Timothy Leary

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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Timothy Leary—Futurist and Visionary, ‘Psychodelecist’

October 22, 1920, Springfield, Massachusetts, 10:45 AM, EDT. (Source: personal) Died, May 31, 1996, Beverly Hills, CA. 

(Ascendant, Sagittarius; MC, Virgo with Jupiter and Saturn in Virgo; Sun in Libra; Moon in Aquarius conjunct Uranus in Pisces; Mercury loosely conjunct Venus in Scorpio; Mars in Capricorn; Neptune in Leo; Pluto in Cancer).         

High priest of the 60’s LSD movement. Harvard professor until fired for experiments with halluncinogenics. The first of twenty-nine arrests for possession was in 1965. Escape from prison in 1970 for two years. A third marriage in Europe. Parole in 1976.


Civilization is unbearable, but it is less unbearable at the top.

If you don't like what you're doing, you can always pick up your needle and move to another groove.

In the information age, you don't teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he'd have a talk show.

Learning how to operate a soul figures to take time.

My advice to people today is as follows: If you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out.

Science is all metaphor.

There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory, and I forget the third.

We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history. But they've got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.

You can always pick up your needle and move to another groove.

You're only as young as the last time you changed your mind.

"As I look back over this rich, continually changing, and utterly entertaining life, I realize that my dedication to certain concepts has never wavered. I have relentlessly and faithfully pursued self-exploration, evolution, and innovation as the antidotes to terminal adulthood."


