Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 29 May 13 12:08
A bit of psychedelic history: R.U. Sirius is joining us for the next couple of weeks to discuss his new book, _Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time_, which means a broader talk about the historical context for Leary's psychedelic voyages - the book combines historical accounts and anecdotes about Leary with bits of Leary's writing. R.U. (real name Ken Goffman) is a writer and editor living in Northern California. He was co-publisher and editor-in-chief of MONDO 2000, the first popular technoculture magazine from 1989 - 1992. He has been editor of several web periodicals since then, including GettingIt.com, NeoFiles and H+ Magazine. His writing has appeared in mainstream and subculture publications including Time, Rolling Stone, Salon and Wired. He was a regular columnist for ARTFORUM International and San Francisco Examiner. He has authored or coauthored ten book, among them MONDO 2000: A User's Guide to the New Edge (with Rudy Rucker), How To Mutate & Take Over the World (with St. Jude), Design For Dying (with Timothy Leary), 21st Century Revolutionary, Counterculture Through The Ages From Abraham to Acid House (with Dan Joy) and, of course, Timothy Leary's Trip Thru Time. In addition to his activities as a writer and editor, in 1993, Sirius's band, Mondo Vanilli, recored a never-released album, i.o.u. Babe, for Trent Reznor's Nothing Records. It is currently available at MONDO Vanilli Band Camp http://mondovanilli.bandcamp.com/. His podcasts from the early 2000s, The R.U. Sirius Show and NeoFiles, have largely disappeared down the memory hole. He is currently working on his Magnum Opus, Use Your Hallucinations: MONDO 2000 in 20th Century Cyberculture while also editing an untitled collection of Timothy Leary's best writing and gathering the evidence for an extended political rant against plutocracy and authoritarianism titled Steal This Singularity.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 29 May 13 12:10
I'll start with an obvious question: what led you to write this particular book? I know you've been working on the Mondo 2000 history - did this spin off from that work?
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Wed 29 May 13 17:20
I was asked by Denis Berry from the Timothy Leary estate, Futique Trust, to write a timeline to be included in the TimothyLeary.org website, which they're preparing to be very much live and dynamic by the time the New York Public Library opens Timothy Leary's archives to the public this fall. She probably chose me because I completed Leary's last book, Design For Dying, and because I'm pretty knowledgeable about his life and philosophy and because I can write (or at least some people seem to think so.) And I'm very pro-Leary but at the same time, she knew I wouldn't write a totally uncritical hagiography or a sort of psychedelic superman comic book... which would come off as really false. As the discussion progressed, it became clear that it would have to be substantial. You couldn't just nail this complicated life and work down with bullet points and a couple of sentences. Once it was written, it became clear that it should really be available for people to read in book format. And so it went.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 29 May 13 18:23
Did you know Leary personally?
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Thu 30 May 13 00:00
Yes, I first met him in 1980 in Rochester New York when he was touring night clubs with his Stand Up Philosopher act. Then, in 1984, I'd moved to the S.F. Bay Area and started a psychedelic magazine with a tech edge called High Frontiers. I contacted him then and he was very friendly and enthusiastic. Eventually, by 1988, the magazine was called Reality Hackers and he became a regular contributor which continued when we changed yet again to MONDO 2000 the following year. So I got to be one of the several thousand people who he made to feel like one of his great friends... the Leary network, if you will. He'd stay in Berkeley at the place that became known as the MONDO house and I visited his home in Beverly Hills a couple of times. Shall I data dump? Yes, I shall... This is from Use Your Hallucinations (in progress) describing meeting Leary. Some of it may be a bit out of context since it's part of a larger body of text... Its 1980: Im at Brockport, New York, near Rochester (the Revolution having left me stranded.) My friend Brian Cotnoir wants to start an avant-garde art newspaper. He calls it Black Veins which comes from an interpretation of a line from Lautreamonts epic proto-surrealist misanthropic horror poem Maldoror and he signs me on as co-editor. The paper features dark, perversely angled bits of poetry and fiction, but I bring something else in. Since the mid-1970s, I have been nursing that growing obsession with the neuro-futurisms of Leary/Wilson. For the first issue, I have