100 Years of Timothy Leary: Reality Tunnels and Armed Love, 1970-71

To commemorate the hundreth anniversary  of Timothy Leary’s birth we present an extract from David Black’s Psychedelic Tricksters: A True Secret History of LSD: sections 3 to 5 of Chapter 10 – ‘Timothy Leary’s Reality Tunnels: One Escape After Another‘.

Timothy Leary’s Armed Love

In January 1970 an Orange County judge handed Tim Leary a ludicrous sentence totalling 20 years for two minor marijuana offences. As Leary’s friends organised a defence campaign, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love paid the Weather Underground $25,000 to free him; a task made much easier by his transfer from Fulsom Prison to the minimum security establishment at San Luis Obispo. In September 1970, Leary, according to his own account, took his life in his hands and climbed along forty yards of telephone cable which ran twenty feet-high from the prison roof to a telegraph pole on the outside. Leary was picked up on a nearby highway by Clayton Van Lydegraf, a former First Lieutenant pilot in World War Two and a veteran Stalinist. Van Lydegraf, who never had any time for the hippie counterculture or LSD, told Leary, ‘I was against this whole thing from the start. If it were up to me you’d still be rotting in jail’.[i] Presumably, Van Lydegraf was given the job of getaway driver, precisely because he didn’t look or talk like a hippie. After few changes of cars and drivers Leary was taken to meet up with the group’s leaders, Bernadine Dohrn, Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd. The success of this first part of the mission was celebrated with an LSD tripping session.

The second part of the operation was to spirit Leary and his wife, Rosemary out of the US and send them to Algiers and hook up with Eldridge Cleaver, an exiled leader of the Black Panther Party. The FLN government in Algiers was at the time hospitable to an array of revolutionary exiles from across the world. Leary had always been anti-racist, but had never, until now, identified with revolutionary politics, especially that which embraced armed-struggle. What had changed him in San Luis Obispo prison? One factor was the influence of his wife, Rosemary, who much more than Tim, was a ‘natural’ radical and well connected with the more ‘extreme’ elements of American leftism. When planning to spring Tim from his prison she got him to approve the use of firearms by the rescue team that was being assembled. Another factor was the constant supply of LSD smuggled into prison by Rosemary. According to biographer John Higgs,

‘By using LSD in prison he imprinted a new reality, and replaced his old beliefs with an outlook that made him better adapted to survive in his new environment… Tim had spent years talking about reprogramming the mind in just this way, yet when he did what he had described, his audience was bewildered… Tim had simply, to use his own jargon, rebuilt his “reality tunnel”’.[ii]

Leary, facing decades behind bars, had come to believe that Rosemary and the revolutionaries were his only hope for freedom. Therefore his natural pacifism was put into suspension for the duration. Like any actor playing the good guy, Leary’s had a mission to fulfil in the cosmic drama: to promote solidarity and co-operation between the hippie counterculture and the Black Revolution.

When Leary appeared to buy the Weather Underground’s skyed-out politics, issuing a statement from hiding that, ‘To shoot a genocidal robot policeman in defence of life is a sacred act,’ he alienated many of his old friends. Ken Kesey, the old Electric-Koolaid-Acid-Tester, published an open letter in response which pleaded more in sorrow than in anger: ‘Oh my good doctor, we don’t need one more nut with a gun’.[iii]
Leary however, was playing revolution politics as a game. This is clear from an interview he did with Paul Krasner twenty years later:

Krasner: ..when you escaped from prison, you said, “Arm yourselves and shoot to live. To shoot a genocidal robot policeman in defence of life is a sacred act”
Leary: Yeah! I also said “I’m armed and dangerous.” I got that directly from Angela Davis. I thought it was funny to say that.
Krasner: I thought it was the party line from the Weather Underround.
Leary: Well, yeah. I had a lot of arguments with Bernadine Dohrn,
Krasner: They had their own rhetoric. She even praised Charles Manson.
Leary: The Weather Underground were amusing, They were brilliant, Jewish, Chicago kids. They had class and dash and flash and smash. Bernadine was praising Manson for sticking a fork in a victim’s stomach. She was just being naughty’. [iv]

With fake passports, Leary and his wife, Rosemary, slipped out of America in disguise and flew to Algeria to meet Eldridge Cleaver. Cleaver had joined the Black Panther Party after serving an eight year sentence in San Quentin prison for rape and attempted murder. Released in 1966, Cleaver became a journalist for Ramparts and served as Minister of Information of the Black Panther Party. In 1968 he led an ambush of Oakland police officers in which two officers were wounded and 17-year-old Panther Bobby Hutton was shot to death by police after surrendering. Cleaver fled to Cuba, where he was at first welcomed by the communist authorities. However, when he was joined by Clinton Smith and Byron Booth, who had hijacked a plane from California to Cuba, the hospitality cooled. Fidel Castro, not wanting his island to become a haven for plane-hijackers with dubious (possibly CIA) connections, packed the three of them off to Algeria. As other Black Panther exiles began to congregate in Algiers, Cleaver asked the FLN government of Algeria to provide the US Black Panthers with an ’embassy’. This request was granted shortly before the Learys’ arrival there.