Timothy Leary was born on October 22, 1920, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His parents, Timothy Leary Sr. and Abigail Ferris, were both Irish Catholics but came from radically different social scenes:
Abigail's side of the family was "traditional, family oriented, suspicious of all things joyous, frivolous or newfangled." They were fiercely moralizing and fanatically religious. In their house "there was a distrust of men and sexuality. I cannot remember one moment of wild merriment."
His father's side of the family was "hot, sassy, and very different from my mother's family." The Leary's were "urban, urbane, well-to-do, sexy, fun loving, and self-oriented. For a Leary it was the individual that mattered, and the more dashing the better.
Timothy Sr, nicknamed "Tote", was contemptuous of those who worked for the system. He practiced dentistry sporadically, as a gentlemanly hobby.
Young Tim and Abigail would often spend nights listening to Tote drunkenly recite Shakespeare, Keats, Poe, Swinburne, and Coleridge. "Tote passed down to me the Celtic flair of intoxicated poetry, the bardic fever, the tradition of declamation."
By this time, Tote had already converted from social drinking to alcohol addiction. "In training me for future life, he often told me that prohibition was bad but not as bad as no booze at all."
"The pleasant, medium-sized industrial city" of Springfield was apparently a counter-cultural hotspot. At one point it became a station for the Underground Railroad, providing a haven for black slaves escaping to freedom. And before that it was the site of Shay's Rebellion, "the first armed insurrection against the authority of the American Government."
Little Timothy gravitated toward the fast-paced, fun-loving side of the family.
His role-model was cousin Phil, who "refused to be angry or upset about the melodramas swirling around him." Phil was always "giggling and stirring up fun. His recurring message to me was: 'Be happy.' He was pretty avant garde for an Irish Catholic New Englander in 1930."
"There were other Leary aunts and uncles and cousins who dashed in and out making scenes, scandals, strange disappearances. Wonderful soap operas accompanied these comings and goings."
Tim's grandfather, also named Timothy, tried to ignore the wild escapades of his family. He was a wealthy retired doctor who entertained scholarly guests and movie stars in his Springfield mansion.
Young Tim's lasting memory of the aloof grandfather was at age ten when he was found by the elder Leary in the private study. After learning Tim was reading eight to ten books a week he decided to give the boy his best advice:
"Never do anything like anyone else. Find your own way . . .Be one of a kind!"
This obviously had lasting impact.
Grandfather Leary would die less than four years later. The expected wealth of his inheritance never materialized, and Tim's alcoholic father ended up leaving. Tim wouldn't see his father again for 23 years.
Tote made a new life for himself in several different fields. He worked as a part-time dentist in Boston, a construction worker in South America, and a steward on transatlantic ships.
"I always felt a warmth and respect for the male-man that special delivered me. He never stunted me with expectation. He remained for me a model of the loner, a disdainer of the conventional way."
Tim went on to Classical High School where he discovered girls and the ability to attract attention from those in authority.
"My desire to fashion new educational methods based on the imprinting capacities of the brain was undoubtedly due to my own unfortunate educational experiences in high school and my first two colleges."
He was unable to get letters of recommendation from his High School so a friend of his mothers pulled some strings to get him in the Jesuit college Holy Cross. There he went to mass at 7 A.M., took Greek, Latin, Rhetoric and Religion.
Holy Cross wasn't enough to satisfy the young Tim, so he took a test to get into West Point. He got very high marks and was accepted.
Timothy was very enthused and proud to be at West Point. This was one of the most prestigious academies in the country where some of America's most important figures graduated.
However, his disillusionment grew when he realized that he was being trained not to think, but to follow.
One day, on a return trip from a football game, Timothy was invited to drink with a few of the upper classmen and brought some bottles of whiskey. The illicit event was unfortunately discovered the next day, and the Cadet Honor Committee punished Tim by inflicting a kind of solitary confinement: everyone was forbidden to speak a word to him. A date was set for a court-martial.
Timothy was acquitted in less than two minutes, which caused the disgruntled and unsatisfied Committee to maintain the silence punishment. There were some people of authority behind Tim who thought that the punishment was wrong. Unfortunately, he had to endure nine months of being ignored. "Part of me watched with amazement, enjoying this astonishing turn of events, realizing that something important was happing. But I had slept fitfully, had bad dreams, and came down with head colds that wouldn't go away."
When he became a sophomore, some of the cadet officers who were not on the Honor Committee approached Tim to talk about the situation. They informed him that the whole business was causing morale problems. They wanted to make a deal for Tim's departure. Tim said that he would leave Westpoint if the honor committee would read a statement in the mess hall proclaiming his innocence. They returned two days later with an approval. When the statement was read a volley of cheers swept the mess hall.
Tim went back home and applied to more colleges. He was accepted to the University of Alabama where he became a psychology major. The head of the department let him know that he needed some intelligent students. "This was the first time in my life that I had heard anyone imply intelligence was a desirable trait. Up to this moment being smart had always got me in trouble. Conformity was the virtue I was used to hearing about."
