Timothy Leary was one of the remarkable characters of that era known as the Sixties – a magician/guru/hippie-activist famed for championing the use of psychedelics in general, and LSD in particular.
Not exactly the kind of person you’d expect to find mentioned on this web site…But life is strange…and Timothy Leary would have been the first to agree.
I need to state right up front that I have never used LSD, or anything similar. I was an ROTC student during the Sixties, a member of the Young Republicans and the Young Americans for Freedom. I railed against the hippies and specifically against people like Leary. When others were burning their draft cards, I was burning my program to the “rock opera” Hair on the auditorium steps (much to the embarrassment of my girlfriend at the time) – and I still consider the counterculture to be both an indicator of, and a part of, der Untergang des Abendlandes. In general, the Sixties were an acceleration of the degeneracy that surrounds us today.
Leary in particular is a problematic figure, a confirmed leftist involved with the CIA (which he claimed was deliberately drugging America – an idea I would have rejected at the time…) and otherwise part of the shadow-show and conspiracy that obscures that era.
But he wasn’t dull, and he wasn’t stupid, and that makes up for a lot.
I discovered Leary’s “SMI^2LE” formula – pronounced “S, M, I squared, L, E” – during some random reading the other day. As a word it’s read “smile,” but it stands for “Space Migration, Intelligence Increase (hence the exponent, which I can’t do in this script), and Life Extension.”
And that, my friends, is positively Nietzschean! Let’s look at these components one at a time.
Space Migration – the next step for our race! We are the space-faring Folk. Robert Goddard…Wernher von Braun…so many other visionaries! Little known fact: The first man-made thing to enter space was a V-2 rocket back in the 1940’s, and we’ve been at it ever since.
Intelligence Increase – We’ve always scored well when it comes to intelligence, but we’re forever looking for ways to learn more, learn better, learn faster. “Intelligence” is partly genetic, partly acquired, and sometimes difficult to define. I believe human capacity includes talents far beyond those officially recognized – remote viewing, precognition, and psychokinesis, to include a few – and exploring these capacities will be one of our future adventures. (In short, these “wild talents” can be acquired, and intelligence increase is NOT about hooking yourself up to a machine.)
Life Extension – It’s all very well to die gloriously, and plenty of us will have the chance – but speaking for myself, I have a lot to do before I check out of Midgard! It’s not cowardly to want to live a long and productive life, so long as when you go you do so with grace and aplomb. There are techniques anyone can use, even today, to prolong useful life – but wondrous technologies are on the horizon. As Nietzsche wrote, “Pagans are those who say ‘Yes!’ to life.” (I’m not sure if he included the exclamation point, but the words certainly deserve it…!)
In this world, we have to take the good wherever we find it – and even the most flawed philosopher sometimes gets it right. Whatever Leary’s shortcomings, he can be forgiven much for introducing us to his “SMILE” formula. I think of it daily: It is part of my personal life extension program. Grab life by the…er, private parts and make it give you what you need!
And remember to keep that grin on your face while doing it.
Timothy Leary, wherever you are – I hope you’re smiling!