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Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary (1920-1996) was a psychologist, author, lecturer, and cult figure. He was best known for having popularized the use of mind-altering drugs in the 1960s.

Timothy Leary was born October 22, 1920, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was educated at Holy Cross College, the U.S. Military Academy, the University of Alabama (A.B., 1943), Washington State University (M.S., 1946), and the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D., 1950). During World War II, Leary served in the U.S. Army, achieving the rank of sergeant in the Medical Corps. Subsequently he was an assistant professor at the University of California; director of psychiatric research at the Kaiser Foundation, Oakland, California; and a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University.

Tuned In To LSD

At Harvard, Leary became interested in the properties of hallucinogenic drugs, notably a compound known as LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide). He and his colleague Richard Alpert were propagandists for psychedelic drugs as well as experimenters, alarming Harvard to the point where they were instructed not to use undergraduates as subjects for research. Violating this rule led to their expulsion from the Harvard faculty in 1963. (Leary was actually charged with absence without leave.) By this time, Leary and Alpert had left the conventions of science far behind. An article by them published in the Harvard Review hailed the drug life: "Remember, man, a natural state is ecstatic wonder, ecstatic intuition, ecstatic accurate movement. Don't settle for less."

Leary and Alpert then founded the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) to promote LSD and similar drugs. In 1965 Leary visited India and converted to Hinduism, announcing that his work was basically religious. The following year, IFIF headquarters at Millbrook, New York, was raided by local police under the direction of G. Gordon Liddy, later to become notorious himself as the iron man of the Watergate scandal. Four people were arrested for possession of drugs. At about this time, Leary founded the League for Spiritual Discovery, which he defined as a religious movement "dedicated to the ancient sacred sequence of turning on, tuning it, and dropping out." It staged multimedia liturgical celebrations in various places around the country. Leary was more responsible than any other single person for the widespread consumption of LSD and other psychedelic drugs in the 1960s. Millions are thought to have "dropped acid" during those years, including many famous Americans. As LSD was found to have dangerous side-effects its glamour faded and the use of it was confined mainly to hard core members of the drug-taking underground.

Jailed for Possession of Marijuana

Leary's popularity as the leader of a national cult declined thereafter and his troubles worsened. He had been arrested for possessing a small quantity of marijuana in 1965 and again in 1968. He was given ten-year sentences on each count, to be served consecutively rather than concurrently. This harsh sentence was almost certainly a result of his notoriety, as it bore little relation to the offenses, which even then were not regarded as serious. After serving only six months, Leary, with the aid of the Weather Underground, a left-wing terrorist organization, escaped from prison. Thereafter, he resided in Algeria, Switzerland, and finally Afghanistan. In 1973 he was seized and returned to California, where he was given an additional sentence for his prison escape. Leary was not released from confinement until 1976.

Interest in Outer Space

After his release, Leary became an active writer and lecturer on behalf of various enthusiasms. No longer obsessed with drugs, he promoted self-development in other ways. He advocated theories looking to the emergence of disembodied intelligence. He organized Starseed, a cooperative that hoped to colonize outer space. In 1982 he toured the lecture circuit debating with G. Gordon Liddy, who took an opposite stand on all issues. Leary acted in movies, appeared often on television and radio, performed in night clubs, and worked as a disc jockey.

Mind-Altering Software

Leary was always entertaining when sharing his beliefs. He lectured at colleges and performed at comedy clubs with equal ease. He remained interested in new ways to alter conciousness and increase intelligence. He developed SMILE in 1980, which stood for "Space Migration, Increased Intelligence, Life Extension." He published his autobiography, Flashbacks in 1983. The following year, He launched Futique, Inc., a Hollywood-based company that would create mind-altering software. "Mind Mirror," a self-analysis program was released by Futique in 1986. The next year, "Mind Movie," through which users could create electronic novels was marketed by the company. By the decade's end, Leary had become the head of a second software company, Telelctronics.

Leary's last book, Chaos and Cyber Culture (1994) was a hypertext instruction book of sorts, proclaiming that "the pc is the lsd of the '90s." Leary even "wired" his own final days on his World Wide Web site (www.leary.com) in word and image. Leary surrounded himself with friends, famous and otherwise, as well. As Gen X chronicler and longtime friend of Leary, Douglas Rushkoff wrote in Esquire, "On learning of his inoperable prostate cancer, Tim realized he was smack in the middle of another great taboo: dying. True to character, he wasn't about to surrender to the fear and shame we associate with death in modern times. No, this was going to be a party." Originally, Leary had planned to have his brain cryogenically frozen, but decided instead to have his ashes shot into space. Leary died in Beverly Hills, California, on May 31, 1996. His last words: "why not?"

Further Reading

Leary wrote or edited, alone or with others, some 17 books. Among them are High Priest (1968), The Politics of Ecstasy (1968), Confessions of a Hope Fiend (1973), Neuropolitics: The Sociobiology of Human Metamorphosis (1977), and How To Use Drugs Intelligently (1983). In 1986 he created a computer program called "Mind Mirror" designed to analyze thoughts. There is no biography of Leary, though he has written his own memoirs, Flashbacks (1983). See also Chaos and Cyber Culture (1994). He has been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine stories. For most recent stories, see: "Leary's last trip," by Douglas Rushkoff in Esquire, August 1996; and "Dr. Tim's last trip," by Jeffrey Ressner in Time, April 29, 1996. □

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Leary, Timothy (1920-1996)

Leary, Timothy (1920-1996)

With Dr. Richard Alpert, Leary became a controversial figure in the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s. He was born October 22, 1920, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He attended Holy Cross College (1938-39), the U.S. Military Academy (1940-41), the University of Alabama (A.B., 1943), Washington State University (1946), and the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D. in psychology, 1950).

He was an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley (1950-55), director of psychological research at the Kaiser Foundation, Oakland, California (1955-58), and a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1959-63). After leaving Harvard Leary became the head and first guide of the League of Spiritual Discovery, which was based at a mansion in Millwood, New York.

Leary and Alpert were both dismissed from Harvard for their experiments with psilocybin (later revealed to have been funded by the U.S. government). They engaged in widespread psychedelic experiments and emerged as advocates for the use of LSD and other such drugs to produce altered states of consciousness, and to treat alcoholism, schizophrenia, and other psychophysiological disorders. Together they launched the psychedelic revolution that in less than a decade impacted an entire generation.

The belief that mystical experience could be obtained from mind-altering drugs came from Leary's and Alpert's experiences as well as from the suggestion made a decade earlier in Aldous Huxley 's book The Doors of Perception (1954), which described the sacramental use of peyote by certain North American Indians.