Shortly after, Tim was expelled for sleeping over at the girls dormitory. He was an A student.
When he was kicked out of college he lost his deferment and was sent to basic training in artillery at Fort Eustis Virginia. The army needed psychologists, and since Tim had already started the major, they let him finish his degree in the service. He was going to be shipped to the troop Carrier Command slated for the South Pacific. Luckily, his old friend from the University of Alabama was now the chief psychologist at the army hospital in Pennsylvania. He managed to get Tim a transfer to his hospital.
In 1944, while training as a clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania, he met Marianne. They married, moved to Berkeley, and had two children Susan and Jack. There he earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of California Berkeley, and over the next few years conducted important research in psychotherapy. By the mid-50s he was teaching at Berkeley and had been appointed Director of Psychological Research at the Kaiser Foundation. His book "The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality" was enjoying much success. With extensive study, his team discovered that one third of the patients who received psychotherapy got better, one third got worse and one third stayed the same, meaning psychotherapy wasn't really working.
His personal life, unfortunately, took a turn for the worse. Marianne suffered from post partum depression after she had Susan and both her and Tim had started to drink and fight regularly. On Tim's 35th birthday he awoke to find Marianne in a closed garage with the car running. She was already dead.
Incredibly depressed and feeling that he was "practicing a profession that didn't seem to work," Tim quit his post at Berkeley and moved to Europe where he was living on a small research grant. In Europe, Tim's old Berkeley colleague Frank Barron visited. He told of his trip to Mexico where he ate sacred mushrooms and had a religious experience. Barron thought that these mushrooms might be the link to the psychological metamorphosis that they had been looking for. Tim was unimpressed at first and ironically warned Barron about losing his scientific credibility.
Of more interesting news was that David McClelland , the director of the Harvard Center for Personality Research, was in Florence and might be willing to interview Tim for a teaching post. During the interview Tim explained his theory on existential transaction, informing that the whole relationship between patient/therapist should be changed to a more egalitarian information exchange. McClelland was impressed saying that "There is no question that what you are advocating is going to be the future of American psychology. You're spelling out front-line tactics. You're exactly what we need to shake things up at Harvard."
In the spring of 1960 Tim started teaching at Harvard. That summer he went on vacation to Cuernavaca Mexico. An anthropologist from the University of Mexico, who was a frequent visitor to the villa where Tim was staying, offered some of the religious mushrooms. Remembering Barron's stories, he tried them hoping they could be the key to psychological transformation. They had that effect. "I gave way to delight, as mystics have for centuries when they peeked through the curtains and discovered that this world-so manifestly real-was actually a tiny stage set constructed by the mind. We discover abruptly that everything we accept as reality is just social fabrication." So amazed by the experience that he persuaded Harvard to allow him to conduct research with psilocybin.
Along with Barron, Tim conducted the first studies with grad students at Harvard. At the time it seemed that most all of the grad students were interested in the experiments which brought the first sign of discontent with the other faculty. Many of them had nothing which to compare this new paradigm to, and therefore had no interest in these experiments . "The differences between those who wanted to explore new brain terrain and those who avoided the challenge foreshadowed the bitter cultural conflict that raged everywhere in the decade to come."
The test expanded into Concord state prison where Tim and some grad students were allowed to administer psilocybin to selected prisoners. They formed support groups for the inmates when they got out and had a 90% success rate at helping these people stay out of prison.
Experiments also included a group of divinity students on Good Friday. The aim was to see if chemical mind alteration could produce a more mystical experience. The results were clear. The students who took the drug experienced what they saw as true spiritual experiences, while the ones who took the placebo did not. The results seemed terrific but Tim never got the response that was appropriate. The thought of people being able to directly communicate with God was very unappealing to the religious institutions of the country. "We had run up against the Judeo-Christian commitment to one God, one religion , one reality that has cursed Europe for centuries and America since our founding days. Drugs that open the mind to multiple realities inevitably lead to a polytheistic view of the Universe." Story closed. No more experiments.
Also at Harvard Tim met Aldous Huxley and Allen Ginsburg where they started turning on notable intellectuals such as William Burroughs, Thelonious Monk and Jack Kerouac. Huxley suggested that the drugs should only be used by artists and the elite. Tim, along with Ginsberg, and in the line of his professional style, believed psychedelics should be shared with everyone and thought that the non-elite would benefit most from its use. Barron went back to Berkeley and Tim started working closer with an assistant professor named Richard Alpert.
