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John C. Lilly


I went to confession the following morning and the priest said, “Do you jack off!.” I didn’t know what he meant, then suddenly I did and I said, “No.” He called it a mortal sin. I left the church thinking, “If they’re going to call a gift from God a mortal sin, then to hell with them. That isn’t my God, they’re just trying to control people.”

RMN: What is your personal understanding of God?

JOHN: When I was Seven years old I had a vision alone in a Catholic church. Suddenly I saw God on his throne: an old man with a white beard and white hair surrounded by angels and the saints parading around with a lot of music. I made the mistake of asking a nun about the vision and she said, “Only saints have visions!” I assumed that she thought I wasn’t a saint.

So I kept that memory, and on my first acid trip I relived it completely to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. And suddenly I realized that the little boy had constructed this to explain the experience he had. I realized that one has to project onto an experience if one is going to talk about it because the experience itself can’t be said in words. But if you are going to talk about it you choose words which you feel are most appropriate. I understood that, as a seven year old I had done that. I saw an old man with white hair because the pre-programming was there. It wasn’t physiology; it was something inside, the inner reality.

RMN: Has your understanding or idea of God evolved over time as a result of your changing experiences?

JOHN: Well, when I started going out on the universe with LSD in the tank, I’d come to a certain group of entities and I’d say, “Are you God?” And they’d say, “Well, we say that to some people but God is way up there somewhere with the angels.” And it turned out no matter how big they were, God is bigger. So finally I got to the Starmaker. But as Olaf Stapledon says in his book, it’s impossible to describe the Starmaker in human terms. He was well aware of the bullshit of language.

I call God ECCO now. The Earth Coincidence Control Office. It’s much more satisfying to call it that. A lot of people accept this and they don’t know that they’re just talking about God. I finally found a God that was big enough. As the astronomer said to the Minister, “My God’s astronomical.” The Minister said, “How can you relate to something so big?” The astronomer said, “Well, that isn’t the problem, your God’s too small!”

DJB: Do you think that the concept of objectivity is valuable, or do you think that separating the experimenter from the experiment is impossible?

JOHN: Objectivity and subjectivity were traps that people fell into. I prefer the terms “insanity” and “outsanity.” Insanity is your life inside yourself. It’s very private and you don’t allow anybody in there because it’s so crazy. Every so often I find somebody that I can talk to about it. When you go into the isolation tank outsanity is gone. Now, outsanity is what we’re doing now, it’s exchanging thoughts and so on. I’m not talking about my insanity and you’re not talking about yours. Now, if our insanities overlap then we can be friends.

DJB: How would you define what a hallucination is?

JOHN: That’s a word I never use because it’s very disconcerting, part of the explanatory principle and hence not useful. Richard Feynmen, the physicist, went into the tank here twelve times. He did three hours each time and when he

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