Think For Yourself And Question Authority


Pictured above on right, as captured in the twilight of the Ivy heyday, is Timothy Leary. That’s probably just a name to Xers and Millennials, but Leary — who was a Harvard professor and advocate for the use of LSD — coined a number of cachphrases that came to symbolize the late 1960s, when the worlds of Camelot and “Mad Men” were about to become a distant memory. 

Leary coined the phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out” and “Think for yourself and question authority,” both of which may have some guiding value at this present moment. 

In 2016, a documentary about Leary and spiritual guru Ram Dass, narrated by Robert Redford, made the rounds at small theaters and festivals. 

35 Comments on "Think For Yourself And Question Authority"

  1. The person on the left is Dr. Richard Alpert, a Harvard professor. His father, George was the last President of the New Haven Railroad and his brother was a Wall Street attorney.

    He later became Babu Ram Dass, or, as his brother called him, “Baby Rammed Ass”.

    Timothy Leary went on to take his show on the road, with G. Gordon Liddy (after he was released from prison) as the other part of the act.

  2. Modern day context: they’re dressed like devoted members of the Federalist Society. Fogeyish.

  3. I would love to have been a fly on the shoulders of these guys to listen in on their conversations. Skinny ties and beater cars. My kinda …..

  4. Some people seem to be missing the point. The picture in this article is before they fried their brains with drugs after which they mutated into their later freak versions and encouraged others to fry their brains and turn into freaks.

    They were normal people before they started using drugs. Every jean wearing backpacking toting brain mutated freak you pass on the street is their fault. If they had never existed, everyone would still look like normal people.

  5. Roycru: If I remember correctly Camille Paglia made a related point about college professors, that the true radicals, the really interesting thinkers (agree or disagree with them) fried their brains with drugs, and the “radicals” that took over university faculties were the tag-along hacks, the lackeys of the real radicals that were too chickenshit to do hard psychotropic drugs themselves while advocating for their use.

    At least these two had the guts to practice what they preached, even if their lives turned into cautionary tales. The problem is one man’s cautionary tale is another’s example to be followed.

  6. Shorty after Leary made his pronouncement in 1966, Mad Magazine (always poking fun at the quality of network television) was quick to distribute a sticker for readers to be affixed to their TV set that read “Turn On, Tune In, Throw Up!”

  7. Charlottesville | October 3, 2016 at 3:36 pm |

    James — The Mad Magazine cover I liked best from that era was “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead,” which can be seen here: . However, either version is an appropriate comment on clothing circa 1968 or so.

  8. Before reading this article, I just finished reading the one about the student from Columbia having a run-in with the thought police. Absolutely harrowing to see the Ancient Eight become bastions of PC culture and regressive politics. It seems as though they tried to undo their years of exclusivity but they took it to the extreme and now look at them. As for the two men pictured, Roycru summed it perfectly as did DCG’s reiterating of Camille Paglia’s remarks. If only all the feminists were like her and Christina Hoff Sommers.

  9. I’m a professor at Leary’s alma mater. The university certainly doesn’t celebrate him.

  10. I thought by now someone would have mentioned the song Legend Of A Mind (1968) by Pink Floyd. It was written about Timothy Leary.

  11. The other George | October 4, 2016 at 9:46 am |

    If anyone wants to drop some acid and listen to the song it’s by The Moody Blues not Pink Floyd.

  12. Was at a dinner party with G. Gordon Liddy post Watergate. Interesting guy.

  13. James Kraus: The Moody Blues, not Floyd.

  14. (Sorry, just noticed that The Other George beat me to the punch with the correction.)

  15. Leary was a narc. Many people rotted in prison because of him.

  16. Historian Paul Johnson had it right when he called the 60’s “America’s Suicide Attempt”

  17. Serious Question: When everyone, including corporate types and powerbrokers, are trying to perpetually signal their non-conformity to an abstract standard of stodgy conformism set many decades ago, are they really non-conforming or are they conforming to non-conformist conformity?

  18. You know the answer to that, Dan.

  19. Daniel Ippolito | November 2, 2020 at 2:52 pm |

    Timothy Leary is indirectly responsible for the ruin of how many young people?

  20. They’re conforming to non-conformist conformity.

    There are conservatives who stand in the tradition of Burke who would insist that the only truly-and-thoroughly conservative institutions are the military, law/jurisprudence, and organized religion: Rules, regulations, order, orthodoxies (and heresies), hierarchy… and the uniforms that represent all the above under the rubric of Office. Certain types of formal education might be added, depending.

    Modern day capitalists, including but not limited to libertarian-leaning types, are as ‘radical’ as anarchists and communists. The creative destruction (Schopenhauer) for which democratic capitalism is known— it’s not conservative in the least. A very modern notion, and not friendly to tradition(s).

    Timothy Leary declared himself to be more conservative than WFB Jr. This makes sense.

    Modern-day conservatives who stand in the tradition of Burke, including but not limited to Russell Kirk and Roger Scruton, were skeptical of/about both democracy and capitalism.