Enter a British philosophy student named Michael Hollingshead. He called Tim with revelations about LSD and showed up at Harvard with a mayonnaise jar of powdered sugar laced with it. This was an incredibly powerful hallucinogen discovered by Swiss Scientist Dr. Albert Hoffman in the 1940's. When Tim took LSD he said it "was something different. It was the most shattering experience of my life."
Many of the other professors became uneasy with Tim administering drugs to students. So McClelland called a staff meeting early in1962. It turned into an scalding indictment of Tim's work and they insisted that the drugs be given back to the University's control and that there be more supervision of his research. For Tim, this was a reversal back to the old style of doctor/patient relationship that he was so adamantly against. More controversy erupted when the Narcotics Bureau got involved and Tim learned that the CIA was aware of their activities. Moreover, many of the undergraduates who couldn't get into the research program obtained the drugs through other means and started turning on. Many of the parents were becoming alarmed finding out that their children, who they had enrolled in school to become the power elite, were seeing God and going to India. This put pressure on the the conservative institution. "The deans were caught in a bind. They were solidly in support of our research, which was winning international attention, but they were hard pressed to defend us against the anti-drug backlash." In 1963 Tim and Alpert were "relieved" from their positions at Harvard.
Both Leary and Alpert didn't think much of their dismissal. In fact, it was a new phase in Tim's life. In the spring of 1962, Leary and Alpert continued their research of psychedelics in a mansion not far form New York known as Millbrook. Baroque on the outside and Middle Eastern on the inside, this was a place for the hip and elite to get away for the weekend and test the boundaries of their own souls. "We saw ourselves as anthropologists from the twenty-first century inhabiting a time module set somewhere in the dark ages of the 1960's. On this space colony we were attempting to create a new paganism and a new dedication to life as art."
In 1964 he married Nena Von Schlebrugge. This didn't last long outside the surreal world of Millbrook, which was going through some changes. Tim thought Alpert let the place get out of hand, and they had a split in their relationships. Alpert changed his name to Baba Ram Dass and became a respected teacher of Eastern Disciplines.
During Tim's previous time at Harvard, a Washington Socialite named Mary Pinchot visited him and asked to learn more about the sessions and the ability to change people with it. She said there were certain big figures in Washington who were interested in the drug. She wanted to "on a bigger scale do what you are already doing with your students--use these drugs to free people. For peace, not war. We can turn on the Cabinet. Turn on the Senate. The Supreme Court." Tim recalled her proposition as being a bit scary. "But come to think of it, it was close to what we Harvardites in our session rooms, lazily architecturing hopeful futures, had spelled out as the goal of psychedelic research. I looked at myself in the reflection in the window: a forty-two-year-old man, being lured into a feminist plot to turn on the leaders of the United States government to the idea of world peace." They met several times after Tim left Harvard with Mary warning him that the CIA was watching and to keep the publicity to a low level. On the final occasion she was really scared. The next time Tim saw her was from newspaper clippings announcing her murder as she walked on the Ohio Canal Towpath in Georgetown. She had been shot twice in the left temple and once in the chest. A friend told reporters that Mary sometimes walked there with her close friend Jacqueline Kennedy. Tim wanted to find out more "A close friend of the Kennedy family had been murdered in broad daylight with no apparent motive! And there had been so little publicity. No outcry. No further investigation." Tim knew something was wrong.
Needing to get away from the hectic pace of Millbrook, Tim took his two children and soon to be wife, Rosemary Woodruff, to vacation in Mexico. He was denied entrance to the country and as he came back marijuana was found on his 18 year old daughter. Tim immediately took the blame which the police were all too happy to accept. He was sentenced to 30 years and his daughter to five years for having ten dollars worth of marijuana. With the Texas conviction, Tim had become a martyr and his popularity increased. The government, however, started becoming more militant in its anti-drug policies. Richard Nixon called Tim the "most dangerous man in America". Fruitless raids and constant harassment by G. Gordon Liddy ended the Millbrook era.
With the cultural changes going on at the time, the government was becoming alarmed at the way the youth started to use LSD. The press was full of sensationalist stories of young people having horrible experiences. "Throughout the land anti-drug people-politicians, police officials, institutional psychiatrists-popped up to denounce LSD and marijuana as the most dangerous threats confronted by the human race." He sat before Teddy Kennedy in 1966 Senate hearings on LSD. Tim became discouraged with how the press focused on LSD but paid no mention to all the alcohol induced problems which were far more severe. He started giving lectures, interviews and writing magazine articles that outlined the need for guidance and knowledge. America needed a responsible drug policy which should include education not criminalization. Few of these made the press however.
