Find of the Month

August 2017 - Timothy Leary

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A file in Mayor Dorm Braman’s records illustrates the uproar caused by a planned visit to the city by Timothy Leary in 1967. A promoter had arranged to rent the Opera House at Seattle Center for Leary’s “psychedelic religious celebration.” A newspaper ad for the event promised “sensory meditation, symbol-overload, media-mix, molecular and cellular phrasing, pantomime, dance, sound-light and lecture-sermon-gospel.”

As citizens learned about the event, they began to write to the mayor. One resident wrote, “I see you are still going to have that LSD ‘ministerial conference’ in Seattle Center… So you want to start an opium den at the Center? Pls explain reasons.” Mayor Braman and the City Council were opposed to Leary’s appearance in the city facility, and eventually voted to deny his use of the Opera House. Leary later sued, but the case was dismissed.

The file includes a document titled “Confidential Report on Dr. Leary and His Psychedelic Religion.” The report describes Leary’s drug arrests and his “new religion called the League for Spiritual Discovery (L.S.D.),” along with an explanation of his “tune in, turn on, drop out” mantra.

Also included are numerous citizen letters. While some writers agreed with the public health nurse who declared that “social problems are not resolved by government decree,” sentiment ran about two to one in favor of the city’s action. In a response to one of his supporters, Mayor Braman wrote, “I am confident that the vast majority of the good people of this city feel just as you do – that no good can come out of providing forum for such trashy individuals as Leary to fulminate their nonsense.”