This biography of Timothy Leary I’m reading is alternately tedious and fascinating. Leary’s tolerance for vast quantities of industrial grade LSD is astonishing. (I mean that literally – he had access to shipments from Sandoz, Inc.) The book reads as an endless series of orgies, police entanglements, fugitive exits, psychedelic ecstasies that have no effect on anything but their subject, and bizarre pseudo-intellectual jibberish. Leary’s narcissism, egotism, and total disregard for the welfare of those around him is monumental. It’s amazing he wasn’t killed somewhere along the line.
As I skim about the narrative, I come upon this gem of a situation: Leary is confined to solitary confinement in Folsom State Prison in California in 1973. His next door neighbor is Charles Manson. (How time passes. Not everyone will know who he is…) They communicate via the airshafts. Their dialog, as recalled by Leary, pits them as equals and total opposites. The good angel of LSD vs. the bad angel of Helter Skelter. A passage reminded me vividly of the story of The Grand Inquisitor from Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.
Leary: Hey, did you send me The Bugler and food? Thanks.
Manson: I love everyone and try to share what I have. I’ve been waiting to talk to you for years…Now we have plenty of time. We were all your students, you know. You had everyone looking up to you. You could have led people anywhere you wanted … And you didn’t tell them what to do. That’s what I could never figure out… Why didn’t you? I ‘ve wanted to ask you that for years.
L: That was the point. I didn’t want to impose my realities. The idea is that everybody takes responsibility for his nervous system, creates his own reality. Anything else is brainwashing.
M: That was your mistake. No one wants responsibility. Everyone wants to be told what to do, what to believe, what’s really true and really real.
L: And you’ve got the answers for them?
Charlie goes on to say that he has it all figured out, it’s in the Bible. It’s all the fault of the women.
Does it matter? One line is just as good as another, right?