Cleaver  was impressed by Nixon’s naming of Leary as ‘the most dangerous man in America’. Leary describes his first meeting with Cleaver at a villa in Algiers, which had been provided by the FLN government:

‘Eldridge greeted us warmly at the gate, recognising that our presence meant more cards in his hand. As Rosemary and I sat uneasily in the haute bourgeois French-provincial living room, Cleaver laid out his plan. He would obtain political asylum for us from the Algerians. Then we’d set up an American government in exile. The Algerians had already recognized the Panthers as the American Liberation Front and ultimately we could swing the entire Third World behind our cause. I suggested that we could represent the non-political counter-culture forces of America. We’d invite dissident groups, draft resisters, anti-war activists, hippies, Weathermen, rock stars, beatniks, bohemians, poets. I agreed that we should form a highly visible, alternative government to the Nixon regime. There was no question that, if we could get a base operating, many counter-culture people would come by to visit. The most effective tactic would be to operate a media centre. If the Algerians will let us set up broadcast facilities, we can start a Radio Free America that would beam over to Europe and the armed forces bases. We could win the respect of the youth and the liberals and the anti-war people in Europe… [for] a popular front of the large majority of Americans who want a peaceful friendly prosperous world’. [v]
Leary’s sentiments were received politely but with sceptical bemusement. Cleaver saw no future for any kind popular front, least of all one composed of the people Leary had in mind. When Leary began receiving visitors – old friends, revolutionary tourists, psychedelic pilgrims and journalists – Cleaver complained that the journalists tended to relegate the Panthers’ revolutionary politics to the colourful backdrop of the story of Leary’s prison escape.[vi] Anita Hoffman of the Yippies recalled,

‘…I revolted against Cleaver’s dictatorial rule, but was surprised to find I had no allies among the obedient lefties I was travelling with. So I escaped by climbing out of window and talking my way out at customs at the airport. Since the Panthers were guests of the Algerians, the Algerians wanted the Panthers’ approval to let me leave. But at that point they didn’t know I was gone’.[vii]

Cleaver assured the Algerian government that he could control Leary’s drug use and bouts of ‘nonsensical political eloquence’. First, Cleaver got Leary to participate in a film shooting session for the Panthers aimed at a US audience. Cleaver wanted Leary to publicly renounce drugs as a distraction from building armed resistance to US imperialism. Leary was diplomatic rather than apologetic:

‘If taking any drug postpones for ten minutes the revolution, the liberation of our sisters and brothers, our comrades, then taking drugs must be postponed for ten minutes … However, if one hundred FBI agents agreed to take LSD, thirty would certainly drop out’.[viii]
Leary was still committed to fulfilling his promises to the Weather Underground. Now that the escape from prison and flight into exile had been accomplished, it was time for the third part of the mission: to organise a tripping session with Eldridge Cleaver, in the hope that he would became less insular and sectarian; and embrace unity between Black Revolutionaries and hippie radicals such the Weather Underground. Cleaver had actually tripped on LSD with Yippie leaders Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman in Berkeley back in 1968. They had failed to change Cleaver’s thinking, but Leary thought it was still worth trying to do so. As he had a good supply of LSD smuggled to him in Algiers, he suggested to Cleaver that they trip together, and Cleaver agreed. The session however, simply aggravated Cleaver’s paranoia, and plunged him into a mood of pessimism.

Cleaver, wishing to assure the Algerian government that he was hosting a real anti-imperialist revolutionary, rather than a white American drugs fiend, sent Leary on a Panther-led delegation to the PLO training camps in the Levant. The delegation consisted of Leary, Donald Cox of the Black Panther party, Panther fundraiser Martin Kenner, and Bernadine Dohrn’s sister, Jennifer , who represented a sort of ‘political wing’ of the Weather Underground. The idea was to have Leary appear before the world media at a PLO camp in Jordan alongside Fatah guerrillas, Black Panthers and white American sympathisers. However, when they arrived in Beirut via Cairo they found themselves besieged at their hotel and followed everywhere by the Western press, who had been tipped off about their arrival. The plan to visit Fatah training camps in Jordan and Syria had to be abandoned when the Lebanese government, under US diplomatic pressure, sent a police squad to escort them to the airport.

Leary and party returned to Cairo. In Cairo, according to Cleaver’s then collaborator Elaine Mokhtefi, Leary became ‘paranoid and hysterical… uncontrollable… scaling walls, hiding behind buildings, raising his arms and screaming in the streets’. The Algerian ambassador to Egypt put them on a plane back to Algiers. On their return Leary and Rosemary began partying with LSD at the desert oasis of Bou-Saada, much to Cleaver’s disapproval. Having recently returned from a conference in North Korea, Cleaver had become a devotee of Kim Il Sung. He now believed that the Panther strategy of uniting with white radicals of the psychedelic counterculture had been mistaken.[ix] And it was not just white hippies that Cleaver wanted to disassociate his movement from. In Leary’s words, ‘Eldridge invented himself a security crisis. Like Nixon, like Brezhnev’:

‘Everything the Panthers did was in the name of security. We were constantly lectured on the precariousness of our situation; American police were after us. All Algerians were racists. The town was crawling with enemies. Our foes were multiplying. The other national liberation fronts turned out to racist too and riddled with double agents. Even our American allies became deadly rivals one-by-one: Angela Davis, Huey Newton, Stokeley Carmichael – all running-dog lackeys of imperialism’.[x]
The CIA’s top-secret Algeria operation had been set up after Cleaver’s arrival in Algiers in 1969. The CIA, as later revealed by Seymour Hersh in the New York Times had recruited Black Americans to spy on members of the Black Panther Party both in the United States and in Africa, especially Algeria. One agent gained access to the personal living quarters of Cleaver in Algeria in the late 1960’s. Another later boasted to his colleagues that he had managed to penetrate Cleaver’s Algerian headquarters ‘and sat at the table’ with him. The CIA’s aim, in the case of the Black Panthers living abroad, was to ‘neutralize’ them; ‘to try and get them in trouble with local authorities wherever they could’.[xi]

According to Leary, the problem with Cleaver was that he was ‘totally American. He doesn’t want to change the system, he just wants to run it’.[xii] On one occasion Cleaver pulled a gun on Leary and threatened to denounce him to the Algerian authorities for his activities with LSD if a sum of $10,000 was not forthcoming. On 9 January 1971, Cleaver ‘imprisoned’ the Learys, placing them under armed guard. A CIA document dated 12 February 1971 noted:

