Review: Timothy Leary‘s “The Politics of Ecstasy”

by writereaderly

timothy leary politics of ecstasyThis collection of essays and diatribes was first published in 1970, and it includes a decade’s worth of Leary’s writings and speeches as the ideologue of the “tune in, turn on, drop out” school of drugs. Initially a medical pioneer — he took his first trip in 1960 in a Mexican town I used to live in, then began working on hallucinogenics as psychiatrist at MIT — Leary soon became the guru for the psychadelic movement. This book is damned impressive, in that a) anyone who has taken as many trips as he had can still be this articulate, but more so b) in addition to being a master orator and deviser of soundbytes, Leary’s political and social analysis is comprehensive and largely sound. His predictions for the future — e.g., 40 acre forest properties where trippers can go turn on in their lunch-hour — haven’t quite come true, but then whose have? And endearingly, he’s so tongue in cheek, and clearly doesn’t take himself or his drug movement too seriously. His wife gives her plug for him on the back of the book, and the foundation he and his tripper med buddies founded, chose as its name a “wry double conditional” (IFIF) for the International Foundation for Internal Freedom. Enjoyable but ranty, which is why I gave up about half-way; still recommended, though.

Where it came from: DC’s bookshelf
Time and manner of reading: One ? Two ? Months of kaleidoscopic samples, alternately amused, bored or impressed
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Fifty years is a hell of a long time in drug culture, but it really isn’t in terms of political growth
Who I’d recommend it to: Readers seeking a historical reference on drugs, authoritarianism, etc.
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier