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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary

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[Timothy Leary] It's the taboo.

It's the taboo, basically, of all time.

- Yeah, of all time. - Right now,

there are a few more taboos.

We knocked off the, uh, the taboo

against sex of all kinds--

You did personally.

[Timothy Leary] Drugs, of course.

Remember how upset society got about drugs?

It still is. War on Drugs.

We certainly know about that taboo.

[Ram Dass] The next thing was death.

[Timothy Leary] Everybody has deep thoughts about death,

the ultimate taboo.

[Lama Tsultrim Allione] They blew open this world,

this psychedelic world.

I mean, it ended the 1950s.

It was all up for grabs.

It's hard to describe what that felt like.

[Andrew Weir] Leary and Alpert are what will be remembered as cultural icons

of the '60s, especially,

and very influential people

in not only American culture but world culture.

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] You know, they are iconic figures

who stepped off the map.

They really paid heavily.

[Timothy Leary] The use of psychedelic drugs

such as marijuana, mescaline, LSD,

is out of control in the United States today.

I knew he was an outlaw.

[Zach Leary] You have to be quite a badass

to get locked up for your ideas.

[Ram Dass] We had a deep, deep friendship

but we also had a deep enmity.

[Timothy Leary] We're all gonna die.

Why not learn how to do it with class

and style and friendship

as the climactic expression of a life?

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] What Ram Dass did for our culture

was to open up a door of spirituality

by having surrendered so completely to love.

[Timothy Leary] When you walk in,

there was a flash of total joy.

- Yeah, yeah, me too. - And love.

I don't know what the words are but, uh--

[Ram Dass] See, in my mythology now,

I'd say you and I

are connected at a place

where we've both danced through this incarnation together.

but that we have a connection

that is timeless in another sense of that.

And like we're old beings that know each other well

through many forms.

I think one incarnation is wonderful.

I mean, I started out

a Jewish boy from Boston.

From psychology to psychedelics

to...Eastern mysticism.

And then ended up Ram Dass, uh...

just getting straight on 'til it was gone.

[Timothy Leary] Who are you? Who am I?

It's a very difficult question.

Throughout my life, I've always been fascinated

by where the action was.

I'd never want to have power,

but I wanted to, uh--

I ran for governor once against Ronald Reagan.

Uh, I wanted to experience the different, uh,

theaters or stages or viewpoints of life.

I think I've lived one of the most interesting lives

of anyone in the 20th century.

[Robert Redford] In the summer of 1995,

Timothy Leary announced to the world media

that he had been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer.

He was dying.

[Timothy Leary] It's shocking

that people are not expected to talk about their dying

or to plan it.

Certainly the greatest adventure,

celebration of your life,

should be the process of moving on.

[Ram Dass] He turned it into a theater piece,

he turned it into a poem,

he turned it into a dance,

which is just what he did with all the rest of his life.

It was a celebratory moment.

[Timothy Leary] The thing's a team sport.

Dying's a team sport.

Be open to new ideas.

Remember when people used to say

that LSD is an escapist drug?

- Yeah, I just think-- - You know, one thing LSD

is native because you can't escape--

You got a hundred billion neurons--yeah.

My thing about death is not escaping it.

I'm running towards Miss Death.

You can't turn this over to the doctors.

You can't turn it over to the priests.

You can't turn it over to the medical profession.

Think for yourselves.

No government agency or no profession

can solve these problems for you.

I've got to do it for myself,

you've got to do it for yourself,

and all the viewers have got to do it for themselves.

Take charge of it!

Plan it, talk to your friends about it.

[Robert Redford] Timothy Leary,

born October 22, 1920,

in Springfield, Massachusetts.

An only child.

[Ram Dass] He took birth into such an interesting tension

in terms of, on his mother's side,

very conservative Irish Catholic,

very tight, held in tight, very judgmental.

His father was a dentist but from the Learys

who were kind of a wild, Irish, drinking, divorcing,

going off and running away type family.

[Timothy Leary] I was a heavy reader as a child

and, uh, I spent hours and hours as a kid

studying the heroic and the interesting

and the adventures of people who were thinking.

[Ram Dass] Timothy had an extraordinarily complex mind,

subtle mind.

He liked the kind of multilevel nature of consciousness a lot.

I mean, the fact that James Joyce

was one of his favorite writers

is certainly a key, a clue.

And he was--he was the romantic Irish bard,

also the kind of, um, itinerant scholar,

the kind of rascally person at the bar.

And he seemed to play the role of a bad guy.

[John Perry Barlow] As Aldous Huxley said of him,

"The good Dr. Leary would serve our cause

and his own better if he could resist his impulse

to cock snooks at authority."

There was a thing in Tim that just liked to piss people off.

What he was, at heart,

was an Irish rebel.

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] But like a good Irishman,

um, he could just pull tricks out of the bag.

And he did it continually.

He had a twinkle in his eye

and seemed leprechaunish and mischievous.

[Robert Redford] Timothy's paternal grandfather

advised him to "find your own way, be one of a kind."

He acted on that guidance,

questioning authority every chance he got.

Following in his father's footsteps,

Leary was a genial hell raiser as a young man.

At West Point, he was court-martialed

for supplying liquor to other cadets.

Eventually, he was cleared of the charge

and left the academy.

Caught between the Catholic desire to please

and a rebellious nature that ran deep,

Tim spent his life walking the edge

between conformity...

...and chaos.

[Ram Dass] It's interesting, the things that happen.

He gets thrown out of college

for being found in a girls' dormitory,

he gets given jail sentence for originally 40 years

and it was then reduced to ten

for, um, what, a half an ounce of grass?

And there was a thing about Timothy,

about right and wrong,

that he was busy being a bad boy

but in the rascally sense, the playful sense.

Timothy was not mean-spirited.

He--he was absolutely quite the opposite.

[Robert Redford] Richard Alpert, born April 6th, 1931,

in Boston, Massachusetts.

His father, George Alpert,

was president of the New York, New Haven

and Hartford Railroad,

cofounder of Brandeis University,

and a trustee of the synagogue the family attended.

Studying psychology,

Dick earned his Master's from Wesleyan

and a PhD at Stanford.

He taught on the faculties of both Stanford and UC Berkeley.

Then, in 1958, he was appointed

assistant professor at Harvard.

A hometown success at the age of 27.

[Ram Dass] I kept up a front

because I'd be scorned.

You just didn't talk about homosexuality.

I mean, my prep school...

Oh boy.

I went through hell...


[Joan Halifax, Roshi] A part of it is the privilege

that he was brought into.

A part of it is the era.

It might be a key variant in his life

that made him really move into the position

of an outlier.

My homosexuality

set a stage

for feeling like an outcast.

Who am I to you?

In projections?

Well, you are s...

We're not the words for it,

but if I said something like "soulmate"

or "good friend," and "long-term friend,"

and, uh...

I want to expose this, man.

When we met, it's true that I had read more of the books

but you were ten times more streetwise

than I was when we met.


Really? I always think of myself

as kind of a nebbish, you know...

lost soul, very square, and you picked me up.

I mean, you helped me.

But you were also a very scared Jewish boy

- that wanted to-- - Yes, I was also that.

[Timothy Leary] When people ask me

what's the major discovery about myself and my life,

it's the confidence to think for myself

and to, uh, explore.

[Robert Redford] During the war,

Leary completed his Bachelor's in psychology

and was posted at the Army Medical Corps Hospital

in Pennsylvania.

There, Tim met his first wife, Marianne.

They were married in 1945.

He then got his Master's in psychology

at Washington State.

In 1946, they moved to San Francisco

and started a family.

Leary earned his PhD and began clinical research

at UC Berkeley.

There he developed a definitive test

for personality assessment

and was published widely in respected journals.

The American Psychological Association

named his first book,

The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality,

its book of the year.

Both Leary and Marianne were heavy drinkers

and Marianne suffered from severe depression.

She committed suicide in 1955

on the morning of Tim's 35th birthday

after hearing that he had been having an affair.

