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
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
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
Little Timothy gravitated toward the fast-paced, fun-loving side of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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. 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
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
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
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
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),
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.