John C. Lilly
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January 6, 1915|
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
|Died||September 30, 2001
Los Angeles, California, USA
Early life and education
John Lilly was born on January 6, 1915, in Saint Paul, Minnesota and showed an early interest in scientific experimentation. He studied physics and biology at the California Institute of Technology, graduating in 1938. He then studied medicine at Dartmouth Medical School and received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942.
Lilly was a physician and psychoanalyst. He made contributions in the fields of biophysics, neurophysiology, electronics, computer science, and neuroanatomy. He invented and promoted the use of an isolation tank as a means of sensory deprivation. He also attempted interspecies communication between humans and dolphins. His work helped the creation of the United States Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
Lilly's eclectic career began as a conventional scientist doing research for universities and government. Gradually, however, he began researching unconventional topics. He published several books and had two Hollywood movies based partly on his work. He also developed theories for flotation.
Lilly published 19 books, including The Center of the Cyclone, which describes his own LSD experiences, Man and Dolphin, and The Mind of the Dolphin which describe his work with dolphins.
In the 1980s Lilly directed a project which attempted to teach dolphins a computer-synthesised language. Lilly designed a future "communications laboratory" that would be a floating living room where humans and dolphins could chat as equals and where they would develop a common language.
Lilly envisioned a time when all killing of whales and dolphins would cease, "not from a law being passed, but from each human understanding innately that these are ancient, sentient earth residents, with tremendous intelligence and enormous life force. Not someone to kill, but someone to learn from." In the 1990s Lilly moved to the island of Maui in Hawaii, where he lived most of the remainder of his life.
Lilly's literary rights and scientific discoveries were owned by Human Software, Inc., while his philanthropic endeavors were owned by the Human Dolphin Foundation. The John C. Lilly Research Institute, Inc. continues to research topics of interest to Lilly.
During World War II, Lilly researched the physiology of high-altitude flying and invented instruments for measuring gas pressure. After the war he trained in psychoanalysis at the University of Pennsylvania, where he began researching the physical structures of the brain and consciousness. In 1951 he published a paper showing how he could display patterns of brain electrical activity on a cathode ray display screen using electrodes he devised specially for insertion into a living brain. Furthermore, Lilly's work on electrical stimulation of nervous system gave rise to biphasic charge balanced electrical stimulation pulses (later known as "Lilly's wave" or "Lilly's pulses" ), which is currently an established approach to design of safe electrical stimulation in neuroprosthetics.
Development of the sensory deprivation tank
In 1953, Lilly began a job studying neurophysiology with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Corps. At the NIMH in 1954, with the desire of isolating a brain from external stimulation, he devised the first isolation tank, a dark soundproof tank of warm salt water in which subjects could float for long periods in sensory isolation. Lilly and a research colleague were the first to act as subjects of this research. What had been known as perceptual isolation or sensory deprivation was reconceptualized as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST).
Lilly later studied other large-brained mammals and during the late 1950s he established a facility devoted to fostering human-dolphin communication: the Communication Research Institute on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. During the early 1960s, Lilly and co-workers published several papers reporting that dolphins could mimic human speech patterns. Subsequent investigations of dolphin cognition have generally, however, found it difficult to replicate his results.
Lilly was interested in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project. In 1961 a group of scientists including Lilly gathered at the Green Bank Observatory to discuss the possibility of using the techniques of radio astronomy to detect evidence of intelligent life outside our Solar System. They called themselves The Order of the Dolphin after Lilly's work with dolphins. They discussed the Drake equation, used to estimate the number of communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy.
Exploration of human consciousness
In the early 1960s, Lilly was introduced to psychedelic drugs such as LSD and (later) ketamine and began a series of experiments in which he ingested a psychedelic drug either in an isolation tank or in the company of dolphins. These events are described in his books Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer: Theory and Experiments and The Center of the Cyclone, both published in 1972. Following advice from Ram Dass, Lilly studied Patanjali's system of yoga (finding I. K. Taimni's Science of Yoga, a modernized interpretation of the Sanskrit text, most suited to his goals). He also paid special attention to Self-enquiry meditation advocated by Ramana Maharshi, and was reformulating the principles of this exercise with reference to his human biocomputer paradigm (described in Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer: Theory and Experiments and The Center of the Cyclone).
Lilly later traveled to Chile and trained with the spiritual leader Oscar Ichazo (whose attitude to metaphysical consciousness exploration Lilly characterized as "empirical" in his book The Center of the Cyclone). Lilly claimed to have achieved the maximum degree of satori-samādhi consciousness during his training.
Lilly's maxim: "In the province of the mind what one believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits. These limits are to be found experimentally and experientially. When so found these limits turn out to be further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind there are no limits. However, in the province of the body there are definite limits not to be transcended."
Solid State Intelligence
Solid State Intelligence (SSI) is a malevolent entity described by Lilly (see The Scientist). According to Lilly, the network of computation-capable solid state systems (electronics) engineered by humans will eventually develop (or has already developed) into an autonomous life-form. Since the optimal survival conditions for this life-form (low-temperature vacuum) are drastically different from those needed by humans (room temperature aerial atmosphere and adequate water supply), Lilly predicted (or "prophesised", based on his ketamine-induced visions) a dramatic conflict between the two forms of intelligence.
In popular culture
Lilly's work, with dolphins and the development of the sensory deprivation tank, has been referenced in movies, music and television productions. Dolphin Island: A Story of the People of the Sea is a 1963 novel by Arthur C. Clarke set in a strange and fascinating research community where a brilliant professor tries to communicate with dolphins. In the 1972 novel The Listeners, Lilly and the other scientists who were members of the Order of the Dolphin are mentioned as pioneers by the book the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. In the 1973 movie The Day of the Dolphin, George C. Scott portrayed a Lilly-esque scientist, known to the dolphins as "Pa", who succeeded in teaching a dolphin to speak elementary English.
