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?

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 Habeus 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).

Timothy Leary and Harvard, Reunited At Last

Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), Harvard, 1961

Nearly 50 years after Timothy Leary and Harvard parted ways over the psychedelic drug scandal that made him, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), and LSD a national story, Leary has been welcomed back (at least symbolically), thanks to the university’s acquisition of the most extensive collection in existence of works by and about him.

Harvard’s Houghton Library, one of the greatest special collections libraries in the world, has received on long-term loan a large portion of the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library of Geneva (incorporating the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library of San Francisco), from the vast personal collection of Julio Mario Santo Domingo, put together over a decade with unprecedented commitment and resources to establish the greatest library of psychoactive drug history, literature, science and culture on the planet.

Harvard's Houghton Library

“It’s staggering to realize what Julio Santo Domingo (1958-2009) accomplished in the tragically short number of years allotted to him to pursue his dream on the scale he did,” says Michael Horowitz, Leary’s former archivist (and our contributing editor).

“Julio acquired the Ludlow Library in 2003, the only collection of its kind before his, and he was just getting started. He was attracted to the ethos of the Beat and Sixties countercultures, along with other cultures and subcultures where psychedelic plants and drugs played a central and often defining role. He created a museum and art gallery in addition to a library of tens of thousands of books.”

One of the jewels of the Ludlow-Santo Domingo collection is its Leary holdings, the primary resource for the Annotated Bibliography of Timothy Leary (1988). Now that the Leary Archives (letters, manuscripts, personal artifacts, memorabilia) are housed in the New York Public Library, and his printed works (books, offprints, mimeos, journals, magazines and other forms of media) are at Harvard’s Houghton Library, Tim’s acceptance by the academic world, which turned its back on him in 1963 (not to say he ever looked back), has begun in earnest.

As the Harvard Gazette article, A Collection Unlike Others, explains, the collection is now being “unpacked, examined, described, and indexed at Harvard,” in a process known as “accessioning.”

The Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library of Geneva collection, is, as Leslie Morris, curator of Modern Books & Manuscripts at Houghton Library, explains, “…boxes, drawers, shelves — whole rooms — full of eccentric treasures dating back to the 16th century, all expressions of a top cultural engine: altered states of mind.”

The Santo Domingo collection is on long-term deposit at Harvard. “We do not own it,” said Morris, but the owners “want us to catalog it, and they want it available for research.”

She goes on: “I always explain it as sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but the music collection and related artifacts went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Harvard got the sex and drugs.” This includes the printed works of Timothy Leary, who began his storied career in psychedelic research there in 1960.

Inner Space and Outer Space: Carl Sagan’s Letters to Timothy Leary (1974)

Letter from Dr. Carl Sagan to Dr. Timothy Leary – February 19, 1974

By Lisa Rein and Michael Horowitz

(See full text of letters at the bottom of this post.)

It will probably surprise a lot of people that the great American astronomer, astrophysicist  and cosmologist, Carl Sagan, advocate of space travel and extra-terrestrial communication, visited Timothy Leary in the California Medical Facility, a state prison in Vacaville, California.

Two letters from Sagan in the Leary Archives, from February and March of 1974, confirm this.  Their tone is very friendly and enthusiastic. Sagan was clearly as eager for the visit as Tim most surely would have been.

Similarities between Leary and Sagan abound. They were both scientific explorers and political activists – men of ideas and action.  They were geniuses at communication, not only in their books and talks, but as showmen, with extraordinary abilities for communicating their theories and beliefs to a mass audience.  Tim, with psychedelic theatrical events and multimedia lecture tours in a variety of venues, and Carl, with his hugely successful television show (Cosmos) and NASA projects.  They were prolific writers.  Both knew how to use the media to illuminate big ideas about inner space (Tim) and outer space (Carl).

Though space travel to another galaxy is not yet possible, simply sending radio signals and actual artifacts to distant star systems is. Sagan, with Frank Drake, creator of the Drake Equation, who came along on the prison visit, pioneered SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). SETI was the first scientific attempt to communicate with intelligent entities in other galaxies, by sending messages via radio signals into deep space, in the hope of establishing contact.

The subject that most connected them at the time of their meeting, in April 1974, was the question of whether intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe could be contacted. Leary, a lifetime devotee of science fiction, became interested in space travel and space colonies after he was captured and returned to prison in 1973. During the first year of his new prison term,  inspired by reports of the approach of Comet Kohoutek,  he collaborated with two other prisoners on the book Terra II,  which Joanna Harcourt-Smith Leary published privately, in January 1974.

