What Timothy Leary Can Teach Us About Life In The Spirit

photo-1458906931852-47d88574a008(Disclaimer: I know nearly nothing about Timothy Leary, beyond the fact that he was a 60’s counter-cultural icon, the Moody Blues song, and the quote below.)

“Turn on, tune in, drop out” is a counterculture-era phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in 1966. In 1967 Leary spoke at the Human Be-In, a gathering of 30,000 hippies in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and phrased the famous words, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”.

That’s an interesting quote to me. I know Leary is famous for his promotion of LSD, but what can Christians learn from that phrase?


Turn on. Turn on the good music. Open a book. Begin to meditate.

Tune in. Tune in to the voice of the Holy Spirit–to the presence of God.

Drop out. Drop out of carnal religion–the life of the flesh–the focus on the current external world order, the cosmos. Enter the inner realm, the Kingdom of God. Embrace the inner life.

I used to seek psychedelic visions, not through drugs, but through the Spirit. I thought it was all about getting ‘drunk’ or ‘high’ in the Holy Spirit.

That was a lot of fun. It was weird, but fun. But it didn’t last.

You know what did last? The presence of God. The goosebumps went away, the good feelings didn’t always stay, but knowing God was there, that never went away.

Today I see God as less of an entertainer and more of a friend. I’ve grown out of needing the wild parties of my ‘youth’.

Jesus is the life of the party, but he wasn’t always about the parties.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

Jesus was also about communing with the Father. About loving his disciples. About giving tough love to the lost sheep of Israel.

He was also ‘about the Father’s business’.

Life in the Spirit can be intensely fun at times. But real life isn’t always roller coaster ride. Or at least, it isn’t always a fun roller coaster ride.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

I went through many years of misery, trying to get into the presence of God. Then I learned that I am always in his presence.

I went through many years trying to get myself clean. Then I learned that because of the words of Jesus, I had already been made clean.

I went through those years thinking that I had to crucify my flesh. Then I learned that I had been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live life in the flesh–the purely external realm–but in the Spirit.

I learned that I am clean. I am pure. I am spotless. I make mistakes, but I am not a sinner. I am a saint. I am God’s child forever.

I learned that Christ was crucified before the world began. I learned that Paul called out the image of who Christ was to a bunch of ‘heathens’, the Ephesians. He didn’t berate them for being sinners. He told them that God was already there with them.

I learned that loving the unlovely–those my Christian brethren would typically shun–is not only good, but it’s life-changing. It fills me with holy energy. I have learned to love homosexuals. I have learned to love those whom I disagree with.

Life in the Spirit will change you forever. Your perspectives will change. Your speech will change. Your actions will change. The only effort is to relax, knowing God has you. Knowing that you’re sin-free–yes, there are mistakes. Yes, there are consequences, and yes, grace is not a license to sin, but everyone who preaches true grace knows that.

Turn on.

Tune in.

Drop out.

I can’t think of any better anthem for a 21st-century Christian who is becoming aware of the life of the Spirit for the first time.

Leave a Reply