Having exhausted the drug experience by 1967, Alpert went to India in search of more substantial spirituality and experienced a major transformation. He discovered a guru in the Himalayas and returned to the United States as Baba Ram Dass. His transformation became a parable of the emerging New Age movement, and he is a popular teacher of Hinduism and New Age values. Leary had gone to India in 1965 and converted to Hinduism and added a spiritual dimension to his psychedelic activities. After Alpert had left the United States, Leary continued to advocate the psychedelic revolution. His publications during this time reflect his efforts to provide information and instruction on the use of hallucinogens and, influenced by Eastern philosophies and religious texts, reveals Leary's emphasis on the spiritual possibilities of psychedelics. In 1964, Leary, along with Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner, published The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This book relates the death and rebirth cycle experienced through psychedelic drugs to the ancient Buddhist text that prepares followers for the after-death experience.

Various brushes with the law on drug charges resulted in Leary receiving sentences of 10 years imprisonment by a federal judge in Houston on January 21, 1970, and another ten years in Santa Ana, California, on March 22, 1970, both charges involving marijuana offenses. He began serving his sentence at the California Men's Colony West in San Luis Obispo, but escaped in September 1970 and later surfaced in Lebanon. He settled in Switzerland for a time but later returned to the United States and served his sentence at Folsom Prison in California. The 10-year jail sentence in 1970 resulted from possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana, which had a street value of ten dollars. His 42-month imprisonment (29 months in solitary confinement) seemed to reflect mainstream opinion about the psychedelic revolution initiated by Leary and his associates.

Leary's case was reviewed in the mid-1970s, and in March 1975 he was paroled but immediately began serving another sentence. Leary was finally released April 21, 1976. Separated from his wife, Rosemary, in 1971, he married his fourth wife, Barbara, after being released from jail.

Over the next 10 years Leary continued to be in the public eye as a trendsetter in ideas. He lectured widely, though he no longer advocated the psychedelic revolution or drug taking. In September 1976 he spoke to 3,000 students at Princeton University on a scientific approach to self-development. In his book Exo-Psychology (1977), he suggested that human beings could evolve into pure, intelligent, disembodied energy. Other lecture topics include Skylab/space shuttle activities and efforts to increase human intelligence and life-span, summed up in the acronym SMILE (Space Migration, Increased Intelligence, Life Extension). He founded an organization named Starseed, a cooperative to colonize space.

In 1982 Leary toured on a debate circuit with convicted Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, who participated in a 1966 raid on Leary's Millbrook drug community. In the 1990s Leary had taken on a role as a futurist guru, advocating ways to stimulate human development and intelligence. He had popularized the concept of SKPI (Super Knowledge, Processing Interaction), using computers as mind-expanding tools. Although Leary refrained from advocating mind-expanding drugs, he expressed no regrets for his part in the psychedelic revolution.

A comprehensive assessment of Leary, his kaleidoscopic career and philosophies, and the views of other commentators can be found in Contemporary Authors (Vol. 107, 1983). In addition to Leary's own biographical works, see also Psychedelic Drugs, Hallucinogens, and Mushrooms. Leary died of cancer on May 31, 1996 in Beverly Hills, California.

Sources:

Kleps, Art. Millbrook: The True Story of the Early Years of the Psychedelic Revolution. Oakland, Calif.: Bench Press, 1977.

Leary, Timothy. Changing My Mind among Others: Lifetime Writings. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

. Flashbacks. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1983.

. High Priest. New York: World Publishing, 1968.

. The Politics of Ecstasy. New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1968.

. The Psychedelic Experience. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1964.

. Psychedelic Prayers after the Tao te ching. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1966.

Leary, Timothy, Robert Wilson, and George A. Koopman. Neuropolitics: The Sociobiology of Human Metamorphosis. Los Angeles: Starseed/Peace Press, 1977.

Slack, Charles W. Timothy Leary, the Madness of the Sixties, and Me. New York: Peter H. Wyden, 1974.

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Leary, Timothy

Leary, Timothy 1920-1996

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Timothy Francis Leary was a psychologist, scientist, and philosopher who made substantive contributions to interpersonal theory and methodology and also gained notoriety for his endorsement of and research on hallucinogens. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on October 22, 1920, Leary was an only child raised by his mothers family in a devout Irish Catholic household. His father, a successful dentist and prominent member of the community, left the family when Leary was thirteen years old. Initially expelled from the University of Alabama for spending a night in the womens dormitory, he appealed the dismissal in 1945 and was awarded his bachelors degree in psychology while serving in the army during World War II (19391945).

Leary met his first wife, Marianne, in 1944 while serving as a psychometrician at Deshon General Hospital in Butler, Pennsylvania. A year later they were married in the same hospital before departing for the state of Washington, where Leary began work on his masters degree. In 1946 Leary received his master of science degree under the supervision of renowned psychologist Lee Cronbach (19162001) at Washington State University. The title of his masters thesis was The Clinical Use of the Wechsler/Mental Ability Scale: Form B, which he later retitled The Dimensions of Intelligence. Following the completion of his masters degree, Leary entered the doctoral program in clinical psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1950 he received his PhD in clinical psychology with the dissertation The Social Dimensions of Personality: Group Process and Structure.

Learys seminal monograph, The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A Functional Theory and Methodology for Personality Evaluation, was a direct product of his doctoral thesis. First published in 1957, Leary considered his monograph to be a methodological extension of the interpersonal theory of Harry Stack Sullivan (18921949). According to Leary, the emotional, interpersonal, and social life of individuals could be best understood as attempts to avoid anxiety. Learys monograph focuses on five levels of personality that include: (1) public communication, (2) conscious communication, (3) private communication or preconscious symbolization, (4) unexpressed or unconscious communication, and (5) the value or ego-ideal.

The majority of Learys monograph is devoted to the development of a two-dimensional circumplex model of personality, his most lasting contribution to clinical psychology. Developed by Leary in collaboration with several of his mentors at Berkeley, the circumplex model presents a methodology for measuring interpersonal behavior using a collection of simple and specific behavioral descriptors. Each behavior is situated along a continuum defined by two dimensions: dominance-submission and hostility-affiliation. Sixteen generic interpersonal themes are identified along the circumference of a circle where the two dimensions comprise the circles axes. The circumplex model can be utilized for a variety of purposes, including the assessment of the structure of personality, temporal variation in personality, and variability in personality due to situational context. Extensions and revisions of the Leary circumplex continue to be developed with the primary goal of better measuring and understanding the multifaceted and complex nature of interpersonal relationships.

