Interview With Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey / Tim Leary "debate"
The following was transcribed from a tape of an interview I conducted with Dr. Timothy Leary upon his arrival in Eugene, Oregon to debate his close friend Ken Kesey at South Eugene High School in 1978. Kesey and Ken Babbs picked Leary up at the Eugene airport where a small news conference was scheduled. I was the long haired hippie with the tape recorder asking most of the questions. Following the transcript of the interview below are my nearly readable notes from the evening's event.
My wife at the time, Melody Record, and myself had started an organization called New World News Service. We made up laminated badges and were able to convince most promoters and events that we were a legitimate news service so we usually got in as press. We interviewed several new age luminaries like Stephen and Ina May Gaskin, Tim Leary, Peter Caddy, Fantuzzi, Marcel Vogel, Robert Anton Wilson, and others.
This was a couple of years after Leary had been released from prison by California Governor Jerry Brown after serving about 5 years for possession of two roaches of marijuana which Leary claimed were planted by the arresting officer. Leary billed his appearances at that time as "stand-up philosophy" and was touting space migration, referring to the Earth as an egg. This put him directly at odds with Kesey who proposed replacing the use of Douglas Fir with hemp fiber for building material. They both agreed to the concept of the Earth as a sort of prison. Kesey wanted to fix up the prison yard and Leary wanted to climb the wall and escape. So, a friendly but very lively debate ensued.
Melody and I had just given birth to a baby boy and we were staying with Garrick Beck at the Rainbow farm in Drain, Oregon. Garrick idolized Kesey and accompanied us to the press conference in order to get a chance to meet his hero. During the conference our toddler, Sun Falcon, had a really runny dump. Garrick, not wanting to interrupt my questioning of Leary, offerred to take the baby to the bathroom to cleanup. Later as we were leaving Garrick had a chance to meet Kesey. He rushed up gushing praises and shook Kesey's hand telling him how much he loved him. Kesey shook hands, pulled away, looked down at his hand and said something like "You always shake your hero's hand with shit on it?" I busted a gut laughing.
Leary: Everything's changing - it's called evolution and I'm in favor of it. I see myself as a cheerleader ... cheer for the future, evolution, individual freedom.
Q: LSD? Have you ever taken it? Do you advise others to take it?
Babbs: They got a new tab now, they call it Ascorbic Owsley. Yeah, its got vitamin C in it.
L: Good for what ails you, huh?
B: You bet. It cures a cold - with vision!
Q: Would you suggest a high school student take LSD? How would you respond to that ?
L: I would never respond to such a question. The question of who or what you put in your body is your own decision. Don't listen to the government, don't listen to me. Find out everything you can and make up your own mind.
Q: What message do you have to 17 and 18 year olds?
L: Same old message. Stay free; disrespect authority; make up your own mind; stay high with your friends; survival in the 80's is going to be a team sport - as it's always been. Just keep getting smarter and smarter.
L: Secession, by the way. The Northwest should secede from the Union. California should secede. Let's get back to small intelligent local groups.
Q: Why would people want to come see you?
L: Well, I'm the best show in town. I'm going to put out more new ideas. I call 'em RPM's. That's Revelations Per Minute. Don't come for peace of mind - I'm going to shock, electrify, activate, insult the sacred cows, make it as exciting as possible.
Kesey, Leary, and Babbs leaving the Eugene airport
Leary tells his story of creation - his conception and birth. Surfing up the vagina to the egg - in negotiations it's the egg who decides, laser strobing chromosomes. "That's my conception of my conception. I'm here at this moment to make fun of our parents and to make fun of all adults."
Leary's definition of adult: past participle of the verb "to grow". By definition an adult is someone who has stopped growing.
"I'm going to advocate something ... I've been given a very bad press on this business of advocating. Me, advocate LSD, are you crazy? We have come to learn in the last 20 years that the human nervous system comes in many different models and phases. As you walk down the street ... of 100 people you meet you might find 99 different nervous systems. You're gonna find volkswagons, mazeratis, jet airplanes, dump trucks. There are more different models of nervous systems than there are models of transportation to move our bodies around. Each different nervous system requires, is activated by, a different kind of cue."
