An Experiment In Singularity — The Isolation Tank and LSD

A few years back I received for a Christmas present, a free pass to enter an Isolation Tank (deprivation tank). This was back in the eighties and it was all the craze. I never went. Who wants to sit trapped in huge tank, suspended in total darkness, floating in 3 inches of briny tepid water in total silence. Not me. The pass had an expiry date, I let it pass. 

An Experiment in Singularity

Mystics have used this technique, isolation and deprivation for centuries to concentrate on investigating our consciousness by turning off the outside world and turning on the inner mind.  One such mystic, Dr. John C. Lilly a neurophysiologist at the National Institute of Health conceived experiments in singularity to test our sensations. To be more specific, stopping sensation from reaching consciousness.  

In 1949, two scientists Giuseppe Moruzzi and Horace W. Magoun discovered that our brain cells regulated our consciousness. Lilly elaborated on their experiments, wanting to know if our sensory organs bombard us with sensations to keep us aroused and fully awake and what would happen if this bombardment of these sensations ceased. 

Lilly invented the isolation tank, to conduct his experiments. He was the first to experiment spending many hours laying in it. The tank allowed only the smallest traces of sensation to reach the thalamus. The tank itself gave the person a sense of floating in space, feeling free of all body sensations. During one such experiment he collapsed, accidentally injecting himself with air bubbles from an intravenous syringe. He fell into a coma that lasted hours.

While in this coma, he had a near-death-experience. He claimed to have entered an unearthly infinite realm of light, at peace with himself, where he met two guardian angels, which expressed an overwhelming sense of love. They assured him one day he will return, and be able to perceive the oneness of all things.

After recovering, Lilly wanted to go back to that blissful place. He realized sensory deprivation carried him closer to his goal but not quite. He decided to test a new chemical, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) in his isolation tank. He claims he left his body and became a single point of consciousness where "ones self exists"

He met those two angels again and learned they were primal forms of human consciousness. He encountered the vastness of space, full of light energy and met many other conscious beings.  

After going on several trips, Lilly was halted in his experiments. LSD became illegal. He continued experimenting with his isolation tank using other drugs like ketamine instead but none produced the results like LSD did.  

Then, a new idea hit Lilly, he wanted to communicate with dolphins, those social creatures with brains larger than our own, that could communicate through sound and able to give each other names, even able to recognize themselves in mirrors.  

He eventually lost interest in his Isolation Tank and LSD and moved on to bigger things, SeaWorld at San Diego Zoo.  Just kidding.

Which brings me back to my Christmas present; maybe if LSD were offered as a go along, I might have taken them up on the offer, the experimenter I am, but to lay there, in the dark, alone, quiet and wet, with no sensations. No thanks.

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