a written exchange with Wilson, performed by the soon to be archaic means of letters sent by mail. As best I recall, the exchange essentially involves me wringing my hands that the world is a terrible place and that his optimistic weltanschauung may actually be a dangerous diversion. (I would later get letters like that myself at MONDO 2000 and, generally, respond with dismissive quips intended to communicate my lack of any actual commitment to an optimistic or any point of view.) My letter includes a pretentious, portentous quote from a Village Voice review of Hans-Hurgen Syderbergs 6 hour film, Our Hitler. And then word comes that Dr. Leary himself is coming to Rochester on his stand up philosophy tour. Brian, his girlfriend Ellen, myself, and our ex-girlfriend Liz pile in Ellens car for the 30-minute drive to Rochester for the Sunday afternoon performance. Our goal is to interview the Dr. after the show for the second issue of Black Veins. I also plan to film him and incorporate him into an 8mm movie called Armed Camp Im making for a film class. (Incidentally, thats camp in the Susan Sontag sense.) There is a vague narrative structure to this odd little attempt and I have reworked it so that it required Timothy Leary to say a few lines. My posse myself excluded is negative about mind-altering drugs and cynical about Leary, and this makes me anxious. As we take our seats, the end of the Pink Floyd album The Wall blasts out of the loudspeakers and the cover of Learys book The Intelligence Agents which shows multiple copies of the same baby attempting to climb over a brick wall that appears to have no end is projected onto a screen on stage. Then comes Side 2 (The 1984 side) of David Bowies Diamond Dogs. Given his recent byzantine adventures with prison, exile, revolution, and compromise with the powers of state, it seems as if Leary is trying to tell us something. To the final echoes of Bowie singing We want you, big brother, Dr. Leary walks on stage. Liz mutters a bit too loudly, Ohmygod, its Johnny Carson. The performance is not particularly impressive or funny, but Leary agrees to be interviewed. He unleashes that famous laser beam smile on each of us, one at a time, and the vibe immediately changes. Instant intimacy. Timothy Leary is now our special pal and were his co-conspirators. We move into the restaurant attached to the club, order drinks and peruse the menu. Liz, a slightly moralistic vegetarian, asks Leary if he eats meat. Ill eat anything! he says directly to her, smiling. Its something that has been said a million times before by both jackasses and geniuses, but it comes out like a blast of freedom. Everybody feels this. We all have a roaring great time interviewing Leary about life; drugs; his hatred of followers; his futurist theories and the 1980 Democratic primaries (If Id done a better job, you wouldnt have all these pasty-faced white guys running around New Hampshire.) Were all dazzled, feeling like the host of Planet Earths party had lifted the velvet rope and let us in. As we finish the conversation, Ellen urges me to ask Tim about appearing in Armed Camp. Im feeling shy, but I share the script such as it is with him and point him at his two-sentence part. Whats it about? he asks. A bit flustered, I blurt out, Nothing really. He laughs and looks at my friends. Thaaats wonderfullll, isnt it? Nothing. Isnt thaaat wonderful? Everybody laughs, including me. He wont read the lines but he will let me ask him a question and film his response which turns out to be useless for my movie, but a treasure (that I will soon lose) nonetheless. As we wrap up, Tim asks for a ride back to his hotel. He shrewdly picks Brian to dismantle and pack up the photo projector hed uses to backdrop his talk. As we head to the car, night has fallen. Liz is pawing Dr. Leary, while they both gaze up at the stars. He points and describes a constellation or two. In the car, Liz continues to stroke and flirt, offering to come up to his hotel. Leary tells her she is very beautiful and wonderful, but hes married. As Sympathy For the Devil pops up on the mainstream rock radio station, we pull up to a raggedy-ass little hotel thats near the Rochester Airport and the good Dr. takes his leave of us. Issue #2 with the long Leary interview is published and there ends my pre-California publishing and editing adventures.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 30 May 13 08:46
That's a great story, and one phrase that struck me was "the neuro-futurisms of Leary/Wilson." It would help set the context for our conversation if you could flesh that out a bit - describe what those "neuro-futurisms" were and why they resonated with the younger R.U. Sirius?
Administrivia (jonl) Thu 30 May 13 10:55
Link for sharing this conversation far and wide: http://bit.ly/sirius-leary If you're not a member of the WELL, but have a question or comment for this discussion, send it to inkwell at well.com. We'll post it!
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Thu 30 May 13 10:58
OK, I'll do that later but first... A: Have we told people that they can get the book at TimothyLeary.org and that there's a free electronic version? So you can read along while we chat. Buying a print copy, of course, is always best. B: As marvelous as my little bio/timeline is... it's hard to best this... found on the magical interwebs today. >>> Tim Leary Tim Leary Timothy Leary, also cognise as Uncle Tim, The messiah of lysergic unpleasant diethylamide, and The most dangerous spell in America, was innate(p) on October 22, 1920, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He went to a public exalted pitch school where he stick to girls and the ability to attract forethought from those in authority. After high school he accompany Jesuit College saintly Cross, only when Tim wasnt satisfied with beatified Cross, so he took a test to get into horse opera hemisphere Point. He got in truth high tag and was accepted. Timothy was very enthused and eminent to be at westerly Point. However, his enthusiasm coloured when he realized that he was macrocosm trained not to think, scarce to follow. Ordercustompaper.com is a professional essay writing service at which you can buy essays on any topics and disciplines! All custom essays are written by professional writers! One day, on a return pillowcase from a football game, Timothy was invited to imbibe with a a match of(prenominal) of the upper classmen who brought some bottles of whiskey. The extramarital event was unfortunately observed the next day, and the Cadet enjoy Committee punished Tim by inflicting a kind of troglodyte confinement: everyone was forbidden to plow a word to him.. http://custom-writing-paper-blog.blogspot.com/2013/05/tim-leary.html
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 30 May 13 11:30
<scribbled by jonl Thu 30 May 13 11:30>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 30 May 13 11:31
Amazing. I'm sure he did get in truth high tag.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Thu 30 May 13 12:29
Regarding Leary/Wilson Neuro-theory... I'm going to steal from something I've written before, because I'm going to be away from the internets probably until tonight and don't want to stall the discussion... This is about the 8 Circuit Brain theory, which is really just an element of Leary-Wilson Neuro theorizing and politics (the more important part may be the philosophic relativism related to an awareness that the brain produces our sense and opinions about what reality is and that, for various reasons including the ultimate limits of the equipment, we don't know shit. >>>> The theory was developed by Timothy Leary in the mid-1970s and then expanded upon by Science Fiction writer and philosopher Robert Anton Wilson. In a reductionist nutshell (and put in a context that will be appreciated by technophile types), Leary theorized that their were circuits or potentials for intelligence residing inside the human skull that were in some sense laying in wait for the time when they would be useful for human survival (and enjoyment). It was a sort-of evolutionary psychological system that presumed that human evolution didnt end with contemporary, unaltered 20 C. humans, but that we were going to become posthuman in some interesting and exciting (and pleasurable) ways. In simplistic terms, Leary theorized that when a civilization becomes advanced enough to offer some of its privileged members leisure time, this provides them the opportunity to open somatic potentials in the brain that allow them to experience the brain and body not as merely an implement for survival, but as something one can drive and control. One is privileged to enjoy mind states that are sensual, visionary, playful, fluid and creative. And in fact, some survival value ultimately comes from all that as well. He called this the 5th circuit. Naturally, this being Leary, the circuit could also be opened up by drugs in this case marijuana. The next circuit or potential was neuro-electric and was related to the idea of shared minds, minds hooked up, speeded up, linked up your basic networked, online, twittered world perhaps ultimately extending out to direct mind link ups and borg like collectivities of mind. (I remind you, this was in the mid-70s). Again, Leary theorized that evolutionary potentials in the brain would open up under these evolutionary conditions (and of course, you could open them up a bit, prematurely, using psychedelic drugs). The seventh circuit would open up when we gained control over biology, mutating into different physical forms. The eighth circuit? Well, it depends which books you read. Variously, it represents control at the molecular level, control at the quantum level (time dilation perhaps?), hyperdimensionality The Singularity was mentioned it was the Singularity of Olaf Stapledons Star Maker. These theories were written up in five books collectively called the Future History Series. The books dont revolve primarily around science and technology. Theyre, in a sense, the works of a former transactional psychologist on acid and science fiction, tempered by prison, exile and culture war. The emphasis is on the personal and social quality of various mind states including the less exulted states common to humanity up until (and into) the 21st century, with lots of emphasis on the degree to which we are DNA robots and with methods for deprogramming yourself (frequently with psychedelic drugs). They draw on mysticism (it was the 70s) and particularly on Aleister Crowley and Gurdjieff, and are not for everybody. But even the most hardheaded radical technology freak will find astonishing bits of foresight contained therein.
david gault (dgault) Thu 30 May 13 13:23
reminds me of this old chestnut - now available used at $49.98! http://www.amazon.com/Programming-Metaprogramming-Human-Biocomputer-Experiment s/dp/051752757X
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Thu 30 May 13 17:42
wow. $49.98! Leary really admired and was influenced by that particular John Lilly book. But Lilly's thing was very interior and Leary Theory was more about the interior impact of exterior technological and social change and vice versa... with the emphasis on vice... versa
david gault (dgault) Fri 31 May 13 11:09
good point about the contrast between interior and exterior. As I recall, Lilly preferred his sensory deprivation tank for self-programming. Leary always struck me as a sensualist, as a person who valued and sought new experiences in the physical world.
