Timothy Leary




unpublished feature

TIMOTHY LEARY became internationally-known in the 1960s as the ‘high priest’ of LSD, preaching the benefits of altered states and inner exploration to mankind. The infamy that befell him overshadowed his previous acclaim as one of the US’s most innovative psychologists, writer of academically applauded texts, and seeker of new methods in psychotherapy.

It was this work that led Leary to Harvard in 1960 and experiments with psilocybin (the ‘active’ ingredient of ‘magic’ mushrooms) and later the then still legal LSD. Leary’s investigations unwittingly paralleled experiments by the CIA in a similar field but with a less altruistic intent.

Harvard was soon to be 'seething with drug consciousness' and Leary, by the middle of the decade, a notorious figure and author of the famous phrase 'turn on, tune in, drop out'. This he later ameded, taking into the account the size and strength of the younger generation, to 'turn on, tune in, take over'.

Imprisoned for the possession of a modest half-ounce of marijuana, the man escaped to Europe but was eventually 'informally extradited' back the US to complete his sentence.

Now 63, Leary is, ironically perhaps, among the most highly-paid performers on the lecture circuit. The debates on politics and morality between himself and G Gordon Liddy (ex-lawyer, ex-FBI special agent, man behind the Watergate break-in) provides the basis for Return Engagement, a film by Alan Rudolph chronicling eight days in the lives of the pair. Meanwhile, Leary’s autobiography, Flashbacks, is published next month.

To continue reading this article and to discover many more (over 140,000 words-worth!), purchase Mick Sinclair’s Adjusting the Stars: Music journalism from post-punk London. 


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