It’s the 74th Anniversary of Albert Hofmann’s Bicycle Trip

Albert3To celebrate Bicycle Day on April 19th, the date of Albert Hofmann’s—and the world’—first LSD trip in 1943, we are publishing this excerpt from the forthcoming interview with Michael Horowitz—the third installment of the Acid Bodhisattva series, coming soon to

Images: from Lysergic World (April, 1993): Albert Hofmann in 1977 (left), and the route of his famous bicycle ride on LSD through Basel, Switzerland on April 19, 1943, from Sandoz Laboratories to his house (below).

Leary’s archivist Michael Horowitz reminisces about a car ride with Albert Hofmann and Timothy Leary in February 1972.

“Tim and I took the train to Basel where Albert picked us up in his car. He drove, Tim sat in the passenger seat and me in back, trying to manage a super 8mm movie camera with one hand and a tape recorder with the other. Albert told us that we were driving the route of his first LSD trip in 1943, when he bicycled home with his Sandoz lab assistant after testing 250 micrograms. Tim cracked up when I asked Albert if he still had the bicycle. I knew it was gauche of me, but I couldn’t resist. A short time later Albert pulled over.”

Bike Ride2

Here is an excerpt of the conversation between Albert and Tim, after they picked us up at the train station. On the way to Albert’s estate we passed by his 1943 home.

Albert: That house is where we lived at the time. I never thought I would get home that day. My assistant who had ridden with me at my request asked permission to leave. I told her fine, but in fact I was in a panic. My wife and children were away. It was just me. I barely managed to crawl to my bed.

Timothy: It was the first bad trip, too. There was no precedent. You must have thought you’d poisoned yourself.

Albert: But in the end it was good. In the morning it was fantastic.

Timothy: For me, the world changed forever. I would have remained a boring professional psychologist the rest of my life, making money and accomplishing nothing.

Michael: Instead of being the most dangerous man in the world.

Timothy: Right.


How a scholarly hippie got pulled into the orbit of the psychedelic revolutionary whom then-President Nixon labelled “the most dangerous man in America”

Lisa Rein conducts the first in-depth interview of Timothy Leary’s longtime archivist, Michael Horowitz

Part 2: November 1970 – August 1971

Algerian passport photos

Algerian passport photos.  November 1970

LR: So,Tim escapes from prison and he and Rosemary land in Algeria with the Black Panthers. I mean, wow. No one expected anything like that, right? Were you surprised?

MH: It pretty much stunned everyone, but it made sense. They had to leave the country, and Europe would not be safe. Algeria was home to a number of exiled liberation movements. The government had recently allowed Eldridge Cleaver, another American fugitive, to establish the International Section of the Black Panther Party there.

LR: Did the Weathermen set it up?

MH: They arranged everything—getaway cars, safe houses, false passports, plane tickets. Bernardine Dohrn herself shaved Tim’s head, turning him into William J. McNellis, a bald, bland American businessman. They took time out to drop acid and see the Woodstock movie in disguise. Leary added a psychedelic dimension to the militant wing, as he could articulate the re-imprinting value of LSD as an antidote to the government propaganda being churned out by the mainstream media, and link it to the history of heresy in Western Civilization.

LR: Looking back, it seems the counterculture comprised a number of very different movements finding common ground.

MH: Yes. There were philosophical and tactical divides within the many branches of the Movement, all deeply opposed to the Establishment. On the cusp of the ’70s Leary was intersecting with three of the most badass: the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (dope), Weatherman (bombs) and the Black Panther Party (guns).

LR: What was the scene like in Algiers?

MH: Algeria was the refuge for a host of international revolutionary groups. Cleaver, the Panther Minister of Information, had jumped bail and fled there via Cuba. Other members of the Panthers were setting up social programs in Oakland, when they weren’t in direct confrontation with the cops. Huey Newton had just been released from the same prison Leary escaped from.

Newsweek published a photo of Cleaver and Leary in Algiers captioned “Privileged Exiles,” dissing the American revolutionaries for being in “the favored haven for au courant fugitives and expatriates.”

2-a. Cleaver & Leary, Algiers, Nov. 1970

Eldridge Cleaver and Timothy Leary in Algiers. ‘Newsweek,’ Nov. 1970. Photo: Larry Mack

“I fled to Algeria in 1970 under the madcap illusion that Cleaver and [Algerian president Houari] Boumedienne planned to sponsor a broad-based coalition-liberation movement of American political fugitives. This was the hysterical era when the Nixon-Mitchell clique had publicly announced its intention to imprison all political enemies” — Timothy Leary – From “Timothy Leary Drops a Line (from Somewhere in Federal Custody),” City of San Francisco, July 1975.

LR: How did it go between Tim and Eldridge?

MH: Cleaver felt they had a lot of common ground and the Learys could make a positive contribution to the Panther position as an international revolutionary force. It didn’t turn out that way.

LR: Why not?

MH: Because, although Tim and Rosemary were thrilled to be together and free, they couldn’t quite behave like the serious revolutionaries Cleaver expected them to be. While they adopted the guerilla rhetoric and spoke eloquently about it in the underground press, in real life, their behavior was too loose and broke many of the Panther’s protocols. They attracted hippie and yippie visitors with whom they hung out and turned on. Ignoring travel restrictions, they slipped away to Bou Saada for some psychedelic R & R.

11. Tim & Ro, Algeria, May 1971

Tim and Rosemary Leary in Bou Saada, Dec. 1970. Rosemary captioned this photo, “At times, in deep space, tensions develop giving rise to bizarre emotions. The crew finds its outlet in unusual ways.” Photo: Louis Gimenez. Horowitz Archives

One visitor brought them a cassette player stashed with LSD. It freaked out Cleaver who worried about surveillance from the Algerian government, as well as informants, FBI, CIA—“the armies of Babylonian agents,” as he called them.

Eldridge ran a tight ship by necessity and the Learys couldn’t adapt to that. It was a clash between the hedonic and the political revolutions that was going to lead to a highly-publicized confrontation a few months later.

LR: What were you doing during this time?

MH: While Tim and Rosemary were settling in with the Panthers, Bob Barker and I took a road trip across the U.S. with the final draft of Leary’s prison book, Jail Notes, to bring to the publisher in New York City. We stopped in Chicago to meet with the editors at Playboy and offer some shorter pieces Tim had written in prison, but they declined to publish. Hefner had been welcoming in the ‘60s, but now there was a noticeable chill from people who didn’t know what to make of the new kickass Leary. They published an unflattering piece on him a few months later.

We stopped in Madison to visit STASH (Student Association for the Study of Hallucinogens), a group of turned on college student-scholars who were our counterparts in the Midwest.

Next was a visit to Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky’s farm in Cherry Valley, New York, to meet them for the first time, at Tim’s urging.  Ginsberg had written me after hearing about us from Tim. He was taken with the Bodhisattva name. We revered Allen, both as poet and activist, and it was empowering to have his support.

3c Ginsberg envelope


Ginsberg letter

First communication from Allen Ginsberg. Horowitz Archives

Dear Bo—

Kerouac used the Bo of Hobo for American Bodhisattva… Hey Bo!

Your plans sound excellent and I just pray you are a steady solid quiet cat who can safeguard & index & prepare mss. like a lovely scholar over years. When you have any specific word for me to put in anywhere please do call on me. I wrote a short 3-page addenda to Jail Notes mss. which together with earlier extensive essay on Tim in “Village Voice” can serve as a lengthy preface to the book, all dignified, like. Your letter if you follow up is really a bright ray. Allen G.”

MH: We ate psilocybin mushrooms that evening with partying Beat poets who were staying there. Before we left in the morning, Allen gave us the foreword to Jail Notes that he’d just finished typing. His position was: “What happens to Tim Leary will happen to America.” 

LR:  What exactly did he mean by that? 

MH:  That using drug laws to suppress dissent was the MO of the government, and that criminalizing free speech was going to lead to more and more injustice, especially aimed at the American youth culture.


Ginsberg preface

Ginsberg photo from his introduction to Jail Notes (1970).

When we said goodbye, he and Peter were in overalls standing in their garden. Allen was holding a pig they’d just acquired. He wished protestors would stop calling the police “pigs” because they got it wrong: pigs were loving animals, much nicer than cops.

LR: What was the dynamic between Ginsberg and Leary?

MH: The synergy between them was powerful. There’s a book devoted to their psychedelic partnership, White Hand Society. It went back to the Harvard period when Allen and Peter were subjects in the psilocybin experiments. Allen’s messianic enthusiasm for psychedelics was equal to Tim’s, and he brought him to New York City to turn on his Beat friends and jazz musicians. He introduced Tim—still a semi-straight academic–to the hipster culture. Tim had a sexual awakening on psilocybin with a beautiful model. Everyone loved the magic mushroom pills for their life-changing insights and shattering revelations, as well as their spiritual and sensual sides.

LR: Allen was a practicing Buddhist. What did he think of Tim’s alliances with the Weathermen and the Black Panthers?

MH: Their friendship was tested publicly when Ginsberg, like Ken Kesey and others, challenged the militancy of Leary’s “Shoot to Live” mantra. For Allen, who was getting heavily into Tibetan Buddhism, meditation was a necessary revolutionary discipline; political action without spiritual consciousness led to the same dead end. Allen put out these ideas in an interview in the Berkeley Barb. Tim responded with “An Open Letter to Allen Ginsberg on the Seventh Liberation,” defending the idea of armed self-defense and explained his new philosophy in poetry.

Portion of Leary’s “Open Letter To Allen Ginsberg,” January 1, 1971. Berkeley Barb

Portion of Leary’s “Open Letter To Allen Ginsberg,” January 1, 1971. Berkeley Barb

Brother Allen

It was about time for a loving Call to Arms 

Celebrated in mantra SHOOT TO LIVE

Which could have been AIM FOR LIFE

But for energy needed to balance

the SHOOT TO KILL of Police Robots

And certain understandably angry

Brave Young Revolutionaries….

LR: Seems like everybody was publishing open letters to the new Leary.

MH: Actually the first was Charlie Manson from LA County Jail awaiting sentencing. He wrote an open letter to the LA Free Press just weeks after Tim busted out of prison. Manson anointed Tim as his successor, writing “I’ve had my turn, now it’s yours.”

LR: Talk about bad timing!

MH: Totally! Just what Tim needed!  An endorsement from the man behind the violent crime spree that freaked out the entire country, and also escalated the demonization of LSD and the hippies by the status quo.

Envelope from Squeaky Fromme to Timothy Leary in Switzerland, containing Manson's Open Letter to Leary, published a year earlier in the LA Free Press.

