From Psychedelics to Cybernetics

September 13, 1990

Timothy Leary journeyed through Europe as head of the psychedelic revolution and consciousness research movement, and he invited some of his tagalong friends to this evening lecture held at the "Alte Feuerwache" in Mannheim to talk about the future evolution of humanity.

Mentioned:

00:44

Leary

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This is a very good place, and this is a very good time that we have come to be here. It’s very special tonight. This is a magical moment for many of us. Why? Because we have many, many powerful, wonderful magicians here. John Barlow: he is a rancher from Wyoming, a man of the mountains. He says he’s the only Republican state politician who is an acidhead. He has written some of the most moving and wonderful lyrics for a rock’n’roll group who is part of our life, the Grateful Dead.

02:07

But the title and theme of our meeting tonight is: From Psychedelics to Cybernetics. “Psychedelic” means: mind-expanding, mind-revealing, mind-opening. Psychedelics is the longest, longest tradition of individual growth and personal freedom, and the wonder of exploring the world within. “Psychedelic” means to operate your own mind, to learn how to navigate through the universe of your brain. And certainly, Barlow has done that. But in the last 10, or 20, 30, 40 years, a new way of communicating has developed: it’s the use of electronics to send our minds and to send our thoughts at the speed of light around the world.

03:23

I should have the microphone closer to my lips. Is this good? Alright.

03:32

“Cybernetics” has to do with sending the wonderful visions and thoughts and dreams and revelations and innovations that we’ve learned how to generate in our brains—how to send them to other people in the basic form of universe: quantum-physical electrons. So the other side of our evening, and the other side of John Perry Barlow, is that he is one of the leading philosophers and shaman and journalist, teachers, of the cybernetic revolution.

04:14

And just as, for thousands of years throughout history and the last few years in our lifetime, there has been a group of us moving up the East-West trail to talk about going within—now, in the late 20th century, there’s a group of us that are involved in the cybernetic communication. So in the last few months, John Perry Barlow and Mal Seaholz and Terence McKenna and I have met not just as psychedelic, shamanic, inward explorers, but as members of a new community. We call them cyberpunks or cybernauts: people who are learning how to use electrons, computer screens, television screens. Not for the corporation or for the government or an institution—for the personal growth and interpersonal communication. So John Barlow is certainly entitled to be called psychedelic and cybernetic [???].

05:27

Mal Seaholz got his PhD at Oxford University in England studying the linguistics of James Joyce. And in the English language, one of the great pioneers of psychedelic brain exploration is the great Celtic bard James Joyce. And now, in the last decades of the 20th century, professor Mal Seaholz at Penn State University is pioneering I think one of the most advanced, important, wonderful applications of cybernetic electronic communication. He’s bringing the computer into the classroom and making it into an intercommunication system where his students can send ideas to each other and match wits and perform books and act out and innovate on the screen together. It’s a technique of education which many of us think is going to get rid of the teacher-student examination mode of education and make education into what it should be: a fast interchange and interaction between human minds. So we welcome to our magical group here Mal Seaholz.

06:56

And it’s a matter of great honor and wonder to me that when we walked into the restaurant across the square here tonight to get ready for this wonderful meeting, that sitting there at the restaurant was Terence McKenna. And Terence McKenna is a major legend, as you all know. In the last ten years he’s emerged as the most poetic spokesperson, the most eloquent poet, and the most rigorous philosophic voice to help tie our psychedelic experiences to the ancient tradition of shamanism. And above all, Terence—to me, at least—represents the most important bridge of our species to the botanical and plant wisdom that has been passed on for thousands of years. And speaking of cybernetics and cyberpunks, Terence McKenna was with us—was it two days ago or one day ago or a year ago? A long day!—at a cybernetic meeting in Linz, Austria. So please welcome Terence McKenna!

08:33

In the year 1960, I was invited to come to Harvard University, and I was given a license by them. They asked me to come to Harvard to develop new ways of behavior change. Ha-ha! I didn’t know, and certainly they didn’t know, that that invitation to realize an opportunity to really bring about changes for the human psychology. The first six months that I was at Harvard, actually in the summer of 1960, I was in Mexico. And a wonderful legendary American psychologist, Frank Barron, had this—yeah, thank you! Frank Barron was a fellow Celt and a wonderful prophet. Frank had been talking to me about some magical mushrooms that had been given to him by a famous professor in Mexico City. And he said these mushrooms had been used by the ancient Aztecs before the Spanish came to Mexico, and that the basis of the religions, of these [???] religions, was this magical mushroom. And the occasion of the coronation of Montezuma, the great Mexican king, emperor, the entire city of Mexico City, 100,000 people, were illuminated and enlightened for two or three days on these magical mushrooms. Think about it!

10:31

Now, firstly, when Frank started talking to me about this, I said, “C’mon, Frank! We’re scientists and you’re talking about magical visions, you’re talking about blazing revelations, and you’re babbling to me about these hallucinatory worlds within. You’re going to lose your credibility as a scientist if you talk this way, Frank! Buddy, I think you’d better be quiet about this.” But in Mexico—[???] actually, Mexico City that summer 1960—[???] came to me. I called it John Cave, the great American musician, who told me in 1961, “Timothy, thing is about the mushrooms is: they’re very magical. That you can decide you want to find the mushrooms, and you go to the forest and look and look, and go to the places where the mushroom’s supposed to be, day after day it won’t be there. And some day, when the time is right and you’re ready, you walk in—suddenly: boom, boom, boom! The forest will be filled with mushrooms!”

11:45

And that happened to me in Mexico City in Mexico. And since that August afternoon on the grass in Mexico City—well, then I discovered in five hours more than I had learned as a diligent psychologist in fifteen years. What did I learn? I learned that the human mind is a small, frail instrument, and that it’s a tiny little probe room that is connected to the most awesome, incredible instrument, reality-generator: the human brain. And since that moment in August 1960 until tonight, September 1990, I have dedicated most of my energies to the incredible challenge of learning how to use the brain, how to operate this wonderful nervous system.

