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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
P S Y C H E D E L I C S
N U M B E R
&
3
C R E A T I V I T Y
2
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
1
4
Creativity 2000
MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for
Introductions
Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Jon Hanna and Sylvia Thyssen
Psychedelic Studies) is a membership-based
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
organization working to assist psychedelic
report on psychedelic research in humans.
6
Visionary Community at Burning Man
By Abrupt
Founded in 1986, MAPS is an IRS approved
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
12
17
501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation funded
into the safety of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, Ecstasy) and has
Left Hand, Wide Eye
By Connor Freff Cochran
opened a Drug Master File for MDMA at the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MAPS is
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
20
26
Ayahuasca and Creativity
By Benny Shanon, Ph.D.
essential information about the risks and
psychotherapeutic benefits of MDMA, other
MAPS Members Share Their Experiences
Anecdotes by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., FRCP(C),
Dean Chamberlain, Dan Merkur, Ph.D., Sam Patterson,
Christopher Barnaby, Susan Butcher, Will Penna, and Martye Kent
psychedelics, and marijuana, with the goal
Learning How to Learn
By Myron Stolaroff, M.S.
publication are encouraged* to do so and
of eventually gaining government
approval for their medical uses. Interested
parties wishing to copy any portion of this
are kindly requested to credit MAPS including name and address. The MAPS Bulletin is
27
Tom Robbins on Creativity
28
Robert Venosa’s Illuminatus
Reviewed by Richard T. Carey
and volunteers. Your participation, financial
produced by a small group of dedicated staff
31
36
or otherwise, is welcome.
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
Telluride Mushroom Festival 2000
Reviewed by Alex Bryan
Phone: 941-924-6277
39
Stevee Postman’s Cosmic Tribe Tarot
Reviewed by Carla Higdon
41
About the Artists
Biographical sketches of featured artists:
L.J. Altvater, Alex Grey, Allyson Grey, Stevee Postman,
Steven Rooke, Donna Torres, and Robert Venosa
42
Resources
44
MAPS Membership and Renewal Information
Toll-Free: 888-868-MAPS
Fax: 941-924-6265
E-mail: info@maps.org
Web: www.maps.org
*Creativity Edition Copyright Note
All art work featured in this edition of the MAPS
Bulletin is the exclusive property of the individual
artist(s) and MAY NOT be reproduced in any manner
without the expressed written consent of the artist.
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
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
1
THIS 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 conduct
government-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 of
medical conditions. Yet this focus on research is rather dry. Some people have even suggested that MAPS has had
remarkable success in making the discussion of psychedelics and marijuana cold, clinical, and boring. For those of you
who 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 treat
illnesses—even potential medicines such as psychedelics and marijuana (that are also used non-medically and have a
potential for abuse). MAPS’ strategy is based on the need to conduct objective scientific research into the medical
uses of psychedelics and marijuana in order both to provide important new treatments to patients and to counter the
deluge 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, spiritual
experiences, 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 drug
laws, whereas approval for the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana can be accommodated within our current
legal 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 change
our nation’s drug laws. Thus, MAPS’ response to the evidence presented in this creativity issue is to work to sponsor
government-approved research into the use of psychedelics for the enhancement of creativity. MAPS has
received a $2,500 grant from Jeremy Tarcher for protocol development for just such research. The study to be
designed will, if approved, use modern research methodology to further explore the tantalizing possibilities reported
in the pioneering psychedelic creativity research that was conducted in the 1950s and 1960s, research that ended
prematurely 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 majority
support for the medical uses of marijuana and psychedelics—if the evidence for such uses can meet the standards of
proof set by FDA—there is no cultural consensus surrounding the approval of the use of psychedelics and marijuana
to enhance creativity. Among the first steps in creating such a consensus is demonstrating that psychedelics
and marijuana can indeed contribute to creativity, through the dissemination of personal testimonials like those
found in this issue.
I’m proud to join with Sylvia and Jon in bringing to light some of the hidden sources of inspiration that readers
of the MAPS Bulletin and contributors to this issue have personally experienced, seen at work in friends and
colleagues, 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 the
fascinating topic of creativity.
Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS President
2
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
“What is now proved was once only imagined.” – William Blake
d
URING 1992 while completing my Bachelor of
Arts degree, I had the pleasure of taking a 20th
Century art class from Dr. Kurt Von Meier at
Sacramento State University. The professor arranged that
much of the class would be taught by the students, each
one of whom had to pick out some specific aspect of
modern art and report on it. My proposal was to discuss
the influence of psychedelic drugs on art. I suggested that I
might cover: early historical and cultural references; the
psychedelic art of the 1960s and its connection to rock
music; blotter acid art and the concept of imprinting;
fractal geometry and its relationship to psychedelics; the
late-1980s/early-1990s computer-assisted “rave” art; and
the spiritual content of psychedelic art. Since LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin had only really been available to the
masses of the Western world since the late 1950s, this
topic seemed particularly relevant. Dr. Von Meier kindly
took me out to lunch to deliver the blow. “You’ll have to
find something else to talk about. The subject of drugs is
taboo. People would think that you’re encouraging their
use.” It struck me then (as it still strikes me today), that
being shut down on this subject was ludicrous. Perhaps in
a high school… but in a university? Whatever happened
to a liberal education?
Nevertheless, my interest in the creative influence of
psychedelics on the visual arts has—if anything—grown
stronger since then, and I was honored to be asked to
co-edit this issue of the MAPS Bulletin. A few creativity
studies were completed with LSD prior to its being
scheduled, some of which were directly related to visual
art. (See the MAPS Bulletin 10(1), 1999, for a retrospective
of Oscar Janiger’s work in this area.) And though officially
sanctioned research has nearly ground to a halt, underground use has clearly mushroomed. While there have
been quite a few magazine articles written about the use
of psychedelics in the arts, surprisingly there has only
been one book produced in English, Psychedelic Art by
Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, published in 1968.
Although this book is an invaluable tome on the topic, it is
also quite obviously dated.
Those who feel that the term “psychedelic,” when
applied to art, is overly invested in connotations of sixties
popular culture haven’t been paying much attention to
the myriad of approaches taken by today’s psychedelic
artists. From the digital evolutions of Steven Rooke, the
geometric abstractions of Allyson Grey, and the Fantastic
Realism of Robert Venosa, to the spiritual X-rays of Alex
Grey, the surreal visions of L. J. Altvater, the botanical
narratives of Donna Torres, and the neo-tribal erotica of
Stevee Postman—there’s a hell of a lot of diversity that
can’t be pigeonholed into an antiquated “sixties
psychedelia” idea of what the word “psychedelic” means
when applied to art. Indeed, an artificial segregation of
“psychedelic art” as a mere artifact of the sixties ignores
the fact that work produced in the sixties is just a small
slice of a much larger tradition of “soul-revealing” druginfluenced visionary art that has been going on for
thousands of years. From the possible inspiration of
Amanita muscaria or Datura use on early rock art to ancient
psychoactive snuffing artifacts, from peyote-based Huichol
yarn and bead work to yagé-related Tukano decorative
geometric art, from the ceremonial San Pedro pottery of
the Nazca and Mochica to the mushroom effigy stones of
the Guatemalan highlands—the inspiration of psychedelic
consciousness on art is nothing new.
To help update those who feel that “psychedelic art”
equals “the sixties,” we have provided some additional
color in this issue. However, just as psychedelic art can’t be
merely relegated to the 1960s, so too drug-induced
creativity can’t be relegated to the realm of visual art.
Hence, this issue of the MAPS Bulletin also focuses on the
creative mind states that psychedelics can engender in a
variety of other pursuits. From problem-solving in
engineering and the creation of Virtual Reality Modeling
Language to influences on architectural design, music,
writing, community-building, spiritual-insight, and much
more, psychedelics are tools that—despite their outlawed
status—continue to be useful for many people. Valuable
enough that these folks skirt the law to use their psychedelic tools. And while the MAPS Bulletin usually focuses on
the medical applications of psychedelics and attempts to
gain approval for such applications, this issue is predominantly about the use of psychedelics in ways that are
currently not “accepted” by society at large. The fact
remains that people do use these drugs, and many use
them in manners that clearly contribute to a more creative
lifestyle in general. Anyone who has attended the experiment in temporary community called Burning Man (see
page 6) will surely attest to the fact that much of the life’s
blood of this creative community is pulsing with various
inebriants, psychedelic and otherwise. Drug use has
inspired artists, writers, poets, musicians, and others for
thousands of years; the time we live in is no different. The
words and images presented herein from various contemporary users of psychedelics are just scratching the surface.
