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Timothy Francis Leary  (1920 – 1996)

Start Your Own Religion



Copyright © 1966 by the League for Spiritual Discovery ~ reproduced by arrangement with the Futique Trust

The Purpose of Life is Religious Discovery

 The intermediate manifestation of the divine presence which we call the DNA code has spent the last two billion years making this planet a Garden of Eden. An intricate web has been woven, a delicate fabric of chemical-electrical-seed-tissue-organism-species. A dancing, joyous harmony of energy transaction is rooted in the 12 inches of topsoil which covers the rock/mineral/fire core of this planet.

Into this Garden of Eden each human being is born perfect. We are all born divine mutants, the DNA code’s best answer to joyful survival on this planet. An exquisite package for adaptation based on 2 billion years of consumer research (RNA) and product design (DNA).

But each baby, although born perfect, immediately finds himself in an imperfect, artificial, disharmonious social system which systematically robs him of his divinity.

And the social systems — where did they come from?

Individual societies begin in harmonious adaptation to the environment and, like individuals, quickly get trapped into non-adaptive, artificial, repetitive sequences.

When the individual’s behavior and consciousness get hooked to a routine sequence of external actions, he is a dead robot, and it is time for him to die and be reborn. Time to “drop out,” “turn on,” and “tune in.” This period of robotization is called the Kali Yuga, the Age of Strife and Empire, the peak of so-called civilization, the Johnson Administration, etc. This relentless law of death, life, change is the rhythm of the galaxies and the seasons, the rhythm of the seed. It never stops.

Drop Out. Turn On. Tune In.

Drop Out — detach yourself from the external social drama which is as dehydrated and ersatz as TV.

Turn On — find a sacrament which returns you to the temple of God, your own body. Go out of your mind. Get high.

Tune In — be reborn. Drop back in to express it. Start a new sequence of behavior that reflects your vision.

But the sequence must continue. You cannot stand still.

Death. Life. Structure.

D.  L. S.

D. L. S. D. L. S. D.

L.  S. D. L. S. D. L.

S.  D. L. S. D......

Any action that is not a conscious expression of the drop-out-turn-on-tune-in-drop-out rhythm is the dead posturing of robot actors on the fake-prop TV studio stage set that is called American reality.

Actions which are conscious expressions of the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out rhythm are religious.

The wise person devotes his life exclusively to the religious search — for therein is found the only ecstasy, the only meaning. Anything else is a competitive quarrel over (or Hollywood-love sharing of) television studio props.


How to Turn On

 To turn on is to detach from the rigid addictive focus on the fake-prop TV studio set and to refocus on the natural energies within the body.

To turn on, you go out of your mind and:

1. Come to your senses — focus on sensory energies.

2. Resurrect your body — focus on somatic energies.

3. Drift down cellular memory tracks beyond the body's space-time — focus on cellular energies.

4. Decode the genetic code.

Note well: at each of these levels (sensory, somatic, cellular, molecular), attention can be directed at energy changes within or without the body. If attention is directed, externally during the session, the outside world is experienced in terms of a non-symbolic energy-language focus. Be careful. This can be shocking. The props of the TV studio stage set are suddenly experienced:

1. As sensory (e.g., the room is alive, out of control, exploding with light and sound)

2. As somatic (e.g., the room is alive, undulating with digestive rhythm)

3. As cellular (e.g., all props and actors take on a stylized, mythic, reincarnate hue)

4. As molecular (e.g., all props and actors shimmer impersonally as vibratory mosaics)

Recognition eliminates fear and confusion. To turn on, you need maps and manuals.

To turn on, you must learn how to pray. Prayer is the compass, the gyroscope for centering and stillness.

Turning on is a complex, demanding, frightening, confusing process. It requires diligent yoga.

Turning on requires a guide who can center you at the TV- stage-prop level and at the sensory, somatic, cellular, and molecular levels.

When you turn on, remember: you are not a naughty boy getting high for kicks.

You are a spiritual voyager furthering the most ancient, noble quest of man. When you turn on, you shed the fake-prop TV studio and costume and join the holy dance of the visionaries. You leave LBJ and Bob Hope; you join Lao-tse, Christ, Blake. Never underestimate the sacred meaning of the turn-on.

To turn on, you need a sacrament. A sacrament is a visible external thing which turns the key to the inner doors. A sacrament must bring about bodily changes. A sacrament flips you out of the TV-studio game and harnesses you to the 2-billion-year-old flow inside.

