The Case of Dr Leary

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Dr. Timothy Leary, who has become known worldwide in his role of drug apostle, had an extraordinarily strong influence on the diffusion of illegal LSD consumption in the United States. On the occasion of a vacation in Mexico in the year 1960, Leary had eaten the legendary "sacred mushrooms," which he had purchased from a shaman. During the mushroom inebriation he entered into a state of mystico-religious ecstasy, which he described as the deepest religious experience of his life. From then on, Dr. Leary, who at the time was a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dedicated himself totally to research on the effects and possibilities of the use of psychedelic drugs. Together with his colleague Dr. Richard Alpert, he started various research projects at the university, in which LSD and psilocybin, isolated by us in the meantime, were employed.

The reintegration of convicts into society, the production of mystico-religious experiences in theologians and members of the clergy, and the furtherance of creativity in artists and writers with the help of LSD and psilocybin were tested with scientific methodology. Even persons like Aldous Huxley, Arthur Koestler, and Allen Ginsberg participated in these investigations. Particular consideration was given to the question, to what degree mental preparation and expectation of the subjects, along with the external milieu of the experiment, are able to influence the course and character of states of psychedelic inebriation.

In January 1963, Dr. Leary sent me a detailed report of these studies, in which he enthusiastically imparted the positive results obtained and gave expression to his beliefs in the advantages and very promising possibilities of such use of these active compounds. At the same time, the Sandoz firm received an inquiry about the supply of 100g LSD and 25 kg psilocybin, signed by Dr. Timothy Leary, from the Harvard University Department of Social Relations. The requirement for such an enormous quantity (the stated amounts correspond to 1 million doses of LSD and 2.5 million doses of psilocybin) was based on the planned extension of investigations to tissue, organ, and animal studies. We made the supply of these substances contingent upon the production of an import license on behalf of the U.S. health authorities. Immediately we received the order for the stated quantities of LSD and psilocybin, along with a check for $10,000 as deposit but without the required import license. Dr. Leary signed for this order, but no longer as lecturer at Harvard University, rather as president of an organization he had recently founded, the International Federation for Internal Freedom (IFIF). Because, in addition, our inquiry to the appropriate dean of Harvard University had shown that the university authorities did not approve of the continuation of the research project by Leary and Alpert, we canceled our offer upon return of the deposit.

Shortly thereafter, Leary and Alpert were discharged from the teaching staff of Harvard- University because the investigations, at first conducted in an academic milieu, had lost their scientific character. The experiments had turned into LSD parties.

The LSD trip-LSD as a ticket to an adventurous journey into new worlds of mental and physical experience-became the latest exciting fashion among academic youth, spreading rapidly from Harvard to other universities. Leary's doctrine-that LSD not only served to find the divine and to discover the self, but indeed was the most potent aphrodisiac yet discovered-surely contributed quite decisively to the rapid propagation of LSD consumption among the younger generation. Later, in an interview with the monthly magazine Playboy, Leary said that the intensification of sexual experience and the potentiation of sexual ecstasy by LSD was one of the chief reasons for the LSD boom.

After his expulsion from Harvard University, Leary was completely transformed from a psychology lecturer pursuing research, into the messiah of the psychedelic movement. He and his friends of the IFIF founded a psychedelic research center in lovely, scenic surroundings in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. I received a personal invitation from Dr. Leary to participate in a top-level planning session on psychedelic drugs, scheduled to take place there in August 1963. I would gladly have accepted this grand invitation, in which I was offered reimbursement for travel expenses and free lodging, in order to learn from personal observation the methods, operation, and the entire atmosphere of such a psychedelic research center, about which contradictory, to some extent very remarkable, reports were then circulating. Unfortunately, professional obligations kept me at that moment from flying to Mexico to get a picture at first hand of the controversial enterprise. The Zihuatanejo Research Center did not last long. Leary and his adherents were expelled from the country by the Mexican government. Leary, however, who had now become not only the messiah but also the martyr of the psychedelic movement, soon received help from the young New York millionaire William Hitchcock, who made a manorial house on his large estate in Millbrook, New York, available to Leary as new home and headquarters. Millbrook was also the home of another foundation for the psychedelic, transcendental way of life, the Castalia Foundation.

On a trip to India in 1965 Leary was converted to Hinduism. In the following year he founded a religious community, the League for Spiritual Discovery, whose initials give the abbreviation "LSD."

Leary's proclamation to youth, condensed in his famous slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out !", became a central dogma of the hippie movement. Leary is one of the founding fathers of the hippie cult. The last of these three precepts, "drop out," was the challenge to escape from bourgeois life, to turn one's back on society, to give up school, studies, and employment, and to dedicate oneself wholly to the true inner universe, the study of one's own nervous system, after one has turned on with LSD. This challenge above all went beyond the psychological and religious domain to assume social and political significance. It is therefore understandable that Leary not only became the enfant terrible of the university and among his academic colleagues in psychology and psychiatry, but also earned the wrath of the political authorities. He was, therefore, placed under surveillance, followed, and ultimately locked in prison. The high sentences-ten years' imprisonment each for convictions in Texas and California concerning possession of LSD and marijuana, and conviction (later overturned) with a sentence of thirty years' imprisonment for marijuana smuggling-show that the punishment of these offenses was only a pretext: the real aim was to put under lock and key the seducer and instigator of youth, who could not otherwise be prosecuted. On the night of 13-14 September 1970, Leary managed to escape from the California prison in San Luis Obispo. On a detour from Algeria, where he made contact with Eldridge Cleaver, a leader of the Black Panther movement living there in exile, Leary came to Switzerland and there petitioned for political asylum.

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