Leary felt a certain sense of urgency about the concept of Space Migration, which represented a chance for the human race to escape our dying planet.  It mirrored his situation as a political prisoner, looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars.  (Link above goes to a scan of a transcription of one of Tim’s talks in the 1980’s, complete with handwritten edits by Tim in pencil, regarding the “three classic novelties” of Space Migration, Intelligence Squared, and Life Extension.)

Terra II is probably one of the least known of any of Leary’s books. However, when Leary wrote to Sagan, and included a copy, he wrote back, enthusiastically, about an in-person visit. People with Sagan’s reputation and level of success generally avoided Tim like the plague, but Sagan took him seriously enough to come to one of the worst prisons in the country to talk to “the most dangerous man in America” (as described by President Richard Nixon in 1970).

Two years earlier, Sagan sold NASA on the concept of attaching a gold-anodized aluminum plaque to the unmanned spacecraft Pioneer 10, inscribed with a message from planet Earth, describing our place in the solar system, and the form of human life that exists here.

Pioneer 10’s Gold-anodized Plaque

Tim expressed his excitement at Carl’s visit during a prison visit with his archivist, Michael Horowitz. He told Michael that Sagan’s gold-anodized plaque, the first man-made object to leave our solar system, was the most important message and form of media in the history of mankind.

Carl Sagan holding a replica of the interstellar message, now billions of miles from Earth.

The “Starseed Transmission” in binary code, first printed in Terra II (1974), a manual for space colonization written in Folsom Prison by Tim Leary and L. Wayne Benner.

On a subsequent space mission, Voyager 1 in 1977, Sagan followed  up with the Golden Recording (JPL Golden Record page) of the sounds of Earth, produced in collaboration with his soon-to-be wife, Ann Druyan. (Druyan is currently writing and producing a new series titled “Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey,” scheduled to be aired on Fox and the National Geographic Channel in 2014.)

There’s little doubt Leary was inspired by Sagan’s extra-terrestrial messaging, when he composed his own message in binary code and reproduced it on the cover of the book Terra II, as a transmission from “Higher Intelligence,” an imagined response from a distant galaxy to Sagan’s Pioneer 10 message. (Terra II is also a complex prison escape plan, arguably one of the most bizarre ever conceived, but that’s another story.)

In the 1960s, through his talks and books, Leary had tried to convince the government and various professional leaders of the profound evolutionary importance of consciousness-expanding drugs, which he later termed “intelligence-enhancing drugs.”  Like Aldous Huxley, and others, he strongly believed that substances such as LSD  represent an evolutionary leap for mankind. For Leary, “Exo-psychology” was the psychology of the future, when men and women would migrate into space.  His message from 1974, through the rest of the decade, was SMI2LE, an acronym for space migration, intelligence squared, and life extension.  He also adopted the idea of pan-spermia (that life on our planet was “seeded,” perhaps by intelligent life in other galaxies, or perhaps by “accident” on a comet or piece of asteroid that landed here),  first theorized by the Swedish scientist, Svante Arhennius, in the first decade of the 20th century.

Soon after Timothy was released from prison, he and his archivist, Michael Horowitz, brainstormed the idea of creating a television show modeled on Cosmos, with the subject being Inner Space rather than Outer Space. The theme was the discovery of psychedelic plants and drugs, and resultant brain change in the species, with Leary taking Sagan’s role as host.  But it never got past the planning stage.

Letter from Dr. Carl Sagan to Dr. Timothy Leary – March 20, 1974

Despite his mainstream fame, genius, and awards, Carl Sagan was open-minded about mind-expanding substances, and politically active against nuclear weapons testing. It was disclosed in a 1999 biography that he was a user of cannabis, and an advocate of its benefits, from the 1960s onward.

Disguised as “Doctor X,” to protect his reputation,  he wrote this for his friend Lester Grinspoon’s book, Marihuana Reconsidered, in 1977:

“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serendipity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

At the time of his visit,  Sagan was surely aware that Leary had been originally sent to prison for possession of less than a joint of cannabis.

Like Leary, Sagan also exemplified the connection between mind-expanding drugs, which increased intelligence, and scientific breakthroughs. In “The Amniotic  Universe,” an article drawn from Sagan’s book Broca’s Brain, and published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1979, Sagan shows a deep and perceptive familiarity with the effects of LSD, MDA, DMT and Ketamine in his review of Stanislav Grof’s extensive and revolutionary LSD research. He writes about the effects of LSD in particular, speculating that “the Hindu mystical experience” of union with the universe “is pre-wired into us, requiring only 200 micrograms of LSD to be made manifest.”   Eminent psychedelic historian Peter Stafford, author of Psychedelics Encyclopedia, placed Sagan in a list of famous people who have taken LSD. Sagan was also number 1 on io9’s recently published list of “10 Scientific and Technological Visionaries Who Experimented With Drugs.”

Sagan’s political activism was evidenced in his joining anti-nuclear and peace activists in 1986 and 1987 to protest President Reagan’s “Star Wars” (SDI) plan as destabilizing to world peace. With hundreds of others, he stormed a chain-link fence at a nuclear bomb test site in Nevada, and was arrested there on two occasions.

The discovery of Leary’s letters to Sagan, presumably in the Carl Sagan Archives, should throw more light on their relationship. We will have a chance to find out sometime in the near future, as Sagan’s archives were recently purchased by none other than Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane, who subsequently donated them to the Library of Congress. (Right on, Seth!)

Leary and Sagan both developed cosmologies that integrated the landscape of the mind with the journey to the stars. Both of these giants passed away in 1996, within six months of each other. Although Carl’s ashes are rumored to have been blasted into space, he chose a traditional burial in Lakeview Cemetery, in Ithaca, New York. Tim’s ashes however, were sent into space aboard a rocket (along with Gene Roddenberry’s, creator of Star Trek) that orbited for many years before burning up upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

These letters can both be found in the Timothy Leary Archives at the New York Public Library, where the archives now live, and are currently being processed.

Letter #1:

February 19, 1974

Dear Tim:

Thanks for your last note and the book TERRA II. I have no problems on chance mutations and natural selection as the working material for the evolutionary process. In fact, with what we now know about molecular biology, I see no way to avoid it. But I loved your remark about the "transgalactic gardening club." Of course, if extraterrestrials are powerful enough, they can do anything, but I don't think we can yet count on it. I'm enclosing an article on "Life" that I did for the Encyclopaedia Britannica which you might like.

On the basic requirements for interstellar exploration, I doubt if a manned expedition to Mars could be done within the next 25 years for less than $300 billion. Try really costing your spacecraft and see what it would cost. In fact, maybe the reason we haven't been visited is that interstellar spaceflight, while technically possible, would beggar any planet which attempted it.

If we can do it, how would you like a visit from us in the last week in February? I have no idea what the visiting privileges are, but if your and my schedules permit, Linda and I would love to visit you in Vacaville on the morning of Thursday, February 28. Frank Drake has also expressed an interest in such a visit, as has our mutual acquaintance, Norman Zinberg of Harvard Medical School. What's your feeling about it? Write to me at the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, where I'll be staying beginning Sunday, February 24, and I'll try to firm up the visit, if it seems possible, shortly thereafter.

With best wishes,


Carl Sagan

P.S. The enclosed poem, "The Other Night" by Dianne Ackermann of Cornell, is something I think we both resonate to. It's unfinished so it shouldn't yet be quoted publically.

Letter #2:

March 20, 1974

Dear Tim:

I also am very much enjoying our exchange of letters.

Note that the noble gases were called noble in the mistaken belief that the nobility did not "mix" with the peasantry. My view on interstellar spaceflight is not the one you quote. That was a statement originally made by Purcell at Harvard. Frank did repeat it in his AAAS speech. I think it's possible for a society only a century or two more advanced than we, but "out of sight" for us. Here I'm talking about relativistic interstellar spaceflight: that is, at speeds more than 99 percent the speed of light, so that the Lorentz time-dilation becomes important. I don't know of any scheme -- including Orion -- which gets us up to relativistic velocities with any feasible technology of the immediate future. It's a glorious dream -- just a century or two too early.

I loved your sentence "You are a true profit". I'm not sure if that is a conscious or accidental pun, but I'm trying to figure it out! I think you're probably right about the mixture of elements in the last proposed visit to Vacaville. It was just too complex, plus the fact that I had been, the few days before, flat on my back with some particularly unpleasant virus.

In any case I hope to be able to see you on the morning of April 1, either alone or with Frank. I'll be in Berkeley the night before, and intend to call Joanna then to arrange for the trip.

I have shown your letters to Linda, and she would very much like to meet with you and Joanna. Sometime soon, I hope.

See you on April Fool's day ....


Carl Sagan