Timothy Leary Essay

1036 words - 4 pages

Timothy Leary "Turn on, tune in, drop out." That saying has turned into the slogan of Timothy Leary's mind-expanding movement. Although a graduate of both West-Point and Berkley, and a Harvard professor, these were not his greatest lifetime achievements. Throughout his publicized life, he became the spokesperson of the psychedelic age. His devotion to the belief that LSD and marijuana were gateways to enlightenment resulted in a new church, numerous prison sentences, and a following of both celebrities and the general public. When people think of Timothy Leary their immediate response is "Turn on, tune in, drop out," his trademark line, although the meaning of it has often been misinterpreted. Playboy Magazine had thought that his message was advocating, "getting high and dropping out of school," (Marwick 311). When asked by the magazine to explain the meaning of the phrase he responded, " 'Turn on' means to contact the ancient energies and wisdoms that are built into your nervous system. They provide unspeakable pleasure and revelation. 'Tune in' means to harness and communicate these new perspectives in a harmonious dance with the external world. 'Drop out' means to detach yourself from the tribal game." (Marwick 312). This was not the first time his methods were questioned. Leary was first publicly noticed, and criticized by then fellow Harvard professors, for his interest in LSD when he and friend, Robert Alpert, wrote an article for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist. In the article they described a circumstance that in the event of war, the Russians might try to lace the American water supply with LSD. Then, when everybody in America is stoned, the Russians would seize power. They explained that in order to prevent the scenario from happening, everyone should take a dose of LSD so they can get used to the effects (Sterns 278). Although the article shocked the Harvard staff, it didn't cause him to get fired. Leary was dismissed from Harvard in 1962, only four years after he began teaching there. Leary had experimented with psilocybin, a mind-altering chemical, on his own and the university repeatedly asked him to stop, he refused (Brash 139). Although it angered university 2. authorities, they couldn't do anything more about the subject since it was a legal substance. While conducting one of his experiments he gave a dose of psilocybin to all of his students except for one that refused. The result of this left him unemployed. In the meantime he published "The Fifth Freedom: The Right to Get High" (Sterns 279). The loss of his job did not discourage his fascination of LSD, but gave him the chance to expand his objective. Before he lost his job in August 1960, Leary said, "[I] had the deepest religious experience of my life," after eating seven "sacred mushrooms," which have the chemical psilocybin in them, in one setting (Marwick 310). He repeated this fifty times in three weeks. Soon after he converted to Hinduism....

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