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).

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