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Reflections on the Passing of
Three Great Psychedelic Pioneers
Elizabeth Gips, John Lilly, and Oscar Janiger
by David Jay Brown
Dec 2001
Citation:   Brown, David Jay. "Reflections on the Passing of Three Great Psychedelic Pioneers: Elizabeth Gips, John Lilly, and Oscar Janiger". Erowid Extracts. Dec 2001;2:2-3.
These past few months have been a time of grieving for many. In addition to the tragic global conflicts, three great psychedelic pioneers have left us for the Great Beyond: Elizabeth Gips, John C. Lilly, and Oscar Janiger. These remarkable individuals devoted their lives to the study and transformation of human consciousness, and they believed strongly in the beneficial power of LSD and other psychedelics. Their passing marks the end of an era. Although they will be deeply missed, their spirits live on, continuing to inspire our minds and warm our hearts.

[This article was completed before the death of Ken Kesey, whose remembrance appears on page 18 of this issue. -- Editor]

Elizabeth Gips
May 5,1922--May 27, 2001

Neither water nor fire will embrace me in the end
but I will sail softly down
like the golden leaf of the apple tree
that feels, at last, the warm caress of earth

I will turn slowly sere and brown and blend
with the elements

My small and errant love will be
released into the Love that touches its worth
so rarely in our consciousness

All inhumanity
will change and sweeten

This death is birth
as every dying cell surrenders in delight
to that Illumination existing beyond light
-- Elizabeth Gips (1966)
Born half-paralyzed and dictating poetry four years later, Elizabeth Gips is well-known for her lively interviews with virtually every major personality in the alternative culture. Her radio show Changes, which aired in northern California for over twentyfive years, inspired countless individuals to explore new realms of heightened awareness. She interviewed hundreds of unconventional scientists, explorers, artists, philosophers, political activists, and spiritual teachers. She also spoke often about psychedelics and their relationship to spirituality, politics, and science on her shows.

Elizabeth attended Mills College in 1939-40, where she studied English and "discovered beat poetry and marijuana". In 1964 her son turned her on to peyote, and she metamorphosed into an "errant hippie". She then traveled around America with Stephen Gaskin, and spent time with him on the Farm, the successful commune in Tennessee that Gaskin founded. In 1971 Elizabeth left the Farm and began hosting a radio show at her son's station, KDNA in St. Louis. She began her Northern California radio show Changes in 1975, and soon started writing for alternative culture magazines. Her book Scrapbook of a Haight- Ashbury Pilgrim is a valuable historical document--prose, poetry, wisdom and drawings inspired in San Francisco during the late sixties.

Elizabeth's home was decorated with psychedelic art and exotic religious artifacts from around the world, reflecting her philosophy, which incorporated many religions. Until the day she died, Elizabeth was very much at the forefront of cultural evolution. Even as she was dying from emphysema, Elizabeth continued to carry on with her radio show and develop her web site ( It was simply impossible to keep Elizabeth quiet. With barely enough strength to breathe at times, she managed to devote an enormous amount of energy towards helping others. Youthful optimism and vibrant enthusiasm streamed from Elizabeth's spirit. She was filled with curiosity, got very excited when she was talking, and she laughed a lot.

Elizabeth died at the age of 79. Three weeks after her death, her partner of 17 years, Paddy Long, died in his sleep at the age of 74. They were deeply in love, and one has to wonder if, perhaps, their synchronized departure from this world of smiles and tears wasn't a well-timed romantic gesture.

John C. Lilly, M.D.
January 6, 1915--September 30, 2001

John Lilly is perhaps best known as the man whose work inspired the films Altered States and The Day of the Dolphin. Educated at CalTech, Dartmouth Medical School, and the University of Pennsylvania, John went on to do much of his early neuroscience research at the National Institute of Mental Health. At NIMH he pioneered many of the original studies into electrical brain stimulation, and began mapping the pleasure and pain pathways in the brain. In 1954, John invented the isolation tank and researched the psychological effects of sensory deprivation. He also learned about the powerful effects of LSD at NIMH, and began to experiment on himself with the substance.

