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Timothy Leary (1920 – 1996) was an American psychologist who championed the power of LSD to unlock our minds and find enlightenment. For Leary, psychedelic drugs were the harbingers of the future of human thought and understanding. He and his colleague, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), were fired from Harvard over a drug scandal involving students.
Leary became a popular figure in the American 1960’s counterculture and was frequently arrested. He became known as the man President Nixon called “the most dangerous man in America.” In spite of all that, much of what Leary said rang with a sense of truth. Whether you think Leary was only in it for the attention or was a visionary among the tumultuous ’60s, he had an impact on American thought about authority and the human potential.
Timothy Leary Quotes
Here are 55 fascinating Timothy Leary Quotes to make you think.
- “Whether you experience heaven or hell, remember that it is your mind which creates them.”
- “To The elitist hedonist, life is The avoidance of boredom and routine.”
- “I wanted to scientize myth and mythologize science.”
- “In the information age, you don’t teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he’d have a talk show.”
- “At one point consciousness-altering devices like the microscope and telescope were criminalized for exactly the same reasons that psychedelic plants were banned in later years. They allow us to peer into bits and zones of Chaos.”
- “Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.”
- “I declare that The Beatles are mutants. Prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freemen.”
- “Almost everyone today is brain-damaged by our education which is designed to produce docile automatons.”
- “I learned more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than in the preceding 15 years of studying and doing research in psychology.”
- “The word “religion” beautifully defines itself, of course. It translates “to bind” from the Latin–“re” means back and “ligare” means to tie up. All religions are straightjackets, jackets for the straight.”
- “People use the word “natural” … What is natural to me is these botanical species which interact directly with the nervous system. What I consider artificial is 4 years at Harvard, and the Bible, and Saint Patrick’s cathedral, and the Sunday school teachings.”
- “My historical reading of the situation is that these great monolithic empires developed, Rome, Turkey, and so forth, and they always break down when enough people, and it’s always the young, the creative, and minority groups drop out and go back to a tribal form.”
- “Any reality is an opinion-we make up our own reality.”
- “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”
- “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.”
- “Recite to yourself some of the traditional attributes of the word ‘spiritual’: mythic, magical, ethereal, incorporeal, intangible, nonmaterial, disembodied, ideal, platonic. Is that not a definition of the electronic-digital?”
- “We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history. They are a hundred times better educated than their grandparents, and ten times more sophisticated. There has never been such an open-minded group. The problem is that no one is giving them anything fresh. They’ve got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.”
- “The universe is an intelligence test.”
- “One cannot understand the rhythms and meanings of the outer world until one has mastered the dialects of the body.”
- “The great kick of the mystic experience, the exultant, ecstatic hit, is the sudden relief from emotional pressure.”
- “If you are serious about your religion, if you really wish to commit yourself to the spiritual quest, you must learn how to use psychochemicals. Drugs are the religion of the twenty-first century. Pursuing the religious life today without using psychedelic drugs is like studying astronomy with the naked eye because that’s how they did it in the first century A.D., and besides telescopes are unnatural.”
- “Civilization is unbearable, but it is less unbearable at the top.”
- “If you want to move beyond hive-docility, you must become God the Moralist.”
- “Living, dying, and thinking… they’re all team sports.”
- “Conscious love is not an emotion; it is serene merging with yourself, with other people, with other forms of energy. Love cannot exist in an emotional state.”
- “Fundamentalist Christianity appeals to pre-civilized, prudish tribal people who are not ready for urban feudal pleasures.”
- “We live our lives from A-Z, but forget the other 24 letters in between.”
- “We seem to inhabit a universe made up of a small number of elements-particles-bits that swirl in chaotic clouds, occasionally clustering together in geometrically logical temporary configurations.”
- “In the information-communication civilization of the 21st Century, creativity and mental excellence will become the ethical norm. The world will be too dynamic, complex, and diversified, too cross-linked by the global immediacies of modern (quantum) communication, for stability of thought or dependability of behaviour to be successful.”
- “Each religion has got their own way of making you feel like a victim. The Christians say “you are a sinner”, and you better just zip up your trousers and give the money to the pope and we’ll give you a room up in the hotel in the sky.”
- “The goals of an intelligent life, according to Socrates, is to pursue the philosophic quest—to increase one’s knowledge of self and world.”
- “I’d just like to see thinking come back in style. I haven’t heard a new idea in eight years. Let’s get ordinary people arguing and talking again. I want to trigger new circuits in their nervous systems. That’s the philosopher’s job and I am the most important philosopher at this time.”
- “Learning how to operate a soul figures to take time.”
- “Of course, the drug does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures.”
- “I’ve left specific instructions that I do not want to be brought back during a Republican administration.”
- “Extraterrestrial intelligence could have sent DNA-seed packets out through space to plant life on hospitable planets such as earth.”
- “LSD is known to induce psychosis, in people who have never used it.”
- “Romantic poetry and fiction of the last 2000 years has blinded us to the fact that emotions are a low form of jungle consciousness. Emotional actions are The most contracted, dangerous form of fanatic stupor.”
- “We are now experiencing a quiescent preparatory waiting period. Everyone knows something is going to happen. The seeds of the Sixties have taken root underground. The blossoming is to come.”
- “When men set out to kill and bully, they dress up. Suit of armor. Combat boots. Uniform.”
- “The fact of the matter is that all apparent forms of matter and body are momentary clusters of energy. We arelittle more than flickers on a multidimensional television screen. This realization directly experienced can bedelightful. You suddenly wake up from the delusion of separate form and hook up to the cosmic dance.Consciousness slides along the wave matrices, silently at the speed of light.”
- “There’s one uneasy borderline between what is external and what is internal, and this borderline is defined exactly by the sense organs and the skin and the introduction of external things within my own body. Consciousness is altered by physical events and physical objects, which impinge upon my sense organs, or which I introduce into my body. Now the name traditionally given to external objects or processes which change you internally is sacrament. Sacraments are the visible and tangible techniques for bringing you close to your own divinity.”
- “The general direction of evolution is to produce a serially imprinting, multibrained creature able to decipher its own program, create The technology to leave The planet and live in post-terrestrial mini-worlds, decode The aging sectors of The DNA code–thus assuring immortality, and act in harmony with stages of evolution to come.”
- “Followers do not like themselves, of course; that’s why they crawl. And masters have nothing but contempt for their subservants, which is why they impose such colorful embarrassments upon them.”
- “Our assignment was to topple this prudish, judgmental civilization. And it worked.”
- “In the Eleusinian mysteries, they would always warn people, “if you go in here, your ego will die. You’re going to have to confront all your past hang-ups, strip them off, and be a changed person.” One emperor of Rome who wanted to be initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries said, “That’s interesting, I approve of what you’re doing, but I don’t want to be changed.”
- “What human beings consciously wish is often quite at variance with the results their reflex patterns automatically create for them.”
- “Take responsibility for making your own life beautiful.”
- “Grow within the flow.”
- “Ritual is to the internal sciences what experiment is to the external sciences.”
- “Actions which are conscious expressions of the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out rhythm are religious.The wise person devotes his life exclusively to the religious search – for therein is found the only ecstasy, the only meaning.Anything else is a competitive quarrel over (or Hollywood-love sharing of) studio props.”
- “The brain is a robot-computer perfectly designed to fabricate any reality we program it to construct.”
- “Nobody ever understands what a pioneer is doing.”
- “Prayer is ecstatic communication with your innernavigational computer.”
- “And a new philosophy emerged called quantum physics, which suggest that the individual’s function is to inform and be informed. You really exist only when you’re in a field sharing and exchanging information. You create the realities you inhabit.”
Timothy Leary Video – Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out (Rare 1966 interview)
This is a very rare recording of the first Timothy Leary record to be released, with him speaking quietly. It is considered by many to be his most controversial, dangerous and straightforward speech on what his goal was. Leary talks about life at the Millbrook, NY estate and how it’s a center for psychedelic research and basically what kind of experimentation they were doing.
He also talks about how LSD is a touchy subject for older people and authorities and so he speaks towards a younger generation, including how drugs can be used as a tool and that he expects the upcoming generation to begin using these tools in a responsible and intelligent manner. This is more of a personal, one-on-one type dialog directed towards young, open minds, with the intent of getting them to avoid the old establishment and to gently drop out of society and begin using drugs to expand their minds.
Definitely worth a listen if you want to better understand Timothy Leary, in his own words, and from his own speech.
These 55 fascinating quotes help us see the ’60s more clearly, and remind us of the amazing progress we have made – perhaps in part thanks to Timothy Leary. Leary believed we were each responsible for our own happiness and well-being. He told us to question authority – in fact, to question everything. Part philosopher, part psychologist, and part eccentric, Leary was an interesting man who had a great deal of influence in The ’60s. We can use these Timothy Leary quotes to remind us of the importance of taking responsibility for who we are and our own happiness.
Image Credit: Roy Kerwood, CC BY 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons