Must We Cage Genius?

It is truly amazing how Americans, including a vast majority of the occult community, can cheer a certain famous Russian dissident, then turn around and ignore the equal persecution, imprisonment and torture of an American scientist who (whether his theories be sound or not) is also guilty only of Thought-Crimes. No scientist since Wilhelm Reich has been so persecuted by creedist power-blocs, or had so much unreasoning hysteria whipped up against him. So perhaps it’s about time people began to demand that Dr. Timothy Leary, Ph.D., be given the chance to present his ideas freely to the scientific community for actual testing, for proof or disproof. “There is no religion higher than Truth!”

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As far as one can guess anything from the leaks so carefully planted in the Hearst press by their great and good friends, the federal cops, either (1) Dr. Leary is currently finking on his own oldest friends, or (2) the government is holding him incommunicado while trying to panic the counter-culture by creating the impression that Leary is finking, or (3) Tim is negotiating most delicately and dangerously to convince the feds he’s finking while actually avoiding doing it, or (4) some combination of the above.

The fact that Tim’s parole was recently denied again indicates that the first theory-Tim is selling out, purely and simply-is not the whole truth. Alas, the fact that at least one person has already been indicted, evidently with the cooperation of Tim’s wife, Joanna, proves that the second heavy-she feds are faking it all-is not the whole truth either.

I assume then that Timothy is negotiating most dangerously, under maximum pressure, and that the pressure will steadily increase until they either wring him dry or he reaches a line he will not cross, in which case they will throw him back in his cage and vindictively keep him there as long as is legally (and extra-legally) possible, i.e. until he is a very, very old man.

In this cruel game, I am entirely out of sympathy with those who have been so quick to condemn Dr. Leary. As Ken Kesey has asked, “Do we condemn the torturers or do we condemn their victim,” It’s very easy to say “I’d kill myself first” or “I’d rather spend the rest of my life in jail.” As Sam Goldwyn might remark, “I answer that in two words: bull shit.”

NOBODY KNOWS HOW he or she would react under such pressure; that’s something you learn about yourself after the fact. In tight places, I have been repeatedly surprised by my courage in some cases, my cowardice in others. As Hemingway said, courage is not something we own but something we continually create; and sometimes we re-create it precisely when we think we have lost it forever. Tim needs our love and support now more than at any other time. Condemning him before all the facts are known and the game played out is not only unfair but adds to the pressure that might cause him to cave in completely.

How many who denounce Dr. Leary realize that, at 53, he is twice a grand father, and has already spent five years either in jail or as a hounded international fugitive?

How many who now demand a god-like nobility from him have shown as much guts (and humor, and compassion) as Tim has shown during this five years of imprisonment and escape and re-imprisonment and further escape and further re-imprisonment-not to mention the previous five years of villification, slander, legal harassment and government snooping that led up to his first sentencing?



Since I seem to have been one of the last human beings to see Dr. Leary alive (he has been held incommunicado by the feds ever since our last meeting at Vacaville Prison in May), I think I can shed more light on what he is doing, and what is being done to him, than most of those who have so quickly rushed into print with condemnations. I have thought long and hard about all this before deciding to put my thoughts on paper.

Jerry Rubin’s claim that Dr. Leary has been “incoherent” and “irrational” for over a year is sheer damned mendacity. Everybody I know who visited Tim in those months shared my impression during any visits: Tim was brighter, more creative, more scientifically intelligent-and more loving and involved-than ever before; and Tim is admittedly a scientist who has been programming his nervous system (according to a theory that, although often villified, has never been disproven) precisely to turn himself into “the holiest, wisest, most beneficial man alive today,” as he told Paul Krassner in 1966. Tim programmed his brain to produce super-human intelligence, and if he didn’t succeed in all respects, the psychiatrists who testified at his escape trial (April 1973) and Dr. Wesley Hilts (psychologist at Vacaville, who saw Tim every day in recent months) agree with myself and other visitors that Tim was IQ-wise somewhere above the “genius” level and totally in contact with reality.

RUBIN’S CHARGE OF “irrationality” is just rhetoric and wind, no more. Jerry, in fact, hadn’t seen Timothy in over a year when he claimed that Tim had been imbecilic for a year! He was relying on those two excellent character witnesses, Hearsay and Slander.

Nobody in all the recent hullabaloo has talked about the idiocy and injustice of Dr. Leary’s ever being in jail in the first place. No American has ever been sentenced to such long terms as Timothy Leary for possession of two roaches. No American has ever had bail set so high ($5,000,000) that nobody but J. Paul Getty could possibly pay it. Nobody busted for two roaches has ever been pursued like the most dangerous international fugitive of all time.

Everybody knows, and nobody cares to say out loud, what the judge incautiously remarked when setting Dr. Leary’s bail so high, namely that Tim’s ideas are his real “crime.” Dr. Leary is today being punished and harassed and psychologically tortured-and has been punished and harassed and psychologically tortured for ten long years-for exactly the same offense as Jesus and Socrates and Galileo and Darwin and Wilhelm Reich: seeking the truth in a new direction.

Robert Vesco cannot be extradited back to the United States, we are told, since he in “only” accused of cheating his stock-holders out of $50,000,000, corrupting the government, bribing the attorney general, and similar misdemeanors, which evidently do not seem really serious to anybody in Washington. For poor usage of the first amendment-i.e., discussing unpopular scientific theories in public-Dr. Leary was literally kidnapped in Afghanistan by U.S. agents in violation of international law. Thought crime is much more alarming to Big Brother than mere stealing and bribery and obstruction of justice. Remember: if Leary’s particular thoughtcrime-if his heresy or “sin”-were any other doctrine, political or religious, except advocacy of LSD research, he would be defended by the entire academic community. Dr. Leary’s felony is exactly that which the Constitution was intended to protect: speaking in favor of ideas that are genuinely new, genuinely offensive, genuinely unpopular.

There is no doubt in the minds of any of Leary’s lawyers that the judge committed a reversible error in mentioning Leary’s “dangerous ideas” during the bail-hearing. There is no doubt that Leary should be scot-free today, because of that error. There is no question that the Afghanistan kidnapping was illegal, and that, because of it. Leary should be freed. Under the present court system, it could take many years to obtain vindication for these elementary legal principles; meanwhile, the academic and intellectual communities seem quite content to let Dr. Leary rot in his cage without lifting a voice in his defense. There has been no betrayal of basic civil liberties more shameful or more universal in our life-times.

AND NOW SUCH Morality Experts as Jerry Rubin are ready to condemn Timothy for saying to deal with his captors, without knowing the details of the deal, without any hard proof that Timothy has actually finked on anyone. And the Village Voice prints smear stories claiming Dr. Leary was part of a criminal conspiracy to get rich from LSD, not telling their readers (A) that the source of these charges is the usually hysterical and unfair Eastland Committee, (B) that nobody who has known Timothy for these last 15 years has ever seen any sign of wealth about him, or (C) that all these charges were examined by the Orange County Grand Jury. for nine months in 1973, and dismissed by them without indictment because there was no evidence at all to link Tim to the profiteers.

A hell of a lot of people seem awfully eager to villify and condemn Dr. Leary without enough real evidence to justify hanging a mad dog. Is this anything else but the sheer blind bigotry and intolerance that persecuted most of the great scientific pioneers of the past?

What will be the next step in biological and social evolution? Here are two clues. (1) You are more likely to find the evolutionary agents closer to jail than to the professor’s chair (2) Look to that social freedom most abused, most magically, irrationally feared by society. Exactly that freedom which you, the intellectual, the liberal, would deny to others. Good Now you are getting close.
T. Leary, Harvard Review, 1963

Quite simply, Dr. Timothy Leary is the outstanding example of the scientific and political martyr in our age, and each and every one of us is on trial, along with him, before the has of history to be judged as to whether we helped him more or helped his enemies more.

Dr. Leary’s heresies are no small matter. If, perchance, he is right even 51% of the time in his world-shaking claims, then he is our century’s greatest genius, and we who help his enemies more that we help him are on all fours with the Holy Inquisition and the Witch-Hunts of the past.

The charge that he is “mad” is self-indulging nonsense like the similar charge of madness against Reich, and against Darwin (look up the polemics of the time), and against Freud, and against every other pioneer since “insanity” replaced “heresy” as the excuse for condemning the independent investigator. He may be right or wrong in his claims, but he is brilliant in his research, his reasoning and his arguments. That is why he is hated: because his ideas challenge our basic assumptions, and because he might be proven right.

ACCORDING TO LSD-programming theory, as presented in the works of Dr. Leary and Dr. John Lilly (among others), it is possible to grow more loving and sensitive, just as it is possible to grow more Intelligent, by proper programming during LSD sessions. Those of us who saw the most of him in this last year all agree that, if Timothy did not succeed entirely, he shot way past the human noon. Visiting him to cheer him up, one usually ended by being cheered up by him, by his gallantry, his curiosity, his concern, his bounce and sparkle. I have only met a very few Eastern adepts who were as turned on to the cosmic and the here-now as Dr. Leary has been most of the time. Visiting him was literally an inspiring experience.



(Since writing the above paragraph, I have had the opportunity to spend an evening in lively and informative conversation with D. Wesley Hiler, the former Vacaville Prison psychologist who saw more of Timothy than anybody else in the past year. Dr. Hiler not only reiterated his previous statements that Leary’s IQ is incredibly high, his sanity total and his coherence remarkable, but also spontaneously used the word “inspiring” in describing Leary’s vibes. “His ability to stay happy despite all was an inspiration to everybody, including me,” Dr. Hiler said. “The guards loved his as much as the other convicts did. I will always be glad I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Leary and to learn from him.”

When I discussed the charges of insanity against Leary, Dr. Hiler smiled. “Laymen are always quick to pronounce a man crazy on the basis of his ideas. No psychologist would take any idea as proof that a subject was mad. You have to examine his general coherence, his behavior, his social relations, and so forth. In all such departments Dr. Timothy Leary was totally, radiantly sane. His ideas are new and original and very provocative, but there’s nothing insane about having such ideas per se.”)

When we read about the current findings of the energy sciences such as those I have just reviewed, how can our reaction be other than reverent awe at the grandeur of these observations, at the staggering complexity of the design, the speed, the scope? Ecstatic humility before such power and intelligence. Indeed, what a small secular concept—intelligence—to describe that infinitude of harmonious complexity!
Timothy Leary,
“Science As Ecstatic Kick”
“The Politics of Ecstasy,”

Timothy did have his lows, when the old program would reassert and he would be an emotional gland-robot again. Once last winter he talked for a while of suicide.

Nevertheless, his over-all joy and creativity was a goad to all of us, an example showing that an “earth WoMan” (as he would call himself) can triumph over suffering by self-development.

MY OPINION OF my own potentiality and the potential of all earth WoMen has been vastly increased in optimism and hope as a result of seeing Dr. Leary’s beauty of spirit under the daily horror of the cage-confinement torture.

Cage-confinement is torture. The melodramatic theories that Dr. Leary has been subject to brain-tampering were not true while he was in Vacaville; and the proponents of this fantasy should realize that, imagining such brutality was necessary to break hiss finally, they do not have enough empathy to understand the torture of every prisoner. Tim, as the psychologist-shaman he is, suffered not merely his own pain but the pain of each similar caged creature he spoke with—or “exchanged neurological signals with” as he would say.

The future will look back on our cages with exactly the same horror that we look back at the torture rack, the iron boot, or the stake. The future may remember our torture of Dr. Leary in one of these cages precisely as we remember the burning of Giordano Bruno, astronomer-magician, at the stake in the center of Rome, year of their lord 1600.

Torture is torture. It does not magically become something else when we call it “punishment.” It degrades both the torturer and the victim, and Dr. Leary has withstood it not just bravely but beautifully for five years. Those who condemn his now show lack of at least human compassion.

I happen to think Dr. Leary is, basically, right in his scientific theories; I think he is the outstanding genius of our century. I think our torture of him is very similar to the execution of Bruno and the jailing of Galileo and Reich. I am being very, very moderate in my language in this article, because I would be screaming in rage at human stupidity and intolerance if I didn’t watch myself very carefully now.



Dr. Leary’s basic scientific claims are that (1) LSD induces a state in which normal neurological imprints are suspended; this may or may not be totally true, but Dr. John Lilly also claims it is true, and Dr. Jiri Roubecek has written “LSD inhibits conditioned reflexes.” (2) During this suspension of imprints, new neurological imprints can be laid down and will “set” in place, remaining as new programs and habits of functioning. Danish psychiatrists, using this assumption in treating criminal psychopaths, have reported some remarkable cures. (3) One can eventually program oneself out of the first four circuits of the human nervous system, which are the only circuits normally used, and which are controlled entirely, and gloomily, by the behaviorists‘ stimulus-response mechanism. (In other words, most people, most of the time, are the robots described in behaviorist theory. To
that extent, the depressing behaviorists are scientifically accurate, but W can program ourselves to higher levels of neurological functioning, beyond the conditioned reflex arc. To that extent, the behaviorists are wrong.) (4) One can, in detail, gradually-program at least four additional circuits, not generally known or used by current humanity. Three additional circuits were described in “Neurologic,” 1973; a fourth has since been found; there are probably others. There may be no limits to the capacities of the human nervous system for imprinting, re-imprinting itself for ever-higher modes of signal-reception and Gestalt integration.

The latter four-or-more neural circuits are not conditioned, not conditionable; this is what Dr. Hiler, the Vacaville psychologist, is describing when he, rather inadequately, describes Timothy as “uninhibited.”

THESE HIGHER CIRCUITS account for most of the phenomena of mysticism, shamanism, genius, witchcraft, intuition, ESP and similar “wild talents,” all of which can now be routinely programmed into normal human beings by proper LSD ritual methods.

Such claims, I repeat, are not minor heresies. If even 51% true, they mean that we virtually hold the key to our future evolution in our hands today. Instead of having a half-dozen genuine saints, seers, philosophers, magic-workers and geniuses every century, we can have a planet-wide awakening of what now seem super-human powers in everybody. All exploits and misadventures of those using LSD unwisely, clumsily, stupidly, tragically, etc., are scientifically irrelevant, however socially deplorable. The scientific question is: can a trained and skillful LSD programmer produce the above-listed “superhuman” powers in normal people? (We do not ask if a gang of idiots, let loose in a hydro-electric plant, can blow themselves up, but if trained and knowledgeable persons, running that plant, can produce “superhuman” energy for whole cities.) The government has banned all legal research on LSD-programming for over ten years, and has persecuted illegal research. Is this wise prudence or blind hysteria?

Dr. Leary has stood alone for a long time now. The academic community, which should have leaped to his defense when federal agencies first began meddling in his research, has offered instead a spectacle of disgraceful cowardice and blind bigotry. This is hardly news; only 18 psychiatrists signed the petition against the burning of Dr. Reich’s books in an incinerator, 1956. But, listen, a certain famous astronomer thought highly enough of the theories in Leary’s “Terra II” to travel a thousand miles to Vacaville to visit Dr. Leary in his cage. Has this famous astronomer since then called in outrage for a nationwide scholars‘ strike until Dr. Leary is released by the ignorant, unscientific clods who are holding him caged? No, the famous astronomer has not done that. He has not even raised a single peep of indignation over this torture of his learned colleague.

(“AMERICANS ARE TERRIBLY naive about totalitarianism,” Dr. Leary wrote in a letter. “In Europe, even the liberals understood that I was a fugitive political prisoner, jailed for my ideas.”)

All right, Timothy is (has been, will be again) a cocksman, a social butterfly, a lothario, a boozer, a joke, a rowdy, a fun-lover, a hedonist, a sensualist, a rascal. Like Shelley and Shakespeare and Mendeleyev and Uncle Looie. He has also done scientific work which is universally regarded as important in his profession; done more controversial scientific work which may be even more important than that already recognized; written first-rate poetry; made a heroic and athletic jail break at the age of 49; given more love and compassion and understanding every week for ten years than most of us give in our life-times; made dumb political blunders; lied to some of his persecutors and some of his friends; told the truth repeatedly under great hazard to himself; made many women happy and some women sad; and looked at his species with a more remarkable dispassionate analysis than any contemporary writer, scientific or literary. The last claim is a subjective evaluation by me; the rest can be documented with case histories.



Most of Dr. Leary’s “wild” and “exaggerated” claims for LSD, as the daily press calls them, have been supported by independent research. Again. I am not talking about irresponsible and uninformed tripping by untrained persons; I am talking about scientific investigations, before they were forbidden by law. Leary says autism (child schizophrenia) is a first circuit faulty imprint that can be corrected by LSD re-imprinting. Three independent studies. in “Psychedelic Review” No. 10 (1969) largely confirm this. All children in these studies were either cured, vastly improved or slightly improved; none were harmed. Yet no more LSD research on autistic children is allowed. Why?

Again Dr. Leary claims that properly programmed LSD sessions can duplicite the mystic experience of sages. Every scientific study of LSD as mystical programmer—every single study; see Clark’s “Chemical Ecstasy” for a review of all data—confirms that a majority of subjects, properly guided, will experience what they consider union with God (or nature) and that independent groups reading accounts of these experiences will not be able to distinguish them from the accounts of mystic experience recorded by past religious visionaries.

