Ginsberg on Leary

High Priest




By the late ’40s of this memory Century the people I knew best and loved most had already broken thru the crust of old Reasons and were dowsing for some Supreme Reality, Christmas on Earth Rimbaud said, Second Religiousness according to Spengler’s outline of civilization declining through proliferation of non-human therefore boring technology; Blake had called “0 Earth 0 Earth return!” centuries before, echoing the ancient gnostic prophecy that Whitman spelled out for America specifically demanding that the Steam-engine “be confronted and met by at least an equally subtle and tremendous force-infusion for purposes of spiritualization, for the pure conscious, for genuine aesthetics, and for absolute and primal manliness and woman­liness—” Ezra Pound’s mind jumped to diagnose the dimming of the world’s third Eye: “With Usura the line grows thick.”

One scholar who transmitted Blake’s kabbalah, S. Foster Damon, could remember his sudden vision of tiny flowers carpeting Harvard Yard violet before World War One, an image that lingered over 60 years in mind since his fellow student Virgil Thomson gave him the cactus peyote to eat. Damon concluded that rare beings like Blake are born with physiologic gift of vision, continuous or intermittent. William James, whose pragmatic magic probably called the Peyote God to Harvard in the first place, had included shamanistic chemical visions among the many authentic “Varieties of Religious Experience.” His student Gertrude Stein experimented in alteration of consciousness through mindfulness of language, an extremely effective Yoga since mechanical reproduction of language by XX Century had made language the dominant vehicle of civilized consciousness; her companion Alice B. Toklas contributed a cookbook recipe for Hashish Brownies to enlighten those persons over-talkative in drawing rooms unaware that “the medium is the message.”

This synchronism is exquisite: William S. Burroughs also once of Harvard shared Miss Stein’s mindfulness of the hypnotic drug-like power of language, and collaborated on cut-up rearrange­ment of stereotyped language forms with friend Brion Gysin, who had originally given Miss Toklas the recipe for her famous Brownies. Burroughs among others had begun experiments with drug­shamanism after World War Two—for the author of “Naked Lunch” it was a pragmatic extension of his Cambridge interest in linguistic Anthropology. That same gnostic impulse broke through to clear consciousness simultaneously in many American cities: Gary Snyder realized the entire uni­verse was alive one daybreak 1948 in Portland when a flight of birds rose out of the stillness in a gully by the city river, a natural vision -The masters of the Berkeley Renaissance read Gertrude Stein aloud and practiced Poetic kabbalah (charming synchronism that psychologist Timothy Leary met poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan in that same 1948 student scene)—Neal Cassady drove Jack Kerouac to Mexico in a prophetic automobile to see the physical body of America, the same Denver Cassady that one decade later drove Ken Kesey’s Kosmos-patterned schoolbus on a Kafka- circus tour over the roads of the awakening nation-And that wakening began, some say, with the first saxophone cry of the new mode of black music which shook the walls of white city mind when Charles Parker lifted his birdflightnoted horn 8 announced a new rhythm of thinking, an extended breathing of the body in music and speech, a new consciousness. For as Plato had writ, “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.”

The new consciousness born in these States can be traced back through old gnostic texts, visions, artists, and shamans; it is the consciousness of our ground nature suppressed and desecrated. It was always the secret tale of the tribe in America, this great scandal of the closing of the doors of perception of the Naked Human Form Divine. It began with the white murder of Indian inhabitants of the ground, the theft and later usurious exploitation of their land, it continued with an assault on all races and species of Mother Nature herself and concludes today with total disruption of the ecology of the entire planet. No wonder black slaves kept for non-human use into this century in tear-gassed ghettos of megalopolis were the first Aliens to sound the horn of Change, the first Strangers to Call the Great Call through Basilides’ many Heavens. Amazing synchronism again, that Mr. Frank Takes Gun, Native American Church amerindian Peyote Chief, invited the brilliantly talk­ative silver-haired psychiatrist who directed a Saskatchewan mental hospital in the 1940’s to partic­ipate in a Peyote ritual, and that same Dr. Humphrey Osmond having recognized a wonder of con­sciousness thus experienced passed on the catalyst in Mescaline synthetic form to Aldous Huxley; and that Huxley’s 1945 essay on the chemical opening of the Doors of Perception found its way to the tables of Bickford’s Cafeteria Times Square New York 8 the couches of Reed College and Berkeley, where artist persons, having heard the Great Call of the African American, already initiat­ed themselves en masse to subtle gradations of their own consciousness experienced while smok­ing the same Afric hemp smoked by Charles Parker Thelonious Monk 8 Dizzy Gillespie.

