Timothy Leary


Timothy Leary : biography

October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996

At some point in the late 1960s, Leary moved to California and made many new friends in Hollywood. "When he married his third wife, Rosemary Woodruff, in 1967, the event was directed by Ted Markland of Bonanza. All the guests were on acid."

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Leary, in collaboration with the writer Brian Barritt, formulated his eight-circuit model of consciousness, in which he wrote that the human mind / nervous system consisted of seven circuits which, when activated, produce seven levels of consciousness. This model was first published in his short essay "The Seven Tongues of God". The system soon expanded to include an eighth circuit in a revised version first unveiled to the world in the rare 1973 pamphlet "Neurologic" — written with Joanna Leary while he was in prison — but was not exhaustively formulated until the publication of Exo-Psychology (by Leary) and in Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger in 1977. Wilson contributed to the model after befriending Leary in the early 1970s, and used it as a framework for further exposition in his book Prometheus Rising, among other works.

Leary believed that the first four of these circuits ("the Larval Circuits" or "Terrestrial Circuits") are naturally accessed by most people in their lifetimes, triggered at natural transition points in life such as puberty. The second four circuits ("the Stellar Circuits" or "Extra-Terrestrial Circuits"), Leary wrote, were evolutionary offshoots of the first four that would be triggered at transition points we will acquire when we evolve further, and would equip us to encompass life in space, as well as the expansion of consciousness that would be necessary to make further scientific and social progress. Leary suggested that some people may "shift to the latter four gears", i.e., trigger these circuits artificially via consciousness-altering techniques such as meditation and spiritual endeavors such as yoga, or by taking psychedelic drugs specific to each circuit. An example of the information Leary cited as evidence for the purpose of the "higher" four circuits was the feeling of floating and uninhibited motion experienced by users of marijuana. In the eight-circuit model of consciousness, a primary theoretical function of the fifth circuit (the first of the four developed for life in outer space) is to allow humans to become accustomed to life in a zero- or low-gravity environment.

Early life and education

Leary was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the only child of an Irish-American dentist who abandoned his wife Abigail Ferris when Leary was 13. He graduated from Classical High School in that western Massachusetts city.

He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts from September 1938 to June 1940. Under pressure from his father, he then accepted an appointment as a cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In the first months as a "plebe", he was given numerous demerits for rule infractions and then got into serious trouble for failing to report infractions by other cadets when on supervisory duty. He was alleged to have gone on a drinking binge and then failing to "come clean" about it. For violating the Academy’s honor code, he was asked by the Honor Committee to resign. When he refused, he was "silenced"; that is, shunned and ignored by his fellow cadets as a tactic to pressure him to resign. Even though he was acquitted by a court-martial, the silencing measures continued in full force, as well as the onslaught of demerits for minuscule rule infractions. When the treatment continued in his sophomore year, his mother appealed to a family friend, United States Senator David I. Walsh, head of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, who conducted a personal investigation. Behind the scenes, the Honor Committee revised its position and announced that it would abide by the court-martial verdict. Leary then resigned and was honorably discharged by the Army.Peter O. Whitmer, Aquarius Revisited: Seven Who Created the Sixties Counterculture That Changed America (NY: Citadel Press, 1991), 21-5 Almost 50 years later, he said it was "the only fair trial I’ve had in a court of law".Greenfield, Robert, Timothy Leary: A Biography (Harcourt Books, 2006), 28–55