12:47

Now, actually, back in 1960, Western psychology and Western science knew nothing about these experiences; were totally naïve. But it’s interesting: when the word went out that there were a group of square Harvard psychologists seriously attempting to study the effects of the magical mushrooms on the human brain, suddenly—like the mushrooms themselves—there came popping out of the global landscape people who were just there to tell us: “Hey, the mushroom’s been going on for thousands of years. The people that get involved with this journey within, hey that’s been going on for long before psychology was invented.” And Aldous Huxley—do you know him? Yes. And [???], Arthur Koestler. Suddenly, some of the most interesting minds in the Western world came to Harvard and began teaching us that, hey, this is not just a new research tool. That what we stumbled onto here was the longest and to be the most glorious tradition of humanity: the journey within. And that we had been quite unknowingly brought into a stream of human search that had been going on for centuries. He said it probably started along the banks of the Ganges river two or three thousand years ago. It certainly popped up 400–500–600 B.C. with [???] in Greece and with the Buddha in northern India, and Lao Tzu and the Taoists in China all coming to the same conclusion that there is this universe within, and the great challenge of human life is to make this voyage, and to pass on what you learn, so that this flame—what’s this flame, what’s it all about to me?

15:04

What we’re talking about tonight—Buddhism unified it already over centuries and millennia—is a belief that within the human being there is a divinity. And if you had to find a god, you’re not going to find him up there, you’re going to find her/him/it/them within. And that the search is timeless, because the possibilities are infinite, but there’s a very clear line of descent that brings us to this room tonight with the four of us here and many of you out there who have dedicated our careers to the pursuit of this wonderful goal.

15:54

One of my favorite duos or teams—and by the way, the wonderful thing about the inner voyage, the psychedelic experience: it’s not a lonely pursuit. You can go off and shoot up heroin, or you can go off and do other things. But the thing about the psychedelic plants and foods that open up the mind is: you almost never do it alone. You always have to do it with other people. It’s in a commune, or in a group, or a school, or a tribe—give it any name you want. But the possibilities of the human brain are so enormous that, when the brain is turned on, and when suddenly the brain is awakened and activated and booted up by the wonderful botanical trinkets we have, my brain wants to find other brains that she can talk to! My brain is activated and whoom! Laughing and illuminating at a million miles an hour. She doesn’t want to be bothered with Timothy Leary games, or words, or she didn’t want to wander around the piece of the city that’s made of plastic, she wants the alpha and intuition of nature. And, above all, she wants to have someone else that’s in the same level. She wants others that are operating on that same beat. She wants to hook up, and link up, infuse. And, of course, I’m talking quantum physics here. Nothing exists for us that says there’s not a field unless we’re interacting; giving and taking back.

17:28

Well, this thing started—as far as I can see, for me—in Athens, Greece, at the time of a great awakening. And what’s awakening? [???] It’s the responsibility of the single individual human being to stand up and say: okay, I will accept this challenge. If there’s any god, I’ve got to find it within me. If there’s any realities out there, like it or not, I’m creating them with my brain and with my consciousness. There’s nothing out there that can, you know, explain it all or tell us what to do. The key to everything is: you’ve got to think for yourself, you’ve got to question authority, you’ve got to always expect that the collective and the structures and the establishments and the organizations are going to not be happy with what you’re doing.

18:38

I was at a new age festival a few months ago in San Francisco where it was somewhat like this. I don’t like the word [???]. It was a place, a big room like this, where there are all these booths, and there were literally 200 groups of people with different pathogens, different techniques, different tools, mind machines and crystals and massages and herbs and you name it. Any way that you can activate your brain or somehow get your body and your brain moving together. And a reporter came out to me and he said, “Well, don’t you think this is pretty disorganized?” Goddamn right, it’s disorganized! It’s religious. It’s got to be disorganized!. Ultimate oxymoron. The ultimate contradiction in terms is “organized religion.” And the impertinence and the emptiness of men who set themselves up and they’re going to organize the divine process that has been going on for billions of years.

19:43

So, to get back to Plato here—I like Plato because Plato is the person, right now, for me, explains the relationships between the psychedelic within and the cybernetic. And certainly Mal Seaholz and John Barlow are better educated than I am, and healthier. But to me Plato was saying: there is within human consciousness ideas. And ideas are clear. They’re perfect. The platonic idea. When it’s in your brain, that’s what your brain’s flashing out. Of course it’s perfect. But the problem is—according to Plato, and I think most of you will agree—the problem is when you try to translate the glory, and the novelty, and the insanity, and the silliness of any idea you have. And you try to put it into words—English, German—you try to paint it, it’s a second-rate, artificial fabrication, and can’t possibly express the living, changing, fast-moving truth of how the brain operates.

20:55

So, in his great parable of the cave, Plato says, “What you think isn’t real, it’s just the fabrications of your fire on the cave wall. But in there, out there, there are the fields.” And Plato implied that there were ideal forms. To me, there was this ambition, this hope, that sometime in human future we’d be able to have a technique of communication to allow us to express and show and send to each other the silliness and the wonder and the living technicolor, jumpy power of what we can think. And that’s what cybernetics can do, and that’s what cyberspace means, and that’s why the cyberpunk movement has emerged to empower the individual to communicate at the speed of light using electrons, and using technologies that John will talk about later, to create electronic realities.

21:54

Now, this tradition that has brought us here tonight, and that has assembled on this stage four wonderful, legendary shaman, and has brought us with a group who created this wonder here, this is just a—this has been going on for thousands of years. It has been going on in this valley. Terence said to me just a few minutes ago, within fifty miles of this place—

22:30

McKenna

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Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal, Celts, the alchemist, the romantics—an endless stream of visionaries through the Necker valley for 50,000 years.

22:47

Leary

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And here we are. And within fifty miles—that’s time. How about the [???] within fifty miles?

22:55

McKenna

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The greatest alchemical press in history was operated by Theodor de Bry in Heidelberg. That’s it.

