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I HAVE AMERICA SURROUNDED - THE LIFE OF TIMOTHY LEARY by John Higgs

 

Dr. Timothy Leary was one of the most controversial and divisive figures of the twentieth century. President Nixon called him ‘the most dangerous man in the world.’ Hunter S. Thompson said that he was ‘not just wrong, but a treacherous creep and a horrible goddamn person.’ Yet the writer Terence McKenna claims that he ‘probably made more people happy than anyone else in history,’ and William Burroughs wrote that ‘he changed the world, but it may be another 100 years before he is accorded his rightful stature.’

Leary was a brilliant Harvard psychologist who was sacked from his research post because of his research into LSD and other psychedelic drugs. He went on to become the global figurehead of the 1960s drug culture, coined the phrase “tune in, turn on and drop out”, and persuaded millions of people to take drugs and explore alternative lifestyles. His scandalous research led to irreversible changes in social and cultural fields as diverse as popular music, cyber-culture, the Mind-Body-Soul movement and clinical psychological profiling. Yet the impact of his work has been so controversial that it has completely overshadowed the man himself and the details of his life. Few people realise that Timothy Leary’s life is one of the greatest untold adventure stories of the twentieth century.

He was jailed in California in 1970 and promptly escaped by shimmying along a telephone cable over the prison fence. He was kidnapped by armed revolutionaries and was rescued by terrorists. He was blackmailed by an exiled arms dealer and imprisoned on four continents. He betrayed the ‘drug culture’ by collaborating with the FBI, and he came close to murdering two US Government officers. He was chased around the world, from the Algerian Kasbah to European High Society, with the highest bail in human history on his head and the US Attorney General snapping at his heals. Yet throughout his adventures his life remained a hedonistic blur of drugs and orgies, and his friends included John Lennon, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Timothy Leary led a life of unflagging optimism and reckless devotion to freedom. It was, in the words of his goddaughter Winona Ryder, ‘not just epic grandeur but flat-out epic grandeur.’ This will be the first time that the full story of that life is told.

Timothy Leary escape route

The railroad, ditch, trees and highways that were the route ofTimothy Leary's 1970 prison break, at San Luis Obispo, CA. (photographed 2004)