Marianne's death haunted Tim for the rest of his life.

In 1958, dissatisfied with psychology,

which had a success rate, he thought,

no better than chance,

Leary moved with his two children, Susan and Jack,

to Florence, Italy.

There he met David McClelland, the director

of the Harvard Center for Personality Research.

Leary explained that he wanted to throw out

the old doctor-patient model for psychological study

and get involved with his subjects

in real-life situations.

McClelland was impressed.

[Huston Smith] Leary was the brightest psychologist

but Harvard lured him away

by offering him

a three-year research project.

[Robert Redford] That summer, Timothy Leary ate psychoactive mushrooms

for the first time in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

They were offered to him by

a visiting East German anthropologist

who had heard of their use among the Aztecs.

[Huston Smith] And said, uh, "Here, take these, they're interesting."

[Robert Redford] Over the next four hours,

he journeyed through these inner landscapes

and came back a changed man.

Leary later told Alpert that he had learned

more about the mind in four hours

than he had in his 15 years as a psychologist.

It was 1960 and he was 40 years old.

[Huston Smith] Having an open book on research,

anything he wanted to do,

he, of course, wanted to research these substances.

[Timothy Leary] When I went to Harvard,

there was another young professor

who, uh, was a very loveable, charismatic person

and we joined up as a team.

Richard Alpert, who is now Ram Dass,

had been more conservative.

[Ram Dass] When I was at Harvard with Timothy,

I was so gung-ho.

I had appointments in four departments simultaneously

and also research contracts at Stanford.

[Ralph Metzner] Fantastically successful.

I mean, he had appointments at Stanford and at Harvard

and then he had a plane and he had a car

and he had--you know, he was like a shining star.

He had tremendous charisma.

I was an undergraduate at Harvard

between 1960 and 1964.

I had met Dick Alpert at a party.

Um, I found him uncomfortable to be around.

He was--he, seemed to me, not comfortable in his own being.

[Ram Dass] I was like Mr. Power Player in academia.

Timothy was way outside of that.

Of all the colleagues around me,

he frightened me because he was so free.

He was the only consciousness on the faculty

that hadn't been co-opted by Harvard,

that wasn't impressed with being at Harvard.

I saw you were laughing at the system, you know,

and I had no sense of humor whatsoever.

You're not supposed to laugh at Harvard and--

[Ram Dass] I know. There was nobody else at Harvard

laughing at it but you.

I began to sense what a visionary was,

that Timothy had the ability to see outside of systems

and therefore he could open things to where you'd go

but it would take you a while to get there, maybe.

And he was doing that for me.

I didn't do that.

- You did. - It was the drugs.

You freed me-- but you gave me the drug.

You enticed-- you not enticed me,

you told me what the possibility was

and I trusted you.

[Robert Redford] In the fall of 1960,

Leary discovered that Sandoz Limited,

the pharmaceutical company,

would send synthesized psilocybin

to qualified researchers.

He had access to the active ingredient

of magic mushrooms.

Leary then set up a research program

to investigate the effects of psilocybin.

Staff members trained as guides

and took the drug alongside volunteer subjects

in specially prepared supportive settings.

This approach became known as "set and setting."

Careful evaluations were made of each session.

Alpert was away at UC Berkeley

but that winter he took psilocybin for the first time

at Leary's house in Newton Centre.

It stripped him of the various identities

he had built up in himself over 30 years.

He wrote, "I realized that although everything

by which I knew myself,

even my body and this life itself, was gone,

still, I was fully aware."

[Ram Dass] As professor went and middle class boy went

and pilot went

and all of my games were, like,

going off into the distance,

I got this terrible panic

because, indeed, I was gonna cease to exist.

And I got the panic which is the panic

that perceives the psychological death

because, indeed, Richard Alpert was dying at that point.

And the panic was, "No, stop, stop,

I've got to hold on to something

so I'll know who I am."

And Timothy, the wise old Timothy,

always says things like,

"Trust your nervous system."

And you, at dawn, went home

and you were shoveling snow

in front of your mother and father's house

and your mother said, "What are you doing out there?"

"You idiot, come in, it's four in the morning.

Nobody shovels snow."

[Timothy Leary] You said, "I love you, Mom," or something like that.

[Ram Dass] And I said, "I love you"

and I went back to shoveling snow.

You freed me at that moment from my mother.

That's what you did.

[Robert Redford] The Psilocybin Project was widely supported

and above reproach.

The drug was legally obtained from Sandoz;

the project authorized by Harvard.

[Peggy Mellon Hitchcock] I heard about these two professors at Harvard

who were offering to give people psilocybin

in return for having them write about their experiences.

I arranged to have a session with Richard.

I felt very comfortable with him, you know,

so I thought this could only be a positive experience.

And it really confirmed a lot of things

that I had...

hoped were true

that I had sort of glimpsed at various times in my life.

So, in other words, that there was

kind of a larger reality

than what my everyday humdrum experiences were.

[Andrew Weil] I read about the mescaline,

I think, after I graduated from high school

and was fascinated by it

and read everything I could on it

and wanted to try it.

When I got to Harvard,

Aldous Huxley had come to MIT to give a series of lectures

on visionary experience.

I found out that, uh, Leary and Alpert

were teaching at Harvard and were interested in this,

so I went over--

I made an appointment and I met Leary.

I had a good conversation with him,

he told me that he thought these drugs

were the most interesting things he'd ever found

and the potential was enormous.

He didn't see any downside to them.

I asked him if I could be a subject in his research

and he told me that

they had made an agreement with the university

that they couldn't use undergraduates.

So I got a supply of mescaline

independent of anything to do with them.

Um, I took it a number of times

with a group of friends of mine who were undergraduates.

Um, had variable experiences with it,

um, one quite powerful

but I didn't know what to do with that.

You know, it seems to me

if I followed the implications of that,

I would drop out of college and I didn't want to do that.

So, I think I boxed all that up

and set it aside.

[Robert Redford] Branching out,

the professors organized

a prisoner rehabilitation project.

Psilocybin was given to selected inmates

at Concord State Prison.

Their hope was to help them break through the habits

that kept getting them re-arrested.

Another famous study had 30 seminary students

taking psilocybin at Boston University Chapel

during one of the year's main services.

It became known as the "Good Friday Experiment."

[Huston Smith] There were 16 of us in this small chapel

who had ingested.

I very soon felt the awe coming over me.

It was probably the greatest Good Friday

in 2,000 years.

[applause, laughter]

[Robert Redford] In the spring of 1962,

just as the Psilocybin Project was becoming almost manageable,

a British researcher arrived from England

with a more powerful psychoactive drug:


Lysergic acid diethylamide

was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann

from a derivative of ryegrass fungus

at the Swiss headquarters of Sandoz in 1938.

Five years later,

he accidentally got some on his skin...

and discovered its mind-bending properties

during an epic bike ride home.

[thunder rumbling]

[leaves scraping]

[garbled chirping]

[tires skidding]

Hofmann not only survived the ride

but continued as a chemist at Sandoz for many years.

He lived to be 102.

At first, Leary resisted the idea of including LSD

in the Harvard project.

Researching psilocybin

was pushing administrators far enough.

Another issue was the reputation LSD had

of being a mind control drug

researched by the military.

But his own experience convinced Leary

that LSD held potential for scientific discovery

far beyond that of psilocybin.

[Ram Dass] The LSD was interesting

because when he took the LSD,

he didn't talk for about five days.

And I got afraid we'd lost Timothy.

[John Perry Barlow] It's hard to describe what it was like taking LSD

under the set and setting of the early '60s.

The rending away

from all of these very intense paradigms of authority

and monotheism and culture.

As a good lieutenant on the ship,

I sort of battened down the hatches

and told everybody not to touch the stuff

and not to--you know, just to, you know, wait.

And then Timothy, finally when he was able to speak,

it was more like, "Wow," or "Phew" or "Yes!"

and then we all started.

