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Timothy Leary

hear that you’ve made arrangements for your head to be cryonically suspended. Could you explain what this entails, what led up to your decision, and what fantasies you have concerning your future recoordination?

TIMOTHY: My motive is the obvious basic human motive that I want to have options as to my future. I have no intention of dying passively. I have not lived in a helpless, submissive, or passive way, and I certainly don’t intend to make the next transition as a victim. There are many options to the passive role of just going belly up when your Blue Cross runs out. I’ve written papers on this subject of the options–the various forms of rejuvenation, and reanimation.

Of course on the negative side we know that death has always been controlled by religious organizations, by state and social organizations, and more recently by medical and legal bureaucracies. Death is the ultimate control mechanism by which human beings can be rendered helpless. It’s very reassuring that all the Right people bitterly oppose cryonics and the reanimation option. Every religious person, of course, considers this the ultimate heresy of taking the function of God, to determine your own transition. All state organizations resist the individual’s attempt to control any part of our lives, whether it’s physical or neurological, through the medical monopoly.

This is the ultimate taboo, and it’s, again, wonderfully reassuring to see how people just freeze, literally, when you suggest to them that there’s any option that a courageous, thoughtful person and an industifist can take to avoid just allowing your body to be eaten by maggots or burned. That’s called the barbecue or maggot option. Just in the last two years that I have been talking to people about it, I’ve seen a wonderful openness in people who formerly, two years ago, would have reckoned it a horror.

We went through this same thing with the notion of psychedelic drugs, that you could actually take a drug that would change your mind. Your mind is supposed to be made up by God, by your parents, or by Freud, and the idea that you could take this reckless responsibility shacked people. On the other hand, it can’t be acceptable, until it’s at least comprehensible. I think you can explain the hibernation-reanimation option very clearly. See, the idea is you don’t die, you hibernate, and you try to preserve as much of your body, and certainly as much of your brain as you can. This is a classic philosophic tool. It was used by the Egyptians, who probably produced the most scientific, the most aesthetic, and the most glorious culture, although they had human flaws.

I can explain the notion in three or four sentences. It’s well accepted now that we have heartbanks, where people whose hearts are very healthy, but who are brain-dead, have their hearts stored and then given to other people who have healthy brains, but need a heart. We have kidney banks. We have liver banks. We have lung banks. So this concept is that there will be a brain bank. The option there is not cryonics, it is just to store it. It turns out the brain is much easier to store than the heart, because the heart has got all those muscles, and it’s a pump, whereas the brain, as you know, has no mechanical parts and no sensation. The brain has no muscles, and there is very little hardware to it. So the maintenance of the brain is a piece of cake compared to the heart. Think of the kidney–ugh, my god, all that plumbing, and all those juices that you have to maintain.

The idea is that we can have a brain bank within twenty, thirty, or forty years–perhaps within five years if we had a crash program. If a healthy person tragically had an accident where they were brain dead, but their body was in good shape, we’djust go to the brain bank and pick up a new brain. If I donate my brain to a brain bank, I can suggest the parameters that I’d like to have. This time I’d like to have it put into a black woman. Everyone probably will have some sort of a medical thing saying that you don’t want your brain to be taken over by a Romanian, or a Dodger fan.

There will be all sorts of protections that individuals can have so no one can do anything to anyone that they don’t want. Just as now you can sign away your rights to have your organs given to somebody else–it’s the same thing. Now, of course, when you transport a brain the consequences are different. Again anything that has to do with the brain stirs up these incredible taboos. Imagine a young healthy black woman running around with Timothy Leary’s brain. I mean, think of it.

RMN: After transferring the brain into another body, do you think it will retain all of its memory? What do you think happens to human consciousness then after death?

TIMOTHY: Yes, that’s the obvious and wonderful question. We’re now getting into the concept of soul. The soul is defined in the dictionary as an immaterial entity which resides in the body–but is not the body,

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