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Observations placeholder

Lilly, John - On tripping and full OBEs into infinite distances



Type of Spiritual Experience

Out of body

Number of hallucinations: 1


Vitamin K might be ketamine, but I am not going to guess

A description of the experience

extract from John Lilly: Altered States Interview with John Lilly  by Judith Hooper
Jan 1983   Omni Magazine


What first inspired you to use psychotropic drugs?


I never use the word drug, because it leads into a legalistic morass. The Food and Drug Administration has been putting out bulletins lately about K, which is now listed as a possible "abused" drug. Because abuse means literally "away from use," I prefer the term hyperuse, or "too much use." So I don't want to call it by its chemical name, and I think of it as vitamin K anyway, because it gives me spiritual energy. I've never proselytized, never advocated wholesale use of psychedelics. They are not for everyone. When Timothy Leary said, "Turn on, tune in, drop out," only a self-selecting group ever tried LSD. I did not agree with him; my use was carefully controlled investigation, not "recreational use."

There were a lot of "LSD pushers" around our LSD research at the NIMH when I was there in the Fifties, but I didn't take LSD then. After about ten years in the tank I decided there was something new to be learned. So I came out here to California, where a lady I knew who had access to pure Sandoz LSD-twenty-five gave me the LSD for my first two trips. On my first trip I went through all the usual stuff: seeing my face change in the mirror, tripping out to music.

During the first two movements of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, I was kneeling in heaven, worshiping God and His angels, just as I had in church when I was seven years old.

On that trip I did every thing I'd read in the psychedelic literature so as to save time and get out of the literature the next time. During my third trip, in the isolation tank in St. Thomas in 1964, I left my body and went into infinite distances -- dimensions that are inhuman.


The Ken Russell/Paddy Chayefsky film Altered States closely resembles your life. What did you think of it?

Ken Russell´s Altered States (1980). Scene of hallucination inside an isolation water tank.


I think they did a good job. The hallucination scenes are much better than anything ever produced before. I understand that some of the crew, the actors, and the producers were trained on K. The tank scenes were fine -- except that in reality there are no vertical tanks, only horizontal ones -- and the film implied that use of the tank itself would cause those out-of-the-body trips, which it doesn't.


The scene in which the scientist becomes cosmic energy and his wife grabs him and brings him back to human form is straight out of my Dyadic Cyclone [1976]. Toni did that for me. As for the scientist's regression into an apelike being, the late Dr. Craig Enright, who started me on K while taking a trip with me here by the isolation tank, suddenly "became" a chimp, jumping up and down and hollering for twenty-five minutes. Watching him, I was frightened. I asked him later, "Where the hell were you?" He said, "I became a prehominid, and I was in a tree. A leopard was trying to get me. So I was trying to scare him away." I said, "If you do that again, I'll kick you in the ass." He laughed.


Can substances like K take one to lower, as well as to higher, states? Could one get stuck in a lower state, and is that a possible explanation for psychosis?


You can get into lower states -- rock consciousness, solid-state consciousness, whatever. If people do get stuck there, we would never hear from them, would we? As for so-called psychosis, it's just an insistence on staying in altered states, in spite of everyone else. Psychotics hang around and play games with everyone around them; it can be rather cruel. Anyone who has worked with them knows there's a wise and healthy essence back there, and what you have to do is contact it. Of course everyone's different. Some schizophrenics feel pain; others pretend pain so that they'll be taken care of.

The source of the experience

Lilly, John

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