‘Panther activities have recently taken some interesting turns. Eldridge Cleaver and his Algiers contingent have apparently become disenchanted with the antics of Tim Leary… Electing to call their actions protective custody, Cleaver and company, on their own authority, have put Tim and Rosemary under house arrest due most probably to Leary’s continued use of hallucinogenic drugs’.[xiii]
Tim and Rosemary were fearful about ever getting out of Cleaver’s personal prison. They had good reason to be. Unknown to Leary, months earlier Cleaver had shot dead his fellow exile, Clinton Smith, after accusing him of amorous intentions towards his wife, Kathleen Cleaver. Byron Booth, who witnessed the murder, helped Cleaver bury Smith’s body in the mountains and fled Algeria the next day.[xiv]

Cleaver’s imprisonment of the Learys came just as a serious split was developing between Cleaver’s faction and the California-base leadership. Panther leaders Huey Newton and David Hilliard wanted the party to focus on community service and avoid any armed actions beyond self-defense; others, such as Cleaver, wanted to continue and extend offensive armed struggle. Some activists had given up on the Black Panther Party and joined the Black Liberation Army. The Panther split became public in mid-February 1971. In the weeks and months that followed, four members of the party in both factions were killed in tit-for-tat shootings.

As reports reached the Panthers in the US about the disappearances of Clinton Smith and Byron Booth, suspicions of murder began to spread, and Cleaver began to fear being overthrown by a coup at his own headquarters. The Learys took advantage of Cleaver’s distraction and escaped his clutches. Leary made contact with officials of the Algerian government, who told him that they themselves were unhappy about Cleaver’s activities in their country and assured the Learys that they could stay for as long as they wished. Now under the protection of the Algerian government, Leary was visited by the English writer and dope-dealer, Brian Barritt, whose rebel status was very different from Cleaver’s. Barritt, who had been introduced to LSD by Alex Trocchi in London in the mid-1960s, was an enthusiastic student of ‘English Magick’ in the ‘tradition’ of John Dee and Alistair Crowley. He was to become Leary’s co-author on the forthcoming book, Confessions of a Hope Fiend, in Switzerland, the next stop on the Leary’s journey. Leary’s archivist, Michael Horowitz, summarises Confession of a Hope Fiend as the story of his prison escape flight to exile and ‘revolutionary bust’ by the Black Panther Party leader ‘after he either won or lost the debate on the role of psychedelic drugs in the revolution’:

‘In Algeria, the role of Hassan-i-Sabbah – the founder of the hashishin and the first recorded person to brainwash with euphoric drugs – was not necessarily up for grabs. The Aleister Crowley persona emerged during an acid trip in the Sahara. But survival dictated another space time co-ordinate’[xv].

Hotel Abyss

In April 1971, Leary accepted an invitation to give a talk at Aarhus university in Copenhagen. The Learys flew first to Geneva and sought advice from his friend, Pierre Benoussan. He advised them to stay in Switzerland because he thought that if they went to Denmark, they were certain to be arrested and deported to the US. Benoussan gave them the address of Michel Hauchard, arms dealer for the Palestinians, convicted fraudster and jailbird.[xvi] Hauchard, as gentleman rogue, felt obliged to help Leary as a persecuted philosopher. He provided the Learys with a chalet at a Lake Geneva ski resort. Thanks to Hauchard’s generosity, Rosemary Leary was now able to seek the fertility treatment she needed to become pregnant. Hauchard’s largesse had a price. Leary had to promise he would not leave Switzerland and had to sign away in advance half the royalties on the book, Confessions of a Hope Fiend.[xvii] But for the moment Leary had landed in the lap of luxury, and revolutionary politics was now irrelevant to him. As Higgs puts it,

‘Indeed, just three months after pledging “eternal solidarity” to the Brazilian Marxists who had escaped from jail and fled to Algiers, he found himself drinking with the Brazilian aristocrats who had jailed them in the first place. “Torture,” one of them told him, “was nothing more than an advanced form of acrobatics.” By now Tim was quite used to imprinting an entirely new worldview whenever he found himself in a different environment, but rarely was the process as effortless as this’.[xviii]

Hauchard provided the Learys with a lawyer to obtain temporary Swiss residence for them. When, in June 1971, Tim was arrested by the Swiss police to face an extradition request from the US government, the lawyer got him out of prison on health grounds. In December, Leary’s appeal against extradition was upheld by the court, on condition that he would keep out of subversive politics and stay away from illegal drugs; the first was easy, the second was out of the question for Leary, although he believed he could take his daily doses of acid discreetly.  The downside was that the court ruled he would have to leave Switzerland before the end of the following year, 1972.

In September 1971, Leary got to meet Albert Hoffman, the discoverer of LSD. Hoffman told Leary that it was regrettable that investigations into LSD and psilocybin had ‘degenerated’ so much that continuance of psychedelic research in the academic milieu had become impossible:

‘In this conversation I further objected to the great publicity that Leary sought for his LSD and psilocybin investigations, since he had invited reporters from daily newspapers and magazines to his experiments and had mobilized radio and television. Emphasis was placed on publicity rather than objective information. Leary defended his publicity program because he felt it had been his fateful historic role to make LSD known worldwide. The overwhelming positive effects of such dissemination, above all among America’s younger generation, would make any trifling injuries or regrettable accidents as a result of improper use of LSD unimportant in comparison, a small price to pay’.[xix]
David Solomon travelled from England to Switzerland to see Leary and secure a role as an agent negotiating with publishers.[xx]  Another arrival in the Learys’ Swiss household was Dennis Martino, Leary’s hash-smuggling son-in-law from a previous marriage. He was wanted in the US for jumping parole, but in December 1972 made a trip to the US. This should have raised Leary’s suspicions, but didn’t. Leary and Brian Barritt ventured into music production with German krautrockers. Barritt got Leary into heroin, until after few weeks Leary wisely decided to quit. During this period Leary was constantly on LSD, though could function rationally in his day-to-day interactions. Leary had now decided that ‘whereas the space games are survival, power and control, the corresponding time games are sex, dope and magic’.[xxi]
By this time Rosemary Woodruff Leary had had enough of Tim’s new life and entourage. Rosemary took up with John Schewel, an associate of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and spent the next twenty years hiding out in various parts of the world.

