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High Priest (Leary, Timothy)
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2004
I'm sad to finish this book, as I have walked with Leary with his first mushroom encounter in Mexico, walked with his colleges and friends, from Dick Albert (Ram Dass), Robert Metzner, Huston Smith, Aldous Huxley, Walter Clark, Walter Puhnke, Michael Hollingshead, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg - I love Ginsberg - , Gordon Wasson, Frank Barrons and even William Burroughs. From his Millbrook estate to his Harvard studies, prison studies, first LSD trip, to his religious experiential studies and the amazing internal transformations that for myself are greatly superior to static intellectualism. And yet using such intellectual insights coupled with subjective encounters - in allusive non-categorical observance - brings forth the dynamics of Leary's story.

There is far too much information to relate here, the book is enlightening.

All together 16 trips or stories along with various quotes from magazine articles, short thoughts, to excerpts from other books from Ginsberg, Hollingshead, Wasson, Walter Houston Clark, Huxley and others make this book not only informative, but really do capture what is intended to be conveyed - the mystical- religious - subjective - internal - experiential - magical/irrational experience of psychedelics and most importantly, their beneficial use in social, psychological, ontological, neurological, rehabilitative, and spiritual uses. There is no doubt in my mind as to the benefits of psychedelics for the human race.

"Everyone who isn't tripping himself because he's too scared or tired is going to resent our doing it. Sex, drugs, fun, travel, dancing, loafing. You name it. Anything that's pleasurable is going to bring down the wrath of the power-control people. Because the essence of ecstasy and the essence of religion and the essence of orgasm (and they're all pretty much the same) is that you give up power and swing with it. And the cats who can't do that end up with the power and they use it to punish the innocent and the happy. And they'll try to make us look bad and feel bad." P. 79

This quote (and others) reminds me of Ray Manzarek's story in his book, Light My Fire, of visiting a Las Vegas style rat pack record executive who literally flipped out after hearing a tape of The Doors, hearing that they were psychedelic orientated music. The power people can never accept surrender and vulnerability that comes with the internal search as opposed to the external control.

"The threshold of adult game life is the ancient and natural time for the rebirth experience, the flip-out trip from which you come back as a man. A healthy society provides and protects the sacredness of the teen-age psychedelic voyage. A sick, society fears and forbids the revelation." p. 133

Trip 1 is Leary's non-chemical death and rebirth of a physical sickness.

Trip 2 is the story of Leary's discover of the mushroom in Mexico with some substantial quotes from Gordon Wasson on mushrooms.

Trip 3 has Dick Albert, Jack and Timothy Leary flying in Dick's plane. It also contains Leary's Playboy interview, other magazine quotes and quotes from Albert Cohen and Shiller's LSD.

Trip 6 has Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky walking around naked, Ginsberg telephoning his pal Jack Kerouac and some great Ginsberg quotes! The movement to turn on the world - well intentioned, but naive, the power people would never submit nor allow such conscious expansion beyond the control principal to continue.

Trip 7 talks about the rational thinking of Arthur Koestler's verses the irrationality of a LSD - religious experience and how the two don't see eye to eye.

Trip 9 shows the benefits of incarcerated prisoner rehabilitation and recidivism rate decrease from LSD therapy.

Trip 11 touches on William Burroughs and how he thinks on another tribal level, as we all come from different tribal evolutionary thinking. In the end Burroughs drops out of the clan and disapproves of the way Leary, his fellow Harvard and other constituents handle the mushroom therapy - Leary's got a monopoly on love.

Trip 12 is about Michael Hollingshead's famous mayonnaise jar of LSD and Leary's first experience along with the Jazz musician and his wife, Maynard and Flo Ferguson. And amazing account, really. And Leary, as Huxley has written in 1953, was forever a changed man. He had seen the games, the roles played, the human fallibility of truths, statistics, ideals and so forth from an objective standpoint, from the ultimate subjective standpoint.

Trip 15's Good Friday experiment under the coaxing of the intellectual and scholar Walter Pahnke is also an incredible story and ultimately Leary admits that the mind expansive consciousness is not a rational Descartes mind set, but a religious experience and of course, not under any particular religious structure - in this case Christianity is very constraining, limiting and restraining.

I love the explanation in Trip 16 that Leary related from Pat Bolero to a fellow psychologist who not only became fearful when hearing of "drugs" but could not comprehend her words that attempted to point to the clarity outside of the discursive mindset.

This book has some great Allen Ginsberg quotes and stories, great Burroughs stories, Leary's family, Dick Albert, Michael Hollingshead and many other intellectuals, scholars, divinity school students, the Good Friday experiment, artists, poets, theologians. I love his daughter's, Susan Leary, account of her growing up and observing the LSD sessions, of Alan Watts and others. The trip in Tim's place with Dick Albert, both erroneously thinking the pet dog was dying and other stories make this a very entertaining book to read. But ultimately, its the beneficial attributes from the psychedelic sessions weighted against the opposition that really make this book totally worthwhile.

