Cybernautics & Neuro-antics
“To me the philosophy of the twenty-first century…is the philosophy of information”
with Timothy Leary
Timothy Leary has been a public icon of extreme controversy for several decades. Because of all the sensationalized publicity he has received from the media, much of this man ‘s real accomplishments have been obscured and his image distorted in many people ‘s minds. Timothy was a highly successful research psychologist long before he had his first encounter with psychedelic drugs. He received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, was on the distinguished faculty at Harvard, and his book Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality– called “the best work in psychotherapy ” in 1957 by the Annual Review of Psychology– remains a standard text in its field to this day. When his research with psychedelic drugs began to have an impact on the general public, and Leary refused to discontinue his research, he was dismissed from Harvard. Leary metamorphosizeed from academic professor to counterculture folk hero. He continued his research in Mexico and the Millbrook estate in N. Y., working with many influential writers, artists, scientific researchers, and philosophers. Timothy ‘s highly influential books and lectures made him extremely popular among young people and intensely feared by the establishment. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for less than a half an ounce of marijuana in 1970.
He escaped from prison with the help of the Weather Underground, and lived the wild life of a fugititive in North Africa and Europe. He was kidnapped by DEA agents in Afghanistan, brought back to American prison, and was finally paroled in 1976. Through all this Leary never lost his sense of optimism, nor his sense of humor, which are trademarks of his charisma. Leary is the author of more than twenty-five books and computer software programs. He continues to lecture, write, perform, and design educational computer software. We interviewed Timothy on the patio at his home in Beverly Hills on June the 20th in 1989. Even in the hot, sticky heat of that afternoon, Timothy was buzzing with lively electrical energy, and his good-humored optimism was contagious. Timothy spoke with us about his eight-circuit model of consciousness, the sociobiological implications of the cyberpunk movement, information theory, computers, cyber-space, and his plans for cryonic suspension. Timothy has a wonderful ability to make people around him feel good about themselves. He looks you directly in the eye, listens carefully, and gives you full attention when you speak. Most of all, he made us laugh.
DJB: What was it that originally inspired your interest in psychology? Was there an early event that sparked the interest?
TIMOTHY: From my earliest years of thinking about careers and futures, I always assumed I was going to be a philosopher. As early as ten, fifteen years old, !just assumed I was doing this. I’ve always been fascinated with communication. I was the editor of my school paper in high school, where I performed experiments in fissioning and collaging ideas. I edited this paper so that I filled it with works of writers who did not go to that high school, but whose works were necessary to fill it out.
I cite this as an example of my interest in communication, and new modes of communication. To me the philosophy of the twenty-first century, which is quantum philosophy, is the philosophy of information. We see this in the linguists, the seniticions, Kojipsky, Wittgenstein, and then the enormous breakthrough provided by the thought-digitizing appliance known as the computer. The history of the roaring twentieth century is the history of our becoming an information species, and you could hardly be a philosopher, or for that matter a scientist, in the twentieth century, if you’re not working in this wave.
DJB: Just so that everyone is familiar with your eight-circuit model of consciousness, can you briefly explain the intention behind it and what it expresses?
TIMOTHY: Well, in the late 50s and 60s, a group of a hundred or so select psychologists and philosophers discovered the brain. That is, they discovered how to navigate and explore the brain, just like Magellan and Columbus did for the outer geography of the planet earth. People like Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and Albert Hofman used psyche-active vehicles to move around in the brain.