Biographical noteTimothy Leary was born in 1920 in Springfield and died in 1996 in Los Angeles. He graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Alabama and went on to earn a doctorate at Berkeley. The title of his dissertation was “The Social Dimensions of Personality: Group Structure and Process.” He got married in the early 50’s, had two children. In 1955, his first wife committed suicide. In 1957, he and a friend went to Mexico, and it was there that his psychedelic journey began. Taking hallucinogenic mushrooms changed his life forever. Soon after, he began working at Harvard, where he conducted numerous experiments with LSD, which was still legal at the time. He was one of the most influential figures of the flower-power revolution in the sixties. After drugs were banned, he was arrested several times. Released from prison in 1966, he announce to ran for governor of California against Ronald Reagan (who eventually won against the incumbent democratic governor). After another arrest in 1970, he escaped from prison (and from the United States). Three years later, he was detained in Kabul by agents of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He was condemned to serve a hundred-year sentence and placed in a maximum security prison. A few years later, he was mysteriously pardoned. Throughout the rest of his life, he wrote about drugs. He had a total of five wives. Richard Nixon about Timothy Leary: “The most dangerous man in America.” A friend’s opinion from the early 50’s: “Something had been stirred in him in terms of breaking out of being another cog in society.” Leary about himself before the drug era: “An anonymous institutional employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars and drove home each night and drank martinis like several million middle-class, liberal, intellectual robots.”
Subjective Viewpoint: Turn on, Tune in, Drop out
- Tadeusz Kantor, one of the best Polish artists of the last century, used to say, “that son of a bitch” when referring to artists who created anything more astonishing than he. Timothy Leary is a son of a bitch in that same sense. He’s also a madman. Amongst “normal” people, only the crazy are healthy. Amongst Catholics, only atheists have a chance of salvation.
- Dariusz Misiuna: “Neurosis, ego, instinct, mental illness – according to Leary all those are metaphysical concepts dressed in fashionable clothes”. To hell with metaphysics and its rubbish!
- To which category does Dr Timothy Leary belong? Psychologists? Utopians? Writers? Politicians? Leary would laugh – what stupid distinctions!
- Here’s an idea for a novel, at least the first part – Leary becomes governor of California and then, a few years later, president of the United States. The Soviets win the war against the pacifist West.
- Reagan’s cold war victory over the Soviet Union was one of the prerequisites to my being able to write this blog today. Paradoxically, to appreciate and admire Timothy Leary openly, Leary had to lose. If he’d won, I’d probably be working my fingers to the bone in some Siberian mine right now, if I survived at all.
- The most interesting experiments Leary conducted were those that involved administering hallucinogens and LSD to prisoners, monks and priests. The results were so positive that the CIA began conducting the same kind of experiments, but someone had a bad trip and the fun came to an end.
- Leary was imprisoned. For being in possession of joints, which he had, and for being in possession of marijuana, which he didn’t have. And what was so dangerous about the message this “shaman” preached? “It’s time for people to leave the bosom of the earth and learn to travel to the stars. The aim of evolution is to allow the nervous system to communicate with the Galactic Network.”[*] He predicted that we’d achieve immortality.
- Grof, Leary, Szasz, Wilson, Laing – the world had some true psychiatric researchers. In the last forty years, I haven’t heard of any new ones. The era of new geographical discoveries and the mapping of our consciousness lay ahead.
- Leary had something of an artist and of a visionary. Was it an effect of using hallucinogens?
- My favorite Leary’s quote: “When talking we say little about the subject at hand, but reveal much about our own state of mind.”[*] For most contemporary online “journalists”, bloggers, and commentators, this idea is an unreachable intellectual horizon.
- Leary knew Albert Hoffman. “He was a true Marxist! He professed Groucho, not Karl.”[*]
- Contemporary leftist theologians continue to use such inept terms like “social classes”. To say “social classes” is in the same league with using the biological term “species” – both set categorical boundaries; both are illusory. Species and social classes are so fluid that determining boundaries is like creating national borders. There’s a tree on one side of a line and an almost identical tree on the other side. Under one tree a man stands, and pointing at the invisible line, says, “everything up to this line is mine.”
- Leary proposed a society based on experiencing ecstasy and individual freedom. He named this movement “delight”. I count myself amongst those who lived experiences of ecstasy and freedom. I’m still learning delight.
- All god-fearing and social class devotees, hide behind the same idea: “the good of others”. In that game, is there any place for free people who’ve been liberated from the necessity of governing others? There isn’t.
- Leary enumerated a few levels of consciousness, without pretentious claims to classification. The lowest levels are sleep, stupor and the stupefaction induced by barbiturates and alcohol. The third level: “flags, dollar signs, job titles, brand names, party affiliations and the like. This is the level that most people, including psychiatrists, regard as reality.”
- Is it possible to be a partisan of “higher states of consciousness” and an opponent of religion – particularly celebrated mass religions? Is it possible to be a follower of science and an opponent of socialism? Yes. If you remain in the private utopian shell of your own blog.
- Leary agrees with Buddhism: LSD is like oriental philosophy. They both point to there being nothing beyond the chemistry of your own brain.
- Was the hippie movement a mistake? Probably. Sometimes beautiful mistakes are better than standing still. I see no purpose in being obedient to Polish Catholic-nationalist-socialist political correctness, or to any other correctness in any country, if such correctness excludes the trip, the voyage within the space of your own consciousness.
- Any legal system that regulates my blood chemistry and the chemical content of my brain is a totalitarian regime. Any system that attributes criminal status to individuals who trade in plants, is a totalitarian regime. Not “totalitarian”, but totalitarian.
- If we total the victims of the “War on Drugs”, and add to it the number of people sentenced to prison, the number would be in the…millions? What does “freedom” mean in this context? Are opportunists, who turn a blind eye to this despotism, morally complicit?
- “The whole world understands a fundamental fact – the only function of political parties is to take care of their own pockets and struggle to maintain their positions, paid for by us.”[*]
- Afghanistan did not have an extradition treaty with the US, but the Americans stated that “the agreement didn’t apply on US airlines.” Does that mean that the lack of a treaty outside the plane equals an unwritten agreement on the plane? It’s an astonishing way of reasoning.
- “What’s hell? It’s the idea of a bad trip.”[*]
- In one of the links below, there’s a well-written biography of Leary (Polish version only). In some paragraphs there’s too much leftist terminology for my taste (social class, imperialism). But to keep a balanced perspective, I suggest readers take into account that, as Leary neared the end of his life, he supported Ron Paul – American libertarian right-wing presidential candidate. Leftist attempts to appropriate figures like Leary or Hitchens, backfire. These individuals, if they were blinded by anything in their life, were blinded by the idea of individual freedom. I don’t believe that someone can simultaneously support the idea of freedom and socialism without quickly finding themselves caught in a trap of contradictions. Leary proposed a society based on individual freedom, not “paying taxes for the public good.” Leary’s support for Ron Paul can be perceived in the same light as Hitchens’ backing the Afghan and Iraqi wars. You have to fight against the enemies of freedom; it’s as simple as that. There are no inconsistencies in this, though leftist theologians attempt to convince us that there are. Their need to make everything fit into tidy essentialist packages, with concepts like social classes, work, and “social welfare”, eventually results in the crafting of laws that regulate the chemical composition of my brain. It’s a rule, without exception.
- In the link below (mentioned previously), under the author’s nickname, Conradino Beb, there’s a description of Leary’s escape from prison in 1973. It could be the basis of a scene in a screenplay for “Mission Impossible” (2012) where Tom Cruise uses telephone lines to escape from the hospital.
- Leary leaves prison after just three years, despite receiving a hundred-year sentence. On what grounds was he released? Was he pardoned by the democratic governor of California as the result of the American Pen Club’s intervention? I hope so.
- [*] Original quotes by Timothy Leary were taken from various sources including the preface and translator’s notes of the Polish edition of the Politics of Ecstasy (Polityka Ekstazy – 1998 edition). Since these sources were only available to me in Polish, some quotes may differ from the original English version.
Timothy Leary - quotes & fragments
Politics of Ecstasy
If anyone has any lingering doubt about the superstitious and barbarian state of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, reflect on this fact. Today, fifty years after Freud, the average mental hospital in the United States is a Kafkaesque, Orwellian, prison camp more terrifying than Dachau because the captors claim to be healers. Two hundred years ago our treatment of the village idiot and nutty old Aunt Agatha was gently Utopian compared to the intolerant savagery of the best mental hospital. So where do we find the scientific answer to the emotional question? Can you really bear to know? Emotions are the lowest form of consciousness. Emotional actions are the most contracted, narrowing, dangerous form of behavior. The romantic poetry and fiction of the last 200 years has quite blinded us to the fact that emotions are an active and harmful form of stupor. Any peasant can tell you that. Beware of emotions. Any child can tell you that. Watch out for the emotional person. He is a lurching lunatic. Emotions are caused by biochemical secretions in the body to serve during the state of acute emergency. An emotional person is a blind, crazed maniac. Emotions are addictive and narcotic and stupefacient. Do not trust anyone who comes on emotional.
The First DMT Experience
My experience with DMT occurred in the most favorable setting. We had just witnessed the ecstatic experience of my colleague and the radiance of his reaction provided a secure and optimistic background. My expectations were extremely positive. Five minutes after i.m. injection, lying comfortably on the bed, I felt typical psychedelic onset symptoms – a pleasant somatic looseness, a sensitive tuning-in to physical sensations. Eyes closed... typical LSD visions, the exquisite beauty of retinal and physical machinery, transcendence of mental activity, serene detachment. Comforting awareness of Margaret’s hand and the presence of friends. Suddenly I opened my eyes and sat up... the room was celestial, glowing with radiant illumination... light, light, light... the people present were transfigured... godlike creatures... we were all united as one organism. Beaneath the radiant surface I could see the delicate, wondrous body machinery of each person, the network of muscle and vein and bone – exquisitely beautiful and all joined, all part of the same process. Our group was sharing a paradisial experience – each one in turn was to be given the key to eternity – now it was my turn, I was experiencing this ecstasy for the group. Later the others would voyage. We were members of a transcendent collectivity. Dr. X coached me tenderly... handed me a mirror where I saw my face, a stained-glass portrait. Margaret’s face was that of all women – wise, beautiful, eternal. Her eyes were all female eyes. She murmured exactly the right message. “It can always be this way.” The incredible complex-unity of the evolutionary process – staggering, endless in its variety – why? Where is it going? etc., etc. The old questions and then the laughter of amused, ecstatic acceptance. Too much! Too great! Never mind! It can’t be figured out. Love it in gratitude and accept! I would lean forward to search for meaning in Margaret’s china-flecked face and fall back on the pillow in reverent, awed laughter. Gradually, the brilliant illumination faded back to the three-d world and I sat up. Reborn. Renewed. Radiant with affection and reverence. This experience took me to the highest point of LSD illumination – a jewel-like satori. It was less internal and more visual and social than my usual LSD experiences. There was never a second of fear or negative emotion. Some moments of benign paranoia – agent of the divine group, etc. I am left with the conviction that DMT offers great promise as a transcendental trigger. The brevity of the reaction has many advantages – it provides a security in the knowledge that it will be over in a half hour and should make possible precise exploration of specific transcendental areas.