Frank Barron, Ph.D., Sc.D.
The actual behavior of mystics (and mystics do behave, even if out of sight) is traditionally mysterious to us ordinary folk. The basis on which they act is commonly considered beyond rational knowing. Mystics themselves often don’t help matters any; they have been known to call their experiences “ineffable”—thus veiling them from people poking after substance—and even to speak of being Alone with the Alone—a very private sort of party. Yet upon close historical examination mystical movements are seen to have almost always a highly articulate rational analysis as at least a preliminary to their manifestation, if not the active base of the primary experience itself. (But is not all primary experience nonverbal?)
Timothy Leary would be the last, I think, to place himself in the camp of the mystics, but there is a tendency for readers of the daily newspapers to find his behavior incomprehensible. The kindest of his pragmatic-minded critics call him a mystic; the unkindest, a charlatan. His friends are more likely to think of him as a gentleman and scholar, as I do; with, of course, a streak of wild Irish rebellion, imagination, unconventionality, and love of battle. But whatever his character, personality, and religion, he unquestionably served as a catalyst in a time of major social change—a change in consciousness as well as a change in manners, the mysterious ‘60s. Is his role to be understood only in terms of the experience of sacred mushrooms, magical potions, new chemical sacramental substances, and possible access to divine or diabolic energies?
In the present context I do not plan to speak to these deep matters; I have set myself rather to take a look once again at his ideas and their research support as presented by Dr. Leary and his co-workers in Berkeley and Cambridge in the 1950s and early 1960s in professional journals and at scientific meetings. This hardly warrants such a title as The Search for Timothy Leary (the actual title of a recent Ph.D. thesis at the University of Tennessee) or even The Timothy Leary No One Knows. It is simply a review of the work which found continuance and theoretical analyses when psychochemicals became for him an important new possibility in his decade-long search for ways of helping people who suffered from psychological adversities (who suffered pain, i.e., which a new medicine might relieve).
A long search. “Search” was a favorite word of Tim’s in the years in which I worked closely with him. Sometimes he contrasted it favorably with research, for research smacked too much of the academic and abstract. Research was of books and the intellect, search was of life and intuition. Yet books he did write, and research he did conduct; voluminously, as this annotated bibliography lets us know. But still he thought of himself, then as now in 1987, as a searcher—Ecclesiastes was his favorite reading in the Old Testament (which like a good Gnostic he abhorred), and his words would have been one with those of the Preacher: “Of making books there is no end.” A fine and fitting epigraph for a bibliography! ‘
My own contribution to this literature is filed in £ood libraries under the rubric “creativity” rather than psychotherapy or psychodiagnosis, but it issued from the same sources as the Leary opus and at times we coauthored publications or collaborated as partners in research. This collaboration extended from 1950 and Leary’s work at Permanente Clinic in Oakland—I was consultant there for five years and contributed various measures to the core diagnostic battery for Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality—to the Psychedelic Research Project at Harvard in 1960-61, of which I was co-director for that year. The coauthored paper cited here, “Changes in Psychoneurotic Patients With and Without Psychotherapy,” stemmed equally from my own prognostic indices developed as part of my Ph.D. thesis at Langley Porter Clinic and the intensive Permanente studies of the effect of psychotherapy in the Leary-Permanente project, which was funded for several years by the National Institute of Mental Health. It was the first psychometrically based study of psychotherapy to employ carefully matched control groups, and its conclusion—that on the average, and discounting an increase in ups and downs during therapy, the effects of extended (six months) conventional psychotherapy were rather slight—was terribly discouraging to Tim, I remember. In retrospect, it was one of the major influences in what became for him a really zealous search for new methods.
Search, once again. The other formally researched topic we shared was an attempt, partially successful, to increase creative behavior in people by feeding back to them the results of their own performances on tests of creative thinking and of related measures of attitudes known to be instrumental to creative thinking (e.g., independence of judgment, complexity of outlook, unconventionality). This paper is titled “Effects of Test Score Feedback in Creative Performance,” and Tim presented the findings of our research at a National Science Foundation conference sponsored by the University of Utah in 1962 (1964, Widening Horizons in Creativity, Calvin W. Taylor, ed.). This was our last formal collaboration before the roof fell in at Harvard in 1963 for LSD, Leary and Alpert, and what by then was a new host of explorers of unusual states of consciousness (in the long psychedelic procession at Cambridge, from James, Myers, and Prince to Murray and MacKinnon). By that time I had returned to Berkeley and had turned my attention to creativity in mountain climbers. (As an aside on the time, I might mention that one of my colleagues, James T. Lester, Jr., project director for the mountaineering research, accompanied, step-by-step, to the upper slopes of Mount Everest the 1963 team which made the first successful American ascent, and from Advanced Base Camp at 23,500 feet wrote back to me, “Frank, I may not be the best psychologist in the world but I know I’m the highest—with my feet on the ground, that is!”)