John left NIMH in 1958, and built a research lab in the Virgin Islands, where he established the first interspecies communication research with dolphins and whales. Unlike his colleagues, John was convinced that these marine mammals possessed unusually high levels of intelligence. He left the conventional academic world partially because of his interest in dolphins, and partially because of his desire to pursue higher states of consciousness.

"The explanatory principle will save you from the fear of the unknown. I prefer the unknown..."
-- John Lilly
When John was introduced to the psychedelic anesthetic ketamine, he fell in love. Initially, he adhered to the scientific tradition as he systematically explored the states of consciousness produced by LSD and ketamine while in the isolation tank. His records, maps and theories about these experiences are extremely valuable contributions to our understanding of psychedelic mind states. However, John later fell into what he called "the repeated use trap", and began a dangerous addictive relationship with ketamine that almost cost him his life several times. Miraculously, he survived numerous close calls, largely because he had so many friends who watched over him.

John had an extremely unusual perspective on the world, and with it, a very keen sense of humor. He had unshakable confidence, and really didn't seem to care what other people thought about him. Even though he appeared grumpy and cranky a lot of the time, everyone agreed how totally lovable he was. John just couldn't take himself seriously, and he always made people laugh. It was simply impossible to predict what he would do next, and he was fond of telling others to "expect the unexpected".

John died at the age of 86. His ten books include Man and Dolphin, The Scientist, The Center of the Cyclone, Programming and Metaprogramming the Human Biocomputer, The Deep Self, and Simulations of God.

Oscar Janiger, M.D.
February 8, 1918--August 14, 2001

Oscar (Oz) Janiger was educated at Columbia University, and the UC Irvine School of Medicine, where he served on the faculty in their Psychiatry Department for over twenty years. As a researcher, Oz established the relationship between hormonal cycling and pre-menstrual depression in women, and he discovered blood proteins which appeared to be specific to male homosexuality. His studies of the Huichol Indians in Mexico revealed that centuries of peyote use do not cause any type of chromosomal damage. But Oz is perhaps best known for establishing the relationship between LSD and creativity in a study of hundreds of artists.

Oz also maintained a long-standing private psychiatric practice, which he established in 1950, and continued until three weeks before his death. In the late fifties and early sixties, when LSD was still legal, Oz incorporated the psychedelic agent into some of his therapy. He gave LSD in psychotherapeutic settings to many wellknown literary figures and Hollywood celebrities, including Ana´s Nin, Aldous Huxley, Jack Nicholson, and Cary Grant. Between 1954 and 1962, Oz administered 3,000 doses of LSD to 1,000 volunteers.

Oz's life-long interest in psychedelics led him to co-found the Albert Hofmann Foundation, which was established to archive medical and cultural information on psychedelics and consciousness. Oz studied dolphins in their natural environment later in his life with a group of Olympic swimmers. He was always an avid swimmer himself; he won a race from Santa Monica to Venice pier when he was in his 60s. He was also the author of A Different Kind of Healing, which is about how Western doctors view alternative medicine--a long-standing interest of Oz's. In the 1970s he was research director for the Homes Center, an organization that granted money to alternative medical research.

Oz loved to tell stories, and he had some great ones. He had an extraordinary memory for details, and could recite poems that he had learned fifty years earlier. He was an extremely warm, highly energetic man. As a physician, Oz was unusually devoted to his patients. There was a heartfelt sincerity to his manner. He closed his eyes when he was thinking deeply about something, and he chuckled a lot. When he put his arm around your shoulder you felt instantly comfortable around him. Oz died at the age of 83.

In-depth interviews with these three extraordinary individuals, as well as many others, can be found on David Jay Brown's web site:
Additional information can be found at: