of Dr. Ravenna Helson to engage in a qualitative examination of the differences between books qualified as "Matriarchal" and "Patriarchal", for a study she had previously done on alternative creative modalities for mathematicians. This lead to my book The Divine Child and the Hero - that would be published at a much later time.

The accidental death of my only son on the eve of Easter of 1970 put an end to a stage of my life. The next phase began with a pilgrimage under the guidance of a spiritual teacher called Oscar Ichazo, which included a period of isolation in the desert near Arica, at the northern end of Chile. This seminal experience marked the true beginning of my contemplative life and of my feeling of inner guidance.

At the end of 1970, leaving Arica after 6 months, I started coordinating the activities of a group that included my mother, former gestalt trainees and some friend. With this group of Chileans, I developed the confidence and the experience I needed in order to launch, in September 1971, my work in Berkeley. This work began as an improvisation and ended up as a Program, around which the non-profit called "SAT Institute" was created. My role in the institute was to design processes and supervise all the activities offered by my students and by a series of guest teachers: Zalman Schachter, Dhiravamsa, Ch'u Fang Chu, Sri Harish Johari and Bob Hoffman.

In 1976 I was a visiting professor at UC Santa Cruz and later, and intermittently, at the California Institute of Asian Studies (now CIIS). I began offering workshops in Europe, refining and tuning the mosaic of activities that formed the SAT program: Gestalt therapy and its supervision, applications of the Enneagram to personality, music as a therapeutic tool and as an extension of meditation, communication processes and self-discovery in small groups. I managed once again to bring the parts together into the whole, and with new collaborators. And so in 1987, the SAT program was reborn in Spain under the name of "SAT in Babia", a program for personal and professional development. Since then, the program has been offered in France, Germany and Italy, in the UK, in Russia, in Argentina, in Brazil and Chile, in Colombia and in Mexico, in the USA and in Korea, and with great success, so much so that my life was for many years divided between these programs abroad and my writing, to which I dedicated all my time at home in Berkeley.

In the late eighties I revised completely my first book on Gestalt therapy and published two new ones on Gestalt. I also published three books on the Enneagram, a book called La agonía del patriarcado, and a new book on meditation: The Way of Silence and the Talking Cure; as well as Cantos del despertar - an interpretation of the great books of the west as expressions of "the inner journey" and variations on the "hero's journey".

Since the late nineties I participated to many conferences on Education and sought to influence the transformation of the educational system in various countries - convinced that we have no better chance at promoting social evolution than by collectively developing individual wisdom, compassion and freedom. My book Cambiar la educación para cambiar el mundo (Changing Education to Change the World), published in Spain in 2004, was initially meant to fuel and support the efforts of the teachers formed in the SAT program, who were getting involved in a "SAT-in- Education" project, which would offer the SAT program to school teachers and instructors as an extra curriculum of self-knowledge, relationship-mending and spiritual culture.

In spite of my rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew, I was then conferred the honorability of a Rabbi by Rabbi Yollis. Shortly after, Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, my teacher during the seventies, informed me that time had come for me to reap my spiritual harvest and gave me the white cape of a Nakpo or yogi.

In the last ten years I have written and published several books - La civiltà, un male curabile; L'ego patriarcale; El viaje interior; Hermenéutica musical; 27 personajes en busca del ser; La rivoluzione che stavamo aspettando; Budismo dionisiaco; e Ayahuasca - il rampicante del fiume celeste - and participated to many conferences. I have been awarded a degree honoris causa in Educational Sciences by the University of Udine in Italy, another one in humanist psychology by Universidad la Concordia in Mexico, and a third one by the Gestalt University in Mexico City for my achievements in the field of education. I was nominated council member of the global forum for the future of education in Russia, I founded the Claudio Naranjo International University with the support of the mexican government, and have been recently nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. Through the "Claudio Naranjo Foundation", with headquarters in Barcelona, I continue to promote the interest for an education that is not only holistic in spirit, but also inspired to transcend the patriarchal mind, among teachers and educators. I have also started to convene with educators from abroad to encourage them to express to the authorities their discomfort with obsolete programs and a subdue education that has contributed too little to personal development, let alone to social development.

In September 2014 I was invited to give the inaugural speech at the First International Conference on Ayahuasca, the southamerican shamanic brew that I had studied, before anyone else, in application to psychotherapy. Afterwards, an Italian publishing company showed interest in publishing my book El Viaje Sanador in which I describe the therapeutic exploration of psychoactive substances during the sixties. All this opened the door to more conferences on the topic, which I had long postponed to give priority to the goal of building participation among educators - a topic that I would be due to go back to, considering how the repressive attitude towards drugs of politics is changing and how much our sick world needs to open a path for the therapeutic potential of some substances.

I am planning a collection of unpublished articles about the therapeutic value of psychedelics.

Claudio Naranjo