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Psychedelics and Creativity

Psychedelics and Creativity - MAPS Volume X number 3 2000


A fascinating exploration and analysis of the relevance and importance of psychedelics and creativity, with interviews, reviews and art by;

L.J Altvater
Alex Grey
Stevee Postman
Steven Rooke
Allyson Grey
Donna Torres
Robert Venosa
Benny Shannon
Tom Robbins
Rick Doblin

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Psychedelics and Creativity

  1. 1. M U LT I D I S C I P L I N A R Y A S S O C I AT I O N F O R P S Y C H E D E L I C S T U D I E S V O L U M E X N U M B E R 3 P S Y C H E D E L I C S & C R E A T I V I T Y
  2. 2. 2 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 Creativity 2000 MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for 1 Introductions Psychedelic Studies) is a membership-based Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Jon Hanna and Sylvia Thyssen organization working to assist psychedelic 4 Psychedelics and the Creation of Virtual Reality researchers around the world design, obtain Excerpted from an interview with Mark Pesce governmental approval, fund, conduct and report on psychedelic research in humans. 6 Visionary Community at Burning Man Founded in 1986, MAPS is an IRS approved By Abrupt 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation funded 9 The Creative Process and Entheogens by tax-deductible donations. MAPS has Adapted from The Mission of Art previously funded basic scientific research By Alex Grey into the safety of MDMA (3,4-methylene- 12 Left Hand, Wide Eye dioxymethamphetamine, Ecstasy) and has By Connor Freff Cochran opened a Drug Master File for MDMA at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MAPS is 17 Huxley on Drugs and Creativity Excerpted from a 1960 interview for The Paris Review now focused primarily on assisting scientists to conduct human studies to generate 18 Ayahuasca and Creativity essential information about the risks and By Benny Shanon, Ph.D. psychotherapeutic benefits of MDMA, other 20 MAPS Members Share Their Experiences psychedelics, and marijuana, with the goal Anecdotes by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., FRCP(C), of eventually gaining government Dean Chamberlain, Dan Merkur, Ph.D., Sam Patterson, approval for their medical uses. Interested Christopher Barnaby, Susan Butcher, Will Penna, and Martye Kent parties wishing to copy any portion of this 26 Learning How to Learn publication are encouraged* to do so and By Myron Stolaroff, M.S. are kindly requested to credit MAPS includ- ing name and address. The MAPS Bulletin is 27 Tom Robbins on Creativity produced by a small group of dedicated staff 28 Robert Venosa’s Illuminatus and volunteers. Your participation, financial Reviewed by Richard T. Carey or otherwise, is welcome. 31 Talking with Donna and Manuel Torres ©2000 Multidisciplinary Association AllChemical Arts Conference Interview for Psychedelic Studies, Inc. (MAPS) Interviewed by Jon Hanna and Sylvia Thyssen 2105 Robinson Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34232 36 Telluride Mushroom Festival 2000 Phone: 941-924-6277 Reviewed by Alex Bryan Toll-Free: 888-868-MAPS Fax: 941-924-6265 39 Stevee Postman’s Cosmic Tribe Tarot E-mail: Reviewed by Carla Higdon Web: 41 About the Artists Biographical sketches of featured artists: *Creativity Edition Copyright Note L.J. Altvater, Alex Grey, Allyson Grey, Stevee Postman, All art work featured in this edition of the MAPS Steven Rooke, Donna Torres, and Robert Venosa Bulletin is the exclusive property of the individual 42 Resources artist(s) and MAY NOT be reproduced in any manner without the expressed written consent of the artist. 44 MAPS Membership and Renewal Information Contact information for featured artists is located Cover Images on page 41. Front: Huichol Mask – Yarn and wax on hand-carved wood base. By Luca Castro, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1996. Back: This Is The Way We Do It – Manipulated photograph. By Yumi Uno Mundo, Secret Heart Studio. ISSN 1080-8981 Printed on recycled paper
  3. 3. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 1THIS SPECIAL creativity issue of the MAPS Bulletin, conceived by Sylvia Thyssen and co-edited by her and Jon Hanna,breaks important ground for MAPS. Previous issues of the Bulletin have reported primarily on efforts to conductgovernment-approved scientific research with psychedelics and marijuana. This focus has been in keeping with MAPS’mission to obtain FDA approval for the prescription use of psychedelics and marijuana for the treatment of a range ofmedical conditions. Yet this focus on research is rather dry. Some people have even suggested that MAPS has hadremarkable success in making the discussion of psychedelics and marijuana cold, clinical, and boring. For those of youwho have felt that way, this creativity issue is the antidote!MAPS’ research strategy builds on existing public support for the development of a full range of drugs to treatillnesses—even potential medicines such as psychedelics and marijuana (that are also used non-medically and have apotential for abuse). MAPS’ strategy is based on the need to conduct objective scientific research into the medicaluses of psychedelics and marijuana in order both to provide important new treatments to patients and to counter thedeluge of misinformation and scare tactics that color the public debate about drugs and drug policy.Yet most responsible users of psychedelics and marijuana do not use these drugs for well-defined medical conditions.More frequently, these drugs are used to deepen relationships or for personal growth, new ways of thinking, spiritualexperiences, recreation, relaxation and—as this issue will amply demonstrate—to enhance creativity of all sorts.Creating legal contexts for these beneficial non-medical uses will require wholesale revision of our nation’s druglaws, whereas approval for the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana can be accommodated within our currentlegal structures (as analyzed in my recently completed dissertation).MAPS was created as a non-profit research and educational organization, not as a political lobby working to changeour nation’s drug laws. Thus, MAPS’ response to the evidence presented in this creativity issue is to work to sponsorgovernment-approved research into the use of psychedelics for the enhancement of creativity. MAPS hasreceived a $2,500 grant from Jeremy Tarcher for protocol development for just such research. The study to bedesigned will, if approved, use modern research methodology to further explore the tantalizing possibilities reportedin the pioneering psychedelic creativity research that was conducted in the 1950s and 1960s, research that endedprematurely due to political backlash against the non-medical use of psychedelics.With this creativity issue, MAPS moves into even more controversial territory than usual. For while there is majoritysupport for the medical uses of marijuana and psychedelics—if the evidence for such uses can meet the standards ofproof set by FDA—there is no cultural consensus surrounding the approval of the use of psychedelics and marijuanato enhance creativity. Among the first steps in creating such a consensus is demonstrating that psychedelicsand marijuana can indeed contribute to creativity, through the dissemination of personal testimonials like thosefound in this issue.I’m proud to join with Sylvia and Jon in bringing to light some of the hidden sources of inspiration that readersof the MAPS Bulletin and contributors to this issue have personally experienced, seen at work in friends andcolleagues, simply guessed at, or may be surprised to learn about. I trust you will find this issue worth a closer look, ®and invite you to join with MAPS in supporting efforts to use psychedelics and marijuana as tools to study thefascinating topic of creativity. Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS President
  4. 4. 2 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 “What is now proved was once only imagined.” – William Blaked URING 1992 while completing my Bachelor of can’t be pigeonholed into an antiquated “sixties Arts degree, I had the pleasure of taking a 20th psychedelia” idea of what the word “psychedelic” means Century art class from Dr. Kurt Von Meier at when applied to art. Indeed, an artificial segregation ofSacramento State University. The professor arranged that “psychedelic art” as a mere artifact of the sixties ignoresmuch of the class would be taught by the students, each the fact that work produced in the sixties is just a smallone of whom had to pick out some specific aspect of slice of a much larger tradition of “soul-revealing” drug-modern art and report on it. My proposal was to discuss influenced visionary art that has been going on forthe influence of psychedelic drugs on art. I suggested that I thousands of years. From the possible inspiration ofmight cover: early historical and cultural references; the Amanita muscaria or Datura use on early rock art to ancientpsychedelic art of the 1960s and its connection to rock psychoactive snuffing artifacts, from peyote-based Huicholmusic; blotter acid art and the concept of imprinting; yarn and bead work to yagé-related Tukano decorativefractal geometry and its relationship to psychedelics; the geometric art, from the ceremonial San Pedro pottery oflate-1980s/early-1990s computer-assisted “rave” art; and the Nazca and Mochica to the mushroom effigy stones ofthe spiritual content of psychedelic art. Since LSD, mesca- the Guatemalan highlands—the inspiration of psychedelicline, and psilocybin had only really been available to the consciousness on art is nothing new.masses of the Western world since the late 1950s, this To help update those who feel that “psychedelic art”topic seemed particularly relevant. Dr. Von Meier kindly equals “the sixties,” we have provided some additionaltook me out to lunch to deliver the blow. “You’ll have to color in this issue. However, just as psychedelic art can’t befind something else to talk about. The subject of drugs is merely relegated to the 1960s, so too drug-inducedtaboo. People would think that you’re encouraging their creativity can’t be relegated to the realm of visual art.use.” It struck me then (as it still strikes me today), that Hence, this issue of the MAPS Bulletin also focuses on thebeing shut down on this subject was ludicrous. Perhaps in creative mind states that psychedelics can engender in aa high school… but in a university? Whatever happened variety of other pursuits. From problem-solving into a liberal education? engineering and the creation of Virtual Reality Modeling Nevertheless, my interest in the creative influence of Language to influences on architectural design, music,psychedelics on the visual arts has—if anything—grown writing, community-building, spiritual-insight, and muchstronger since then, and I was honored to be asked to more, psychedelics are tools that—despite their outlawedco-edit this issue of the MAPS Bulletin. A few creativity status—continue to be useful for many people. Valuablestudies were completed with LSD prior to its being enough that these folks skirt the law to use their psyche-scheduled, some of which were directly related to visual delic tools. And while the MAPS Bulletin usually focuses onart. (See the MAPS Bulletin 10(1), 1999, for a retrospective the medical applications of psychedelics and attempts toof Oscar Janiger’s work in this area.) And though officially gain approval for such applications, this issue is predomi-sanctioned research has nearly ground to a halt, under- nantly about the use of psychedelics in ways that areground use has clearly mushroomed. While there have currently not “accepted” by society at large. The factbeen quite a few magazine articles written about the use remains that people do use these drugs, and many useof psychedelics in the arts, surprisingly there has only them in manners that clearly contribute to a more creativebeen one book produced in English, Psychedelic Art by lifestyle in general. Anyone who has attended the experi-Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, published in 1968. ment in temporary community called Burning Man (seeAlthough this book is an invaluable tome on the topic, it is page 6) will surely attest to the fact that much of the life’salso quite obviously dated. blood of this creative community is pulsing with various Those who feel that the term “psychedelic,” when inebriants, psychedelic and otherwise. Drug use hasapplied to art, is overly invested in connotations of sixties inspired artists, writers, poets, musicians, and others forpopular culture haven’t been paying much attention to thousands of years; the time we live in is no different. Thethe myriad of approaches taken by today’s psychedelic words and images presented herein from various contem-artists. From the digital evolutions of Steven Rooke, the porary users of psychedelics are just scratching the surface.geometric abstractions of Allyson Grey, and the Fantastic For me, this issue of the Bulletin exemplifies the “multi-Realism of Robert Venosa, to the spiritual X-rays of Alex disciplinary” nature of the MAPS organization by helpingGrey, the surreal visions of L. J. Altvater, the botanical to illustrate how psychedelics can be valuable creative aidsnarratives of Donna Torres, and the neo-tribal erotica of in many areas. Enjoy!Stevee Postman—there’s a hell of a lot of diversity that Jon Hanna, Editor
  5. 5. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 3 “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires a creative imagination and marks the real advances in science.” – Albert EinsteinThe MAPS Bulletin focuses astonishing. Great meaning has scientists interested in designing For many years the MAPSlargely on reporting the small been attributed to psychedelic good research studies. So we Bulletin has held up as a sloganbut significant steps to legitimiz- experiences, and they have also turned to our readers and the words of a preeminenting the medical use of psyche- been dismissed as folly or focused on the present. scientific mind, Albert Einstein:delics in our society. The psychosis. There is an emotional The response to our call for “Imagination is more importantlanguage of that journey is charge to the idea of drug- submissions to this “creativity than knowledge.” With thisanalytical, written in black on induced inspiration; it is issue” were varied, and far less simple thought we offer up thewhite, with careful thought to politically dangerous, hotly analytical than I had naively hope that human inspiration canphrasing and protocol. MAPS contested, vehemently denied, hoped. What we got instead propel us past beliefs that areclearly identifies with the specific and strongly defended. was simpler and richer. The fearfully defended into the realmvalues required for the testing With this issue we tone of some responses is well of love and understanding thatand approval of medicinal drugs, considered doing a retrospective described in the words of an we claim as our birthright.things like methodology, of the scientific studies that have unattributed quotation shared MAPS treads into thefollowing directions, adhering to been conducted on the topic of with us in one letter: sanitized and sanctified worldaccepted norms, and safety. psychedelics and creative “The most visible creators of science with strong medicine. At the same time, the problem solving or artistic I know are those artists whose In offering a special issue ofcatalysts for MAPS’ goals, the expression. It became clear that medium is life itself—the ones the MAPS Bulletin focusingdrugs in question, elicit multi- this approach was in a way who express the inexpress- on creativity and right-braincolored, unbridled experiences subverting our initial intent; to ible—without brush, hammer, thinking, we honor thethat in most cases and for most bring some right-brain content to clay or guitar. They neither paint inspiration that so manypeople are extremely difficult to a very left-brain publication. And nor sculpt. Their medium is have found from their usedescribe in words. The psyche- whereas there was too much to being. They see and don’t have of psychedelics.delic voyager comes back from a say about the past, there was to draw. They are the artists Sylvia Thyssen, Editortrip elated, sobered, terrified, not enough to say about the of being alive.”illuminated, relaxed, perplexed, future, aside from reiteratingnonplussed; any of these, or all MAPS’ pledge to supportof these. The voyage is oftenunpredictable, the results an na and Jon H ia Thyssen Ed itors: Sylv y Edition” ti n ”Creativit MAPS Bulle
  6. 6. 4 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000Psychedelics and the Creation of Virtual Reality Excerpted from an interview with Mark Pesce at the 1999 AllChemical Arts conferenceMAPS: How have psychedelics affected your creative MAPS: Do you ever use psychedelics for problem-solvingprocess? tasks? Where you have a specific question in mind, and then you take psychedelics in search of an answer?Mark Pesce: I’m not sure that I’d be doing any of the workthat I’m doing now. I don’t know. I think I’d probably be Mark: They’ve certainly been facilitators or catalysts forsome silly software engineer that. The most strikingworking in New England, example is all theunenlightened and bored cyberspace protocols thatwith life, without came to me. I meanpsychedelics. I can almost “wham,” it came to me likeguarantee that. My use of that, and I just saw them. Ipsychedelics and my got the big picture, but theintellectual career essen- big picture said, “Okay,tially began synonymously well you know roughlysomewhere in the first or how to make it work. Nowsecond year of college. And you have to go in and doso there was an opening up the detail, right?” I spentthat came from the psyche- three years doing thatdelic experience, which detail work, and out of thatresulted in my becoming detail work came VMRL,attracted to certain types of and some stuff whichideas…certain types of you’ll probably still see in aresearch. It’s not that it couple of years. So in thatestablished the agenda, but case it was very direct…it gave me a magnetic I’ve done a bunch ofcenter—that’s what the research work on theGurdjieffians would call it. ethics and the effects ofBut a sense of self that is virtual environments. Andvery particular. And from that also was catalyzedthat, what I had to do was specifically in a psyche-just follow where that center would take me, and listen to delic experience. You know, it was like “snap.” It’s ait. And the times in my life when I’ve gotten fucked up are moment of clarity. Not like the same AA moment ofthe times when I haven’t done that. By the time I got a clarity, right? But it’s a moment of clarity, you see it. Justlittle bit older, I was into what Joseph Campbell would call because you see it, doesn’t mean that you’re immediately“following your bliss.” Well, my bliss was revealed through able to talk about it. I spent six months with that, andthe psychedelic experience. It wasn’t achieved through the managed to sort of piece it together, and say, “Okay, wellpsychedelic experience, but it was revealed through the I’ve got this great tapestry up there. All right, I think I seepsychedelic experience. Now, I won’t make any attribu- a relationship within the elements, let me spend sometions to what the divine is, but if psychedelics reveal the time with it and get it codified into something that’sdivine, or allow you to eminentize it, to see it physically, visibly solid in feel.”or this sort of thing, wouldn’t it make sense for thatmoment to be synonymous with the moment of revealing MAPS: It seems to me that one of the things that you areof what your bliss is? I mean it would be sort of silly for a getting at is the idea of working with the inspirations. Idivine being to show itself, and to not show you what you know that there are a lot of people who take psychedelicsare. That would only be a half revelation, because behold- and have inspiring thoughts, or get into an inspiringing the divine also means beholding the divine in yourself, realm, and then come out of that and then they’re justand that’s part of what you are—what you’re doing, why looking for their next trip, where they enter into thatyou’re there. inspiring place again. But they don’t actually ever do
  7. 7. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 5anything with it. So how do you bring it back? tripping. And this is a case of specific usage.What is it? Is it just so inspiring that it causes I’d go back into the space and take a look atyou—when you are straight—to think, “Yeah, specific parts of it again. And, the funny thingI gotta get to work on this!” is I’d be very methodical and rational— which is not my normal mode of experience.Mark: I know that there are people who just go Normally I’m just “experiential.” But inright back to that space, but I think that if you these cases I was very methodical.go right back to that space you’re just going tobe in the same space again. But with the same MAPS: While you were tripping?question. And where’s that going to get you?In the cases that I’m talking about, the vision Mark: Yes! And I had to go back to the persondoesn’t fade for a second, right. It’s still there. I was working with, who was my partner inIt’s still as tangible as it was the moment it the endeavor when we were doing it. Hecame. It’s not psychedelic. It’s not possessed understood that, and came right into the spacewith that same eminence, but it’s still as with me, and we were methodical. We werepresent. I could ignore it, I suppose, although giggly and all that stuff, but we were methodi-I’ve never done that and I wouldn’t really cal about it. And so we were able to really say,want to know how it felt, because I think that “Okay, well here’s this block right here. Okay,I would feel enormously frustrated inside— let’s take that block and go from one side ofthat I’d gotten this thing and I wasn’t doing the block to the other side of the block.” Andanything with it. we did. We did this on a number of occasions over about a month period. And managed toIn particular with all this stuff that’s become take everything that I had gotten and reallyVRML, and all that. I didn’t get all the details. get it out.I got the chunks. And part of that is, you know,I get the chunks, and it’s software. Well, I’ll MAPS: What particular compounds werejust go work on it. You know. And I’ll turn it you working with?up. And I’ll sit and I’ll think on it, and thinkon it, and think on it, talk it out with other Mark: That was LSD, I think entirely. Therepeople. I mean after I did that, I actually talked were some mushrooms at the beginning, butit out with other people while we were I think that at that time it was entirely LSD. • “I’m not sure that I’d be doing any of the work that I’m doing now. I don’t know. I think I’d probably be some silly software engineer working in New England, unenlightened and bored with life. Without psychedelics, I can almost guarantee that.”Mark Pesce ( co-invented Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) in 1994. He is the author of a newbook, The Playful World: How Technology Transforms our Imagination [Random House].
  8. 8. 6 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000Something New Under the Sun: struggle: life in the desert, spirit striving upwards againstVisionary Community at Burning Man the inertia of matter, a spark of hope in the disaster of history. From the mind’s moist abysses to the cracked lake bedBy Abrupt ( on which the Man burns—it’s a strange translation, but not surprising. The desert here is a place of geometric “This is like a psychedelic refugee camp,” I exclaimed, perfection: flat right up to the hills which rise miles away,looking out over the domes, tents and flags of Black Rock featureless aside from what is put there by people. There isCity. Many of them shimmered with bright colors in the no barrier here to the expansion of a mind willing to goafternoon sun. People wandered the open spaces, clad in the distance. With proper planning, an idea can befantastic costumes, or done up like Bedouins against the allowed to unfold into 3-D space regardless of howalkaline wind. Some wore nothing at all. It was wonderful grandiose or abstract. There is plenty of room for every-and weird—and it was really there! one. The Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock At the same time, the harshness of the environmentDesert is an explosion of creativity and dynamic commu- simplifies the usual distractions of biology. Comfort herenity, which after fourteen years is pushing an attendance is a chair in a patch of shade, a spritz of cooling mist.level of 20,000. Each year freaks, artists, and other vision- Appetites subside in the heat; water is the drink of choice.aries from around the country and world make the long There is no television; there is no shopping. Everything istrek to the desert, with food, water, art and shelter in tow. covered in dust. The requirements of the body form aBurning Man has already appeared as a blip on the radar clear, communal backdrop against which the Imaginationof mainstream culture, with coverage from the Whole claims its proper place at the center of community.Earth Review to ABC News Nightline. This level of coverage I have always maintained that if nothing else, psyche-is notable, because the event bears the indelible mark of delics impel us outside of our habits of thought andpsychedelic inspiration, at the level of individual artistic behavior. From this vantage, we can look back at our lives.expression and in the guiding vision of participatory We can see which parts of our identity are solid, andcommunity. which fade with a change of scenery. Sometimes we can Now, it’s easy to paint drug use at Burning Man as the even find new elements of identity, deeper ones, whichevent’s “naughty secret,” as an overindulgence of the our patterned response to the world have kept hiddenbored and the affluent when left unsupervised. Each year from us. Pleasant or not, these experiences teach us aboutBurning Man struggles with the stigma of being just a big ourselves by removing the crutches on which our person-party in the desert. But each year it proves itself to be ality has come to rely.something far greater. In a way the ongoing success and So it is in the desert, where our usual experience ofevolution of this festival lends the stamp of legitimacy to civilization is fragmented, caricatured, remote. Food,the psychedelic intuition that helps fuel it. It demon- shelter, and daily routines are all changed. Many of usstrates—for those who might not otherwise understand— camped with people we had only met online. Our per-that people with a relationship to mind-altering agents sonal history was wiped; we were free of the assumptionscan work extremely hard to realize their dreams, both and associations of our past, of our geography. Thecollectively and as individuals. obligations of work and money were temporarily sus- So what is the “psychedelic intuition?” For me, it is pended. We were free to reinvent ourselves—and many ofthe understanding that life is a mystery and an opportu- us did. We took the insights of our psychedelic voyagingnity, too easy to squander. It is an appreciation of the and applied them to this community in a setting ofimmense suffering of history, and the possibility of considerable freedom. Then, if we chose, we sharedredeeming this suffering through intelligence, action, and psychedelics to cement newfound bonds, to amplify thelove. It understands that, as conscious beings, our personal novelty of the environment, and to find within ourselvesexperience of the world is completely unprecedented in the personalities which we wanted to show the world.nature. The psychedelic intuition suggests that if we can Burning Man is not “about” drugs, any more than it isconquer our fears of this novelty, we can break free of our about losing your tan lines. But the social space createdhabits to become a force of positive change in the world. there accepts that, if used respectfully, psychedelics canThe best encounters with psychedelics reveal the epic catalyze community and imagination, which are central todimension of life, where the stakes are high and the the event’s success. This is one reason it HAS to be held inpossibilities are limitless. The challenge is to integrate the middle of nowhere, because the civilization thatthese visions into the dirtier realities of living. spawned it has not yet made this leap of acceptance. Burning Man is both a response to this challenge and Perhaps it never will. But for now, this fountain of noveltyan embodiment of it. On the one hand, it is a chance to put will continue to sluice over into the surrounding culture,into practice the insights gained from looking deep within as more and more people return to the “real world”ourselves. But in a way, it is also a mirror of the larger changed by their experience in the desert. •
  9. 9. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 7 BURNING MAN 2oooBackground photo by Cedric Bernardini; other photos by (top, going clockwise): Bernardo Charca,Treavor Wyse, Rebeca Cotera. All reprinted with permission of of “dust people” at left by Abrupt (
  10. 10. 8 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 ALEX GREY TRANSFIGURATION, 1993 oil on linen, 60" x 90" in sculpted frame 8 x 13
  11. 11. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 9The Creative Process and Entheogensby Alex Grey adapted from The Mission of Art25Twenty-five years ago I took my first dose of LSD. The experiencewas so rich and profound, coupled as it was with the meetingof my future wife, Allyson, that there seemed nothing moreimportant than this revelation of infinite love and unity. Beingan artist, I felt that this was the only subject worthy of my time andattention. Spiritual and visionary consciousness assumed primaryimportance as the focal point of my life and art. My creativeprocess was transformed by my experience with entheogens. Due to its visionary richness, I think experience into artworks that transmit thethe entheogenic experience has great depth of feeling and perception of theimportance for fueling an artistic and subtle inner worlds. The entheogenic statecultural renaissance. By giving artists a is, of course, unique to each individual.meaningful experience and access to And yet there are archetypal states ofdeeper and higher aspects of their soul, being that are experienced by largethey are given a subject worth making art numbers of psychonauts, and which canabout. A worthy subject is an artist’s most be evoked with our art. Let’s look at theimportant discovery—it’s the magnetic trajectory and potential stages of thepassion that burns in their work and psychedelic experience and see how itattracts them to it, and also determines translates into works of art.whether they will attempt to evoke what First Effects:is deepest and highest in their viewers. 1) In the beginning stages we notice Oscar Janiger’s studies of LSD and some physical body changes. We mightcreativity showed that many artists felt feel jittery or some rushes of energythe work done while tripping or post- through the body, possibly an opening uptripping was more inventive and inspired of the chest or head. We feel a heightenedwork than their previous work. Keith sensitivity to colors and notice wavy orHaring, one of the most celebrated artists slowly billowing distortions of our outerof the 1980s, credited LSD with stylistic world perceptions. When we look inward,breakthroughs that brought him to his we begin to perceive dynamic geometricown unique work. I feel the same way forms and cartoon-like figures morphingabout my art. This doesn’t mean I recom- into strange and inventive shapes. Themend sacramental drug use for everyone, unconscious is becoming conscious. Thebut I do think it should be a legal option depth of mystery and meaning that ourfor all. conceptual mind keeps at bay in our “How can we bring the insights of the ordinary perception becomes flooded withentheogenic state into our lives?” For the portent.visionary artist this is a somewhat 2) Our perception is open to thestraightforward translation of the mystical beautiful and in the back of our minds we
  12. 12. 10 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000begin to feel that reality is weighty or there seems to be architecture. Colors appear more radiant and overwhelm-some kind of symbolic importance to life. The perception ing. Light itself takes on a palpable character. The whiteof beauty and meaningfulness is mingled. Rushes of bliss light is everywhere present holding everything together.and laughter, releases of ecstasy. Life is lucidly interpreted An experience of such overwhelming power canin a more holistic framework. Everything is okay, even if it influence an artist’s approach to their work. In order tois out of our control. bring forth her or his deepest work, an artist needs to beBeginning to Surrender to a Higher Power: sensitive and courageous toward their own creative 3) Psychodynamic visions. Unresolved repressed process. There are many stages in the creative process.emotions emerge and are faced via dramatic personally Several scientists have attempted to outline the mysteri-meaningful imagery. This can lead to frightening encoun- ous phases of creativity.1 Below is my adaptation of theirters with suppressed memories, and can begin to break findings.down an individual’s ego structure. This is The Creative Process:perhaps not as important or lengthy a phase 1) Formulation: discovery of thefor emotionally stable and integrated The Integrative artist’s subject or problemindividuals. 2) Saturation: a period of intenseTranspersonal Stages: Entheogenic Vision research on the subject/problem 4) Birth, death, and rebirth experiences. 3) Incubation: letting the uncon-The ego/small self is frightened, crushed, in art would at least scious sift the information and developovercome and reborn through intense a responsechthonic and cathartic visions. bring together the 4) Inspiration: a flash of your own 5) Archetypal and mythic figures. In unique solution to the problemour last trip, Allyson and I were meditating opposites as most every 5) Translation: bringing theon each other’s faces and began to see internal solution to outer form“everyface” of humanity wash across the sacred art tradition 6) Integration: sharing the creativeface of our adored one. Allyson became answer with the world, and gettingevery woman and every animal and for her has done in the past, feedbackI became all men and all animals. Not all artists will recognize each 6) Energy release. Kundalini move- both the phase in their work, and each phasements in body, chakras opening, awareness takes its own time, widely varying fromof subtle energy systems. dark and the light, work to work. The first stage is the 7) Universal mind. Cosmic unity, discovery of a problem. This is the mostvoidness or emptiness as ground of being reason and intuition, important question for an artist, “Whatbeyond polarities. is my subject?” The formulation of the Each of these stages or structures of science and religion, problem arises from the artist’s world-higher consciousness and the subtle inner view and may set the stage for an entireworlds can be evoked in our art. The male and female, life’s work—that is, if the problem isIntegrative Entheogenic Vision in art sufficiently broad. The problem is thewould at least bring together the opposites life and death, “well” dug to reveal the Source, theas most every sacred art tradition has done Vision, the creative matrix of questionsin the past, both the dark and the light, matter and spirit. and obsessions that drive an artist.reason and intuition, science and religion, Solving your aesthetic problem be-male and female, life and death, matter and spirit. comes your mission. Heinrich Klüver studied the effects of mescaline on In an effort to illuminate the many stages of thenormal subjects and he found there were certain visual creative process, I’d like to share a bit of the story behindand perceptual “form constants” that recur in psychedelic my painting, Transfiguration. I have always been mystifiedvoyages. I think these shapes have relevance to developing by the body-mind-spirit relationship and the difficulty ofour entheogenic artistic vision. The form constants are the making these multiple dimensions of reality visible in aspiral, the lattice or fretwork, and the imagery of tunnels work of art, but not until my LSD experiences did I wantand funnels or passageways. There is a perception of to make mystical consciousness itself the subject of my“greater dimensionality,” both visual multi-dimensional- art. It took me about ten years of making art and obsessingity and ontological dimensions of meaning. Iridescent and over this subject to reach the formulation that this wasfinely filigreed organic and complex geometric shapes one of my primary artistic problems, an important part ofevolve and dissolve, referencing both nature and sacred my vision.
  13. 13. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 11 During the next stage of saturation I looked over work, my wife Allyson continued to ask me about aneverything I could find about the subject. It was a period unconsidered area of the painting. This was the spaceof research that led me through many tracts of beneath the hyper-mindsphere. I hadn’t noticed the spacetranspersonal psychology and the art of diverse cultures. I in my visions except that it was dark. This was a puzzlingprepared a slide-show and lectured on the subject of dilemma, which lasted for a week or two, because “empty”“Transfiguration,” showing artistic representations of looked wrong or unconsidered, yet what belonged there?transcendental light or energy in relation to the body. At As is sometimes our custom when we are aestheticallythat point I didn’t know I’d be doing a painting by that “stumped” and need to see our work with fresh andname. creative eyes, Allyson and I smoked marijuana and gazed The incubation stage is where the vast womb of the at the piece. Suggestions of what should appear in theunconscious takes over, gestating the empty space began to coalesce. Starsproblem. The embryonic artwork grows obviously, but this was not just outereffortlessly at its own pace. For the Trans- space, this was inner space, the place offiguration painting, this phase lasted about …my “Aha!” moment numinous angels or demons, ofhalf a year. Terence’s “self-dribbling basketballs,” Then early one morning I woke from a provided by the dream, beings with skin like a Fabergé egg, thedream. In the dream I had been painting a oddly glowing mindspheres anticipat-piece called Transfiguration. The painting was extended or ing the transformative megaspherehad a simple composition, two opposing above. This seemed like the appropriatespherical curves connected by a figure. underscored later that answer among the many that occurredFloating above the earth sphere, a human, to me. Work on the piece lasted almostwhich was fleshly at the feet became week when I smoked a year.gradually more translucent. At about groin Part of the function of the visionlevel it “popped” into a bright hallucino- DMT for the first time. and the creative process is the integra-genic crystal sphere. The dream revealed a tion of the inspired moment, via the artunique solution to my simmering aesthetic As I inhaled the object or event, into the world beyondproblem. But this illumination or inspira- the studio, a process that continues as Ition phase, my “Aha!” moment provided by immediately active share this story. We made a poster ofthe dream, was extended or underscored this piece, and it will be reproduced inlater that week when I smoked DMT for the and extremely potent my new book, Transfiguration. Allysonfirst time. As I inhaled the immediately and I have decided to retain the actualactive and extremely potent psychedelic, I psychedelic, I got piece for the Chapel of Sacred to experience the transfigured subject of For myself as well as other artists,my painting first hand. In my vision, my to experience the entheogens have played a crucial role infeet were the foundation of the material the creative process. However, I don’tworld. As I inhaled, the material density of transfigured subject of advocate that artists live in a constantmy body seemed to dissolve and I “popped” haze of chemically-altered conscious-into the bright world of living geometry my painting first hand. ness, and some sensitive artists shouldand infinite spirit. I noticed strange jewel- completely steer clear of the chakra centers within my glowing wire-frame spirit Vision drugs catalyze our inherently visionary andbody, and spectral colors that were absent from my dream potentially mystical dimensions of consciousness. Maypainting. I was in my future painting and was being given they be recognized and honored for the powerful andan experience of the state in order to better create it. sacred substances that they are, proof of the importance After receiving these two visionary encounters of the and infinite vastness of the subtle inner worlds of imagi-same painting, I began to draw what I had seen in my nation and illumination, and may they open an endlesssketchbook. This started the translation phase, bringing source of inspiration for new universal sacred art. •the inner solution of my artistic problem to an outwardform. I drew the body and worked on the computer to Noteshelp me plot an accurate texture map of the electric grid 1) Rollo May examines the phases of creation in his inspiring book, The Courage to Create. Betty Edwards has written a number of excellent books, including Drawing on the Artistaround the hyper-mindsphere. I then assembled the Within, which is where some of the creativity research is discussed. During the nineteenthvarious elements and stretched a fairly large canvas, and twentieth centuries, Herman Helmholtz, a physicist, Henri Poincaré, a mathematician, and Jacob Getzels, a psychologist, all worked on a theory of the stages of the creativebecause I wanted the viewer to identify with a “life-sized” process.figure. Finally, I started painting. After many months of
  14. 14. 12 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 Left Hand, Wide Eye by Connor Freff Cochran You will not find any from me. discover surprising new things aboutLet me say, going in, that Not where my conversations yourself at any age. (3) Some of yourI have no idea what you with Lefty are concerned. discoveries may fly in the face of apparent Consider the pupil of your eye (this is logic and accepted reason.are going to make of this. the anecdote part). More correctly, consider the iris, since the pupil is just a Like what is happeningThe best I can probably hole in the center of that extraordinary between me and my construct. The mechanism that makes the left hand, for example.hope for is the benefit of iris expand and contract in response to Now, I am not an aficionado of drugs light intensity, nearness of focus, and (this is the historical background part). Inyour doubt. Those of you things such as love and drugs (both of 38 years I have never been drunk, never which dilate the pupil by causing chemical smoked a joint, never snorted cocaine,who consider me a loon changes in a sympathetic nerve way off in never even put a cigarette in my mouth. the neck) consists of two separate meshes Your average over-the-counter “guaran-will think me even more so; of very fine muscle fiber. These two work teed mild” cold remedy turns me into athose of you who feel in tandem, pretty much like any other zombie for days, so you won’t find any on opposed pair of muscles in your body, such my bathroom shelf. Even aspirin is strictlyotherwise may elect, at last, as biceps and triceps. One of the meshes reserved for fevers of 102 degrees or radiates out from the pupil like a sunburst. greater. On the other hand, I am noto join them; I just don’t When it contracts, the iris is pulled into puritan. I do have a deep interest in things folds, widening the pupil. The other that enhance the senses instead of dullingknow. What I do know is mesh—the sphincter pupillae—runs in a them, and an even deeper interest in the circle. When this mesh tightens it closes transformational capacity of ritual. Getthat something is going on, the pupil up like tugging on a laundry blitzed and go bowling? Not me. Go to bag’s drawstring. To dilate or not to dilate, Mexico and join a ring of Huichol Indiansomething too powerful to that is the question…an apparently simple shamans in a peyote ceremony? I’d love to; process that is, in truth, a complicated just tell me what to wear. It’s my personalignore and too useful to interaction mediated by feedback from lots belief that drugs have no place in recre-explain away. The time has of other parts of the body, including the ation at all…but that some specific drugs, muscles that aim the eye, the retina, and approached carefully, have a powerfulcome to discuss it in public. that busybody neck nerve mentioned potential role to play in exploration. earlier. Fortunately for us we don’t have to One of the commoner drugs I’ve usedThis requires a slightly- think about it. The process is automatic. In in order to explore altered consciousness is point of fact, it is generally considered oxygen; breathing techniques are thebut-not-really-divergent autonomic, meaning we can’t consciously central spine of all meditation, and you control it at all. can change the shape of the world big timeanecdote, a bit of historical Only there are more things in heaven through controlled hyperventilation. and eyesight than are dreamt of in your Another drug I have tried is LSD, in thebackground, and then a philosophy, Horatio, because that’s wrong. form of eight blotter acid trips spread out I can control mine. I can deliberately dilate over the four years from 1976 to 1980. Isimple unfolding of certain and un-dilate my pupils. Within certain may yet try LSD again. I’ve learned a lotevents from the last two limits, yes, and I can’t see worth a damn since those days, and might cull something when I’m doing it (everything gets useful from refreshed experience. Butyears. It will be more doubled and blurry), but deliberate control looking back I would have to say that acid, all the same. Last year I discovered that I after the jewel-like novelty of the firstjournalism than essay, can even make them pulse to a gentle beat, journey, was mostly disappointing. The an utterly useless skill save possibly for wild leaps of mind, the emotional insights,laid out so you may reach weirding out people at parties. the creative flashes that dazzled me during The point? There are three of them. the arc of an LSD trip all looked pretty sillyyour own conclusions. (1) Life is pretty strange. (2) You can and incomprehensible afterwards.
  15. 15. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 13 Not so with Ecstasy. Also known as X. Also known as A tingling. In my left hand.MDMA. Also known, to limber-tongued chemists, as 3,4- More than a tingling, actually. A bizarre, enigmaticmethylene-dioxymethamphetamine: One of the very few sensation. On the outside my left hand looked perfectlynatural or synthetic substances making the rounds that normal, but on the inside it felt like it was auditioning forresearch had convinced me might offer substantive a job as a special effect in a David Cronenberg film. Iexperience and minimal risk. As it happens, research was couldn’t square image and sensation. To the eye, fourright. The insights that have come to me in my carefully- fingers and a thumb. To the hand itself, meltingstructured experiences with Ecstasy have been profound, candlewax. To match the way it felt it should have beenhumbling, and eminently sensible, even afterward. That’s changing shape; sprouting new fingers and absorbing oldthe test. ones; turning into anything at all but a hand. I stared at it in some astonishment. My friend askedBesides, without it me what was going on. I told her. A physical therapist byI might never have met Lefty. training, she said “Hmm. Sounds to me like you just But first, this interruption from The Bureau of Journalistic reclaimed something.”Responsibility. Nobody can stop you from putting beans in your “But what?”ears if you really want to, but the facts might. Here are the facts “Well, were you left-handed as a child and trained outconcerning Ecstasy. The U.S. government has declared it illegal. of it?”It can have side effects, among them slight nausea, jaw- Nope. A rightie born and bred, as far as I knew. Butclenching, occasional nystagmus (medicalese for “lateral eye- one of the delights of Ecstasy is that it allows you to dowiggle”), and mild-to-moderate post-flight fatigue. It definitely more than think of alternatives; it lets you actually trydepletes body levels of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B and them on for a comparative fit. So I thought to myselfC, which can be countered with supplements before and after. It “Well, what if that were actually true?”should NOT be taken in combination with stimulants or And the tingling stopped. Just like that.antidepressants, or by people suffering from heart ailments, If the story ended there, though, I’d have no reason toglaucoma, hypertension, diabetes, hypoglycemia, hepatic or commit these events to print.renal disorders, aneurysms, or a history of strokes. It ABSO- That night I noticed that I was automatically reachingLUTELY SHOULD NOT be taken by anyone who has to drive for things with my left hand instead of my right. Thea vehicle any time in the next 12 hours. And, finally, it should toothbrush. Doorknobs. Hands to shake. By the middle ofnot be taken by anyone who is suffering from any kind of the next day the plain fact was unavoidable—my leftemotional or psychological trauma. The standard rule here— hand had somehow woken up and was demandingand this goes for the legal drugs they’ll sell you at the corner sovereign equality. Within a week I was brushing myliquor store, too—is simple: If you aren’t sure you are ready for teeth with both hands, shaving with both hands, eatingthe experience, you aren’t ready for the experience. End of with both hands. After years of uncomfortable accommo-interruption. dation to a watch, I shifted it from left wrist to right and A little over a year ago I decided it was time to share suddenly everything felt fine. My right hand was experi-an Ecstasy journey with a well-chosen friend (this is the enced at following orders, and objected not. My left hand,unfolding of certain events part). Together we thought it rebellious, would have none of it.out a little further and decided we’d dedicate the trip to At this point I decided it might be time to read achildhood things, from crayons to sandboxes. In the certain self-help book I had bought months before andafterglow I even took a turn being pushed around a then studiously ignored. This tome fell into the general-grocery store in a shopping cart, and damn if I didn’t find ized category of “discovering the Inner Child” but took theit the easiest thing in the world to be three years old again (suddenly interesting) approach of advocating writtenand reaching for favorite foods with straining, pudgy dialogs between dominant and non-dominant hands. Pagefingers. But the most curious event took place at the high after page of this book contained reproductions of sucharc of the flight. We were sitting together on her bed. One dialogs, by the author and her clients, and I found themof the things I had dreamed of being as a child was a singer fascinating. The technique was simple. Ask questions orlike the ones I had heard on the radio, and when I con- make comments while writing with your dominant hand,fessed this to my friend, she asked me to sing. So I did. But then trade off, clear your mind, and let your non-domi-not something from my childhood. Instead I found myself nant hand write whatever it wants to, even if it comes outsinging one of my own old songs, a half-awful thing about gibberish.escaping the psychological imprint of one’s parents. “I put I decided to give it a try…and met Lefty. Here is thataway my father’s hands,” it starts, “And let go of his lies/I brief initial dialog, unedited:disregard my mother’s plans/And pull out all her knives.” What’s going on between me and Sharon?I sang it through in a silver-clear voice I’d never managed LOVE. YOU LOVE HER BUT AREN’T LETTINGto coax out of my throat before, and when I got to the final YOURSELF FEEL IT.line—“And I, at last, am here”—then it started. Then what are all these emotions?
  16. 16. 14 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 ACTING. THE NAME, NOT THE ROCK. especially when I explored, for a time, letting Lefty gab So what do I do? with other people through me (talk about new heights in BE REAL. disassociation!). I don’t know what that is. And then there is the matter of the songs. Oh yes. BEING REAL IS SPEAKING THE WORDS THAT Between 1979 and 1991 I wrote something like 75WANT TO BE SPOKEN NOT WHAT YOU THINK WANTS songs, most of them quite laboriously. The Emperor FranzTO BE HEARD. Josef thought Mozart used “too many notes.” My new It hurts. collaborator (and fellow Keyboard columnist) Brent Hurtig SINCE YOU WERE BORN. IT PROTECTED YOU. thought I used “too many words.” After looking through From what? my stack of tunes he found only five he thought worth I CAN’T TELL YOU THAT YET. YOU ARE TOO STIFF developing.IN THE HEAD. OPEN WIDE. Then one day I told him about Lefty, and showed him Great. First time out, and my “non-dominant” hand ten lines of seemingly abstract poetry that had comewas dominating me. In the book it hadn’t been that way. through a few days before. To my great surprise he lovedBut I was intrigued by the intensity of the emotions that them. In minutes he had composed music to fit, thenthe experiment raised, as well as by the weird mix of turned to me and demanded more. One verse does notabstract and specific in my left hand’s comments. So I make a song, he said. Two more. Now.continued, and over the next month a strange rough I took up pencil in my left hand, nervously…andpoetry of insight, demand, directive, and language was watched as it slowly and carefully wrote out exactly whatworked out between “us.” There were things coming Brent wanted. Two more verses, perfectly matched inthrough my left hand that startled me, inspiring rich, meter, structure, and tone to the one he was on fire for.unexpected trains of thought. Reflecting on certain Wilder yet, the new verses completed the first onephrases moved things in my heart and life that I had conceptually. What had been a meaningless fragment waspreviously considered unshakable. now a meaningful song. Done. And we’d both been ASK WHO YOU WERE BEFORE YOU WERE HERE. witness to it. Wow. GIVE YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS A BREAK. IT IS ONLY 14 months and 60 new songs later I have come toBUILT TO OBSERVE AND RECORD. LET IT KEEP THAT trust the process, but am still surprised by it. These songsJOB. LEAVE DANCING AND CREATION TO YOUR are not so much written as found, gifts from the other sideBODY. of an inexplicable doorway. The pencil in my left hand FEAR MAKES ANYONE POOR. moves across the page. I watch the words, wondering exactly what’s coming next. In the end they always make IF CANDLES COULD LIGHT THEMSELVES THERE their own kind of coherent, compelling sense; and theyWOULD BE NO DARKNESS. sing like a dream. YOU CAN’T SHED A SKIN BEFORE IT STIFFENS. So what’s going on, eh? Shall we get Freudian and explain this in terms of Ego and Id? Shall we cast it in NOT BEING FROM HERE MEANS THAT YOU CAN terms of right brain/left brain theory? Shall we speak ofBE ANY OF THEM. angels? You tell me. Better still, try it for yourself and then BE EVEN STILLER. tell me. Perhaps you have unknown treasures to find, too. BE THE WATER IN YOU, AND All I know is that I feel like a red-mud Oklahoma farmer NOT THE CARBON STEEL. who has struck oil on land he was about to sell for ten THERE IS NO WAY TO HEAL A CUT BY ASKING TO cents an acre. One day I went to sleep with a good rightKISS THE KNIFE. hand and something useful for holding forks steady. The next day I woke up with two strong wings. THE NATURE OF PEOPLE, LIKE PHOTONS, IS Like I said earlier. Life is pretty strange. And some ofTHAT ALL CAUSES ARE CORRECT AND ALL OUT- the discoveries in it challenge the boundaries of reason.COMES POSSIBLE. PHOTONS HAVE CHOICE. PEOPLE, But on the other side of that rationalized left-hand door,BEING MADE OF LOTS OF PHOTONS, HAVE LOTS OF by whatever name you’d call him or definition you’dCHOICE. ascribe, I think I’ve found a friend. • PAIN IS A STRETCH YOU ARE NOT GIVING IN TO. Originally appearing in the March 1993 issue of Keyboard magazine, this essay is part of DOORS ARE JUST A WAY WE RATIONALIZE Connor Freff Cochrans long-running “Creative Options” series. More pieces from theFINDING OURSELVES ON THE OTHER SIDE. series can be found at You can also order the first Creative Options book collection, Brave Confessions, by contacting Conlan Press in any of the following ways. To date the transcripts of my left-hand conversations Mail: Conlan Press, 712 Bancroft Road #109, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.fill more than 200 pages. I’ve learned a lot in the process, Phone: 925-932-9500. Fax: 925-932-9551. E-mail: On the web: my foundations have been rattled more than once—
  17. 17. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 15STEVEN ROOKE, HYPERSEA, (above) 1997, digital imageENTRANCED, (lower) 1997, digital image
  18. 18. 16 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000ALLYSON GREYJEWEL NET OF INDRA, 1988, oil on wood, 40" x 40"“In 1976 during an LSD trip with my husband, Alex, I experienced my the grid upon which the fabric of our material reality is draped. Sometimebody turning into infinite strands of light that were both a fountain and a thereafter, I read a quote describing the Jewel Net of Indra. In the abodedrain. As I lay meditating next to Alex, I could see that he too had been of Indra, the Hindu God of Space, there is a net that stretches infinitely inrevealed as a fountain and drain, individual and distinct but connected to all directions. At every intersection of the net there is a jewel so highlymy ‘energy unit.’ I realized that all beings and things were ‘blowing off’ polished and perfect that it reflects every other jewel in the net. Thisand ‘sucking in’ pure energy in an infinite field of confluent effluences. description related powerfully to the revelation that we had received whileThe energy was love, the unifying force. This changed both of our artwork in our altered state. It has been my continuing intention to point to thisas we felt that we had witnessed the most important thing: a revelation of experience in my artwork.” — Allyson Grey
  19. 19. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 17Huxley on Drugs and Creativity Aldous Huxley interviewed for The Paris Review (1960), reprinted in Moksha: Aldous Huxley’s Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience edited by Michael Horowitz and Cynthia Palmer (Park Street Press, 1999) Interviewers: Do you see any relation between the stand very clearly the way that certain specially giftedcreative process and the use of such drugs as lysergic acid people have seen the world. You are actually introduced[diethylamide]? into the kind of world that Van Gogh lived in, or the kind of world that Blake lived in. You begin to have a direct Huxley: I don’t think there is any generalization one experience of this kind of world while you’re under thecan make on this. Experience has shown that there’s an drug, and afterwards you can remember and to some slightenormous variation in the way people respond to lysergic extent recapture this kind of world, which certain privi-acid. Some people probably could get direct aesthetic leged people have moved in and out of, as Blake obviouslyinspiration for painting or poetry out of it. Others I don’t did all the time.think could. For most people it’s an extremely significantexperience, and I suppose in an indirect way it could help Interviewers: But the artist’s talents won’t be anythe creative process. But I don’t think one can sit down different from what they were before he took the drug?and say, “I want to write a magnificent poem, and so I’mgoing to take lysergic acid [diethylamide].” I don’t think Huxley: I don’t see why they should be’s by any means certain that you would get the result you Some experiments have been made to see what painterswanted—you might get almost any result. can do under the influence of the drug, but most of the examples I have seen are very uninteresting. You could Interviewers: Would the drug give more help to the never hope to reproduce to the full extent the quitelyric poet than the novelist? incredible intensity of color that you get under the influence of the drug. Most of the things I have seen are Huxley: Well, the poet would certainly get an extraor- just rather tiresome bits of expressionism, which corre-dinary view of life which he wouldn’t have had in any spond hardly at all, I would think, to the actual experi-other way, and this might help him a great deal. But you ence. Maybe an immensely gifted artist—someone likesee (and this is the most significant thing about the Odilon Redon (who probably saw the world like this allexperience), during the experience you’re really not the time anyhow)—maybe such a man could profit by theinterested in doing anything practical—even writing lyric lysergic acid [diethylamide] experience, could use hispoetry. If you were having a love affair with a woman, visions as models, could reproduce on canvas the externalwould you be interested in writing about it? Of course world as it is transfigured by the drug.not. And during the experience you’re not particularly inwords, because the experience transcends words and is Interviewers: Here this afternoon, as in your book,quite inexpressible in terms of words. So the whole notion The Doors of Perception, you’ve been talking chiefly aboutof conceptualizing what is happening seems very silly. the visual experience under the drug, and about painting.After the event, it seems to me quite possible that it might Is there any similar gain in psychological insight?be of great assistance: people would see the universearound them in a very different way and would be Huxley: Yes, I think there is. While one is under theinspired, possibly, to write about it. drug one has penetrating insights into the people around one, and also into one’s own life. Many people get tremen- Interviewers: But is there much carry-over from the dous recalls of buried material. A process which may takeexperience? six years of psychoanalysis happens in an hour—and considerably cheaper! And the experience can be very Huxley: Well, there’s always a complete memory of liberating and widening in other ways. It shows that thethe experience. You remember something extraordinary world one habitually lives in is merely a creation of thishaving happened. And to some extent you can relive the conventional, closely conditioned being which one is, andexperience, particularly the transformation of the outside that there are quite other kinds of worlds outside. It’s aworld. You get hints of this, you see the world in this very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universetransfigured way now and then—not to the same pitch of in which most of us spend most of our time is not the onlyintensity, but something of the kind. It does help you to universe there is. I think it’s healthy that people shouldlook at the world in a new way. And you come to under- have this experience. •