Leary hooked up with an aristocratic Englishwoman, Joanna Harcourt Smith, who was introduced to him by Hauchard. Meanwhile the US authorities were renewing pressure on the Swiss by drumming up more charges against Leary, accusing him of being ‘the godfather of the largest drug-smuggling ring in the world’ – the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (the charges were later dropped for lack of evidence).[xxii] At the end of 1972 Leary and Joanna moved to Vienna. Joanna wanted to take Leary to Ceylon, where she had rich relatives to put them up. Then, fatefully, Dennis Martino arrived in Vienna. He suggested that rather than head straight for Ceylon, the three of them should go firstly to Afghanistan, where, he assured them, he had Brotherhood of Eternal Love contacts who would help them. Leary, accompanied by Joanna Harcourt-Smith and Dennis Martino arrived in Afghanistan in January 1973. In Kabul, former CIA agent Terrence Burke was now working in Kabul for the US Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and was monitoring the brothers Aman and Nasrullah Tokhi, who were supplying the Brotherhood of Eternal Love with large shipments of hash. The Afghan authorities provided Burke with copies of American travellers’ embarkation and disembarkation cards, so he was thus warned of the impending arrival of the Learys and Martino. Burke arranged for US Embassy staff disguised as Afghan immigration officers to be on hand to confiscate Leary’s fake passport. Burke then persuaded the Afghan authorities to deport Leary. Dennis Martino, also a fugitive, struck a deal with Burke in Kabul to become an informer. Or was he one already? What is certain is that Martino, spirited back to California after Leary’s deportation from Afghanistan, arranged for at least two dozen of his dope-dealing associates of the Brotherhood to be arrested.[xxiii]

Eldridge Cleaver left Algeria for France in 1972 and went into hiding. He returned to the USA in 1977 a born-again Christian. After some plea-bargaining and public repentance for his political past he got away with a sentence of 1,200 hours community service for the outstanding assault charge.[xxiv] His Black Panther rival, Huey Newton, came out of prison in 1970. He failed to revive the party and fell into gangsterism and cocaine addiction.

Leary ‘Co-operates’

At his trial in March 1973 for the 1970 prison escape, Leary was sentenced to five years imprisonment in addition to the twenty he had been serving. For management of his affairs outside of prison Leary still relied on Joanna Harcourt-Smith. In November, 1973, Leary was transferred from Folsom to Vacaville Prison. There he learned that Martino had become a government snitch and that Joanna was sleeping with him. When Allen Ginsberg met Joanna Harcourt-Smith during a prison visit, he told her he suspected she might be a ‘double agent’. In response, Joanna turned to Leary and said ‘Oh, he just hates women’. Leary simply threw up his hands in exasperation. But for Leary himself, in this latest reality tunnel informing was taking on a new meaning: Leary, in return for early release, was prepared to talk to the FBI.

On the evidence of Leary’s autobiography, the ‘Leary Turns Fink’ story, which gained wide circulation in the late seventies, was, in part at least, the product of an FBI counter-offensive aimed at blunting the revelations about the Bureau’s own illegal actions against dissidents. When a transcript of Leary’s testimony was leaked to journalist, Jack Anderson, Leary complained that it made it sound as if he was testifying against anyone who had ever offered him a joint. But the story severely damaged Leary’s reputation among his followers. Becoming a political extremist under extreme circumstances might have been understandable; but becoming a renegade fink put him beyond the pale. After the FBI milked Leary for all the information they thought they get, Leary was finally given his freedom in April 1976.

According to Leary, he only wanted to convince the FBI that people like the Weather Underground and Brotherhood of Eternal Love were really just all-American kids who had grown a little too enthusiastic about realising their ideals. Regarding his ‘motives’ for talking, Leary said that he wanted an ‘intelligent, an honourable relationship’ with Government institutions:

‘So this does not just turn someone over to get out of prison, it’s part of a longer range plan of mine… I intend to be fully active in this country in the next few years however the things turn out… I’m never going to work at it illegally ever again, but I would prefer to work constructively and collaboratively with intelligence and law enforcement people that are ready to forget the past…’[xxv]

Leary did talk to the FBI about the Weather Underground and name names, but in the long run the group was not impacted by Leary’s testimony. By the mid-1970s the Weather Underground leadership had grasped the reality that they weren’t going to be able to bomb US Imperialism out of existence. Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn believed they could avoid federal prosecution and lengthy prison sentences because of illegal wire taps and reluctance on the government’s part to reveal sources and illegal methods. Ayers and Dohrn favored a strategy of ‘surfacing’ as above ground revolutionaries. Bernadine Dohrn’s sister, Jennifer, organised an umbrella organization of radical groups which was named the Prairie Fire Committee (inspired by Mao Zedong’s polemic against ‘pessimism’: ‘A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire‘).

In 1977 a pamphlet appeared entitled The Split of the Weather Underground Organization – Struggling Against White and Male Supremacy. This contained an abject ‘confession’ by Bernadine Dohrn, admitting to charges of racial and sexual chauvinism, and ‘opportunism’. An article by Clayton Van Lydegraf, ‘In Defense of Prairie Fire’, indicated that the new ‘line’ was a very orthodox Marxist-Leninism committed to supporting armed actions. But Van Lydegraf’s takeover of what was left of the Weather Underground’s military structure proved disastrous. Since 1969 the FBI had largely failed to penetrate the group, but they soon succeeded in doing so when the Bureau’s Weather hunters infiltrated a couple of undercover agents into the West Coast Weather Underground Organization as firearms instructors; one of whom actually moved in with Van Lydegraf as his housemate. In 1977, Van Lydegraf, and several Weather Underground members were arrested for plotting to bomb the offices of a California state senator and got two-year prison sentences. This essentially finished the Weather Underground. All three of the groups Leary had operated with during his fugitive period – the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground – were broken up largely within that timespan. In between 1970 when he escaped prison and 1976, when he was released, Leary created for himself one ‘reality tunnel’ after another: first with the Weather Underground, then with Cleaver’s Black Panthers, then with Hauchard, then finally with the FBI. As John Higgs puts it:

