John C. Lilly

About John C. Lilly

“In the province of the mind, there are no limits.”

Dr. John C. Lilly, M.D. (1915-2001) is a physician and psychoanalyst specializing in biophysics, neurophysiology, electronics, computer theory, and neuroanatomy. Inventor of The Isolation Tank Method of exploring consciousness.


This work led him to inter-species communication research projects between man and dolphin. Timothy Leary praised John as the twentieth century’s Columbus, who brought back conspicuous data from the far most inner world journey.


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.[2] He also attempted interspecies communication between humans and dolphins. His work helped the creation of the United States Marine Mammal Protection Act.


His eclectic career began as a conventional scientist doing research for universities and government. However, he gradually began researching unconventional topics. He published several books and had two Hollywood movies based partly on his work. He also developed theories for flotation.


In the early 1960s he 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 Sri 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).

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He 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-Samadhi 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.”



Amazon Image - John C. Lilly The Deep Self: Consciousness Exploration in the Isolation Tank (Consciousness Classics) Amazon Image - John C. Lilly Communication Between Man and Dolphin Amazon Image - John C. Lilly The Scientist: A Metaphysical Autobiography Amazon Image - John C. Lilly The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea (Consciousness Classics) Amazon Image - John C. Lilly Tanks for the Memories: Floatation Tank Talks (Consciousness Classics)


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Man and Dolphin: Adventures of a New Scientific Frontier (1st ed.). Garden City, NY: Doubleday. 1961. (paperback ed.). Gollancz. 1962. ISBN 0-575-01054-1.
The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence (1st ed.). Garden City, NY: Doubleday. 1967. ISBN 0-385-02543-2. (paperback ed.). Avon. 1969.
Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer: Theory and Experiments (1st ed.). Communication Research Institute. 1968. (reprint ed.). Julian Press. 1987. ISBN 0-517-52757-X.
The Center of the Cyclone (1st ed.). Julian Press. 1972. (paperback ed.). Bantam Books. 1973. ISBN 0-553-13349-7.  (reprint ed.). Marion Boyars Publishers. 2001. ISBN 1-84230-004-0. )
Lilly on Dolphins: Humans of the Sea. Anchor Press. 1975. ISBN 0-385-01037-0.
The Deep Self (1st ed.). Simon and Schuster. 1977. ISBN 0-671-22552-9. (paperback ed.). Warner Books. 1981. ISBN 0-446-33023-X.  (reprint ed.). Gateways Books & Tapes. 2006. ISBN 0-89556-116-6.
Simulations of God: The Science of Belief. Simon and Schuster. 1975. ISBN 0-671-21981-2.
The Dyadic Cyclone. with Antonietta Lilly (1st ed.). Simon and Schuster. 1976. ISBN 0-671-22218-X. (paperback ed.). Paladin. 1978. ISBN 0-586-08276-X.
The Scientist: A Novel Autobiography (1st ed.). Lippincott. 1978. ISBN 0-397-01274-8. (paperback ed.). Bantam Books. 1981. ISBN 0-553-12813-2.
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.). 1996. ISBN 0-89556-071-2.

John Lilly

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