23:05

Leary

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And how the MDA started…

23:03

McKenna

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Every drug—try to think of a psychoactive drug that was not discovered within 500 miles of Berlin. There isn’t one! The only psychoactive drug that wasn’t discovered by a German was DMT, and Czechoslovakia gets credit for that.

23:36

Leary

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It’s been a great source of amazement to many of us who’ve been wandering around this valley in the last couple of days. This is a very special place. We even have Linz, Austria, and Vienna. I know many of you come from Switzerland. A province in exile seeking political asylum from the Nixon regime in the 1970s—it was Switzerland that invited me to come there. And we all know what happened along the banks of the Rhine river in Basel, Switzerland. A round of applause, please, for Albert Hofmann. I love that my Swiss friends in Basel, and Zurich, and Bern, [???] great big kitchen.

21:54

Thomas Pynchon, the wonderful psychedelic-cybernetic novelist who wrote Gravity’s Rainbow, has a wonderful phrase. Can you remember it? [???] says, “There are valleys up in the Alps of Switzerland where they have not drawn a non-hallucinated breath in 500 years.” And what he’s referring to is the tradition, the company, the band, the groups of people who’ve been on this Earth—who were we talking about at dinner? The alchemists and the [???]?

25:09

Barlow

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Oh. Well! Frankly, I don’t remember what we were talking about at dinner. Because I was thinking throughout dinner how I had suddenly found myself at that moment in the journey, when you go on a journey—and I think it’s nice to be talking to an audience of magical thinkers, so I don’t have to explain all my terms—there’s a point when everything starts to kick in and you realize that the universe is working fine, and you in it, and there’s very little you need to do. Yes! I finally got the German word for this sensation of this is a Rausch. So today, at a certain point, I got up—I was in a nightmare train all night with Dr. Leary. We were taken in the amusingly named sleeping car and dragged across Germany. And when we arrived, then we slept for a while. And when I woke up I said, “This is the moment!” It’ll be one of several, but this certainly seems like it.

26:34

So when we decided we were going to speak together tonight, we had no agenda whatsoever, and the first thing I want to tell you is that I’ve been following Tim for the last—literally—for the last 25 years. And he’s led me some strange places, but never astray. I didn’t know I was going to be here tonight at this time yesterday. But I knew he was coming, and I thought, “Okay.” And now I find that what I meet are you people. And this is truly—this is another manifestation of what I call “the great work,” which is that undertaking which began with Plato, and the perception that there was a Platonic reality from which we have been separated. The perception of reality was an opinion, and not a fact.

27:29

Leary

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Yeah! Say that again!

27:33

Barlow

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I’ll bet they got it the first time. It is. We make this stuff up as we go along—we really do—but we make it up together. We make it up in accordance of some kind of marvelous auto-conspiracy in which we are all members. Some of us know that we are. I think many of us know that we are. We just have to be very attentive and wait for instructions.

27:58

Recently, the instructions have started to tell me—I mean, I was mystified at first—but instructions told me that I should get involved with computers. And I had this sense of computers as being golemic machines of totalitarianism in which everyone had a file, and from which the state and the institution would reach out and grab you. I didn’t realize that we could use them to grab back! And what we were creating was the great collective organism of human consciousness, which is the very thing that Plato wanted us to recognize, and which Dr. Leary has done more than any person of this century to popularize: the process by which the flesh will become word. The body shall enter the world of the spirit, and we will do this together, and oddly enough we’re going to use a techno-fix like computers to get it done. But we are actually on our way.

29:06

In the United States we have computer networks on which there are millions and millions of computers, talking to one another all the time. You can send out a little bit of information into that net, and it’s like sitting on top of a giant beast, and you prick it, and it shakes. You don’t know how to control it, but you don’t feel like you have to. You’re a part of it and it’s part of you. I don’t know if this is happening here, but it will very shortly, I assure you. Just be ready when it comes.

29:39

Now, you wanted me to talk about something from dinner? Oh yeah. Actually, one of the people who makes me realize that I’m not a complete crackpot is Terence, who is a complete crackpot, and the most inspiring man of my present junkies!

30:00

McKenna

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God bless you, John!

An hour ago I didn’t know I would stand on this stage, so before you give your attention to me I’d like you to give your attention to the person sitting next to you, to the person sitting behind you. See, political circumstances have forced us to camouflage ourselves. We look pretty much like everybody else, but an event like this brings us out of the woodwork. This is your community! This is your affinity group. Whatever you need, somebody in this room knows how to get it! So it’s not necessarily the four dicks on the stage that are going to lead you into a new world, it’s what you will do for yourself to make this inner journey.

31:07

As Tim’s mentioned, we’ve all been down in Linz, thinking about virtual reality. Of course, for an American to come to Germany is to think about the great changes that are happening here. And I kept asking myself, “What is the uniting theme between psychedelics, virtual reality, and Germany?” And the answer is: radical freedom. Radical freedom! Radical freedom doesn’t mean giving somebody the vote. Radical freedom means the right to take over and control our own destiny, and the destiny of this planet. Radical freedom means recovering our birthright. What would you think if somebody attempted to take your sexuality away from you? In the suppression of the psychedelic experience, the masters who make the rules have taken away a major slice of what it is to be a human being. This is intolerable. We have been robbed of our birthright by the frightened, the constipated, the narrow-minded, the stupid, and the afraid. Take back your mind! Take back your mind! That is the message.

32:41

Now, the psychedelic experience is always criticized: irrelevant, narcissistic, self-indulgent. No. The psychedelic experience is the replay of human history in the individual mind. If you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know who you are. Part of this movement into the future is a recapturing of the archaic, the ancient, the prehistorical. As Tim said, that’s the Cro-Magnon religion of orgy, psychedelic ecstasy, and group sex.

33:26

Well, how do we get from where we are to where we want to be, and why is it so difficult? Well, I think it’s difficult because we have a lousy way of communicating. We communicate with words. Words are small mouth noises. Small mouth noises are a very low-grade channel of communication. What virtual reality holds out is the possibility that we can create a language where we see what we mean. If we could see what we mean, we would have a kind of telepathy. To see is to know! To see is to know! There is no ambiguity in sight. Ambiguity—

Audience

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[???]

