June 23, 2020

Timothy Leary "had no interest in politics. He called student activists 'young men with menopausal minds' and suggested that LSD could stand for 'Let the State Disintegrate.'"

"But by 1968, his slogans were so poised between derangement and Madison Avenue that they could pass for visionary; 'Everyone should start their own nation,' he uttered, just days after Martin Luther King's assassination. It was awfully hard to tell charlatans from prophets at the time, and besides, the denatured, anti-intellectual language that dominated discourse then (and is still with us, in a New Age guise) had been rolling off Leary's tongue since before he had ingested a single microgram of lysergic acid: people engaged in emotional 'games'; all the world's bad stuff was a 'system'; the state of being clued-in was 'consciousness,' and so on.... [60's culture had] its gaseous rhetoric, its reliance on mahatmas and soothsayers, its endless bail-fund benefits and sometimes dubious appeals to conscience, its thriving population of informers, its contribution to the well-being of lawyers, its candyland expectations and obstinate denials of reality, its fatal avoidance of critical thinking, its squalid death by its own hand.... In part because of Leary, however, ideals and delusions were encouraged to interbreed, their living progeny being avid consumerism and toothless dissent."

Wrote Luc Sante in 2006, reviewing a biography of Timothy Leary. I blogged that at the time and stumbled across it today. I was struck by how much some of it spoke of what young people today are doing.

And who remembered Leary as the source of calling all the world's bad stuff was a "system"? Today, we hear about — and are pressured to assert belief in — "systemic racism." How much is that like the old hippie horror at "the system"? I know I was against it... but what was it?!


Kai Akker said...

Leary and Alpert, later known as Baba Ram Dass. Please don't make us go back there!!!!!

Kai Akker said...

"How much is that like the old hippie horror at "the system"? I know I was against it... but what was it?!" [AA]

Yeah! Exactly. The '60s in a nutshell. So many people are still stuck in the '60s. Some have wrecked their lives imagining that those days would return any minute. That those practices were worthy and part of the New Age of Aquarius that was freeing us for utopia and perfection. I have a notebook page devoted to "Casualties of the '60s." It is not a cheerful page to look at.

Yancey Ward said...

I actually read that biography, and I think I did because of the blog post about the review, but my memory is hazy now- I could have seen it mentioned elsewhere.

YoungHegelian said...

And who remembered Leary as the source of calling all the world's bad stuff was a "system"? Today, we hear about — and are pressured to assert belief in — "systemic racism." How much is that like the old hippie horror at "the system"?

By 1968, all of the philosophical & political foundations of modern post-Marxism had been set in place. Guys like Marcuse & the other Frankfurt School guys had written their most important works. Everyone who was still Marxist had nothing good to say about the Soviet Union & was desperately seeking some other Marxist regime to suck up to (North Viet Nam, China), but even that was qualified. Foucault by 1968 had published at least two major works, and the other French post-structuralists are attacking both the existentialists & the Marxists as passe'. Derrida was even further along in his life's work.

In the US, the founders of radical feminism were busy at work, as were gay activists. And every side, and I mean every side, of black activism was fully developed by 1968. The integrationalists, the black separatists, the black supremacists, all of it.

Almost all of the stuff we're dealing with now comes from the 50s to 70s. In retrospect, it's amazing how little actual thought there seems to have been since.

Josephbleau said...

Alpert? The Spanish Flea, Tijuana Taxi, The Lonely Bull? He was great!

alan markus said...

Speaking of Robert Crumb;

Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) has an upcoming exhibition called Wisconsin Funnies: Fifty Years of Comics

Wisconsin Funnies spans the Museum of Wisconsin Art’s “mother ship” in West Bend and MOWA | DTN, located in downtown Milwaukee at Saint Kate the Arts Hotel. MOWA | DTN will feature comics with a political bent; the West Bend location will offer a comprehensive overview of comics in Wisconsin. While California is often considered the birthplace of underground comics (also known as “comix”), Wisconsin began producing independently published, subversive comics at the same time. Beginning in the late 1960s, the Wisconsin comix scene, spearheaded by Denis Kitchen’s Kitchen Sink Press, marshaled the countercultural appeal of comic art to educate, instigate, and entertain a disaffected generation.

West Bend is about 30 miles north of Milwaukee.

Fernandinande said...

the denatured, anti-intellectual language ...since before he had ingested a single microgram of lysergic acid

If anything, LSD should teach one that those "insights" and associated slogans are almost always nonsense.

