Saturday, September 8, 2012

Who Is Timothy Leary?

on Essortment:
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (Original Movie Sou...
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (Original Movie Soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article will discuss Timothy Leary's part in the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s.

They say that if you can remember the 1960s you weren't really there, but who can forget Timothy Leary's rallying call: "Tune in, turn on and drop out!"

This article will discuss Timothy Leary's part in the psychedelic revolution of the 1960.

As it's primary spokesmodel, Leary epitomized all the potential and perils of the drug culture and despite what you might feel about hallucinogens, no one can dispute the influence Leary had during the decade of the 1960s.

A Harvard professor, Leary had experimented with psychedelic mushrooms in Mexico in 1960 and returned to Massachusetts in order to set up controlled experiments using the drug to explore and develop his theories about personality. Leary used psilocybin, the active hallucinogenic ingredient of psychedelic mushrooms, in many experiments at Harvard in the early 1960s.

Leary believed that when set and setting were manipulated, psychotic behavior would disappear. He tested this theory out in the field with prisoners at the Concord State Prison, a Massachusetts correctional facility. A group of recidivist prisoners were given psilocybin by Leary and a small group of aides, at least one of who would be on the drug.

The prisoners were then guided through the experience, gently, which was followed by rudimentary counseling. The results were favorable, but some faulted Leary's method, which left too many variables in place to show conclusively that psychedelics could change long-term behavior.

In 1962 Leary established the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) with the goal to create an outreach program of psychedelic guides. Those who had trained under Leary would act as guides, creating semi-autonomous clusters of psychedelic users.

Other guides would eventually emerge from those who had the training and they, in turn, would create their own clusters. Eventually, Leary believed, the Psychedelic Revolution would expand organically, like a cell multiplying within a body.

Leary's unorthodox methods troubled the administration at Harvard and news of his experiments was reported in the New York Times. Leary was dismissed by Harvard University in 1963.

Uprooted, Leary and his fellow psychedelic researchers tried unsuccessfully to relocate to Antigua when millionaire William Hitchcock donated the use of his Millbrook estate in New York. Leary established the Castalia Foundation to explore the psychological and spiritual complexities of LSD during his time at Millbrook.

Throughout the early and mid 1960s Leary gravitated towards Eastern philosophy, calling himself the High Priest of LSD. In 1965 Leary claimed not guilty for possessing marijuana citing his Hindu orientation. He also called in witnesses to attest to the fact that psychedelic drugs had a legitimate religious use.

Meanwhile Leary's celebrity was skyrocketing. Always a charming interview, Leary was fond of giving guided tours of Millbrook and even gave an interview to Playboy in 1966. He was one of the faces pictured in the Beatles' 1966 Sgt. Pepper album and in 1969 he became part of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's bed-in.

In 1966 Leary incorporated the League for Spiritual Discovery, but this psychedelic high was also a sign of its inevitable decline. Throughout the second half of the 1960s and into the 1970s Leary was hounded by law enforcement officers and he eventually became a fugitive from the law, hiding out in Mexico, evading drug charges in the US, and later being captured.

His legendary escape from Folsom Prison in 1972 - with the aid of the Weathermen - only led to further international intrigue as he fled Algiers and was eventually caught in Afghanistan and returned to prison.

Leary's persona as an acid guru would stay with the former Harvard professor until his death in 1996. Although he would never again win the hearts and minds of the young, he championed various causes through the 80s and 1990s, including the Internet and cryogenics, but he is best known as the man who couldn't quite turn on the world. 
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