Envelope from Squeaky Fromme to Timothy Leary in Switzerland, containing Manson’s Open Letter to Leary, published a year earlier in the LA Free Press.

Kesey’s open letter appeared in the Rolling Stone in November, congratulating Tim on his escape but taking issue with his call for armed self-defense. (“We don’t need another nut with a gun.”)  

Acid chemist Owsley, whose righteous LSD was the rocket fuel of the early psychedelic movement, wrote him privately from his own jail cell, calling bullshit on Tim’s guerilla trip. He advised him to take a strong dose and look in the mirror. He threw Tim’s famous ‘60s slogan back at him: “Shut up.Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”



Owsley writes Leary from prison (January 1971). Leary Archives, NYPL

From Owsley’s letter:

Only by the constant effort of all of us will we succeed in directing the energy in the right direction. You know that I am a true revolutionary, and have given myself to the cause of the elevation of human consciousness and the new cultural mode. And yet I am an American, an Earthman, and a lover. Listen to the music. I too have been, and still am, in prison. And yet I cannot see myself as a criminal. I think the real criminals are those such as Reagan and Nixon—who use power to enforce a social “norm” or attitude…”

LR: Where did you go after visiting Ginsberg?

MH: We crashed with friends in the East Village and spent several days at Douglas Publishing working with the editor, inserting Leary’s corrections and revisions. Alan Douglas had just released Tim’s latest LP, You Can Be Anyone This Time Around. He lived that title–West Point cadet, psychedelic scientist, founder of an LSD religion, counterculture activist, dissident, prison convict and escapee, candidate for governor of California, peacenik turned militant, cohort of Weatherman and the Black Panthers. He was constantly reinventing himself. It was a hell of a resume and there was a lot more to come.

Leary album

“You Can Be Anyone This Time Around” LP cover (1970)

LR: What about the Ludlow Library? Was it on the back burner?

MH:Not at all. As we passed through every city, we’d hit as many used bookstores as we could, gradually filling up the back of Bob’s VW bug with mind-altering drug literature.

LR: What was Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue like back then?

MH:  It was a lot like Haight Street, in San Francisco. It was the face of the urban hippie scene. When we returned in early November, the first letter from the exiles was sitting in the Bodhisattva mailbox at the Sather Gate Post Office in Berkeley. Every radical group, from the Psychedelic Venus Church, to Armed Love, to the Himalayan Trading Company, the Barb and the Tribe, got their mail there.

The copy machines at Kopy Kat were always buzzing till midnight, in constant use by people running off copies of their revolutionary poems and manifestos and announcements of parties and street protests. We fit right in.

We had the archivists’ phobia about losing stuff, so we’d copy everything–manuscripts, letters, news clippings–just so we’d have backups. We were living and caretaking in a crucial historical timezone and every scrap seemed vital. There was always something to do for the Learys and their lawyers, often urgently.

We’d scout books at Moe’s and Shakespeare, then go to the Cafe Med for cappuccino and to look over our finds. In North Beach, we sometimes closed out bookstores that were open till midnight. We were turning into bibliomaniacs and activist-archivists. The Ludlow Library project grounded us from the constant drama, the endless paperwork, and recurring paranoia while functioning as Timothy Leary’s archivists, while he was an international fugitive on the run.

LR: Let’s get back to Algeria. What brought about the “revolutionary bust”?

MH: It was a clash of two strong egos that came to a head two months after the Learys’ arrival in Algiers. Cleaver feared that their care-free hedonism and their stream of counterculture celebrity visitors was putting the Panthers at risk with the Algerian government, and bringing heat. Algiers was crawling with CIA agents and their informants, and the FBI was using its counter-intelligence program to create dissension in the Black Panther party, eventually causing a fatal rift between Newton and Cleaver.

LR: Did Eldridge actually imprison Tim and Rosemary?

MH: The “revolutionary bust” of the Learys was part high school detention for bad behavior and part real imprisonment. They were confined in a series of rooms for five days in early January 1971. They were fearful, not knowing how far it would go, but Cleaver’s intention was only to demonstrate to the international media that he was in charge, and the serious business of revolution was not going to be undermined by a couple of acidheads. A journalist showed up and mediated a session between them. A lengthy transcript was widely published and the media hyped it into a major schism between political and psychedelic revolutionaries.

There was even video footage that made its way onto American television. One night, waiting at the TransBay Terminal for the last bus to Berkeley, I was blown away to see Tim and Eldridge arguing on the giant public television screen. It was very McLuhanesque. KPFA was selling the audio as a fundraiser. It was like a preview of the internet.

LR: Kathleen Cleaver was there too, wasn’t she?

MH: Yes, and their two infant children. Rosemary and Kathleen were like the queenly counterparts of Tim and Eldridge. Rosemary wrote us to have someone do the astrological charts of the Cleaver kids. She was hoping to get pregnant and requesting a chart for her and Tim’s child, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

LR: Were drugs the main cause of their disagreements?

MH: Eldridge considered LSD a dangerous counter–revolutionary distraction. Occasional marijuana use was allowed, but not psychedelics. He made that distinction. He even brought up the standard media charge that Leary had “fried his brain” from too many trips.

The Learys couldn’t cut it as Maoist-style revolutionaries. Their own idea of revolution was neurological rather than political, and had to do with altered states, inner change and creating new paradigms.  He and Rosemary spoke of themselves as “change agents” long before it became a pop term.

Tim sent us charts he created to describe his latest thinking on the political-cultural zeitgeist. Since his early days as a clinical psychologist, he used charts and grids to synthesize information. He saw these as an occult system, like the Tarot deck and I Ching, channeling new insights and associations.

“The Seven Revolutions and Oppressions”—Leary breakdown of the psychology and politics of control and resistance

“The Seven Revolutions and Oppressions”—Leary breakdown of the psychology and politics of control and resistance. (Click to enlarge.)

LR: How closely were you and Bob able to stay in touch with Tim and Rosemary?

MH: We exchanged letters at least once a week.  They were constantly needing to know the status of Tim’s articles and book proposals–their primary means of getting money. There were frustrated by issues with their attorneys and book publishers. We sent them news clippings and articles to keep them abreast of how their situation was being portrayed in the media, and to provide documentation for the book Tim was writing–It’s About Time, which was eventually published as Confessions of a Hope Fiend.  

Money was a huge problem. We made requests for royalties and for financial help from friends.  Allen Ginsberg helped, but a lot of people felt that Tim had burned too many bridges and were unwilling.

LR: Too bad they didn’t have crowdfunding back then.

MH: It would have helped. Their best hope was for an advance for the prison escape book, and that went slowly because of all the challenges of exile. They were also limited by how to write it without putting people at risk. Publishers were not exactly lining up at that point.

Right around this time a young surfer from Laguna Beach stopped by the library to deliver a gift for Tim and Rosemary. He took some handmade Christmas cards from his shoulder bag for us to mail to the Learys.  They came from the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, who had set up a global LSD and hashish network, moving million of hits of their potent orange sunshine brand from California to as far as Afghanistan, and bringing back huge quantities of hashish stashed in campers.

LR: Did the Brotherhood of Eternal Love pay the Weatherman Underground to engineer Tim’s escape?

MH: We heard that, but it was pretty hushed up. Seems fitting that LSD helped spring Tim from prison.  He and Rosemary had lived in a teepee on Brotherhood land in the mountains above Laguna Beach. It was there where he announced he was running for governor against Reagan, and it was there he was busted for the two marijuana roaches that put him in a California State prison for one to ten years.

LR: So, you mailed the BEL Christmas cards to the Learys in Algiers?

MH: Yeah, with Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s name in the return address.

LR: What was the deal exactly with the Christmas Cards?

MH: The inscription tells the story. The traces of orange are where a 300-mic tab of Nick Sand and Tim Scully’s Orange Sunshine LSD was attached to the center of the mandala.


9a. BEL Xmas card-1

9b.BEL Xmas card-2 jpg

Christmas present from the “Sunshine Family” (Brotherhood of Eternal Love) with Leary’s annotations regarding their use of the gift: “We dropped three–gave one to the guard and said tell Eldridge we’re sorry he’s not with us.” February 1971.



8. Algiers, Jan 1971

The Learys after release from their “revolutionary bust.” Berkeley Tribe, February 1971. Photo: Alan Copeland

10. Letter April 1971

Tim’s note announcing he and Rosemary had been granted asylum by the Algerian government. Horowitz archives

Dear Brothers—All perfect . . . you can tell Max S [Max Scherr, publisher of the Berkeley Barb] that we have been given political asylum by the Algerian government with the freedom to live, conduct our affairs with complete independence under the Algerian law to continue to work for the Revolution—the Freedom Revolution. We send love….”

MH: After they were released from Cleaver’s control, the Learys petitioned the Algerian government for political asylum. Despite the optimism of this letter, they knew that Algeria was no safe haven, and started looking for a way to leave the country.

They were also dead broke. Tim was literally writing and selling manuscripts for dinners during this time. He was in the crosshairs of U.S. agents abroad, and there was the specter of Interpol to consider, especially if they were to go to Europe.

LR:  So what did they decide to do?

MH: Their exit from Algeria was real “cloak and dagger.” Tim managed an invitation to speak at a psychology conference in Copenhagen, but had no intention of actually going there. It took them three tries to get a flight out of Algeria, with tickets to Denmark, where they had sent their luggage.

But they changed planes in Paris, and caught a flight to Geneva, where their contact, a wealthy arms dealer (and swindler) with his eyes on the fortune Leary’s next book might make him, was waiting for them at the airport. He put up the Learys in splendor at a chalet in the Alps, wined and dined them extravagantly, and introduced them to one of the top lawyers in Switzerland. This was all hush hush. For weeks, it seemed as if Tim and Rosemary had just disappeared, and there were rumors that he had been kidnapped by the CIA.


Appeal for Asylum

Leary’s handwritten appeal for asylum. Undated, this was probably written during the flight from Algeria, anticipating being detained by authorities either in Denmark, France or Switzerland. Leary Archives, NYPL.

MH: After a couple of weeks of silence a letter came, dated June 24, 1971.

Dear Friends,

So glad to be back in contact with you. We missed you and your continual flow of spirit. For months yours was the only voice of sanity, and I do tell you it got INSANE!!!!! … [Algeria] got comic in the end… so many secret agents and revolutionary masterminds. At one point an allegedly high official arranging for our exit visas in hidden rendezvous spots, literally dark alleys and hidden Arab cafes…we finally caught on that everyone was playing out a James Bond scene. Everyone!!! The exit from A.was so far out. Magical, mysterious, scary, funny.

The second we hit Switzerland a magical network of really divine actors took over. Again so incredible that only you would dig it.