Dr. Timothy Leary takes up his part of the tale of the tribe in a Mexican hut and brings his discovery to Harvard harmoniously—and there begins the political battle, black and white magic become public visible for a generation. Dr. Leary is a hero of American consciousness. He began as a sophisticated academician, he encountered discoveries in his field which confounded him and his own technology, he pursued his studies where attention commanded, he arrived beyond the boundaries of public knowledge. One might hesitate to say, like Socrates, like Galileo?—poor Dr. Leary, poor Earth! Yet here we are in Science Fiction History, in the age of Hydrogen Bomb Apocalypse, the very Kali Yuga wherein man’s stupidity so overwhelms the planet that ecological catastrophe begins to rehearse old tribes-tales of Karmaic retribution, Fire and Flood and Armageddon impending.

It would be natural (in fact deja vu) that the very technology stereotyping our consciousness and desensitizing our perceptions should throw up its own antidote, an antidote synthetic such as LSD synchronous with mythic tribal Soma and Peyote. Given such historic Comedy, who could emerge form Harvard technology but one and only Dr. Leary, a respectable human being, a worldly man faced with the task of Messiah. Inevitable! Not merely because the whole field of mental psycholo­gy as a “science” had arrived at biochemistry anyway. It was inevitable because the whole profes­sional civilized world, like Dr. Leary, was already faced with the Messianic task of accelerated evo­lution (i.e., psychosocial Revolution) including an alteration of human consciousness leading to the immediate mutation of social 8 economic forms. This staggering realization, psychedelic, i.e., con­scious expanding 8 mind-manifesting in itself, without the use of chemical catalysts, was then forced on all of us by images of our own unconscious rising from the streets of Chicago, where city tear gas was dumped on Christ’s very Cross in Lincoln Park AD 1968. The drains are backing up in the cities, smog noise and physiologic poison in food turn us to insect acts, overpopulation crazes the planet, our lakes corrupt, old riverways become dark fens, tanks entered Prague and Chicago streets simultaneous, Police State arrives in every major city, starvation wastes African provinces, Chinese genocide in Tibet mirrored American genocide in Vietnam, Alarm! Alarm! howls deep as any Biblic prophecy.

Ourselves caught in the giant machine are conditioned to its terms, only holy vision or tech­nological catastrophe or revolution break “the mind-forg’d manacles.” Given one by-product of the technology that might, as it were by feed-back, correct the berserk machine and liberate the inven­tor’s mind from captivity by hypnotic robots, Dr. Leary had in LSD an invaluable civilized elixir. For, as Dr. Jiri Roubichek observed early in Prague (“Artificial Psychosis,” 1958), “LSD inhibits condi­tioned reflexes.” And this single phrase, for rational men, might be the key to the whole gnostic mystery of LSD and Dr. Leary’s role as unique, alas solitary, courageous, humane and frank Democratic Boddhisatva-teacher of the uses of LSD in America. For he took on himself the noble task of announcing the evidence of his senses despite the scary contumely of fellow academicians, the dispraising timorous irony of scientific “professionals,” the stupidity meanness self-serving cowardice and hollow vanity of bureaucratic personnel from Harvard Yard to Mexico City to Washington, from the violent-mouthed burglar-Prosecutor G. Gordon Liddy working with the igno­rant Sheriff’s Office in Dutchess County NY to the inner greedy sanctums of the US Treasury

Department in D.C., our whole “establishment” of civilization that defends us from knowledge of our own unconscious by means of policemen’s clubs, and would resist the liberation of our minds and bodies by any brutish means available including teargas, napalm and the Hydrogen Bomb.

Dr. Leary conducted himself fairly and equitably, given the extremity of his knowledge, it took an innocent courage to explore his own unconditioned consciousness, to take LSD and other chem­icals often enough to balance praxis as well as explanation, and to attempt to wed the enormity of his experience to Reason. An heroic attempt to communicate clearly and openly through civilized technologic media to his fellow citizens, despite centuries of identity brainwash accelerated now to mass paranoia and Cold War Apocalypse, required of Dr. Leary the proverbial wisdom of serpent 8 harmlessness of dove.