After a brief tenure as assistant professor at Berkeley (19501955), Leary worked as director of the prestigious Kaiser Foundation in Oakland, California (19551958), where he applied his circumplex model to understand the process of group psychotherapy. During the time of his greatest academic achievements, Leary experienced a personal tragedy when his wife committed suicide in 1955, leaving him to raise their eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son.

In 1958 Leary left Berkeley with his two children and moved to Harvard, where he accepted a position as lecturer at Harvards Center for Personality Research and began the most controversial period of his academic career. In collaboration with his Harvard colleagues, most notably Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner, Leary started an experimental research program examining the effects of psychedelic/hallucinogenic drugs on behavioral change. In a series of studies with Metzner, Leary explored the rehabilitative effects of psilocybin on young criminal offenders at the Massachusetts Correctional Facility in Concord. Leary believed that psilocybin, under guided professional supervision, could act as a conduit for internal reflection and behavioral change. In a second series of studies, Learys doctoral student, Walter Pahnke (19311971), examined the effects of psilocybin on the mystical and religious experiences of volunteer seminary students, hypothesizing that psychedelic drugs would facilitate such experiences.

Learys research, and his expulsion from Harvard in 1963, would catapult him into the public spotlight, where he became a counterculture icon. Popularizing the catch phrase Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out in the 1960s, Leary was an open advocate of the use of psychedelic drugs as a method of exploring and expanding consciousness. He published several books on the subject, including The Psychedelic Experience (1964), coauthored with his former Harvard colleagues Metzner and Alpert. A controversial and outspoken figure throughout his life, Leary died of prostate cancer in 1996.

SEE ALSO Castaneda, Carlos; Consciousness; Drugs of Abuse; Hallucinogens; Personality

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Greenfield, Robert. 2006. Timothy Leary: A Biography. New York: Harcourt.

Leary, Timothy. 1957. Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A Functional Theory and Methodology for Personality Evaluation. New York: Ronald Press.

Leary, Timothy. 1983. Flashbacks: An Autobiography. New York: Tarcher/Putnam.

Metzner, Ralph, Ralph Alpert, and Timothy J. Leary. 1964. The Psychedelic Experience: Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Berkeley, CA: University Books.

Jamie D. Bedics

David C. Atkins

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Leary, Timothy Francis

Timothy Francis Leary, 1920–96, American psychologist and educator, b. Springfield, Mass.; B.A., Univ. of Alabama, 1943; M.A., Washington State Univ.; Ph.D., Univ. of California at Berkeley, 1950. Teaching (1950–55) at Berkeley and directing research (1955–58) at an Oakland hospital, he spent the early years of his career in normative psychology. Later, however, he turned to the study and promotion of psychedelic drugs and was dismissed as a lecturer in psychology at Harvard, where he taught from 1959 to 1963, for encouraging students to experiment with the hallucinogen LSD. Shortly thereafter, he and a colleague established a foundation for the study of psychedelic substances in Millbrook, N.Y. Leary was an outspoken advocate of hallucinogenic drug use; his exhortation "turn on, tune in, drop out" became a catchword of the 1960s. After LSD was classified as illegal (1965) he was frequently arrested. In 1970 he escaped from prison and fled to Algeria, then to Switzerland, Austria, and finally Afghanistan, where in 1973 he was extradited and returned to an American prison. After his release (1976) he claimed to be rehabilitated and continued writing and lecturing. During the 1980s and 90s the charismatic Leary styled himself as a postmodern guru, and celebrated computer technology as a utopian, boundary-demolishing force. He took leave of life in the style in which he had lived it, detailing his illness and drug-taking on a website. In 1997 a Spanish satellite carried some of his ashes into space.

See his autobiographical Jail Notes (1970), Flashbacks (with W. S. Burroughs, 1983), Design for Dying (with R. U. Sirius, 1997), and Politics of Ecstasy (with R. U. Sirius, 1998); biographies by R. Greenfield (2006) and J. Higgs (2006); R. Forte, ed., Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In: Appreciations, Castigations, and Reminiscences (1999); B. H. Friedman, Tripping: A Memoir of Timothy Leary & Co. (2006); D. Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club (2010).

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Leary, Timothy

Timothy Leary

Born October 22, 1920
Springfield, Massachusetts

Died May 31, 1996
Beverly Hills, California

Psychologist, philosopher, teacher,
writer, lecturer, LSD advocate

Timothy Leary, a psychologist and former Harvard University professor, was one of the most controversial figures on the American countercultural or anti-authoritarian scene during the 1960s. He led experimentation with hallucinogenic, or mind-altering, drugs. He advocated the use of such drugs as consciousness-raising tools—a way to open people's minds to new ways of viewing reality. Leary urged a new generation of Americans to "turn on, tune in, [and] drop out," in a 1966 interview in Playboy magazine.

"I want to get back in. I think I belong in American society. I think that a society that imprisons its philosophers is playing with very bad magic. You can't imprison ideas."

—Timothy Leary, speaking while confined in Folsom Prison.

A rebellious soul

Timothy Leary was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on October 22, 1920. Between 1938 and 1943 he attended Holy Cross College, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the University of Alabama. During Leary's college years, his rebellious spirit was stirred as he realized that he was being taught to follow rules and orders blindly rather than to ask questions and think for himself. In 1944 he married Marianne Busch and they eventually had two children. Marianne died in 1955 and Leary went on to marry (and divorce) several more times.

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II (1939–45), Leary earned a PhD in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950. He taught there through 1955 and then became director of psychological research at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland, California. He accepted a teaching position at Harvard University in 1959.

"Magic" mushrooms

Leary had long been interested in the workings of the mind, the evolution of consciousness, and the manner in which the mind and body interact. In 1960, while traveling through Mexico, he began eating mushrooms containing psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance. Such substances cause hallucinations or mental images that are not connected to reality. Traditionally, these "magic" or "sacred" mushrooms had been consumed by Mexicans during religious rituals. Leary noted in his autobiography, Flashbacks, that while under the influence of the mushrooms he "gave way to delight" as he came to realize that "this world—so manifestly real—was actually a tiny stage set constructed by the mind." He referred to his initial consumption of the mushrooms as "the deepest religious experience of [his] life."

Upon his return to Harvard, Leary began the Harvard Psilocybin Project. He researched and assembled data on the effect of the psilocybin mushroom on humans. Working with Richard Alpert (1931–; later known as Baba Ram Dass), a Harvard colleague, Leary experimented on graduate students, inmates at a state prison, divinity students, friends, and acquaintances. Among those who ate the mushrooms were such noted writers as Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), Arthur Koestler (1905–1983), Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), Robert Lowell (1917–1977), Jack Kerouac (1922–1967), and William S. Burroughs (1914–1997).

