The Trigger of Hallucinogenic Drugs: Larry Hagman's
Martin Hagman (Sept. 21, 1931 - Nov. 23, 2012),
was an actor best known for playing the ruthless
oil baron, J. R. Ewing, in the 1980's television show "Dallas",
and the astronaut Major Tony Nelson in the 1960's sitcom "I
Dream of Jeannie." His television appearances also included
guest roles on dozens of shows spanning from the late 1950s
up until his death, and a reprisal of his signature role on
2012 revival of Dallas. He also worked as a producer and
director on television. Hagman was the son of actress
Mary Martin. He underwent a life-saving liver transplant
in 1995. Although Hagman was a member of a
12-step program, he publicly advocated
marijuana as a better alternative to alcohol. He died on
November 23, 2012, from complications of acute myeloid leukemia. The following
article was written by
John L. Griffin, PhD for World University
of Ojai, California about Larry Hagman's experiences with LSD
Larry Hagman's Life-Enhancing Near-Death Experiences
by John L. Griffin, Ph.D.
Actor Larry Hagman's
perspective on life is the polar opposite from that of his famous
character, J.R. Ewing, on the popular, long-running Dallas television
series. He sums
it up at the end of his recent autobiography when he states:
"The only answer is love."
Although he credits
his solid marriage and his family for helping shape his love-centered
worldview, he also believes that he has been positively transformed
into a more compassionate, loving human being by his near-death -like
experience or, rather, experiences.
An NDE is considered to be where
someone "dies" - meaning the person would be considered
clinically dead and without vital signs - but resuscitates
and comes back to life. Research with people from various
cultures has established that these experiences are
usually truly life changing and that the NDErs often
feel that they have a mission to be as loving and caring
as possible. They want to be helpful and their methods
of doing so are sometimes quite creative.
he not only had one experience of this type - but two - and they have both been enormously life changing and enhancing
for him. Both experiences contain classic NDE elements but they
also share similarities with what I like to call Threshold-of-Death
Experiences (TDE), more commonly known as
(DBVs). These occur when a person is either approaching death
or is just about to die. Concerns of the world are slipping
away and innate psychic sensitivity comes to the fore so that
visions are seen of what clearly appear to be the other world
of the after-life. Sometimes other witnesses share these visions.
These TDErs may be medicated with drugs but in most cases are
not. The remarkable consistency of these experiences, established
by research studies, provides one of several persuasive presentations
of evidence in the online course I teach, Evidence of the After-life.
Although Larry lives in the small, coastal mountain town
of Ojai in Southern California, where I live and teach at World
University, I never had occasion to meet him until recently.
In the latter part of 2001, I happened to see him on television
on the Larry King Show where he mentioned, in passing, having
had an NDE. Actually,
there had been two experiences in his opinion, as his serious
experiment with LSD in the sixties had produced a psychic journey
remarkably similar to his later medical NDE.
I thought at the time that I should
try to interview him about these experiences and turn it into
an article for my online Thanatology course on the World University
website. Our mission at World University is, of course, to educate
people and to do that you must get their attention. Many of
the visitors to our website are drawn there from an innate interest
in education and our particular spiritually and globally aware
educational approach. But, as we all know, for a variety of
reasons the general public's attention is particularly drawn
to what a celebrity has experienced. Aside from being an intriguing
"local interest" story, Larry's celebrity status may help draw
attention to this incredibly important and profound experience
whereby a person seems to gain not only a preview of the after-life
but a key to the most important qualities to manifest while
living in this world.
Not long after Larry disclosed
his NDE on television, I learned that he would be at the Local
Hero Bookstore in Ojai for a book signing. I stopped by to find
a diverse group of people in a friendly and almost festive atmosphere
in the large patio behind the store. And there was Larry, jovially
signing away. I waited my turn in a rather long line and then
was face-to-face with an open and engaging man who seemed a
lot more like Major Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie than J.R. Ewing
on Dallas. Still, there did seem to be a bit of a Texas persona,
but a genuinely friendly, down-to-earth one. I got right to
the point and asked if I could arrange an interview about his
NDE. After briefly explaining World University's Thanatology
Program in terms of care for the dying, bereavement counseling,
and conscious living and dying - particularly in light of the
implications of the NDE - he understood and agreed to meet with
me. Taking a ten thousand dollar bill from a stack next to him,
he wrote his phone number on it, saying "Give me a call." On
the face of the bill was a picture of Larry in a ten gallon
Stetson hat underneath a banner proclaiming, "The United State
of Texas." Alongside was a declaration in smaller letters: "This
note isn't worth the paper it's printed on." On the reverse
was the motto, "In Hagman We Trust" over a picture of the Southfork
Ranch from Dallas. Also included was a reminder to make arrangements
to donate our organs: "This is printed on recycled paper. Why
not recycle yourself? To receive an organ donar card, please
call 800-622-9010." As a liver transplantee, Larry works diligently
to motivate more donors to save more lives.
up and calling to arrange an interview time, I read Larry's
Hello Darlin'. I first came across his account
of his LSD induced NDE-like experience.
