Dr. Claudio Naranjo passed away

1932 Valparaiso, Chile – 2019 Berkeley, USA. In memoriam of a great pioneer in transpersonal psychotherapies, as much as education, and successor of Fritz Perls.

In the night from 11th to 12th of July 2019, Dr. Claudio Naranjo, great mind with a big heart, passed away at age 86 at his home in Berkeley, California. His death not only means the passing of one the most outstanding Chilean thinkers, but also of a fierce critic to western educational models and the patriarchal system as well as a worldwide recognized teacher of psycho-spiritual unfolding.

Claudio, a Chilean-born psychiatrist and musician was the successor of Fritz Perls at the Esalen Institute. He participated in the 1960s wave of the Californian counter-cultural movement, the rapprochement between Western and Eastern traditions of spiritual openness. He was a pioneer in transpersonal psychotherapies and the therapeutic use of psychotropic drugs. He developed the Enneagram of Personality, which includes the Psychology of Enneatypes, and he brought the SAT program, a “university for love and global consciousness” as he liked to call it, to life. He has worked in the field of education as a way to transform the world and leaves behind over 200 books and articles. In a contemporary landscape that is losing value and guidance, he has shed unique light on the difficulties created by the patriarchal world and has offered us different ways out, by laying deep trust in our human potential for self-regulation and mutual assistance.

This deep trust in our abilities to help each other and also in the capacity of our organism to self regulate might be his most important contribution to Peace Studies, along with his deep understanding of character types in the frame of the Enneagram of Personality, which benefits people who want to get to know themselves deeply. When we understand peace as relational, knowing oneself is important as it helps us to relate to others and to connect deeply. “When we have peace within, we can be helpful”, Claudio says. Then, what flows from us is right, not because of external reference but because of our organism functioning well. 

For Claudio we are beings with three inner centers unified by consciousness and contained in the body, each center with its own purpose: the head (thinking centre), the heart (feeling centre), and the gut (instinctual centre). Claudio invites us to bring this three centers into balance so that they can work together harmoniously for us to feel at peace within ourselves. His theory of suffering indicates that we suffer because we are not connected to our inner being. We cannot find our being; we don’t have a sense of existence due to an inability to be still and at home in the body. We identify with what we feel but not with what we are. For him, learning about our dysfunctions and bringing our inner centers into equilibrium is one important contribution of healing the suffering in the world.

In 2014, a public discussion was held at ZIST near Munich where Claudio Naranjo and Wolfgang Dietrich exchanged their ideas on inner and outer peace. This discussion gives a good insight into their wide commonalities in understanding peace and can be revisited online: 

From this first meeting grew a friendship between Claudio and Wolfgang. Wolfgang Dietrich initiated the translation and publication of several of his more recent books in reputable German and Austrian Editorial houses. Consequently, several of his books have been translated into German and published within the Peace Studies Editorial lines of LIT/Kommende Demokratie and Springer/Elicitiva, including:

  • Das patriarchale Ego(Kommende Demokratie, 2013; translated by Peace Studies alumni Matthias Gossner)
  • Charakter und Neurose – eine integrative Sichtweise (Elicitiva, 2017), and
  • Für eine lebendige Gestalttherapie (Elicitiva, foreseen by the end of 2019).

Other works of his found editorial space through the intermediation of Wolfgang Dietrich and with the support of Matthias Gossner, at that time the technical editor at Elicitiva. These include  Die innere Musik – Essays über musikalische Hermeneutik (Hollitzer Verlag, 2019) and Der Dionysische Buddhismus (in translation process).

The theories and practices of Claudio Naranjo have inspired and enriched the Innsbruck Peace Studies programme both through the translations and publications of his books and because numerous students have participated in his SAT programme, which offers an intensive journey of self-knowledge and psycho-spiritual development. Several Masters of Peace have also included the work of Claudio in their Master thesis.

Claudio Naranjo leaves many gifts to us. His way of integrating western psychology and psychotherapy with eastern traditions, shows us how different “sciences” about human beings are interconnected and can be mutually supportive. Those of us who have participated in the SAT programme will always remind his wisdom and teachings and through his collaborators who have facilitated seminars in Innsbruck peace students have been touched by his message indirectly. 

We will remember him as a remarkable sage man with a great sense of humour and openness for new ideas and projects and an incredible capacity of integrating different life spheres, generally separated, such asscience, art and spiritual awakening, which continued even as he was sensing his approaching passage into the other dimension.

About the obituary authors 

Matthias Gossner

I met Claudio Naranjo personally first in an Enneagramm retreat in Sevilla, Spain in 2007, and then again in the SAT workshops where I was a participant in Mexico. I soon established a good rapport with Claudio and, knowing that I was Austrian, he asked me to help him with some research and translations about the life and work of Joseph Haydn. Claudio, himself a pianist before becoming a psychiatrist and Gestalt therapist, liked to illustrate his understanding of personal transformation with the life and work of the great composers (reflections which culminated in his book Die Innere Musik, first presented to the public at the Innsbruck Peace Studies inauguration in January 2019). While working on longer translations of his books we met again and again in different parts of the world, the last time personally in Udine in January 2019. There he was speaking about dying, about what he would like to leave in this world and what he still wanted to do with his time left. I admired his equanimity when reflecting about those deep questions.

It was Claudio Naranjo who first drove me forth and made me understand the necessity of working on myself. Now, as a peace worker in Europe and Mexico, I realize it was the right path to take and I will always be grateful to Claudio for facilitating this awareness. Contact:

 Sophie Friedel

Due to Matthias´ recommendation, I attended the SAT programme from 2013-2016 and it was a welcomed continuation of the Peace Studies Masters. For me, Claudio’s above mentioned contributions to humanity are important and I am deeply thankful for his teachings. The Psychology of the Enneatypes is a rich addition for working in conflict transformation and also with my Gestalt clients. Attending the SAT program helped me to get to know myself better and to relate with others on a deeper level.  I am currently profoundly thankful and honoured that I have the opportunity to work for SAT Germany France, where we commit ourselves to taking care of this work, remaining faithful to the spirit of his teachings through our own maturity and creativity. Contact:

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