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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index


John Lilly, So far ... (A biography of John C. Lilly, MD).

Jeffrey, Francis (1990).
Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.


ISBN: 0-87477-539-6

Description: Hardcover, viii + 278 pages.

Contents: 15 chapters, epilogue, acknowledgments, access to John Lilly.

Excerpt(s): May 1964, age 49.
The Scientist locks the door and turns out the lights. In his right hand he holds a syringe loaded with one cubic centimeter of sterile water containing 100 micrograms of d-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate also known as LSD-25. He injects this chemical into his right thigh, withdraws the needle, and drops the syringe on the chair. He finds his way through the darkness to a ladder and climbs the eight steps to the rim of the isolation tank. Gripping the rim, he lowers his body into the water. Then, he leans back, releasing his grip, and floats on his back toward the center of this dark little sea.

No one has ever experienced the combination of LSD and profound isolation before.
(Page 131)

What followed was a classic, high-energy "good trip," filled with fantastic personal and transpersonal revelations and terrific intellectual breakthroughs. He later described this experience in The Center of the Cyclone: ...This was remarkably like John's childhood experience before the altar of his Catholic church, yet it was merely an introduction into the spaces opened by LSD. (Page 134)

After taking his dose of LSD and entering the tank, John felt himself expanding far beyond the body and far beyond anything the mind located in that body could conceive. He became the Being existing among other Beings like itself, each one vast as an entire universe, connected in a network spanning eternity. The Being was somehow akin to the Guardian Angel he had experienced in childhood.

When the Being turned its attention back to the body, it observed the body doing just fine, floating there in the warm water. So was the mind, beginning to re-form itself along familiar lines programmed by memory and by the sensations of that particular body. To the Being, the mind and body of John Lilly imposed a feeling of uncomfortable limitation. They were far too small to contain it, but as it took notice of them, it seemed to slip into them and fill them up. The body, if he paid attention to it, seemed to grab the Being and pull it in.

The being constricted itself into the mind and body of John, losing contact with the other Beings in the cosmic spaces. And then the body climbed out of the isolation tank, climbed down the ladder, and switched on the lights. (Pages 136-137)

In his own case, belief in the contained mind might be no more than a reaction against the belief system foisted on him in childhood. The Catholic church taught that a person is an immortal soul, temporarily housed in a material body but ultimately able to escape it at death and wing its way to heaven, just like the angels in the icons and stained glass windows in church. But when John reached puberty, he had rejected this doctrine along with the church's doctrines on sin which conflicted with the true experience of his own developing sexuality.

In the history of science, similarly, church doctrine had been entirely thrown out because the inflexible dogmatism and conservatism of the church stood in the way of scientific progress. In that process, science had rejected ancient religious teachings concerning the immortal soul the uncontained mind even before it had any well-grounded concept to take its place. Instead, science adopted the ad hoc notion of an individual mind arising from the behavior of physical matter; a mind generated within, dependent on, and confined to the brain.

Never explicitly stated as a theory by scientists or subjected to the scientific method for proof or disproof, the belief in the physical origins of the mind became, instead, a part of the "religion of science," a part one had better not question if one wanted to be accepted as a scientist. For John the Scientist now, the idea of the contained mind had assumed a different status: It was a scientific hypothesis to be explicitly stated, analyzed, and put to the test, confirmed or refuted by experiment, in so far as this was possible. It was no longer acceptable as an implicit assumption, as a belief not subject to experimentation. It was just another belief, and all beliefs limited the range of one's experiences and one's experiments. (Pages 138-139)



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