34:26

McKenna

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Was sagt er? [“What is he saying?”] Let’s lead me back to something I understand.

Anyway—the last point I want to make, because I think this is very important: we all talk about psychedelics, the impact on ourselves, the individual experience. But what are they when you look at a million psychedelic trips? What does it do to society? What it does is: it dissolves boundaries. It dissolves the ultimate boundary, which is the ultimate fuck-up, which is ego. Ego is something invented by frightened people 20,000 years ago as a way to suppress women, as a way to suppress sexuality, as a way to suppress the wonder inherent in the world. Psychedelics are catalysts for the human imagination. We were called forth out of monkey-existence by the fact that we had strange eating habits. And the consequence of those strange eating habits is: now, a monkey can dream of transforming its collective soul into a flying saucer. This is the goal that lies ahead at the end of history. History doesn’t go on endlessly fluctuating centuries into the future. History is leading toward the transformation of this planet in our lifetime. A cybernetic-biological-psychedelic being: the collectivity—not only of humanity, but of all life on Earth—is struggling to be born. The entire universe of matter is the womb of mind, and it is the task of human beings to lead the collectivity of humanity out of the labyrinth of matter and into the realm of the imagination. The imagination is where we’re all going to live. The imagination is the only place where the human soul is at home.

Audience

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Oh Lord! Oh Lord! Oh Lord! Oh Lord! I feel you! Oh Lord!

36:56

McKenna

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Well it’s a good thing he feels it, because that’s all I have to say.

37:08

Leary

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Terence McKenna!

37:34

Seaholz

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While this is going on…

Audience

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I’m sorry. My lord. Where is my lord?

38:06

Seaholz

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Well, we’ll be back in a minute. How many of you are students? Any of you students? Two? How do you do this? You go to class, right, sit there, take notes? Where are the students? Lost ya. Take notes, right? People like me stand up in the front, usually in a tie, and tell you what to know, right? What do you think? Good way? Bad way? Sucks! Why should somebody like me stand up in the front and tell you?

Audience

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Good question.

38:54

Seaholz

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Excellent question. That’s why I asked it!

Audience

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There’s no answer.

38:58

Seaholz

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Ah.

Audience

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But maybe you have something to tell us.

39:02

Seaholz

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Hopefully. But why should I tell you? Why don’t we discover it together? You’d like to hear. Well, I’d like to hear it, too, so why don’t you talk to me as well? Yeah. So why not have this life like a classroom, right?

39:23

Do you have classes like at 8 o’clock in the morning? My classes are at 8 o’clock in the morning. Imagine walking to class after a night like this! I’d rather meet when I feel like meeting, when we all feel like sitting around. The technology that John mentioned—the virtual reality—that looks like it’s going to let us do it. So we can meet when we want and go where we want. Why should I stand here and try to tell you how I feel about Joyce? Why should I try to explain Finnegan’s Wake to you, which I couldn’t even begin to do anyhow, when the two of us could put on our helmets and our gloves and take a little ride down [???] and go see Ann-Olivia for a while. This is what we’re trying to do.

40:12

What should be more mind-expanding than education, than learning? It’s the best aphrodisiac there is. It’s the most psychedelic thing there is. We tried one way of psychedelics and got in trouble. Try another way. Another program run. Not a technical person, I’m just a heavy user, and I would like you to be heavy users, too. We could connect right now. I have, probably next semester, Tim and I will be teaching a course where some of our students will be in Europe, some will probably be in Japan, and we’ll all get together in a virtual place—maybe Honolulu. I went to [???] too. That’s a very nice place. Yeah, why not? Why not? Sitting on the beach surely beats sitting around in a classroom on those uncomfortable chairs. Anyway, that’s what we’re trying to do: psychedelic and cybernetic. Make education that way instead of—I don’t know how it is here, but we, the professionals, have killed it. We have made it so dull and so boring, and the students sit there and nod off and jot down little notes. I want to put some of the pizzazz back.

41:30

The programs we’re using to do this—guess who made them? Guess who thought them up? This man, sitting right here. We took what he had (and we’re still in the process of doing it) and changed them into something that we hope will put global education—we were talking about the global suburbs—well, this will be global education where we can all get together in one environment and change it at will. Whatever you want to see, we can do, show you, just by making some gestures. You ready? You’re going to go back? So I’ll give you back to the creator of these things. Look for them. If any of you are interested to do a little [???]—what?

42:18

Did you find God yet?

42:24

Leary

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You wanna find God? Get a mirror! You wanna find God? Look deeply into the eyes of someone that you love. You wanna find God? Go out on a starry night and open your eyes and your brain sees the world through the windows of the eyes—your brain will pick up starlight from a billion other planets, and each one of them’s got a God. Listen, we’ve got gods—when you start looking for her/him/it/them, we got ’em everywhere. So there’s no problem about finding God, just learning how to operate the divine instrumentation that will keep us in touch with each other.

43:09

Hey Barlow, come on, it’s time. Barlow comes from a rock’n’roll tradition, and I’ve been a groupie and a fan of the Grateful Dead and rock’n’roll people, so we decided we’d make this thing tonight a—take the guitar, John, and give us a riff!

43:28

Barlow

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He does this to me! He was right with you, by the way. You should listen to him. I mean…. Alright. Okay. He’s got the right idea, actually. No, I mean, I hope that everybody here who doesn’t have this idea is looking as hard as he is, and I hope most of you are being a little more successful. But never discourage the search.

44:08

Anyway, I wanted, while I was listening to Terence talk earlier I had 150,000 ideas, but one of the things that I am very familiar with as a writer, especially somebody who writes with music, is the utter inadequacy of language to communicate anything of value. I mean, it’s as though somebody gave you the opportunity to make a full working model of a fog bank and the plants and everything else, and then told you to use bricks to build it with. Words are bad materials for the flow of reality that you saw up here earlier when you saw the Mandelbrot set being animated on this screen. That’s the way it comes together, and that’s the way it feels like. And there is nothing in language that can prepare you for that but the thing itself.

45:04

Now we have the opportunity to communicate with the thing itself instead of talking about things. In a very short period of time, owing to the combination of virtual reality, which is the ability to be present in the immaterial, and present where you can’t be—I mean, present as an insect.

Audience

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[???]

45:30

Barlow

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Or that, too. Absolutely. And to have your mind inhabit spaces that have never been physically inhabited and never will be, like the surface of the Mandelbrot set, which is actually a multi-dimensional environment. You’ll be able to fly around in there very shortly. It isn’t possible to talk about this, but it’s now possible to share it, and that’s what we’re on the margin of right now. And then—let me finish this.

Audience

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[???]

46:06

Barlow

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Well, at least—Germany has a great heckling quality! I mean, it’s sort of amazing to me that you guys ever went for authoritarian government with hecklers like this. I bet you don’t do it again!

46:30

Well, I don’t actually think the government has much of a chance. I think the government is already in the process of disappearing fairly rapidly, and being replaced with I’m-not-sure-what, but I’m sure in favor of it—whatever it is. And it all has to do with the ability, finally, to communicate as we really are with the presence of the thing itself, and to be in community.

46:59

In the United States—you know, one of the things you folks do have going for you that I hope you don’t lose is the sense of place that you get in a place like Heidelberg. In the United States we almost have no sense of place, which has driven us to find community in all kinds of new ways. Like deadheads, for example, who have no place at all. But they wander around patiently behind the Grateful Dead, and when they arrive they are home. Home is everywhere. But if you actually happen to have one, it’s a nice thing to hang on to. And so is the community of those people who live in it.

47:36

And if you can’t hang on to it, or if you want an alternative—I mean, I live in a little town in Wyoming of a thousand people. But I’m there about a third of the time, and a third of the time I’m here on the road, and a third of the time I’m in cyberspace—sitting in Wyoming, but on the net, and getting hundreds of email messages a day, and actually finding it interesting responding to them; feeling the net sort of glisten and dance, I push back and it pulls me. And this is an experience which all of us are going to have a lot of the time, and [???].

48:12

But one thing you will find in that experience is community. You will find, liberated from place and economics and race and prejudice—since nobody has a body in there, you can’t tell what they are. They’re whatever they make themselves to be.

Audience

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Sweet Home Alabama! [???]

48:37

Barlow

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I don’t like that song. But it’s still the right idea. If you want to make an Alabama in cyberspace, you can do that too. Anyway, don’t forget to keep a Heidelberg in cyberspace, because this is a truly magical place.

48:59

Leary

Portrait

The most interesting thing part of these adventures is of course the getting interactions from here.

49:11

Barlow

Portrait

Turn on the lights. Turn on the big light.

49:13

Leary

Portrait

Yeah. I think we’ve talked enough from the stage. Don’t you? And I hope people will come up and use this microphone and talk with us. I need to tell you one parable before we go interactive here. Barlow has put [???] being a lyric writer has the ability to package thoughts. In the last four days I’ve watched him say that the territory, that is the Earth itself, is the map. And switching around the first words of the—Gospel of John, is it?—“Now the flesh becomes word.” In other words, as we learn from quantum physics, we’re all information, bits and particles, with the brain simply an instrument that’s spitting out and receiving information. So I can tell you this parable that means a lot to me to illustrate Barlow’s point that it all has to do with language. And electronic language is the language of Plato.

50:24

Suppose I were to say to you, “The boy fell out of the tree.” Now, those four, five, or six words have meaning only—any meaning—only to someone who understands English, which is about twenty percent of the human species. Half the people who think they know English don’t even know it. In other words, when I say that, very few people know what I mean. But even if you understand English, you still don’t know what I mean. What boy? What kind of boy? And what kind of a tree? And where was the tree? And why did he fall out of the tree? And what did he fall into or on? In other words, the words are the most impossible, difficult, ignorant way to try to express this wonderful, incredible picture I have in my mind when I say or write, “The boy fell out of the tree.”

51:34

Okay. In five or ten years we think and hope that every young person in the world, in the inner cities of America which are fourth worlds of degradation and despair, the third worlds, any young person or anyone who wants to communicate that incredible picture I had in my mind of “The boy fell out of the tree”—with five or six or seven or eight moves on my wrist computer I’ve got lenses on, okay. I go tap, tap, tap, tap, and on your screen and your screen and my screen, suddenly, you see a forty-foot tall palm tree. Half of the leaves are diamond, half are crystal, and another half are rose petals. And you see a fourteen-year-old boy with a blue bikini and a golden necklace, and he’s doing three double-flips down into a swimming pool made up of chocolate mousse, covered with [???]. And then suddenly you say, “Yeah!” And then you go tap, tap, and you make the tree slowly into a fractal, and you change the chocolate mousse into an orange sherbet. And tap, tap, tap, suddenly see—Marshall McLuhan said it—the medium is the message. It’s not that the medium is the message, the medium of optical-neurological brain communication, the medium is the reality. And when, in ten years, the poorest child will have the ability to go tap, tap, tap, tap, communicate with you through your eyes, and together, we start making realities like that pulled up from graphic databanks stored in thumbnail chips with the computers that cost four dollars.

53:52

At that moment what we all have always wanted will happen. The walls will come down. And you know and I know the Berlin Wall came down not because of tanks or guns or chemical weapons or politicians, the Berlin Wall was brought down by electrons. By the television; it was the messages being sent from in China, the faxes, the telephones—which are the ultimate subversives. “What’s going on there?” “Hey, we’re kicking ass up here in Hungary.” Yeah, the message spread around the world and we all began to see that one magical moment in China, when a young man, nineteen years old, [???] a student—his girlfriend was a movie major—stood in front of eighteen tanks with the eyes of the world watching. The eyes of the world created a virtual reality. Billions of people, through the wonders of electronics, were there in that Tienanmen Square, and watched a nineteen-year-old kid. In his left hand he had a bag of his schoolbooks, in his right hand he had his lunch. And he stopped eighteen tanks. And I said to my wife, “They’ll see that in Hungary. They’ll see that in Czechoslovakia. The virtual reality screens around the world. We’ll all see that and bang, bang, bang, bang, the walls start coming down.”