We finally found the tribe we were looking for…

LR: Didn’t Dan Ellsberg leak the Pentagon Papers around that time?

MH: Yes. It was that very month the first leak was published. It was also the month Nixon formally declared his fraudulent War on Drugs. One of his first acts was to demand Tim’s extradition from Switzerland. The Swiss government immediately jailed Leary in Lausanne, while it took up the question. It was his third imprisonment, on three different continents, in less than a year.

Nixon was so intent on apprehending Leary that he sent U.S. Attorney General Mitchell to personally pressure the Swiss authorities to extradite him. This set in motion a wild month for us. Rosemary was once again having to frantically work on the outside for Tim, just as she had when he was in prison in California, but this time, she herself was facing extradition for violating parole.

One day, a desperate letter from her arrived.

Lausanne, July 8, 1971

Tim is in prison in a cold dark cell. Our lawyer in Berne is fighting extradition. The Swiss government requires us to deposit with them many thousands while they consider our case. Please help or Tim and I will never see one another again. We will be in Amerikan prisons for the rest of our lives. I need $120,000 to get Tim out. Extradition order for me but lawyer managed to halt it. Can’t you sell some of the archives and books? This is the last gasp for us. Isn’t there help anywhere?

LR: The U.S. government wanted to extradite Rosemary too?

MH: Yes. For violation of her parole by leaving the country. Unbelievably, she remained on the FBI wanted list for the next 23 years, long after Tim had resolved his legal issues. She was one of the very last political prisoners from that era to surface.

Unfortunately, selling archives was not even an option, as  there was no market for it yet, as there is today.  No one was collecting him but us.

LR: What’s the story behind Ginsberg’s “Declaration of Independence for Timothy Leary?”

MH:  We wrote Allen Ginsberg with the latest news of yet another imprisonment of Tim, and he showed up in our little office in North Beach the next day with his arm in a cast. He’d broken it in a fall at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Bixby Canyon the previous week. We’d filled him in on Tim’s situation.

Meanwhile, Allen shared with us that he had patched up a quarrel we were having with Tim, who thought we’d messed up failing to send documents to his Swiss attorney handling the extradition case. 

Allen wrote to Tim defending us:

“Barker/Horowitz whatever minor snafus they’ve encountered are invaluable archivists and workers with an office & facilities whence they’ve churned out all the PEN materials & vast files & documents galore faxed in every direction but have no idea if anything has been received… They’re getting (justifiably) depressed.”

MH: Allen was hell-bent on freeing Tim. He made it his mission to rescue Tim as a First Amendment victim—now a “Man Without a Country”–jailed for his writings and ideas. Ginsberg’s plan was to marshal the Western literary world to win the Learys asylum in Switzerland, which had a long record of giving refuge to renegade philosophers, political dissidents and controversial authors.

Ginsberg, Barker and I were the latest in a long line of Leary defense committees. Allen named us the Bay Area Prose Poets Phalanx, with the expectation that other Beat poets would sign on. Eventually, over 30 writers signed on, including: Ken Kesey, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alan Watts, Anias Nin, Diane di Prima, Laura Huxley and Paul Krassner.

Allen paced the small room as he composed in his head and dictated a 2000-word “Declaration of Independence for Dr. Timothy Leary.” I was the scribe, while Bob acted as the editor on-the-spot, clarifying the flow of language between Allen’s brain and my writing hand.

14.Declaration Independence1

Declaration Independence 2

Allen Ginsberg’s “Declaration of Independence for Dr. Timothy Leary,” dictated to Horowitz and Barker at the Ludlow Library. Title page and last page. Horowitz Archives.

MH: Allen’s words tumbled out in complex sentences. While I typed up this manifesto, Bob combed through his legendary address book—a Who’s Who of the Beat and Hippie literary/activist vanguard.

Once we’d gathered the signatures, we put out a press release. It made the local news. Ginsberg printed up 250 copies which we mailed to the signers. He also personally sent one to the American PEN Center.

Arthur Miller got behind it and PEN wired their support to Leary’s lawyer in Berne. PEN had prestige for supporting oppressed writers anywhere in the world.

Allen forcefully presented Timothy as a maverick scientist and philosopher persecuted for his writings and research who met all the qualifications for asylum. It carried a lot of weight with the Swiss legal authorities. To reject Tim‘s appeal would mean undermining their history of toleration, but unfortunately, they were under tremendous pressure from the US government.

LR:  But the Swiss government DID rule in their favor?

MH:  Yes. The final determination was that Leary’s crime—possession of two half-smoked marijuana joints—did not require jail time in Switzerland. Other factors played into their decision.

15.US State Dept

The declassified U.S. State Dept. report on the decision of the Swiss government to not extradite Leary. Leary Archives (NYPL).

From the declassified U.S. State Department Report:

The reason for his arrest was said to have been to render him harmless as a political candidate. For the authorities he was said to have become politically unbearable, because as an adherent of the peace movement, he requested the termination of the war in Vietnam…The question of narcotics was only of secondary importance.”

The Swiss stayed true to their beliefs and freed Leary, granting him temporary asylum. His old friend, the psychedelic theologian Walter Houston Clark, mortgaged his home to help pay the considerable legal costs.

When we next saw Ginsberg to celebrate the Bay Area Prose Poets Phalanx victory in Switzerland, he was already working on a new project; freeing the Living Theater troupe who had been jailed for obscenity in Brazil.

In Tao We Trust

In Tao We Trust. Leary reflecting on his exile experience on a sheet from the League of Spiritual Discovery edition of Psychedelic Prayers, designed by Daniel Raphael. Leary signed it with his false U.S. passport name.

Tim and Rosemary were free and we began to plan our visit to Switzerland.

Coming next — Part 3: Kicked out of Switzerland – Captured in Afghanistan – Back in the California Prison System


Archivists Michael Horowitz and Robert Barker at Lucerne, Switzerland train station, with Leary archives, February 1972. Photo: Timothy Leary

Archivists Michael Horowitz and Robert Barker at the Lucerne, Switzerland train station, with the Leary archives, February 1972. Photo: Timothy Leary

How a scholarly hippie got pulled into the orbit of the psychedelic revolutionary whom then-President Nixon labeled “the most dangerous man in America”

Lisa Rein conducts the first in-depth interview of Timothy Leary’s longtime archivist, Michael Horowitz

Interview 1: December 1969 – November 1970

LR: How did you become Timothy Leary’s personal archivist?

MH: I was uniquely suited for the role with my background working with rare books and manuscripts, and my immersion in the psychedelic counterculture, first in New York City and later in San Francisco. The immediate catalyst was meeting Robert Barker in San Francisco at the tail end of the ‘60s. Bob was a fellow consciousness explorer and an art book collector. He’s a Gemini from San Antonio, I’m a Sagittarius from Brooklyn. We clicked.

LR: What kinds of projects had you worked on during the Sixties?

MH: I’ve worked with rare books since my graduate days in the early ’60s, first as an assistant to the curator at the NYU library, then in the book department of an auction house on Madison Avenue. Privately I scouted first editions on my travels in the U.S. and Europe.   In 1967 I landed in San Francisco and soon after began working at a high-end antiquarian bookshop. Bob was ferrying people and supplies to Alcatraz during the Native American occupation of the island, while working a straight job. He was connected to a group of Texas hippies who were influential in the local art and music scene.

What brought us together was our shared passion for book collecting and for mind-altering drugs and their history. We set up a library in North Beach, the first devoted to that subject–the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library. The library is now at Harvard’s Houghton Library as part of the Julio Santo Domingo Collection, the largest collection of it’s kind in the world.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library business card.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library business card.

LR: Who was Fitz Hugh Ludlow?

MH: Ludlow was a proto-hippie from the American Civil War era. He started experimenting with drugs before college, and published his bestselling first book, The Hasheesh Eater, in 1857, at age 21.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow. Schaffer Library, Union College.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow. Schaffer Library, Union College.

MH: It was the first book on drug experience by an American author and caused a wave of experimentation much as Leary did with LSD a century later. Ludlow took psychedelic-level doses of hashish paste and cannabis extract. He came to the West Coast by horse and stagecoach, and took Mark Twain under his wing in San Francisco, probably turning him on to hashish. He was the epitome of a writer-adventurer, and his innovative methods of curing opium and morphine addiction, during the first American drug epidemic, included using cannabis during withdrawal. He was praised by Twain, Aleister Crowley and the Beats, yet a pretty obscure figure when we first learned of him through the chance discovery of his most famous book.

We felt a spiritual bond with Fitz Hugh. Later, when we became involved with Timothy, we realized his Millbook enclave was situated right beside Poughkeepsie, where teenage Ludlow hung out at the local apothecary shop.

LR: How did you and Robert Barker meet?

MH: I was looking for a ride home from the Altamont Rock Festival. It was supposed to be our West Coast Woodstock but the violence near the stage where the Rolling Stones were closing out the concert seeped into the consciousness of the huge crowd. Walking back to the cars parked a few miles away in the darkness, fires burning here and there, made for an apocalyptic setting and a bad re-entry from the LSD many of us had taken in the sunshine when the concert began hours earlier. I couldn’t find the car nor my friends I’d gone with and was looking around for a ride. I began to wonder if I’d be left there with a couple of thousand other equally stoned heads. Barker saw me and motioned me into his packed VW bug. After dropping off the other passengers, he and I went to Chinatown for a cheap delicious dinner at Sam Wo. I invited him to drop by the bookshop where I worked, which he did the following week.

It turns out Tim and Rosemary were also at Altamont. There’s a vivid account in Flashbacks, worth reading for the distinction Leary makes between the peacefulness of the 300,000 strong audience and the violence around the stage. Three months later he was in prison and we were his archivists.

LR: So, it’s the end of the decade. Nixon is President and declares a War on Drugs. The Vietnam War is still going on. We’d just put a man on the Moon. Woodstock had happened that same summer. Altamont was supposed to be “Woodstock West,” but ended up creating a disappointing end to the decade, instead of a hopeful one?

MH: Yes, the euphoria of the Summer of Love was receding in the face of the government’s covert offensive. Altamont mirrored the darkness and paranoia that was escalating with the war, the assassinations, Nixon’s election, the Manson murders, the increasingly brutal suppression of the anti-war movement, Black uprising and student rebellion. The Bay Area was ground zero of the struggle but also an outpost of writers, artists and musicians who continued to build on a vibrant underground culture.

Bob and I talked about merging our book collections with a third collector-friend in LA and opening a private library. We needed a new direction for the new decade.

LR: Who was the LA collector?