‘Enlightenment thinkers assumed that everyone operates in the same reality, but that, Leary believed, was not true on a practical level. Concepts, relationships and events were now relative, and could only be really understood when analysed alongside the reality tunnels that created them’.[xxvi]

As Leary said of his first LSD trip with Michael Hollingshead ten years earlier,

‘From that day I have never lost the sense that I am an actor, surrounded by characters, props and sets for the comic drama being written in my brain’.[xxvii]

[i] Quoted in Bryan Burrough, Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age.

[ii] John Higgs, I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary, p.125.

[iii] Quoted in Lee and Shlain, Acid Dreams, p.230.

[iv] Paul Krasner, ‘A Game of Mind Tennis with Timothy Leary’, in Forte (ed.), Timothy Leary p.122.

[v]  Leary, Flashbacks, ps 301-2.

[vi] Higgs, p.127.

[vii] Forte, Timothy Leary, p.85.

[viii] Elaine Mokhtefi, Algiers, Third World Capital: Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries, Black Panthers , Chapter 5.

[ix] Donn Pearce, ‘Leary in Limbo’, Playboy, July 1971.

[x]  Leary, Flashbacks, p.304.

[xi] Seymour Hersh, ‘Huge CIA Operation Reported in US Against Anti-War Forces’, New York Times, 22 December, 1974; ‘CIA Reportedly Recruited Blacks For Surveillance of Panther Party’, New York Times, 17 March 1978.

[xii] Timothy Leary, Confessions of a Hope Fiend, p240. Quoted in John Higgs, I Have America Surrounded, p.138.

[xiii]  Lee and Shlian, ps.268-9.

[xiv] Mokhtefi, op.sit.

[xv]  Higgs, ps.139-140.

[xvi]  Lee and Pratt, ps.340-2.

[xvii]  Leary, Flashbacks, ps.300-310.

[xviii]  Higgs, p.158.

[xix] Albert Hoffman, ‘My Meetings With Timothy Leary’, in Forte, op.cit. ps.89-90.

[xx] Tendler and May, p.112; Lee and Pratt, ps.340-342.

[xxi] ‘Prophet on the Lam: Timothy Leary in Exile’, in Forte op.cit. p.98.

[xxii] Forte, p.70.

[xxiii] Higgs, p.223.

[xxiv] Mokhtefi, op. cit.

[xxv] Timothy Leary, The Politics of Psychopharmacology (Ronin Publishing: 2009), p.110.

[xxvi] John Higgs, I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary, ps.46-48.

[xxvii] Leary, Flashbacks, p.119.

King Mob Echo issues1-6

King Mob Echo issues1-6 -1968-70

Complete run in 5 issues (no.4 was never published) of this legendary British counter-culture magazine King Mob Echo, put out by David & Stuart Wise, later joined by Christopher Gray, Donald Nicholson-Smith and TJ Clark (all former members of the British Section of the Situationist International).Also included here is a leaflet listing all King Mob publications.

See HERE

The Points Interview: David Black, author of Psychedelic Tricksters: A True Secret History of LSD

Points: The Blog of the Alchohol and Drugs History Society (US)

The Points Interview: David Black, author of Psychedelic Tricksters: A True Secret History of LSD

I’ve titled the book Psychedelic Tricksters because in mythology the trickster is someone who ‘unwisely’ defies the powers-on-high, as when Prometheus steals fire from Zeus for the benefit of humankind. The trickster’s rebellion always fails and yet is seen as necessary for the origin of civilizations, or perhaps, as in the case of psychedelics, a new beginning for a society that had lost way in war, racism and sexual oppression.”

See the interview in full HERE

Charles Radcliffe, former Situationist

Extract from Charles Radcliffe, Don’t Start Me Talking: Subculture, Situationism and the Sixties, Bread and Circuses. Kindle Edition.

Our final visit, to Paris to meet Guy Debord and other Paris-based Situationists, would decide whether Chris and I would join L’Internationale situationniste, as we hoped, or whether we would be dismissed, hurled centrifugally into pro-situ orbit, like countless others before and after… We spent most of our time in a typical, old Paris apartment in rue St Jacques, small, comfortable and over-crowded with Situationists. Wine was poured immediately and often. Whenever you stood your head was thrust into a richly aromatic Gauloise cloud. Guy, no longer the studied left-bank dandy of the much-used early photograph with Pierre Feuillette, had put on some weight, was noticeably more jowly and had adopted an altogether more anonymous sartorial style…

Guy, revelling in being the centre of devoted attention of assembled Situationists and would-be Situationists, was at his most urbane, amusing and charming. His talent for vituperation was evident. Most denizens of the French left and cultural avant-garde seemed, almost to a person, to qualify as “stupid, completely cow-like, little cunts”, “cretins” or “imbeciles”. In London it tended towards ‘peace and love, man’, so this flood of scurrilous epithets was both slightly shocking and undeniably refreshing, particularly since the squibs were delivered with a sense of humour. He meant it, but they were also delivered as lines for assenting nods and laughter of the attendant gallery, which included not only his former long-term companion and co-worker, Michelle Bernstein, and his current companion Alice Becker-Ho, a beautiful French-Chinese woman, but Mustapha, René Vienet, Donald Nicholson-Smith and his very attractive girl friend Cathy (Pozzo di Borgo). (There was no sign of Debord’s ‘austere cell’ so elegiacally rhapsodized by the aesthete Tim Clark in his introduction to Anselm Jappe’s Guy Debord.) Much, but not all of what Debord said was too quick for me but was invariably greeted with rapid assent or appreciative laughter from the assembled Sits.