The 1980 movie Altered States features actor William Hurt regressing to a simian form by the combination of ingesting psychoactive substances and then experiencing the effects of prolonged occupation of a sensory deprivation chamber.
- Man and Dolphin: Adventures of a New Scientific Frontier (1st ed.). Garden City, NY: Doubleday. 1961.
- The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence (1st ed.). Garden City, NY: Doubleday. 1967. ISBN 0-385-02543-2.
- The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence (paperback ed.). Avon. 1969.
- Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer: Theory and Experiments (1st ed.). Communication Research Institute. 1968.
- The Center of the Cyclone: An Autobiography of Inner Space (1st ed.). Julian Press. 1972.
- Lilly on Dolphins: Humans of the Sea. Anchor Press. 1975. ISBN 0-385-01037-0.
- The Deep Self: Profound Relaxation and the Tank Isolation Technique (1st ed.). Simon and Schuster. 1977. ISBN 0-671-22552-9.
- Simulations of God: The Science of Belief. Simon and Schuster. 1975. ISBN 0-671-21981-2.
- The dyadic cyclone: The autobiography of a couple. with Antonietta Lilly (1st ed.). Simon and Schuster. 1976. ISBN 0-671-22218-X.
- The Scientist: A Novel Autobiography (1st ed.). Lippincott. 1978. ISBN 0-397-01274-8.
- Communication between Man and Dolphin: The Possibilities of Talking with Other Species. Julian Press. 1978. ISBN 0-517-56564-1.
- Tanks for the Memories: Floatation Tank Talks. with E. J. Gold (2nd ed.). Gateways Books & Tapes. 1996. ISBN 0-89556-071-2.
- Lilly, John C. (1956). "Mental Effects of Reduction of Ordinary Levels of Physical Stimuli on Intact, Healthy Persons". Psychiatric Research Reports. 5. pp. 1–9.
- Lilly, John C. (1977). The Deep Self: The Tank Method of Physical Isolation. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- John C. Lilly Dies at 86. Written as a message to visitors on John Lilly's personal website (www.johnclilly.com), and quoted in the New York Times Obituary by Andrew C. Revkin October 7, 2001 Accessed October 2007
- LILLY, JC; AUSTIN, GM; CHAMBERS, WW (1952 Jul). "Threshold movements produced by excitation of cerebral cortex and efferent fibers with some parametric regions of rectangular current pulses (cats and monkeys).". Journal of neurophysiology 15 (4): 319–41. PMID 14955703.
- Donaldson, ND; Donaldson, PE (1986 Jan). "When are actively balanced biphasic ('Lilly') stimulating pulses necessary in a neurological prosthesis? I. Historical background; Pt resting potential; Q studies.". Medical & biological engineering & computing 24 (1): 41–9. PMID 3959609.
- Lilly, J. C.; Hughes, J. R.; Alvord, E. C.; Galkin, T. W. (1 April 1955). "Brief, Noninjurious Electric Waveform for Stimulation of the Brain". Science 121 (3144): 468–469. doi:10.1126/science.121.3144.468.
- Black, David (December 10, 1979). "Lie down in darkness". New York Magazine 12 (48): 60. ISSN 0028-7369.
- Gelb (2007), p. 140
- Lilly, John Cunningham (1978). The Scientist: A Novel Autobiography (1 ed.). Lippincott; 1st edition.
- Streatfeild, Dominic (2008). Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control (reprint ed.). Macmillan. p. 116. ISBN 0-312-42792-1.
- Baruss, Imants (2003). Alterations of Consciousness. Washington: American Psychological Association. p. 45.
- Lilly, J. C. (1962). "Vocal Behavior of the Bottlenose Dolphin". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society.
- Lilly, J. C.; Miller, A. M. (1961). "Vocal Exchanges between Dolphins". Science.
- "The Drake Equation Revisited: Part I:".
- John C Lilly - The Human Biocomputer (1974)[page needed]
- John C. Lilly - NNDB
- Erowid John Lilly Vault : Obituary - Erowid
- Gunn, James E. (1972). The Listeners. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons p. 58.
- Canby, Vincent (December 20, 1973). "The Day of the Dolphin (1973) Film: Underwater Talkie: Scott Stars in Nichols's 'Day of the Dolphin' The Cast". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
- Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1980). "Altered States". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
- Hooper, Judith (January 1983). "John Lilly: Altered States". Omni Magazine.
- Williams, David E. (March 2008). "Head Trip". American Cinematographer. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
- Gelb, Michael; Sarah Miller Caldicott (2007). Innovate Like Edison. New York: Dutton. p. 320. ISBN 0-525-95031-1.
- Houghton, Gerard A. (October 5, 2001). "John Lilly, Inventor of the Flotation Tank and Friend to Whales and Dolphins". The Guardian. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
- Lilly, M.D., John Cunningham (1967). The Mind of the Dolphin. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. p. 310.
- Brown, David Jay (February 16, 1991). "From here to Alternity and Beyond: [Interview] with John C. Lilly". In Brown, David Jay; McClen Novick, Rebecca. Mavericks of the Mind: Conversations with Terence McKenna, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Carolyn Mary Kleefeld, Laura Huxley, Robert Anton Wilson, and Others (2nd ed.). MAPS. pp. 254–273. ISBN 978-0-9798622-5-0.
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