Donate to the Timothy Leary Digitization Project

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Timothy Leary was an inspiration and friend of bOING bOING from our earliest days. (Photo above of Tim with bOING bOING founders Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair in 1995; and with me in 1991.) Mark previously posted about the first glimpses of the Timothy Leary Archives available online, in the form of some fantastic videos. That's part of a much larger project to digitize all of Tim's archives and bring him to life in Cyberspace, one of his greatest wishes before he died in 1996. Now, the Timothy Leary Archives are seeking donations to help keep the momentum going. From Denis Berry, trustee of Tim's estate:
Timothy Leary was a visionary. Realizing the importance of the events of the day, he tenaciously saved records of each phase of his life, capturing not only the budding psychedelic movement and its history, but years later, trumpeting the coming of the digital age of personal computers when this concept was still foreign to most.

His archival collection contains over 500,000 documents, including hundreds of letters from luminaries of all kinds (Allan Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Anton Wilson), documents from his Harvard research, Millbrook journals, IFIF documents, hundreds of hours of audio and video and thousands of photographs. This collection records not only his life, but the history of the entire psychedelic movement, and more.

Last week, at a huge reunion event in San Francisco, his estate announced their plans to digitize this collection and place it online as one of the first projects of its kind. Hosted by Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive, the site will eventually house the entire collection, and it will be completely searchable and indexed. Dr. Leary had this dream before most people even knew what the internet was, or how important it would become.

We invite you to visit to help support the digitization, by donating to help move the project forward.


  1. Awesome. Maybe now we can come to understand his decisions a bit more.

    Timothy Leary’s dead… No no no no, he’s outside looking in…

  2. Jahknow’s link is the good one.
    The site is terrible.
    Any blog + a photo/video gallery would be 100 times better (and free).

  3. There’s a lot of stuff I just don’t get–but the lionization of Leary and Che must be near the top.

    I loved Leary, I really did. I cried at dinner when my dad told me he had died. Years later, I read about how he ratted out the Weathermen to the FBI, I should have cried.

  4. You know… I read “Timothy Leary digitization process” and the first thing that pops into my head is “Tron”.

  5. Oh yah, let’s not forget Mind Mirror, Timothy Leary’s famous game. Copy-protected so fiercely that it wouldn’t run on anything other than a 4.77MHz IBM PC, and the heck with you for hoping to play it on any more recent machine.

  6. Doing LSD over long periods of time can lead to a wide variety of short term or permanent mental problems. I personally believe that Mr. Leary escaped from most of those psychological disorders, but every now and then he did things that revealed his abnormal view of reality. In many ways he was a real visionary, as in his tireless advocacy and pioneering techniques concerning group therapy. In other ways his ideas were cookie cutter kookery, such as his elucidation of the eight-circuit stages of consciousness and his near worship of mind altering substances.

    His refusal to condemn the mind altering substance for which he first became famous will probably haunt his memory through history. LSD use evolved very quickly from a therapeutic experiment into a dangerous element of criminal drug culture. There were people dosing and celebrating the joy of life and peace while, very often, the drug was sponsored by organized crime.

    The government in the United States was very much to blame for that evolution of the drug, because criminalizing it’s use made the profiteering from it possible. Dr. Leary seemed oblivious to those changes in the culture even as he went to prison. Because of that evolution a very great many people suffered from terrible psychological problems, and no small percentage of people had accidents resulting in great bodily injury and death. The drug should have been kept legal, and that way administration could have been conducted in controlled and safe environments.

    The modern war on drugs resulted in huge profits for organized crime, like cartels, gangs and the mafia, at a huge expense to taxpayers with practically no positive result. That’s exactly what happened with LSD long before Bush Senior began fleecing the American people to the great enrichment of the drug cartels. Leary was very outspoken about personal freedoms and the frightening changes in the government of the states. Unfortunately Leary never stood up to the plate and urged young people not to abuse the drug in the circumstances under which it has been done ever since the early 70’s.

    I am a staunch supporter of personal liberties, but I have seen first hand what happens to a person with subconscious mental problems. I personally know two people who became schizophrenic from LSD abuse. The glorification of the drug by men such as Leary and the Merry Pranksters, and people who had no proclivity to mental distress (like millions of Grateful Dead fans), resulted in a peer to peer climate of misinformation about the drug. I am one of the people who was guilty of such a thing. And the people who lost their minds never knew what hit them.

    It was a very sad and common thing that never should have happened. I’m afraid my memory of Timothy Leary will forever be tainted by that knowledge.

    1. I used to take ten hits at a time and, if you don’t count the time that I ate a whole jar of mayonnaise, never had any problems with it.

  7. @Presto: LSD has definitely affected my life, for both good and bad reasons. It’s opened up my mind but has also possibly caused other problems. I do not recommend anyone taking this drug.

  8. I’ve been a fan of Leary’s since the 80’s. It’s obvious that his work with LSD had great promise with regard to re-imprinting. But The Powers That Be decided otherwise. I think he discovered more than just a hall of mirrors, he discovered a potential path into the multiverse. Do I smell patchouli?

