Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 14 of Today I Learned – John C Lilly


I am going to BLOW your mind today. Absolutely blow your tits off. Even more so than that that one time you learned Lego is the largest tire producer in the world. Did you not know that? I BLEW YOUR MIND TWO TIMES. This is the story of a wild scientific experiment, intergalactic abduction, human isolation, medicinal drug usage, aquatic mammal masturbation, and Sega Genesis. Trust me, you will not be disappointed in this iteration of me wasting your time.

John C Lilly was a physician in mid-20th century. Originally, his wealthy father tried to pressure him into attending an Ivy League school and becoming a banker, which is exactly what he did. OF COURSE NOT you’ve read these before, this space is for the mildly insane. Lilly went to the California Institute of Technology to study science. He studied bio-psychics, electronics and neurophysiology, and eventually invented the isolation tank. You’ve probably seen isolation tanks in second-rate malls, which is basically an enormous box which strips you of all your senses – it’s soundproof, completely dark, and full of body temperature salt water which essentially leaves you floating and lets your mind wander and mildly hallucinate. It’s basically like getting super high without ingesting any drugs and being within walking distance of a Spencer’s and Auntie Anne’s. As a hysterically claustrophobic person, not a chance in the world I ever do it, but you TOTALLY should and let me know how it goes.

As tipped off above, OF COURSE Lilly branched out from normal and accepted medical practices, and started taking tons of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD if you didn’t study chemistry or follow Phish on tour over the summer one time. He began to delve into human consciousness and its relation to psychedelic drugs (in other words – it was the 1960s). During his already mind-bending experiences in the sensory deprivation tank, Lilly began taking LSD on top of this. As one would expect, Lilly got REAL weird with it. He met with “spiritual leaders” from around the world (aka, minor cult leaders, my main aspiration in life). After a while, the LSD wasn’t sufficiently blowing his mind, so he got aggressively into prog-rock. Just kidding, he branched into ketamine. Ketamine produces trance-like states while inducing sedation and memory loss in addition to being a pain reliever. So now we’re doing boatloads of memory-dissolving drugs and isolating ourselves in sensory-deprivation tanks for hours. As you would expect, this went splendidly.

Lilly believed he was being tracked by an intergalactic group of psychics called the Earth Coincidence Control Office. Lilly wrote a list of rules for how to contact this group, which basically sound like new-age self help bullshit. I’ll spare you the tedium, but the primary motto was “Cosmic Love is absolutely Ruthless and Highly Indifferent: it teaches its lessons whether you like/dislike them or not.” So, yeah, totally normal stuff so far. Trust me, this is still the relatively normal part.

Lilly awoke one night, pumped full of ketamine, believing these agents had “bloodlessly removed his penis”, and then handed it back to him. My nightmares usually consist of running into exes or being unprepared for a test, but this blows those out of the water. Lilly’s wife pointed out his dick was, uhh… still pretty attached, to which Lilly frustratingly remarked that it was not his. As you were.

One day, while melting his mind high as shit in the iso tank, he decided, “dolphins are so fucking rad.” That’s not a direct quote, but I am willing to bet it is biographically accurate. Since Lilly was still a reputable researcher, as most people didn’t realize the extent that this dude was tripping balls all the time, he got funding from the United States Navy to study potential communication between humans and dolphins. Spoiler – this is the craziest part of this story. A drug-addict got the United States government to pay him to do tons of drugs and hang out with dolphins. I don’t believe I need to further justify my belief the federal government is bloated. #AUDITTHEFED.

Lilly’s first FEDERALLY-FUCKING-FINANCED study involved getting some dolphins and giving them LSD. I like to think somewhere out there, a mid-level Navy officer realized he had tremendously fucked up about this time. As expected, dolphins on LSD did NOT communicate with humans, despite developing a new affinity for jam bands and patchouli oil. I don’t know about you, but I am shocked that didn’t work.

In 1965, Lilly expanded his FEDERALLY-FUCKING-FINANCED study into dolphin-human communication with a study that involved isolating a dolphin and a woman together for ten weeks with no other contact. Remember, TONS of ketamine and a potential abduction and castration had happened to the lead researcher, and the Navy was still thinking this all seemed promising. Lilly isolated a dolphin (Peter) and the stupidest lab assistant ever (Margaret) in an area for ten weeks. TEN FUCKING WEEKS. The area was filled about two feet deep with water, with an elevated table and bed for Margaret to keep notes and sleep. How thoughtful! Imagine how prune-y you would be after TEN WEEKS in water.

Let’s sidebar for a minute – dolphins are smart. Like, wildly intelligent. They are the second-most intelligent creature on the planet, so the logic to seeing if we could communicate is there I guess. On top of that, like humans, they are horny creatures, and obscenely so. If there are dolphin public libraries, there are tons of pervy dolphins jerking off there. Dolphins have been known to rape and mutilate their prey because they are the dicks of the oceans, despite sharks fielding that rap for them for all this time. I know what you’re thinking but no – Margaret does not get murder/assaulted by Peter the dolphin. Instead, in a much better turn (????), Margaret decides to jerk this dolphin off.

Peter the dolphin had been carrying around a rock-hard dolphin dong for a few weeks, and Margaret took it upon herself to alleviate his issue in the pursuit of scientific progress. Lilly was giddy with the development, thinking this was a critical hurdle to human-dolphin communication, which made Margaret pleased as she had been doing her job. Peter was the most ecstatic, as you probably guessed. Just a lady jerking off a dolphin in a home full of water in front of a gathering of scientific observers. The 1960s!

Peter and Margaret never communicated. Shocking, I know. Somehow, this work DID help the creation of the United States Marine Mammal Protection Protection Act of 1972. Absolutely baffling. Lilly gave up the dolphin-fucking, I mean, communication research, and went back to ingesting copious amounts of ketamine and tripping balls about extraterrestrials.

Fast-forward to 1992: Sega is churning out games to support their launch of the Sega Genesis. I don’t know about you guys, but the original Jurassic Park and Sonic were the shit, and I did not require any additional games. One of the games released was “Ecco the Dolphin”. Time out, scroll back out – remember the extraterrestrials who visited Lilly when he was high as shit? Earth Coincidence Control Office? Or otherwise referred to as “ECCO”? HOLY SHIT RIGHT?!?! Do you remember this game? I bet you don’t, because you’re definitely going to fact check me when I say this game was about a dolphin who travels through time to fight hostile intergalactic invaders of Earth’s oceans, and later on an alien spacecraft. I’ll save you the time – A dolphin. A fucking dolphin. Travels the universe. Fighting space invaders. All based on a government-financed study on human-dolphin communication, which included tons of dolphin-jerking. Led by a guy high on LSD and ketamine who though he had been castrated. If you can think of a more staggering sequence of events, I am all ears, because otherwise, I believe your mind has been officially blown.

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