MH: William Dailey, another rare book guy from LA with an eye for fine illustrated French drug books. Paris is where recreational drug use flourished in the 1840s, and over time the Ludlow Library became a kind of underground salon of aficionados of mild-altering plants and drugs. We likened ourselves to the members of the Hashish Club who held elegant drug parties in Paris in the 1840s. The literary and artistic underground had great appeal to us. All underground movements had their recreational drugs of choice.

LR: What made you decide to start a library of drug-related books and literature?

MH: Bob’s vision of a private, drug-focused library was appealing, and he convinced me to give it a shot. He went ahead and rented a one-room office at the intersection of Columbus and Stockton, and furnished it with a desk, chairs and bookshelves. To help pay the rent, we sublet space to the Church of the Tree of Life, one of the first psychedelic churches whose sacraments were mostly obscure psychoactive plants not yet declared illegal. Michael Aldrich, the first Ph.D of cannabis history and folklore and an early marijuana reform activist who marketed the first hemp rolling papers, came aboard as curator a year later.

We embraced a mission to archive the ‘60s counterculture with a library-museum. The books introduced us to other historical countercultures and the drugs of choice that fueled them, and from there to the sacred plants of tribal societies, eventually back to the ancient history and to the myths of pre-recorded history. Over time we amassed the largest library in the world on the subject, and hosted drug discoverers and scholars like Albert Hofmann, Gordon Wasson, Richard Schultes, Sasha Shulgin and Terence McKenna. This was the setting the Leary Archives would fit into.

LR: Who came by to use the Ludlow Library?

MH: We were just two blocks north of City Lights Bookstore, which was a shrine to us.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti dropped by to welcome us to North Beach. Our first visitors were Beat poets, underground cartoonists and psychedelic poster artists who donated signed copies of their work. We also evolved into a museum of contemporary drug paraphernalia, rolling papers and handmade roach clips, pinbacks and all manner of beautiful psychedelic accessories made by local hippie artisans.

Once we had finished shelving the several hundred books, organized by drugs, with separate sections for poetry and fiction, women’s writings, underground comics and art—anything that was drug-influenced—even official government anti-drug propaganda. Lurid paperbacks and memoirs of narcotics agents sat together with scholarly works by psychologists and anthropologists, Works by De Quincey and Coleridge, Aldous and Laura Huxley, Burroughs and Ginsberg shared space with R. Crumb comic books and 1890s coca wine posters, Lenny Bruce record albums and movie posters from Reefer Madness and Marihuana: Weed With Roots In Hell to Easy Rider and The Trip.

LR: Do you think that these books about drug experiences allow people to learn from those who have taken the drugs without actually taking the drugs themselves?

MH: Powerful descriptive writing about personal drug experiences mimics the effects of the drugs themselves. Reading Aleister Crowley on how hashish aided his meditation, or Mezz Mezzrow on playing in a jazz band on marijuana, or Gordon and Valentina Wasson’s otherworldly mushroom journey in a curandera’s hut in Mexico, or Anais Nin describing how LSD turned her body into liquid gold can be mildly psychoactive in itself. Especially so if you’d had your own prior experiences. We also collected books and studied the rituals of the peyote and mushroom cults, the history of the opium wars and laughing gas parties. We learned that drug literature is endless, and drug-taking was one of the earliest and most common activities of mankind.

LR: OK, let’s talk about the Leary archives now. When and how did it happen exactly that Tim’s archives ended up under your watch?

MH: A few months after we’d set up the Ludlow Library, Leary was sentenced to 10 years on federal charges for possession of a half ounce of weed, stemming from the Laredo bust in 1965. A week later he was sent back to California to face charges there from another bust In Laguna Beach in 1968.

Rosemary Leary speaking to reporters following Timothy’s sentencing to 10 years on federal charges in Houston, March 2, 1970. Photo: Robert Altman.

Rosemary Leary speaking to reporters following Timothy’s sentencing to 10 years on federal charges in Houston, March 2, 1970. Photo: Robert Altman.

MH: Timothy Leary, whom neither of us had met, was sent to the California State Prison in San Luis Obispo for one to ten years for his Laguna Beach bust for two half-smoked joints. Bail was denied, specifically on the basis of two published articles: ”Deal For Real,” (September 1969) a defense of psychedelic chemists and distributors, published in the East Village Other (the leading underground newspaper in NYC), and a memoir of his Laredo pot bust, “Episode & Postscript (Playboy, Dec. 1969).

Tim and Rosemary in Santa Ana Courtroom prior to his sentencing on California charges, March 16, 1970. Photo: Robert Altman.

Tim and Rosemary in Santa Ana Courtroom prior to his sentencing on California charges, March 16, 1970. Photo: Robert Altman.

LR: So, wait, Tim was in prison in the first place for possession of very small amounts of cannabis? And, for political reasons, he was denied bail by a Governor Reagan-influenced Judge? And then given an over-reaching sentence, by that same judge?

MH: Exactly. Bail was denied by a Reagan-appointed judge in Orange County, one of the most rightwing in California. The judge held up the publications in the courtroom and during his ruling called Leary “a pleasure-seeking, irresponsible Madison-Avenue advocate of the free use of LSD and marijuana.” “Pleasure-seeking” was a generic put-down of both Tim Leary and the hippie culture; “Madison Avenue” simply meant “successful.” Leary was being punished for being the public face of the Psychedelic Movement.

A more devious goal was to keep Leary from challenging the incumbent California governor as a candidate in the fall election. Imagine Tim on TV debating Ronald Reagan!

LR: Tim ran for governor of California?

MH: Yes. He was stoked by the Supreme Count ruling in his favour on the Marijuana Tax Act (later reversed, but that didn’t faze him—few things did). He knew that attacking the power structure would be at great personal cost and he would lose battles along the way, but any time he saw an opportunity to spark a cultural evolution, why not give it a shot?

The most radical proposal in his platform was legalizing marijuana and taxing it appropriately. It was a lot like the model adopted by Colorado and Washington 45 years later.

LR: And John Lennon wrote his campaign song?

MH: Yes. John Lennon did compose his campaign song, “Come Together, Join the Party,” when Tim and Rosemary joined John and Yoko at the Montreal Bed In to end the war. After it was clear that Tim’s felony conviction had knocked him out of the race, John repurposed the song into the Beatles’ hit, “Come Together.”

LR: Where does Holding Together fit in to all this?

MH: That was the defense committee formed by Tim’s wife Rosemary, with Joanne Ziprin, whose family sublet the Leary’s Berkeley Hills home.

LR: Where did the name come from?

MH: It came from an I Ching reading she cast with Ken Kesey, the hexagram for “Holding Together brings good fortune.” The event was covered in the Berkeley Barb, which closely followed Tim’s trials and tribulations during these years.

Holding Together logo. Artist: Bill Ogden.

Holding Together logo. Artist: Bill Ogden.


LR: Tell me about the first Holding Together event?

MH: Holding Together’s first benefit event was the Om Orgy held in mid-April at the Family Dog rock venue on the Great Highway in San Francisco. It was there Bob and I met Rosemary, told her about our psychedelic drug library (which already included most of Tim’s publications) and offered to help. We were not really sure what we were getting into. Talk about understatement!

Om Orgy poster. April 16, 1970. Artist: Barry Thomas.

Om Orgy poster. April 16, 1970. Artist: Barry Thomas.

MH: Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, Leary’s longtime friend and outspoken supporter, spoke at the Om Orgy about Leary’s imprisonment as a political prisoner, and how it was unconstitutional for him to be held without bail for such a petty offense. Allen went on to play a huge role in Timothy’s defense on this issue over the next few years. Tim had no more eloquent public supporter than Allen throughout his career, although there were occasional periods when they clashed on tactics.

LR: What were your first impressions of Rosemary?

MH: Her beauty and haute hippie dress style made it impossible not to crush on her. You could see she was under a lot of stress. We wanted to do anything we could to help her. She was somewhat cautious about us. She herself faced felony charges of up to five years for possession stemming from that Laguna bust, and the Bay Area was crawling with undercover narcs in beards and jeans. But our sincerity must have been evident, because she invited us to the Leary home in the Berkeley Hills to discuss the archives.

LR: What did Timothy’s archives look like when you first saw them?

MH: By the time we finished talking and sharing a joint of Barker’s best, she’d made her decision and walked us behind the house to a detached garage. Inside stood four or five four-drawer institutional grey metal file cabinets, the paint chipped with spots of rust. I opened a drawer at random. It was filled to capacity with neatly arranged and labelled manila file folders.

LR: That must have been very exciting for drug historians like you two.

MH: If here was any doubt about volunteering to take on the Leary archives, it ended in that garage. The very first thing I pulled out was labelled: “Nov. 1963 – Huxley.” Inside was a carbon copy of a typed letter Laura had sent to their closest friends detailing the circumstances of Aldous’ death. It was less than ten years since these events but, to us, it was like the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I started reading it, standing in the chilly garage. Bob and I were steeped in LSD history, and knew this was the first documented use of LSD during the end of life process. Aldous Huxley was the toweringly influential figure whose books inaugurated the modern psychedelic age.

Laura Huxley letter re: manner of Aldous’ death. Dec. 8, 1963.

The first page of a Laura Huxley letter to Tim, and a few others, regarding the manner of Aldous’ death. December 8, 1963.

Link to the complete Laura Huxley letter.

LR: What else did you see that night?

MH: Bob opened another drawer that was filled with dozens of mimeographed reports written by the prisoners at Concord Prison after Tim and Ralph Metzner had given them psilocybin in 1961, with one taking it with the prisoners and the other acting as a guide.

There were letters between Tim and Aldous, Alan Watts, Ginsberg and Kerouac. Manuscripts, purple ink mimeos and offprints from Harvard and Millbrook. Invoices for psilocybin, LSD and DMT ordered from labs when those drugs were still legal. We were like kids in a candy store. Rosemary practically had to drag us away to continue talking about what to do with the archives.

LR: Had the archives been threatened or harmed in any way? Why was Rosemary asking you to take over looking after them?

MH: The archives at that point were unharmed and in perfect order. Tim was a scientist, and felt certain his work—the personality research in the 1950s, and even more, the psychedelic research in the following decade—was of a momentous time in history that was going to change everything. Like Huxley, he believed that the discovery of LSD was one of the two or three most important events of the 20th century. The others being the fissioning of the atom and the discovery of DNA, all three happening within a couple of years of each other.

Rosemary had a specific reason for finding responsible people to look after the archives. If Tim’s legal appeals were unsuccessful, he was going to attempt an escape. Of course, nothing was definite that early, and there was no escape plan yet, but Tim knew his archives would be vulnerable (as well as his archivists). They presented a detailed record of his life’s work and the much maligned (but lately resurrected) Psychedelic Movement. The FBI didn’t get around to us until much later, when Tim used his archives as a bargaining chip in winning his freedom. That’s getting far ahead of the story.