LSD had been
recommended to him and he finally decided to try it. Well aware
of the potential hazards of such a powerful drug and treating
it quite seriously, he took it under the best controlled conditions
he could arrange. Under the guidance of a friend with LSD experience,
in the comfortable and secure environment of his home, and wearing
a hooded monk-like robe made by his wife, Larry began his LSD
The trip began
with a strong buzz just below his navel (the basal area
kundalini energy of yoga). He was reminded of the
term vibrations, which he had often heard used by his
friends who had become part of the
higher consciousness crowd. Never really knowing
what they were referring to, he suddenly thought he
experientially understood - they were happening to him!
Then the visions began.
The entrance to a cave appeared across the room from
him, guarded by two octopus-like creatures accompanied
by two entities that looked like feathery lions (reminding
me of mythological Griffins, who are sometimes described
as guardians of treasure). Turning his head, he saw
his grandmother - who had died when he was a child -
hovering above him with a wonderful, comforting smile
on her face. She assured him that it was all quite natural.
He was at the gate of all new experiences and, despite
the guards, he need not worry. Her advice was: if pulled,
don't resist and if pushed, don't fight it; go with
the flow (a dictum very much like the essential principle
of the Chinese art of Tai Ji). Then a deep understanding
dawned on him. Larry had been attending lectures and
Book of the Dead and books about Eastern mysticism.
Their meaning had eluded him, but now he felt that he
could finally grasp it. It was all basically summed
up in what his Grandma had told him. The constrictive
ego could be put aside and the unitive flow of life
interview with his Grandmother ended and the cave claimed
his attention. Moving toward it and reaching its entrance,
he was sucked inside and rocketed down a tunnel, at
the end of which was a light. He emerged into a place
of bright and diffused light where he saw a person of
indeterminate sex who called out to him without speaking.
In typical out-of-body and near-death fashion, the communication
seemed to be telepathic, as the being informed him that:
"This is a glimpse
of where you've been, where you're going,
where you are all the time."
Put into the
terms of yoga psychology:
"You are That" and
"That" is our true nature.
deep insights he had already experienced, it was too
much for Larry to fully comprehend. The person seemed
to recognize this in giving him this message:
"You don't have
to go any further - Having seen this is
enough for now."
interview also over, he was pulled back out through
the tunnel. The guards at the cave entrance were
asleep and he could not see his Grandmother, whom he
wanted to thank for taking him through the entrance.
He reflected that, although he hadn't thought of her
in a long time, she had been there when he needed
With that part of the experience obviously
concluded, he got an orange from the kitchen and broke it open.
Its cellular structure was pulsing and it looked to him as though
the cells were alternating between life and death, which seemed
perfectly natural. Looking up from his scrutiny of the pulsating
orange, he saw his reflection in a mirror on the wall. He too,
was pulsating. Cells were dying, while others were in the process
of being reborn. An intricate picture, every cell was in constant
motion and he realized that he was a constant flow of energy
as, indeed, everything was. The scope of realization widened
with his conviction that:
"I was part of everything,
and everything was part of me. Everything was living,
dying, and being reborn."
The friend, who had not
taken LSD with him, drove Larry around Beverly Hills equipped
with a sixteen-millimeter camera with which he could zoom in
on plants, flowers, and people. Their cells were also pulsating
This experience shares a number of similarities
with near-death, out-of-body, and certain shamanic experiences.
These are usually intensely transforming and empowering, and
Larry's was no exception. Besides self-insight, he also saw
much deeper into people's emotions and how they were expressed
through body and facial language. But most importantly, his
view of life and death were profoundly altered. So-called dying
was actually only a transformation into another expression of
the vast creative energy that underlies everything. He concluded
"Death was just another
stage of our development and that we go on to different
levels of existence."
He believed he had an
understanding of God consciousness. Fear of manmade concepts
of heaven and hell dropped away and he quit worrying. He felt
at home in the cosmos. It was all so clear and so familiar.
Toward the end of the book, Larry relates
his second NDE-like experience, which occurred in the hospital
Intensive Care Unit following his liver transplant operation.
Although heavily medicated, he was conscious enough to focus
on what he calls his "celestial song" which he believes each
of us uniquely has, just waiting to burst forth:
has their own unique song, an inner melody that
fuses each of us to the deep, modulating, harmonious
hum of the celestial orchestra that's the collective
energy of everything that's ever lived and ever
going to live. It's our life force. The power of
Shamans discover their
sacred songs during their vision journeys. An anthropologist
friend of mine completed a Vision Quest under the direction
of a Chippewa medicine man many years ago. He attained his vision,
was given messages, and learned his sacred song. Larry experienced
his own vision journey, propelled by the cocooning conditions
of the hospital and the medications but most importantly by
his meditation on his song. He had turned his isolation in the
ICU into a context similar to the isolation of a shamanic journey
or vision quest where a ceremonial, meditative practice is enacted.