55:23

So what we’re about here with Psychedelics to Cybernetics is: we’re going to bring down the walls of language—the upper-class language and the cockney language, the poor language, the German language that keeps us apart from the English-speaking language. The walls of language will go down. The French semioticians were right. Language, the ultimate tool, the oppressor to keep us all channeled and imprisoned. Those walls of language will go down. We can tell exactly what we want. We’re thinking about, talk about, [???] realities, tap, tap, tap, tap. You know exactly, no matter what language you were brought up in [???] know what I’m talking about, and you can tap, tap, tap back to me. The walls of nationality will go down, of class will go down. And why? Because brain power. Brains hooked up together. Sending brains to our eyeballs electronically around the world will wake up this community.

56:21

It’s a wonderful place to be in Mannheim tonight. A wonderful time in the evolution of our species. And before I go to the audience for interaction I’d like to—with a heart full of [???] and love—I’d like to bring on stage and want you to send a message of love to… every little valley in the world has this shamanic person, this legendary person. We’ve got an organization, a group, that’s been called the alchemists, it’s been called the [???] conspiracy. Throughout history [???] known individual freedom, and they’re hooked up with other individuals. Their plants and vines and roots will help you get into your brain, open up your brain, send it out. In Switzerland [???] Swiss here know about [???]. In Heidelberg, in this area around the Neckar and Rhein, you have a legendary psychedelic-cybernetic person who’s [???] same message of individual empowerment, and turn on to the [???], better, deeper, Heidelberg! Werner! Werner! Come on! Yeah!

57:51

Werner

Portrait

Hello. [???] I tried to find out a few things, and Tim asked me to find out the history of his father. His father, he said, the family knew, studied in Heidelberg around 1910, 1914. So we went to the university and did some research and found out there was no Mr. Leary in Heidelberg between 1900 and 1930. So the whole family was thinking he was in Heidelberg, now nobody knows where he was. I don’t know [???] and so he is, you might think, [???] Timothy Leary in Mannheim. Are you sure it’s really him?

58:45

Leary

Portrait

Werner [???] everybody! Want to take a rant, Terence? C’mon.

58:58

McKenna

Portrait

Well, listening to Tim, one thing occurred to me that I wanted to leave with you, and that is: what this is all about in political terms is the empowerment of direct experience. We all are sold a bill of goods. Maybe you remember the Bob Dylan song where he says, “It is not he or she or them or it that you belong to.” This is what psychedelics teach you. We’re not going to learn it from Der Spiegel, from Time Magazine. It doesn’t come like that! Direct experience—your experience: your opinion, your feelings, your sexuality is the only real thing in your universe. Don’t transfer loyalty to ideology, to money, to party, to friends. All of these things are outside of the core of your reality. And centuries of programming have been laid onto all of us to take away the power of our own direct experience.

1:00:16

This is why psychedelics are illegal. They don’t care whether people jump out of windows or any of that. They’re not interested in public health. They do not want people to take back their minds. And we’re going to take back our minds! Soon! And soon it’s ours. That’s really, to my mind, the bottom line. That’s why this thing has potential world consequences. Because an empowered individual in touch with their own existential core can do what that guy did with the eighteen tanks. It was an idea that stopped the tanks, and it was an idea expressed not over state radio, not through the newspapers, but by one person taking a stand.

1:01:11

You know, a great American philosopher (and I hope it was Emerson) said—no, no, it was Emerson—said: “If you are right, you are a majority of one.” You are a majority of one. And this is what we all need to realize. We are responsible for ourselves, and we will set the agenda for the human future. The mushrooms once said to me: “You must have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, you will become part of somebody else’s plan.”

1:02:09

Leary

Portrait

This microphone is now plugged around the room. Would anyone like to…? Every ten meters. Anyone got a comment, question? Yeah? Here, give it around.

1:02:54

Audience

Portrait

Tim, what do you think of people who can reach similar insights without psychedelics?

1:03:11

Leary

Portrait

The human brain is a collection or a network or a universe or a galaxy of one hundred billion neurons, and each neuron has the knowledge processing capacity of a mainframe computer. So you’re carrying around inside your skull a universe, a galaxy of possibilities in creations. And whatever means you use to turn it on, boot it up, activate it, get it going, which allows you to move it, and change it, and to open new directories and files, and then to send it back out—go for it.

1:03:53

Audience

Portrait

I say you are crazy!

1:03:56

Leary

Portrait

I’m crazy. Right. Absolutely! Crazy is the place to start. No argument. Any other question?

1:04:16

Audience

Portrait

I have no question, but I want to say: the youngest news I’ve heard of you is twenty years old, but I am glad to have met you in this presence.

1:04:34

Leary

Portrait

Thank you. It’s no accident that we’re here tonight. Look around in this room. This is a Hermann Hesse hallucination, isn’t it? This room is filled with ghosts. I mean, Plato—say, “Hey Plato!” He’s at the bar there. “This is what you wanted, isn’t it?” “Yeah.” Of course, Plato was nothing without Socrates. It’s all the byplay. The wonderful thing of Socrates and Plato, of Barlow and me, and McKenna and Seaholz—we only exist when we’re in interactions, sending our minds and our brains and our eyeballs, or eyeball each other. So yes, I accept your loving spirit.

1:05:18

I want to tell you (to back up what Terence was saying): you know, it seems kind of lonely to say, “Think for yourself, it’s all up to you.” But the point is: once you accept that challenge and accept that responsibility—yes, it’s hard. It’s hard to get up every morning and have to realize, oh shit, it’s all up to me. I love you! I love you! Say it! Me too! Yeah! Yeah, me too! Stand up! Open up your arms. Yeah! It’s hard to accept this responsibility. We’ve been so trained, as Terence said, as other speakers said, we’ve been trained to [???] walk down this planet, education and religion and family and culture and nation. Come on! It’s tough to have to stand up and accept the responsibility. Heisenberg said you create your own reality. You think you’re studying reality out there? You think that you’re sending particles hurtling down to hit some other particles? Eh, massive particles. You thin you’re a western scientist going to Africa to study the natives? Ask the natives: they’re studying you!