Christopher Humphries Ph.D., gives a minimal claim in his “Whole Earth Inner Space”: “Any person over forty who has meditated for a year can achieve Samadhi with properly programmed LSD administration.” Samadhi is the highest of the alternate consciousness states in Hindu psychology. If even this much is true, the acceleration of understanding and application of mystical states can be enormously speeded up. This, too. if forbidden. Why?

Dr. Leary has fought long and hard to restore the scientific spirit in which his claims can be independently investigated and either confirmed or refuted. Such investigation is forbidden by the government which persecutes him and shunned by the universities which cowardly refuse to defend his liberty.

Even if Dr. Leary has lost the will to fight, or if under the condemnation of old friends and the incessant pressure of cruel captors who taunt him with promises of freedom and torment him with continuation of denied parole, he does crack fully, and betrays those who once helped him, this is a terrible disgrace, not just to Timothy the man, but to every human being alive who has not defended him hard enough and ardently enough or long enough to save him this continued torture.

Everybody who can read understands the basic idea of the first amendment and knows what a monstrous injustice has been wreacked upon this basically kind, basically generous, basically decent, thoroughly brilliant scientist over a period of ten long, cruel years. And now we condemn him instead of his persecutors?

DR. LEARY’S LATEST heresies that we will be able to leave the solar system and discover the chemical key to immortality within the next two decades- are, once again, pronounced as proof of his “insanity” by hordes of people with no scientific background on which to form a reasonable judgement.

One of the scientists on the Orion Project of the 1960s (an attempt to send a rocket outside the solar system which was abandoned by the government only because it had no military applications) has written enthusiastically to Leary about “Terra II,” and even offered to write the introduction to the second edition. This man, a physicist, regards Leary’s plans for spaceship Terra II as entirely practical. (I may have permission to print his name in a future issue.)



Let us examine the logical possibilities.

1. The Starseed Hypothesis: Life cm earth is embryonic offspring of advanced civilizations existing on other planets within our galaxy which can be contacted by means of electro-magnetic nessagery and time-whip exploration.

2. No higher intelligence exists beyond the gradual accumulation of scientific knowledge. Life is a unique development on earth. There is no advanced life in other solar systems and no genetically pre-programmed higher levels of awareness within the nervous system.

No matter which of these hypotheses one aesthetically prefers, the fact remains that the best investment for the human race, the most exciting, inoffensive way to pass our time is to assume, pretend, gamble that there is a Higher intelligence, to develop an immortality pill and to organize an all-out search for the Star-school. From the history of science we learn that the only way for a new energy to be discovered is to look for it.

Timothy Leary,
“Terra II,” 1974


Life-extension research, which might increase human life expectancy to 150, 250 or 500 years, is currently underway at Michigan State University, University of Colorado, Microwave Instrument Corporation and UC Berkeley, among other places. I have talked to some of these researchers, and all of them are optimistic about obtaining very favorable results within Dr. Leary’s prophesized 20-year limit.

One researcher at UC Berkeley is hopeful that his current research on life-extension in rats will produce a genuine breakthrough within 2 or 3 years. (This, of course, will not be applicable and marketable for humans for another 10-15 years.) He has already duplicated and surpassed Monsanto Company’s previous work in prolonging youth in experimental rats to double the normal span, and he has also prolonged middle-age in some of his rats to the point where they should have been dead of old age. He is convinced that he has found the amino acid combination that acts as “trigger” in the metamorphoses of senescence, senility and death.

Dr. Johan Bjorstein of Wisconsin, meanwhile, hopes to have results within the decade on similar, but slightly different genetic engineering. Prof. R.C.W. Ettinger, a spokes-man and propagandist for all the researchers in this field, quite confidently predicts that many now living will never die.

Again, Dr. Leary may be right or wrong, but his advocacy of this viewpoint does not prove insanity or irrationality; it merely shows that he is, as always, the bard philosopher of the most avant-garde wing of current scientific work and speculation. This may be jolting or shocking to many, but in no free country should it be considered a crime deserving of the kind of relentless torment heaped upon this man for over a decade.

It is time we all stopped trying to destroy Timothy Leary and started thinking, for at last a few minutes a day about the possibility that he might he right a lot of the time.

I conclude, like Ginsberg in his 44 questions, with the enquiry, “Doesn’t the old cry Free Tim Leary apply now urgent as ever?”


Must We Cage Genius?
by Robert Anton Wilson appeared in Gnostica: News of the Aquarian Frontier, Issue 30 in February 1975.