Timothy Leary — The great picaroon of the Psychedelic Revolution

Timothy Leary is a cult figure of the 60s. You can’t talk about rock music and counterculture without mentioning the “psychedelic revolution”, and you can’t talk about the “psychedelic revolution” without remembering Leary.

A psychedelic revolution from above?

When Karl Marx called religion the opium of the people, the world simply did not yet know more powerful drugs. However, even then drugs became a political tool along with religion. Control over the consciousness of citizens, or at least suppression of their mental abilities, is a long-cherished dream of most governments.

Here is what Alexander Tarasov writes about this:

“Alcoholization and narcotization have always been a powerful means of relieving social stress and reconciling with reality. It was no coincidence that the Yankees alcoholized Indians, Europeans used weapons to impose mass consumption of opium on the Chinese (“opium wars”), and the Spanish colonialists taught Indians of the Viceroyalty of Peru to chew coca leaves (which was considered a sacred plant in pre-Columbian times and was used only by the top of the Inca state for ritual purposes ) and even eventually began to pay the Indians with these leaves as a currency. In the XIX century. the ruling class in England, quite consciously — with the goal of preventing social protests — not only alcoholized workers, but also imposed drugs (opiates) on working families as a cheap “patented medicines” for all diseases. In India, the British authorities did the same and even published enchanting reports of “experts” who proved that opium was supposedly not harmful to the health of locals. And more recently, in the late 60s — early 70s of XX century the FBI and the CIA conducted special operations of mass narcotization of black ghettos in the USA that were heavily influenced by the Black Panthers, and with the help of a group of agents led by Professor Timothy Leary inducted the idea of ​​the “psychedelic revolution” into the student protest movement ”[1].

Agent Leary did a good job. He began as a psychologist [2], a Harvard teacher, published the book “The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality”, in which he described his method as “dynamic behaviorism” and talked about ways to manipulate people [3]. He also developed psychological tests that the FBI willingly took into it’s practice. The psychodiagnostic method he created in 1957, “Leary’s test of interpersonal relationships,” was used until recently by US intelligence agencies. Then he was transferred from academic work to closer work with protest youth. They made him a scandalous image, an image of a pursued by the authorities guru. This allowed him to gain the trust of radical students, “black panthers”, and even more so of naive rockers. He managed to arouse sympathy among Aldous Huxley and beatniks’ leaders Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Arthur Koestler. California rock bands Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane took active participation in his performances.

Leary stated that personality and society must be transformed through drug use, and that “in twenty years all social institutions will be transformed in accordance with the insights gained from the experience of expanding consciousness”[4].

However, despite the intense activity and open propaganda of psychedelics, he was charged with possession and distribution of drugs only in 1970, although LSD has been banned in the United States since 1967.

He allowed them to catch him

By some “miracle”, the authorities did not manage to catch him, although the vainglorious Leary constantly attracted the attention of media, continuously gave interviews and met with all kinds of celebrities.

Leary himself, in an interview with Playboy magazine, stated that he was not at all afraid of prison, and this is not surprising. When Leary allowed to catch him, he received privileged, mildest conditions of detention. According to legend, he succeeded because he successfully passed the psychological tests developed by him. If you believe in such a legend, then you have to admit that the agents of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world were more stupid than Elmer Fudd from Looney Tunes. Of course, the fact was that Leary was an ordinary paid provocateur, so in prison he literally rested, he was provided with almost resort conditions of detention there before being sent on a new assignment. At the same time, special services carefully preserved his image of a fighter with the regime.

Leary escaped from the first imprisonment after three months of stay, “by some miracle” having jumped over a three-meter fence.

When Leary was once again “hiding” from the authorities, he immediately sought contact with various left-wing radical organizations, and they often helped him. In particular, after his first escape, Leary and his wife were sent to Algeria by the Weathermen organization and transferred to Black Panther custody, and Leary betrayed them and announced that the Panthers took him hostage. Of course, if Black Panthers had guessed that Leary was a professional provocateur, heavily sponsored and supported by the authorities, they could have taken him hostage. But it is unlikely that special services would want to redeem a failed agent.

When he was «taken» in 1973 at an airport in Afghanistan, Leary, without blinking an eye, betrayed everyone who helped him escape and hide. By the way, later he himself admitted this, which is confirmed by the open letter of his friends.

Come together!

Alas, naive rockers and hippies believed Leary, and he put LSD in their open mouths. For example, John Lennon’s song “Come Together” was written in support of Leary’s campaign, when he announced that he was going to run for governor of California. The campaign slogan sounded like this: «Come together, join the party.»

The writer Aldous Huxley was a Leary’s fan. After meeting with Leary, the author of «Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest» Ken Kesey also took up drug propaganda.

As a result of the skillful work of special services, as well as the internal decomposition of youth movements, which after severe defeats turned to various forms of escapism, the theme of drugs was deeply infected into Western rock culture, and the drugs themselves took an honorable place in the lives of rockers of the 60s, and brought many of them to prison, a madhouse, or a grave.

Although LSD and a number of other drugs were subsequently banned, their distribution networks were not destroyed and are still under the control of special services.

When the “psychedelic revolution” completed its work and the hippie movement came to naught, Leary did not fall into oblivion, but hastened to join in with the punks movement — another anti-capitalist countercultural trend among young people. But he began to offer to punks not chemical drugs, but virtual reality. The restless professor became one of the ideologists of the cyberpunk trend and again urged young people to abandon the revolutionary transformation of society and escape into virtual worlds. In the book “Info-psychology” he said, that this reality should be left for schoolchildren, urged the youngsters to become pioneers of other, unknown and modeled realities, which are not virtual, but just need to be opened with a password. He urged just to sit down at the computer and start the search. The message was clear: you don’t have to fight reality, it’s better to escape from it into an illusion (this time not narcotic, but virtual).

Leary’s last religion

In the last years of his life, Timothy Leary took part in the ideological design and dissemination of the neo-pagan New Age movement, which, as Alexei Tsvetkov rightly remarked, was addressed to “bored housewives.” It is worth noting that, unlike traditional religions, “New Age” was created under capitalism and was initially market oriented: in the music market, it offers a certain style of music and a set of artists (“Enigma”, “Era”, “Enya” and etc.), in the services market — yoga and other practices, in the food market — certain systems and food products; there are also brands of clothing, cosmetics, (pseudo-) drugs, etc., associated with New Age.

At the Starwood festival, the largest New Age music concert in 1992, Timothy Leary announced that “he has always, in essence, been a pagan.” [5] Until his death, he did not stop pretending, changing masks and posing as a friend of youth movements. However, the New Age was not a dangerous phenomenon for capitalism, on the contrary, its absolutely consumerist, individualistic “philosophy”, which fully met the requirements of the market.


1. Alexander Tarasov. О безмолвствующем народе и социальном взрыве, «которого всё нет и нет». (About the «silent people» and the «social explosion, which seems never to come») http://saint-juste.narod.ru/tutchev.htm

2. It is curious that at first Leary’s mother, a zealous Catholic, sent him to study at Jesuit College in Worcester, and then, under the influence of his father, he entered the military academy in West Point. It seems, that the son justified his parental aspirations, but in a very peculiar way: he also became a preacher of the church he had invented, and worked closely with law enforcement agencies.

3. Leary T. The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality. NY: Ronald Press Co, 1957.

4. Cit. by: Stepanov Sergey. Тимоти Лири. Биография (Timothy Leary. Biography) http://leary.hpsy.ru/biography/

5. Quote from audio: “Timothy Leary Live at Starwood”.

By Dmitry Kosyakov

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