1:07:00

The point I’m making here is that it is hard, difficulty, scary to stand up and say, “If there’s any god”—the message is: in two minutes we’ll have a break, and then you’re going to come back and we’re all going to create a god makeup, or something. I was recognizing the scariness of this option that you, your brain, creates your own reality. Just as, in the ancient [???] tradition is, you should never mention the word of [???] because it’s taboo, the brain is the taboo organ now. You’re not supposed to think about it, you’re not supposed to learn how to change your brain, activate it, boot it up. [???] said it—ah! And a “T” for Timothy. We’ll continue in about fifteen minutes. I’ll finish that story, too. In fifteen minutes. We’ll be back. We ain’t goin’ nowhere!


1:08:28

Leary

Portrait

—poetry and some… just the facts, Max. Just the facts, Max. Here he is: John Barlow.

1:08:35

Barlow

Portrait

Well, it occurred to me while we were backstage that—whoa, that’s a very loud mic! A hot mic. It occurred to me while we were backstage that we’ve been tossing around terms like “virtual reality” and “cyberspace” as though everybody here knew what we were talking about. Does anybody have any idea, or are you interested in knowing more? Okay, alright. Cyberspace—I’m just going to do this very quickly just to define our terms. Cyberspace was identified or predicted—well, either they can talk more softly or you can listen louder. But the mic shouldn’t be turned up anymore. Cyberspace is something that William Gibson wrote about in the book Neuromancer. I don’t know whether that’s over here; if people have read that yet. Read Neuromancer by William Gibson. It is a book about a terribly utopian time in the future. At that point I hope we’re doing better than the people in this book. But it identifies this vast space in which all information is stored as though it had being. And people enter into it, and manage information from within it. That’s called cyberspace.

1:10:02

William Gibson, at the time that he wrote about this, had never seen a computer network, did not use a computer. So he didn’t know that cyberspace was already in existence, and had been for a while, and has been really since the invention of the telephone. Cyberspace is the place you go when you make a telephone call. It is the place where all of your money now is. All of your money is there. Most of your business is done there. Nobody has identified this place, and it’s the most important place in the world now. Really! So one of the reasons that people haven’t identified it was because they had no electronic means of being there. And they’ve been trained by the state not to use their imaginations too much, so all they thought it was was entering figures onto the screen and having other figures come back.

1:10:59

Virtual reality is something that was invented by a friend of mine named Jaron Lanier down in Redwood City, California, involves putting on eye-phones through which you see nothing but computer-generated reality. You move your head, and there’s a tracker which takes note of your body, so you can move around in this space, which can be as real or as fantastic as you like. And you’ve got a hand. You can pick things up with it. There’s a glove on your hand that models your hand. So you can move things around in there, and you can fly by pointing your finger. This already exists. Unfortunately, it’s very high-tech right now. What we see happening is that, very shortly, it’ll be possible to be there in cyberspace using these tools. So when people say virtual reality, that’s what they mean, and it’s basically here. It just needs to be made a lot cheaper. Which it will be if there is a market, which you should become!

1:12:10

Leary

Portrait

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Now give me your hand. Alright. No, no, no! [???] We love you. We love you. Now I’m going to have Terence McKenna come. And since the audience is not asking questions—we want it to get more rowdy. Why is he—I’m not sure… walk there. Anyway, I’m going to ask for Terence McKenna to rave a bit. So here to rave is Terence.

1:12:56

McKenna

Portrait

Hold him off, Tim, while I get my act together. Well, is this a virtual reality or what? It is indeed. I think so. The theme of courage comes up. Nobody ever went into the ashram to practice yoga with their knees knocking together in fear. And the reason for that is that you never scare yourself in yoga, you never move so fast that you think you’re losing control. And this control issue deserves to have a word said about it. If you want to find your way into the psychedelic experience, you have to practice surrender. You have to practice giving yourself over to something you can barely understand.


Hold the microphone closer to your mouth. Why? The people in the back of the room can hear me screaming.

1:14:15

Anyway, the question was asked during the question period: what about people who do it on the natch? And I think the answer has to be expanded to say that’s very fine for them, and we wish saints all the best of luck. But what about the rest of us poor bastards who don’t have the blessings of angels upon our quest? The important thing about the psychedelic experience is that it is entirely democratic. You don’t have to sweep up around the ashram for fifteen years before you get the whammy, you simply go get the whammy! You don’t need ideology. You don’t need method. Gurus should find honest work.

1:15:12

And let me make this point about the four of us: it’s all very well to attend a Tim Leary event, a Terence McKenna event. But I’ll tell you, there’s a hell of a difference between talking about psychedelics and taking psychedelics. And I would think that the four of us would have succeeded up here tonight if you would leave this place tonight determined to do more, go deeper. It’s fine to tell your friends, but the real obligation on all of us who are psychedelic astronauts is to go deeper, empower ourselves.

1:15:56

You know, the American novelist John Crowley said a wonderful thing about psychedelics. He said: the further in you go, the bigger it gets. And I think that we really need to understand that when you take a five dried gram dose of psilocybin, you are your own Magellan. During your trip your eyes will fall upon things no human eye has ever seen before, and very well may never see again. The universe is that big, that rich, that beautiful. And when you discover that richness, that beauty, and the size of the universe we’re living in, you take that insight yourself. You become a better person, a bigger person, a more caring person, and an extremely politically dangerous person. And that’s my wish for all of us: that we become a threat to structure wherever we find it.

1:17:08

You know, a big buzzword these days is “chaos.” They’ve got chaos in the Soviet Union, they’ve got chaos in a dripping faucet, they’ve got chaos in the financial markets. Well, if you’re afraid of chaos, you can’t be psychedelic. Chaos is the mother of form. It has been the fear of chaos that created this constipated, linear, anti-human society that we’re trying to overthrow. So my call is to a kind of anarchy. Chaos is the mother of everything we love. There can’t be enough of it. Surrender to the psychedelic experience, surrender to the historical experience, means: embracing chaos. Hang on, we’ll be fine once we get to the other side. Keep the faith, stay stoned.