LSD experiments

In 1962 Leary took his first dose of lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD and nicknamed "Acid." LSD is a synthetically produced hallucinogenic drug that was discovered in 1938 by Dr. Albert Hoffman, a Swiss researcher. LSD was a powerful drug, far stronger than psilocybin. Leary described his initial LSD use, also called a "trip," as "something different. It was the most shattering experience of my life," as quoted on the Timothy Leary Web site. He became fascinated with the drug and began conducting experiments in which he recorded the manner in which it altered human consciousness and behavior. As he explored the drug and its effects, Leary came to believe that the use of LSD resulted in a heightened spirituality and sense of oneness with the world. He also concluded that it could be beneficial as a potential cure for alcoholism and a range of psychological disorders, including schizophrenia.

Leary's support of LSD and experimentation with students was controversial. In particular, the parents of many of his subjects were disturbed to learn that their offspring were taking drugs. Such parents had sent their children to Harvard to earn degrees and become the future leaders of America. Parents were concerned that their children were perhaps even getting involved in a subculture that embraced meditation and practiced Eastern religions.

In 1963, a nervous Harvard administration fired the professor-researcher. Leary and Alpert (who also lost his job at the university) then established the International Foundation for Internal Freedom. Based in Mexico, the foundation was a research organization that Leary and Alpert planned to use to further experiment with LSD and other psychedelic, mind-altering drugs. Almost immediately, the foundation was shut down by the Mexican government. Next, the pair founded the Castalia Institute in Millbrook, New York. Here, Leary and Alpert took the drugs themselves and supervised their use among friends and celebrities. Leary believed in taking the drug in a controlled setting to minimize the chance of having a "bad trip." During such episodes, the hallucinations are terrifying and cause dangerous actions. Leary claimed that LSD allowed the individual user to become conscious of knowledge and spiritual awareness that was contained in the brain by way of cellular energy. He became convinced that the drug was a key component in the ongoing development of human intelligence.

Arrest and appeal

In 1965 Leary traveled to India and converted to the Hindu religion. This gave an increased sense of spirituality to his beliefs about psychedelic drugs. That same year, his daughter was arrested for possession of marijuana while crossing the border from Mexico to Texas. Leary accepted responsibility for her situation and was found guilty of marijuana possession. He was sentenced to thirty years in jail. He appealed the verdict, arguing that the Marijuana Tax Act, one of the laws that supposedly had been broken, was unconstitutional. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1969 ruled that the act was unconstitutional. The court noted that individuals neglecting to pay tax on marijuana brought into the United States would be incriminating themselves by admitting that they possessed the illegal substance.

During this period, Leary also appeared and spoke at rallies protesting the Vietnam War (1954–75). He joined in the recording of "Give Peace a Chance" with singer John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono. He established the League of Spiritual Discovery, which advocated the use of LSD. He wrote two books, both published in 1968. In the Politics of Ecstasy, he explained his belief that the use of psychedelic drugs made spiritual awareness possible. High Priest described his experiences while on hallucinogens. He frequently gave lectures and coordinated staged multimedia programs in which he preached about the benefits of psychedelic drugs.

"Turn on, tune in, drop out"

By this time, Leary had become the unofficial national spokesperson for LSD and the psychedelic movement. This movement involved young people who saw drug use as a means of announcing their rejection of mainstream American culture. He urged people to "turn on, tune in, drop out," which became one of the catchphrases of the psychedelic era. The saying was being repeated among those young Americans who were questioning their parents' standards and way of life. Even though Leary was old enough to be their father, many young people admired him. They liked his openness, his fascination with consciousness-expanding drugs, and his passion and zest for life.

As more and more young people experimented with LSD—untold thousands tried the drug—the attention surrounding Leary greatly increased. In particular, older, conservative Americans viewed him as nothing less than a menace to society. Accounts of "bad trips" among LSD users, including some that led to severe injury and death, only added to the controversy.

In 1970, Leary was again convicted of possessing marijuana, which two years earlier had been found by police in a borrowed automobile he was driving. This time his sentence was ten years behind bars, to be served consecutively with a second ten-year sentence connected to the earlier Texas arrest. Leary was imprisoned in a minimum-security prison in San Luis Obispo, California, and he immediately began planning his escape. He fled by climbing to a rooftop and up a telephone pole, crawling on a cable that went across the prison yard and on a barbed wire fence, and then jumping onto a roadway.

Fugitive

Once a guru of the counterculture, Leary now was a fugitive, an escaped criminal, from justice. He escaped first to Algeria and then to Switzerland and Afghanistan. In 1973 he was re-arrested in Afghanistan by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. He was sent back to prison in California and released three years later. His early discharge reportedly came about after he agreed to offer the authorities information on political radicals he had met and with whom he had conferred while overseas.

"LSD President"

During the mid-1960s, Timothy Leary was at the height of his fame as the guru of psychedelic drugs. He offered a series of predictions about the impact LSD and other hallucinogens would have on mainstream American society.

Leary claimed in a widely quoted Playboy interview that newly developed psychedelic drugs were "really going to revolutionize our concepts of ourselves and education." In this regard, hallucinogens would be commonly used as educational tools in all public and private schools. These drugs would instruct children to be more in touch with their sense organs. In fact, any individual of any age who was concerned with intellectual pursuits would regularly consume LSD, or "drop acid." In 1967, Leary predicted that, within fifteen years, Americans would elect an "LSD President" and there would be a "pot-smoking Supreme Court."

Of course, none of these prophesies came true.

After his release from prison, Leary became fascinated by a range of subjects, including cyber-culture, computers, virtual reality, and space colonization, along with the workings of the human mind and body. He spent his last years exploring these topics as well as lecturing and writing essays. He replaced "turn on, tune in, drop out" with a new adage: "Just say know," a take-off on First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just say no" anti-drug campaign, according to Flashbacks. For Leary, gaining complete knowledge was always preferable to simple rejection of something an authority figure says is dangerous.

Upon learning in the early 1990s that he had contracted prostate cancer and was terminally ill, Leary decided to document his death. He claimed that he eagerly looked forward to his passing and viewed it as "the ultimate trip." He died peacefully at his California home on May 31, 1996, surrounded by friends. Video cameras recorded his death, and his final words were reported to be, "Why not? Why not? Why not?," according to a New York Times obituary.

To some, Leary was a public nuisance, a corruptor of youth. In fact, in the early 1970s President Richard Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74) had once called him "the most dangerous man in America," according to the New York Times. To his fellow drug users, he was a visionary who saw the potential of the human mind. Both hated and loved, Leary was a symbol of the more decadent experimentalism of the 1960s.

For More Information

Books

Forte, Robert, ed. Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1999.