It gave him:
that was ecstatically happy and familiar - and it
confirmed what I'd always suspected, that every
one of us living creatures is part of a collective
energy that is also ecstatically happy and familiar.
The culmination of that energy is love. It's with
us now, it always has been, and it always will be.
Every one of us has this familiarity. We know it.
The problem is, we bury it under so much apprehension
As with his LSD experience
of years before, he:
over the edge of this level into the next, and there
was that person again..."
The same being, who
had welcomed him into the light from his travel through the
tunnel under LSD, welcomed him again. But he understood that
it was "not yet time to cross over." He was also allowed a deep
insight and understanding:
not the end. There were more levels, an infinite
number of levels, of existence, each one adding
to the hum of the cosmic orchestra, as if we're
always spiraling upward until we reach a state of
It occurred to Larry
that every religion he knew of had tried to figure out the meaning
of life and had essentially reached the same conclusion - the
meaning of life is love. The chapter of the book containing
this account of his second NDE-like vision ended with his assessment:
"... Don't worry. Be happy.
When I reached the end
of the book and realized that he concluded with the same exhortation,
I felt that this indeed summed up Larry Hagman's life, although
he resolved that he wasn't going to give in to the urge to do
this with his autobiography. As he states, he's "still playing
Whether Larry's hospital
experience might have been a true NDE, in that he briefly slipped
over the line between life and death and then returned, or was
more in the nature of a Threshold-of-Death Experience where
he came close to death but did not die, it had the kind of life-enhancing
impact usually associated with these powerful events.
It was early January, 2002, when I met Larry at his mountain-top
estate in Upper Ojai. Accompanying me was Nourhalma Reyes, a
daughter of the founders of World University in Ojai and a member
of the Board of Trustees. Nora, as she is generally known, has
had out-of-body experiences since she was a small child. Her
father and mother, who shared this ability, treated it as a
normal experience and encouraged her. In 1983, as a result of
a horrendous highway accident, she had an NDE herself which
her father mentions in his book, Conscious Dying. She had watched,
outside of her body, as her mother knelt over her "dead" body
and pleaded with her to come back to it. Only her mother's distress
persuaded her to return to a badly injured and extremely painful
Larry greeted us warmly in the spacious circular
parking area of his Texas-sized estate. Leading us down the
entry hall, he stopped to admire a fresh bouquet of red roses.
As he extolled their beauty, I was struck by his genuine childlike
sensitivity and love for the beauties of life. When we reached
his study, we seated ourselves around a large coffee table piled
with books and video tapes. As we were served refreshments,
Larry had to excuse himself briefly to get something in another
part of the house. While awaiting his return, Nora and I were
drawn to the large windows looking out over green valleys, flatlands,
distant cities, beaches, the Pacific Ocean, and two of the Channel
Islands. On this mild, sunny and clear mid-winter's day, there
could be no doubt why the Hagmans call their home "Heaven."
Soon, Larry was back and we had seated ourselves again. I mentioned
that Nora was an NDEr herself and Larry wanted to hear all about
it. For the next two hours we talked about life and death, altered
states of consciousness, various religions and spiritual traditions,
karma and more. Larry was remarkably animated and totally interested
in the various, but related, subjects we discussed.
loved the visit and Larry said that he enjoyed it, too. But
he had other matters to attend to, so our time together came
to a close, but not before I had a chance to ask what he had
learned from his NDE. Although I had read his reactions in his
book, I was interested in a personal, off-the-cuff summation.
He first referred in passing to his positive mind-altering LSD
experiment, with its pronounced near-death elements. Then, cutting
past the details of his medical related NDE, he concentrated
on the most important thing about it: what it meant in his life.
He summed it up by saying
that it had made him so much more aware and appreciative of
everything about life. Our interconnectedness continues to be
so apparent and this has made him more compassionate. Wanting
to help others and the world is a definite force in his life.
Still, he knows that he can only do so much, so he chooses to
aid causes he not only believes in but which also interest him
and give something back in a kind of symbiotic energy exchange.
But Larry and his wife have involved themselves in many community
service projects of various kinds. The "crossing over" altered-state
of consciousness experiences, whatever they may be termed (perhaps
"near-death-like experiences" is the best description), gave
him a belief that life continues, that the show goes on in ever
varied and unfolding settings, and that love abounds, with its
feelings of ecstasy and deep bliss. I was reminded of the concepts
of Prema (unconditional divine love), Leela (the divine play
of consciousness), and Ananda (divine bliss) from the spiritual
tradition of India. It was now late afternoon and as he walked
us down the long hallway to the door, the low mid-winter sun
was coming in through the west-facing windows and softly flooding
across the colorful Spanish floor tiles. Larry bade us stop
and enjoy this vision for a time before proceeding to the parking
area. It was indeed a glorious sight - the type we may find
right before us but too often hurry by.
John L. Griffin, PhD for World University
of Ojai, California
Read more about
LSD and NDEs here