Timothy Leary tells the tale of his tribe in book aptly titled The Politico Of Ecstasy, and events enlarged since he wrote his book and chose its title charge the author’s handiwork with prophetic enormity. The battle of generations that erupted in 1968 simultaneously in Prague, Chicago, Mexico City, Paris, New York (and Moscow underground)—everywhere the State’s electronic consciousness was interlinked—transcended antique battles of Cold War and Race. We witnessed planetary con­frontation wherein controlling Elders trapped in a suicidal mechanical consciousness deployed their destructive technology against their own children in the streets of their own cities. ‘Tis Blake’s Urizen tormenting tender Los in Eternity! New generations have risen spontaneous with new consciousness and a mutant politics of flower power that is rooted in the ground of human consciousness itself: an acceptance of human identity as one with green living nature on a living planet where all creatures are a living God. The public philosophies and technologies of all civi­lized Governments at present are at war with this God, and the planet itself is within decades of destruction. No wonder there was sudden appearance of Adamic hair. Eve walked naked in the streets; ancient body-rhythms beat out thru the airwaves in electric mantric Rock from Bratislava to San Francisco, and youths ingested shamanistic elixirs to recover consciousness of planetary arche­types.

One politic synchronism that concerns this text should be gossiped forth contextual. Timothy Leary quit public life to write a book in Mexico some years ago but he was searched by Agents of Government as he went to cross borders, arrested for possession of some herb, and thus forced to interrupt his writing, returned to public action, and defend his person by attack from by the State. So he traveled to academies and lectured to the young, and thus he paid large legal fees required by the State and thus maintained an Ashram of fellow seekers well known in Millbrook. Agents of Government then raided and repeatedly abused the Millbrook utopia, whereupon Dr. Leary was obliged to be Dr. Leary and lecture more to raise money for his family of imprisoned friends.

Agents of Government concluded this phase of prosecution with a piece of Socratic irony so bla­tantly echoing an old Greek injustice that the vulgar rhetoric of a Tyrannous State would need only be quoted to be recognized, were it not for the fact that these States were then so plagued with Tyrannously inspired chaos and public communication so flooded with images of State Atrocity from the alleys of Saigon to the parks of Chicago that official public conscience here now, as memorably in Russia and Germany, was shocked, dumbed & amnesiac. I quote from the Spring 1968 State Document in any case for the delectation of gnostic Cognoscenti, that is to say myriads of the present young:

To Hon. Edw. W. Wadsworth

Clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Room 408—400 Royal Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

Re: No. 23570

Timothy Leary—Vs—United States of America

.. .We are applying for an order from the District Court requiring the Defendant to sur­render to the United States Marshal…

The appellant continues his publicized activities involving the advocacy of the use of psy­chedelic drugs by students and others of immature judgment and tender years and is regarded as a menace to the community so long as he is at large….

Very truly yours, Morton L. Sussman United States Attorney

By: James R. Gough, Asst. U.S. ATTY.

Chief, Appeals Research Division

Thus requesting revocation of Dr. Leary’s bail’d liberty while his political-religious defense for possession of an herb approached Supreme Court, Agents of Government checked further con­versation with the young. The Millbrook Ashram having been simultaneously dispersed by Agents of Government, his immediate financial responsibilities lightened, Timothy Leary retired back home to Berkeley with his mate and completed his description of The Politics Of Ecstasy.

A twin book, High Priest, was also finished in 1968; in High Priest Dr. Leary composed letters anecdotes conversations and personal letters together into a number of chapters Concerning friends and colleagues in worlds of science and art, and presented his history of consciousness-alter­ing drug Fate in the course of a decade’s official and unofficial experiments from Mexico thru Harvard thru Millbrook. His prose by now more supple than before, the book’s collage structure contains generous exegesis of the persons and events of a psychedelic brotherhood and scientific confreres that altered the consciousness of that American decade.

Next year his legal appeal reached the Supreme Court, in May 1969 the Law under which he was arrested was ruled unconstitutional. Government attack on his person continued, and Dr. Leary was arrested and subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced to ten years without appeal bail by Judge Byron McMillan of Orange County for possession of two marijuana cigarette stubs-planted in his car ashtray by a California policeman. Federal authorities chose to retry Dr. Leary on his Laredo arrest on another technicality, this time not for failure to report natural grass for govern­ment tax, but on the charge of “transporting” a smidgeon of marijuana the few hundred yards from the middle of the International Bridge to the Customs Shed where he had been detained years ear­lier. Convicted in Texas trial, our philosopher was sentenced by Judge Ben Connally to ten years also; both sentences set consecutively, bail denied, Dr. Leary at time of this writing was jailed in California from February 19, 1970. Terminology of both judges agreed with government lawyers’ boorish language that Dr. Leary was a “menace to the community.” Bail denial was successfully appealed in the Texas case, and as of August 7, 1970 bail was (perhaps) to be granted by some Supreme Court for California despite United States Attorney’s obnoxious plea that our philosopher “represents a danger to other persons and to the community.”*

