Selected Correspondence Peter
PETER: Hi Alan, (...)
I have just finished watching a TV documentary about Timothy Leary of ‘ turn on, tune in ... and drop out fame’. In the late 1960’s he was at the forefront of experimenting with and publicizing the use of LSD and other chemicals that act to interrupt and temporarily alter the fixed, robotic electro-chemical circuitry in the brain.
A few aspects of the documentary were interesting and none more so than to see a historical documentary where so many of the characters were playing themselves. Many of the main figures of the 60’s psychedelic scene were interviewed for the film and these clips were spliced with old interviews and archival footage. Someone who was now 60 or 70 years old was interviewed, juxtaposed with film of them as 20 or 30 year olds. What was revealing to see was that the naiveté of youth and the well-meaning 60’s aims of peace, love and brown rice for all, had wilted and been replaced by a turning away, a foreboding cynicism, an introverted self-love and a lust for immortality. Two of the central characters who demonstrated this best were Timothy Leary himself and Richard Alpert who is now known as Ram Das.
Both said they had taken LSD hundreds of times and both had developed different interpretations of their experiences. Richard Alpert had a taste of the Divine, an altered state of consciousness, and became a mystic, a spiritual teacher, and a full-on devotee of an Eastern God-man. His experience when in an altered state of consciousness was that he was not the body and not the mind. He described stepping out of illusion of the real world into God-Consciousness. He then talked of Timothy Leary saying ‘he wasn’t into mysticism’.
Leary’s interest remained with the brain and thinking and he believed his ‘soul’ was located in his brain, to use his words. In his last years this thought became such an obsession that he arranged for his head to be cut off after his pre-arranged death and for it to be frozen in order that his ‘soul-brain’ could be revived at some future date. It’s such a bizarre tale and I still wonder if the film of his frozen head was genuine or a hoax. Certainly in his interviews he was convinced that his soul-brain was capable of mental immortality. Unlike his spiritual contemporaries, in his altered state of consciousness he didn’t identify with who he felt he was, his affective feelings, but he identified with who he thought he was, his nonsensical thoughts. What both Alpert and Leary shared in common with all other human beings was that they desperately maintained their true self to be a disembodied alien identity. One felt he was a soul-heart, while the other thought he was a soul-brain – anything other than a mortal flesh and blood body, a cellular arrangement of finite life span.
I was curious as to how Leary had managed to put such an eccentric twist to his altered state of consciousness experiences until he recalled a story from his childhood and his memory of his grandfather’s advice – ‘Don’t be like everybody else’. While he was alive, he was exactly like everyone else who has experienced the infinitude of the physical universe in that he instinctually seized the experience for himself and sought to contrive to become that experience – to be immortal, timeless, eternal and ... disembodied. And despite his frozen head being in a glass jar in a freezer somewhere he has ended up just like everyone else – dead. Same old story, just with yet another bizarre tale to add to the long, long history of human beings inane search for immortality.
The animal survival instincts, embellished into a psychological and psychic fear of death at the core of human beings, has produced a glut of fantastic fairy stories, fervent beliefs, grotesque rituals, weird altered states of consciousness – all of them passionately fuelled by a desperate and futile urge for immortality.
So, the essential question that arises from this post is ... ‘Is there life after death for Timothy Leary’s head or is he nothing but a dead head?’
Vineeto suggested that maybe he was simply a head of his times.
GARY: I became interested in what Richard had to say while on the Krishnamurti list, it is true. But earlier in my life, I was on what I would call the ‘drug’ path – ‘better living through chemistry’. I cared not a snoot for religious or other spiritual thinking, although the ethos of that time – the Love Generation – was very much influenced by Eastern religions and ideas.
PETER: And Richard got himself Enlightened without any knowledge of Eastern religion at all. I got myself involved in Eastern Religion after a dark night of the soul, knowing not a fig about what I was getting in to.
Not that I knew it then but peace, love and brown rice was really religion, narcissism and poverty.
GARY: I wonder to what extent the ‘drug’ path I was on was actually a kind of spiritual path. In any event, with the exception of a brief foray into the teachings of Timothy Leary, which were remarkably like that of Buddhism, and used some Buddhist-like doctrines, my approach to freedom, peace and happiness was by being permanently stoned. I was watching a TV program last night (I watch TV a lot at night) on Ecstasy. Apparently there is a lot of Ecstasy use among young people now.
One woman was testifying to the mood enhancing properties of the drug and was an outspoken advocate for its’ legalization and widespread use as a panacea for modern day ills. She said she just wanted to be ‘happy’ and now was since she had found Ecstasy. I no longer use any drugs, alcohol, and (with the exception of an occasion coffee) have not for 15 years. I have not had any cannabis or psychedelics since about
1981, also the last time I took any LSD. I sometimes think I was helped by my drug use in a positive way. But I would not want to return to any type of drug use, no matter how alluring. It was hell. Because along with the highs came the inevitable lows, as it was a chase for the good feelings as a way of getting away from the bad feelings. At the end of it all, I was more filled with malice and sorrow than I had been at the start of it all.
PETER: There is a good deal of evidence that links shamanism with the use of hallucinogens, both in the Eastern and Western religions, so much so that their early use could well explain many of the fairy tales that now pass for sacred texts and truths. I know from talking to people that many have had pure consciousness experiences after using mind-altering drugs and I have as well. The inherent problem is that it is a hit and miss affair and usually much more miss than hit. Paranoid experiences, altered state of consciousness, temporary highs, addiction, dependency and just plain weird experiences are the most common results rather than anything of value. There is nothing like having a drug-free PCE. It is the proof of the pudding of what is spontaneously possible, rather than artificially contrived – a pure unadulterated intelligence operating in a brain temporarily freed of the chemical flows that form the very foundation of the psychological and emotional persona.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.