We drank a lot, ate well, talked a great deal (in my case mostly with Michelle Bernstein, who spoke good English and was highly sympathetic, intelligent, widely interested and attractive, and Donald, the bluff, bearded and affable established English member of the group), and wandered around Paris. We enjoyed potato and onion soups at Les Halles and ate horse steaks and cous-cous in Algerian restaurants near the Gare du Nord. Perhaps it was the wine, but I began to feel more relaxed in this strangely rarefied world. I would have loved a joint, though.

Charles Radcliffe at Housmans bookshop, London in 2012

 

HL Mencken – Words As Weapons

“As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

“That night in my rented room, while letting the hot water run over my can of pork and beans in the sink, I opened A Book of Prefaces and began to read. I was jarred and shocked by the style, the clear, clean, sweeping sentences. Why did he write like that? And how did one write like that? I pictured the man as a raging demon, slashing with his pen, consumed with hate, denouncing everything American, extolling everything European or German, laughing at the weaknesses of people, mocking God, authority. What was this? I stood up, trying to realize what reality lay behind the meaning of the words. . . . Yes this man was fighting, fighting with words. He was using words as a weapon, using them as one would use a club. I read on and what amazed me was not what he said, but how on earth anybody had the courage to say it.”

Richard Wright, Black Boy, The Richard Wright Reader, (New York: Harper &Row, 1978), p. 17.

CBS broadcast – Radio Biography 1956

 

Lockdown Xenochrony

“Xenochrony” is a musical technique associated with Frank Zappa, who coined the name from the Greek words xeno (strange) and chrono (time). According to Zappa, “In this technique, various tracks from unrelated sources are randomly synchronized with each other to make a final composition with rhythmic relationships unachievable by other means.”

Throughout the summer the barbarism of pure culture is linking to archived weekly radio broadcasts from the Late Lunch with Out to Lunch show on Resonance 104.4 FM.

Margulis Forever 23-ix-2020

LISTEN HERE:The OTL Show 11-ix-2020

Episode of Ben Watson‘s Late Lunch with Out To Lunch dedicated to Lynn Margulis, the rebel biologist who lionised evolution via symbiosis and the lateral transfer of genes between species. Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Jair-Rohm Parker Wells – Chapman Stick, electric bass, processing; Out To Lunch – voice, piano, Splash’n’Klang, poetry; Rob “Sugarlips” Goldsmith – sopranino and tenor saxophones; Graham Davis – synth; Eleanor Crook – violin, electric guitar; Guy Evans – drumset; Cloughie – electric bass; Dave Black – electric guitar; John Roy – synth. All played this week unless otherwise stated.

0:00 Marc Guillermont “Make a Blues Noise Here” plus Intimations 3:00
3:00 “Ribbed Rubbish” (OTL/R”S”G) 5:27
8:35 “Bass Response to Splash’n’Klang of Saturday 12-ix-2020″ (OTL/J-RPW) 7:32
10:24 “Violin Response to Ribbed Rubbish” (EC) 5:42
16:12 Internet Archive Robot reads Lynn Margulis 1:49
16:18 “Do We Have to Do It in Here?” (GD, slowed down -33%) 2:35
18:32 “Little Ted Murders his Elderly Neighbour” (GD)
19:01 “Vespertilionid” (EC/GE) 8:52
23:06 “Bass Bells” (C) 4:18
27:44 OTL on Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan’s Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from our Microbial Ancestors (1986) 1:50
29:34 OTL reads Margulis on spyrochetes 3:03
32:37 “Nine Seconds of Drum Samples” (GE) 0:09
32:46 “You Go to My Head meets Body & Soul” (DB/R”S”G) 3:45
36:19 “Korg’n’Drip 3” (OTL/J-RPW) 8:17
36:45 “Boing Craze Drip Threat” (OTL/DB) 7:45
39:42 “Procession of the Pocket Things” (EC) 6-ix-2020 4:17
44:25 OTL reads more Margulis on spyrochetes 1:01
45:25 “You Wouldn’t Want One in Your Ear” (GD) 2:02
45:59 “Guitruling Banjos” (DB/GD) 2:22
47:00 “Boingy Bonk” (C) 3:53
48:21 “Ogre Margulis” (OTL) 3:43
49:12 “Anal Probe” (GD) 2:03
49:56 “Jump Navel Asterix” (JR) 28-vii-2020 5:45
50:42 “Toy Drum Mutiny” (GE) 8:18
55:44 “The Vicar Insisted” (GD) 2:03
56:48 OTL reads Margulis on seawater 0:52
Factual Note: Margulis’s spyrochete theory, which generated some of the most colourful sentences of Microcosmos, has – unlike her symbiotic explanation of mitichondria and chloroplasts – not yet received corroboration by empirical research into the fossil and DNA record, although this is still ongoing. Modern spyrochete whips do not exhibit the “9 x 2” structure which characterises sperm tails and cilia in multicellular organisms.

The OTL Show is an hour of Internet DJing by Ben Watson on Soho Radio. This was a prerecord because the studio was closed due to coronoavirus lockdown, and was broadcast at 8am on Friday 11-ix-2020.

LISTEN HERE: Groove vs. Squeeze 26-viii-2020

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Peter Baxter – tabletop percussion; Out To Lunch – announcements, field recording, Splash’n’Klang, Google Gargle, piano, Korg ribbon synth, xenochrony; Ben Moran Healy – electric guitar; Guy Evans – drumset; Rob “Sugarlips” Goldsmith – tenor saxophone; Cloughie – electric bass; Graham Davis – Ladybird recitation, “WPLJ”; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar; Dave Black – acoustic guitar, vocals, harmonica, “Back Back Train” and “Jitterbug Swing”; Charlotte Whelan – tape deck fanny pack; John Roy – banjo.