For me, this issue of the Bulletin exemplifies the “multidisciplinary” nature of the MAPS organization by helping
to illustrate how psychedelics can be valuable creative aids
in many areas. Enjoy!
Jon Hanna, Editor
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 Einstein
The MAPS Bulletin focuses
largely on reporting the small
but significant steps to legitimizing the medical use of psychedelics in our society. The
language of that journey is
analytical, written in black on
white, with careful thought to
phrasing and protocol. MAPS
clearly identifies with the specific
values required for the testing
and approval of medicinal drugs,
things like methodology,
following directions, adhering to
accepted norms, and safety.
At the same time, the
catalysts for MAPS’ goals, the
drugs in question, elicit multicolored, unbridled experiences
that in most cases and for most
people are extremely difficult to
describe in words. The psychedelic voyager comes back from a
trip elated, sobered, terrified,
illuminated, relaxed, perplexed,
nonplussed; any of these, or all
of these. The voyage is often
unpredictable, the results
astonishing. Great meaning has
been attributed to psychedelic
experiences, and they have also
been dismissed as folly or
psychosis. There is an emotional
charge to the idea of druginduced inspiration; it is
politically dangerous, hotly
contested, vehemently denied,
and strongly defended.
With this issue we
considered doing a retrospective
of the scientific studies that have
been conducted on the topic of
psychedelics and creative
problem solving or artistic
expression. It became clear that
this approach was in a way
subverting our initial intent; to
bring some right-brain content to
a very left-brain publication. And
whereas there was too much to
say about the past, there was
not enough to say about the
future, aside from reiterating
MAPS’ pledge to support
MAPS Bulle
ti
scientists interested in designing
good research studies. So we
turned to our readers and
focused on the present.
The response to our call for
submissions to this “creativity
issue” were varied, and far less
analytical than I had naively
hoped. What we got instead
was simpler and richer. The
tone of some responses is well
described in the words of an
unattributed quotation shared
with us in one letter:
“The most visible creators
I know are those artists whose
medium is life itself—the ones
who express the inexpressible—without brush, hammer,
clay or guitar. They neither paint
nor sculpt. Their medium is
being. They see and don’t have
to draw. They are the artists
of being alive.”
H an na
n and Jon
lvia Thysse
y
S
s:
or
it
Ed
y Edition”
n ”Creativit
For many years the MAPS
Bulletin has held up as a slogan
the words of a preeminent
scientific mind, Albert Einstein:
“Imagination is more important
than knowledge.” With this
simple thought we offer up the
hope that human inspiration can
propel us past beliefs that are
fearfully defended into the realm
of love and understanding that
we claim as our birthright.
MAPS treads into the
sanitized and sanctified world
of science with strong medicine.
In offering a special issue of
the MAPS Bulletin focusing
on creativity and right-brain
thinking, we honor the
inspiration that so many
have found from their use
of psychedelics.
Sylvia Thyssen, Editor
4
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Psychedelics and the Creation of Virtual Reality
Excerpted from an interview with Mark Pesce at the 1999 AllChemical Arts conference
MAPS: How have psychedelics affected your creative
process?
Mark Pesce: 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. My use of
psychedelics and my
intellectual career essentially began synonymously
somewhere in the first or
second year of college. And
so there was an opening up
that came from the psychedelic experience, which
resulted in my becoming
attracted to certain types of
ideas…certain types of
research. It’s not that it
established the agenda, but
it gave me a magnetic
center—that’s what the
Gurdjieffians would call it.
But a sense of self that is
very particular. And from
that, what I had to do was
just follow where that center would take me, and listen to
it. And the times in my life when I’ve gotten fucked up are
the times when I haven’t done that. By the time I got a
little bit older, I was into what Joseph Campbell would call
“following your bliss.” Well, my bliss was revealed through
the psychedelic experience. It wasn’t achieved through the
psychedelic experience, but it was revealed through the
psychedelic experience. Now, I won’t make any attributions to what the divine is, but if psychedelics reveal the
divine, or allow you to eminentize it, to see it physically,
or this sort of thing, wouldn’t it make sense for that
moment to be synonymous with the moment of revealing
of what your bliss is? I mean it would be sort of silly for a
divine being to show itself, and to not show you what you
are. That would only be a half revelation, because beholding the divine also means beholding the divine in yourself,
and that’s part of what you are—what you’re doing, why
you’re there.
