Timothy Leary is considered by many to be one of the most prominent figures of the 60’s counter culture, and whose legacy has had a lasting impact on modern pop culture, literature, television, film and, especially, music.
Leary is perhaps best known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs as a means of personal growth and increased cognitive awareness, advocating for people to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”
After being introduced to psilocybin mushrooms on a trip to Mexico in 1960, an experience that drastically altered the course of his life, Leary embarked on a mission to expand human consciousness, through the use of psychedelic drugs.
Upon his return to the U.S., he began a research program known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project, analyzing the effects of psilocybin on humans, with the ultimate goal of assisting people in gaining a higher level of consciousness.
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 mushrooms than … in the preceding 15 years of studying and doing research in psychology.”
Leary had already ventured into a new realm of consciousness expansion science, when in 1964 he coauthored a book called The Psychedelic Experience based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
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 spacetime 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.
In September of 1966, Leary founded the League for Spiritual Discovery, a religion declaring LSD as its holy sacrament. This was, in part, 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.
On October 6, 1966, LSD was made illegal in the United States and controlled so strictly that possession and use were criminalized, and all scientific research programs on the drug were shut down in the US.
Recently science has begun to return to the work that was begun by Leary, as new studies have shown the benefits of psilocybin in dealing with trauma.
Although a controversial figure, Leary was a catalyst for an entire generation being exposed to consciousness expanding drugs, of which the therapeutic benefits are only now beginning to be studied, and realized, by science.
One of the lesser known aspects of Leary’s world views was that of the state. After his experiences with psychedelics, and the subsequent attack on them by the US, Leary saw the unnatural means and coercive tendencies of the state. He compared government to the mafia.
In the video below, Leary first discusses the evolution of human intelligence, before delving into a detailed analysis of the modern state.
“There is one form of organization that is involuntary and that’s the modern state. Every state in the world, America included, is a mafia. Because once you get in it, they won’t let you out. Now I love America, it’s the greatest mafia of them all but still. They say ‘we own this turf,’ and you have to pay extortion fees called taxes…
“I give no rights to the state. The state only has the rights that we individuals, moving in groups together, give it. There is no God given obligation on our part to blindly accept the laws of the state,” Leary said.
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has been published on BenSwann’s Truth in Media, Truth-Out, AlterNet, InfoWars, MintPressNews and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.