  21. * Modern day political “liberalism” (progressivism), with its skepticism about free markets and regulation establishing (order-seeking), is actually much more Traditionalist Conservative than the radical libertarianism that’s invaded portions of our republic.

    Lest we forget, Burke was a Whig who favored steady reform(s). The revolution(s) he opposed were essentially uprisings by commercial, entrepreneurial classes (and people who aspired to them) against established monarchies.

  22. The creative destruction (Schopenhauer) for which democratic capitalism is known— it’s not conservative in the least. A very modern notion, and not friendly to tradition(s).

    You have confused your Germanic academics. Creative destruction is doctrine developed by Joseph Schumpeter,
    a 20th century Austrian economist. Schopenhauer was an early 19th century German philosopher.

  23. whiskeydent | November 2, 2020 at 4:10 pm |

    SE, I love it when you try to convince us that your imaginary world actually exists.

    Who allowed my dad to retire at the age of 51? The US military.
    Who provided my dad with a pension that had generous cost-of-living adjustments? The US military.
    Who provided my dad with health care and necessary prescriptions for free during his years on active duty and for the rest of his life in retirement? The US military.
    Who provided free health care to his wife during the same period as above? The US military.
    Who provided free care for the births and childhoods of my brother and me? The US military.
    Who provided my parents with subsidized housing? The US military.
    What was the first American institution to integrate? The US military.
    Who would have fired any general who suggested we were spending too much money on the war effort in WW II? The US military.
    What American institution abides by the credo, leave no one behind? The US military.
    What institution was commanded by Democratic presidents during World War I, World War II, Korea and most of the Vietnam War? The US military.

  24. I was obsessed with Schopenhauer in my mid-twenties. Picked him up again a couple years ago but I think that well is dry for now. On the other hand, the Traditionalist school has been eye-opening across the cosmos. They see Communism and Socialism as merely two sides of the same coin, both of which, as Roger Sack alludes, are un-Traditional.

  25. It’s all bullshit.

    George Carlin



  26. S.E. yep. A lot of younger conservatives in the under 30 crowd are inherently skeptical of libertarian fusionist “conservative” stances that became mainstream after the Reagan revolution.

  27. MacMcConnell | November 2, 2020 at 5:47 pm |

    The problem is elites advocating irresponsible behavior to the young non-elites. Elites can recover, non-elites don’t.

  28. That’s where I envision more of a role for the state in maintaining cultural institutions, promoting a sense of national community and pride, developing liveable community spaces, protecting the vulnerable from negative externalities of the market, and generally maintaining a sense of common good reflected in the industrial and economic policy of the state… This isn’t an abandonment of “markets” or of conservatism, rather it’s a Burkean approach to the role of the state in the maintenance of a healthy, prosperous society.

  29. Whiskeydent: I agree. You note a number of good social benefits and ideals provided by big government.

  30. Reaganites were partially right: the administrative state has become a lecherous drain on the resources and effectiveness of the Federal government and the public at large, but so is a concentration of power and capital in a handful of coastal urban centers. The solution isn’t to wholy eliminate the bureaucracy or to throw more funding at it. It’s to change the mindset and incentive structure from individual employees on up through the entire bureaucratic system to make it more functional and reorient its purpose. Moving the agencies out of DC and stripping excessive job security would be a good place to start. So would encouraging regular people (hell even some “non-college educated” people who didn’t go to Harvard or Yale) to staff the ranks of these newly relocated agencies. If you want to revive the American heartland, this is one way to start the process. Having agencies in rural Nebraska would encourage industry that relies on relationships with that agency to move out to Nebraska and employ people there. There was once a time when the US was trending towards decentralized prosperity: the goal should be to shift the trend back in that direction.

  31. *yes — Schumpeter indeed. edited/corrected.
    Schopenhauer on the brain as of late.

    Of all the Traditionalist Conservative communities, the military is the most visible/prominent. The Church, especially when/where there’s emphasis on rank/office based on honor and piety, is close. For the better part of Western Civilization, they were the dominant cultural forces.

    Efficiency is probably the most modern of all values. It’s among the more antithetical to traditional conservatism. Maybe the most.

    To Dan’s point, Localism doesn’t necessarily run counter to Traditionalist Conservatism. Compliments it, actually. But decentralization, like deregulation, can backfire. The libertarians’ radical (neo anarchist) agenda has wreaked havoc.

  32. Whiskeydent

    Thank you to your father and everybody else who served or is serving in the military. The military is one of the only things for which hard earned tax money should be spent.


  33. MacMcConnell | November 3, 2020 at 11:24 am |

    ” But decentralization, like deregulation, can backfire.”

    Centralization, like regulation, can backfire. Near everything can have unintended negative consequences, like the “War on Poverty”. Could a centralized government in the USA really prevented a pandemic instead of States on on the ground with actual knowledge of local resources? Getting answers from the Feds is slow and time consuming in good times.

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