The Birth of Float Tanks

Dr John C Lilly

Dr. John C. Lilly

Like many other fascinating and revolutionary ideas, float tanks were pioneered by an academic asking a question. In 1954, John C. Lilly began experimenting with the mind’s response to “sensory deprivation,” a subject that had grasped the interest of the contemporary fields of neurology and psychology. There was debate about what would happen if the brain, the center of consciousness, was deprived of all sensory information. Would we fall into a dreamless, comatose state? Would our thoughts continue going even without any new incoming information?

Lilly wanted to find out. He built a large floatation chamber which he filled with water. With the use of a diving suit (the facemask painted black to block out all light), he submerged his study participants into the floatation chamber. His results showed that there was no comatose state, and, once his participants came out of the chamber, they reported feelings of intense relaxation and calm, with some even reporting epiphanies of personal discovery and self-realization.

Lilly’s interest was sparked, and he continued his research over the next two decades, refining his laboratory’s chamber and building other similar floatation chambers to perform more experiments, and his new research showed similar results. The next real step in the evolution of float tanks came in the early 1970s, when the floatation chamber changed from a laboratory behemoth into the tanks we use today.

Since the 1970’s the floatation tanks have been improved and refined significantly, best illustrated by the class leading i-sopods we use at The Floating Spa. The i-sopod