High times indeed were the order of the day, and I leave the commentary on that half of this Gemini-like bibliography introduction to Allen Ginsberg. It is to the Timothy Leary whose feet were certainly on the ground, in the spade work as well as the grand construction of Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality, that I now return.
Leary’s enduring contribution to psychodiagnosis, or, more generally, to the typology of personality, is embodied in his honored 1957 volume, Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality. In Leary’s own terms, the emphases were on multilevel aspects of interpersonal dimensions: five levels discernible in his data, ranging from public communication to personal-social conscious communication, private perception, the unexpressed (rather than repressed), and the level of values. For each level he found a characteristic unit of analysis, respectively: the interpersonal reflex, the interpersonal trait, the interpersonal symbol, the significantly omitted communication, and the ego-ideal. This was a giant step forward for typologies, which at that time were completely lacking in a hypothetical hierarchical structure and were almost always locked in to the single-person trait. Henry A. Murray and collaborators in the famous Explorations in Personality deliberately chose the alphabet as their ordering principle for lists of variables! The concept of levels was implicit in sophisticated personality descriptions, and degrees of consciousness were recognized in all the psychodynamically based systems, but none were connected systematically through the concept of interpersonal behavior as in the Leary system. Nor had any of the early efforts achieved the operationalizing of their terms through insistent psychometric definitions, with an extensive empirical, observational database, as in Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality.
This was, of course, a group effort. Dozens of psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers provided the professionally refined observations necessary for the statistical analyses, and literally hundreds of patients in group psychotherapy themselves provided ratings as well as serving as subjects. Teamwork was by then the expected thing in the physical sciences, and particularly so at the University of California, whose Los Alamos and Berkeley campuses housed the major components of the Manhattan Project; but teams such as the Leary-Permanente group, and of course the Berkeley and Oakland Growth Studies, were new instruments of research in the social sciences. It was out of this heady University of California atmosphere that the first collaborative Ph.D. theses in psychology came. Leary, Mervin B. Freedman, Abel G. Ossorio, and others, under the direction of Hubert S. Coffey and Jean Walker Macfarlane, shared subjects, data, and theory in a pioneering collaborative effort in the late 1940s. For Timothy Francis Leary it culminated in the dissertation, The Social Dimensions of Personality: Group Structure and Process, which earned him his Ph.D. in 1950. For this work he was to be honored within the year by election to Phi Beta Kappa.
The importance of the setting, in social and psychological terms, as a determinant of group process, became a cardinal principle later in Dr. Leary’s definition of the constructive psychedelic session. Set and setting were the key words in transforming the “psychotomimetic drugs” to psychedelic sacramental psychochemicals. A sense of the sacred, derived from the Navajo communal rites with peyote and the Mazatec Indian use of the sacred mushroom, combined with a twentieth century urban-university faculty-home assurance of psychological safety, were the important aspects of the setting. And the “set” was one of exploration of the mysteries of mind and spirit.
Acid in the street for all comers is a far cry from selective participation of already mentally advanced and creative artists, scientists, philosophers, intellectuals and curious, alert students at Harvard. Talk about change! It would be easy to decry this radical democratization of the psychochemical process for which mystics of past ages prepared by years of spiritual discipline; but “the times, they (were) a-changing.” The accounts are far from closed on that psychedelic voyage of a whole generation. Timothy Leary showed himself in another role in this movement, but one that was hardly hidden from those who knew him well in the preceding two decades. He is a populist reformer and leader in the tradition of LaFollette, and a propagandist for freedom in the tradition of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. His own ego-ideals (or at least the chief figures in his pantheon) are Huck Finn and James Joyce and Aleister Crowley, as well as Dante and Thomas Aquinas. Timothy, after all, has had a Jesuit education, which provides pros and cons for every question. (I was amused recently to read that W. B. Yeats, a higher-order magician of the Order of the Golden Dawn, whose ladder Crowley was on, dismissed Aleister, also known as Holy Ed, with the lofty statement: “This is a mystical order, not a reformatory.” Tim Leary somehow never made tenure on either the academic or mystic ladders, a fact which I feel sure makes him both proud and happy.
That he was also to see the inside of reformatories is another matter. He has managed in his autobiography to write without tears of solitary confinement, and he certainly emerged (more than once, it must be admitted) from behind the walls with his spirit undaunted and his scientific and altruistic energies undiminished. His new contributions (for this is a bibliography in progress) are in the area of “brain games” for computer software, the mental change-agents of the ‘80s. The themes of individual freedom, choice, change, growth of consciousness and intelligence, remain the constants in this lifetime of contributions.
Department of Psychology University of California • Santa Cruz