Acid evangelist fights to give death a good name

Dr Leary plans to die as he lived: outrageously and on LSD. And, writes John Carlin in Washington, he wants us to watch

Rebellious to the last, Timothy Leary, the pyschedelic Socrates of the Sixties, has made plans to heap scorn on the final taboo by celebrating his death live, on screen, on the World Wide Web.

"Visible, interactive suicide", he calls it. A wizened victim, at 75, of seemingly incurable prostate cancer, he has declared his intention to ingest, in the presence of his friends and disciples, not a potion of hemlock but a cocktail of LSD. He has not yet announced the date of the event but will do so once the doctors inform him that further medication is useless.

The dying thoughts of Dr Leary (he was a professor of psychology at Harvard until his expulsion for drug abuse in 1963) will then be available to all those wishing to access his Internet home page at http:/www.leary. com. Owners of computers with CD-ROM will be afforded the opportunity to watch him join his old soulmates Aldous Huxley, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon on the trip to the place whence no man has returned. Or not yet, at any rate...

Dr Leary entertains hopes that life's rest will not be eternal. Immediately after he is declared dead his head is to be removed, and his brain frozen. He has signed a contract with a California cryogenics laboratory for his brain to be preserved at a temperature of minus 320 degrees fahrenheit until the day mankind discovers a cure for death. Or, as a friend put it, "he is going to wait and see if a time comes when he can remanifest the software in a new form of hardware".

Meanwhile, the man who challenged the world to "turn on, tune in, drop out" - who Huxley described as having "a frightful penchant for cocking his snoot at authority" - means to continue defying the social orthodoxies by facing death with a grin on his face. He declared himself "thrilled" when he learned in January last year that he had received a visit from "Mademoiselle Cancer". Since then he has occupied most of his time devising what he describes as the means to achieve "a hi-tech designer death". "I am developing methods and technologies," he says, "to delay the ultimate onset of pain, coma, helplessness and indignity."

To keep up his spirits, for he is undergoing radiation and is in frequent pain, he has been sticking to a daily diet which includes, he says, 44 cigarettes; three cups of coffee; one beer; two glasses of wine; one cookie; one marijuana joint; one Tylenol PM; two prescription pain pills; 12 balloons of nitrous oxide (laughing gas); and three "Leary biscuits" - Ritz crackers topped with cheese and marijuana.

He has not been partaking of these pleasures alone. During the last week his home in Beverly Hills has been the site of what one visitor described as "a permanent party". Though Leary himself is reported to be looking like a dying Aids patient - purple-blotched, skeletal, hunched in a wheel- chair - the house has been teeming 24 hours a day with beautiful young women in mini-skirts and beautiful young men with long hair and rings through their noses, devotees all of the dying guru's ethic of benignly rampant self-indulgence.

Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon, Ken Kesey and Dan Ackroyd have been among the guests, feeding Dr Leary purple Nitrous Oxide balloons supplied from a tank he keeps in his bedroom, together with a collection of 15 wheel- chairs and the incubator where his dead head will be stored.

John Perry Barlow, who dropped acid with Dr Leary 30 years ago, visited him on Thursday night. At one time an occasional lyricist for the Grateful Dead, Mr Barlow, is today the head of the Electronics Frontier Foundation, a celebrated web philosopher viewed with almost as much veneration by the cyber generation as Dr Leary was in his day by the hippies.

"Tim's home, I'd say, is as holy a place as I've been in a long time," said Mr Barlow. "He's surrounded himself with angelic young people and some of the great people of this century. And you know what he said to me? 'I'm gonna give death a better name or die trying'. It's inspiring, man, it's a life-inspiring energy he's created.

"He's violating one of the sickest things in this culture, that death is something to be ashamed of. He's doing what he's always tried to do, rearrange people's mental furniture. We deny death in the US, we're ashamed of it. He is affirming death, embracing it, and he's gonna do it live on TV."

Just how coherent he will be, how triumphant a spectacle he will present to the world with his kiss of death, remains to be seen.

A phone call to his home on Friday evening was taken by an efficient young person by the name of Trudy Truelove. She said an interview was virtually impossible as Dr Leary was finding it hard both to hear and to speak. She suggested, however, that a list of questions should be faxed through to his home. If he was up to it, she would fax the replies back.

It would have been unconventionally rude to say it, but the thought did occur that Dr Leary, clinging to life with perhaps a little more urgency than he might be willing to admit, had left his death-day party a little late.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London