What they needed was good press and positive association with LSD. A friend suggested that Tim meet with Marshall McLuhan to get ideas on how to win public support. Marshall said that "Dreary Senate hearings and courtrooms are not the platforms for your message. You must use the most current tactics for arousing consumer interest. Associate LSD with all the good things that the brain can produce--beauty, fun, philosophic wonder, religious revelation, increased intelligence and mystical romance. " Tim noted that the opposition had already beat them to the punch by stressing the negative which can be dangerous when the mind is re-imprinting under LSD. McLuhen reiterated, that is precisely why you need to use your public image. He encouraged Tim to smile when photographed, never appear angry, and radiate courage. "And that's how it happened, step by step from the Harvard firing to the deportations, from Laredo to the Liddy raid, I was pushed from scientific detachment and scholarly retirement into public opposition to the policies of the ruling regime." It was after this that he came up with the expression "Turn On" (activate your neural and genetic equipment) "Tune In" (interact harmoniously with the world around you) and "Drop Out" (suggesting an active, selective and graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments.) Unfortunately, the press took it to mean "get stoned and abandon all constructive activity".
So Tim and Rosemary moved to Laguna Beach, attended the Human Be-In and became active socially with the war effort. While on appeal, he gave lectures and interviews. He recorded albums with Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Stills and Buddy Miles. He sang Give Peace a Chance with John and Yoko. He decided to run for governor of California and John wrote "Come Together" for it.
During this time Tim was fortunate when the Texas drug case was overturned by the Supreme Court. However, he was not so lucky with the California authorities. They were pulled over by police and arrested for possession of two roaches by a cop who had been known to plant drugs. When Jack and Rosemary were searched they found some hash and acid tabs. He pled no contest to the roaches so they would be lighter on Jack and Rosemary. They would then fight the charges in the higher courts. Being tried in the most conservative county in California and home to Richard Nixon, Tim received 10 years and was sent to jail immediately for an offense that normally warranted six months probation. In an unheard of move, they sent him to jail while the appeal was being sought which could have taken two years.
After answering a prison psychological test that was largely based on his research, Tim was sent to a minimum security prison in San Luis Obispo. There he made an incredible escape dodging search lights and shimmying on a cable over barbwire to freedom. "Consider my Situation: I was a forty nine year old man facing life in prison for encouraging people to face up to new options with courage and intelligence. The American government was being run by Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Robert Haldeman, G. Gordon Liddy, J. Edgar Hoover and other cynical flouters of the democratic process."
Shortly after, he surfaced in Algiers where he had been offered Asylum with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver's government in exile. Cleaver however viewed Tim as a security risk and responded by putting Tim and Rosemary under house arrest. They then fled to Switzerland where Tim tried to get asylum. In the process he met the man who discovered LSD, Dr. Albert Hoffman. At their meeting, Tim asked Hoffman about the dangers of LSD. "Without hesitation Hoffman replied that there was no evidence whatsoever that LSD damaged the brain."
Ultimately, the Nixon administration had filed extradition papers. The Swiss government refused to continue asylum so he fled to Afghanistan where he was arrested at the airport and handed over to the DEA.
Starting in 1972, Tim spent time in several different prisons and was finally released in 1976. He parted with his girlfriend Joanna, who had been helping him while he was in prison, shortly after his release. Tim found himself at a strange point in life. "Once again my situation was was precariously fluid. Fifty-six years old with no home, no job, no credit and little credibility. I felt quite alone. It was a great time to start a new career." He subsequently moved to Los Angeles and started socializing within Hollywood circles. He felt that Hollywood was a natural evolution for him. After all, moviemaking is altering perception.
In 1978 he married Barbara Chase who had a young son Zach. This was a perfect time for Tim to have the type of relationship with a child that he never got to have with his first two children. During the eighties, Tim went on college lecture tours and foretold of the future that computers would bring to the world. He started his own software company called Futique and helped design programs that would digitize thought-iimages. He believed the Internet was going to be like the LSD of the 90's, empowering people on a mass level.
Tim came full circle in the 90s'. After his wife Barbara left in 1992, Tim realized that computer driven electronic environments were the obvious descendants of the psychedelic movement. With the rise of affordable technologies, Tim began reshaping his entire line of work. His lectures became multi-media extravaganzas with live video and music. His books became graphic novels that were the products of desktop publishing and most profoundly, his interests became focused towards the rise of the World Wide Web. Tim realized that this was what he was waiting for, a place where you can create and interact with your own worlds.
Soon, Tim devoted his entire efforts to making his web site, http://leary.com, his home for his archives, ideas and his fans. After he learned he had inoperable prostate cancer in January of 1995, he embraced the dying experience as one of the greatest journeys of all time. He refused to become morbid and depressed over his situation. He was often entertaining guests and could often be seen at a number of events in the city in his formula one wheel chair. A home in cyberspace that can live on forever was one of Tim's last wishes. He passed on May 31, 1996.