[thunder rumbling]

[Robert Redford] Leary and Alpert saw their research

as connected to the centuries-long use

of psychotropic plants

by indigenous people throughout the world.

[thunder rumbling]

Psychedelic, from the Greek words "psyche,"

and "delos,"

literally means "mind manifesting."

After their sessions,

subjects reported many common perceptions:

barriers dissolved,

everything seemed alive,

even inanimate objects.

They a felt a oneness with everything.

Colors and solid patterns were transfixing...


The experience seemed to come in waves.

[Timothy Leary] The psychotropic drugs,

which are not really recognized as, uh, existing

or valid tools,

were demonized and glorified for the wrong reasons in the '60s.

That's natural.

The thing is, know what you're doing.

[Andrew Weir] It is normal and natural

to seek altered states of consciousness, high states,

we do it all the time in various ways.

Drugs are one way of getting into them.

Well, there's two classes of psychedelics.

One are the ones that are mescaline and its relatives,

more stimulants than the other ones.

The other one is called the indoles

which is LSD and psilocybin and DMT,

um, really are remarkably light in their effects

on the physical body.

Um, I think, as a group,

these drugs are very non-toxic.

Um, the main dangers are psychological ones

of people becoming panicked, terrified,

um, but I think the positive potentials are terrific.

LSD is not a drug like alcohol or a barbiturate.

LSD is, um, a chemical which contains

several hundred Encyclopedia Britannicas.

So when you talk to someone who's taken LSD,

or if you have a seating with--who's taken LSD,

his conscience is being spun

through many, many different levels of language

which are not the language of English

or of French or of Latin,

but chemical languages

of cell and nervous system, sense organ,

which are many millions of years old.

Uh, what's the reaction to taking LSD?

If the person is unprepared

and he swallows this local library

of chemical messages,

he's confused.

He can be entranced and delighted

or he can be very frightened.

[Lama Tsultrim Allione] The experiences, personally, that I had

with psychedelics,

was all about opening my mind

and it was always, for me, about the spiritual journey.

It affected a whole generation of people that way.

It--I mean, it ended the 1950s.

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] It was as though the splitting of the atom

was going to be followed by another kind of splitting

but it was a breaking open of the heart

and the opening of the mind.

You know, the reason that I took LSD

and I think many of us did,

is a hunger to be an explorer.

I think they made me aware of...

the magic in the world,

of seeing things not just from a scientific perspective.

They really connected me with nature

in a way that I wasn't before.

They really showed me the potential

of how changing things in here

changes things out there

and that's been a major theme of my work.

[Lama Tsultrim Allione] It's important to understand

that certain drugs really are sacred substances.

If you are going to use some of the sacred drugs,

to use them in the right context

with the right people.

Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert recognized this.

I think the early work that they did with psychedelics

was very important.

Uh, they showed that set and setting

really influenced the experience greatly.

That the mindset of the experimenters

greatly influence the outcomes.

And they really demonstrated positive potentials

of the use of psychedelics which I think just now,

you know, is becoming a focus of attention again.

[Robert Redford] Doctors Joan Halifax

and Stan Grof were among the first

to research the use of psychedelics

with the dying.

In their case, terminal cancer patients

in 1967.

[Andrew Weil] In the dying process,

there's often a lot of fear

and I think psychedelics make it possible

to step aside from that

and observe what's happening dispassionately.

A guided psychedelic experience in a dying person

often enabled that person

to drastically cut doses of opiates for pain relief,

which kept consciousness clear.

It often greatly facilitated communication

with family and friends,

where before there was no honest communication

of what was going on,

and it made the dying process easier

and this was strongly positive results of these studies.

So I think surrounding the use of drugs with ritual,

making the occasions of taking them special,

paying great attention to set and setting...

is all part of minimizing their potential for harm.

[Peggy Mellon Hitchcock] We used to use the Tibetan Book of the Dead

as a manual for psychedelic trips

and that really is a manual of leaving your body

and going into it with what they call a bardo state

and, you know, so a manual for death really.

Well, the drug literature going back to William James

and Harvard people a hundred years ago,

they always said it's a dying experience,

it's a death experience.

There's a classic mystic thing

of joy and wonder

which, uh...

But I'm not advocating, boys and girls.

It's--like anything else, it's complicated.

I'm very cautious.

I've taken almost every drug there is

but the reason I can survive as well as I do

is I'm prudent and I'm careful

and I try to find out what's involved.

Twenty years ago, we knew almost nothing

about the brain.

Now we know 120 billion neurons,

every neuron in your brain has 10,000 connections.

It's gonna take us decades

to begin to understand the magnificence,

the complexity of this brain

which creates the realities we inhabit.

[Robert Redford] According to Leary,

we use but a small percentage

of our nervous system's capacity;

that we've learned over thousands of years

to restrict the use of our brains

so we can function in society.

Psychedelics open the full landscape of our minds.

[Ram Dass] It was if all these did was accentuate the direction

his life was always going in.

Freeing himself from systems.

Freeing himself from all of the ways

that our mind creates our reality.

[Robert Redford] Mythic heroes traveled unknown oceans

in search of adventure and new lands.

American astronauts were about to launch themselves

into outer space.

In the 1960s, Leary and Alpert dedicated themselves

to exploring the nature of inner space.

[Ram Dass] That's the word Timothy and I always used,

that's the mythic level that Timothy and I lived at,

was we were adventurers.

[Robert Redford] They averaged one LSD session per week

and took heroic doses.

They saw themselves as psychedelic adventurers,

exploring the nature of reality,

encountering both heaven...

and hell.

They openly shared the results of their work,

encouraging others to join them.

LSD was, at that time, still fully legal.

It was an innocent time

and...a wild ride.

[Ram Dass] Driving up to Sandoz in New Jersey

in the huge black railroad limousine

that I had from my father's railroad

with railroad wheels on the end of it,

and Timothy and I are driving up

to buy this huge amount of LSD

as Harvard professors,

and, you know, there were so many of those.

Just one after another after another.

[Robert Redford] Ever the scientists,

Leary and Alpert published articles in journals

and delivered papers at conferences.

The word was out

and their program was becoming popular.

Maybe too popular.

[Ralph Metzner] It ended up so many graduate students

wanted to work with Leary

and all the other professors

lost students, assistants, you see,

which pissed them off, of course.

Independently about that same time,

I had joined the editorial board of The Harvard Crimson,

the newspaper,

and, uh, there were stories beginning to go around

about the drug experiments at Harvard

and Leary and Alpert.

And I was really the only person

that had knowledge of that,

so it was logical that I became the reporter

who dealt with that.

Psilocybin was to be given only to graduate students,

but there was one slip.

That guy that I turned on, one person,

was somebody to whom I was attracted.

I was in a very difficult role in that

for one thing I had taken these drugs,

I had positive feelings for them,

but I had a kind of dual life.

You know, I was this straight undergraduate

who was doing this investigative reporting.

[Peggy Mellon Hitchcock] I think he wrote an article in The Harvard Crimson

talking about this

and the parents of this one boy

found out about it

and they went to the officials at Harvard

and said, "What's going on here?"

[Ram Dass] The dean of Harvard said

if he didn't squeal on me,

they're not gonna give him the diploma.

I played a key role

in getting information,

uh, which eventually led to Alpert's being fired

in 1963.

Um, Leary was never fired, he quit voluntarily.

Um, that story was front-page news on The New York Times.

And, uh, I think that was probably the first time

that most Americans had ever heard

of psychedelic drugs or LSD or mushrooms.

So, I do think that that whole episode

is what exploded this out of Harvard

into the nation and the culture.

Of course, this was a bit of a shock,

to put it mildly, to Richard,

who had been the one who was on the tenure track

and he had his career all sort of mapped out, he thought.

[Timothy Leary] You were on the tenure track.

[Ram Dass] I know I was.

And you laugh, and you laugh!

If it weren't for me, you would be a...

- I'd be somebody today. - Retired Harvard--

You blew my cover, you blew me apart.

I would have been somebody today.

Yeah, I ruined your academic career.

You did, you absolutely did.

