Date: Monday, August 28 @ 16:17:12 UTC
Topic: Great Sages
Timothy Francis Leary, Ph.D. (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) Psychologist, philosopher, explorer, teacher, optimist, author and revolutionary avatar of the mind. Rightly called the Galileo of Consciousness, he went public with his observations of the mind made with psychedelic mindscopes and helped initiate a renaissance which is still only beginning to elaborate itself. As a 1960s counterculture icon, he is most famous as a proponent of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of LSD. During the 1960s, he coined and popularized the catch phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out."
Leary was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, an only child and the son of an Irish American dentist who abandoned the family when Timothy was 13. Leary attended three different colleges and was disciplined in each. He studied briefly at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, but reacted badly to the strict training at the Jesuit institution. He also attended West Point but was forced to resign after an incident involving smuggling liquor during a school field exercise and an extended period of a school wide "silent treatment."
He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Alabama in 1943. An obituary of Leary in The New York Times said he was a "discipline problem" there as well and "finally earned his bachelor's degree in the Army during World War II."
His education also included a master's degree at Washington State University in 1946, and a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. During World War II, Leary served in the U.S. Army, as a sergeant in the Medical Corps. He went on to become an assistant professor at Berkeley (1950-1955), director of psychiatric research at the Kaiser Foundation (1955-1958), and a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University (1959-1963).
Psychedelic experiments and experiences
On May 13, 1957, Life Magazine published an article by R. Gordon Wasson that documented (and popularized) the use of entheogens in the religious ceremony of the indigenous Mazatec people of Mexico. Anthony Russo, a colleague of Leary's, had recently taken the psychedelic (entheogen), Psilocybe mexicana during a trip to Mexico, and shared the experience with Leary. In the summer of 1960, Leary traveled to Mexico with Russo and after drinking several shots of Tequila tried psilocybin mushrooms for the first time, an experience that drastically altered the course of his life. (Ram Dass Fierce Grace, 2001, Zeitgeist Video). In 1965 Leary commented that he "...learned more about...(his) brain and its possibilities....(and) more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than...(he)had in the preceding fifteen years of studying doing (sic) research in psychology..." (Ram Dass Fierce Grace, 2001, Zeitgeist Video). Upon his return to Harvard that fall, Leary and his associates, notably Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), began a research program known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. The goal was to analyze the effects of psilocybin on human subjects using a synthesized version of the drug--one of two active compounds in the so-called Mexican mushroom--that was produced according to a recipe concocted by Albert Hoffman, a research chemist at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals. The experiment later involved giving LSD to graduate students.
Leary argued that LSD, used with the right dosage, set and setting, and with the guidance of professionals, could alter behavior in unprecedented and beneficial ways. His experiments produced no murders, suicides, psychoses, and no bad trips. The goals of Leary's research included finding better ways to treat alcoholism and to reform convicted criminals. Many of Leary's research participants reported profound mystical and spiritual experiences, which they claim permanently altered their lives in a very positive manner.
It wasn't long before any pretense to scientific detachment fell away and controlled experiments were chucked in favor of missionary zeal and contempt for all mundane exigencies. Chaotic tripping parties ensued, involving students, under "spiritual" or "philosophical" pretexts.
In 1963, Leary and Alpert were dismissed from Harvard after college authorities confirmed that undergraduates had shared in the researchers' stash. According to another account, Leary was fired for not showing up to his classes while Alpert was fired for giving psilocybin to an undergraduate in an off campus apartment. Their colleagues were uneasy about the nature of their research, and some parents complained to the university administration about the distribution of hallucinogens to their students. To further complicate matters their research attracted a great deal of public attention. As a result, many people wanted to participate in the experiments but were unable to do so because of the high demand. In order to satisfy the curiosity of those who were turned away a black market for psychedelics formed near the Harvard University Campus. Sensing the growing opposition to their research Leary and Alpert founded the International Foundation for Internal Freedom in 1962 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Leary's activities attracted siblings Peggy, Billy and Tommy Hitchcock, heirs to the Mellon fortune, who in 1963 helped Leary and his associates acquire the use of a rambling mansion on an estate near Poughkeepsie, New York in a town called Millbrook and continued their experiments. Leary later wrote: "We saw ourselves as anthropologists from the twenty-first century inhabiting a time module set somewhere in the dark ages of the 1960s. On this space colony we were attempting to create a new paganism and a new dedication to life as art."
In 1964, Leary co-authored a book with Ralph Metzner called The Psychedelic Experience, ostensibly based upon the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In it he writes:"A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity. Such experiences of enlarged consciousness can occur in a variety of ways: sensory deprivation, yoga exercises, disciplined meditation, religious or aesthetic ecstasies, or spontaneously. Most recently they have become available to anyone through the ingestion of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, etc. Of course, the drug does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key - it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures."
On September 19th 1966, Leary founded the League for Spiritual Discovery, a religion with LSD as its holy sacrament (by doing this, he hoped to legalize LSD based on a "freedom of religion" argument). Although The Brotherhood of Eternal Love would subsequently consider Leary their spiritual leader.
During late 1966 and early 1967, Leary toured college campuses to spread the psychedelic gospel by presenting a multi-media performance called "the Death of the Mind" which attempted to artistically replicate the LSD experience. Leary said the League for Spiritual Discovery was limited to 360 members and was already at its membership limit, but he encouraged others to form their own psychedelic religions. He published a pamphlet in 1967 called Start Your Own Religion to encourage people to do so.
On January 14, 1967, Leary spoke at the Human Be-In, a gathering of 30,000 hippies in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and uttered his famous phrase, "Turn on, tune in, drop out. "The phrase came to him in the shower one day after Marshall McLuhan suggested to Leary that he come up with "something snappy" to promote the benefits of LSD.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Leary formulated his eight circuit model of consciousness, in which he claimed that the human mind/nervous system consisted of eight circuits which when activated produce eight levels of consciousness. The model bears a superficial resemblance to and could be regarded as an elaboration of the Hindu system of chakras; not coincidentally, the concept drew its birth pangs from discussions with an Indian swami who visited Millbrook.
Leary believed that most people only access the first four of these circuits ("the Larval Circuits") in their lifetimes. The second four circuits ("the Stellar Circuits"), Leary claimed, were evolutionary off-shoots of the first four and were equipped to encompass life in space, as well as expansion of consciousness that would be necessary to make further scientific and social progress. Leary suggested that some people may shift to the latter four gears by delving into meditation and other spiritual endeavors such as yoga as well as by taking psychedelic drugs. An example of the information Leary cited as evidence for the purpose of the "higher" four circuits was the feeling of floating and uninhibited motion experienced by users of marijuana. In the eight circuit model of consciousness, a primary theoretical function of the fifth circuit (the first of the four developed for life in outer space) is to allow humans to become accustomed to life in a zero or low gravity environment.
The model was first unveiled to the world in the rare 1973 pamphlet Neurologic
but was not exhaustively formulated until the publication of Exo-Psychology (written by Leary)
and Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger
Leary's death was videotaped for posterity at his request, capturing his final words forever. This video has never been publicly seen but will be included in a documentary currently in production. At one point in his final delirium, he said, "Why not?" to his son Zachary. He uttered the phrase repeatedly, in different intonations and died soon after. His last word, according to Zach Leary, was "beautiful."