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LSD Guru Leary Dies at 75

Former Harvard Lecturer Experimented With Hallucinogens

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Timothy Leary once characterized himself as being "part of a group of people, who, like Prometheus, have wrestled with the power in order to hand it back to the people."

After decades of struggling with the Establishment, Leary died in his sleep last Friday of cancer in his Beverly Hills home. He was 75.

LSD guru turned 'Net-surfer Leary, who lectured at Harvard for about four years, staged his battle with cancer over the Internet, even promising to transmit his suicide electronically.

But instead of an Internet suicide, Leary's home page relayed the simple message, "Timothy has passed."

Leary, who authored more than 30 works ranging from scholarly studies to novels, promoted a new brand of humanism based on the "heresy" of independent thinking.

Controversial Harvard Days

A major figure in the counterculture movement of the 1960s, Leary began his career of questioning authority at Harvard.

Appointed as a lecturer in clinical psychology in 1959 after earning his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, Leary's experiments with the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin were the subject of a maelstrom of controversy at Harvard.

The Crimson reported on March 25, 1962, that members of the Cen- ter for Research in Personality, the department at which Leary worked, were disputing the right of Leary and fellow psychologist Richard Alpert, then-assistant professor of clinical psychology at the Graduate School of Education, to continue to conduct experiments with psilocybin.

Critics of the two junior faculty members suggested that Leary and Alpert had not handled their project responsibly.

"I wish I could treat this as a scholarly disagreement, but this work violates the values of the academic community," Herbert C. Kelman, Cabot professor of social ethics, then a lecturer on social ethics, then a lecturer on social psychology, told The Crimson in 1962.

According to Pierce Professor of Psychology Robert Rosenthal, who joined Harvard's faculty in 1962, Leary suggested that the students in his introductory graduate course in clinical psychology use psilocybin to garner "insights" into the human psyche.

Leary "managed to sell a lot of students on the idea that you can get wisdom and insight from a pill, that drugs were a short cut," said Henderson Professor of Psychology Brendan A. Maher, who was then acting as the co-chair of the Department of Personality.

Maher said yesterday that Leary's method of research included administering psilocybin to graduate students at informal settings, including parties.

Maher said Leary and Alpert knew little about the side effects of psilocybin and were not trained in pharmacology.

Much of the controversy in 1962 also centered around Alpert and Leary's refusal to explain to their subjects what they might expect from their drug-induced experiences, saying that doing so would be "imposing effects and directing the experience."

The circumstances under which Leary left Harvard remain a matter of debate. Leary alleged for years that he was fired by Harvard, but Maher denied yesterday that Leary's position at Harvard had been terminated as a result of his experiments.

According to Maher, President Nathan M. Pusey '28 gave Leary leave without pay after the lecturer left Harvard for Hollywood midway through the spring semester of 1963. Leary's contract with Harvard was due to expire at the end of the spring 1963 semester.

Maher said that he reported Leary's absence to Pusey after being told by a friend from the West Coast that Leary had appeared on a television talk show saying that he had been fired by Harvard.

'The Psychedelic Experience'

Whatever the cause of Leary's departure from Harvard, the incident made Leary a national celebrity.

"Being fired from Harvard gave him a notoriety which could not be purchased from a PR agent," said Anthony G. Greenwald, professor of psychology at University of Washington at Seattle.

"Without being fired by Harvard, Leary might have been a very ordinary academic," said Greenwald, who worked as a research assistant for Alpert while a graduate student at Harvard.

Alpert, who later renamed himself Baba Ram Dass, left Harvard soon after Leary. He was fired by Pusey for administering hallucinogenic drugs to undergraduates, The Crimson reported on July 9, 1963.

The two co-wrote The Psychedelic Experience in 1964, a work recommending the combination of hallucinogens and meditative literature, including The Tibetan Book of the Dead for psychedelic enlightenment.

Leary spent much of the next 20 years of his life on the lam. Arrested for marijuana possession, he escaped from the California Men's Colony in 1970, only to be recaptured in 1973 in Afghanistan.

Released in 1976, Leary continued to remain in the public eye as a stand-up comic, author and Hollywood party-goer.

To many who were at Harvard in the early 1960s, Leary's legacy is largely a negative one.

"His whole message was one of personal irresponsibility in the guise of freedom," said Efrem Sigel '64, a Crimson editor who covered much of the psilocybin debate. "He was an authority figure who abused his authority."

"Tim Leary was a very intelligent, articulate, charming, grossly irresponsible individual, totally indifferent to the effects of his behavior on the minds of others," Maher said. "He left no worthwhile, lasting contribution to the field of psychology."

But many would disagree with Maher's opinion that "as the years went by, [Leary] became increasingly irrelevant."

Leary's 1994 work, Chaos & Cyberculture, includes conversations with public figures from Winona Ryder to William S. Burroughs.

Actress Susan Sarandon is quoted in the book as saying that Leary "makes the chaos of our everyday lives sexy."

And in the work's introduction, editor Michael Horowitz stated that Leary's writing is consistently "fueled by humor, brimming with novel perceptions."

--Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Critics of the two junior faculty members suggested that Leary and Alpert had not handled their project responsibly.

"I wish I could treat this as a scholarly disagreement, but this work violates the values of the academic community," Herbert C. Kelman, Cabot professor of social ethics, then a lecturer on social ethics, then a lecturer on social psychology, told The Crimson in 1962.

According to Pierce Professor of Psychology Robert Rosenthal, who joined Harvard's faculty in 1962, Leary suggested that the students in his introductory graduate course in clinical psychology use psilocybin to garner "insights" into the human psyche.

Leary "managed to sell a lot of students on the idea that you can get wisdom and insight from a pill, that drugs were a short cut," said Henderson Professor of Psychology Brendan A. Maher, who was then acting as the co-chair of the Department of Personality.

Maher said yesterday that Leary's method of research included administering psilocybin to graduate students at informal settings, including parties.

Maher said Leary and Alpert knew little about the side effects of psilocybin and were not trained in pharmacology.

Much of the controversy in 1962 also centered around Alpert and Leary's refusal to explain to their subjects what they might expect from their drug-induced experiences, saying that doing so would be "imposing effects and directing the experience."

The circumstances under which Leary left Harvard remain a matter of debate. Leary alleged for years that he was fired by Harvard, but Maher denied yesterday that Leary's position at Harvard had been terminated as a result of his experiments.

According to Maher, President Nathan M. Pusey '28 gave Leary leave without pay after the lecturer left Harvard for Hollywood midway through the spring semester of 1963. Leary's contract with Harvard was due to expire at the end of the spring 1963 semester.

Maher said that he reported Leary's absence to Pusey after being told by a friend from the West Coast that Leary had appeared on a television talk show saying that he had been fired by Harvard.

'The Psychedelic Experience'

Whatever the cause of Leary's departure from Harvard, the incident made Leary a national celebrity.

"Being fired from Harvard gave him a notoriety which could not be purchased from a PR agent," said Anthony G. Greenwald, professor of psychology at University of Washington at Seattle.

"Without being fired by Harvard, Leary might have been a very ordinary academic," said Greenwald, who worked as a research assistant for Alpert while a graduate student at Harvard.

Alpert, who later renamed himself Baba Ram Dass, left Harvard soon after Leary. He was fired by Pusey for administering hallucinogenic drugs to undergraduates, The Crimson reported on July 9, 1963.

The two co-wrote The Psychedelic Experience in 1964, a work recommending the combination of hallucinogens and meditative literature, including The Tibetan Book of the Dead for psychedelic enlightenment.

Leary spent much of the next 20 years of his life on the lam. Arrested for marijuana possession, he escaped from the California Men's Colony in 1970, only to be recaptured in 1973 in Afghanistan.

Released in 1976, Leary continued to remain in the public eye as a stand-up comic, author and Hollywood party-goer.

To many who were at Harvard in the early 1960s, Leary's legacy is largely a negative one.

"His whole message was one of personal irresponsibility in the guise of freedom," said Efrem Sigel '64, a Crimson editor who covered much of the psilocybin debate. "He was an authority figure who abused his authority."

"Tim Leary was a very intelligent, articulate, charming, grossly irresponsible individual, totally indifferent to the effects of his behavior on the minds of others," Maher said. "He left no worthwhile, lasting contribution to the field of psychology."

But many would disagree with Maher's opinion that "as the years went by, [Leary] became increasingly irrelevant."

Leary's 1994 work, Chaos & Cyberculture, includes conversations with public figures from Winona Ryder to William S. Burroughs.

Actress Susan Sarandon is quoted in the book as saying that Leary "makes the chaos of our everyday lives sexy."

And in the work's introduction, editor Michael Horowitz stated that Leary's writing is consistently "fueled by humor, brimming with novel perceptions."

--Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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