MAPS: Do you ever use psychedelics for problem-solving
tasks? Where you have a specific question in mind, and
then you take psychedelics in search of an answer?
Mark: They’ve certainly been facilitators or catalysts for
that. The most striking
example is all the
cyberspace protocols that
came to me. I mean
“wham,” it came to me like
that, and I just saw them. I
got the big picture, but the
big picture said, “Okay,
well you know roughly
how to make it work. Now
you have to go in and do
the detail, right?” I spent
three years doing that
detail work, and out of that
detail work came VMRL,
and some stuff which
you’ll probably still see in a
couple of years. So in that
case it was very direct…
I’ve done a bunch of
research work on the
ethics and the effects of
virtual environments. And
that also was catalyzed
specifically in a psychedelic experience. You know, it was like “snap.” It’s a
moment of clarity. Not like the same AA moment of
clarity, right? But it’s a moment of clarity, you see it. Just
because you see it, doesn’t mean that you’re immediately
able to talk about it. I spent six months with that, and
managed to sort of piece it together, and say, “Okay, well
I’ve got this great tapestry up there. All right, I think I see
a relationship within the elements, let me spend some
time with it and get it codified into something that’s
visibly solid in feel.”
MAPS: It seems to me that one of the things that you are
getting at is the idea of working with the inspirations. I
know that there are a lot of people who take psychedelics
and have inspiring thoughts, or get into an inspiring
realm, and then come out of that and then they’re just
looking for their next trip, where they enter into that
inspiring place again. But they don’t actually ever do
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
anything with it. So how do you bring it back?
What is it? Is it just so inspiring that it causes
you—when you are straight—to think, “Yeah,
I gotta get to work on this!”
Mark: I know that there are people who just go
right back to that space, but I think that if you
go right back to that space you’re just going to
be in the same space again. But with the same
question. And where’s that going to get you?
In the cases that I’m talking about, the vision
doesn’t fade for a second, right. It’s still there.
It’s still as tangible as it was the moment it
came. It’s not psychedelic. It’s not possessed
with that same eminence, but it’s still as
present. I could ignore it, I suppose, although
I’ve never done that and I wouldn’t really
want to know how it felt, because I think that
I would feel enormously frustrated inside—
that I’d gotten this thing and I wasn’t doing
anything with it.
In particular with all this stuff that’s become
VRML, and all that. I didn’t get all the details.
I got the chunks. And part of that is, you know,
I get the chunks, and it’s software. Well, I’ll
just go work on it. You know. And I’ll turn it
up. And I’ll sit and I’ll think on it, and think
on it, and think on it, talk it out with other
people. I mean after I did that, I actually talked
it out with other people while we were
tripping. And this is a case of specific usage.
I’d go back into the space and take a look at
specific parts of it again. And, the funny thing
is I’d be very methodical and rational—
which is not my normal mode of experience.
Normally I’m just “experiential.” But in
these cases I was very methodical.
MAPS: While you were tripping?
Mark: Yes! And I had to go back to the person
I was working with, who was my partner in
the endeavor when we were doing it. He
understood that, and came right into the space
with me, and we were methodical. We were
giggly and all that stuff, but we were methodical about it. And so we were able to really say,
“Okay, well here’s this block right here. Okay,
let’s take that block and go from one side of
the block to the other side of the block.” And
we did. We did this on a number of occasions
over about a month period. And managed to
take everything that I had gotten and really
get it out.
MAPS: What particular compounds were
you working with?
Mark: That was LSD, I think entirely. There
were some mushrooms at the beginning, but
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 (www.hyperreal.org/~mpesce) co-invented Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) in 1994. He is the author of a new
book, The Playful World: How Technology Transforms our Imagination [Random House].