Timothy Francis Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American writer, psychologist, and drug campaigner. 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."
Dr. Leary was born in Springfield, Massachusetts the son of an Irish American dentist, who abandoned the family when Timothy was a teenager. Leary studied for a brief time 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 incidents involving smuggling liquor into the school and making unauthorized nocturnal visits to University co-eds boarding in the area. There is evidence that, as one of the few Irish Catholics then attending West Point, he was made a scapegoat as his Protestant co-conspirators were allowed to continue their studies.
He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Alabama in 1943. He eventually got a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. He went on to become an assistant professor at Berkeley (1950-1955), a director of research at the Kaiser Foundation (1955-1958), and a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University (1959-1963). Leary later described these years disparagingly, writing that he had been
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.'
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.[1] Influenced by Wasson's article, Leary traveled to Mexico, where he tried psilocybin mushrooms, an experience that would vastly alter the course of his life. Upon his return to Harvard in 1960, Leary and his associates, notably Dr. Richard Alpert (later known as Baba Ram Dass), began the Harvard Psilocybin Project conducting research into the effects of psilocybin and later LSD with graduate students.
Dr. Leary argued that LSD, used with the right dosage, set and setting, preferably with the guidance of professionals, could alter behavior in unprecedented and beneficial ways. His experiments produced no murders, suicides, psychoses, and supposedly 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.
Leary and Alpert were dismissed from Harvard in 1963. Their colleagues were uneasy about the nature of their research, and powerful parents began complaining to the university administration about the distribution of hallucinogens to their children. Unfazed, the two relocated to a large mansion in New York 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.
Repeated FBI raids brought an end to the Millbrook era.
Leary later went on to propose his eight circuit model of consciousness, in which he claimed that the human mind consisted of eight circuits of consciousness. He believed that most people only access four of these circuits in their lifetimes. The other four, 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. 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.