Fernandinande said...

Speaking of Crumb and current events, here is his "When the N-words[censored because google] Take Over America".

Guildofcannonballs said...

The Bible will have reference to Satan being a system of evil, I assume, given translations and their malleability.

Francisco D said...

Kai Akker said...Leary and Alpert, later known as Baba Ram Dass. Please don't make us go back there!!!!!

I remember listening to their tapes my freshman year at college.

My friend Rudy (who had the tapes) and I stayed in the dorms during the Thanksgiving break with two semi-hot chicks. They were impressed by the depth of the discussion. It was fun.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The evasive meaning of "systemic" has been a favorite topic of mine. Here's one: https://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2017/02/systemic.html

Guildofcannonballs said...

I know somebody that knew Jenn Starger.

This guy I knew hated Favre before anybody else in WI I know, and loved it the day the guy finally got out of Green Bay with his record interceptions and single title with a championship team around him for years and years.

I thought my buddy was nuts at the time, but have learned a lot from him since about my illsusions.

He got him Chicago ties, they told him from day 1 what up.

The next Civil War will have whites and blacks and asians and hispanics all kicking prog ass. They are right to be scared and lash out if their psyche won't allow for any mental changes.

Bless their parents' hearts.

Nichevo said...

Fernandinande said...
Speaking of Crumb and current events, here is his "When the N-words[censored because google] Take Over America".

6/23/20, 6:37 PM

How deeply falsified by current events!

Sebastian said...

"but what was it?!"

Now you ask. A little late.

So if people who assert things to be true without evidence are liars, what are people who assert things to be true without evidence and without knowing what they even mean?

Howard said...

It's not a system, it's a structure. What people call systemic are just the emergent properties that flow out of the structure. Ipso facto, the proper term is Structural Racism. This is why the Libtards are calling for dismantling police departments to build a new structure. According to rhhardin's theory, this is manly man thinking, which is why you people are so confounded. The left is going for Structural Woke-ism. It's a Brave New Kids World out there, Granny. Don't let the Covid hit you on the way out the door.

Rosalyn C. said...

The biggest assumption back in those days was that progressives are always progressive and know better. Boomers now see how far from "the truth" (the realities of life) that mindset is. People who most adamantly resist this are upper middle class/upper class liberals whose adult lives and careers quickly folded back into the "establishment" despite their deepest ambitions for change. They became conformists and their aspirations were kept alive but never challenged. Now their deepest beliefs are being challenged. Of course there are ways to weasel out of the confrontation: we're told that being progressive means you are against racism. Progressives claim that conservatives are in favor of racism. Seriously?!? Put out a lawn sign, paint a storefront banner, make sure you tell the world you are not a racist.

President Trump has probably known about all this for his entire adult life -- he never got into drugs or the counter culture stuff, except for free love/sex. That makes him a dangerous man according to some people. When asked what horrible thing he has done there are vague claims about racism, homophobia, this or that, the Muslim ban, as if all Muslims were banned. That was never true. He's a threat because he threatens the progressive mythology.

Structural racism implies that social structures and systems have developed and are maintained primarily for the purpose of racism and keeping whites supreme. Not so. Racism is an aberration of human nature, not a goal of our system. The structure of our system exists to provide the stability and opportunity to maximize life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone.

Narr said...

Sixties-envy. The grandkids of hippies, grabbing for some of that counterculture cool.

Stupid then, stupid now.

Colleges and universities are full of them

madAsHell said...

He was a professor of psychology at UCLA......need I say more??

walter said...


Black Is Beautiful Mission Statement:
"Fighting the power is a full-time job, especially if you're Black. Take this event as a moment to collectively exhale as a community and join us on a ride for Black lives. We'll keep marching, we'll keep chanting, but for one day we need to feel the wind in our face again. Black Lives Matter. Black Mental Health Matters too".
(Damn Milwaukee whiteys had to be told to hang back to keep blacks in front)

Jon Ericson said...

Goodbye little comment.
See you in the morning.

Unknown said...

Young dummies are infected by the hippy dummies in Academia

Kai Akker said...

Great post, Rosalyn C.

Francisco D: My friend Rudy (who had the tapes) and I stayed in the dorms during the Thanksgiving break with two semi-hot chicks. They were impressed by the depth of the discussion. It was fun.

Yes, it was a lot of fun to be young in an adventurous time.