A sacrament which works is dangerous to the establishment which runs the fake-prop TV studio — and to that part of your mind which is hooked to the studio game.

Each TV-prop society produces exactly that body-changing sacrament which will flip out the mind of the society.

Today the sacrament is LSD. New sacraments are coming along.

Sacraments wear out. They become part of the social TV-studio game. Treasure LSD while it still works. In fifteen years it will be tame, socialized, and routine.


How to Tune In

 You cannot stay turned on all the time. You cannot stay anyplace all the time. That's a law of evolution. After the revelation it is necessary to drop back in, return to the fake-prop TV studio and initiate small changes which reflect the glory and the meaning of the turn-on. You change the way you move, the way you dress, and you change your corner of the TV-studio society. You begin to look like a happy saint. Your home slowly becomes a shrine. Slowly, gently, you start seed transformations around   you.   Psychedelic  art.   Psychedelic  style.   Psychedelic music. Psychedelic dance. Suddenly you discover you have dropped out.


How to Drop Out

 Drop out means exactly that: drop out.

Most of the activity of most Americans goes into robot performances on the TV-studio stage. Fake. Unnatural. Automatic.

Drop out means detach yourself from every TV drama which is not in the rhythm of the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out cycle.

Quit school. Quit your job. Don’t vote. Avoid all politics. Do not waste conscious thinking on TV-studio games. Political choices are meaningless.

To postpone the drop-out is to cop out.

Dismiss your fantasies of infiltrating the social stage-set game. Any control you have over television props is their control over you.

Dismiss the Judaic-Christian-Marxist-puritan-literary-existentialist suggestion that the drop-out is escape and that the conformist cop-out is reality. Dropping out is the hardest yoga of all.

Make your drop-out invisible. No rebellion — please!


To Drop Out, You Must Form Your Own Religion

 The drop-out, turn-on, tune-in rhythm is most naturally done in small groups of family members, lovers, and seed friends.

For both psychedelic and legal reasons, you must form your own cult.

The directors of the TV studio do not want you to live a religious life. They will apply every pressure (including prison) to keep you in their game.

Your own mind, which has been corrupted and neurologically damaged by years of education in fake-prop TV-studio games, will also keep you trapped in the game.

A group liberation cult is required.

You must form that most ancient and sacred of human structures-the clan. A clan or cult is a small group of human beings organized around a religious goal.

Remember, you are basically a primate. You are designed by the 2-billion-year blueprint to live in a small band.

You cannot accept the political or spiritual leadership of anyone you cannot touch, con-spire (breathe) with, worship with, get high with,

Your clan must be centered on a shrine and a totem spiritual energy source. To the clan you dedicate your highest loyalty, and to you die clan offers its complete protection.

But the clan must be centered on religious goals. Religion means being tuned in to the natural rhythm. Religion is the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out process.

Because you and your clan brothers are turned on, you will radiate energy. You will attract attention-hostility from the TV establishment, enthusiastic interest from rootless TV actors who wish to join your clan. Everyone basically wants to turn on, tune in, and drop out.

Avoid conflict with the establishment. Avoid recruiting and rapid growth. Preserve clan harmony.

Your clan must be limited to essential friends.

You must guard against the TV power tendency toward e x p a n s i o n.

Your clan cannot become a mail-order, mass-numbers organization.

The structure of your clan must be cellular,

The center of your religion must be a private, holy place.

The activities of your religion must be limited to the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out sequence. Avoid commitments to TV-studio power games.

You must start your own religion. You are God — but only you can discover and nurture your divinity. No one can start your religion for you.

In particular, those Americans who use psychedelic chemicals — marijuana, peyote, LSD — must appraise their goals and games realistically. You smoke pot? Good. But why? As part oŁ your personality game? As part of the American TV-studio perspective? To enhance your ego? As part of your TV role as hipster, sophisticate, rebel? Because it is the in-thing to do in your stage set? Because it is a social-psychological habit? Good. Keep on. The "pot game" is a fascinating scenario to act out, the entertaining game of illicit kicks.

There is another way of viewing psychedelic drugs, including pot: from the perspective of history. For thousands of years the greatest artists, poets, philosophers, and lovers have used consciousness-expanding substances to turn on, tune in, drop out. As part of the search for the meaning of life. As tools to reach new levels of awareness. To see beyond the immediate social game. For revelation. For light in the darkness of the long voyage.

