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Timothy Francis Leary  (1920 – 1996)

The Banned Speech



First published in 1967 — reproduced by arrangement with the Futique Trust

Leary’s Banned Canadian Speech

     Timothy Leary was invited to speak at “Perception ’67,” a multimedia symposium on psychedelics conducted by the University of Toronto’s College Literary and Athletic Society. Leary was refused permission to enter Canada by immigration authorities because of a prior arrest in the U.S. Jean Marchand, the Cabinet Minister responsible, stated that he was acting in order to bar entry to a convicted criminal, not to discourage freedom of speech. Several days later, Dr. Leary handed a tape-recorded message across the Detroit-Windsor border to a U.C.L.A.S. representative. The tape was confiscated; Dr. Leary was brought into Canada, detained and, on his return, arrested by US authorities. The tape vanished, and for several weeks many Canadian newspapers featured interpretative articles on Leary’s ideas but nothing which put Leary’s case in his own words. The editor of the Canadian Free Press, an Ottawa underground newspaper, got Leary to update and re-tape his message. The result was a message to the Canadian people, recorded at his psychedelic ashram in Millbrook, New York.

Hello! This is Timothy Leary speaking from Millbrook, New York. I bring love and blessings to the people of Canada.

Here we are sixty people, forty-five adults and fifteen children, who lead a spiritual life and have joined together for the ancient spiritual quest. It is a cold snowy Sunday as I look down from my third-floor office over the trees, evergreens, and snowy lawns.

Let me tell you first about our center here. I would say that one third of the people who live here could be numbered among the most successful Americans alive today. We have Service Academy graduates; we have several Ph.D.s from our best colleges; we have several famous artists and writers. I would say that about a third of the people that live here with us are, by social standards, unsuccessful and sick people. We have living here right now about ten people who have been, in the past, drug addicts, addicted hopelessly to one of our two popular narcotics, either alcohol or heroin. These people have been cured by the only method that can cure psychological addiction; that is, by spiritual conversion.

And of course the other third of the people that live here with us at the spiritual center are young people ranging from newborn babies up through the teens. And I want to point out that all the children who live in this house who are over the age of seven or eight take LSD and use marijuana regularly.

Now that might surprise you — to think of chemicals and plants which you have been taught to call drugs.







Who’s brainwashed you that way — to think that alcohol, the dangerous, narcotic, addictive intoxicant, is something that should be consumed, and a holy sacrament such as marijuana and drugs like LSD which have been used for thousands of years by spiritual seekers should not be used?

Our children, indeed everyone in our community, regularly use the sacraments of marijuana and LSD just the way people in other religions use their sacraments to find meaning, to weave the pattern of the spiritual life. Our religion is called the League for Spiritual Discovery.

What’s it about?

It’s the same old pursuit. The aims of our religion are those of every religion of the past: we seek to find the god within, the divinity which lies within each person’s body. We call this process “turning on.” And secondly, we seek to express the revelation, the glory, and the confusion and the paradox which comes to us from turning on in acts of glorification, of communication, of expressing the wonder and the meaning. It’s this process of acting it out that is called “tuning in.” But in order to turn on and tune in, you must of course “drop out.” You cannot live a secular, socially conventional life in the country of Canada and pretend that the aim of your life on this planet is spiritual.

Now let me tell you why I am called Timothy Leary. You’ve perhaps heard much about me in the past few months; both extravagant pros and extravagant cons.

What is my position?

I call myself a prophet, a spiritual teacher. In other times I might have been called a messiah or a guru or a shaman or a medicine man, but I think the best term for my position is simply this: I’m like a radio announcer passing on to you the ancient message of a divine presence, passing on, if you will, the word of God. It’s the ancient message which the prophets have told you for thousands and thou sands of years, because the message of God never changes. It may be expressed to you in six simple words: turn on, tune in, drop out.


People of Canada!

Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten this ancient message? It’s the oldest motto: “Discover the teachers.” It does not die over the years.

To turn on means to find the meaning of the divine process which is built inside your body. In order to turn on you have to have a sacrament.
A sacrament is some process or some object which changes your body. And throughout human history each society has become bogged down in profane and materialistic activities. Each society goes back and produces the thing that will put people out of their minds and get them back in tune with their bodies. If the sacrament doesn't bring about change in your nerves, change in your physical structure inside, then it’s not working for you. It’s part of the anthill Roman social routine. Now, in other times, the method used was breathing or dancing or solitude; they have renounced sex or they have sacramentally used sex. They have indeed used every sense organ: the eye, the ear for sacred music, incense for the nose, and of course for a thousand years men have been able to put into their bodies sacra mental plants and chemicals which turn them on to the wonder of God.