Leary, Timothy. Change Your Brain. Berkeley, CA: Ronin Press, 2000.

Leary, Timothy. Changing My Mind, Among Others: Lifetime Writings. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

Leary, Timothy. Flashbacks: An Autobiography. Los Angeles, CA: J. P. Tarcher, 1983.

Leary, Timothy. Politics of Ecstasy. New York: Putnam, 1968.

Leary, Timothy. Politics of Self-Determination. Berkeley, CA: Ronin Press, 2000.

Leary, Timothy. Your Brain Is God. Berkeley, CA: Ronin Press, 2000.

Periodicals

Mansnerus, Laura. Obituary, New York Times (June 1, 1996).

"Playboy Interview: Timothy Leary." Playboy (September 1966).

Web Sites

Timothy Leary Archives.http://www.leary.com/archives/index.html (accessed August 2004).

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Leary, Timothy (1920-1996)

Leary, Timothy (1920-1996)

Who was Timothy Leary? Prophet? Charlatan? Mystic? Mephisto? Years after his death his legacy is still contested, with advocates and detractors both passionately debating his worth. The Pied Piper of LSD, the man who coined the phrase "turn on, tune in, drop out," eulogized in song, his image disseminated on posters, Leary was perhaps the most famous academic of the 1960s, ranking with Marshall McLuhan as prophet of the post-industrial age. He began the decade as a Harvard professor and ended it in prison. During his life he was a clinical psychologist doing groundbreaking work in behavioral change, but he became a rebel, a guru, a fugitive, and a prisoner. Leary's life never lacked for adventure, nor his work for controversy, but to this day it remains unclear whether drugs were his salvation or his ruin.

Born to an alcoholic Army dentist and a prim New England aristocrat, in his autobiography, Flashbacks, Leary claimed he was conceived the day after prohibition took affect, implying a predestined—or ironic—connection to drug prohibition. His upbringing displayed a classic Irish schizophrenia. His father came from an upper-crust Boston-Irish family—rebellious, irreverent, and idiosyncratic—while his mother was a member of a devoutly religious family of conservative gentleman farmers. As a youth, Leary was more inclined towards his paternal side; he was kicked out of several colleges before being drafted in 1943. He spent the war stateside working as a clinical psychologist at an Army hospital in Virginia where he met his first wife, Marianne. With a family to support, Leary forswore rebellion, attaining a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. With two small children, a house, and a post at the Kaiser Research Facility in Oakland, Leary appeared to have settled into the sedate life of an academic. He might have continued along this path had his wife not committed suicide the morning of his thirty-fifth birthday. Her death threw Leary's entire world into tumult—in four months his hair turned completely gray—but it also liberated him. Resigning his position, Leary fled with his children to Europe with the vague notion of working up the data he had amassed from his years at Kaiser.

While at Kaiser Leary had made a crucial discovery. With a waiting list of patients at the clinic, Leary and his colleague, Frank Barron, devised a simple way to test the efficacy of therapy: those who received therapy and those on the waiting list were tracked and then compared. "To say they were horrified by what they found is a little strong—amazed, worried amused, disturbed—you could use any of those," writes Jay Stevens in Storming Heaven. "Because what they found was that there was no difference. Roughly a third of each group had stayed the same, a third had improved, and a third had deteriorated." Behavioral change became Leary's obsession; in Florence, where he had settled, it was his intention to work on his findings, but he was unmotivated and at loose ends. Frank Barron, now teaching at Harvard, visited Leary, bringing with him tales of the wondrous drug, Psilocybe mexicana, he had recently taken in Mexico. Leary was skeptical. He was more enthusiastic, however, when Barron mentioned that his boss, David McLelland, director of the Harvard Personality Clinic, was vacationing in Florence. Leary paid him a visit, carrying along a backpack full of manuscripts, and walked away with a lectureship.

Leary's career was back on track, but Harvard would eventually prove his downfall as an academic. When he arrived in the fall of 1959, he was nearing 40 and was at the bottom rung of the academic ladder, but he proved to be a popular lecturer, charming his students and faculty members alike. He had forgotten all about Barron's glowing praise of magic mushrooms, but while vacationing with Barron in Mexico that winter, Leary tried Psilocybe mexicana; he returned to Harvard a changed man. With the blessing of McLelland, Leary inaugurated what became the infamous Harvard Psilocybin Project, using a synthesized version of the mushroom manufactured by Sandoz Laboratory of Switzerland.

Far from being quixotic, Leary knew exactly what he was after with the Harvard project. He was still searching for that elusive vitalizing transaction—that key to lasting behavioral change—and he had a suspicion that hallucinogens held the key to sloughing off conditioning. The rumors of strange goings-on at Leary's Cambridge house were soon alarming the Harvard authorities, but Leary staved them off for the time being. He had come up with an inspired study to test psilocybin's efficacy in effecting behavioral change: he would give the drug to inmates at Concord State Prison, and monitor the change in values and recidivism rate of the test group. The change was miraculous, but it underscored a point of contention between Leary and his superiors. "The prisoners were changing true enough," writes Stevens, "but they were changing in a way that made science uncomfortable: they were getting religion. And if psilocybin could do that to hard-core cons, imagine what it was doing to the members of the psilocybin project." After the Harvard Crimson (the school newspaper) published a series of articles in which Leary was taken to task for his sloppy science, the long-brewing conflict came to a head. Before he was asked to leave, Leary resigned.

Psychedelics had accessed a utopian strain in Leary's character, and he became obsessed with forming a psychedelic community to continue his research and train psychedelic guides and disciples. Leary and his co-conspirators returned to Mexico where they hoped to establish a research facility; they were expelled within two weeks. They then set up shop in the Dominican Republic with similar results. Antigua also evicted them, but upon returning to Cambridge, heiress Peggy Hitchcock volunteered her family's estate in upstate New York. Millbrook was a five mile square estate with an enormous mansion and several buildings dotting the property. It was the ideal locale for their project, situated close enough to New York to attract New York's intelligentsia, whose paid attendance offset expenses. Millbrook evolved into part retreat, part research project, and part conference center. It proved to be the quiet before the storm, for Leary had not yet been dismissed as a menace to society. Participants remember it as an idyllic place. The interior and exterior of the big house, as the main mansion was called, were covered with psychedelic murals, and visitors were frequently treated to the sight of jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson puttering in the garden or society matrons high on one of a variety of controlled substances.