LR: So this meeting was when Tim had been imprisoned, but before he escaped?

MH: Yes. He was imprisoned March 20th. We went to the house and saw the archives the first week of May.

Rosemary with Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman at March 29 press conference for the Come Together/ Conspire-In Leary fund-raiser event in NYC. The gags were in protest to the “silencing” of Leary and the gagging of Bobby Seale at the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial.

Rosemary with Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman at March 29 press conference for the Come Together/ Conspire-In Leary fund-raiser event in NYC. The gags were in protest to the “silencing” of Leary and the gagging of Bobby Seale at the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial.

LR: Did you know there was an escape plan?

MH: Not at all. They kept us in the dark because total secrecy was obviously needed, and because they wanted to protect us. They needed someone to take care of his archives and keep them safe from seizure and potential destruction at the hands of the government, as Wilhelm Reich’s had been in the 1950s. And he got two archivists to do this. Bob and I needed each other, and Tim and Rosemary needed both of us.

Private invitation with guest list to fund-raiser for Leary's legal costs to appeal conviction. NYC, May 11, 1970.

Private invitation with guest list to fund-raiser for Leary’s legal costs to appeal conviction. NYC, May 11, 1970.

LR: What happened after you were given the archives?

MH: After she next visited Tim, Rosemary told us that he was ecstatic to hear about our volunteering, and the fact that we were from the LSD culture and operating a drug library in San Francisco. He immediately put us on the visiting list.

Bob visited first and came back with instructions to move the library out of the Queens Road house. We rented a truck and moved the row of file cabinets to the historic Claremont Hotel in the Berkeley Hills. He told us to contact his lawyers and find out if we could help with the appeal. They paid for one month at the Claremont for initial research. After that we moved them to North Beach, where we sequestered them within the Ludlow Library. We felt they were protected there—but at the time we didn’t know precisely whom we were protecting them from.

Michael Horowitz, with pen and roach clip, working with a Leary manuscript. San Francisco, Ludlow Library, 1972.

Michael Horowitz, with pen and roach clip, working with a Leary manuscript. San Francisco, Ludlow Library, 1972.

LR:  What was it like meeting Tim for the first time? Had you two ever met before that?

MH: Challenging in ways I could not have foreseen.   I’d read his books, gone to his talks and events in New York City, watched him on tv standing up to his hostile detractors in a focused, spirited way.  He was routinely called the devil, a menace to society, the Pied Piper leading the young to their doom.  He always smiled and patiently explained the factual situation to their deaf ears. He freaked out almost every level of society but had a large and loyal following of mostly young people who shared his vision of a new and enlightened society based on the impact of the new consciousness-expanding chemicals like LSD, along with the shift from an alcohol to a marijuana-based society.

Even in 1970, with the war, social breakdown and so much paranoia in the counterculture–even in prison, unjustly–he had the same upbeat approach to everything, and the belief that somehow the psychedelic culture would prevail, and the national consciousness would be raised.

But there was a lot going on underneath. Prison was changing him. Meanwhile, I was the proud archivist going to meet him. Archiving for Leary was my niche in the revolution. It was sort of like reporting for duty.

LR:  What didn’t you foresee?

MH: Something came up from my subconscious at the last minute.  I wanted to take LSD with him.  I just picked a really inappropriate day to do it, visiting him in prison.

LR: You took acid with him in prison?  

MH: Well,  that was my plan.  I cut a hit of windowpane LSD into two equal parts, ate half at the airport and placed the other half under my fingernail.  It was so small I’d knew it’d be undetectable and I wouldn’t have to fish around for it when I saw him.  

It was a light dose, but not light enough for going into a state prison for the first time in my life.   It hit me as the airport taxi drove through the prison gates and I panicked. Why the fuck did I do that? It took all my concentration to hold back the acid waves that were swarming through my head.  At least half a dozen burly uniformed prison guards looked me over with disdain.   One guard shouted, “Look at that freak visiting Leary!”   Everyone’s head turned.  I’d toned it down, but still had the wild fro, the peace sign necklace, and the bell bottoms. At least the shaded eyeglasses hid my dilated pupils.

At the registration desk I struggled with visitor forms, reluctantly giving them my personal information.  The tiny square of green gelatin under the finger of my writing hand felt like it was a glowing radioactive particle as I filled out forms.   The desk clerk was puzzled when I said I was Doctor Leary’s archivist. I explained that I was like a secretary who looked after his papers. After an eternity he shrugged and pointed me toward the first of two iron gates that clanged shut behind me.  After this ordeal I was relieved to see Timothy waving to me from behind a window, flashing the hippie peace sign salute. 

LR: Did he realize you were tripping?

MH: Not at first. He greeted me with a hug.  With that I couldn’t hold back the acid waves any longer. The vibes reached him.

LR: How did he react, once he knew?

MH: Not well.  Visiting time was precious.  He had a lot of tasks to lay on me.  Help the lawyers with research for the appeal.  Edit and get his prison writings published—Playboy and Rolling Stone would pay something unlike the underground press, which would publish anything of his.  Messages to Rosemary. Call Allen Ginsberg.  All that and more.  But I had showed up like a stoned graduate student arriving for a seminar on the evolution of consciousness.  Just as my first visit appeared to be going off the rails, Tim did an about face.  He transformed into that Harvard professor and gave me the crash course in his psychedelic drug theories that he could see I was craving.  

LR:  What was his rap?

MH: For Leary and his associates, for  Huxley and Watts,  it was a given that LSD came into the world at exactly the time it was needed.    Allen Ginsberg provided a proper meme–“God in a pill.” A triumph of technology, appropriate for a pharmaceutical society. Remember, Albert Hofmann’s psilocybin pills had won the endorsement of magic mushroom shamaness Maria Sabina.

LR: Where did his theories come from?

Science, basically. His training in psychology. Leary liked to organize information in lists and charts. For the psychedelic experience he turned to older models like Eastern philosophy.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead.  Ancient occult systems like Tarot, the I Ching, astrology.  And increasingly the science of atomic structure and quantum physics.  He’d started out a clinical psychologist mapping interpersonal interactions and personality types before he took psilocybin and LSD.  The rap he gave me was a comparative analysis of the levels of consciousness triggered by every class of drug, from heroin to LSD.  Seven levels which expanded to an eight-circuit theory he called “Neurologic,” written in another prison three years later.

LR: Did you slip him the acid?

MH: I was going to drop it in his soda, but when I looked at my fingernail, it wasn’t there. It must have fallen to the floor where it ended up in the janitor’s mop. I wasn’t the only one who dosed him in prison, or attempted to. Far from it. Rosemary and Joanna passed a chunk of hashish directly into his mouth when they greeted him with a kiss. Everyone assumed he wanted them to bring him LSD. He didn’t, but they did. He was the person who popularized the parameters of Set and Setting, so prison failed on the second count. But I won’t attempt to account for the entire 4-1/2 years he spent in the slammer.

LR: So the LSD you took that day turned out to be the right thing after all?

MH: It has a way of doing that, and that day was no exception. Huxley said when taking it under the right circumstances, it delivers exactly what the person needs, but sometimes even the wrong circumstances will do.

I felt my IQ was permanently boosted that afternoon. When I got back to my friends in the Bay Area  I was buzzing for days, rapping out what I’d taken in.  Being with Tim was like getting off the local and boarding the express.  Reception-integration-transmission was his model for the yoga of communication.

It was the best class I’d ever taken, and it happened in a prison visiting room!  After that I was ready to tune in to the more practical stuff.   I began taking notes.  I took notes for the next six years.

LR: What made Leary such an intellectual force?

MH: He thought creatively, made instant associations like one does on LSD. It was a knock that became a cliche that he’d fried his brain from the large number of trips he’d taken, but that was actually his training as a psychedelic philosopher. The foundation was his education as a psychologist. He was greatly influenced by McLuhan’s ideas about living in an age of transformative electronic technologies. His conversations were often about adapting to the chaos of reality. His creative style of thinking kept him from succumbing to the paranoia of being a caged prisoner, and later a hunted outlaw, and also produced a body of work in a variety of media over a lifetime.

Leary's's notes on his legal situation and strategy, including people to call upon for support. Written in California Men's Colony, San Luis Obispo, CA. Spring 1970.

Leary’s notes on his legal situation and strategy, including people to call upon for support. Written in California Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo, CA. Spring 1970.

 LR: It sounds like Tim was getting fed up with the harassment of him and his family?

MH: He was shocked and angered that his bail had been denied even while appealing his case on important first amendment issues, and that his wife and son were also convicted of drug crimes. In prison he had time to obsess over his draconian sentences: Ten years for a half ounce of pot (a set up at the Texas-Mexico border), another dime for 2 roaches in the ashtray (planted), up to eight more because visitors to his Millbrook enclave had been seen lighting up by Deputy Sheriff Gordon Liddy in the surrounding woods through binoculars.

He knew he’d pushed the envelope, but he felt he played within the rules–never publicly advocating everyone use marijuana or LSD, just writing and speaking enthusiastically of its pleasures and potentials. He did advocate a drug moratorium for a year and testified before Congress how best to deal with what they called a drug crisis which was more a law enforcement opportunity. He’d incorporated the League for Spiritual Discovery as a religious entity so members could use LSD as their sacrament, fought and won a Supreme Court marijuana case, published four books and 40 scientific papers on psychedelic drugs.

LR: So desperate times required desperate measures? And really, they weren’t playing by the rules anymore, by keeping him imprisoned for such a minor drug offense.

MH: The government strategy was to shut down the psychedelic movement and its large role in the youth rebellion and anti-war movement by making an example of him. Plus I think it really bothered them that he didn’t play the remorse card. They couldn’t shut him up and now he was running for governor of California!

He was a 49-year-old political prisoner facing what amounted to life in prison, burdened with legal debts and cut off from his means of livelihood. Bob and I were even selling his 1950s personality tests to educational and military institutions. Like Lenny Bruce, he wanted to win on first amendment legal grounds. He had three sets of lawyers fighting his federal, California and NY State cases, but those were dragging on. For all that, the separation from Rosemary was the heaviest blow.

LR: What was the practical stuff you did for him?

MH: Bob and I were bringing manuscripts in and out of prison under the guise of legal briefs. After a while the authorities let us pass It was a minimum security prison and he was something of a celebrity. Huey Newton was being held at the same time in the medium security East Wing.

We spent the summer of 1970 splitting our time between buying books, soliciting donations for the Ludlow Library, and researching Tim’s archives for the lawyers, editing his manuscripts with him, sending them out to magazine editors.