What happened was, you were the one

that showed me that it was possible

to escape from the system.

You know, you really did.

I mean, it's been hard for me

to really understand how--

how I was ready to hear that even, you know?

[Robert Redford] Timothy's contract at Harvard

ended soon after Dick was fired

in the spring of '63.

They desperately wanted to continue their work

which was becoming highly controversial

but still legal.

Where could they go?

[Peggy Mellon Hitchcock] Just by chance,

my brothers inherited quite a bit of money

and they had decided to--with this money,

as a good investment-- to buy this huge property

in Millbrook, New York.

On the property was an old house there

that was the original house

that had belonged to the person who developed the property

back in the late 19th, early 20th century.

Kind of wanted to be haunted, you know.

It was huge and lots of turrets and curved glass.

It was really beautiful.

And so I talked to my brothers,

they weren't going to use it,

and they said, "Sure, we'll rent you the house

for a dollar a year."

[Robert Redford] With Tim's children, Susan and Jack,

and a potpourri of friends and acquaintances,

the two men launched into a life

of communal living.

That fall, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

[gunshot, screaming]

The decade had taken a very nasty turn.

At Millbrook, the scientists

continued their research into 1964,

adapting the old house to its hipper inhabitants.

It soon became a second home to artists and academics,

musicians and scientists.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the '60s were heating up.

The Free Speech Movement in Berkeley

began a reinvigoration of democracy

that would lead to the Summer of Love in 1967.

LSD, acid, was often shared freely.

Years later, it became known that the CIA

ran secret experiments with LSD in the 1950s and '60s,

hoping to find a way to use the drug in warfare.

Inevitably, some of their subjects

began using the chemicals on their own.

Ken Kesey had first taken LSD

as part of a CIA-funded research project

while working in a mental hospital.

Later, he and the Merry Pranksters

held Acid Tests,

giving LSD to hundreds,

much to the dismay of the scientists at Millbrook.

[Timothy Leary] I have never urged indiscriminate use of LSD

and I've never propagandized for LSD.

Strangely enough, my position on LSD

is exactly that of the present Johnson Administration.

I believe that the present laws,

which penalize sale and manufacture of LSD, are right.

[John Perry Barlow] Meanwhile, I'd been hearing out on the West Coast

that they were filling up bathtubs full of LSD

and feeding it to anybody that wanted to come and drink,

you know, as much as they wanted

and playing crazy music for them

and I thought this was fucking drug abuse.

[Timothy Leary] The use of psychedelic drugs

such as marijuana, mescaline, LSD,

is out of control in the United States today.

[Robert Redford] Over four years of communal living at Millbrook

and scores of shared psilocybin and LSD sessions,

Leary and Alpert developed

a close and trusting relationship.

Richard took on a domestic motherly role,

becoming closer to Timothy's children

than Tim was himself.

[Ram Dass] And I got into the really conscious thing

in my mind that I could justify my life

being a support system for Timothy's vision

to find expression.

So it meant raising money,

it meant raising children, it meant cooking,

it meant, uh, keeping-- getting housing,

it meant moving Jeeps and stuff

to islands we were being thrown off of.

You know, I mean, it was incredible.

It meant setting up foundations,

it meant, uh--

I mean, it was all the public relations stuff

to try to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Richard, do you know how to operate this?

[Robert Redford] In December 1964,

Leary married again.

[Ram Dass] The two studs comes in the front,

so this goes in the back.

It goes like that.

You need a stud.

Gunther, you got the studs?

[Gunther] Yeah, uh, they're over there.

[Robert Redford] Peggy Hitchcock had introduced him

to the beautiful fashion model Nena

and they fell in love.

Remember as much of the vows as you can.

- Yes, sir. - And I will.

[Robert Redford] They were married at a chapel

in the nearby town.

Dick was best man.

[church bells ringing]

Timothy and Nena set off on a world tour,

visiting Japan and India

in a quest for spiritual understanding.

But by the time they returned to Millbrook,

the marriage was over.

Leary would eventually marry five times.

His best efforts never went into sustaining relationships.

[Peggy Mellon Hitchcock] In his life there was a big disconnect

between his heart and his mind

and his mind was completely in charge always

and the heart kind of got left behind.

[Ram Dass] Intimacy.

They wanted psychological intimacy.

He was offering a different kind of intimacy

which is the kind of intimacy he and I had,

which is the intimacy of shared awareness

like, you know, in the--

that kind of thing.

He didn't get as deep into psychodynamic stuff.

I mean, here he was a psychologist

who had created a very, very highly regarded

diagnostic psychological inventory

for assessing personality.

The reason he was so good at that

is 'cause he was outside of that.

That domain or that plane of consciousness

didn't engage him

so that most of the women around him

were always disappointed.

Now you do the tie and then you fold that thing over.

[Robert Redford] Tim's friendship with Dick

also grew rocky.

Theirs had been like a marriage

at least in some ways.

[Ram Dass] My capacity to be in that relationship to Timothy,

part of it, I'm sure, arises from the fact

that I'm basically gay

and my relationship with Timothy

was never physical love,

but, um, there was a love affair going on.

I mean, we loved each other,

we really loved each other

and I became very trustworthy

for Tim to push against, to lean on in a way,

to get further out.

And Timothy was taking me out with him.

Going out with him wasn't all fun and games.

I mean, it was extremely scary

because I had grown up in a family

that treasured antiques, for example,

so that my apartment in Cambridge

when I was a Harvard professor

was full of absolutely beautiful antiques,

highboys and--

And then I moved to Millbrook

where it was monkeys and aardvarks

and cats and six dogs and many children

and, I mean, we were in a 63-room house, you know?

And I watched my antiques one by--

I didn't have the intelligence

to just sell them, you know?

I watched them all just be destroyed

before my eyes.

It was undercutting something very deep in me.

Then, as the years went on,

something very profound happened

because I started to distinguish

between visionary and revolutionary

and that Timothy was both.

And I loved the visionary part

and what I saw was that the revolutionary part of it

was costing so much

psychically and financially

and socially and everything.

We were $50,000 in debt

and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't pay it off

and we were getting further and further out all the time.

As we got thrown out of more and more countries,

I thought, um, as much fun as it was,

now it was no longer so much fun.

And the other part of it was,

being in a relationship with somebody that way,

ultimately, that other part of you never develops.

And I realized that I was a more creative person

than this situation was allowing me to be.

And at that point, I think that's when

we started to pull apart.

[Robert Redford] In the fall of 1965,

Richard Alpert left Millbrook for good.

The awakenings that psychedelics provided him

never lasted long.

Alpert, and others, hungered for a way

to maintain and integrate

expanded states of consciousness.

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] You know, eventually the world

of mind manifesting substances

became more like decoration.

In this era of the civil rights

and the anti-war movement,

I realized that, um, to be engaged politically

I had also to be engaged with my own mind.

And I just wanted to, uh,

really train my mind to be very, very stable

and to be able to perceive my own mental continuum clearly

and not have it so decorated.

[Robert Redford] As Alpert was leaving,

Leary began a new relationship

with Rosemary Woodruff.

They closed up the house at Millbrook

and began a trip to Mexico

with Tim's children, Susan and Jack.

But at the border crossing in Laredo, Texas,

they were arrested for the possession

of less than half an ounce of marijuana,

for which Leary received a jail sentence

of 30 years.

They returned to Millbrook

and began fighting the conviction.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court overturned the sentence,

but Nixon was not satisfied with that outcome.

Leary was indeed later jailed,

but for interstate transportation, not possession.

[Timothy Leary] Not gonna solve these problems by putting leading scientists,

like myself, in jail

for 30 or 40 year prison terms

for doing nothing more

than attempting to use and understand

these new forms of energy

for which yet there's no evidence

that we've done any damage to society

or to ourselves or to other people.

[Robert Redford] In 1966, drug use of all kinds

was on the rise in America.

Even though his views were controversial,

Leary was invited to testify before Congress.