First you must turn on, and after you turn on, you have to express in your actions, in your looks, in your tone of voice, and everything you do about you, the glory of meaning that you have discovered.
Today in the United States, and more recently in Toronto, we’ve all witnessed the resurgence of something called Psychedelic Art. Psychedelic art, although it is the most popular form of art today, is nothing new. It’s not an avant garde fad in the art world. Psychedelic art is the most ancient form of art work known to man. Indeed we feel all music, all dance, all theatre, all painting, all poetry, started with a somewhat psychedelic or visionary experience. And that person who’s been turned on rushes back to the tribe and he struggles, he hungers, he drives himself to express glory which is God-sent.
But in order to turn on, tune in; in order to live a complete religious life, and believe me, people of Canada, a religious life is the only one which makes meaning, in order to turn on and tune in you have to drop out.

Drop out?

What do you mean by that? Does Dr. Leary think that students should drop out of school?

Yes, young people of Canada, I’m telling you that you must drop out of school. Your education system is a narcotic, addictive process paid for by old men and women to teach you to become Romans like them selves. You must drop out of school. The aim of Canadian education, like American education, is to narrow your mind, contract your consciousness, get you to accept this reality, the ridiculous game of the television prop scenario of Canadian industrial urban life today. You must drop out.

But people say, “Dr. Leary, you are not saying to middle-aged people with mortgages and car payments that they should drop out of their jobs?” And I say, yes. I say exactly that, as every holy teacher in history has said before, you must drop out.
But don’t be confused; I don’t mean tune in, turn on, drop out, period. Nothing in life, nothing in evolution, nothing in God’s plan begins with a period. God is always in the middle of the sentence. It’s drop out, turn on, tune in, drop out.
It must continue, continually follow the cycle. You can’t stay turned on. That is, in an ecstatic, God-intoxicated state all the time. Even LSD lasts only eight to ten hours. And then you must slowly come back and tune in. But you can’t get too involved in the tuning process, building greater and bigger churches, weaving bigger and bigger tapestries; and then that becomes a game too, and you must drop out. But you can’t stay dropped out. You must turn on, tune in, keep the cycle going. The Psychedelic Revolution is nothing more and nothing less than a religious renaissance.

People of Canada!

Had you forgotten?

Don’t you realize it’s time for a new religion?

Look around you. Above all look down here at these anguished United States of ours. And what do you see? If you see with any clarity, you will record a madhouse.

Our government in Washington is sending metal and steel, and atomic energy, and destructive power all over the globe to protect our national security. To other people the fact is that our government in Washington is a supremely materialistic and atheistic society seeking, as every empire has in the past, control, power, control. Aging, almost senile, and probably impotent men in our capitals both east and west are sending young men out to kill for old men’s chess games: power and control.

It’s time for a new religion.


People of Canada.

You remember what happened to Rome, don’t you? The Roman Empire, like the American Empire, spreading its rule of steel and concrete across the Mediterranean....


People of Canada.

You remember how a religion came sweeping over from the east, and do you remember how the new religion always grows?

It’s always the beatniks.

It’s the ancient rhythm. Man’s words and our vocabulary of the English language, of course, can’t possibly describe the divine process. It’s impertinent for any mind to think he can define God in words. But God is anything in our terms. He is a musician, he’s playing with vibrations, he’s playing the music of the galaxies, the endless cycle, the seed, the seasons, the planet, the endless cycle of life. Which is itself the rhythm of dropping out, turning on, and tuning in.

Now what is going on in the United States today? And just recently in Canada, I understand, you’re being turned on to some of the energy and power and meaning of what’s happening.

It’s always the outcasts.

It’s always the young people.

It’s always the artists.

The breath of God is always to be found on some lower East Side. You hadn’t forgotten that, had you?

That’s what’s happening in the United States and in the western world today. Much of the thought of millions of young Americans (drop ping out, turning on with the sacraments, and tuning in) is to make this a harmonious and beautiful world.
Now what you have witnessed in Canada in the last month, and what you have heard about in the United States in the last year or two, is a political conflict, a struggle of Caesar against the God-seekers. You have heard about my previous arrests. I have been arrested four limes in the last fourteen months — for no crime which has done damage to other people, but for specific technicalities. And for brushes against the rule of Caesar. Now I am not a criminal; you should know that. I have no desire for money or power. That’s the ancient dialogue, a game of Caesar and the new religion. And, indeed, every time I’m arrested, which is usually every three or four months, I am delighted to spend a day once again with the police. Because, above all, they need the message of God; they need to learn too, to think about the historical cycle of Caesar and the Empire, and the destruction of the Empire by the new religion.


Did you hear me say the destruction of the Empire?

Yes; that is what I said is needed in Canada.

