Timothy Leary

Think for yourself and question authority.

Timothy Francis Leary (22 October 192031 May 1996) was an American writer, psychologist, campaigner for psychedelic drug research and use, 1960s counterculture icon and computer software designer. He is most famous as a proponent of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of LSD. During the 1960s, he coined and popularized the catch phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

QuotesEdit

Don't take LSD unless you are very well prepared, unless you are specifically prepared to go out of your mind.
When you teach someone how to perform creatively (ie, associate dead symbols in new combinations), you expand his potential for experiencing more widely and richly.
If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people.
We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history... The problem is that no one is giving them anything fresh. They've got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.
The universe is an intelligence test.
  • We always have urged people: Don't take LSD unless you are very well prepared, unless you are specifically prepared to go out of your mind. Don't take it unless you have someone that's very experienced with you to guide you through it. And don't take it unless you are ready to have your perspective on yourself and your life radically changed, because you're gonna be a different person, and you should be ready to face this possibility.
    • CBC Documentary: How To Go Out of Your Mind: The LSD Crisis (1966)
  • People use the word "natural" ... What is natural to me is these botanical species which interact directly with the nervous system. What I consider artificial is 4 years at Harvard, and the Bible, and Saint Patrick's cathedral, and the sunday school teachings.
    • LSD: Methods of Control (1966)
  • Art's certainly made a lot of money, and got on a lot of shows — he got himself into the Nixon White House riding on the death of his daughter. And I think that's ghoulish! That's ghoulish.
  • I declare that The Beatles are mutants. Prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freemen.
    • As quoted in Shout! (1981) by Philip Norman, p. 365; and in An Encyclopedia of Quotations about Music (1981) by Nat Shapiro, p. 303
  • To describe externals, you become a scientist. To describe experience, you become an artist. The old distinction between artists and scientists must vanish. Every time we teach a child correct usage of an external symbol, we must spend as much time teaching him how to fission and reassemble external grammar to communicate the internal. The training of artists and creative performers can be a straightforward, almost mechanical process. When you teach someone how to perform creatively (ie, associate dead symbols in new combinations), you expand his potential for experiencing more widely and richly.
    • Changing My Mind, Among Others : Lifetime Writings (1982), p. 76; also in Change Your Brain (2000), p. 72
  • If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people.
    • Changing My Mind, Among Others (1982)
  • "Turn on" meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. "Tune in" meant interact harmoniously with the world around you — externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. "Drop Out" meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean "Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity."
    • Flashbacks (1983)
  • Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.
    • As quoted in Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1987) by Robert Byrne, #40
  • We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history. They are a hundred times better educated than their grandparents, and ten times more sophisticated. There has never been such an open-minded group. The problem is that no one is giving them anything fresh. They've got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.
    • Interview by David Sheff in Rolling Stone Twentieth Anniversary Issue (1987)
  • Think for yourself and question authority.
    • Timothy Leary's track on Sound Bites from the Counter Culture (1989)
  • That’s the left wing of the CIA debating the right wing of the CIA.
    • Discussing CNN’s Crossfire as quoted in Rolling Stone (14 December 1989)
  • The universe is an intelligence test
    • As quoted in Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977) by Robert Anton Wilson, p. 170
Our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos...
  • Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.
  • I am 100 percent in favor of the intelligent use of drugs, and 1,000 percent against the thoughtless use of them, whether caffeine or LSD. And drugs are not central to my life.
    • Chaos and Cyber Culture (1994)
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.
  • 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 space-time 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.
    • The Psychedelic Experience (1995)
  • He's basically a romantic comedian. …. He was a government agent entering our bedroom at midnight. We had every right to shoot him. But I've never owned a weapon in my life, and I have no intention of owning a weapon, although I was a master sharpshooter at West Point on both the Garand, the Springfield rifle and the machine-gun. I was a howitzer expert. I know how to operate these lethal gadgets but I have never had and never will have a gun around.
    • Commenting on G. Gordon Liddy‎‎'s 1994 remarks on shooting intruding ATF agents, and a 1966 raid by Liddy in which Leary had been arrested, in "Timothy Leary Revisited" a 1995 interview, in Paul Krassner's Impolite Interviews (1999) by Paul Krassner, p. 304
  • Monotheism is the primitive religion which centers human consciousness on Hive Authority. There is One God and His Name is _______ (substitute Hive-Label). If there is only One God then there is no choice, no option, no selection of reality. There is only Submission or Heresy. The word Islam means "submission". The basic posture of Christianity is kneeling. Thy will be done.
    • The Intelligence Agents (1996)
You're only as young as the last time you changed your mind.
  • Each religion has got their own way of making you feel like a victim. The Christians say "you are a sinner", and you better just zip up your trousers and give the money to the pope and we'll give you a room up in the hotel in the sky.
    • Timothy Leary's Last Trip (1997)
  • We saw ourselves as anthropologists from the twenty-first century inhabiting a time module set somewhere in the dark ages of the 1960s. On this space colony we were attempting to create a new paganism and a new dedication to life as art.
    • On the Castalia Institute in Millbrook, New York; quoted in Storming Heaven : LSD and the American Dream (1998) by Jay Stevens, p. 208
  • You're only as young as the last time you changed your mind.
    • As quoted in Office Yoga : Simple Stretches for Busy People (2000) by Darrin Zeer, p. 52
  • In the information age, you don't teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he'd have a talk show.
    • As quoted in The Best Advice Ever for Teachers (2001) by Charles McGuire and Diana Abitz, p. 57
  • Why not?
    • Said repeatedly, with various inflections, these were among his last words before his death (31 May 1996), as quoted in "Timothy Leary's Last Moments" by Carol Rosin. Some have stated his final intelligible word was "Beautiful".
  • At one point consciousness-altering devices like the microscope and telescope were criminalized for exactly the same reasons that psychedelic plants were banned in later years. They allow us to peer into bits and zones of Chaos.
    • As quoted in Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia : How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings (2005), by Rob Brezsny, p. 8
  • Civilization is unbearable, but it is less unbearable at the top.
    • As quoted in Still Casting Shadows : A Shared Mosaic of U.S. History (2006) by B. Clay Shannon, p. 376
  • I've left specific instructions that I do not want to be brought back during a Republican administration.
    • On being brought back to life, during the period in which he considered putting his body into cryonic suspension, as quoted in The Nastiest Things Ever Said About Republicans (2006) by Martin Higgins, p. 130
  • Seven million people I turned on, and only one hundred thousand have come by to thank me.
    • Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club (2010), p. 202
  • The Tibetan Book of the Dead is ostensibly a book describing the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an intermediate phase lasting forty-nine (seven times seven) days, and during rebirth into another bodily frame. This however is merely the exoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their mystical teachings. ... The esoteric meaning, as it has been interpreted in this manual, is that it is death and rebirth of the ego that is described, not of the body. Lama Govinda indicates this clearly in his introduction when he writes: "It is a book for the living as well as the dying." The book's esoteric meaning is often concealed beneath many layers of symbolism. It was not intended for general reading. It was designed to be understood only by one who was to be initiated personally by a guru into the Buddhist mystical doctrines, into the pre-mortem-death-rebirth experience. These doctrines have been kept a closely guarded secret for many centuries, for fear that naive or careless application would do harm.
    • The Psychedelic Experience (1964), p. 12

