Episode 187: Timothy Leary: The LSD Guru

On this far-out episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we look at the life and influence of Doctor Timothy Leary. Born to a typical Irish-Catholic household in Springfield, Massachusetts, Leary seemed like a normal child who eventually excelled in academia. He earned a psychology doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1950 and taught there. While a professor at Berkeley, his first wife committed suicide, and he was said to explore many ways to cope with this loss. Two years later, he was hired to teach at Harvard in 1959.

While working at Harvard, he traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he took psychedelic mushrooms for the first tim and had a mind-altering experience. Once he got back to campus, Leary conducted behavioral experiments with psilocybin alongside his colleague Richard Alpert. This became the Harvard Psilocybin Project, and Leary and Alpert did radical experiments with mushrooms and eventually branched out into studying LSD and DMT and their effects on the human mind. Their experiments included giving the drug to inmates, colleagues, and graduate students, but when Leary gave a dose of LSD to an undergraduate off campus, he was fired from Harvard.

This was not the career-ending blow that many would face. Indeed, it allowed him to become a massive icon in the 1960’s counter culture movement. Timothy Leary’s catch phrase “tune in, turn on, drop out,” helped him popularize drug use in America, and he became a top celebrity as a result.

Eventually, Timothy Leary decided to run for governor of California in 1970, and was soon arrested for marijuana possession. Given a very long sentence, Leary broke out of prison and was on the run around the globe for several years. How did he escape? What group was paid $25,000 by the “Hippie Mafia” to help him escape the country? Why did he live with the Black Panthers overseas? What was his connection to Billy Idol and virtual reality later in life? Why was his own death considered a piece of performance art? Listen, laugh, learn.

Great Leary Article: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1022.html

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