The text of United States of America. Appellee’s OPPOSITION TO APPLICATION FOR BAIL PENDING APPEAL contained the following hideous paragraph ii (e) “Attached hereto as Exhibit D-i is a copy of an article purportedly authored by Timothy Leary in Playboy magazine in which he dis­cussed the facts giving rise to the case at bar, and which bears also upon his aims and activities which are at the basis for the Government’s opposition to his release in bail.” Further documents appended included Dr. Leary’s pacifist testimony at the celebrated Chicago Conspiracy trial, and news reports of various university lectures including one at Ann Arbor, Michigan early 1971 whereat Dr. Leary discoursed to raise funds for legal appeals for the poet John Sinclair also jailed for several decades and denied appeal bail after conviction for a year earlier for having been entrapped giving two joints to a local bearded agent who’d infiltrated his multiracial Detroit Artists’ Workshop. Another disgusting document appended was a secret agent’s report to the Laguna Beach Police Department “concerning additional suspects involved in the BROTHERHOOD OF RELIGIOUS LOVE. Refer to attached report for additional detail.”

Such a hexed country! “Judge McMillan labeled Leary an insidious and detrimental influence on society,” quoth L.A. Times February 20, 1970, and a “pleasure seeking, irresponsible Madison Avenue advocate of the free use of LSD,” quoth Leng Beach Press March 17 same year.

Suffering armed fools cheerfully, Dr. Leary’s made an exquisite religious covenant in jail. “Imprinting” as ontological key is suggested, and re-imprinting via Biological mouth-intake (food chemistry) is proposed as proper philosophic action. Hardly an affair of State—were we only to know state in theory. Leary’s jail texts economically define use and role of LSD; here’s formal psy­chological discussion of character-alteration by means of insight-creating drugs, such discussion related to Socrates’ discussion at deathbed and texts on Catholic Hell Punishment, these juxtaposed with Judiciary reality of Jail society; all accomplished in professional manner with saintly aplomb.

What’s going on in his head? Day to day observation of Heavy Metal Fix—the inside facts of jail—compassionate shrewd analysis of Charles Manson as jail-conditioned soul. A few gists and piths: “psychopharmacology plus bio-rhythmic sequential analysis—Alchemy and Astrology.” Dr. Leary’s notes include disquisitions on Hell from Church Fathers paralleled with prison weather, as if prison were that Hell spoken of old incarnate now in minds of State Judge and Jailers—thoughts interleaved with quotations from official rejection letters aren’t mailed thru jail walls. Dr. Leary touches a few political nerves—J.E. Hoover ’’a 75 year old bachelor virgin.” (Actually, Sir Tim and Anyone, Hoover, an ear-voyeur, had tapes of Ml. King, tapes of a “wild party.” King was afraid Hoover’d “do something foolish and play it in public.” He did, to newsmen and various lawmakers and wire service folk—no one was interested in this old queen’s tired blackmail—Invasion of priva­cy anyway.)

Dr. Leary’s Jail Notes make a science fiction classic, Orwell come true. As Neal Cassady also’d spent 2 years in San Quentin a decade earlier, entrapped by shifty Narcotics Agents for a joint.

An answer to this tough problem of human aggression? Medicine, 3 lumps hashish daily diet 75% of Aggressiveness. This fact courtesy U.S. Arms Control Disarmament experiments Princeton 1970.

Dr. Leary was jailed for theory and practice of research on LSD and Cannabis. A shame for Harvard, on the Academics of America, and on the State. “His prophecies,” like those of Hippocrates he paraphrases, “and his techniques with potions, if become widespread, would totally free each individual from State control and make possible complete liberty of consciousness.”

Dr. Leary had taken the burden of giving honest report of LSD and Cannabis in terms more accu­rate 8 harmless than the faked science of the Government Party Hacks and therefore his imprison­ment was an act of insult to Science, Liberty, Common Sense, Freedom, Academy, Medicine, Psychology as an Art, and Poetry as a tradition of human mind-vision. Well, jail’d honed him down to rib and soul.

* Bail was not granted. Dr. Leary left San Luis Obispo jail months later, on his own initiative.—A.G.

(This introduction was written by Allen Ginsberg in November 1968 and August 1970, and is reproduced here in hull, with minor alterations (mainly verb tenses) made by the author in 1995. It appeared originally in Jail Notes, Timothy Leary’s account op his prison experience. Dr. Leary served seven months of a possible ten-year sentence for possession oh a small quantity oh marijuana. He escaped on the morning oh September 13, 1970.)