by R.U. Sirius
Tripulations 1968 – 1969
A Brief Return to Berkeley During “The Revolution”
Tim’s first impulse, upon being released from the Millbrook hive, was to take Rosemary and Susan (Jack had already left a year earlier, joining the great migration to the streets of the Haight Ashbury) back to his old stomping ground of Berkeley, California where he still owned the family home. By now, Berkeley was a buzzing center of the international counterculture. But Tim was not attuned to Berkeley’s late ‘60s culture of protests, riots and apocalyptic revolutionary rhetoric so his stay in Berkeley would be brief.
The Brotherhood of Eternal Love
At the invitation of a group called The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the small Leary family unit made its way south, to the sunny climes of Orange County, just outside of LA.
In 1966, a notorious working class gang of tough marijuana dealers from Orange County invaded and ripped off a Hollywood party over a pot deal gone bad. Among the items they grabbed was a bunch of LSD. They didn’t even know what it was — except that it was obviously a drug. One day, the gang leader, John Griggs tried it. “This is it!” he told his followers. “A religious experience.” He threw his gun into the ocean. In nearly an instant, the Street Sweepers gang became a religious psychedelic commune. And the skills they’d learned smuggling marijuana from Mexico… well, that still fit the profile. They added acid and hashish to their sales repertoire and became such a successful underground operation that they would eventually get dubbed “the hippie mafia.”
Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic Prayers from the Tao te Ching became a sort of holy book for the Brothers and Leary a guru. Being at loose ends anyway, the Leary family unit was happy to head to Laguna Beach and be glorified and feted by their high-flying friends.
The Brothers were the ultimate ecstatic warriors of the psychedelic revolution. They were following the logic (such as it was) of ‘60s psychedelia — this was the idea or vibe that the more people consumed psychedelic substances, the closer we would get to an advanced enlightened society… even if there was some freaking out, fucking up and weirdness along the way. What do you think?
The legend of the Brotherhood and the Laguna Beach scene is the subject of numerous books and articles, the best one being Orange Sunshine by Nicholas Schau.
High Priest & Politics of Ecstasy
1968 saw the release of Timothy Leary’s first semi-autobiographical book, High Priest. This book bravely, poignantly, poetically and hilariously tells the stories of fifteen psychedelic trips taken during the Harvard years (plus the nervous breakdown/breakthrough in Spain in 1959)— the trips that turned Timothy Leary into the legend of a mind. Many of the adventures I’ve already described are included. If you’re going to read one Leary book about the psychedelic experience — with the emphasis on actual experience and not on the insights inspired by them — this is the one for you.
Later, 1968 saw the release of a collection of Leary essays under the title, The Politics of Ecstasy. Much more a product of its time than High Priest, Politics of Ecstasy crackles with its effervescent, confident and whip smart explication of how psychedelic experience intersected with generational politics and a demented war mongering repressive sociopolitical structure to create the mad countercultural explosion that was, in fact, peaking heavily that very year.
Excerpt from The Politics of Ecstasy, Timothy Leary, 1968
The Next Lunge Forward
Where will the next evolutionary step occur? Within the human cortex. We know that science has produced methods for dramatically altering and expanding human awareness and potentialities. The uncharted realm lies behind your own forehead. Internal geography. Internal politics. Internal control. Internal freedom.
The nervous system can be changed, integrated, recircuited, expanded in its function. These possibilities naturally threaten every branch of the establishment. The dangers of external change appear to frighten us less than the peril of internal change. LSD is more frightening than the bomb!
We are, in a real sense, prisoners of the cognitive concepts and intellectual strategies that are passed on from generation to generation — the cognitive continuity of history. And the stuff of it is words. Our current reliance upon substantive and limiting concepts will be the amused wonder of coming generations. We must entertain nonverbal methods of communication if we are to free our nervous system from the tyranny of the stifling simplicity of words.