Title Credit: Bob Cobbing, Lawrence Upton and Christopher Nolan

Image: “Painstaking Accretion” Out To Lunch, Doodle Buddy on Eleanor Crook photograph of oak fungus 29-viii-2020

LISTEN HERE:

DANburst of Dreams 2-ix-2020

By Xenochronic AMM All-Stars

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Cloughie – electric bass; Guy Evans – drumset, trumpet; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar; Graham Davis – jingles, synth; Out To Lunch – piano, readings from J. H. Prynne’s Squeezed White Noise, Splash’n’Klang, google gargle, announcements, xenochrony; Jessica Harper – rhythm mashes; Dave Black – bottleneck guitar; Peter Baxter aka The Baxterium “With Beyonce in the Bayou”, acid synth, percussion.

Drip Hop UK 12-viii-2020

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Peter Baxter aka The Baxterium – tabletop percussion, sound montage, “Does Anyone Have an Onion?”, “How To Escape a Place with Scree Walls”; Graham Davis – synth, “Mwaaaah”, “Scree”, “Tinkle”; “Sweep”; Out To Lunch – Splash’n’Klang, piano, announcements, xenochrony; Jair-Rohm Parker Wells – double bass; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar; Ben Moran Healy – electric guitar, Melodica, spoon’n’cup; Rob Jones – synth; Rob Goldsmith – sopranino saxophone; Guy Evans – drumset; John Roy – semi-electric guitar.

Groovy Fidget Muffin Rule 5-viii-2020

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Out To Lunch – piano, rural mouthnoise, Korg ribbon synth, acoustic guitar, xenochrony, urbane announcements; Ben Moran Healy – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, snuffles; Rob Jones – synth, Melodica, spoon’n’cup; Jessica Harper – harp; Graham Davis – jingles, synth; Paul Hession – drumset; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar, electric bass, pedal steel; Cloughie – electric bass; Dave Black – acoustic guitar, harmonica; Jair-Rohm Parker Wells – double bass; Guy Evans – samples, drumset; John Roy – baby hand drum, synth; Roy Castle – postponed.

Rhythmically Speaking 29-vii-2020

^^LINK^^

by Ben Watson

The Brief Passage in Time of the Letterist International 1954-57

On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Moment In Time (1959) – English Subtitles

‘The form corresponds to the content. It does not describe this or that particular activity (merchant marine, oil exploration, some historic monument to admire — or even to demolish, as in Franju’s magnificent Hôtel des Invalides, but the very core of present-day activity in general, which is empty. It is a portrayal of the absence of “real life.” This slow movement of exposure and negation is what I was trying to embody in Passage. But very summarily and arbitrarily, I must admit. Despite the prevalent fixation on the economic obstacles, the main problem is actually that short films are quite unsuitable for truly experimental cinema. Their very brevity tends to encourage a moderate, neatly edited form of expression. But it does seem interesting to detourn the fixed form of the traditional documentary, and this tends to tie us to the inviolable 20-minute limit.’

GUY DEBORD
1960

Extract from David Black, The Philosophical Roots of Anti-Capitalism –Essays on History, Culture, and Dialectical Thought (Lexington Books (2014), Part 2, ‘Critique of the Situationist Dialectic: Art, Class Consciousness and Reification’

Derive and Detournement

The members and fellow-travelers of the Letterist International were young; nearly all of them in their teens or early twenties. These “lost children” (les enfants perdus) were of the generation who had grown up during the Nazi occupation (some of their parents had been Jewish deportees or Maquisards), but had been too young to fight in the resistance. Their youthful radicalism had been betrayed by the re-imposition of “traditional” conservatism on French society, with its authoritarian penal code and reactionary clericalism, its Gendarmarie who had in large part collaborated with the Nazi occupiers, and its conscription of French youth to fight imperialist wars in Indo-China and Algeria. They also felt betrayed by the bureaucratic class-collaborationism of the Communist Party, the ineffectiveness of Trotskyism, and the recuperation of the Surrealist avant-garde by the culture industry. The headquarters of the new international was a bar in the Arab quarter of Paris’s Left Bank. According to one of the regulars, Elaine Papai (who married Jean-Louis Brau, the Letterist poet):

‘The life of the Situationist International cannot be disentangled from Saint-German-des-Prés and the climate that once reigned in that neighbourhood. The Letterist International had set up its headquarters at Moineau’s, a low dive in Rue du Four where the letterists were joined by hitherto unaffiliated young revolutionaries. Drugs, alcohol, and girls (especially underage ones) were part of the folklore of the Letterist International, as revealed in certain slogans of that time which, curiously enough, reappeared on the walls of Paris in May 1968. “Never Work!” “Ether is freely available,” or “Let us live!”’

Another young woman of the group, the Australian artist, Vali Myers, recalls,

‘They were the rootless children from every corner of Europe. Many had no home, no parents, no papers. For the cops, their legal status was “vagrant.” Which is why they all ended up sooner or later in La Santé [prison]. We lived in the streets, in the cafes, like a pack of mongrel dogs. We had our hierarchy, our own codes. Students and people with jobs were kept out. As for the few tourists who came around to gawk at “existentialists,” it was all right to con them. We always managed to have rough wine and hash from Algeria. We shared everything.’

Unlike the rest of the avant-garde, the LI refused to be “answerable” to the court of art criticism and the gaze of the “other,” refused to seek fame, and refused to market anything they produced. The LI’s mimeographed journal Potlatch, which appeared in 20 issues between June 1954 and November 1957, with an eventual print run of 500 copies, was always given away free to friends of the group, or mailed to people who expressed an interest.

