Lilly, John - On questioning all beliefs
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
from John Lilly: Altered States Interview with John Lilly by Judith Hooper
Jan 1983 Omni Magazine
I had a Catholic background, a traumatic childhood -- the whole business.
What was it about a Catholic background that you had to "unlearn"?
The whole construct. I'd been taught by Irish Jesuits, who are very clever. They made up multiple layers of rationality for the whole Catholic structure. The nice thing about Catholicism, however, is that it teaches you what to believe. So when you throw it over, you know exactly what you're throwing over.
You can say, "I don't believe in the Father Almighty," and continue right through the Apostles' Creed, the Confiteor, and the rest of it, tossing out one tenet at a time.
I believe in God, but not in the "Catholic God," who is vengeful.
There's the whole business about guilt, "impure thoughts," going to hell if you don't do what the church commands.
One way this was solved for me, intellectually if not emotionally, was by reading the "Grand Inquisitor" chapter of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov in which Christ comes back to Earth. The Grand Inquisitor tells him, "When we saw those miracles in the street, we knew you were back. But this time we're not giving you any publicity. We're keeping you in this cell. We know how to run these people now."
That just knocked the church right out of me, and by the time I was finished with Caltech, medical school, and psychoanalysis, that belief system was pretty well cleaned out of me.