Hermes was the messenger of the gods and the brother of the goddess of wisdom, Athena. He was also something of a trickster. And, in his incarnation as Hermes Trismagistus, he served the role of being an initiator into the mystical depths of the ancient wisdom schools. Thus esoteric knowledge was once known as Hermeticism. Zeus rather liked him and made him his naughty messenger.
Like Hermes, Timothy Leary was an "avowed rascal" Ð and his very delightful and poetic writings on the subject (he had an almost unparalled gift for word play), indicate that he understood the role of the rascal in an elevated, cosmological sense Ð i.e., the archetype of the trickster.
The old panthiestic religions understood the importance of the trickster as a figure for spiritual awakening. So did the shamanistic cultures. Trickster is a major figure in American Indian folk wisdom. And also in Sufi tales. Leary implied that there is a certain type of "rascal" Ð with a certain grin and wink (and wisdom beyond wisdom) Ð who, in a spiritual sense, were far more trustworthy than the more sober types. In the Zen tradition, this is known as the School of Crazy Wisdom.
Leary, himself, studied, or was otherwise acquainted with the masters of this tradition Ð Aleister Crowley, Milarepa, Ken Kesey, Lao Tsu, and Alan Ginsberg to name a few. But, Timothy Leary Ð in his own inimitable way Ð has become the twentieth century's grand master of crazy wisdom, the Hermes of our age.
In 1966, when I first heard the mantra, "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out," I was a well-adjusted college student in Wisconsin Ð planning to major in business administration. I expected to live a life according to the pattern that I saw established for me Ð help out in my father's furniture and real-estate businesses and probably take them over, drink beer on the weekends and milk during the week. I had no inkling then that I was destined for a career communicating the realities of intuition, parapsychology and the wisdom traditions to the millions via television, radio and the internet.
But, as I look back now on my own spiritual awakening, I can say that I responded Ð as did millions of my baby-boomer compatriots Ð to the siren call of Timothy Leary beckoning us to see reality in a fresher and larger way. I admire Leary's work as a pioneer, a visionary, an explorer of consciousness, a systematizer, a social revolutionary and a scientist. But, I also realize that if Timothy Leary's life were to be examined from the perspective of conventional morality, we would see a very different story. And the list of his high crimes and misdemeanors would be long indeed.<>So to me, Timothy Leary's life and; work stands as a testament to the value of crazy wisdom, to the Hermetic trickster archetype Ð in spite of the fact that this archetype will almost always encounter disapproval from the guardians of conventional morality and the status quo
Jeffrey Mishlove, Ph.D.
Host of national public television series, Thinking Allowed
Author of The Roots of Consciousness
President of Intuition Network>
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