[Timothy Leary] We've been told today

and we read in the papers

reports from sociologists

that from between 15 to 50 percent,

and in some cases up to 65 and 70 percent,

of our college students

are experimenting with these mind-opening chemicals.

And I recommend, respectfully, to this committee

that you consider legislation

which will license responsible adults

to use these drugs for serious purposes

such as spiritual growth,

the pursuit of knowledge,

or in their own personal development.

To obtain such a license,

the applicant, I think,

should have to meet physical, intellectual,

and emotional criterion.

Your testimony, I understand extremely clearly--

and it's coming more clear now--

that you feel that there shouldn't be an indiscrim--

indiscriminate possession is something

that you do not support.

[Timothy Leary] For six years, sir,

I have been against indiscriminate use.

- Indiscriminate use, all right. - Yeah.

And he felt very strongly that he would be able

to convince Congress

that psychotropic drugs

be given over to the medical profession

for healing purposes.

Police officer. Open the door.


[Joanna Harcourt-Smith] And he knew

that the minute they decided

to make this a law enforcement issue,

it would be everywhere.

There would be no stopping it.

Everybody would be able to get hold of it.

That was terrible for him.

That's where he developed a very strong rebel side

towards the government.

[Robert Redford] As Leary continued fighting the government

and the Texas courts,

the direction of Richard Alpert's life

changed forever.

He had left the country in 1967

on a trip through Asia.

One day in Nepal, he met a young Westerner

who had adopted the ways of the Indian ascetics

known as sadhus.

Bhagavan Das seemed to embody

what Richard was looking for.

So he abandoned his first-class junket

and together, they descended barefoot

into India.

Before long, Richard was introduced

to the Indian saint who would become his guru,

Neem Karoli Baba,

known to his followers as Maharaj-ji.

[soft singing]

Maharaj-ji gave Richard his spiritual name,

Ram Dass, which means "servant of god."

[Ram Dass] My guru is about a 70-year-old, um, man.

I don't know anything about him, really.

You know, I don't even know that he exists

to tell you the truth, but it seemed to me

that there was a little old man in a blanket

and when I looked at him,

the first time I looked at him,

I thought I wasn't gonna be hustled

and the second time I looked at him,

all I wanted to do was touch his feet.

I looked up

and he was looking at me

with unconditional love

and I had never been looked at

with unconditional love

by anybody.

I felt loved.

I felt loved,

and I felt something happening in my heart.

[soft singing]

[Robert Redford] Ram Dass studied yoga and meditation

before returning to America a changed man.

[Ram Dass] Timothy trained me in the beginning on my escape

and Maharaj-ji then took over, really.

I see them as my two powerful teachers in escape.

[John Perry Barlow] And he comes back and, you know,

he's maybe 80 pounds lighter

and is putting on a lot of holy man airs

that are particularly grating,

having seen him in his previous manifestation,

you know, and I'm thinking, you know,

"Same guy, new shtick."

[Robert Redford] Encouraged by Maharaj-ji,

Ram Dass explored his Indian awakenings

in the book Be Here Now,

which became a manual for spiritual seekers

throughout the world.

It was first published in 1971,

hand-stamped and inked at the Lama Foundation

in New Mexico.

Originally a limited edition with hand-stitched pages,

it is now in its 43rd printing.

[Lama Tsultrim Allione] Be Here Now was seminal.

It's still seminal,

it's still opening up young people's minds.

They get that book and it does what it did to us

so long ago, it's amazing.

Ram Dass was a bridge between East and West

and was a major person to open this gateway

to Eastern wisdom to Western culture.

You can tell me, uh,

where'd the Be Here Now come from?

That was you.

- Be Here Now? - Yeah.

You've heard of that haven't you?

Yeah, yeah. Well, the--

You invented that.

But it was really actually Bhagavan Das

who, every time my mind would go off

into my Jewish neuroticism,

he'd say, "Look, just come back here

and be here now."

So I took it as a title

but, uh, he used to say it to me.

[Robert Redford] Since then, Ram Dass has traveled and taught widely,

written numerous books,

and, putting spirit into action,

cofounded service organizations.

I'm going to run for the governorship

of the state of California.

[Robert Redford] In 1968, Leary was again busted for pot,

this time by the California State Police

during his aborted run for governor

against the incumbent, Ronald Reagan.

He had the support of people like John Lennon,

who wrote the Beatles' tune "Come Together"

for the campaign.

["Come Together" plays]

Named the most dangerous man in America

by President Richard Nixon,

Leary insisted the marijuana found in his car

had been planted.

One evening I was in a parked car

and a policeman came up to the car

and opened the door against my wishes

and made a pass at the ashtray

and said, "You're under arrest for, uh--"

I said, "For what?" He said, "For marijuana."

"What marijuana?"

He reached in his pocket,

he pulled out two joints I had never seen before,

half joints, and, uh, said,

"You're under arrest."

[Robert Redford] He was finally jailed in 1970,

one of the first casualties of the War on Drugs.

But when he was given the very personality assessment

he had himself devised at Berkeley in the 1950s,

he got himself assigned to a minimum security prison.

Then, he escaped

with the aid of the Weather Underground

and the Black Panthers.

Comment on your plans now.

My plans are to work with the Black Panther Party

for the overthrow of the American government.

When we crossed paths, uh, in Algeria,

he didn't look like he was having that much fun.

Eldridge Cleaver looked definitely distressed

and it didn't look like they were enjoying each other.

But I think Tim played with every edge.

He spoke about his life

in terms of being imprisoned and escaping.

So he said that he was in prison

and he escaped and he went to Algeria

with his wife, Rosemary,

and once again, he was imprisoned

and he needed to escape.

And then he went to Switzerland

and once again, instead of being imprisoned

by Eldridge Cleaver and his politics,

then he was imprisoned by a gangster

and his machinations.

Rosemary left him while they were in Switzerland.

I think he was very sad about that

and I think he absolutely adored her.

You know, who Timothy Leary was for me

in the beginning,

he was just a song of the Moody Blues.

Timothy Leary's dead

Little by little, I sort of got this romantic image

that this Timothy Leary might be, you know,

like the king of outlaws.

Through a series of extraordinary coincidences,

I met Timothy Leary in Switzerland

and found out that he was a fugitive from prison.

I was 26 years old

and I found that very exciting.

It felt like it was my destiny to meet him

and, uh, I was ready for anything with him.

We flew to Afghanistan from, um, Vienna.

When we got to the airport in Afghanistan,

an attaché of the American Embassy

stole our passports out of Timothy's hands

and this incredible ordeal started.

I was taken with him back to California

where I'd never been.

It was a perfect PR coup for Nixon.

Two days before the inauguration

we got brought back in front of hundreds of journalists.

So Nixon had the front page,

"Timothy Leary Brought into Custody."

[gavel banging]

He was in Folsom Prison for a year.

For those of you who know him,

he's relaxed and he looks well,

but behind the camera

sits the warden, the assistant warden,

and probably the captain of the guard.

I am Joanna Leary

and I'd like to see him out of here as quick as possible.

[interviewer] What do you think of your future?

Do you think you're gonna walk out of Folsom Prison

a free man one day?

I think my future is very interconnected

with the future of this country.

You just can't keep your philosophers in prison.

If I am kept in prison,

uh, it's going to be a very bad symptom

for freedom and for hope and for union.


[Joanna Harcourt-Smith] I began to see this man come out of his, um,

solitary confinement cell somewhat confused,

very red eyes.

He told me that, uh,

they probably fed him drugs

in the food they were giving him.

They let me visit him when he was in a padded cell.

He was in a straitjacket,

his head was shaved,

and he began to change in the sense that

there was less and less and less of Timothy Leary

on the outside.

Isolation is not only to keep somebody in a box,

but it's so they unlearn to communicate

with the outside world.

Criminalizing use, possession of drugs doesn't work

and it makes everything worse.

Um, I don't think we can

suddenly legalize things overnight.

