Every religion worth its salt (no pun intended) has a creation mythology. You know, their way of offering a solution to the chicken-and-egg problem of human existence. Well, we aren’t going to go that far back in time to chronicle the genesis of Isolation Tank Gnosis. First, because time is not linear anyway. But secondly because this religion didn’t start that long ago.
So, the way ITG started was like so. I was living in Columbus, OH and was practicing a Chinese energetic meditation called Falun Dafa. I was putting myself through excruciating pain to sit in certain postures for the specified length of time. One day, I was grunting and heaving through a practice routine (while my neighbors peered out the cracks of their windows wondering if they should call the mental health clinic) and I simply decided that I had had enough. I packed up some bags and jumped in my ’98 Nissan pickup truck and set my GPS for Chicago, IL.
I had decided I was going to float. Now, I had not floated since 1999 or so. And here I was 8 years later deciding on a Saturday to stop one spiritual system and take 6-hour drive to another state to revisit floatation, not having had any contact with it for so long.
I wasn’t going to just any floatation tank center. I was going to Spacetime Tanks owned by Eric Polcyn. This was the longest-running float center in the USA – 26 years straight at that time. And they stayed open until midnight.
I got to Chicago Friday night and found a hotel near the float center. I got some things from a local drug store. As I was standing in line, I couldn’t help but notice how many people in line had large bottles of potent alcohol in their hands.
Finally, I made it to Spacetime Tanks and paid for some time. They have very generous rates there. You can get a monthly unlimited pass for $125. I got into the tank and it wasn’t long before the tank starting talking to me. I don’t mean some sort of channeled message. But the message from the tank was as plain as day: “You are bunched up into a knot, my friend.” The contrast was stark between the warm soothing smooth salt water and my bunched up body. I could feel my shoulders pulled up around my ears and could tell my whole frame was hunched forward. But the tank was with me the whole time. Patient and soothing, patient and soothing. At the very end of my float, I saw the Falun Dafa image in the darkness – I actually was having a mental discharge of all the doctrine I had crammed into my head.
It was at that point that I decided to stay in Chicago and spend 2 weeks decompressing.
Fight to open a center
So after my body-opening trip to Chicago, I came back to Columbus and bought a Float-to-Relax tank from Frank Rodriguez. Man, I had some trippy experiences. Pretty soon I felt I needed to do my part to make floatation available in Central Ohio. I began to look into how to legally open a float center and my hopes were crushed. A floatation tank was considered a pool or spa device and it was a requirement that the water be chlorinated.
I really didn’t want to put chlorine in the water. I didn’t want people exposed to it via water or skin. Most commercial tanks use some combination of ozone, ultraviolet light, or hydrogen peroxide to sanitize the water without impairing the health of the floater. I remember the heated email and voice conversations I had with the Ohio Department of Health. It didn’t matter that prior research had shown that the more common methods of sanitizing a tank did in fact kill pathogens. All that mattered to them is what their rules said.
And that’s when I took a close look at the Ohio Department of Health laws of Pool and Spa inspection and saw that bodies of water used for medical or religious purposes were exempt from inspection by the goverment.
I’d known of a center or two in New England that had a nurse on duty to leverage this exemption from the medical side. But as I reflected, I realized that there was no avenue to exercise this exemption from the religious side.
The Mishlove-Lilly Interview
As chance would have it, I was surfing YouTube and saw an interview between John C. Lilly and Jefferey Mishlove. The interview was just like anything John Lilly did. Awesome and gripping and worth my time. But then Jefferey prompted Lilly about each person being responsible for exploring beliefs and Lilly replied: “That’s the Gnostic point of view. Using the self for transcendence as opposed to a church or group.” And I went crazy. Literally went crazy. Before I knew it, I was creating a website, getting tax-exempt status. The works. Don’t ask me why. I just know I was off like the Energizer bunny before I knew it.
Right around the same time and place, I started to get acquainted with the Spiritologie teachings. They echoed Lilly’s sentiment that each spiritual being can be 100% responsible for their experience.
So, from that time in 2008, I continued to attempt to offer floating on a commercial basis in Ohio as well as Florida. But it simply was not my thing. I’ve also attempted to affiliate with various spiritual groups and usually found myself ostracized for some reason or another. It appears that my life mission is to be a lone candle in the dark for others who want a path to enlightement based solely on being alone.
Floatation Tank Spirituality Before ITG
So there you have it. Since the development of the isolation tank in 1954, it has primarily evolved through scientific and commercial avenues. There have certainly been spiritual publications about floatation prior to Isolation Tank Gnosis. But I know of no bona fide religious organization whose primary ritual is usage of the isolation tank. What is the value of such a religion? The primary value is that it lends confidence to those who are contemplating not relying on a church or group for their spiritual liberation. I spent decades following organizations and their procedures and their implicit belief that God existed somewhere outside of me. Even after hearing spiritual giants like Arunachala Ramana tell me on a Sunday:”You are not in the world. The world is within you.” it took much longer (and many more writings from a variety of sources) for it to finally sink in. This religion and these writings are yet another contribution to that line of spiritual perspective. Another value of this religion is that a person who wishes to offer floatation without the harmful sanitation constraints of pool and spa regulations can exercise their right to freedom from inspection by claiming that the body of water is being used for religion purposes, specifically the “Ritual of the Recluse”and documented in the Isolation Tank Gnosis religion.