Timothy Francis Leary, PhD (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996)
Psychologist, philosopher, explorer, teacher, optimist,
author and revolutionary avatar of the mind. Rightly called
the Galileo of Consciousness, Leary is best known for
advocating the exploration of the therapeutic potential of
psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions. He was
instrumental in initiating a psychedelic renaissance which
is still only beginning to elaborate itself, today.
In August 1960, at the age
Leary traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico and consumed
psilocybin mushrooms (Psilocybe mexicana) for the first
time, an experience that drastically altered the course of
his life. Leary returned from Mexico to Harvard University
in the autumn of 1960, and he and his associate, Dr Richard
Alpert (later known as Ram Dass) began a research program
known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. The goal was to
analyze the effects of psilocybin on human subjects (first
prisoners, and later Andover Newton Theological Seminary
students) from a synthesized version of the drug (which was
legal at the time). The compound in question was produced by
a process developed by Albert Hofmann of Sandoz
Pharmaceuticals, who was famous for synthesizing LSD.
Leary believed that LSD
showed potential for therapeutic use in psychiatry. He used
LSD himself and developed a philosophy of mind expansion and
personal truth through LSD. He popularized catchphrases that
promoted his philosophy, such as "turn on, tune in, drop
out", "set and setting", and "think for yourself and
question authority". He also wrote and spoke frequently
about trans-humanist concepts involving space migration,
intelligence increase, and life extension (SMI²LE),
and developed the eight-circuit
model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977). He
gave lectures, occasionally billing himself as a "stand-up
In 1965, Leary commented
that he had: "learned more about his brain and its
possibilities ... and more about psychology in the five
hours after taking these (psilocybin) mushrooms than ... in
the preceding 15 years of studying and doing research in
On September 19, 1966,
Leary founded the
League for Spiritual Discovery, a religion
declaring LSD as its holy sacrament, in part as an
unsuccessful attempt to maintain legal status for the use of
LSD and other psychedelics for the religion's adherents,
based on a "freedom of religion" argument. (The Brotherhood
of Eternal Love subsequently considered Leary their
spiritual leader, but The Brotherhood did not develop out of
International Federation for Internal Freedom.)
During the late 60s and 1970s, Leary was arrested often
enough to see the inside of 36 different prisons worldwide.
President Richard Nixon once described Leary as "the most
dangerous man in America."
Also during this time,
Leary formulated his eight-circuit model of consciousness in
collaboration with writer Brian Barritt,
among others, in which he wrote
that the human mind and nervous system consisted of seven
circuits which produce seven levels of consciousness when
activated. This model was first published in his short essay
"The Seven Tongues of God". The system was soon expanded to
include an eighth circuit in a revised version first
published in the 1973 pamphlet "Neurologic", written with
Joanna Leary while he was in prison. This eighth-circuit
idea was expanded upon with Leary's publication of Exo-Psychology.
Leary believed that the
first four of these circuits ("the Larval Circuits" or
"Terrestrial Circuits") are naturally accessed by most
people in their lifetimes, triggered at natural transition
points in life such as puberty. The second four circuits
("the Stellar Circuits" or "Extra-Terrestrial Circuits"),
Leary wrote, were "evolutionary offshoots" of the first four
that would be triggered at transition points which humans
might acquire if they evolve. These circuits, according to
Leary, would equip humans to encompass life in space, as
well as the 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", i.e., trigger
these circuits artificially via consciousness-altering
techniques such as meditation and spiritual endeavors such
as yoga, or by taking psychedelic drugs specific to each
circuit. The feeling of floating and uninhibited motion
experienced by users of marijuana is one thing that Leary
cited as evidence for the purpose of the "higher" four
circuits. In the eight-circuit model of consciousness, a
primary theoretical function of the fifth circuit (the first
of the four, according to Leary, developed for life in outer
space) is to allow humans to become accustomed to life in a
zero- or low-gravity environment.
emphasized the importance of space colonization and an
ensuing extension of the human lifespan while also providing
a detailed explanation of the eight-circuit model of
consciousness in books such as Info-Psychology, among
several others. He adopted the acronym "SMI²LE" as a
succinct summary of his pre-transhumanist agenda: SM (Space
Migration) + I² (intelligence increase) + LE (Life
extension), and credited the L5 Society co-founder
Keith Henson with helping develop his interest in space
In the 1980s, Leary became
fascinated with the rise of personal computing, the
virtual reality. Leary proclaimed that "the PC
is the LSD of the 1990s" and urged neo-bohemians to "turn
on, boot up, jack in." He became a promoter of virtual
reality systems, and sometimes demonstrated VR prototypes as
part of his lectures, such as From Psychedelics to
Cybernetics. Around this time he befriended a number of
notable people in the field such as Jaron Lanier and Brenda
Laurel, pioneering researchers in virtual environments and
human/computer interaction. With the rise of cyberdelic
counter-culture, Leary's widening orbit attracted such
cyberpunk notables as
R. U. Sirius, of Mondo 2000 fame.
Many consider Leary one of
the most prominent figures during the counterculture of the
1960s, and since those times has remained influential on pop
culture, literature, television, film and, especially,
music. Leary coined the influential term Reality Tunnel, by
which he means a kind of representative realism. The theory
states that, with a subconscious set of mental filters
formed from their beliefs and experiences, every individual
interprets the same world differently, hence... "Truth is in
the eye of the beholder."
Dr Timothy Leary’s Two Commandments for the Molecular Age…
1) Thou shalt not
alter the consciousness of thy fellow men.
2) Thou shalt not prevent thy fellow man from altering
his or her own consciousness.
You must know
your mythic origins...
Facts and news are reports
from the current TV (& now social media) drama. They have no
relevance to your 2-billion-year-old divinity. Myth is the
report from the cellular memory bank. Myths humanize the
recurrent themes of evolution.
You select a myth as a
reminder that you are part of an ancient and holy process.
You select a myth to guide you when you drop out of the
narrow confines of the fake-prop studio set.
Your mythic guide must be one who has solved the
death-rebirth riddle. A TV drama hero cannot help you.
Caesar, Napoleon, Kennedy are no help to your cellular
orientation. Christ, Lao-tse, Hermes Trismegistus, Socrates
are recurrent turn-on figures.
You will find it
absolutely necessary to leave the city. Urban living is
spiritually suicidal. The cities of America are about to
crumble as did Rome and Babylon. Go to the land... Go to the
"Acid is not for every brain... only the healthy, happy,
wholesome, hopeful, humorous, high-velocity should seek
these experiences. This elitism is totally self-determined.
Unless you are self-confident, self-directed,
self-selected... please abstain."
The preceding was gleaned from multiple
sources, including Wikipedea and salvaged from the
pioneering and now defunct website: E=±mc²=Thé