I believe in education as the--

as the key to rational drug policy

and that means being honest about their positive effects

as well as negative effects,

being honest about the drugs whose use

we not only tolerate but promote,

like alcohol and tobacco,

and that we make money from,

our government makes money from.

So, you know, it's-- it's real education,

truthful education

and I think it has to be at all levels of society.

[Joanna Harcourt-Smith] Timothy decided to turn state and federal evidence

so he would get out of prison.

The next morning, the feds came and said,

"We've received news

that people want to kill you, both of you,

and so you have to go into the Witness Protection Program."

Timothy insisted that they bring us

to Santa Fe.

Our names were changed

to James and Nora Joyce.

We were two drunks lost in the wilderness,

trying to encounter each other.

The loneliness, the separation,

the isolation,

um, had driven my alcoholism and my drug addiction

to a, um... to an excruciating place.

And so we fought a lot.

We had both suffered so much.

And from where I look at it right now,

I think that, um,

the right move for him

was to blame me.

[Robert Redford] In the end, Leary spent almost four years in jail,

of which two and a half were in solitary confinement.

But no matter how dark the circumstances,

he always remembered that Marshall McLuhan

had advised him to "wave reassuringly,

radiate courage,

and you must be known for your smile."

[Timothy Leary] I've been in 40 jails in four continents.


I haven't even been busted yet.

[laughter, applause]

The proliferation of LSD and psychedelics

and marijuana, even,

within popular culture,

it was a Pandora's Box.

You know, the second youth culture got a hold of it,

um, it exploded, you know,

much greater than anybody knew it would,

much greater than he knew it would.

Tim really was naive, innocent;

he did not anticipate the kind of reaction.

[Robert Redford] Nevertheless, Leary is often solely blamed

for their popularization and misuse.

As that poisonous, evil man,

Dr. Timothy Leary, has said,

it is a way to turn on, tune in, and drop out.

People would say,

"You ruined an entire generation."

Like, that's 72 million people.

I said, "Yeah." They said, "Don't you feel regret?"

And I said, "Well, at one thing I feel it.

Only 100,000 of them had the decency

to thank me for ruining their lives."


Turn on to the internal neurological energy.

Tune in means to harness up the new revelation and energy

in your life.

And drop out.

Now this may sound reckless advice today

but it's the oldest advice that philosophers

and religious leaders have passed on.

Detach, drop out, find what's within.

"Turn on, tune in, and drop out"

and I stand by that statement.

[rhythmic chanting]

[Robert Redford] Over time, Leary was dismissive

of Dick Alpert's spiritual journey

which he saw as his merely playing lieutenant

to yet another prophetic master.

Leary did not like gurus, period.

[Ram Dass] Timothy seemed quite comfortable

with the metaphors of the religious traditions,

but later those became grist

for the mill of his revolution also

and he treated me like sort of an old-fashioned type person.

[Robert Redford] Once Leary's long struggle with the FBI

and the Justice Department was concluded,

he settled in Los Angeles

with his fifth wife, Barbara Chase,

and her son Zachary.

[Zach Leary] Timothy Leary, uh, married my mother

when I was four years old

and he was the father who raised me

for, um--from ages 4 until 22,

until he died when I was 22 years old.

Um, so I lived with him for 17 years

and I think there's-- somebody pointed out to me once

that I have the great distinction

of living with him longer than anybody else did ever.

You know, so he was just, I mean, a great,

very kind of standard white picket fence father with me

and most people don't know that

and when I tell people that it's really a surprise.

I mean, you know, he took me to little league practice,

he played baseball with me in the yard,

we went to Dodger games all the time.

He made sure I did my homework.

I mean, it was, you know, shockingly normal.

[Robert Redford] After some years of estrangement,

Leary and Ram Dass' love for each other

as mythic explorers

guided their reconnection.

[Timothy Leary] The last 20 years have been remarkable.

They have put us through the changes

and we've put them through some changes.

[Ram Dass] He didn't ask me for legitimacy of his life

and I didn't ask him for legitimacy of mine.

That allowed a new kind of respect to emerge

between us which was interesting.

It was a respect that honored our differences

rather than the adventure of sharing an idea.

And I really felt that Timothy

really respected me at the end

and I certainly respected him.

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] The question of "Am I afraid to die?"

is something I actually live with every day.

I think everybody's afraid to die.

The question is how do you deal with the fear?

[Zach Leary] I like being alive.

I like this incarnation.

You know, I'm attached to it.

If I weren't afraid to die,

I would not be taking it seriously.

I mean, in some ways I think death

is the most important experience

that you're preparing for all your life.

[Ram Dass] Why is it so important to talk about death?

It's the unspoken...

phobia of the culture.

You can see it. If you look at the major issues

like abortion, death penalty,

euthanasia, terrorism,

it all concerns this issue of death.

[Timothy Leary] When I discovered I was dying,

and I knew I was going to die, uh, actively

and creatively, I called Ram Dass

'cause I knew he would understand.

- Liked it all. - See that? That's a gallery

of some book I wrote years ago.

He's a wise friend

and a loving, protective friend

over many years and many experiences.

Tim and I, in 1963 with Ralph,

were doing The Psychedelic Experience,

which was a manual based on

the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

And that led to a pretty deep study of psychedelics

and since we were both dealing with what we considered

was psychological death and rebirth,

and we had been through those death-rebirth experiences

many times together,

it's reasonable for him to think of me

as somebody who would understand

what this death experience was going to be like for him.

[Robert Redford] The Psychedelic Experience

was the first modern book

to provide a map for mind-expanding drug sessions.

Much as the Tibetan Book of the Dead

provided advice for traveling

through after-death states

known to Tibetan Buddhists as bardos.

[Lama Tsultrim Allione] Bardo actually means "in between."

This is a bardo to-- we are in the bardo of life.

They were talking about the bardo connected

to the Tibetan Book of the Dead,

the bardo between death and rebirth.

And they identified LSD

as a vehicle to pre-experience

what that would be like.

[Timothy Leary] Long before I knew I was dying,

we were using this metaphor

of leaving your body, leaving your mind,

and contacting a different, uh,

level of altered states, expanded consciousness.

So, uh, my life has prepared me for this.

[film projector clicking]

[Ram Dass] I've seen so many people die

clinging to the past...

and also worried about the future.

I think this is the moment.

That's what I got is this moment.

And one of these moments, I'll be dead.

That'll be the moment.

[Robert Redford] In 1977,

Ram Dass founded the Dying Project

with Stephen and Ondrea Levine

and Dale Borglum.

He's been a kind of midwife to the dying

since 1963,

offering wisdom, compassion,

and his knowledge of other planes of consciousness.

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] Ram Dass was the pioneer.

He's the person who really opened up that field

for me personally.

[Ram Dass] The amount of cost

in keeping people alive--

forget quality of life now, just physically alive,

the intensive care unit strategy--

was finally prohibitive,

it was getting prohibitive.

It was just eating up all the resources.

[heart monitor beeping]

Then comes the hospice movement

which says, "Oh, well, what we've missed

is that the psychological part of dying

is also important."

And hospice is much cheaper than intensive care unit.

Well, all it requires is that we accept the fact

that death exists.

And that's a big shift to accept death existing

versus it's a failure and an enemy.

What Ram Dass did was really, uh,

inspire people to, uh, bring, um,

spirituality and existential questions

into their awareness

so that they could not only die well

but also live well.

[Ram Dass] I do a lot of grief work with people

and what I often am finding myself saying to people

who have lost their child or their spouse

after many years is something like,

you will grieve and grieve and grieve

and you'll come up for air and think it's all over

and "I'll be strong" and then you'll go back under

and you'll go through depressions and--

Let it all run its course. Don't push it.

Your mind will recite all the ways you've lost the person.

That you'll never have the smell of their body,

or you'll--you know, all these things--

Milk it all, don't push it away.

But there will come a time

when your mind'll quiet down a little bit

and in the quietness of that moment,

the love that you've ever tasted with that person

will be living in present

and then you'll realize that what the essence was

that made you connect with this person

has nothing to do with death.

That love transcends death, basically.