Turn On or Bail Out
The danger of LSD is not physical or psychological, but social-political. Make no mistake: the effect of consciousness-expanding drugs will be to transform our concepts of human nature, human potentialities, existence. The game is about to be changed, ladies and gentlemen. Man is about to make use of that fabulous electrical network he carries around in his skull. Present social establishments had better be prepared for the change. Our favorite concepts are standing in the way of a flood tide that’s been 2 billion years building up. The verbal dam is collapsing. Head for the hills or prepare your intellectual craft to flow with the current.
Timothy Leary & “The ‘68er Revolution”
In 1968, the Vietnam War was escalating along with the opposition to it — particularly among America’s youth. The student radical movement was exploding, not just in the U.S., but also in Mexico, Japan and Europe — particularly in France, where students and workers participated in weeks of protests, occupations and riots that nearly overthrew the government of Charles de Gaulle.
While Leary occasionally ridiculed America’s military-industrial machine and mentality, he had encouraged psychedelic youths to simply turn their backs on it — to transcend political dramas and ignore the battles that had been taking place during the previous years. Finally, in 1968, he got into the act. In the underground newspaper Berkeley Barb, he praised the youth revolts at Columbia University, in France and in Germany. And he surprised the psychedelic politicos — Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Yippies — with a spontaneous press conference in Chicago, colorfully endorsing their plans for a “counter-convention” during the upcoming Democratic Convention that would take place there that summer.
The Yippie’s Chicago action was planned as a “Festival of Life” — a celebration of the life-affirming, open, wild and playful spirit of America’s head high youth — in opposition to the Democrats, who were nominating their pro-war candidate, Hubert Humphrey, despite the divided-but-majority votes for antiwar candidates cast during the primary (Prime antiwar candidate, Bobby Kennedy was, of course, assassinated).
It soon became clear that the city of Chicago was not going to allow the counterculture to stage a provocative festival in tandem with the Democrats’ gathering. They denied all permits to use the city’s parks as camping grounds or for public performances or to allow those gathering to march in protest anywhere near the convention itself. Mayor Daley’s stance was belligerent, and Abbie and Jerry responded in kind — or at least, so it seemed (much of what they said was deliberately ambiguous or tongue-in-cheek outrage, like threatening to dose the water supply with LSD, a technical impossibility). With the mood in America darkening after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Leary dropped out of the Chicago protests, predicting that the kids who went would be subjected to police violence and that the whole thing would be harmful to the antiwar cause anyway. Most of the other early endorsers also dropped out.
The ’68 Chicago Democratic Convention protests were, of course, met with such violence that a government study called it “a police riot.” As to whether it helped or harmed its cause, I’ll leave that to historians to iron out.
The Laguna Beach Bust
During the Christmas season, as the legendary year 1968 was breathing its last, a patrolman named Neil Purcell — the scourge of Laguna Beach dopers who was known for planting evidence if there was nothing to be found — pulled Timothy, Rosemary and Jack over. According to Purcell, when Timothy opened the car door to provide his license and registration, he smelled marijuana smoke. The Learys were busted — first of all, for two marijuana roaches allegedly found in the car ashtray. Leary always contended the weed was planted. This provided the excuse for a broader search. Rosemary was found to be in possession of a large chunk of hashish (with the Brotherhood of Love seal of approval on it) and 12 hits of LSD. And Jack Leary was also found to be in possession of a small chunk of hashish.
Victory! Now On to the Statehouse!
In the aftermath of the Laguna bust and in light of continued harassment from Purcell, Rosemary and Tim retreated to a mountain cabin in Joshua Tree, California, far away from cops and media. Meanwhile, Leary’s lawyers were due to appear before the Supreme Court to challenge the Marihuana Tax Act. Although they tried to keep track of Supreme Court announcements by tuning in to news occasionally via shortwave radio, the Learys were caught by surprise when television crews from ABC and NBC news showed up at their hideaway to ask him about his victory. His lawyers, they informed him, had succeeded in overturning the much-despised Marihuana Tax Act on Fifth Amendment grounds. Much to Rosemary’s surprise (and distress), he spontaneously announced that he was going to run for Governor of California.
