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Timothy Leary, Ph.D. 
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out  
(ESP) 


review by Paul Serralheiro
2009-09-10

The Andy Warhol of psychiatry, with a hip following based on a charismatic, albeit enigmatic and controversial image, Timothy Leary is famous as the guru of the drug culture, at a time when young people were looking for answers and meaning to an insane world in an America that was seriously questioning its values. The answers to their questions appeared in Leary's teachings, which alarmed many parents and enraged authorities.

This release offers listeners the chance to hear what the doctor had to say on such subjects as abuse of power, intolerance, the state of American Society in the mid 1960s, and the burgeoning communes and encounter-groups, some of which used drugs like LSD and marijuana to reach higher plateaus of understanding. Recorded in 1966, it includes the famous sound bite: "I have three things to say to young people today. Turn on, tune in, drop out."

Leary claims people over 40 should not listen to the recording because they will be angry, and he relates encounters with the law and the intolerance of parents who fear Leary will lead children off like a pied piper. Leary's words, however, are soothing and poetical, as when he describes the grounds of the Castalia Foundation, the institute he is speaking from, or when he describes the adventures of his entourage in their quest for enlightenment via the "psychochemical revolution."

In detailed, reasoned accounts of his philosophy and his practice, Leary explains his method and his desire to become one of the wisest spiritual guides of his time. Through the elaborations Leary delivers, we sense he is genuinely interested in enlightenment and that he believed the use of mind-altering substances like Marijuana and LSD was a legitimate, age-old means to that end. What is most striking is the tone of Leary's words, as we get a clear idea of the kind of idealism that drove the psychedelic age.

The recording was made just before the height of the drug-taking counterculture madness, so we get a glimpse at the calm center of the storm, the eye of the hurricane. It should be noted that the results on the CD come after considerable editing to eliminate long pauses in the doctor's pontifications, for a more succinct record of his verbal responses which round off at about an hour of fascinating talk.





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