Tim was writing all the time. Daily love letters to Rosemary. A journal of his life in prison, including how he adverted a violent fight between prisoners. Fiction, too: A fantasy about the Woodstock generation turning on the leaders in the White House. Some of it was published in the book Jail Notes. His most consuming text was his personal appeal brief directed to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, whom he thought would be the most sympathetic to his plight, in which he compared himself and his family to American eagles in captivity. It was a legal brief in the form of a poem.

LR: What were his lawyers’ strategy?

MH: First of all, getting him out on bail on a writ of Habeas Corpus. Then an appeal of the draconian terms of a sentence of up to ten years for possession of .025 grams of cannabis. When bail was repeatedly denied, escape loomed as an option.

LR: Who represented him?

MH: Michael Kennedy & Joe Rhine, whose offices were in a painted lady” Victorian house in San Francisco, very stylish inside and out. They were important figures in the network of radical left defense attorneys who included Charles Garry, William Kunstler and Gerald Lefcourt. There were Bay Area attorneys like the Hallinans, Tony Serra and Michael Metzger who handled the higher profile dope cases. Kennedy & Rhine worked on the Yippie conspiracy case in Chicago, the Black Panther Party cases in Oakland, won an acquittal for Los Siete de la Raza. In their eyes Leary was a classic political prisoner with an unusual drug angle—he had started a religion. His published writings and talks were cited in the courtroom. First amendment issues everywhere. Michael Kennedy was bold enough to consider all options of getting him out.

The “Eagle Brief, Leary's personal appeal to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in the form of a poem, published by City Lights Books the month of the prison escape.

The “Eagle Brief, Leary’s personal appeal to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in the form of a poem, published by City Lights Books the month of the prison escape.

This copy (above) was revised in Switzerland the following year, with Tim’s Algerian name (Nino Baraka) printed in and his typed note on the bottom: “Since it is forbidden to send creative works about prison life from prison, this poem was typed as a legal brief (which is protected from censorship).”

Prometheus Bound (first performed in Berkeley, July 31, 1970). An adaption of the Greek tragedy, written, directed and starring Douglas Broyles in the role of Prometheus-Leary.

Prometheus Bound (first performed in Berkeley, July 31, 1970). An adaption of the Greek tragedy, written, directed and starring Douglas Broyles in the role of Prometheus-Leary.

LR: How did you feel when you first found out about the breakout? Did you really have NO IDEA that that was in the works?

MH: We had no clue about such a plan. Nobody thought that could possibly be in Tim’s playbook. People like him were not expected to try to escape from prison, let alone succeed. But then, US citizens weren’t expected to be sentenced to ten years and have their bail denied, either, because of their writings and talks.

LR: Sounds like being Leary’s archivists was consuming your lives.

MH: You could say that. We kept it quiet except to our closest friends. The library was a good cover for us. Some idiot published it in one of the underground papers but our having the Leary archives was generally not known.

LR: How did you find out that Tim escaped?

It was an early Sunday morning and I was asleep in my Berkeley pad. Barker knocked loudly and woke me up. He had driven over from his place in North Beach. He was giddy with excitement as he told me that Tim had escaped the previous night.

Different feelings surged through me. Shock to begin with. Exhilaration that he was free. Disappointment that our trip with him was over.

LR: But it wasn’t.

MH: It was just the end of Act One. Right then Bob laid on me what he’d been thinking about on the drive over. We’d better expect the police. Maybe the FBI. We were exposed from our prison visits. We had possession of his archives. Oh, and Rosemary was unreachable.

Exhilaration gave way to paranoia as Bob continued to catch me up. An old con, now on the outside, whom Tim had known in prison had been roughed up by federal agents earlier that morning. After they left he phoned Bob to say they might be headed here. If I had any dope in the house, I’d better do something about it.

I grabbed the little stash box with my precious tabs of orange sunshine and chunk of Nepalese temple ball and, after looking for any suspicious parked car, ducked under the wood frame cottage and chose a spot to bury it in the dirt. That done, Bob drove us to breakfast. I stayed away from the house the rest of the day. We drove out to Golden Gate Park and saw Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Carousel Ballroom in the evening.

LR: Did you expect the FBI would come for the archives?

MH: That was one of our fears—which spiked from time to time until they did come for them five years later. We did expect to be picked up for questioning. That didn’t happen either. We were not in their sights at that time. Like everyone else in the counterculture, we waited to see what would happen next.

LR: How did the counterculture react to news of Tim’s escape?

MH: People were stunned—and jubilant. The underground press covered it with banner headlines. “Proud Eagle Flies Free.” They printed full-page “Welcome Tim Leary” signs that people put on their front doors and in windows. It was a bright flash in a dark year. Violence in the streets and campuses. Days of Rage in Chicago. Convictions of the Chicago 8. Murders of Black Panthers. Kent State. Manson trial. Fatal OD’s of Janis and Jimi the same month as the escape. At least Tim was free! A Harvard professor, a peaceful man, had successfully busted out of prison. Peoples’ minds were blown.

LR: And the Weather Underground made it happen?

MH: It was a phenomenal coup for them. They were starting to become a serious force and that act elevated them within the hippie culture. Breaking Tim out and spiriting him and Rosemary out of the country was a wedding of the psychedelic subculture and the revolutionary left.

Weather Underground taking credit for Leary's escape, signed by their leader Bernardine Dohrn. Published widely in the underground press several days after.

Weather Underground taking credit for Leary’s escape, signed by their leader Bernardine Dohrn. Published widely in the underground press several days after.

MH: The symbolism of the escape could not be ignored, especially after the Weather Underground publicly claimed credit, while rumors floated up that the LSD orange sunshine makers and global distributors, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love–for whom Tim Leary was a kind of guru–had financed the operation. His high-powered San Francisco lawyer Michael Kennedy confirmed the escape with a lot of fanfare.

Letter left for guards by Timothy Leary, during his escape.

Letter left for guards by Timothy Leary during his escape. Inscribed to his attorney in 1973.

LR: How on earth was he able to have typed up an escape note?

MH: California Men’s Colony West was a minimum security prison and he had access to a typewriter. It was just like him to write such a note, evoking Socrates and urging the prison guards to follow him to freedom. The next letter, sent to the Berkeley Barb, when he was underground with the Weathermen, was much more militant. He talked of waging revolutionary war against a genocidal government, of being armed and dangerous. That sounded like it came from Weather, but Tim enthusiastically adopted the rhetoric of those who had freed him. That they were middle class recent college grads made it even better. It sparked a serious debate in the counterculture. It was a radically different Timothy Leary for most people.

It got more polarized with his “Shoot to Live” statement. He later softened that to “Aim for Life,” but by that time Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey and the followers of Eastern teachers were challenging his rhetoric in the press.

LR: How were you holding up with all this stuff going on?

MH: Well, I remember walking past a newspaper kiosk in downtown San Francisco a month after the escape and seeing a bold black headline on the front page of the latest Berkeley Barb–“Smoke It and Blow it Up!” Smoke pot and make bombs. It was another “What the Fuck?” moment. I had more than a few of those during those years. Both he and Rosemary put their names to that. It was not their style, but prison did that to him. It was another over-the-top “thank you” to the Weather Underground, adopting their rhetoric. The Learys were not violent, but he was a philosophical bomb-thrower for sure.

LR: So you went back to your life?

MH: For the most part. We didn’t hear from them directly, but from reports in the underground press we learned that Tim and Rosemary had landed in Algiers, under the protection of the now International Black Panther Party. Expecting to hear from them, we rented a PO Box in Berkeley under the name Bodhisattva.

Bodhisattva (Leary Archives) business card, 1970.

Bodhisattva (Leary Archives) business card, 1970.

LR: Why Bodhisattva?

MH: We thought the word would give us suitable cover since it would be unfamiliar to anyone surveilling us. It did not suggest revolutionary politics, except ironically. It suggested, partly in jest, that when the dust settled sometime in the next century, that Timothy Leary might just be so regarded as an American bodhisattva. Allen Ginsberg loved the name and reflected on Kerouac’s use of it as a play on “bohemian” and “hobo.”

Timothy’s longtime colleague and pal, Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), was the bodhisattva of the two. Tim was happiest being MVP—”Most Valuable Philosopher.”

LR: How long before you heard from the Exiles?

MH: The first letter arrived about six weeks after the escape.

Additions in [brackets] are for historical clarification.

Room 19
Hotel Mediterranee
El Djamila
Alger, Algeria

Nov. 4, 1970

Beloved Friends…

Fast pace…moving moving…high energy tradewinds…playing complex game with Eldridge [Cleaver] guiding us around Middle East. At present nicely settled working on Jail Notes…hoping for Jan 1st finish. We hope that the last two months have not been confusing to you. One thing must be remembered…AMERIKAN ATMOSPHERE IS SO POLLUTED WITH NIXON POLICE FOG…It is hard to realize how heavy the bar-o-metric pressure is and how it pulls you down into Nixon thinking…From here you realize that the freedom brotherhood is international…global…you see the complete total insanity of Amerika…how the system scares and frightens and co-opts. During seven months in prison the only voices which made any sense to us were Huey [Newton] and Bobby [Seale] and Leila Khalid [Palestinian airplane hijacker] and the Weathermen.

We were puzzled by the Kesey note you sent. Poor Ken. That dreary old Calvinist death-wish…. Would he drop acid and wander down to the ghetto office of the Panther Self Defense and talk about “nuts with guns”? [Kesey had written, “We don't need another nut with a gun” in response to Leary's shoot to live/ aim for life” statement in an exchange the two had in the underground press.]

We are passing through the cycle of Seven Revolutions: the Seventh is the Life-Death Passage (Sundance, etc.) in which you face death, spin the wheel and choose Life. It helps to have a network of loving fearless friends who will face death with you. Rosemary did. Jeff Jones and Bernadine [Dohrn] did…Eldridge and Huey and Jonathan Jackson did. It’s a fascinating society of re-incarnates. It’s an old mythic game. And it does produce New Life. It’s complex (in that it has to be experienced) and yet simple.

I have suggested to Mike S [Standard, Leary's NY attorney] that he be available to you for legal and contractual help in publishing any of the materials we discussed: sale of archives, Psychology of Pleasure, Festschrift, Anthology, collected works, picture books, reprints of [Psychedelic] Reader, [Psychedelic] Prayers, Politics [of Ecstasy], [High] Priest, Interpersonal Diagnosis [of Personality], etc…. We know that a lot of pressure has been placed on you both from without and from within. Let us know how it looks to you and we’ll respond as honestly and eloquently as we can.

We do thank you dear brothers for your help and love. We are sorry that we had to keep you in the dark about the escape…but you will understand our decision was based in great measure on our desire to protect you.