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 31 May 13 11:57
Incidentally, if anyone in the outside world is reading this and wants to join in with a question, just e-mail inkwell [at] well [dot] com, and we'll hustle the question right over.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 31 May 13 11:58
I suppose that would be one of the Timothy Learys, no? In the intro to the book, R.U. says there were several Tim Learys, that Leary himself said there were 24. Which of these was most prominent? Which most compelling?
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Fri 31 May 13 12:23
Probably depended on the time of day.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Fri 31 May 13 15:13
I think the Timothy Leary that Timothy occupied most of the time was that of a hyper-gregarious social person who thrived on interacting with lots of human beings in conversations, flirtations, occasional confrontations and head games, giving cheer to his friends, particularly the young ones... and sex (although not and sex and sex and sex and sex as per Mick Jagger). I think of my memory of him at a psychedelics conference, showing up and then heading to the bar with about maybe 15 of us who were his friends and spreading good cheer and naughty rumors, all at the same time. That's the guy, much more so than the one that climbed on stage later to talk to the crowd... who was a bit of a natural politician. That may also be the most compelling, although I think the guy who punctured the social games (while he never stopped playing them) of "primates" and then rhapsodized about the transcendent pleasures that seemed accessible to us was also very compelling.
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 1 Jun 13 07:53
What about the guy who destroyed legitimate psychedelic research for at least two generations, destroyed researchers' careers, and ruined the lives of the very people he was exhorting to take psychedelic drugs by hastening their criminalization, all in the name of self-aggrandizement?
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 1 Jun 13 10:07
While drinking himself into a stupor.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Sat 1 Jun 13 10:53
Mostly social drinking. Occasional stuporous drinking came a bit into play during the '90s. A fun game. Name all the people you admire who drank themselves into a stupor now and again?
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Sat 1 Jun 13 10:54
The book deals, briefly, with the canard that he destroyed psychedelic research. More later. Must drink (caffeine) myself out of a stupor (brought on by mere sleep.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Sat 1 Jun 13 17:56
Psychedelic research didn't end because the Harvard group had too much fun. By the time something like this becomes a political hot potato, the discussion isn't that sophisticated. Psychedelic research died because there was a psychedelic youth counterculture. a: Sorry to ruin your specialization, fellas. Seriously though, as important as psychedelic therapy research was... and is... this immeasurable cultural wave was more important. It's certainly not quantifiable, but you can't imagine our country and culture without popular psychedelia having happened. The Well?... started basically by Dead Heads?... ad infinitum. b: The line of transmission that leads to a psychedelic youth counterculture runs from The Beats in the 1950s to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters to the effusion that got broadcasted nationwide from the Haight through just about every music group in the '60s and into the '70s. Timothy Leary is in there, but in much less of a leadership role than simple reductionist history (or Leary himself, in certain moods) would have it. The early materials put out by Leary's League of Spiritual Discovery and the Castalia Foundation was pretty damned academic and sedate and not designed to appeal to teenyboppers (although certainly, self serious college students were seen as part of the audience). For the most part, Leary didn't lead the young people in the late '60s. They sorta lead him.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 2 Jun 13 21:32
Do you think he had real insight into the nature of consciousness? That he was particularly self-aware?
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Mon 3 Jun 13 00:01
First, at the level of science, or neuroscience, the general sense seems to be that none of us know very much about consciousness. Timothy managed to find time to follow stuff emerging from that field and probably cherry picked the stuff that delighted him and fit his intuitions... about novelty and neural plasticity; about imprinting (in animals)and so on. And then, I guess it depends on how much you respect wild visionary pitches marinated in psychotropic drugs from somebody who, at least, stayed sober enough to keep up his subscription to Scientific American. For me, a lot of his writing on the subject just resonates. After reading his stuff, a decade goes by and I think, oh that must have been crap and I start reading it again and it resonates still. I think there's about a 1% chance that a sort of posthuman culture 30, 50, or 100 years from now will scan the 20th Century and say that this ridiculous guy came closest. That would occur if we get a posthuman sort of future and if it's ludic and hedonic. Second, at the level of Eastern religion and philosophy or Shamanism or any of those sorts of traditions that presume to understand or know some tricky things about consciousness, he would probably be considered a fuck up, or someone who turned his back on enlightenment or impeccability or whatever. Third, personally, yes, I think he was terribly self aware but probably so very active and social as a way of distracting himself from spending too much time with it. He often made fun of his own foibles. There was an interview in Vanity Fair not long before his death where he had fun with his place in mid-'90s L.A. celebrity culture as someone "famous for being famous." And on an interpersonal level, I think he was about as open as anybody else who was hanging around.
Clare Eder (ceder) Mon 3 Jun 13 12:12
<scribbled by ceder Wed 5 Jun 13 11:51>
Members: Enter the conference to participate