The Trigger of Hallucinogenic Drugs:
Larry Hagman's Near-Death Experiences
Larry Martin Hagman
www.larryhagman.com, 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
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 the
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 and NDEs.
|Larry Hagman's Life-Enhancing
|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,
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
Larry believes 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
Deathbed Visions (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.
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
Before following up and calling to
arrange an interview time, I read Larry's book,
Hello Darlin'. I first came across
his account of his LSD induced NDE-like experience.
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 adventure.
The trip began with
a strong buzz just below his navel (the basal
area of the
kundalini energy of
He was reminded of the term vibrations, which
he had often heard used by his friends who had
become part of the
crowd. Never really knowing what they were referring
to, he suddenly thought he experientially understood
- they were happening to him! Then the visions
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
The Tibetan 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 embraced.
The 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:
is a glimpse of where you've been,
where you're going, where you are
all the time."
into the terms of yoga psychology:
That" and "That" is our true nature.
the 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:
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 her.
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
"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 and changing.
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 that:
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:
"Everyone 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 the universe."
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:
"...a feeling 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 and
As with his LSD experience of
years before, he:
"...glimpsed over the edge of this level
into the next, and there was that person
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:
"This was 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 atomic
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. Feel good."
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
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.
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 body.
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.
We 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