5
6
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Something New Under the Sun:
Visionary Community at Burning Man
By Abrupt (abrupt@abrupt.org)
“This is like a psychedelic refugee camp,” I exclaimed,
looking out over the domes, tents and flags of Black Rock
City. Many of them shimmered with bright colors in the
afternoon sun. People wandered the open spaces, clad in
fantastic costumes, or done up like Bedouins against the
alkaline wind. Some wore nothing at all. It was wonderful
and weird—and it was really there!
The Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock
Desert is an explosion of creativity and dynamic community, which after fourteen years is pushing an attendance
level of 20,000. Each year freaks, artists, and other visionaries from around the country and world make the long
trek to the desert, with food, water, art and shelter in tow.
Burning Man has already appeared as a blip on the radar
of mainstream culture, with coverage from the Whole
Earth Review to ABC News Nightline. This level of coverage
is notable, because the event bears the indelible mark of
psychedelic inspiration, at the level of individual artistic
expression and in the guiding vision of participatory
community.
Now, it’s easy to paint drug use at Burning Man as the
event’s “naughty secret,” as an overindulgence of the
bored and the affluent when left unsupervised. Each year
Burning Man struggles with the stigma of being just a big
party in the desert. But each year it proves itself to be
something far greater. In a way the ongoing success and
evolution of this festival lends the stamp of legitimacy to
the psychedelic intuition that helps fuel it. It demonstrates—for those who might not otherwise understand—
that people with a relationship to mind-altering agents
can work extremely hard to realize their dreams, both
collectively and as individuals.
So what is the “psychedelic intuition?” For me, it is
the understanding that life is a mystery and an opportunity, too easy to squander. It is an appreciation of the
immense suffering of history, and the possibility of
redeeming this suffering through intelligence, action, and
love. It understands that, as conscious beings, our personal
experience of the world is completely unprecedented in
nature. The psychedelic intuition suggests that if we can
conquer our fears of this novelty, we can break free of our
habits to become a force of positive change in the world.
The best encounters with psychedelics reveal the epic
dimension of life, where the stakes are high and the
possibilities are limitless. The challenge is to integrate
these visions into the dirtier realities of living.
Burning Man is both a response to this challenge and
an embodiment of it. On the one hand, it is a chance to put
into practice the insights gained from looking deep within
ourselves. But in a way, it is also a mirror of the larger
struggle: life in the desert, spirit striving upwards against
the inertia of matter, a spark of hope in the disaster of
history.
From the mind’s moist abysses to the cracked lake bed
on which the Man burns—it’s a strange translation, but
not surprising. The desert here is a place of geometric
perfection: flat right up to the hills which rise miles away,
featureless aside from what is put there by people. There is
no barrier here to the expansion of a mind willing to go
the distance. With proper planning, an idea can be
allowed to unfold into 3-D space regardless of how
grandiose or abstract. There is plenty of room for everyone.
At the same time, the harshness of the environment
simplifies the usual distractions of biology. Comfort here
is a chair in a patch of shade, a spritz of cooling mist.
Appetites subside in the heat; water is the drink of choice.
There is no television; there is no shopping. Everything is
covered in dust. The requirements of the body form a
clear, communal backdrop against which the Imagination
claims its proper place at the center of community.
I have always maintained that if nothing else, psychedelics impel us outside of our habits of thought and
behavior. From this vantage, we can look back at our lives.
We can see which parts of our identity are solid, and
which fade with a change of scenery. Sometimes we can
even find new elements of identity, deeper ones, which
our patterned response to the world have kept hidden
from us. Pleasant or not, these experiences teach us about
ourselves by removing the crutches on which our personality has come to rely.
So it is in the desert, where our usual experience of
civilization is fragmented, caricatured, remote. Food,
shelter, and daily routines are all changed. Many of us
camped with people we had only met online. Our personal history was wiped; we were free of the assumptions
and associations of our past, of our geography. The
obligations of work and money were temporarily suspended. We were free to reinvent ourselves—and many of
us did. We took the insights of our psychedelic voyaging
and applied them to this community in a setting of
considerable freedom. Then, if we chose, we shared
psychedelics to cement newfound bonds, to amplify the
novelty of the environment, and to find within ourselves
the personalities which we wanted to show the world.