But you're gonna have to find it out for yourself.

But it's true.

I had this tragic loss,

the great love of my life

dropped dead on me.

I was getting this huge overflowing of love

from other people and it was absolutely useless.

I mean, I felt like a black hole for love.

I mean, it didn't make any difference what anybody said,

they didn't understand what it felt like.

And I felt like they were wasting their love on me.

Which is a terrible feeling.

And, uh...

...I mentioned this to Ram Dass...

...and then he said--

I said, "I feel like a bottomless well of--

you know, I mean, just love goes in

and you never hear anything hit bottom,"

and he said, "Well, consider the possibility

that it's not bottomless,

just that it's very deep..."


"...and that one day it will fill with love."

I don't know, that still-- [clears throat]

--still kinda gets me.

[Lama Tsultrim Allione] Death and someone dying is an initiation

that we as human beings go through

and it enriches us, it deepens us,

it opens our hearts.

It's a terrible thing

but it's--I think it makes us bigger

and deeper and more compassionate

as people.

I found out I had cancer about a year ago.

But the real pressure of it,

the symptomatic pressure of it

just the last two or three months.

I've had moments of deep pain.

I've had moments of when the pain pills

almost knock me out

and I was a source of worry to my friends

because I was suffering so much.

And it's been a shock to me to discover

that, uh, pain exists

and it can really dominate your consciousness.

So I've had to work that through.

There we go, mm-mm.

[Ram Dass] See, the issue is pain and consciousness,

the relation of pain to consciousness,

because when you're looking at it

from just the physical body,

the goal is to get rid of as much pain as possible

even if you have to put the person to sleep,

keep them asleep 'til they die.

That's the most humane thing to do.

Here we are, six years later

and I've had a stroke five years ago.

I don't remember time

but this is now '03.

[Robert Redford] In February 1997,

Ram Dass suffered a severe stroke

and a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

Doctors gave him only a ten percent chance of survival.

Hundreds of hours of rehabilitation later,

he was still partially paralyzed,

though able to get around in a wheelchair.

After years of service,

he had to learn to accept the help of others.

I am more now

identified with my soul

and more...

...compassionate to my body.

See, I don't know how I'll be

if I'm in your situation.

At this moment, I don't feel anxious at all,

I mean, about my life or anything.

The stroke was so painful

that I pushed out and away

by going to the witness in the soul.

Just witnessing the stroke

rather than experiencing the stroke.

What a psychologist would label




My pains I treat lovingly.


a worthy adversary.

We're gonna have to fight it out.

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] He has been through a lot.

It's interesting to be with him

because there's an absence of self-pity there

and the fact he's been in that chair for 15 years,

I mean, that is no joke.

And he's over 80 now.

I mean, that's really remarkable

that he's lived so long.

It's a testimony to his delightful determination

that I think is a kind of model

for all of us.

There's something about his essence

which has not changed at all.

I really feel it's love.

[children giggling, shrieking]

[Robert Redford] Ram Dass now lives in Hawaii,

cared for by a community of loving friends and students.



He's more active than ever,

teaching, writing, counseling,

and appearing virtually.

My body is 80 years old,

I am a soul.

[Robert Redford] Although still physically restricted,

he continues his work,

furthering the vision he pioneered with Timothy Leary

more than 40 years ago.

Adding to his personal legacy

is a son, Peter Reichard.

Ram Dass was introduced to him in 2009.

It was a shock to both of them.

Wow! In a million years. Of all the crazy things.

And what a great guy, Peter, his son.


[Robert Redford] Peter had never heard of Ram Dass,

let alone that he was his biological father.

Long ago, Richard Alpert had a brief affair

with Peter's mother while teaching at Stanford,

before his Harvard years with Timothy Leary.

Peter was the result.

But his mother had moved back east

and never told Richard.

Now, more than 50 years later,

Ram Dass finds himself connected

to a new and growing family

in the final years of his current incarnation.

[John Perry Barlow] The amazing thing,

the great singular accomplishment

of Ram Dass' life, I think, is that...

setting out from, you know,

not very promising beginnings,

he has become a truly wise person.


[Ram Dass] If you see that the moment of death

is the moment when you engage

the deepest mystery of the universe--

and that's what the whole Eastern traditions are about,

preparing you for that moment

so that you will be equanimous,

you will be, uh, curious,

you will be present,

you'll be not-clinging to the past

and not grabbing,

just be with each moment

moment by moment.

[soft chanting]

Some people do some of their most profound spiritual work

in the last few minutes before they die.

[Robert Redford] Wanting to get a headstart--

why leave it to the last minute?--

Timothy Leary at 75

approached his final days with characteristic enthusiasm.

He promised to "give death a better name

or die trying."

[Timothy Leary] We're all gonna die.

Why not learn how to do it with class

and style and friendship

as the climactic expression of a life?

The last week I have not been using any pills

and, uh, it's been a fascinating and wonderful experience.

So far.

I've become very friendly with my cancer

and I--also, I say in public, you know,

my cancer I see now as my teacher

and I try to talk to her and I say,

"Miss Cancer," I say, "get it together," you know?

- If you go, it goes. - "We're both stuck

in the same body, see?

So let's make a deal, hey?

Let's keep the body alive a little while

and we can have more fun."


[heart monitor beeping]

When the heart waves flatline, the brain goes on.

They call it the "sliver of opportunity."

- Yeah. - Your life flashes

in front of you--

And you go into ecstasy.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

- Sure, sure. - Yeah, that all comes

from the near-death experiences.

The brain is happy 'cause then the brain

is in states that the Buddhists talk about.

- It's pure consciousness. - Sure.

It's extricated itself from all the senses.

[Timothy Leary] Yeah. But see, that 15 minutes is timeless

like an LSD session.

- Mm-hm. - You go through

95 lifetimes and death.

Well, every minute is timeless.

There you go, yeah.

Like everybody else, I'm speculating and I may change,

I'm trying to learn.

[Lama Tsultrim Allione] This period that Timothy Leary speaks about,

this 15 to 20 minute period,

what that would be called

in the Tibetan teachings,

is still the process of dying.

So you're not dead yet but--the gross body is dead

but the subtle body is still remaining in the body.

So that's what he's identifying.

[Timothy Leary] At this period in human history,

we're lucky enough to be here

when, for the first time,

scientists are developing ways

to keep you alive or to bring you back.

The churches say, "No, you have no right

to take--your body belongs to God."

Well, uh, show me the paperwork.

[lightning crashes]

[Robert Redford] By 1993, Timothy and Barbara had divorced,

although Tim remained close to her son Zach.

[Zach Leary] He had a lot of personal heartache in his life.

You know, his wife, Marianne, killed herself

and every marriage ended in divorce.

His daughter, Susan, also committed suicide.

Jack didn't speak to him.

So there was a lot of heavy stuff going on there,

a lot of heavy karmas

and a lot of interpersonal relationships

that he just really couldn't work out.

And I think, uh, you know, that really--

it really broke his heart.

And there was no question

that, you know, him getting to raise me again

was a chance for him to do it over again.

He had an uncanny knack to reinvent himself.

Especially in the late '80s and into the '90s,

you know, he was much more of a cyber culture icon

than he was, you know, a '60s hippie icon.

You know, and that's why he kept young people around

because he was so fascinated with youth culture

and with computer culture

and, you know, early internet culture

and cyberpunk culture

and music culture and art.

[Timothy Leary] Every technique that science has now

for bringing you back,

I'm signed up with.

[lightning crashing]

Uh, I'm going to have my blood cells

available for cloning.

[Ram Dass] It's inconceivable to me

that Timothy could have taken as much acid as he's taken

and been through as much as he's been through

and end up a philosophical materialist

in which when the body's dead, you're dead.

Yet that's what he professed.

Why did it end up that you're interested

in things here and now

and I'm interested in la-la land all the time?

- Why is that? - You're not really.

[Ram Dass] I am. I am.

What do you mean-- what's la-la land?

