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To a generation in full revolt against any form of authority, “Tune in, turn on, drop out” became a mantra and its popularizer, Dr. Timothy Leary, a guru. In the handsome, charismatic Leary, the youth of the 1960s found someone who promised it all: self-liberation, hedonistic satisfaction, and spiritual fulfillment.
While in Mexico in 1960, Leary, then a lecturer and brilliant psychologist at Harvard, tried magic mushrooms for the first time. He became first intrigued and then obsessed by the effects of the psychedelic drugs. Under the aegis of Aldous Huxley, Leary launched the Harvard Psychadelic Project and transformed himself into a psychadelic messiah. What began as research into human consciousness turned into a mission to alter consciousness itself.
For the next three decades, Leary’s life was a roller-coaster ride of glamour and scandal, drug-induced epiphanies, and endless legal problems. After he died in Los Angeles in 1996, his ashes were shot into outer space—his last trip.
In this first major biography of one of the most controversial figures in postwar America, Robert Greenfield immerses the reader in the life and times of a compelling but troubled icon. The supporting cast of characters in this fascinating book reads like a who’s who of popular culture in twentieth-century America. At the center of the maelstrom he created everywhere he went is Leary himself: a gifted but self-mythologizing addict of fame and notoriety who seized his moment in the spotlight and refused to let it go.