book, The Myth of Mental Illness? Well that’s where I’m at. I don’t believe any of this mental health stuff; it’s all bullshit. Having been through psychoanalysis with a doctor of physics, Robert Beltim from Vienna, that’s what I’ve come to think. He used to analyze analysts, Anna Freud and so on. I started quoting papers: from psychoanalysis and finally he said, “Dr. Lilly, we’re not here to analyze Freud or the psychoanalytic literature; we’re here to analyze you, and you’re just avoiding yourself. I learn more from you and you learn more from me than we’ll ever get in the literature.” So that’s the way I’ve looked at everything. Wide open.
RMN: What do you think about people who suffer from a disruption of their interior reality? People who experience problems in coming to terms: with their inner process in relation to the world around them?
JOHN: Do you know Candice Pert’s work? Well, she’s found fifty-two peptides in the brain that control mood. As Pert said, “Once we understand the chemistry of the brain there will be no use for psychoanalysis.” She said that the brain is a huge, diverse chemical factory. We cannot make generalizations about any one of these yet but, for instance, if you give an overdose of this one people get depressed, if you give an overdose of that one they get euphoria, and so on. If you OD on cocaine your brain changes its operation, but if you’re aware of this: and you pay attention you realize that yes, it modifies some things, but it doesn’t always do it in the same way. So there’s this continuous modulation of life versus brain chemistry. So I gave up long ago trying to figure out how the brain works because it’s so immense and so complex. We don’t yet know how thought is: connected to operations in the brain!
DJB: Do you think it would be possible to create some kind of window into the brain to see the dynamics of how thoughts arise and what their interaction is by using some kind of highly precise combination of EEG and MRI scannings?
JOHN: No. It’s impossible. The Positron Emission Topography or PET scans show the changes in various parts of the brain and of various substances. When the observed person is learning, a compound acts one way, and then another way. But what’s that? That’s one compound that they’re looking at. Imagine what else is going on.
DJB: Years back you helped to pioneer the original electrical brain stimulation research. With the understanding that you’ve gained in this area, do you think that it will eventually be possible to directly stimulate brain centers without using electrodes, in order to create psychedelic experiences?
JOHN: Electrical stimulation of brains is very poor without brain electrodes and with electrodes you wreck the brain when you put them in there. That’s why I quit.
DJB: So you think then that it is possible to stimulate brain centers without using electrodes?
JOHN: Yes. A friend of mine at the University of Illinois showed me a set-up in which he was stimulating a brain at minute spots with focused ultra-sound and electrical interference.
RMN: Do you think that men’s and women’s brains operate in a very different way?
JOHN: You know, I’ve been researching that for years, and finally I admit that you are another universe that I can’t possibly be in because you’re female and I’m male.
DJB: What directions do you think neuroscience should be taking’ What are the most important avenues of exploration?
JOHN: The most important things to do in science is to figure out who the human is and how he operates biochemically. We’re never going to understand how the brain works. I always say that my brain is a big palace, and I’m just a little rodent running around inside it. The brain owns me, I don’t Own the brain. A large computer can simulate totally a smaller computer but it cannot simulate itself, because if it did there wouldn’t be anything left except the simulation. Consciousness would stop there.
DJB: Could it not be possible for human beings to create a computer system large and complex enough that, although it may not be able to understand itself, it would be able to understand the human brain?
JOHN: No, because we don’t know the basis for the human brain. As Von Neumann said, it was strictly by accident that we discovered multiplication, addition and subtraction first. If we discovered the mathematics of the brain we’d be way ahead of where we are now.