That is our avowed aim. To bring down the United States government. Only we’re not going to do it through politics and through power; we’re not going to do it by picketing or any of the games of political struggle. We’re going to bring down the American government just the way we brought down Rome, Babylon, and Constantinople. Just the way it’s always been done: through a religious renaissance. The Roman Empire, with its wonderful sewers and aqueducts, was brought down by a simple phrase passed on by young people, by poets, and by minority groups.

Hey, Rome! Drop out.

Hey, Rome! Time to turn on to new sacraments.

Hey, Rome! Tune back in from all those big circuses, government buildings, and masonry going up.

That’s what's going to happen. You will see grass growing in Confusion Square fifteen to twenty years from now if we have our way.

But nothing violent. Simply by turning people on, turning young people on. Young people are turned on with the sacraments, or marijuana and LSD, and have no more interest in making money, in getting positions or prestige or power, and certainly have no interest in going to war, to kill other people. Young people in America today, and the eye witnesses who are dropping out, turning on, and tuning in, returning to their natural senses, discovering the wonders of their own body, they’re learning how to make love with each other, they’re learning how to resurrect their bodies, they’re learning how to remember that they are not young people 20-25 years old.


Did you hear that?

Everyone who is alive today is at least 2,000,000 years old.
Everyone who is alive today has the complete story of evolution written inside their cellular tissue, and in molecular scripture inside their body.

Just a reminder: the living rediscovery of the ancient wisdom of your body is called the sacramental process.

Now in the next few months there is going to be a period of anguish and conflict, because one thing you must remember, middle-aged bureaucratic people in Canada, you cannot stop us. There is no reward and no punishment which your Government has which can seduce us or intimidate us because, like it or not, believe it or not, we have found the ancient meaning through the use of our secret plant, marijuana, and LSD.
This is not particularly new, people. There is no threat of the present. There is no crime involved.

It’s going to turn your young people on.

Young people of Canada, take my advice, which is the advice, which is the exact advice of every holy teacher and god-intoxicated man of the past: don’t get involved in the old men’s game, drop out, don’t vote, don’t go to school, don’t struggle with them. Above all, don’t let their chess games, tired games of power, dull your mind. Free your mind, turn on, find a meaning yourself in small groups.

And then what?

What are you going to do about it? The two late generations want you to go to school, and learn how to drink whisky, and drive the automobile. They’re irritable. All that whisky they drink makes them bad-tempered. They don’t know what to do. Just drop out.
They will try and stop you. What should you do?

Young people of Canada, there’s only one thing you can do, and that’s the ancient message: once you’re ready, once you’re spiritually ready, when you’re in a state of grace, when you have freed yourself, then you’ve got to go home and turn on your Mom and Dad.

Yes, turn them on. Invite Dad to drop out.

I invite Mr. Marchand, that tired bureaucrat in Ottawa who’s so concerned about keeping the word of God from entering the Canadian borders — I invite you, Mr. Marchand, to drop out, turn on, tune in.

Mr. Marchand, like all the middle-aged administrators in Canada, you only have fifteen to twenty years left.

Why spend your last fifteen or twenty years in anger and conflict with your students in your best universities over this new religion? Mr. Marchand, you must drop out, turn on....

Mr. Marchand, why don’t you turn on, take off your shoes, feel the earth under your feet. That’s how God wanted you to be.

Get out of that horrible office with all your papers, and your power, and control. Come on, Mr. Marchand, no harm is going to come to Canada to have a new religion pass its borders. Because you can’t keep it out anyway. The more you repress it, the more hostile you are to your students, and to your college professors, and to the people of Canada who want to hear the new religion, the faster you guarantee that our religion will take over.
Mr. Marchand, learn how to make love with God. Learn how to be ecstatic. Use the next fifteen or twenty years left of your life; don't be left fulminating against the young generation. Trying to keep it down is a hopeless process. Go out into the woods of the magnificent Canadian expanses which are still left to you. Go to a lake, go to a mountain... meditate... use some sacrament. Whether you use our chemicals, or whether you use meditation, or whether you can still make your own sacraments work, whatever you do, learn how to, in the next few years, take the meaning and glory and the wonderful divine dance of God into your life, because you can't stop us.

It’s the old rhythm. It’s going to keep coming: drop out, turn on, tune in.


Drop Out

Turn On

Tune In


It’s the message of freedom: drop out, turn on, tune in.

It's the ancient message of warning against slavery.

In the capital, Rome, Tokyo, Ottawa, Washington, drop out, turn on, tune in; drop out, turn on, tune in.

Don’t forget: you’re all Gods; you’re all Gods; you’re all two million years old.
Drop out, turn on, tune in.

Goodbye now. Love and blessings.

Don’t forget:





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