1:18:22

Leary

Portrait

I talked with Terence on the couch a few minutes ago. I’ll tell you what I told him. It’s a rare and wonderful moment in the history of someone who has been a light carrier or a message sender on this long path. Terence said before we got on the stage today that basically we are sending out ideas. We call them memes. We’re sending out contagious ideas. We’re sending out infectious ideas that will hopefully land in fertile minds and brains. A good idea at the right time will suddenly start growing in your mind. So we’re part of the longest tradition of human spirit. The belief in individuality. Fuck society! [???] to every god out there: fuck you, god! Yeah. Every one of those monotheistic gods—by the way, you should never use the word “god” in the singular. You gotta say “god,” “god,” “there’s one god.” Get out of my sight! One god! You notice that every time they say “god,” it’s always him. Our father, who art in heaven. Thy kingdom come. What the fuck kingdom are you talking about? We want no kings, we want no [???]. We don’t want one god. Every time they use the word god in singular, it’s their god, my god, and I’m going to kill you if you don’t agree. And it’s always a male.

1:20:18

One of our mottos is: you get the gods you deserve, you get the drugs you deserve, and you get the realities you deserve. And I started saying that I’ve been on this path for thirty years now, forty years now. My obsessive passion, belief, in the individual human being, individual power, and every institution, every bureaucracy, no matter how friendly they are and how persuasive they are—they’re going to protect you—fuck ’em! They’re trying to keep you from standing up and becoming what you are: a single person endowed with a brain that can make you [???]—yeah!

1:21:17

I said to Terence before, and I’m glad to share this moment with you—it’s a great pleasure for someone my age. And I want to tell you: I’ve seen things, been places, and have met people—my brain is probably the most well-used brain in human history. I mean, I want to tell you: I’ve used this wonderful brain of mine, and she’s taken me places and heights and accelerations. And at this moment to know that there are people like Barlow and like Mal and Terence to carry on the word, and saying everything they have to say with more force and with more eloquence than I. I thank you John, and I thank you Mal, and I thank you Terence, and I thank you Werner [???].

1:22:07

Now come on! We’re having a little trouble with German-speaking audiences. Why don’t you stand up, someone, and say something? Let’s get an interaction going. Okay, come one up! I’m not this American TV personality Donahue, okay? You’ve got a question. Okay. Where are you from? From Heidelberg. Is that near Cincinnati, Ohio? No, it’s alright. Look at the audience. What do you want to say?

1:22:38

Audience

Portrait

Well, you see, I once was in India, and I was with some spiritual movement. And they were talking about this blue spot. I don’t know if you heard about this.

1:22:48

Leary

Portrait

The blue spot? The blue light. Yeah, I want to hear about it.

1:22:54

Audience

Portrait

Well, you never heard about that?

1:22:56

Leary

Portrait

Well, tell me about it.

1:22:58

Audience

Portrait

[???] Muktananda.

1:23:01

Leary

Portrait

Muktananda?

1:23:02

Audience

Portrait

You heard about him?

1:23:02

Leary

Portrait

I’ve heard about him, yeah.

1:23:03

Audience

Portrait

Right. He [???]

1:23:12

Leary

Portrait

Do you have some? I’ll take it right now. Give it to me. Come on, where is it? A round of applause for the blue light! Yay!

1:23:28

Audience

Portrait

He was talking about the blue light. I don’t know.

1:23:31

Leary

Portrait

You said Muktananda converted you? How about a round of applause for Muktananda? C’mon!

1:23:39

Audience

Portrait

[???]

1:23:43

Leary

Portrait

Conversions are good. [???] You believe in Muktananda?

1:23:47

Audience

Portrait

No. He was just talking about [???]

1:23:52

Leary

Portrait

A belief in a blue light.

1:23:53

Audience

Portrait

I don’t really think so. I just asked him. [???]

1:24:03

Leary

Portrait

Thank you. Any more lights out there? Alright. Yeah, c’mon, c’mon. This looks like a rowdy.

1:24:29

Audience

Portrait

[???] shaky knees, yeah. My English is not so good, so try to understand me [???] He said [???] for the public health—

1:24:52

Leary

Portrait

He didn’t say that. I say that.

1:24:57

Audience

Portrait

[???] for me it’s the first time I’m getting contact with your ideas, and I thought I came in and you said, [???] that’s my problem, because now for this reason I stand hear. Yeah. But I thought maybe at the same time you said something [???] you create small minority or allegiance just for minority. No, not everybody. [???] I talk about everybody, out on the street. Not everybody can understand you.

1:25:49

Leary

Portrait

That’s the problem. I was told on the way coming over here this may play in Heidelberg, but that’s a university town. But Mannheim is an industrial town, it’s a social democrat town, and there’s street kids here—you are for me! Anyway, expressing a feeling that we’re talking down to people or that we’re special. Well, I don’t know. The guy who told me about this said Mannheim was the place to be, because the kids from Mannheim know how to party—I got myself in a corner here, right? There’s no way I can win this, right? That’s right.

1:26:31

Anyway, I want to tell you that, no matter what’s happening here, we’ve come to Mannheim and Heidelberg to have a good time, and to share a good time with you. And it’s probably time to go party. So let the party go on. All of us will be down among you taking drinks.

1:26:51

Audience

Portrait

[???]

1:26:55

Leary

Portrait

It’s not my job to give you answers. And anyone that expects answers has come to the wrong place. Think for yourself! Think for yourself. Question authority. Don’t look for answers. Think up some answers of your own. Once again, thanks to Heidelberg and Mannheim, thanks to Werner [???]. Let the party go on. We’ll see you out there. So long!



From Psychedelics to Cybernetics

Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna, and John Perry Barlow

https://www.organism.earth/library/docs/timothy-leary/from-psychedelics-to-cybernetics-cover.webp

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