In 1972, Leary was imprisoned for possession of marijuana. When Leary arrived in prison, he was issued psychological tests that were used to assign inmates appropriate work detail. Having designed many of the tests himself, Leary answered them in such a way that he seemed a very conforming and conventional person with a great interest in forestry and gardening.
As a result, Leary was assigned as a gardener where it was made easier for him to make his escape. Though dangerous, Leary made a non-violent escape which he considered to be one humorous prank. For a fee paid by The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the Weather Underground Organization smuggled Leary and his wife Rosemary Woodruff Leary out of the US and into Algeria. A planned refuge with the Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver went wrong after Cleaver attempted to hold Leary hostage and the couple fled to Switzerland.
Having separated from Rosemary, Timothy Leary was detained by Interpol agents at an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan and extradited to the US in 1974, where he co-operated with the FBI's investigation of the Weather Underground, becoming an informant who implicated friends and helpers in exchange for a reduced sentence. Others note that no one was ever prosecuted based on any information Leary gave to the FBI. Based on numerous other escapades---such as his escape from prison itself and his confrontation of FBI agents who were terrifying an innocent young Hispanic woman during the Millbrook bust (led by G. Gordon Liddy) that was described in an eye-witness interview on the "Timothy Leary's Dead" (TLD) movie DVD (see below)---Leary appears to have been smart enough and audacious enough to have played along without compromising those who had helped him. He was released on April 21, 1976, by Governor Jerry Brown.
Further evidence of Leary's savvy was his cultivated friendship with former foe G.Gordon Liddy (whom former boss Richard Nixon had ordered to destroy Leary as "the most dangerous man in America") on his release from prison post-Watergate. Both men were near financial insolvency and Leary foresaw that they could make a small fortune touring the country as ex-cons debating the soul of America.
Leary once recruited John Lennon to write a theme song for his California Gubernatorial campaign (which was interrupted by his first arrest) inspiring Lennon to come up with the hit "Come Together", which he later reclaimed for himself. Leary was the explicit subject of the Moody Blues song "Legend of a Mind", which memorialized him with the words, "Timothy Leary's dead. Oh, but he was always outside looking in," a refrain he once detested but later found the sense of humor to adopt as his PR theme song when he hit the University lecture circuit promoting NASA scientist O'Neils innovative plans to build giant Eden-like orbiting mini-earth's using existing technology and raw materials from the moon.
Leary has on several occasions flirted with the occult and was a member of the magical order of the Illuminates of Thanateros.
In the months before his death from inoperable prostate cancer, Leary authored a book called Design for Dying. The book was an attempt to show people a new way of viewing death and dying.
In 1964, he 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.
Leary also believed that advances in technology could provide insights similar to those of psychedelic drugs, and lectured in the early 1990's on virtual reality.
Leary's final forecast for the future was encompassed in the ackronym "SMI2LE" standing for "space migration", "intelligence increase" and "life extension.
For a number of years, Leary was excited by the possibility of freezing his body in cryonic suspension. As a scientist himself, he didn't believe that he would be resurrected in the future, but he recognized the importance of cryonic possibilities and was generally an advocate of future sciences. He called it his "duty as a futurist", and helped publicize the process. Leary had relationships with two cryonic organizations, the original ALCOR and then the offshoot CRYOCARE. When these relationships soured due to a great lack of trust, Leary requested that his body be cremated, which it was, and distributed among his friends and family.
Leary's death was videotaped for posterity, capturing his final words forever. At one point in his final delirium, he said, "Why not?" to his step-son Zachery. He uttered the phrase repeatedly, in different intonations and died soon after. His last word, according to Zach Leary, was "beautiful". The death/suicide video was the culmination of the movie, Timothy Leary's Dead, and the filmmakers capitalised on his initial desire for cryogenic preservation by secretly creating a fake decapitation sequence without permission from Leary or his family, or so some claim. After the movie's release, the filmmakers declined to admit the scene's falsehood, possibly as a method to generate hype and sell tickets.
The fake was so effective that many people even question the accuracy of claims that it was faked. It has become a subject of debate where the side who claims it was faked has been unable to provide references and the truth has remained unknowable. To complicate the matter further, the final credits of the film are interspersed with explicitly clear scenes of Leary cooperating with specialists as they make a mold of his head (using the same technique and material that is used by dentists to make castings of teeth and for Hollywood special effects), ostensibly to make the fake head used in the decapitation scenes. Or, was this sequence filmed precisely to make it impossible to tell that the decapitation was real, in order to protect Leary's family, friends, and the filmmakers from prosecution?
After his death, seven grams of Leary's ashes were arranged by his friend at Celestis to be buried in space aboard a rocket carrying the remains of 24 other people including Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), Gerard O'Neill (space physicist), Krafft Ehricke (rocket scientist), and others.
The term Timothy Leary tickets is an affectionate nickname given to the small squares of blotter paper to which liquid LSD has been applied. Presumably, this is because such tabs offer a "ticket" to a whole new show: a "trip" to lands hitherto unexplored.


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