The Letterist International’s theory of “unitary urbanism” was first formulated by the nineteen-year-old Ivan Chtcheglev in a 1953 article in Potlatch. Unitary urbanism expressed a vision of city planning based on aesthetic and technological innovations in architecture, but freed from subordination to the needs of corporate developers and the endless expansion of private car ownership. “Psychogeography” – “the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviours of individuals” – involved the “derive,” a form of daydreaming during Letterist excursions on foot through the urban environment, defined as “a technique of transient passage through varied ambiances.” Such pleasurable activity had yet to be impoverished by the pollution and noise of traffic jams, and the vandalism of planners and developers. Chtcheglev could still write of a future in which city dwellers would reclaim the streets: “we will construct cities for drifting… but with light retouching, one can utilize certain zones which already exist. One can utilize certain persons who already exist.”

This “first phase” of the LI lasted until 1954, when Debord moved the headquarters from the nihilist atmosphere of the Rue du Four to another bar, this time on the Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. But, for Debord, that early phase of the LI, in which the bloom of youth, like the old Paris Left Bank, passed by them before it could even be seen as what it truly was, was the “golden age” of real struggle and potential; and it is this, rather any utopian vision of the future, that haunts all of his subsequent work. As Kaufman points out, in the Society of the Spectacle, written fifteen years later (1967), the first thesis states that in a world in which “all that was once directly lived has become representation,” the “separation from, and disappearance of, life has become perfected.” By 1968, when the streets of the Paris were once again fought over, the city of the Letterists had disappeared and its utopian urbanist potential had already been destroyed.

In 1954 the celebrated Danish painter Asger Jorn (1917-73) became aware of the existence of Potlatch and the Letterist International, and made contact with Debord. Jorn, who had founded the International Movement for an Imaginative Bauhaus in 1953, shared the LI’s hostility to abstract expressionism and socialist realism, and saw their concepts of unitary urbanism and psychogeography as in line with of his own critique of functionalist design and architecture. Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920–2005, known as “Constant”), the Dutch artist friend of Jorn, was also coming into the Letterist orbit. In 1948, Constant’s Manifesto for the Dutch Experimentalists, who later became part of CoBrA group (Copenhagen- Brussels-Amsterdam), argued:

‘A new freedom will be born that will allow mankind to satisfy its desire to create. Through this development the professional artist will lose his privileged position. This explains the resistance of contemporary artists.’

Debord’s new friendship with Jorn, Constant and other leading figures of the artistic avant-garde had convinced him that the time had come for the Letterists to shift their focus from the bars of Paris to developments in the wider cultural field of struggle. In an article published in Potlatch in 1957, entitled “One Step Back,” Debord argued that the LI, rather than constitute itself as an “external opposition,” needed to “seize hold of modern culture in order to use it for our own ends” and join forces with artists – even painters, whose activities has been generally despised by the Letterists. Debord accepted that the LI might have to initially settle for a minority position within a new international movement; although, he thought, “all concrete achievements of this movement will naturally lead to its alignment with the most advanced program”:

‘…we need to gather specialists from very varied fields, know the latest autonomous developments in those fields.. We thus need to run the risk of regression, but we must also offer, as soon as possible, the means to supersede the contradictions of the present phase through a deepening of our general theory and through conducting experiments whose results are indisputable. Although certain artistic activities might be more notoriously mortally wounded than others, we feel that the hanging of a painting in a gallery is a relic as inevitably uninteresting as a book of poetry. Any use of the current framework of intellectual commerce surrenders ground to intellectual confusionism, and this includes us; but on the the other hand we can do nothing without taking into account from the outset this ephemeral framework.

Debord added that the LI needed an expansion of its “economic base.” He was well aware of the huge amount of money being made out of art by the artists themselves as well as the curators and galley-owners. Debord’s potlatch anti-book, Mémoires, consisted of collages produced in collaboration with, and financed by, Asger Jorn (whose financial support for Debord’s work continued long after Jorn decided in 1961 that he could not reconcile his working life as an artist with Debord’s organizational demands).

In July 1957 at the conference in Cosio d’Arroscia, Italy, the Situationist International was founded. Those attending the were: Guy Debord and Michèle Bernstein of the Letterist International; Giuseppe Pinot Gallizio, Asger Jorn, Walter Olmo, Piero Simondo, Elena Verrone of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus; and Ralph Rumney, representing the London Psychogeographical Association (of which he was the sole member).

Kindle edition now available

 

Psychedelic Tricksters: A True Secret History of LSD by David Black now in paperback

“I recommend this book; it is more historically accurate than earlier books on this subject.” – Tim Scully, underground chemist of the 1960s who produced “Orange Sunshine” LSD (featured in Cosmo Feilding-Mellen’s documentary film, The Sunshine Makers).

Psychedelic Tricksters: A True Secret History of LSD by David Black (BPC Publishing, London: 2020) is available as a Kindle ebook for £4.85 HERE

And in paperback dead-tree-format for £11.99 HERE 

Read the PREFACE for FREE on this site HERE

The Charles Manson Nightmare Redux

New review. “A great read… a dramatic, almost Chandleresque narrative.” David Black on American nightmares revisited, in “CHAOS – Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties,” by Tom O’Neill.

“O’Neill studied the bestselling book, Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi, lead prosecutor at Manson’s trial. Bugliosi’s case went as follows. Manson was a huge fan of the Beatles, and believed that the lyrics on the White Album were somehow addressed to him personally. Tracks such as ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Little Piggies’ were taken to mean ‘the black man rising up against the white establishment and murdering the entire white race’. The Manson Family would escape Helter Skelter by taking refuge in a bottomless pit in the desert (‘a place Manson derived from Revelation 9’) and breed until he had 144,000 followers to take over the world. To O’Neill, this fable of bat-shit craziness didn’t explain anything. Bugliosi himself said in an interview with Penthouse in 1976 that he believed while Manson’s followers believed his Helter Skelter bullshit, Manson did not. In which case, why did he organise the murders and how could he have manipulated his followers into carrying them out?2 Bugliosi, as O’Neill was to discover, was corrupt, greedy and (according to his own family) psychotic. ”

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster80/lob80-chaos-charles-manson.pdf

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