Tumult had become Leary's operating paradigm. He already had the rebel's instinct for jumping into the fray, and his experience at Harvard had reaffirmed his conviction that to buck the authorities was his destiny. Thus, after being busted for marijuana possession while en route to Mexico with his new wife, Rosemary, and his two children, he returned to Millbrook full of plans to further expand the consciousness revolution. He met with Marshall McLuhan, who told him to keep a positive profile and use the tools of Madison Avenue to make his case, singing "Lysergic Acid hits the spot, 40 billion neurons, that's a lot." Not long afterwards, Leary coined his famous phrase, "Turn on, tune in, drop out," which was taken up as a standard in the burgeoning hippie movement. Psychedelic usage was spreading like wild fire, and like the officials at Harvard, it was not so much the danger to life and limb that state authorities objected to as the moral changes LSD usage seemed to inspire.

Leary's metamorphosis from drug researcher to counterculture guru was not a pleasant one. By year's end, LSD was illegal, with no visible effect on the drug's availability. LSD's illegality only heightened its allure, and incidence of adverse reactions grew to epidemic proportion. The new breed of psychedelic aficionados knew no more about Leary and his theories then that one singular phrase; he was put in the uncomfortable position of being blamed for the hippies while having little authority among them. He continued to lobby for sensible drug policies, but the situation was far beyond his control. For the remainder of the decade, Leary would be more or less sidelined in the debate, although as an icon, he was omnipresent. He became a familiar figure in books, posters, and on the radio. The Moody Blues eulogized him in a song whose opening lines went: "Timothy Leary is dead /no nana no /he's on the outside looking inside"—they had little way of knowing how prescient their lyrics were. Leary continued appearing at various events from the first human Be-In to Altamont, even running for governor of California in 1968, but with the myriad drug cases hanging over his head, he was a man preoccupied. He knew his time was running short.

With the close of the decade, Leary's role as a guru ended, and a new role, as fugitive, began. In January of 1970, he was imprisoned, looking at 20 years to life, and with Nixon in the White House, he had little doubt he would do the time. Nine months later, he was a fugitive, escaping from jail with the aid of the Weathermen Underground, fleeing the country to uneasy sanctuary in Algeria where members of the Black Panther Party had set up a United States Government-in-Exile. Tim and Rosemary were eventually placed under house arrest by the Panthers before escaping to a temporary asylum in Switzerland. In 1972, Leary was finally apprehended in Afghanistan and remanded to United States custody, where he served time in several federal and state prisons before being released in the winter of 1975. Leary remarried and spent the rest of his life developing interactive software; he was also interested in the Internet and space travel. He continued to lecture, appearing for a time in debates with his ex-nemesis, Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, and aside from a midnight raid of his Laurel Canyon home, his last years of his life were free of controversy. He died of cancer in May of 1996. Fittingly, his final resting place is in orbit; his ashes were shot into space from an island off the coast of Morocco.

Leary holds a paradoxical position in the history of American culture. His confederates blamed him for the abrupt cessation of LSD research funding, and it is possible that his reckless behavior was the reason for the abrupt cessation of the research engine. But for Leary, it was a matter of losing the battle and winning the war. In becoming an advocate for hallucinogens on a grand scale, he thought he was goading America's psychological evolution, as opposed to staying in the sterile environment of the laboratory. If ultimately he misjudged the efficacy of his tactics, that, too, is part and parcel of the man himself. Leary was the first to confess his naivete. By addressing himself directly to the baby boomers, he lost the support of the scientific establishment, and a great deal of his credibility, but for a brief time he was the spiritual leader to a generation. In a way, Leary played out the ancient role of the prophet, and he paid the price. History alone will decide whether he was a savant or addled by the very drugs he advocated.

—Michael Baers

Further Reading:

Kleps, Art. Millbrook: The True Story of the Early Years of the Psychedelic Revolution. Oakland, Bench Press, 1977.

Leary, Timothy. Changing My Mind—Among Others. New York, Prentice-Hall, 1982.

——. Flashbacks. Los Angeles, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1983.

Lee, Martin. Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion. New York, Grove Press, 1985.

Stevens, Jay. Storming Heaven, LSD and the American Dream. New York, Grove Press, 1987.

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Leary, Timothy Francis

Leary, Timothy Francis

(b. 22 October 1920 in Springfield, Massachusetts; d. 31 May 1996 in Beverly Hills, California), psychologist, writer, advocate of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and other hallucinogenic drugs as a means of expanding consciousness, and author of the phrase “tune in, turn on, drop out,” which captured the spirit of the hippie movement in America during the 1960s.

Leary was the only child of Timothy Leary, Sr., a U.S. Army captain and sometime dentist, and Abigail Ferris, a teacher. Leary grew up Irish Catholic in the medium-sized industrial city of Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was exposed to the fiercely religious, family-oriented, traditional moralistic attitudes of the Ferris clan and the “sexy, fun-loving, and self-oriented” inclinations of the Leary line. Timothy, Sr., nicknamed “Tote,” was a colorful alcoholic who often recited Shakespeare, Poe, Keats, and other great poets while intoxicated and was “a disdainer of the conventional way.” Leary’s greatest influence came from his father’s side of the family, from whom he learned how to “be happy” by asserting his individuality. By the age often, Leary was reading eight to ten books a week and adopting the advice of his grandfather (a wealthy retired doctor also named Timothy): “Never do anything like anyone else. Be one of a kind!” Leary’s grandfather died when Leary was thirteen. Shortly thereafter, when a large inheritance never materialized, Leary’s father got drunk and abandoned the family to make a new life for himself performing dentistry in Boston, working construction in South America, then traveling as a steward on transatlantic ships. It was twenty-three years before Leary saw his father again.

Leary was already rebelling against authority by the time he attended Classical High School in Springfield, so much that no one would write him a recommendation for college. His mother pulled strings to get him accepted into the Jesuit College of Holy Cross, in Worcester, Massachusetts, which he attended from 1938 to 1940. Leary considered these first years of education “unfortunate.” In 1940 Leary was accepted into West Point, based on his excellent test scores, but a drinking incident involving upperclassmen prompted the Cadet Honor Committee to punish Leary by demanding that no one speak to him. Leary was quickly acquitted of the charges, but the resentful committee maintained the punishment for nine months. Leary agreed to leave West Point in his sophomore year (1941), on the condition that the honor committee publicly proclaim his innocence. A prepared statement was read to cheering crowds in the dining hall, and Leary left West Point. He was accepted into the University of Alabama in 1942, where he majored in psychology. Shortly after beginning studies there, he was expelled for spending the night in the girl’s dormitory. Losing his deferment over the incident, he was called up just after Christmas in 1942 and was sent to Fort Eustis, Virginia, for basic training. Because the military needed psychologists, they offered anyone with a psychology background the opportunity to return to school. While in the army he returned to the University of Alabama, where he completed his undergraduate degree in psychology (1943). He was transferred to the Army Medical Corps hospital in Butler, Pennsylvania, where he continued training in clinical psychology. It was there he met his first wife, Marianne Busch; they were married on 12 December 1944. In 1946 he earned an M.S. degree in psychology from Washington State University. The Learys moved to Berkeley, California, in 1946, and had two children, Susan and Jack. Leary received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950 and taught there as an assistant professor from 1950 to 1955, when he was appointed as director of psychological research at Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland, California. Although Leary’s professional career was doing well, his home life was turbulent. He and Marianne both drank heavily and frequently argued. In October 1955 Marianne, who suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of Susan, committed suicide by closing herself in the garage with the car running. Leary found her body on the morning of his thirty-fifth birthday.