From the vantage point of the Third World one gets an amazed sense of wonder at the American and European white middle class fearfully protecting its privilege. We long to hear from you and to start moving energy behind our beautiful flower plans. Thanks, love, write us, stay high, stay free.

(signed) Tim and Ro


Coming next: Part 2: Algeria!


Never Before Published Photo of Timothy Leary with Aldous and Laura Huxley

Leary and the Huxleys at the 14th Annual Congress of Applied Psychology, Copenhagen, Aug. 1961 Original: NYPL

Leary and the Huxleys at the 14th Annual Congress of Applied Psychology, Copenhagen, Aug. 1961 Original: Leary Archives, NY Public Library

By Michael Horowitz and Lisa Rein

This photograph–possibly the only one in existence of Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley (there are some with Laura from later years)–documents a historic moment:  the only time the two appeared on stage and gave talks at the same public event.

It also marked a milestone in Leary’s career:   it was the first time he addressed an international conference, where he spoke about the psychedelic research project at Harvard–an event that had both personal and professional implications for him and his associate, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass).

Reprint of the two talks distributed by IFIF (International Federation for Internal Freedom) in 1963. Original from Michael Horowitz' Archives

Reprint of the two talks distributed by IFIF (International Federation for Internal Freedom) in 1963. Original from Michael Horowitz’ Archives

The event was the 14th Annual Congress of Applied Psychology, held in Copenhagen in August, 1961.  Leary chaired the symposium on psychiatric drugs.  It was he who invited Aldous to attend.  The two had met some months earlier, when Tim invited the author of the first two major works of modern psychedelic literature (The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell) to participate in the Harvard research program.   Huxley agreed and was “Subject no.11” in a group psilocybin session run by Leary in November 1960.

In Copenhagen, Huxley spoke on the subject of “Visionary Experience,” a topic he often revisited.  After discussing various non-drug methods of achieving visionary experiences, he came around to this:

“In modern times pharmacology has produced, partly by more refined methods of extracts and partly by methods of synthesis, a number of mind-changing drugs of extraordinary power, but remarkable for the fact that they have very little harmful effect on the body….With such drugs as psilocybin, it is possible for the majority of people to go into this other world with very little trouble  and with almost no harm to themselves.”

He concluded his talk by noting that “we shall hear from Dr. Leary of the induction of such experiences by such substances as psilocybin,” anticipating Leary’s subject by noting that psychedelic drugs “may be very, very important in changing our lives, changing our mode of consciousness, perceiving that there are other ways of looking at the world than the ordinary, utilitarian manner, and it may also result in significant changes in behavior.”

It is noteworthy that Frank Barron, Leary’s lifelong friend and colleague, also spoke.  His talk made reference to his “commending the mushroom to the attention of Dr. Leary, who immediately seized upon its possibilities as a vehicle for inducing change in behavior as a result of the altered state of consciousness which the drug produced.”

Leary spoke later in the day on the topic, “How To Change Behavior,” during which he summarized the work he and his team had done since initiating the Psilocybin Research Project in the fall of 1960, offering some controversial opinions:

“For many people, one or two psilocybin experiences can accomplish the goals of a long and successful psychotherapy…. The non-game visionary experiences are, I submit, the key to behavior change.  Drug-induced satori.   In three hours under the right circumstances the cortex can be cleared.  The games that frustrate and torment can be seen in the cosmic dimension.”

The way Robert Greenfield tells it in Timothy Leary: A Biography, Leary’s talk deeply disturbed many of the professional psychologists in the audience (which included several of his nervous academic superiors at Harvard), who believed mind-expanding drugs caused temporary psychosis and should only be used under strict medical supervision.  Richard Alpert (almost a decade before he became known as Ram Dass) followed Tim at the podium, freaking out the assembly even further with the notion that psilocybin and LSD produced genuine mystical experiences, which was an end in itself.

Their deviation from the medical model was more than anyone in the audience could handle —with the exception of Aldous Huxley, who had made similar assertions in his talk, though with a less impassioned tone.

Tim was later told by some psychologists who were present that his talk “had set Danish psychology back twenty years.”   Their Harvard colleague, George Littwin, claimed that this event proved to be the beginning of the end, not only for the research program but of Leary and Alpert’s time at Harvard, which came to a close in June 1963.

Nonetheless, “How To Change Behavior” proved to be one of Leary’s most popular writings, being reprinted in a number of books and journals.

The Copenhagen congress thus represented the first public pronouncement by Leary and Alpert who, taking their cues from Huxley and the results of their own scientific research, were early on convinced that the advent of synthetic psychedelics was a major evolutionary stage for humanity, destined to bring about a cultural revolution which they had no hesitation in facilitating if not spearheading.



Sasha Shulgin (June 17, 1925 – June 2, 2014) – Santa Barbara Psychedelic Conference, 1983

“This is why I do the work I do . . .”

From left to right: Michael Horowitz, Sasha Shulgin, Andrew Weil.

From left to right: Michael Horowitz, Sasha Shulgin, Andrew Weil.
Photo Credit: Cynthia Palmer.

Sasha gave a talk at the Psychedelics Conference held in Santa Barbara in May 1983 to honor Albert Hofmann, who was present at the event, along with many psychedelic luminaries, including:  Sasha’s wife, Ann, Humphry Osmond, Walter Houston Clark, Carl Ruck, Terence McKenna, Kathleen Harrison, Andrew Weil, Joan Halifax, Ralph Metzner, Peter Stafford, Cynthia Palmer, Michael Horowitz, Jonathan Ott, Robert Forte, Deborah Harlow, Rick Doblin, and Jon Hanna.

Walter H. Clark, Sasha Shulgin, and Ann Shulgin (behind Sasha). Photo Credit: Cynthia Palmer

Walter H. Clark, Sasha Shulgin, and Ann Shulgin (behind Sasha).
Photo Credit: Cynthia Palmer

Sasha titled his talk “Drugs of Perception,” and started by explaining that, rather than speak about his usual subjects, chemistry and pharmacology, he would follow his wife Ann’s suggestion to tell his audience “WHY you do the work you do?”

“Just why, for the last 25 years or so, the persistent research into the design, the preparation and the evaluation of new and different psychotropic drugs, be they hallucinogenic, psychedelic, disassociative, or merely intoxicating?”

Sasha proceeded to launch into a 3,000-word talk which held his audience spellbound from beginning to end.

He concluded with these words (starting at approximately 4:56 of  this partial recording of his talk online):

“There are a multitude of tenuous threads that tie together the fragile structure of the human spirit. The life-giving with the death demanding side; the exalted voice with the mundane; the strongly centered Self with the drive toward dispersion and loss of center.”

“These all co-exist in all of us, but there is an essential blockade between these inner worlds which, I truly feel, can be penetrated only with the words and tools and the understanding that may be most easily obtained through the area of psychedelic experiences…”

“My personal philosophy might well have been lifted directly out of the writings of William Blake:

‘I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s . . . ‘

“I may be wrong, but I cannot afford the possibility of being wrong.  I must do what I can. This is why I do the work I do–and as fast as I can–and make available to all the fruits of this doing, so that some voice may quietly materialize within each individual, as to his or her role in human survival, in an annihilating environment.”

“I will do what I can.   As fast as I can.”

Timothy Leary's personal note on a copy of the transcript of Sasha's talk.

Timothy Leary’s personal note on a copy of the transcript of Sasha’s talk: “This inspiring lecture was delivered at the Santa Barbara LSD Conference by Sasha Shulgin, May 1983.”


Flyer from Santa Barbara Psychedelic Conference, May 13th and 14th, 1983

Flyer from Santa Barbara Psychedelic Conference, May 13th and 14th, 1983


Photographs copyright (c) 2014 by Cynthia Palmer

Excellent Obituary by Jon Hanna

Erowid’s Alexander Shulgin Information Page

Leary, McLuhan and Electronic Technology


New article for Boing Boing:

 Timothy Leary and Marshall McLuhan, Turned On and Tuned In

Marshall McLuhanBy Michael Horowitz & Lisa Rein

In 1974, when asked by Timothy Leary’s archivist Michael Horowitz for a statement of support for the imprisoned psychologist, Marshall McLuhan sent a letter, now published for the first time, describing Leary as “the Ulysses of the inner trip” and pointing out the correspondences between LSD and television as transformative electronic technologies of the 1960s:

“Electric technology, by virtue of its immediate relation to our nervous system, is itself a sort of inner trip, with drugs playing the role of sub-plot or alternative mode. It may well appear a few years hence that the panic about psychedelic drugs relates less to the chemistry than to the hidden terrors which people feel in the presence of electric technology.”

The article throws light on their relationship as intellectual collaborators. McLuhan’s understanding of psychedelic experience, despite not himself being a LSD user, made a strong impression on Leary.

Out of their collaboration came the theory that psychedelic substances, like electronic media, are also mediums that deepen and transform perception of our existence.

Neurologic and the Language of Electronic Technology

For Timothy Leary, electronic language is born in the accelerated brain on LSD.  Once consciousness had been expanded, the next stage in the evolution of a psychonaut is increasing intelligence.

Beginning in 1973, when he was back in prison after his recapture and escape trial, Leary began writing directly in the language of electronic technology.  In Neurologic and Exo-Psychology, Leary used the term “circuits” to describe the wiring of the human nervous system that triggered the stages of both our individual and species evolution. Twenty years after devising the Interpersonal Diagnostic Circle to measure the data of interaction between different personality types, he described human relationships in the language of atomic structure, and found correspondences in the ancient occult systems of astrology, the I Ching and the Tarot.

“I know many people who have shared the chemical mind experiences of the past may be surprised or even shocked when I suggest that electrons are the next evolutionary step in turning yourself on, booting up your brain, activating new circuits in your mind.  I don’t see how you can use psychedelic drugs and not want to talk in electrons.  Anyone who’s had profound LSD experiences knows that the brain operates in clusters of flash on/offs, the so-called vapor trails.  The clarity of atomic vision you get when you’re very high on LSD  or peyote or psilocybin is a sheer tuning in to the way the brain actually operates [in] holograms of clusters of individual bleeps and on/ offs.  When you try to translate the full-blown LSD experience into printed words, it’s pathetic.  You’re just using the language of the machine, really.  That’s what written words are, the language of the machines to describe something which is post-industrial and post-mechanical . . . electronic information flow.”   (Leary in High Frontiers, no. 3, 1987)

Marshall McLuhan, media theorist and philosopher of electronic technology, had a stronger and more lasting influence on Leary than any other of Tim’s contemporaries.  McLuhan “predicted the World Wide Web–the ‘Global Village’–almost thirty years before it was invented” (Paul Levinson, Digital McLuhan:  A Guide to the Information Millenium).  McLuhan wrote:  “The right-brain hemisphere thinking is the capability of being in many places at the same time. Electricity is acoustic.  It is simultaneously everywhere.”

