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In the Washington Post, Nick Gillespie is turned on to a new biography of Timothy Leary.

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  1. While there’s no question that Leary ceased to be a pop cult superstar, he remained a vital and visionary guide to a bleeding-edge “transhumanist” and “extropian” future

    Yeah, I don’t know Nick,
    Way back circa 1980 Timothy Leary and G Gordon Liddy put together a road show debate. I came away feeling both men were mentally unhinged. While Liddy scared me because of what he was saying, Leary just didn’t seem to be able to say anything at all. He would begin a thought (often off topic) and just about the time I became fascinated with what he was saying, he’d stop mid sentence and stare into the middle distance. I saw him on television half a dozen times after that, he wasn’t any more coherent.

  2. I can say that Dr. Leary is the most influential man I’ve ever met. And quite a character.

  3. I Like leary but he set back legit scientific research on psycedelics like 50 years, just as

    aslo the tibetan book of the dead is about 100% certain to cause bad trips, ram dass has since said as much thus causeing much urban myth, etc.

  4. sage+P,
    Amen to that. I attended a Sci-Fi convention where he gave a speech on “Virtual Realities”. At the time he was in a partnership with a few guys to try and form a Gibson-esq VR internet application (circa 1993 so, well, you know where that goes at 14.4k speeds). He started by glancing at the papers on the podium and then began to talk. Two hours of ambling, rambling words later and he goes back up to the podium, flips through 4 pages and says, “Well, that was pretty good, I hardly strayed off topic at all.” I spoke briefly with him afterwords and while lucid you got the impression that he just wasn’t all there. Funny, sharp, but not all there.

  5. “I Like leary but he set back legit scientific research on psycedelics like 50 years”

    Do I recall correctly that LSD was at one time thought to be a promising treatment for alcholism?

  6. P Brooks:

    And damn near everything else under the sun.

  7. P Brooks,

    There was a lot of research being done into what potential it had for lots of things, it all got cut off world wide thanks to Leary’s antics. It certainly has potential but only recently has that started to be investigated again.

  8. There was a lot of research being done into what potential it had for lots of things, it all got cut off world wide thanks to Leary’s antics.

    It might be more precise to say that it all got cut off thanks to small minded totalitarians using Leary’s antics as an excuse.

  9. How is holding back psychedelic research?

    Just curious, as they seem to be making lot of progress, as far as these things can go with our government so scared of drugs they repeatedly shred the constitution.

  10. “How is holding back psychedelic research?”

    I think the post mentioning was missing a k after the as. In other words, “just ask”.

  11. emme – thank you, that would make a lot more sense. Usually I’m pretty good about being able to interpret typos, but I couldn’t guess that one. 🙂

  12. I thought Reasonoids might enjoy my comments, posted on Amazon.

    Four hundred and seventy pages into Robert Greenfield’s flawed but poignant biography, Timothy Leary’s frivolous and confused Austrian girlfriend, Joanna, gives Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti a ride to see Leary in Folsom prison. After being made to wait an unusually long time, Leary is led into a special visitors cage. Greenfield quotes Joanna, “… Tim came into the cage and his head was shaved and he had blood all over his skull. Very very frightening. He said they had yanked him out of his cell in the early morning and insisted on shaving his head. They shaved it in an extremely clumsy way and he got cut. It was only later that I realized they did it on purpose. They wanted him to look awful in front of his visitors. To show their supremacy over Tim to Ginsberg.” So what happens amongst our conspirators when they see Dr. Leary in this condition? They start squabbling with each other, Leary included!

    This could be the point where Robert Greenfield might have taken this already multi-dimensional hopscotch distress story and elevated it into a tale for the ages: — psychedelic Kafka, with enough vintage seventies Orwellian psychodrama to stock several upcoming Pink Floyd albums and X Files spin offs spanning some 35 years of ever-intensifying, government-induced paranoia.

    Hey, it’s not the story Timothy Leary wanted to tell us, at least not directly, but if the goal is to suck this story dry and reveal it as pitiable for all to see, it seems an enormous failing on Greenfield’s part not to take this as a point of departure.

    And what sort of departure might this all be leading up to? Escape by starship, apparently, and here again Robert Greenfield misses the absurd complex Science Fictional dimensions of the story. Cue “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” Because the fact is that a lot of that stuff that Leary started yakking about after refusing a lifetime sentence in the “Witness Protection” program checks out. Just look at that buzzing wired global neuro-electric circuit that will be used to sell most of the copies of Robert Greenfield’s book. Who could have predicted that? Bernadine Dohrn?

    Or looking a little more “far out!”… and you may take any view you like in current debates around transhumanism, singularities, evolutionary psychology, and possibilities for actual mutation and evolution in our species; I change my mind all the time about it myself. But the arc of Greenfield’s story would have benefited immensely if he’d known anything at all about any of this; if he’d had a clue about Leary’s project, which – as fate would have it – finally came into sharp focus during the very same time that his political dignity was being robbed (but not robbed blind).

    OK. Now that I’ve (sort of) defended my guy in the big primate passion wars, I’ve got to say… Robert Greenfield is still one hell of a good writer: this is still perhaps the most poignant and resonant adventure tragicomic tale of the 20th Century, particularly if you were planning to enjoy a particularly pungent and decadent aperitif after your apocalypse. What is most pathetic of all is the fact that the American book buying public is probably more interested in another dusty tome on the American Civil War or the scandalous behaviors of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie (And don’t get me wrong. Timmy would have found them both adorable. Why not?)

  13. Good review, Nick.

    Whatever else Leary was, he was smart and of good will, as is evidenced by:

    (He) proclaimed that LSD stood for “Let the State Disintegrate”), he nevertheless hosted a Los Angeles fundraiser in 1988 for the very buttoned-down Libertarian Party presidential candidate Ron Paul

    Hey R.U. Sirius, thanks for jacking into our matrix. Interesting comments. Also, you’re the most interesting of the cyberpunks.

    I enjoyed Flashbacks, Timothy Leary’s autobiography published in 1983.

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