In 1957 Leary published his first book, The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality, which was well received. The work questioned the efficacy of traditional psychotherapeutic methods. Disillusioned with a profession that “didn’t seem to work,” Leary quit his position at Berkeley and spent some time in Europe living on a small research grant. In Europe he received a visit from Frank Barron, a previous Berkeley colleague, who told Leary about his religious experience after eating “sacred mushrooms” in Mexico. Ironically, Leary warned Barron that he would lose credibility if he continued experimenting with the hallucinogenic fungus. During 1959, while living in Florence, Leary interviewed with David McClelland, then director of the Harvard Center for Personality Research. McClelland was impressed with Leary, and in 1960 Leary became a lecturer at Harvard. In the summer of that same year, while vacationing in Cuernavaca, Mexico, an anthropologist from the University of Mexico offered Leary some of the mushrooms described by Barron. Leary tried them and had a life-altering experience, during which he concluded that reality was merely “social fabrication.” Leary received permission from Harvard to perform research into the psychological effects of psilocybin. Leary experimented with psychedelics, using graduate students, divinity students, and select prisoners at Concord State Prison as subjects. Leary also began working with Richard Alpert, an assistant professor at Harvard who also experimented with the mind-expanding properties of hallucinogenic drugs. Alpert later achieved recognition as Baba Ram Dass, an advocate of Eastern philosophy and religion.

When Michael Hollingshead, a British philosophy student, exposed Leary to LSD, Leary said he had “the most shattering experience of… [his] life,” and the focus of his research shifted to LSD. Leary “turned on” many notable literary figures, antiwar protestors, musicians, and artists to psychedelics, such as Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Thelonious Monk, and Abbie Hoffman. By 1962 Leary and Alpert’s LSD experiments had gained international attention. But many parents and conservative colleagues, who were upset that Leary was giving drugs to students, put pressure on Harvard, and the university sought to gain tighter supervision over the experiments. The Narcotics Bureau became involved, and the Central Intelligence Agency began tracking Leary’s activities. Leary objected to the loss of control, and in 1963 he and Alpert were dismissed from their positions at Harvard. Both continued their experimentation with psychedelic drugs on a 4,000-acre, sixty-four-room estate owned by William Mellon Hitchcock in Millbrook, New York. In 1964 Leary married his second wife, Nena Von Schle-brugge, a model. Shortly thereafter, Leary and Alpert fell into discord over how Millbrook was being run and went separate ways. In 1967 Leary and Nena divorced, and on 11 November of that year Leary married Rosemary Woodruff, an actress.

As the government developed new antidrug policies, it became more difficult for Leary to continue his experimentation unhindered. When he took Rosemary Woodruff and his two children to Mexico for a vacation, they were denied entrance into the country. On their way back home, the police in Laredo, Texas, found ten dollars worth of marijuana on his daughter, Susan. Leary took the blame for the drug and was sentenced to thirty years. Susan was sentenced to five. Leary’s popularity among young antiestablishment types soared, while President Richard Nixon dubbed him the “most dangerous man in America.” Meanwhile, in 1965, after a trip to India, Leary formed the League of Spiritual Discovery and sought constitutional protection for the use of LSD as a religious sacrament. In 1966 G. Gordon Liddy, then assistant prosecutor for the State of New York, led a raid on Millbrook. Shortly after the raid, the Millbrook era ended.

Under the guidance of Marshall McLuhan, Leary sought to counter the increasingly militant antidrug movement and garner public support for LSD. Leary constructed a smiling on-camera image that associated LSD with positive qualities, such as intelligence, creativity, and religious revelation. It was around this time that Leary coined his most famous phrase, “tune in, turn on, drop out.” According to Leary, “tune in” meant to “activate your neural and genetic equipment,” “turn on” meant to “interact harmoniously with the world around you,” and “drop out” meant to engage in “an active selective and graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments.” The more general understanding of the phrase, particularly by the establishment and the media was that the phrase meant drop out of school and get high.

The family moved to Laguna Beach, California. While his Texas conviction was still on appeal, Leary got involved in the antiwar movement and recorded music with Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Stills, and Buddy Miles. Leary sang along when John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang “Give Peace a Chance” to the media from their honeymoon bed. In 1969 Leary made a failed bid for governor of California. The Beatles song “Come Together” was written by John Lennon for the occasion.

Leary’s Texas conviction was finally overturned by the Supreme Court, but his legal problems were not over. He was arrested in California for possession of two roaches (the stubs of marijuana joints) and sentenced to ten years. The crime usually warranted six months probation. Leary was sent to a minimum security prison in San Luis Obispo, California, while he sought an appeal to the conviction. At the age of forty-nine, feeling persecuted by Nixon and the government, Leary escaped prison and sought asylum with the Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers. But Cleaver considered Leary a security risk and put him and Rosemary under house arrest, so the couple fled to Switzerland. When the Swiss government refused him asylum, he fled to Afghanistan, where he was arrested at the Kabul airport.

Leary and Rosemary separated in October 1971. From 1972 to 1976 Leary spent time in many prisons. After his release Leary went to Hollywood, California. On 18 December 1978 Leary married his fourth wife, Barbara Chase, and he helped raise Zachary, her son from a previous marriage. Leary spent the 1980s lecturing at colleges. For one series of lectures in 1982, he shared the stage with his former nemesis, G. Gordon Liddy. In 1983 Leary formed Futique, a software company, and exhibited strong interest in the Internet and virtual reality. Leary believed technology would take up where the psychedelic movement of the 1960s had left off.

In 1990 Leary’s daughter, Susan Leary Martino, hanged herself in a Los Angeles jail, which hit Leary hard. Barbara left Leary in 1992. Three years later Leary learned he had inoperable prostate cancer. He remarried Rosemary Woodruff on 21 March 1995 and embraced the act of dying with the same enthusiasm that had fueled many of his previous endeavors. Leary passed away quietly in his sleep a little after midnight on 31 May 1996. He died a twentieth-century icon surrounded by loved ones. His ashes were shot into space on a Spanish satellite in 1997. His final words were, “Why not?”