  20. 20. 18 maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 Ayahuasca and Creativity Benny Shanon, PH.D., Department of Psychology, The Hebrew Universityas INDICATED in previous publications (Shanon, 1997, 1998a, 1999) I am a cognitive psycholo-gist who is studying the phenomenology of the ayahuasca As explained in Shanon (1998b), ayahuasca can also induce very impressive ideations. It is very typical for ayahuasca drinkers to report that the brew makes themexperience. My study is based on extended firsthand think faster and better—indeed, makes them moreexperience as well as on the interviewing of a great intelligent. Several of my informants reported the feelingnumber of persons in different places and contexts. In the of potentially being able to know everything; I too hadpublications cited the reader can find background infor- this experience. While, this overall feeling is not objec-mation about both ayahuasca and the program of my tively provable, my data do reveal some ideations whichresearch; for further theoretical discussion, see my forth- are truly impressive. Especially let me mention philo-coming book The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the sophical insights attained by drinkers without priorPhenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience. formal education. Some of these resemble ideas encoun- Phenomenologically, the effects of ayahuasca are tered in classical works as those of Plato, Plotinus, Spinozamultifarious—they include hallucinatory effects in all and Hegel.perceptual modalities, psychological insights, intellectual Significant insights are more likely to be encounteredideations, spiritual uplifting and mystical experiences. As in domains in which drinkers have special competence.discussed at length in the book mentioned above, many Personally, with ayahuasca, I had many insights regardingfacets of these may be attributed to enhanced creativity. my professional field of expertise and to which, followingThis characterization is also in line with that made by Dan further critical scrutiny, I still hold. I have heard the sameMerkur (1998) with respect to psychotropic substances in from other persons. It is in this vein that I would interpretgeneral. According to Merkur, the sole effect of these the common reports of indigenous medicine-men thatsubstances is the induction of enhanced imagination. I do ayahuasca reveals to them the diagnosis of their patients’not think that this is the sole effect of these substances, afflictions and instructs them on how to cure them. Thebut I do agree that it is a central one. traditional interpretation is that the information comes by Let me begin with the visual effects that ayahuasca way of supra-natural revelation. On the basis of both myinduces. When powerful, these consist of majestic visions general theoretical approach and checks I have conductedthat are comparable to cinematographic films of a phan- empirically, I would rather say that what happens is thetasmagoric nature. The indigenous Amazonian users of result of heightened sensitivity and insight in a domain inayahuasca believed that these visions reveal other, which the shaman already has substantial knowledge andindependently existing realities; many modern drinkers expertise.share these beliefs. While not denying the marvelous, As emphasized in my book, some salient effects ofotherworldly character of the visions, as a scientific- ayahuasca pertain to overt performances. Impressiveminded investigator I would rather account for them in performances that I have witnessed myself includedpsychological, not ontological, terms. Apparently, instrument playing, singing, dancing, tai-chi-like move-ayahuasca can push the human mind to heights of creativ- ments, and acting. In these, drinkers exhibited technicality that by far exceed those encountered ordinarily. I agility, aesthetic delicacy, accuracy and coordinated motormyself have realized this in conjunction with a vision in control which by far exceeded their normal abilities. Herewhich I was guided through an exhibition displaying the is one experience of my own. Once during a privateworks of an entire culture. The exhibits included beautiful ayahuasca session, on the spur of the moment, I decided toartistic objects and artifacts that resembled nothing that I play the piano. In an amateur fashion, I have been playinghad ever seen before in my entire life. What was striking the piano since childhood. I have played only classicalwas that they all adhered to one coherent style. Seeing music, always from the score, never improvising and verythem I reflected: “If all this is created by my mind, then the seldom with an audience. Here, for the first time in mymind is indeed by far more mysterious than any cognitive life, I began to improvise. I played for more than an hour,psychologist has envisioned.” Since then this reflection and the manner of my playing was different from any-remains very much with me: If it is the mind itself that thing I have ever experienced. It was executed in oneproduces the visions seen with ayahuasca, then the unfaltering flow, constituting an ongoing narration thatcreative powers of the mind transcend anything that was being composed as it was being executed. It appearedpsychologists normally speak of. that my fingers just knew where to go. Throughout this
  21. 21. maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 19act, my technical performance astounded me. Another “I did acid on three occasions—small tabs of it.person was present and he was very moved by it. When I liked it because it lasted a long time, and it wasthe session ended, it occurred to me that I had had themost wonderful piano lesson of my life. Since then I have really a brain freedom. It didn’t get ugly for me.been free-playing without ayahuasca. The quality of this It released part of my brain into some abstractplaying is not like that under the intoxication, but it does thinking. I dare-say I would have gotten thereexhibit some features that my piano playing never did eventually anyway, but I was happy for thatbefore that ayahuasca session. Let me conclude with a word of caution. I have met freedom it gave me in my mind.”many who believed that ayahuasca enabled them to do Tony Curtis, actor, from the 1993 bookthings they knew nothing of. For instance, many of my Tony Curtis: The Autobiographyinformants vouched that they heard people speak in by Tony Curtis with Barry Parislanguages completely foreign to them. I have checked intothe matter and found no empirical support for that. Ingeneral, I would strongly advise against simplistic,reductionist views of the effects of ayahuasca (andpsychoactive substances in general). I do not think thatthese effects are direct, biologically-determined products “…I also wrote songs on LSD. That wasof chemical substances that act upon the brain. Rather, as ideal, because you could do [it] by yourselfargued at length in my book, what happens in the course in your study. What happens is that acidof the ayahuasca inebriation is a joint product of both the makes it real easy to go from any onesubstance and the person consuming it. An analogy thatcomes to mind is that of a race car. Obviously, without the transition point to another, which is whatvehicle, the driver would not be able to attain the fast twentieth-century music does, after all.speeds he/she does; at the same time, in order to drive the That’s one of the rules: don’t go to thecar and obtain good performances from it, one should be predictable place. But it just makesan experienced driver. Likewise with ayahuasca: Thisbrew can endow human beings with special creative it easier to go from C to but what will be done with this energy depends on “…We had all spent a lot of timethe individual in question. • acquiring the vocabulary of jazz and now psychedelics showed us that it was time toReferencesMerkur, D. 1998. The Ecstatic Imagination: Psychedelic Experiences and the Psychoanalysis of begin again from the first feeling of musicSelf-Actualization. State University of New York Press. and to jettison for a while all of that dearlyShanon, B. 1997. “A cognitive-psychological study of ayahuasca,” MAPS Bulletin 7: 13–15.Shanon, B. 1998a. “Cognitive psychology and the study of Ayahuasca,” Yearbook of won knowledge of harmonic tradition.Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness 7 (in press). Edited by C. Rätsch & J. Baker. All of a sudden there were noBerlin: VWB Verlag.Shanon, B. 1998b. “Ideas and reflections associated with Ayahuasca visions,” MAPS Bulletin rule books and no grammars of the8: 18–21. new music to be created. We hadShanon, B. 1999. “Ayahuasca visions: A comparative cognitive investigation,” Yearbook forEthnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness 8 (in press). Edited by C. Rätsch & J. Baker. to learn the way by feeling andBerlin: VWB Verlag. psychedelics taught us to do this.”Benny Shanon (Israel) Sam Andrew, musician/Big and the Holding Company, from “He IS Heavy: He’s Big Brother: Sam Andrew and Psychedelic Origins,” an interview by Russ Reising (1999)