"Now, LSD for example, is a brain activation for nervous systems that are wired, fired, and sired to fly high and go fast. Now you're not gonna recommend a fuel injected high octane fuel like LSD for a nation of volkswagons. Is is much too good for them. So, I never advocate anything like that. But I am going to advocate, I'm going to urge you, I'm going to beg you, I'm going to appeal to you ... at all costs, avoid terminal adulthood.
Now notice, I said terminal. I don't avoid anything in life. My wife and I have tried many adulthoods. All you have to do is put on the uniform and look worried."
Migration of gene pools; genetic runway; Head west; Don'd fuck with the East
The only thing you can do for the East is give them models; invite them out West.
Geology / fault / opportunity
"We're not terrestrial creatures. We're not supposed to be like little barnacles and snails and slugs hanging on to these little rocks and land rafts bubbling on a tiny little planet."
"You simply cannot change a culture in the same old place. As long as the White House is there you simply cannot change the domesticated primates who inhabit those buildings. The only place to start a new culture is on the frontier."
"We discovered the new ecological niche and the Russians are moving in like the Spaniards with their hierarchichal military organization."
Solar Powered Satellites
Space is the high ground
Who controls Space controls the Earth
"My brother has taken marijuana, lamenated it in its own juices, and it'll take a nail better than any douglas fir. We can grow hemp 30 feet tall. By lamenating the stuff we can make beams out of it. Now we can turn the economic situation around in this state by simply making it legal to grow grass and going to the farmers and saying 'never mind the hippies and the dope, we're talking money. Ya know you can make more money growing hemp and lamenating it and selling it to Weyerhauser for fiber board than ya can growin' rye grass.' Ooh!"
"If we can start that here real quick we can get a 5 year jump on the rest of the nation. Sell the lower leaves to the cattle people. But it's the staples that'll really do it. You can't even get hemp twine anymore. You can't even get manilla. You can only get plastic."
"I'm bailin's right now."
Babbs: "Ya bailin' your hemp, Ken?"
Kesey: "No, my rye. And what do I tie it with? I have to tie it with plastic. It gets in the cows toes, in the fields, it's a drag. Hemp is a better twine - it's a better staple than anything on Earth. Never mind the hippies and the dope, let's go straight to money and fibers."
"Twenty years ago you didn't see any plants growing in the boys dorm. Now every goddamn boy has a plant in his room. Where did all these plants come from? Every kitchen has plants in it. What has spoken to us and said 'grow plants'? Something spoke in our secret ear and said 'grow plants, it's good for you'. This is coming directly from Intelligence. Anybody who's ever grown grass will come up and say 'here, try this - it's the best grass in the world'. And it's just green Oregon dope. They think it's the best dope in the world because the plant is dealing with them. Because the person and plant are communicating. The plant is like a dog. It's trying to say 'pant, pant, pant, what ya want, huh'. Suppose you were to say 'ya know what plant?' Plant says 'pant, pant, pant, yeah, what ya want, Buzz?'. I want a sense of clarity. Or relaxation. Or vision. Or whatever it is you want from your plant and it'll give it to you."
"Anybody who's raised peyote or mushrooms knows that that's not just something that you pick up like a pill. You're involved with that and it gives you what you want. So far we have not had a chance to do that. If we get enough freedom to do that ..."
Audience Question: What's gonna happen to make it better, Tim?
Leary: I come from a long line of people who knew it was better to move out than stay and fight. One prophecy I'll make tonight - 500 years from now in the middle of Iran there'll be an old bad tempered man dressed up in drag trying to hurt young people. That's gonna go on, it's never gonna change in Tehran. Ya gotta move to the new ecological niche.
One time when I was in prison they moved me around a lot and in big red letters on my jacket it said "ESCAPE RISK". I was proud of that. And once at Folsom Prison (that's a little lower than the armpit of the California system), I was there about 2 weeks when one of the heavy duty gang leaders said to me "Hey Timothy, let's start a riot" and I said "Ok, what do you want to riot about?" Well let's riot about better salad dressing in the meals. "Fuck off man, what are you crazy?" Well, let's have a strike - let's strike for better movies on Saturday night. "Get away from me man. Show me a door. Show me a window. Show me a loose bar. Show me the way to a tunnel. Get me a heliport and a helicopter. I'll move out but don't tell me to stay down here and improve the prison.
We're doing it for everybody. We've got to move out for everybody. Hey Iran, Hey Afghanistan, send us your fast moving, high flying people. We need every gene pool. We need every form of the human species.