Leary’s autobiography, Flashbacks (1983), covers his life from birth to 1983. Several of his early essays are collected in Politics of Ecstasy (1968), and High Priest (1968) includes details about his days at Millbrook. Robert Forte’s Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In (1999) collects the views of those close to Leary. Valuable coverage also appears in Laura Mansnerus, “At Death’s Door, the Message Is Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out,” New York Times (26 Nov. 1995), and “Terminal Man,” Los Angeles Times (28 Aug. 1995). Obituaries are in the New York Times and Washington Post (both 1 June 1996) and Rolling Stone (11 July 1996).

Kevin Alexander Boon

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Leary, Timothy Francis

LEARY, Timothy Francis

(b. 22 October 1920 in Spring-field, Massachusetts; d. 31 May 1996 in Beverly Hills, California), Harvard psychology professor whose experiments with psychedelic drugs led him to proclaim them as a panacea.

Leary was the only child of U.S. Army Captain Timothy Leary, a dentist, and Abigail Ferris, a teacher. He attended Holy Cross from 1938 to 1939, then the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from 1940 to 1941, leaving both institutions before graduating because of discipline problems. Leary graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.A. in 1943. After serving in the U.S. Army as a psychologist in the Medical Corps, he obtained a doctorate in psychology in 1950 from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was an assistant professor from 1950 to 1955. After a stint as director of psychiatric research for the Kaiser Foundation from 1955 to 1958, during which he devised a personality evaluation that was used by many organizations, in 1959 Leary became a lecturer at Harvard University's Center for Personality Research. He married Marianne Busch, a college instructor, in 1944. The couple had a daughter and a son; Marianne died in 1955. Leary would remarry several times, including to one woman twice (actress Rosemary Woodruff, whom he wed in 1967 and 1995).

Leary wanted to apply scientific paradigms to the study of psychology, including the use of chemicals to change consciousness. In 1960, while in Mexico, Leary tried psilocybe mushrooms, undergoing a profound and life-changing experience. He returned to Harvard and, with associates Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass) and Ralph Metzner, began to experiment with psilocybin (a synthetic version of the mushroom) and the similar drug mescaline. In 1961 he began experimenting with LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide). Using student and prisoner volunteers, Leary found LSD useful in the treatment of alcoholism and schizophrenia.

Harvard was displeased with the controversy over these experiments, and it dismissed Leary and Alpert in 1963. After a brief attempt to settle in Mexico, from which the government expelled them, they went on to found the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF), which operated in Millbrook, New York. Here Leary attempted to introduce the drug to other intellectual leaders, with varying results. (Allen Ginsberg was wildly enthusiastic; Arthur Koestler was not.)

Leary's enthusiasm for LSD and other psychedelics was so great that he began publicizing them. By 1963 LSD was known to avant-garde elements all over the nation's campuses and artistic communities. In a few years its recreational use would be a fad.

Leary also noticed the similarity between his experiences and the ideas of Eastern religion. In 1964 he, Alpert, and Metzner published The Psychedelic Experience, which used the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a paradigm for the death and rebirth experience often associated with the use of psychedelics, and in 1965 Leary visited India and converted to Hinduism. The following year he founded the League for Spiritual Discovery, a religious organization that would use LSD as a sacrament, just as the Native American Church used the psychedelic peyote.

By this time Leary had become a celebrity, and the controversies were swirling. Not only was LSD popular among hippies and creative artists of all sorts, but even such establishment figures as the military planner Herman Kahn and the publisher Henry Luce and his wife, the playwright and public official Clare Boothe Luce, said that the drug had expanded their minds. On the other side, activists of the political New Left charged Leary with offering a hedonistic distraction from civil rights and the Vietnam War, while more conservative sorts simply said that he was giving children drugs that would drive them crazy.

Neither of these critical views was entirely mistaken. Certainly the widespread experimentation with powerful chemicals, often contaminated by other substances, by inexperienced users was leading to some bad experiences and even long-term effects, though not as many as the media suggested. It must also be said that Leary, in the throes of enthusiasm, did not always present a consistent, reasoned position. Sometimes he seemed to be urging revolution, psychological or political; other times he seemed to be peddling a new snake oil that would provide spiritual enlightenment and more and better orgasms.

Because Leary advocated violating drug laws, attempts were made to catch him doing just that. The most famous of these, a police raid of IFIF headquarters led by G. Gordon Liddy, failed to find anything to arrest him for, but he was caught bringing a minute quantity of marijuana into the country from Mexico and sentenced to ten years in jail. That conviction was overturned, but in 1970 Leary began serving a ten-year sentence on similar charges at the state prison in San Luis Obispo, California, where, like all incoming convicts, he was asked to fill out the personality evaluation he had designed. After an escape, aided by the radical Weather Underground, he eventually was recaptured in Afghanistan and returned to California to serve out his sentence.

Paroled in 1976, Leary turned from drug advocacy to a more science-based approach to human development, which he called SMI2LE, for Space Migration, Increased Intelligence, and Life Extension. He welcomed the arrival of personal computers and became a software designer.

In the 1990s the mass media began treating Leary with affection, as an interesting thinker or, at worst, a lovably eccentric old uncle. Perhaps one reason for the change was the obvious fact that his well-publicized adventures in mind alteration had not left him non compos mentis.

In 1995 Leary learned that he had terminal prostate cancer and faced death as the last, greatest adventure. There was some talk of having his body, or at least his head, frozen to await improvements in medical technology, but when the cancer finally killed him in 1996, he was cremated. The next year his ashes were launched into orbit around Earth, with those of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and others.

There are those who say that Leary's great mistake was to make LSD a public fad, rather than patiently introducing it through health professionals, and in his last years he came to agree with them. The harm caused by his decision included not only the destructive effects of bad trips and excessive, unsupervised use of the drug, but the loss of the healing potential Leary, Stanislav Grof, and others found in the use of LSD in controlled, therapeutic conditions. The panic of the mid-1960s led to laws forbidding even its most benign uses, laws that are still in effect today. Nevertheless, Leary opened doors, not all of which should have remained shut, and there still many who feel that their lives were enriched by the chemical he offered them.

Leary's autobiography, Flashbacks, was first published in 1983, then in a revised version, with an introduction by William S. Burroughs, in 1990. Book-length studies of the LSD movement and Leary's role in it include Michael Hollingshead, The Man Who Turned On the World (1973); Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams (1985); and Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (1987). An obituary by Laura Mansnerus was published on the front page of the New York Times (1 June 1996).

Arthur D. Hlavaty

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