|Timothy Leary: an Irishman who saved civilization?|
When Bruce Damer told me that he owned a copy of my Quantum Reality book that had been annotated by psychedelic pioneer Tim Leary, I was immediately reminded of those Chinese scrolls whose owners were impelled to add their own calligraphy to somebody else's art. Bruce Damer, PhD, is the proprietor of a computer museum in Boulder Creek (called the DigiBarn) but as one of the executors of the Leary archives he also came into possession of a room full of materials that the New York Public Library decided not to include in their Tim Leary collection.
|A page of Quantum Reality calligraphed by Tim Leary|
So a few nights ago, over Ahlgren wine and gourmet food served by Bruce and his wife Galen, we examined the Tim Quantum Leary Reality scroll. Along with the expected underlinings were comments both of agreement and Tim's additions in his own handwriting which were sometimes printed and sometimes in script. One thing I noticed was the full-bodyness of his question marks (see above) -- Tim's questioning is not puny, but executed in big brush strokes.
In my Chapter 7, Describing the Indescribable: The Quantum Interpretation Question, Tim approved of my epigraph quoting him thus: "They are not smooth-surfaced, rectangular or carbon-ringed units which fit together like bricks. Each molecule is a heavenly octopus with a million floating jeweled tentacles hungry to merge." Hungry to merge indeed -- and equipped with a brand-new kind of entanglement that continues to baffle our Newtonian imaginations.
And to my citation of physicist Bryce DeWitt's feelings when first encountering the mind-boggling grandeur of the multi-universe model of reality, Tim adds, in big-block letters: PSYCHEDELIC.
Right at the beginning, Tim challenges my claim that physicists do not possess a single clear picture of the reality that supports the most successful theory of nature that humans have ever devised. Leary scrawls "Fredkin" across the first page and in other places, to suggest that perhaps the universe deep down resembles a cellular automaton (digital physics) as proposed by MIT's Ed Fredkin. This is not the place to argue such issues but this challenge shows that Tim is not passively ingesting this new material but actively engages it.
Bruce pointed out that Leary seemed to have read (and annotated) many books in Bruce's collection but in none of them (besides my own) did he seem to have read so far and to have annotated so profusely. "A high honor, Nick. Tim might have actually read your book from cover to cover. Perhaps even in an altered state."
It is important to realized that in addition to all the drugs he took, Tim was first and foremost a writer with more than 20 books to his credit. Not only did he have the courage (no timid academic he) to repeatedly explore these altered states, but he possessed the discipline and skill to attempt to describe and model them in words. My favorite Leary book is not his celebrated trip guide modeled after the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but his book High Priest describing 16 of his own altered-state explorations, and his Psychedelic Prayers in which Tim tries his hand at interpreting Lao Tzu's classic Tao Te Ching.
By far the best of Tim's annotations to the Quantum Reality scroll relates to his alleged role as a womanizer. Next to the name of a famous European scientist, whom I will not identify, Leary appends this comment (in his highly legible script): "His cute daughter, [name redacted] worked for and flirted with me -- the proposal a 'cinq a sept' in 1951.
Yes, I had to look up 'cinq a sept' -- a most elegant inscription for the Tim Quantum Leary Reality scroll and perfectly apt to my quantum tantra quest.
|Nick Herbert peruses the Tim Quantum Leary Reality scroll|