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

Dock Ellis, Timothy Leary, LSD and America’s Favorite Pastime

This image was created by Monarch-Corona Printing Company in 2010. The company brilliantly copies the design of original cards, then adds new information on the back. The Dock Ellis card is available directly from them. They did another series called the Legacy Series with Tim pictured, also available.

By Lisa Rein and Michael Horowitz

Patrick Hruby has written an extensive piece for ESPN Outside the Lines on the epic Dock Ellis no-hit baseball game, which he pitched while under the effects of LSD on June 12, 1970, a feat which has been called “the greatest achievement in the history of sports” (Lysergic World, a 1993 publication commemorating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of LSD.)

Any lingering controversy over whether the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher was telling the truth is largely dispelled in this article.  His colorful description of the experience of pitching a major league game while high on acid rings true.

“I didn’t see the hitters.  All I could tell was if they were on the right side or the left side of the plate…. There were times when the ball was hit back to me and I jumped because I thought the ball was coming fast but it was coming slow… I caught the ball coming back from the catcher with two hands because it was a big old ball and I thought it was small… It was easier to pitch with the LSD, because I was so used to medicating myself. That’s the way I was dealing with the fear of failure–the fear of losing and the fear of winning.”

Hruby’s piece deals in part with the authenticity of Ellis’ claim that he was on LSD during what he called his “no-no,” which most people concede at this point,  and secondly, whether there is any truth to Ellis’ claim that he got the acid from Timothy Leary himself.

Dock Ellis in the dugout after pitching his no-hitter. Photo from the book: Dock Ellis: In the Country of Baseball, by Donald Hall with Dock Ellis, 1976.

One of Hruby’s sources said Ellis told him that Leary had been “interested in researching the effect of LSD on professional athletes. The professor had approached the pitcher: Would Ellis take a tab of LSD, play, and then report on the experience?”

Although it sounds like an experiment Tim would have loved to conduct,  given his fascination with LSD, baseball, and experiential science, the fact is he was in prison during the 1970 baseball season, nor did he ever mention it to Michael, although they discussed Dock’s feat on several occasions.  Dock might have been told the LSD originated with Tim,  as the man and the drug were virtually synonymous back then, but there’s no evidence they ever met in person.

From the ESPN piece:

Timothy Leary carried Dock Ellis' 1971 Topps baseball card, a gift from his archivist, Michael Horowitz, in his wallet.

“Leary’s personal archivist, Michael Horowitz, said that the Leary-Ellis connection is highly unlikely — but that when Horowitz first heard about the no-hitter, he bought two copies of the pitcher’s 1971 Topps baseball card and gave one to Leary.

“Tim proudly carried it in his wallet, and showed it to any fans of sports and psychedelics he ran into,” Horowitz said.

Tim was a huge baseball fan from his childhood. He played shortstop on his high school baseball team. Although he grew up in Massachusetts, he chose the Brooklyn Dodgers over the Boston Rex Sox and continued following his team when he settled to LA in 1977 after he was freed from prison.

He had a close friendship with the recently retired Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro, who brought him to the Dodger clubhouse on a few occasions, where Tim picked up autographed baseballs for his stepson, Zach, and his goddaughter, actress Winona Ryder.

Michael Horowitz, contemplating a signed baseball commemorating the LSD no-hitter, under the gaze of Timothy Leary and Dock Ellis. Photo by Cindy Horowitz.

Michael notes that, in Tim’s autobiography, Flashbacks, he describes how he once played a pick-up baseball game while on acid, in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, in the summer of 1962. He and his fellow Harvard researchers, and some of their graduate students, had gone there to establish a temporary “psychedelic summer camp,”  where they could study LSD in a more natural setting away from the confines of Harvard.
The gringos from Harvard agreed to play a local Mexican team.   All the gringos were stoned on LSD taken the night before. Leary describes the game in Flashbacks, detailing what the experience of playing baseball on LSD was like:
“The acid distorted our perception of time.  Everything moved slowly. When the ball left the pitcher’s hand, it seemed to float toward the plate, allowing plenty of time to count the stitches, examine the Wilson label, speculate about the history of competitive sports since the Greek Olympics, and feel the muscles contract reflexively to hit the ball.  It’s the busy worrying mind, after all, that keeps us from performing with animal grace…”
And  even from throwing a no-hitter…

Here’s a 2-minute “performance” of the no-hitter by Robin Williams, who was good friends with Tim.  They used to surf the net on Tim’s computer in the early days of the Internet.

Here’s a link to an awesome animation by James Blagden, with live recordings of Dock Ellis himself describing the event.