Every great burst of activity has grown out of a psychedelic turn-on. The visionary then rushes back to tune in, to pass on the message. A new art form. A new mode of expression. He turns others on. A cult is formed. A new TV stage set is designed, one that is closer to the family-clan-tribal cell structure of our species.

Do you wish to use marijuana and LSD to get beyond the TV scenario? To enhance creativity? As catalysts to deepen wisdom?

If so, you will be helped by making explicit the religious nature of your psychedelic activities. To give meaning to your own script, to clarify your relationships with others, and to cope with the present legal setup, you will do well to start your own religion.


How to Start Your Own Religion

 First, decide with whom you will make the voyage of discovery. If you have a family, certainly you will include them. If you have close friends, you will certainly want to include them. The question, with whom do I league for spiritual discovery? is a fascinating exercise.

Next, sit down with your spiritual companions and put on a page the plan for your trip. Write down and define your:







Space-time locales

Mythic context

Here is an interesting exercise. You will learn a lot about yourself and your companions. You will see where you are and where you are not.

You will find it necessary to be explicit about the way your clan handles authority, responsibility, sexual relations, money, economics, defense, communication.

In short, you are forming not only your own religion but your own natural political unit. This is inevitable because the basic political unit is exactly the same as the basic spiritual grouping-the clan. Did you really believe that church was only where you went for an hour on Sunday morning?

Make your clan unique. Do not slavishly copy the roles and language of other groups. The beauty of! cellular life is that each unit is both so incredibly complexly similar and also so unique. The more you understand the infinite complexity of life, the more you treasure both the similarities and the differences. But you have to be turned on to see it. At the level of the studio-prop game, both the similarities and the differences are trivial.

In defining the goal of your religion, you need not use conventional religious language. You don’t have to make your spiritual journey sound “religious.” Religion cannot be pompous and high-flown. Religion is consciousness expansion, centered in the body and denned exactly the way it sounds best to you. Don’t be intimidated by Caesar’s Hollywood fake versions of religiosity. If life has a meaning for you beyond the TV-studio game, you are religious. Spell it out.

So write out your own language for the trip; God or evolution, acid or sacrament, guide or guru, purgatorial redemption or bad trip, mystic revelation or good high. Say it naturally.

Develop your own rituals and costumes. Robes or gray flannel suits, amulets or tattoos. You will eventually find yourself engaged in a series of sacred moments which feel right to you.

Step by step

all your actions

will take on a sacra

mental meaning. Inevit

ably you will create a ritual sequence for each sense organ

and for each of the basic energy exchanges — eating, bathing, mating, etc.

You must be explicit about the space-time arrangement for your God game. Each room in your home will contain a shrine. Your house will not be a TV actor's dressing room but rather a spiritual center. Regular rhythms of worship will emerge — daily meditation (turn-on) sessions (with or without marijuana), and once a week or once a month you will devote a whole day to turning on. Time your worship to the rhythm of the seasons, to the planetary calendar.

Spell out on paper explicit plan$ for handling financial interaction$. Money i$ a completely irrational focu$ for mo$t Westerner$. A$ $oon a$ your clan member$ detach them$elve$ emotionally from money, you will discover how easy it is to survive economically. There must be a complete and collaborative pooling of money and work energy. Any $elfi$h holding back of dollar$ or muscular energy will weaken the clan. Each clan, as it drops out of the American game, must appraise its resources and figure out how to barter with other groups. Each clan will develop its own productivity.

Sexuality is the downfall of most religious cults. Clarity and honesty are necessary. Karmic accidental differences exist in people's sexual makeup. Basically, each man is made to mate with one woman. Heterosexual monogamous fidelity is the only natural way of sexual union. However, because this is the Kali Yuga, and because we live in the final stages of a sick society, sexual variations are inevitable.

Your mode oŁ sexual union is the key to your religion. You cannot escape this. The way you ball (or avoid balling) is your central sacramental activity. The sexual proclivity of the clan must be explicit and inflexible. Do not attempt to establish clan relationships with persons of a different sexual persuasion. There is no value judgment here. Sex is sacred. People of like sexual temperament must form their own spiritual cults. Homosexuality is not an illness. It is a religious way of life. Homosexuals should accept their state as a religious path. Homosexuals cannot join heterosexual clans. Homosexuals should treasure, glorify, their own sexual yoga. Their right to pursue their sacred bodily yoga is guaranteed to them. Heterosexual clans can support, help, learn from, teach homosexual clans, but the difference must be preserved — with mutual respect.

Some spiritual people are not compatible with the monogamous union and prefer a freer sexual regime, the group marriage. Good! Many tribes and clans throughout the planet have nourished in complete and holy promiscuity. But be explicit. Painful confusions occur if sexual orientations and sexual taboos (cellular and physical, not psychological or cultural) are disregarded in forming clans.

Select clan members who share or complement your style, your way of tuning in, your temperament, your sexual orientation.

The aim of clan living is to subordinate the ego game to the family game — the clan game.

You will do well to have an explicit connection to a mythic figure. You must select a historical psychedelic guide. You must know your mythic origins. Facts and news are reports from the current TV drama. They have no relevance to your 2-billion-year-old divinity. Myth is the report from the cellular memory bank. Myths humanize the recurrent themes of evolution.

You select a myth as a reminder that you are part of an ancient and holy process. You select a myth to guide you when you drop out of the narrow confines of the fake-prop studio set.

Your mythic guide must be one who has solved the death-rebirth riddle. A TV drama hero cannot help you. Caesar, Napoleon, Kennedy are no help to your cellular orientation. Christ, Lao-tse, Hermes Trismegistus, Socrates are recurrent turn-on figures.

You will find it absolutely necessary to leave the city. Urban living is spiritually suicidal. The cities of America are about to crumble as did Rome and Babylon. Go to the land. Go to the sea.

Psychedelic centers located in cities will serve as collecting areas. Thousands of spiritual seekers are coming to urban districts where they meet in meditation centers and psychedelic assembly places.1 There they form their clans. They migrate from the city.


The Legal Question

 Unless you form your own new religion and devote an increasing amount of your energies to it, you are (however exciting your personality TV role) a robot. Your new religion can be formed only by you. Do not wait for a messiah. Do it yourself. Now.

The goals, roles, rules, rituals, values, language, space-time locale, and mythic context of your religion must be put on paper for two reasons. One, to make the journey clear and explicit for yourself and your clan members, and two, to deal with Caesar.

The relationship between Caesar and the God seeker has always been uneasy. But the boundaries of the tension can be defined precisely, and if you are clear in your mind, there can be no confusion. You can move with exactness and confidence.

Everything that exists outside your body and your shrine belongs to Caesar. Caesar has constructed the fake-prop studio for his king-of-the-mountain game, and he can have it. Highways, property, status, power, money, weapons, all things, all external man-made objects belong to him. The spiritual life is completely detached from these props. Obey Caesar's TV studio rules when you are in his studios. Avoid any participation in his dramas.

But remember, your body is the kingdom of heaven, and your home is the shrine in which the kingdom oŁ heaven is to be found. What you do inside your body, what energies you let contact your sense organs, and what you put into your body is your business.2

All you need do to protect the divinity of your body and the sanctity of your shrine is to be explicit—and to worship with dignity and courage.

Write down an eightfold definition of your religion (goal, role, rule, ritual, value, language, myth, space-time locale). By doing so, you have formed your religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution, the charter of the UN, and the ancient traditions of human history give you protection to alter your own consciousness inside your shrine.

If you take a psychedelic sacrament, leave your house and commit a disorder on Caesar's streets; let him arrest you for overt crime. But your right to turn on in your home is sacred. You make your home a shrine by writing it into the charter of your religion.

In writing your charter, you must specify where you will take the sacrament and with whom. The charter does not permit you to turn on anywhere. You must respect the possessive claims of Caesar to his fake-front stage sets. And you must also specify visible objects of worship which will be found in your shrine — a statue of Buddha, a picture of Christ, a rock, a wooden carving. You choose, but be explicit.

Get your charter notarized, or mail it to yourself in a postmarked envelope. You have thereby established, before possible conflict with Caesar's police, your religion. These are the minimum steps required to protect your use of psychedelic drugs. If you don’t care enough to do this, you don’t care enough.

But further steps are preferable. It is highly advisable, and quite simple, to incorporate your religion under the laws of your state. Consult a lawyer — a psychedelic lawyer if possible. There are thousands of them around. How? Well, he’ll be under the age of thirty. Your local ACLU would be a good place to start. Ask him to file incorporation papers which are standard and which every lawyer has in mimeographed outline.

Follow the simple steps necessary to complete the forms, and in short order, you are a legally incorporated religion. Your own sense of dignity and commitment to the spiritual life is encouraged. Your posture and confidence vis-a-vis Caesar’s Keystone Kops is immeasurably strengthened.

But you must play it straight. Don't sign anything you aren't going to live up to. On the other hand, leave room in your chatter for easy revision of your religious practices. You are a young, growing religion. For God’s sake, don’t get caught in rigidities at the beginning.

Use psychedelic sacraments only in designated shrines and only with members of a psychedelic religion. If you are going to be naughty and smoke pot in the washroom oŁ one of Caesar's stage sets, why that's all right — but be clear; you waive your religious rights. Do what you will, but be conscious and don't mix up your naughty game with your religious game.

After you have incorporated your religion, you can file the application forms and a description of methods of worship in the attorney's office. In case of any misunderstanding with Caesar's cops, you will be effectively prepared. Don't be surprised at the idea of having a lawyer to handle your psychedelic affairs. Psychedelic lawyers will be the most numerous and popular segment of the legal profession in 15 years. For a small amount of money you can have ongoing legal protection for your religion. You'd do it for your business, wouldn't you? It's better yet if you find a lawyer who is ready to join your clan.

There is a third legal step which many psychedelic religionists will want to take-the licensing for the importation and distribution of illegal sacraments such as marijuana and LSD. The legal procedure involved in obtaining permission to use drugs is called a declaratory judgment. This procedure can result in a court declaration that an individual or a group may, with the sanction oŁ law, use drugs freely for religious purposes.

In requesting a declaratory judgment to import and distribute illegal sacraments (and remember here that alcohol, nicotine, and automobiles are also illegal — except to licensed operators), you are asking nothing more than was permitted to Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis during alcohol prohibition. These religionists were allowed to import and distribute an illegal drug — booze — for distribution only by priests and only in designated shrines. The quarter of a million members of the Native American Church are similarly licensed to use peyote, a plant much more powerful than marijuana.

The filing for a declaratory judgment requires more commitment and energy — and thus becomes the third test of your religious stamina. How much do you care?

By the end of 1968 we expect that thousands of such applications will be flooding the courts. In each case, the decision as to whether the applicants are entitled to a license to smoke marijuana and use LSD will have to be made on the merits of the case. Each judge and jury will have to rule on the sincerity of the applicants. What a wonderful exercise! Thousands of groups of young Americans will choose to present and defend their new religions in the courts. What a beautiful forum for free debate on the values of marijuana as opposed to booze!

Thousands of jury members and hundreds of judges will be converted.

In all of these activities there is no hostility, no competition, no conflict with Caesar. Love and humor are the means. The ends will follow.


Dr. Leary, What Will Happen to Society After Everyone Turns On, Tunes In, and Drops Out?

 An interesting indication of the “miraculous” growth of LSD comes in the form of the question: What will happen to society after everyone turns on, tunes in, and drops out?

At the surface, the question seems naive. Nowhere and never does everyone do the same thing at the same time. It’s all planned in cycles by the DNA code. Organic changes occur gradually and invisibly.

This question reflects the sudden panic of the TV bit player. What will happen to me if the show goes off the air? Will I lose my little part? What an incomparable tragedy if these cardboard studio walls were to fall down!

The emotional response to this game terror is reassurance. Don’t worry. Your life begins when your TV game ends. Turn on, tune in, drop out. Then you are free to walk out of the studio — a god in the Garden of Eden.

The intellectual answer to the question is infinitely complex, depending upon how much time and energy one can mobilize for Utopian planning. The League for Spiritual Discovery has worked out detailed blueprints for the next cycle of man's social evolution. Future manuals will be published by the league describing the year-by-year unfolding.

In summary: be prepared for a complete change of American urban technology. Grass will grow in Times Square within ten years. The great soil-murdering lethal skyscrapers will come down. Didn’t you know they were stage sets? Didn’t you know they had to come down? The transition will come either violently (by war) or gently, aesthetically, through a psychedelic drop-out process.

In any case, there is nothing for you to do in a collective political sense. Turn on, tune in, drop out. Discover and nurture your own divinity and that of your friends and family members.

Center on your clan and the natural order will prevail.


1 Psychedelic centers are rapidly springing up in metropolitan areas, and this tendency must be encouraged. A simple format for a psychedelic enterprise may involve a shop front with a meditation room  in the rear. Numerous shops calling themselves “psychedelic” are springing up throughout the country. This development is inevitable, but one should be skeptical about the spiritual nature of such commercial enterprises unless they include a meditation room. Psychedelic businesses should support spiritual communities and provide centers for clan formation.

2  You are God: Remember!

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