"Reality and the addiction to any one reality is a tissue-thin neurological fragility. At the height of a visionary experience it is crystal-clear that you can change completely. Be an entirely different person. Be any person you choose. It is a moment of rebirth . . . . It is habit, fear and laziness that keep people from changing after an LSD experience. It's so much easier to doubt your divinity, drift back to speaking English, wearing ties, playing the old game. p. 334

"There comes a point in every lifetime when the blinders are removed and the individual glimpses for a second the nature of the process. This revelation comes through a biochemical change in the body. A Twist of the protein key and you see where you are at in the total process. p. 336

One thing I've learned as a prison psychiatrist is that society doesn't want the prisoner rehabilitated, and as soon as you start changing prisoners so that they discover beauty and wisdom, God, you're going to stir up the biggest mess that Boston has seen since the Boston Tea Party. . . sooner or later, as soon as they see the thing you do is working, they're going to come down on you 0- the newspaper reporters, the bureaucrats, and the officials. Harvard given drugs to prisoners! p. 18

I had seen enough and read enough of the anti-vision crowd, the power-holders with guns, and the bigger and better men we got on your team the stronger our position. p. 128

We even ran sessions for parole officers and correction officials (they tripped). Some of them had unhappy trips. People committed to external power are frightened by the release of ecstasy because the key is surrender of external power. One chief parole officer flipped out paranoid at my house and accused us of a Communist conspiracy and stormed around while Madison Presnell curled up on the couch watching, amused at the white folks frantically learning how to get high. He grinned at me. So you call it the love drug? p. 208
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2003
The ideal audience for this book really has a large range; it is ideal for anyone wanting to experience a "trip" from a hallucinogenic drug without the actual drug. High Priest is an excellent piece of art, it is an encyclopedia of Leary's 16 most life changing "trips" when under various forms of hallucinogens. It is filled with strong imagery to support Leary's want to tell the world about the wonderful hallucinogenic "trip". His style is very unique in that especially in a series of short stories, he can in essence connect them, just as he does in his life with situations. He uses a very intense tone, and style becomes rapid as he submerges into a hallucinogenic state, almost as if you where there with him. Then as he's coming out of it his style loosens and becomes slower, and drowsy. Its almost as if there were two extremes one is cold and gray, and the other is vibrant and full of life. This book will definitely stir your interest about psychedelic drugs and the life behind it. Leary's intense flavor and swirling style can sometimes almost be frightening especially when he discusses his inner emotions about death, and his chilling way of expressing his views on the "life changing trips". I think this book is very educational depending on your view of education, and can teach people, things about other cultures that may not be their own, a counterculture if you will. I recommend High Priest to anyone with a thirst for knowledge and an open mind.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2002
A simultaneous explanation of why, and why not. The depiction of an appealing experience that within itself shows glimpses of why it may be best left wonderment.
You can get so trapped in the micro while reading this book that it's easy to forget that these thought processes helped shape this country, and etched themselves in time to never be forgotten.
Basically Dr Leary takes us through several "trips" in different settings, and with different participants and hallucinogens. If you're waivering on whether or not this book is for you, I would say the entertainment value alone is worth it. If the subjectmatter is of some interest to you, you'll love it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 1998
High Priest is an excellent book on several levels. It is a history of the discovery of psychedelic drugs in the US in the 60's, and fulfills that role well, covering early experiments in Mexican mushrooms, on through the synthesis of LSD by Sandoz labs and the earliest use of the drug with convicts and others, in which Leary was principally involved.
It is also a first class tale of the nature of the psychedelic experience, written from the rather naive perspective of the true believer, but still valuable especially for the non-participant, as it explains the lure of the drug experience. Leary abandoned his scientific detachment in the book, and attached spiritualistic notions to the drug state. But in doing so, he tells the story with much joy and excitement. Why do people do such things? Leary does a good job of being an illustration.
Finally, it is a reasonably good tale of the nature of personal being, of being human and what that means. Leary confronts such questions as a result of his drug experiences, and his journey to a kind of understanding is nearly as compelling as the subject matter.
All in all, a rewarding and thought provoking read, highly (humor) recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 1998
this book is worth any trip... as you start reading it, you find yourself in company of the most interesting people that the psychedelic culture has ever met. each time i read one of tim's trip, i find myself projected in the scene tripping with tim and the others. but the thing is that once you have read a few stories, you really understand the meaning of the "Experience." just read it, there is no other way to understand it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Let's imagine that you know nothing about Timothy Leary and LSD.

You don't "know" that he got in trouble at Harvard for giving LSD to students, or that he ever said "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

You don't "know" that Art Linkletter's 20 year-old daughter walked out of a 6tth floor window on LSD, or trippers sometimes claim they've seen God.

You don't "know" that LSD leads directly to long hair, random sex and brown rice.

You don't "know" that an LSD trip gives you pulsing hallucinations.

Okay. You've emptied your mind of preconceptions and prejudices. You are now ready to read "High Priest," Timothy Leary's 1968 account of the first trips he took, who he took them with, what he experienced and what he learned.

Start in 1959. Leary is, he says, "an anonymous institutional employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars, and drove home each night and drank martinis and looked like and thought like several million liberal middle-class robots."

Could be anyone you know. Except that the institution is Harvard. And that Leary was on the fast track.

But on a research trip to Spain with his two young children, he gets so violently ill that he surrenders to his illness and has his first death/rebirth trip. "I slowly let every tie to my old life slip away. My career, my ambitions, my home....I was a 38 year-old male animal with two cubs. High, completely free."

A year later, he takes mushrooms in Mexico. And here, for the first time, he writes what he sees: "Summer days...swimming trunks before breakfast...cold grapefruit eaten by the hot poolside....touch football on the lawn...the imposition of psychological categories on the flow of life...clear hot sun burning tanned skin...the need to collaborate with subjects....the startle value of iced drinks."

Leary also tracks what's going on with others who have chewed the bitter mushrooms. It's tame stuff: the giggles, revelations of oneness with everything in the universe, "Buddha unity."

Back at Harvard, what he's learned starts to undermine the academic/success game. Research, he writes, "is a phony ritual to counteract fear of the mystery." The key to the mystery of life? "Chemistry." The nervous system? "Equal amounts of God and Devil."

In his new reality, Harvard presents him with fresh problems. Control of the drug as an issue of power. Playing the game even as you're dealing yourself out of the game. Keeping mind-altering drugs as a sacrament for those in the know or giving them to just anybody.

What's most compelling in "High Priest" is how acutely Leary the psilocybin trips that he and his friends take. Allen Ginsberg, in a darkened room, listening to Beethoven and Wagner, as Leary enters and announces, "You are a great man." Arthur Koestler taking hallucinogens and feeling no different. Leary's interim conclusion about life: "God and sex are the two central beats of the dance." A behavioral observation: "The people you turn on fell in love with you or never wanted to see you again."

In l961, Leary starts tripping with his colleague Richard Alpert (later to become Ram Dass). The language changes: sacrament, holy man, ritual. They're learning about ideal settings, the need for a guide, LSD as prayer. For two years, Leary works in a prison, taking LSD with convicts to see if they can stop playing "the bad boy" game --- like the experience of other researchers who gave LSD to alcoholics, he gets astonishing results.

Also in 1961, his first LSD trip. For those who have taken it, this is the big league of psychedelics. "Like all sacraments that work, they demand your all. They demand that you live up to the revelation." Reluctantly he concludes:" Cambridge, Massachusetts was not a place to start a new religion." Really? Bet you'd have twigged that Harvard couldn't handle "rocks are aware" and "all is consciousness."

What Leary, in his enthusiasm and innocence, misses: At the height of a visionary experience, you can become a completely different person. But visionary experiences have a half-life. Prophets have even shorter lives --- over and over we kill them.

After the experiences he describes in these pages, Tim Leary detonated his old life, decided to save the planet, and became for his troubles, a spokesman and a showman. "High Priest" shows you how a charismatic professor came to take this route --- it hints at the one-note message that's to come.

But that's not our concern. Here we're watching a man wake up from a Kafkaesque nightmare, and learn how to look inside without judgment, and learn how to be with other people when they've swallowed a sacrament. I

This is an old story --- really, the oldest. And one of the most exciting: "I once was lost but now am found/ Was blind, but now I see." Just reading it will get you high --- legally.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2012
I read this in my twenties as a medcial student and having a few experineces with the agents ingested. I had alrady read several of his other books as well.

What this book is about is the first experiences with an open exploratory and scientific (in the broad observer-participant) approach into something that had limited and narrow research into. Anybody considering such experimentation or even any understanding of psychedelics would benefit from reading this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2013
anyone interested in themes of transcendence, spirituality, that has an open mind and is in a search for more information.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2000
This is a superb book, but it's probably not helpful to think of it as fitting any conventional intellectual categories. It isn't exactly an argument, but it isn't exactly a purely frivolous piece of work either. It can best be described as a pseudo-argument which, through internal paradoxes developed with something like the methods of modernist poetry, initiates the reader -- when it's properly read -- into a foundering-of-the-mind similar to the foundering-of-the-mind aimed at by Zen koans. In other words: experiential metaphysics -- living philosophy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2013
Thanks! "There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love." 1 John 4:18
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