Dr Timothy Leary: from The Psychedelic Experience (1966)

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Dr Timothy Leary: from The Psychedelic Experience (1966)
The famed, some would say notorious, clinical psychologist at Harvard Timothy Leary had a colourful, some would say multi-coloured, life.

As an advocate for the benefits of consciousness altering drugs, notably LSD, he became a key figure in the counter-culture of the late Sixties.

These days he's been reduced to his injunction to “turn on, tune, drop out” but there was much more to him than that.

He was a serious navigator of the unconscious mind, philosophy, spirituality, global culture and medical psychology.

In some senses his academic study in the effects of certain drugs in therapy was hijacked by the emerging hippie movement but Leary embraced the audience because he could see an emerging generation which was more intellectually curious and daring than the academics he worked with and the older generation.

Largely forgotten today is that he wrote serious but popular articles about the responsible use of mind altering drugs – no you don't want pilots flying when they are high, of course not – and also how he used religious texts as touchstones for how people have tapped into the subconscious mind for visions, beliefs and the divine.

His book The Psychedelic Experience (1966) was enormously influential and copies fell into the hands of not just hippies and academics but artists, philosophers and musicians.

John Lennon was given a copy by Barry Miles who ran the Indica Gallery in London and a few lines from this piece – right at the very end – appeared as the opening lines of one of Lennon's most famous songs written shortly after.

(For another reading by Leary go here, it's a trip)

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For more on-offs or songs with an interesting back-story see From the Vaults.

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