  9. D3@18, Thanks! That shirt came out of a very intense controversy in 1991 in my former home of Cincinnati, Ohio. The county, under pressure from a truly twisted group called Citizens For Community Values, had filed obscenity charges against the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and its curator for hosting the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment. The curator and the museum were eventually acquitted.

  10. @Presto –

    LSD use evolved very quickly from a therapeutic experiment into a dangerous element of criminal drug culture. There were people dosing and celebrating the joy of life and peace while, very often, the drug was sponsored by organized crime.

    Do you have any *sources* for this claim, or, in the words of the Dude, is it just like, your opinion? I have read and reread your post, and I know for a fact, that most of what you are claiming is dead wrong. Its just wrong.

  11. @Presto – I just could not leave this alone. Your words are so full of fear, of projection, of conjecture…of…of…errrors. I can’t fault you for this.

    You’re just not on the bus. Its not for everyone. Just for those without the aforementioned…

  12. Zoopyfunk – didn’t the Hell’s Angels get into it in a big way? All they had to do was follow the Dead around like everyone else.

    It makes sense: anything made black-market is going to become an enterprise for organized crime. I mean, if you make something a crime, the established criminal element knows how to still do business with it.

    I have no experience with any mind-altering substances, and I still really grok Chaos and Cyber-Culture. Leary wrote in the mid-90s, when the Internet really WAS an alternate reality, before the dot-com bubble commercialized it.

  13. gangsters don’t have to understand anything about what they sell, just that people want it and their government says “No”. “The Mafia has no salesmen.”

  14. ok…
    “””LSD use evolved very quickly from a therapeutic experiment into a dangerous element of criminal drug culture. There were people dosing and celebrating the joy of life and peace while, very often, the drug was sponsored by organized crime.”””

    I just couldn’t help respond… i mean… I’m sorry there is no evidence of This and if “organized crime” is in some way responsible then as Takuan said – they fill a void – providing something to epople that people want that a government or other entity says they can’t have.

    Now, on another note, it would people could put judgement aside. at least for a little while. instead of injecting all this hate and judgement.

    LSD is a really particular sort of substance. To the people who say “well it made my friend schizo” i can tell them “well, it cured my friend of being schizo”.

    Guns don’t kill – people do.
    LSD doesn’t make people crazy – their minds make them crazy.

  15. @Zoopyfunk @Presto –

    LSD use evolved very quickly from a therapeutic experiment into a dangerous element of criminal drug culture. There were people dosing and celebrating the joy of life and peace while, very often, the drug was sponsored by organized crime.

    Sure, that’s true of any prohibited drug, whether it’s a narcotic, a euphoriant, a stimulant, a psychedelic, or a vitamin supplement.

    If it’s a crime to sell, only criminals sell it. Kind of the point of prohibition, right – creating a crime creates its own crime problem.

  16. @GodFatherSoul

    LSD doesn’t make people crazy – their minds make them crazy.

    Thank you for saying it succinctly.

    That said, many people who started with Tim at Harvard were really upset with the way Leary would basically promote it without reservation. It was almost like he couldn’t believe that his experiences, despite some universal elements shared with others, were subjective. Just because it helped Tim didn’t mean it was gonna help everyone.

    What cognitive rights activists strive for today is the same thing that Huxley and others of his generation imagined: regulated access to entheogenic substances after educational and pyschological testing. Don’t know you’re risking permanent brain damage taking LSD daily? Fail. React negatively to a safe-margin “microdose”? Fail until further psychological analysis.

    (Indeed Leary even proposed that this sort of regulated dispensiary was his position during the time of the Harvard psilocybin studies when he was forced to play politics to the Cambridge community. He kept his version pretty vague, but then again he was looking at it from the other side of 4 decades prohibition.)

    My ideal scenario would have church and/or spiritual organizations (atheist orgs this includes you too) can minister entheogens amongst their populaces, but only after paperwork is filed with some larger accountability office. Production and distribution of substances should be left up to individual communities and organizations (i.e. in my neighborhood anyone can grow cannabis on their property; some other neighborhoods may have capitalist overlords that force them to purchase through R.J. Reynolds or Glaxo.)

    Cognitive rights is civil rights, and its the demonization of the substances by the “I know a schizo” crowd that scares people from taking it for themselves and realizing that, like marijuana, LSD is not nearly as bad as it is made out to be. I think LSD-inspired schizophrenia is a horrible fate and that is why I stress restraint to anyone who expresses interest. Taking LSD day after day or in huge doses your first time are definitely quick ways to cause problems.

    Blaming Leary for not “denouncing” LSD is off track; it was his careless promotion of the substance without a grounding in responsibility and education that have caused the most problems.

  17. Timothy Leary, in my opinion, was a hack. I’ve done a lot of LSD and I did it to get messed up, not to experience some “multiverse,” as one person put it…anyone advocating something other than just yourself as a way to better the world or experience enlightnement has to be full of it, because the fact is, LSD can’t change anything, only you can. Whether it is LSD induced or not is kind of besides the point, inasmuch as you are still the conduit for change and personal growth. You could just as easily philosophize about a popsicle and find a reason to worship it.

  18. “I’ve done a lot of LSD and I did it to get messed up”

    … and therefor you got messed up.

    “I did it to work on my psyche.”

    … and therefor worked on my psyche.

    Intention is everything.

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