[Ram Dass] Well, I'm interested in the awareness

that happens after the brain gets eaten.

When I think about the moment of death,

I usually think of a great acid trip.

I think of the dissolution

of conceptual structures.

[birds chirping]

[Timothy Leary] I have, uh, under my personal supervision,

witnessed over 3,000 ingestions of LSD.

[Senator Dodd] Over 3,000?

Well, can you briefly describe the effect of it?, sir. might say I was sitting there

and suddenly I began to dissolve.

Every cell in my body began to break down

and I was afraid I would become a puddle on the floor.

Then, uh, I saw a huge serpent coming up.

The serpent swallowed me,

I went into the serpent's stomach.

Later, I was excreted and I exploded. Then, um...

[Joan Halifax, Roshi] And you see Teddy Kennedy there

and it's like, oh my gosh, this--

these guys must have been having

their own little mental breakdown listening to him.

Now by this time, even the most experienced

and hard-bitten psychiatrist

is likely to be crouching under the table,

saying, "In 30 years of my practice,

I have never listened to anything

so frightening and so far out."

Now actually, if you told this story

to, um, a Hindu,

he'd say, "Oh yes. The third dream of Vishnu.

Oh yes, that's like the 11th chapter

of the Bhagavad Gita."

We also have neurological and, uh,

anatomical explanations for the so-called hallucinations

of LSD.

Hallucinations are not mysterious or supernatural.

Hallucinations are the nervous system

having experiences for which we don't have words.

It's the dying process of the psychological realm.

It's the kind of dissolving

of the perspective from which you're standing.

That, to me, is one of the things

that's happening while people are dying.

And then I feel you're catapulted

out into non-conceptual space.

Is that the way you're imagining it?

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

So is my sense of the continuity of awareness

beyond the brain

is just my wanting to keep something going?

- Is that-- - I don't have that.

[Ram Dass] I know you don't have it and--

- I'm curious. - What becomes--

You're curious? I'm curious too.

I'm very curious.

Do you use the word "soul"?

"Soul"? All the time.

What do you mean by it?

- It's consciousness. - Super consciousness.

And it--she hangs around the brain,

not the sole of your foot.

She's gonna hang around the brain.

Well, Ramana Maharshi says it's right here.

The heart. Oh, the heart.

I've had to tell a thousand Hindu gurus

that the heart is a wonderful organ to pump blood

and they haven't discovered Harvey's theory of circulation.

They're using the heart as a metaphor.

[Ram Dass] Yes, they're using the heart as a metaphor.

It's a very bad metaphor, I think.

They're using the lower right-hand corner,

the size of a thumb...

- Are you kidding me? - No.

- Wow. - It's the size of a thumb.

- Yeah. - It's called the rhodiom,

and it's right here--

- It grows there? - It's right there.

- Naturally? - It's there.

It's there, it's not in a physical manifestation,

it's in a subtle form.

- Well, how do you contact it? - Well, you gotta get

better technology.

Well, see, I'm--yeah.

Better than LSD and better than, uh...

Well, in LSD, you saw all that

but it went by so fast

and you didn't have a model,

a conceptual model, to save it.

It just went through.

'Cause so much went through

every time I took acid.

It must be for you too.

That what we have conceptualized

is the tiniest trivia of the edge of the whole thing

and that's why dying seems to fascinating to me.

- Exactly, yeah. - Because you're going, like--

Like this.

- You hope. - Huh?

It may not be that way. I hope it is.

Gotta be that way.

Can you have dinner with us afterwards?

[Ram Dass] I can't, I gotta fly back to San Francisco.

Oh, darn.

I'm working against a deadline for a book.

You're working against a deadline too.

How 'bout that deadline? Yeah.

Speaking of deadlines...


[Robert Redford] Towards the end of May 1996,

Leary began to show signs of kidney and liver failure.

[Zach Leary] I think some of his fears of letting go

and not knowing what was next,

sure, I think that scared him.

And I think he was, you know, absolutely normal

and understandably human in those moments.

But the process of dying

and actually, you know, slipping into that unknown

was incredibly beautiful for him.

You know, it was everybody else around

that was freaking out.

Ram Dass was really mostly there for us.

It was the counseling he was sort of giving to us

that was so precious and meaningful.

You know, it kind of got out of control,

we probably had too many people around

and a lot of us didn't really know

what we were going to do once he died.

[Ram Dass] And so, I was talking to them

about not talking to him,

not trying to engage him,

not trying to pull him back,

but to let him be wherever he is,

but they could talk among themselves in the room

about all the beautiful things he'd done in life

which is like an old Tibetan practice.

Uh...and I talked to them about, um,

working on themselves to not demand linearity,

so that if he comes up with things

from different places,

to let their minds soar

so they could be with him as his mind floated

through planes of consciousness.

And I told them to love death as much as they love life;

to allow the mystery of the universe

to be something awesome and beautiful.

[Zach Leary] He was letting go willingly.

You know, he wasn't trying to just hang on,

hang on, even if the quality of life suffered.

You know, he was really going

with the organic nature of things.

[Ram Dass] We haven't really created the right space

for people not to be afraid during this moment

that can be very frightening.

But as Tim Leary said, "I die so hard each time."

[chatter and violin music]

[Robert Redford] Timothy Leary's last trip

began early on May 31st, 1996.

He was surrounded by friends to the end.

Sometime in the last seven hours of his life,

he said, "Compadre,"

and then he said, "Esperando," "I'm waiting,"

and then he said, "Follow, follow,"

and then he said, "Beautiful, beautiful"

and then he said, "Flash, flash."

Then he said the word "Why?" in a deeply moving way.

"Why? Why?"

and followed by an almost mantra-like repetition

of the words "Why not? Why not?"

Here in Southern California,

the Harvard professor who became

the outlaw acid king of the 1960s is dead.

Dr. Timothy Leary advocated the use

of mind-bending drugs. In recent years--

[Ram Dass] And there were 25 or 26 messages

from CBS and CNN and ABC and da-da-da-da,

and so I called The Washington Post

and I said, "Yes?"

"Oh, how do you feel about your friend Timothy's death?"

So I looked inside to see how I felt

and I said, "Fine."

And there was this long silence on the other end of the phone.

It was clear that I had--

they had written the material already

and I wasn't playing by the script.

He and I have met in ideas and experiences

and intuitive being together

that is so deep

that I can't imagine that I will ever think of Timothy

as not being present.

Timothy and I are explorers,

we're beloveds,

we're deeply connected to each other

and I can't imagine that that'll change a flicker.


[Robert Redford] Timothy Leary made history one more time.

Fulfilling his dreams as a futurist,

his ashes, along with those

of Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry,

were sent into orbit.

It was the world's first funeral in space.

[Ram Dass] There's no doubt at all

that I will be around...

after I die.

[Timothy Leary] Think for yourselves.

Discover, explore, and treasure your own uniqueness.

The proper study of a human being is yourself.

[Ram Dass] Tim's right, go into yourself

and then, if you go in deep enough,

there is truth

and that truth leads you

to pick the people, the beings,

with whom you're going to spend your life...

...and your death.

If you have identified with your soul

when you're alive,

death, it's just another moment.

In ourselves it's all there.

It's all there.

God is awareness,

so when we tune into our awareness,

we close the space between the individual and God.

You delve deep into the moment,

you come to all and everything.

One becomes the moment.

One becomes love.

Life and death are one.

It's ecstatic.

It's like becoming God.


[sighs peacefully]

Richard, you have enriched my life.

I'm sorry. Ram Dass, you have enriched my life.

No, I can be Richard, come on.

You've enriched my life, Richard,

and, uh, I'm so proud of both of us

and I thank, uh, you for making this opportunity

for us to make love in public.

Yes, exactly.

Thirty-five years we've been dancing like this.

It's been a hell of a dance, hasn't it?

And we're totally different--

[Ram Dass] So different, so different.

- Great. - But at this moment,

we so appreciate each other.

Isn't that nice?

Big hug. Here, here we go.

Okay, cut.

The Description of Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary