Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary:
My Psychedelic Love Story

by Joanna Harcourt-Smith
North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2013.

Review by Ralph Abraham, November, 2017.

Tim was busted in 1965, and again in 1968 (p. xxvii). He escaped from jail in September, 1970, and successfully avoided the pursuit of the US authorities for nearly three years. During this interlude, he met Joanna, a young European Jet-Set hippie, in Switzerland. According to the book (p. 56), this was in the Kunsterhalle, Lucerne, in November, 1972.

There followed a psychedelic honeymoon of 49 days. This is the duration of the transit of the Bardo following death according to Tibetan Buddhism, hence the title of the book.

The Bardo trip took them from Switzerland to Vienna, Beirut, and Kabul, where they were apprehended on January 19, 1973. Joanna was released soon, but Tim remained in various prisons, mostly in solitary confinement (p. 329) until April 26, 1976. Throughout this span of three years and three months, Joanna made regular visits to Tim in prison, and worked tirelessly for his release. Following the release, they went their separate ways.

This engrossing tale of two very extraordinary lovers, as told here by Joanna, is the most honest autobiography I have come across. It foregrounds the role of LSD and spiritual exploration, as well as the pitfalls of lesser drugs. It recalls vividly The ecstatic ambiance of the 1960s and the downward spiral of the 1970s. A great read.