Exo-Psychology by Timothy Leary. Starseed/Peace Press, Los Angeles, $7. 134 pp.
Dr. Timothy Leary's newest book is an astonishing performance even for the Most Controversial Man in America. It's only 134 pages long, but it contains literally hundreds of startling new ideas in psychology, neurology, ethology, astrophysics, genetics, sociology, and a dozen other sciences, making it one of the most compressed, condensed, highly charged volumes this reviewer has ever seen. Attempting to summarize it is like attempting to summarize the Encylopedia Britannica; to review is is like reviewing 20th Century culture itself.
Briefly, then: Exo-Psychology asserts that:
1. Life was seeded on Earth (and on millions of other planets in this galaxy) by Higher Intelligence. We cannot identify this Higher Intelligence yet but it might be (a) an advanced interstellar civilization, as suggested by Nobel geneticist Sir Francis Crick; (b) ourselves-in-the-future traveling backwards in time with a super-technology we can't at present conceive, as suggested by physicists Jack Sarfatti and Saul Paul Sirag, or (c) metaphysiological sub-atomic consciousness, as suggested by physicist Nick Herbert.
2. Higher Intelligence designed the DNA to evolve, through metamorphoses and migration, into ever more complex and more intelligent forms.
3. All living organisms on Earth are survival-machines designed by the DNA to transport itself about, reproduce itself, and create more and better DNA. In short, we are, as geneticist Herbert Muller likes to say, "giant robots" doing tasks we only dimly understand.
It will be seen, even this early in our summary, that Leary has given us, in the language of the most exciting theories at the cutting edge of current science, a translation of the ancient mystical teaching that we have been put here by a Power or Powers so far superior to us that we cannot begin to fathom It or Them. Here, however, Leary splits off from the mystics and takes us in a new direction entirely.
4. Due to re-imprinting of the nervous system by drugs like LSD, and also due to breakthroughs in sciences like ethology and genetics, we can now begin to understand the evolutionary drama and the purposes of the Designer(s).
5. Life on Earth has evolved through 12 stages -- (1) Primitive unicellular bio-survival, (2) Marine predation, (3) Amphibian symbiosis, (4) Back-bonding,* (5) Territoriality, (6) Mammalian status hierarchies, (7) Paleolithic artifact-creation, (8) Bronze Age technology, (9) Symbolic culture, (10) Barbarian conquest, (11) Patriarchal civilization, (12) Socialized collectivism.
6. Each individual recapitulates this evolutionary scenario in 12 similar stages -- (1) Infant dependency, (2) Oral sadism, (3) Mother-infant bonding, (4) Emotional game-playing, (5) Emotional intelligence, (6) Status-seeking, (7) Passive symbolic learning, (8) Creative thinking, (9) Symbolic exchange-and-transmission, (10) Adolescent gang-formation, (11), Adult reproduction, (12) Social conscience.
7. At each stage of development, the individual takes a new imprint in the ethological sense and thus mutates from one "tunnel-reality" to another. That is, the emotional game-playing of the toddling infant (Stage 4, personality growth), recapitulates mammalian territorial rituals (Stage 4, evolution) and the child lives in a mammalian reality at that stage. The school child learns to parrot lessons (Stage 7) lives in a Paleolithic tunnel-reality (Stage 7). The adolescent gang recapitulates the barbarian horde (Stage 10) (Attila, Genghiz Khan, etc.) The socialized or domesticated adult (Stage 11) lives in the tunnel-reality of his or her guilt-virtue game (Stage 11).
8. All of this is 99.9999% automated and robotic. "Holes" in the DNA script -- moments of imprint vulnerability -- allow the organism to imprint local reality-tunnels, but the parameters of freedom there are mighty narrow. One might imprint homosexuality instead of heterosexual reproduction at Stage 11, but whatever sexual imprint one takes will freeze in place within the nervous system and repeat robotically for life.
9. No conditioning techniques can permanently change an imprint. Skinnerian Behavior Mod only works as long as the conditioner has the victim more or less imprisoned and totally controls reward and punishment. Once the subject gets free of the conditioner, behavior drifts inevitably back to the original imprint.
10. The only way to change an imprint is to chemically dissolve it at the synaptic level, through neuro-chemistry.
11. If anybody but yourself alters your imprints in this way, by chemical intervention in the nervous system, that person can totally brainwash and robotize you.
12. If you can learn how to use neurochemicals for serial re-imprinting of your own nervous system, you graduate to a new stage of evolution, which Leary symbolizes as I-squared, I2, which means intelligence-squared, or intelligence studying intelligence, i.e. the nervous system studying and reprogramming itself. You can then be as smart as you wish, as happy as you wish, as wise as you wish.
13. The more intelligent you become, the more you will see the advantage in becoming even more intelligent.
14. "Since no one can allow the game to become bigger than Hir concept of the game (what is not imprinted is not real to the primate brain), therefore let us define the game as large, fast, intense, precise as possible: Unlimited Space, Unlimited Time and Unlimited Intelligence to enjoy same." In short Space Migration + Intelligence2 + Life Extension, or SMI2LE.
But all of this, alas, is just a summary of Dr. Leary's first 30 pages. Exo-Psychology is so compressed and packed tight with glittering new concepts that I despair of summarizing the other 100 pages in the space of a single review. There are 12 future stages of evolution, after the SMI2LE mutation, and they deal with spooky things investigated in quantum physics and parapsychology -- synchronicity, quantum inseparability, ESP, consciousness as the hidden variable in random events, etc. The goal toward which the DNA program has been oriented all along is Immortality.
In short, what we have here is a scientific update of the most ancient Gnostic teaching of all: "Eat this, and ye shall be as Gods." Fundamentalists of all persuasions can register their fury by writing to the letters column. I add only, as Tom Wolfe once asked of Marshall McLuhan, "Hey, but what if he's right?"
-- Robert Anton Wilson
* The article does say "Back-bonding," but I wonder if it was supposed to say "Pack-bonding." Tom.