The Democratic primary was actually not until the following year. Whether Timothy was aware of that at that particular impulsive moment is uncertain.
Leary’s plan for his gubernatorial campaign involved getting his Hollywood and rock star friends to create a celebratory film about how he won the election and, in so doing, get people to daydream about Timothy Leary’s altered State of California. It would all seem like so much fun that the voters would respond by making it a reality.
His campaign positions, though few, were largely libertarian. He would eliminate the state income tax, but replace it with a $1,000 a year “frivolity” fee that would entitle the licensee to purchase hard liquor, guns, fishing rights, tobacco and marijuana — which, of course, would be legal. In certain licensed areas, prostitution, gambling, nudity and most mind-altering drugs would also be available to those who had paid the frivolity fee.
It’s pretty clear that Timothy didn’t put a lot of thought into his platform (for instance, how would a $1,000 licensing fee be within the reach of the students and street hippies who would form his campaign troops?). He was more concerned with stirring up some dialogue and having some “flamboyant fun.”
Come Together & Give Peace A Chance
To support the campaign, Leary — with help from Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner — gathered together some major players in the rock world — Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian and Buddy Miles. Together, they recorded an album of Leary’s poetic/hyperbolic psychedelic raps that would be released in 1970 under the title You Can Be Anyone This Time Around.
Then he got a call from John Lennon in Montreal. He and Yoko Ono were holding their “bed-in for peace” — a bit of antiwar performance art that would give the peace movement its marching song for years to come, “Give Peace a Chance.” Lennon invited Timothy and Rosemary to join Tommy Smothers and a gaggle of Hare Krishna devotees for the “Give Peace a Chance” recording. The much-viewed video of the event shows them both — with Leary naked from the waste up, grinning and clapping enthusiastically.
The following day, Timothy asked John Lennon if he would write a campaign song for him — telling John that his slogan was “Come Together. Join the Party.” Lennon started writing the song that, after some alterations, would become The Beatles hit “Come Together” and handed Leary the tape.
And in the end… (Last days of the 1960s)
As the historic decade of the 1960s reached its end, Timothy Leary testified for the defense at the trial of the “Chicago 8.” The eight antiwar activists had been picked out by prosecutors and accused of having conspired together (some of them didn’t even know each other) to foment riots during the Chicago Democratic Convention. Although the straighter members of the Chicago 8 expressed some hesitation at bringing Leary in to testify, he proved to be a succinct and earnest witness. During sworn testimony, he attested to the peaceful intentions of his friends Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. The “8” were pleased with Timothy, but were convicted nonetheless.
Unlike his work in the 1950s with psychotherapy; his early work with psychedelics as therapeutic tools at Harvard, or his work with consciousness and spirituality during the Millbrook years; during the late 1960s, Timothy Leary was caught up in a swirl of constant activity — not to mention constant ego strokes — that no doubt distracted him from producing new ideas. He was a popular lecturer on University campuses and a kind of guru to the psychedelic spiritual outlaws in the Brotherhood and to myriad acid heads in general. He was promoting his books and his gubernatorial campaign — all the while, meeting with lawyers about trials yet to come. So it’s not surprising that Leary did not seem to come up with new theories or paradigms during this exciting period. He was, in a sense, just one of the stars of the counterculture explosion, and probably less influential than many others. Certainly, at the very least, John Lennon (the only rock superstar to fully embrace his role as counterculture spokesperson), Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg held greater sway with the youth counterculture during this period.
entire book (more or less) here
4 thoughts on “Tripulations 1968 – 1969: Excerpt from Timothy Leary’s Trip Thru Time”
Fantastic article. I read somewhere that Leary ratted his friends out to the FBI, does anyone know if this was true?
It seems that he did so out of desperation. Here is more on the subject: https://web.archive.org/web/20010521065554/http://www.leary.com/fbifiles/
Which of Leary’s or Ram Das’s books tells the story of the acid trip where they’re at a kitchen table, tripping, and the dog comes in from outside, and it’s panting but they’re freaking out because they don’t know if it’s normal or not
From High Priest by Timothy Leary