Leary, for whom “the medium is the message” was the single most potent meme that came out of the ‘60s, fully embraced McLuhan’s concept of the Global Village as the natural evolution of the new media technology.  With the launch of the personal computer revolution, Leary famously said:  “The PC is the LSD of the ‘90s.”   He lived long enough to have one of the earliest personal websites.

     “We Will Create a Language of International Global Brain Linkup”

In 1993,  three years before his death, Leary channeled McLuhan in How To Operate Your Brain, a video produced by RetinaLogic, featuring an electrifying collage of images and special effects backed by a driving techno beat.

Some excerpts from the soundtrack:

“McLuhan said,  ‘The medium is the message.’  The words you use, the modes of communication you use,  determine the realities you inhabit.    Most of us live in realities determined by others, imprinted in our brains by education, by religion, by politics, by the authorities.

“McLuhan said:  If you want to change your mind, change the medium. Change the words you use,  change the mode of communication.  If you change the medium, you change yourself, you change your society.

“In the 1960s, a new mode of communication developed—television. The kids growing up in the 1960’s learned how to tune in, turn on, fine tune, turn off, select.  McLuhan said:  Who controls the media is programming your mind and programming your brain.   Learn how to operate your brain.  The brain is designed to design realities.

“Marshall McLuhan made the prophecy.  He told us that the aim of evolution was to use media to create what we all want:  the global village, the language which can be understood by every human being, by every brain.  The basic language of humanity, the language of the brain. 

“Now we have digital communication.  We can create our fantasies. We can create our rhythms, design on screen.  A new language will develop:  a global language, not based on letters, not based on grammars.   The language which we all understand, based on clusters of waves of light and sound.

 “We will create a language of international global brain linkup.  Anyone in any culture watching this screen will get the general picture.  It’s one global village. It’s one global human spirit, one global human race.  As we link up through screens, linked by electrons and photons, we will create for the first time a global humanity, not separated by words or minds, or nationalities or religious bias.  We’re just now learning to communicate, brain to brain, soul to soul.” 

H.R. Giger and Timothy Leary


H.R. Giger and Timothy Leary, November 1993. (Picture was either taken at New York’s Alexander Gallery or The Limelight nightclub, where a private dinner had been arranged in honor of Timothy, that Giger attended.)

We are so sorry to hear about H.R. Giger’s passing. It reminded us of this great picture we had in the archives of him with Timothy, from 1993.

Timothy Leary and H.R. Giger were good friends, and Leary wrote the foreword for Giger’s N.Y. City (Ugly Publishing, Zurich, 1981). They were introduced by their mutual friend and publisher, Dieter Hagenbach of Sphinx Verlag, Basel, who had invited Leary to write the foreword to the Sphinx edition of Alien Film Design (1979).

Here are a few quotes from the Leary’s foreword to N.Y. City :

“Giger’s N.Y. City reminds us that city life, civilizations, is an insectoid stage our species is passing through. The age of cities is over. Sure, no free intelligent person wants to spend his life as a furtive, shadowed rodent running around in a caverned metropolis. Like it or not, we are all insectoid aliens burrowing within our urbanoid bodies. Giger’s fleshscapes, his microscopic slides are signals to mutate. City dwellers alert! It is time to evolve! We shall no longer have to cling like barnacles and crawl like caterpillars in the darkness of our own metropolitan tissues. Giger’s art flashes the illumination of biological intelligence down into the dark caves of our cities. The genetic signals are clear. Crawl out of the city tunnels! Expose your plane membraned body to the sun and the sky! Unfold your glorious, silken wings! Soar above the planet surface and fly high into space! Here is the evolutionary genius of Giger…

Giger, you slice my tissues into thin microscopic slides for the world to see. Giger, you razor-shave sections of my brain and plaster them, still pulsing, across your canvas. Giger, you are an Alien lurking inside my body, laying your futique eggs of wonder. You have wound silken threads of larval cocoon around you and tunnelled down deep into my wisdom gland. Giger, you see more than we domesticated primates.”

— Timothy Leary

leary_12_7 enhanced

Timothy Leary’s “Declaration of Evolution”
In English and Persian

Declaration of Evolution – In English and Persian (PDF)

Timothy Leary and Rosemary Leary, 1968

Timothy Leary and Rosemary Leary, 1968

“The Declaration of Evolution” was written in 1968 and first published in Timothy Leary’s The Politics of Ecstasy, as the opening section of the final chapter, “Neurological Politics.”

It has been described as “a manifesto for the psychedelic generation, modeled on the 1776 American ‘Declaration of Independence'” (Leary Bibliography).

The chapter was later released as a pamphlet (several thousand copies were printed), to raise money for “Holding Together,” a legal defense fund set up for Leary after his imprisonment in March 1970 for possession of two half-smoked marijuana cigarettes.

The pamphlet was printed and published by the Mystic Arts Press, operated by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the legendary group of international LSD distributors, who later that year played a key role in Leary’s prison escape engineered by the Weather Underground.

This is the first Persian translation of any of Leary’s writings.

In view of the recent improvement in relations between the United States and Iran,  a Persian translation of this text seems timely and important.

Special thanks to our translators, Fazel Malekie (who initiated the project) and Behdad Esfahbod (who graciously provided the final version).

Thanks also to Michael Horowitz for providing historical context.

Cover of the Mystic Arts Press (Brotherhood of Eternal Love) Edition, 1970

Timothy Leary to Vaclav Havel:
“You Have Done Good, My Brother”

New article for Boing Boing:

Prototype dissidents: Timothy Leary and Václav Havel at the dawn of the internet age

By Lisa Rein & Michael Horowitz, for Boing Boing


On July 4, 1992, fifteen years after it was published, Leary inscribed a copy of Neuropolitics, his most political book, to Vaclav Havel, to acknowledge the success of the Velvet Revolution that catapulted Havel to the presidency of his country.

From the article:

When Leary explained that “one dissident electronic-media expert [or] one libertarian psychologist can jam the system”—Leary always considered himself a libertarian psychologist—he anticipated a time of electronic-media whistleblowers that then seemed like science fiction.

Now, decades later, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are household names. And they are only the most prominent of those who have successfully jammed the system, exposing the extent of government misdeeds and the secrecy surrounding them.”

Read the full article on Boing Boing.

Violence Is Killing With Machines At A Distance – Part Two

This is the continuation after part one on

    The cover of “Alternatives to Violence” – Published by Time Life Books in 1968

(excerpts from an essay originally published in Alternatives to Violence, 1968)

By Dr. Timothy Francis Leary

The Judeo-Christian civilization uses alcohol as its ritual sacrament. In the good old days, fermented wines and beers provided the mystery, the magic, the emotional release, the altered state of awareness that men call the religious experience. But as Western culture became industrialized, the manufacture, distribution and use of alcohol changed disastrously.  The manufacture of wine and beer, which used to be a personal, priestly, vintner phenomenon, changed to the impersonal factory production of oceans of distilled spirits.  The use of alcohol is no longer a ceremonial ritual but an intrinsic part of a mass production, robot civilization supported by, and now worshipping, machines of violence.  Guns and booze have become the ritual equipment of the new Western crusade.

Alcohol is a drug that specifically turns on the emotions; leads to extremes of interpersonal display. This was most useful in the days when village and town life was dull, phlegmatic, and uneventful.  A roistering drunk on the Saint’s day was a necessary way of emotionally loosening up a tight-knit social order.  But in the hands of an industrial, highly energized, competitive culture, obsessed and possessed by machines of violence, alcohol is tragically the wrong drug of choice.

To make the world nonviolent, our best hope is substances that decondition the mind and promote inner peace and illumination.  In 1960, a small group of psychologists, centered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, performed research that brought them to the conclusion that the key to psychological change (in any and all forms) was biochemical; that the most effective methods for altering conditioned patterns of human behavior were pharmacological.

The practical implication of this theory is that the most direct way to loosen up the neurological rigidity that has legislated violence and suffering throughout the world, was the judicious, systematic, knowledgeable self-administration of consciousness-expanding drugs.

Our group of Harvard University psychologists initiated a deliberate plan to guide and encourage this method that we believed could expand and unify the human mind. We were well aware of the fact that a concerted attempt to help people become happier and more peaceable would run into immediate trouble with the status quo. History teaches us that anyone in the past who has been effective in stimulating his fellow man in this direction was quickly killed or imprisoned by militant patriots.  The recent ordeals of Dr. Spock, Dick Gregory, Joan Baez, and Reverend Coffin, demonstrate that this tradition is still with us.

Our plan to psychedelicize the world thus involved a deliberate tactic of civil disobedience. The very act of ingesting a peaceable drug became, quite automatically, a double gesture of detachment that was both symbolic and neurologically real.  Each one of the several million Americans who has “turned-on” illegally in the last few years has had to take some sort of internal stand against the establishment; has committed an act of passive, quiet defiance; has made a statement of distrust in the government.

The ingestion of an illegal psychedelic drug is much more effective than other acts of passive disobedience. The unfortunate effect of overt political acts is that your consciousness becomes entangled in the very web of control and violence that you wish to avoid.

The value of spiritually oriented drug-taking is that the act also changes your nervous system in the same direction as the symbolic meaning.  The person who smokes marijuana or takes LSD under the proper conditions of set and setting is far less likely to experience or act out feelings of aggression.

Another advantage in psychedelic drugs as instruments of revolution is that their acquisition and ingestion automatically involve you in conspiracies that require mutual trust:  a brotherhood/sisterhood of like-minded spiritual accomplices. The effects of this comradeship cannot be over-estimated, especially among the young. As you get “high,” as your nervous system glows with revelation, the same thing is happening to your fellow-conspirators who are chancing the same social risks as you. I believe that very few middle-aged Americans in 1968 are aware of the revolutionary significance of the psychedelic drug phenomenon as a force for social change, as an instrument for nonviolent political change.

Control of economic power was the aim of the Marxian and Keynesian revolutions. Control over your own nervous system, freedom from machine-violence, is the aim of the neurological or psychedelic revolution. And the key is the chemical.

Perhaps this psychedelic alternative to violence may give you peaceful visions and insights into the unified future. But if you are not ready to try this experiment in neurological disarmament, don’t be concerned. Your kids are doing it for you, and through them and by them, the currents of violence now charging the world could still be reversed.

Published by permission of the Timothy Leary Estate (The Dr. Timothy Leary Futique Trust).