Harvard Law School Forum (1966)Edit

As quoted in "Leary calls LSD 'sacrament'" in The Tech (8 November 1966), p. 6
The language of God is not English or Latin; the language of God is cellular and molecular.
  • The only abuse of drugs is the control of drugs by other people. ...The only control is self-control.
  • What I feel or believe or experience is my business, and what I do is all our businesses; and reward or punish me according to whether I play the game well — ethically and rightly — or unethically.
  • There's one uneasy borderline between what is external and what is internal, and this borderline is defined exactly by the sense organs and the skin and the introduction of external things within my own body. Consciousness is altered by physical events and physical objects, which impinge upon my sense organs, or which I introduce into my body.
    Now the name traditionally given to external objects or processes which change you internally is sacrament. Sacraments are the visible and tangible techniques for bringing you close to your own divinity.
  • The language of God is not English or Latin; the language of God is cellular and molecular.
  • Anything that affects your senses ... is your business. If you want to kill yourself through nicotine or cyanide, it's your business.

Start your own Religion (1967)Edit

Later re-published in The Politics of Ecstasy (1968) and Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (1999)
That intermediate manifestation of the divine process which we call the DNA code has spent the last 2 billion years making this planet a Garden of Eden.
  • That intermediate manifestation of the divine process which we call the DNA code has spent the last 2 billion years making this planet a Garden of Eden. An intricate web has been woven, a delicate fabric of chemical-electrical-seed-tissue=organism=species. A dancing, joyous harmony of energy transactions is rooted in the 12 inches of topsoil which covers the rock
metal
fire
core of this planet.
  • The Purpose of Life is Religious Discovery
  • Individual societies begin in harmonious adaptation to the environment and, like individuals, quickly get trapped into nonadaptive, artificial, repetitive sequences.
    When the individual's behavior and consciousness get hooked to a routine sequence of external actions, he is a dead robot, and it is time for him to die and be reborn. Time to "drop out," "turn on," and "tune in."
    This period of robotization is called the Kali Yuga, the Age of Strife and Empire...
    • The Purpose of Life is Religious Discovery
  • Actions which are conscious expressions of the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out rhythm are religious.
    The wise person devotes his life exclusively to the religious search — for therein is found the only ecstasy, the only meaning.
    Anything else is a competitive quarrel over (or Hollywood-love sharing of) studio props.
    • Drop Out, Turn On. Tune In.

The Politics of Ecstasy (1968)Edit

This was republished as two volumes: Ch. 1 -11 as Politics of Ecstasy (1999) and Ch. 12 - 22 as Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (1999)
By drop out, I mean to detach yourself from involvement in secular, external social games.
  • Drugs Are the Religion of the People — The Only Hope is Dope
    • Section title in "The Seven Tongues of God"
  • If you are serious about your religion, if you really wish to commit yourself to the spiritual quest, you must learn how to use psychochemicals. Drugs are the religion of the twenty-first century. Pursuing the religious life today without using psychedelic drugs is like studying astronomy with the naked eye because that's how they did it in the first century A.D., and besides telescopes are unnatural.
    • "The Seven Tongues of God"
  • My advice to myself and to everyone else, particularly young people, is to turn on, tune in and drop out. By drop out, I mean to detach yourself from involvement in secular, external social games. But the dropping out has to occur internally before it can occur externally. I'm not telling kids just to quit school; I'm not telling people to quit their jobs. That is an inevitable development of the process of turning on and tuning in.
  • My advice to people today is as follows: If you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out.
    • "Neurological Politics"'

Flashbacks, An Autobiography (1983)Edit

  • John asked what he could do to help my campaign for governor.
    "Write a campaign song," I replied.
    "Okay," said John, "what's the theme?"
    "Our campaign slogan is 'Come together, join the party.'"
    "Great title," said John. He grabbed his guitar and started improvising.
Come together right now.
Don't come tomorrow, don't come alone,
Come together right now,
Over me.
  • On first proposing that John Lennon write a song for his California gubernatorial campaign; this eventually developed into the Beatles song, "Come Together", p. 281
  • While sitting in my prison cell, I was astonished to hear the local rock station play a new song by the Beatles entitled "Come Together." Although the new version was certainly a musical and lyrical improvement on my campaign song, I was a bit miffed that Lennon had passed me over this way. (I must explain that even the most good-natured persons tend to be a bit touchy about social neglect while in prison). When I sent a mild protest to John, he replied with typical Lennon charm and wit: that he was a tailor and I was a customer who had ordered a suit and never returned. So he sold it to someone else.
    • p. 388

UnsourcedEdit

  • Science is all a metaphor.
  • LSD is a drug that causes insanity in people who have not taken it.
  • I learned more about my brain and its possibilities and more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than I had in the preceding fifteen years of studying and doing research in psychology. (Merv Griffin Show 1966)


MisattributedEdit

  • The mark of a basic shit is that he can’t mind his own business.
    • Though at times attributed to Leary on the internet, no published source of this has been located. It is a misquote of a William S. Burroughs reading entitled M.O.B. from the Giorno Poetry Systems boxed set. M.O.B. was an extension of Burroughs' expression in The Place of Dead Roads (1983), p. 155:
You are a Shit Spotter. It's satisfying work. … We have observed that most of the trouble in the world has been caused by ten to twenty percent of folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus ... The mark of a basic shit is that he has to be right.
  • But they all do sort of the same thing, and that is rearrange what you thought was real, and they remind you of the beauty of pretty simple things. You forget, because you're so busy going from A to Z, that there's 24 letters in between...
    You turn on... tune in... and you drop out...

Quotes about LearyEdit

He's a real master at getting your old wheel squeaking again. ~ Ken Kesey
You get the Timothy Leary you deserve.
  • Leary can get a part of my mind that's kind of rusted shut grinding again, just by being around him and talking, 'cause that's where he works. He knows that area of the mind and the brain, and he knows the difference between the two areas. He's a real master at getting your old wheel squeaking again. … When we first broke into that forbidden box in the other dimension, we knew that we had discovered something as surprising and powerful as the New World when Columbus came stumbling onto it. It is still largely unexplored and uncharted. People like Leary have done the best they can to chart it sort of underground, but the government and the powers do not want this world charted, because it threatens established powers. It always has.
  • Leary was different things to different people. He was reviled. He was revered. He was a prophet. He was a phony. He was a brilliant, innovative thinker. He was a fool. He captured the irreverent, rebellious spirit of the sixties. He was a fame-seeking, manipulative con artist. Who was he? Perhaps The Trickster said it best when he quipped, “You get the Timothy Leary you deserve.”
    • Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club (2010), p. 204
  • The most dangerous man alive.
    • Richard M. Nixon, as quoted in The War on Drugs : An International Encyclopedia (1999) by Ron Chepesiuk, p. 118
  • After West Point and the priesthood, LSD must have seemed downright logical.

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 15 April 2014, at 15:07