So much mythos were getting promulgated to explain and extend that whole exploratory decade, half-decade. Most of it bogus nonsense, like Promoter Leary's. Mythoi... that's the plural, just looked it up. So many mythoi! Young Hegelian detailed the general lines. Too many people bought into one or another particular mythos set and it captured them. And now, decades later, they wonder at their lives and disappointments, like women who never married because.... feminism? Superwomen careers? It wasn't as cool as hanging out? The men who liked them weren't awesome enough to deserve them?

But the academics were the worst, because, once established, they could nourish those little fantasies into ever-bigger systems; and then they could use them to warp those clean new planks that were marched in front of them daily into the shape they thought made a perfect fit for their brave new worlds. For decades. And safe from the disciplines of the marketplace and the P-and-L statement. Nothing to curb their perversities.

And here we are. The clergy were bad, too. Pathetic. They are just getting to where everyone else was 50 years ago.

The '60s were a major financial cycle peak, too.

Kai Akker said...

---And who remembered Leary as the source of calling all the world's bad stuff was a "system"? [AA]

Disagree on that one. Not "the source"! Leary was merely piggybacking on so much that had been coming out all through the 1950s, possibly starting with The Lonely Crowd, published in 1950. The shortcomings of the traditionally-directed society, giving way to inner-directed and other-directed. The "system" and its dissatisfactions became a major theme. Movies like On the Waterfront set the reluctant rebel against the "system"; that was 1953. Beatniks wanted out of the squares' rat-race, daddy-o. Even many an average man couldn't quite fit in, like The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, 1956. There was the incipient rebellion of the young depicted in Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without a Cause, both 1955. Even Leary's own psychedelic experimentation seems to have been inspired by a 1957 article about Mexican magic mushrooms -- in Life magazine, no less!

The ferment was all present in the '50s and the explosions of the '60s had their roots there, I believe. The '50s were a far more interesting decade than they are generally given credit for.

Bilwick said...

It's ironic to this day that leftover hippie types still talking negatively avout "the system" while supporting statism.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

A bit more on Leary and the counter-culture. Leary was perhaps the #1 speaker at the Be-In in San Francisco, January 1967. This might seem quite late in the events of the 50s and 60s, but there were still distinct groups: the beats or beatniks saw themselves as artists, to some extent living "rough," like the homeless, unlikely to attract a huge following. In any case they had perhaps learned both from art and from Eastern religion that true enlightenment is always for the few. The hippies were younger and more "optimistic" that enlightenment was, so to speak, only a pill away. Besides Leary, the speakers at the Be-In were generally on the "beat" side of things, and it was very new for them to address a huge crowd. An attempt at a similar event in New York was not successful--the fissures between different groups were too apparent, and the disagreements about taking political action or not came to the surface.

I think it was in 1967 that Leary met Abbie Hoffmann, soon to join with Jerry Rubin in the creation of the Yippie movement. In Paul Krassner’s words, quoted in Greenfield's biography of Leary, “Abbie wanted the hippies to become political and Tim wanted the politicos to get stoned.”
Greenfield: "Although this provided some basis for joint action, the divide remained.
Even as the counterculture was being born, the split between those who favored psychedelic spirituality and those who believed in the politics of revolution was already an issue. [There was a summit conference] on whether to ‘drop out or take over.’ ‘The choice is between being rebellious and being religious,’ Tim was later quoted as saying. ‘Don’t vote. Don’t politic. Don’t petition. You can’t do anything about America politically.'”

Abbie Hoffman noted that even after taking acid, he saw that it was desirable to “change the world” in order to “change your mind,” implying that it will be difficult to raise human consciousness on a large scale without political action. “Total absorption with the internal voyage made you easy to exploit and convert” (303). Leary seems to have thought, on the contrary, that it was only people who were somewhat preoccupied with raising their own consciousness that would see their way to a better society. In the years that followed, Leary tended to be supportive of the wider counter-culture, and they of him—at least sufficiently that they remained identified in the minds of the public.

PM said...

Re-read 1963's Port Huron Statement last week. (Insert the Dude's quote here) The inequality aggravations are pretty much the same as today's, with the added beefs re nukes and 'Nam. Plus ca change...
btw, Leary was a magnificent asshat.

Paul Snively said...

R. Crumb is a pervert (see his "Devil Woman" character to see what I mean), but he had a habit of asking the right questions in his work. No self-satisfied pieties for him.