Burning Man is not “about” drugs, any more than it is
about losing your tan lines. But the social space created
there accepts that, if used respectfully, psychedelics can
catalyze community and imagination, which are central to
the event’s success. This is one reason it HAS to be held in
the middle of nowhere, because the civilization that
spawned it has not yet made this leap of acceptance.
Perhaps it never will. But for now, this fountain of novelty
will continue to sluice over into the surrounding culture,
as more and more people return to the “real world”
changed by their experience in the desert. •
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
BURNING MAN
2ooo
Background photo by Cedric Bernardini; other photos by (top, going clockwise): Bernardo Charca,
Treavor Wyse, Rebeca Cotera. All reprinted with permission of www.element-zero.com.
Photo of “dust people” at left by Abrupt (www.abrupt.org).
7
8
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
ALEX GREY
TRANSFIGURATION, 1993
oil on linen, 60" x 90" in sculpted frame 8' x 13'
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
The Creative Process and Entheogens
by Alex Grey adapted from The Mission of Art
25
Twenty-five years ago I took my first dose of LSD. The experience
was so rich and profound, coupled as it was with the meeting
of my future wife, Allyson, that there seemed nothing more
important than this revelation of infinite love and unity. Being
an artist, I felt that this was the only subject worthy of my time and
attention. Spiritual and visionary consciousness assumed primary
importance as the focal point of my life and art. My creative
process was transformed by my experience with entheogens.
Due to its visionary richness, I think
the entheogenic experience has great
importance for fueling an artistic and
cultural renaissance. By giving artists a
meaningful experience and access to
deeper and higher aspects of their soul,
they are given a subject worth making art
about. A worthy subject is an artist’s most
important discovery—it’s the magnetic
passion that burns in their work and
attracts them to it, and also determines
whether they will attempt to evoke what
is deepest and highest in their viewers.
Oscar Janiger’s studies of LSD and
creativity showed that many artists felt
the work done while tripping or posttripping was more inventive and inspired
work than their previous work. Keith
Haring, one of the most celebrated artists
of the 1980s, credited LSD with stylistic
breakthroughs that brought him to his
own unique work. I feel the same way
about my art. This doesn’t mean I recommend sacramental drug use for everyone,
but I do think it should be a legal option
for all.
“How can we bring the insights of the
entheogenic state into our lives?” For the
visionary artist this is a somewhat
straightforward translation of the mystical
experience into artworks that transmit the
depth of feeling and perception of the
subtle inner worlds. The entheogenic state
is, of course, unique to each individual.
And yet there are archetypal states of
being that are experienced by large
numbers of psychonauts, and which can
be evoked with our art. Let’s look at the
trajectory and potential stages of the
psychedelic experience and see how it
translates into works of art.
First Effects:
1) In the beginning stages we notice
some physical body changes. We might
feel jittery or some rushes of energy
through the body, possibly an opening up
of the chest or head. We feel a heightened
sensitivity to colors and notice wavy or
slowly billowing distortions of our outer
world perceptions. When we look inward,
we begin to perceive dynamic geometric
forms and cartoon-like figures morphing
into strange and inventive shapes. The
unconscious is becoming conscious. The
depth of mystery and meaning that our
conceptual mind keeps at bay in our
ordinary perception becomes flooded with
portent.
2) Our perception is open to the
beautiful and in the back of our minds we
9
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maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
begin to feel that reality is weighty or there seems to be
some kind of symbolic importance to life. The perception
of beauty and meaningfulness is mingled. Rushes of bliss
and laughter, releases of ecstasy. Life is lucidly interpreted
in a more holistic framework. Everything is okay, even if it
is out of our control.
Beginning to Surrender to a Higher Power:
architecture. Colors appear more radiant and overwhelming. Light itself takes on a palpable character. The white
light is everywhere present holding everything together.
An experience of such overwhelming power can
influence an artist’s approach to their work. In order to
bring forth her or his deepest work, an artist needs to be
sensitive and courageous toward their own creative
process. There are many stages in the creative process.
Several scientists have attempted to outline the mysterious phases of creativity.1 Below is my adaptation of their
findings.
3) Psychodynamic visions. Unresolved repressed
emotions emerge and are faced via dramatic personally
meaningful imagery. This can lead to frightening encounters with suppressed memories, and can begin to break
down an individual’s ego structure. This is
perhaps not as important or lengthy a phase
The Integrative
for emotionally stable and integrated
individuals.
The Creative Process:
1) Formulation: discovery of the
artist’s subject or problem
2) Saturation: a period of intense
Entheogenic Vision
Transpersonal Stages:
research on the subject/problem
4) Birth, death, and rebirth experiences.
3) Incubation: letting the unconin art would at least
The ego/small self is frightened, crushed,
scious sift the information and develop
overcome and reborn through intense
a response
bring together the
chthonic and cathartic visions.
4) Inspiration: a flash of your own
5) Archetypal and mythic figures. In
unique solution to the problem
opposites as most every
our last trip, Allyson and I were meditating
5) Translation: bringing the
on each other’s faces and began to see
internal solution to outer form
sacred art tradition
“everyface” of humanity wash across the
6) Integration: sharing the creative
face of our adored one. Allyson became
answer with the world, and getting
has done in the past,
every woman and every animal and for her
feedback
I became all men and all animals.
Not all artists will recognize each
both the
6) Energy release. Kundalini movephase in their work, and each phase
takes its own time, widely varying from
ments in body, chakras opening, awareness
dark
and
the
light,
work to work. The first stage is the
of subtle energy systems.
discovery of a problem. This is the most
7) Universal mind. Cosmic unity,
reason
and
intuition,
important question for an artist, “What
voidness or emptiness as ground of being
beyond polarities.
is my subject?” The formulation of the
science and religion,
problem arises from the artist’s worldEach of these stages or structures of
view and may set the stage for an entire
higher consciousness and the subtle inner
male and female,
life’s work—that is, if the problem is
worlds can be evoked in our art. The
sufficiently broad. The problem is the
Integrative Entheogenic Vision in art
life and death,
would at least bring together the opposites
“well” dug to reveal the Source, the
as most every sacred art tradition has done
Vision, the creative matrix of questions
matter and spirit.
in the past, both the dark and the light,
and obsessions that drive an artist.
reason and intuition, science and religion,
Solving your aesthetic problem bemale 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 the
normal subjects and he found there were certain visual
creative process, I’d like to share a bit of the story behind
and perceptual “form constants” that recur in psychedelic
my painting, Transfiguration. I have always been mystified
voyages. I think these shapes have relevance to developing
by the body-mind-spirit relationship and the difficulty of
our entheogenic artistic vision. The form constants are the
making these multiple dimensions of reality visible in a
spiral, the lattice or fretwork, and the imagery of tunnels
work of art, but not until my LSD experiences did I want
and funnels or passageways. There is a perception of
to make mystical consciousness itself the subject of my
“greater dimensionality,” both visual multi-dimensionalart. It took me about ten years of making art and obsessing
ity and ontological dimensions of meaning. Iridescent and
over this subject to reach the formulation that this was
finely filigreed organic and complex geometric shapes
one of my primary artistic problems, an important part of
evolve and dissolve, referencing both nature and sacred
my vision.
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 an
everything I could find about the subject. It was a period
unconsidered area of the painting. This was the space
of research that led me through many tracts of
beneath the hyper-mindsphere. I hadn’t noticed the space
transpersonal psychology and the art of diverse cultures. I
in my visions except that it was dark. This was a puzzling
prepared 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 aesthetically
that point I didn’t know I’d be doing a painting by that
“stumped” and need to see our work with fresh and
name.
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 the
unconscious takes over, gestating the
empty space began to coalesce. Stars
problem. The embryonic artwork grows
obviously, but this was not just outer
effortlessly at its own pace. For the Transspace, this was inner space, the place of
…my “Aha!” moment
figuration painting, this phase lasted about
numinous angels or demons, of
half a year.
Terence’s “self-dribbling basketballs,”
provided by the dream,
Then early one morning I woke from a
beings with skin like a Fabergé egg, the
dream. In the dream I had been painting a
oddly glowing mindspheres anticipatwas extended or
piece called Transfiguration. The painting
ing the transformative megasphere
had a simple composition, two opposing
above. This seemed like the appropriate
underscored later that
spherical curves connected by a figure.
answer among the many that occurred
Floating above the earth sphere, a human,
to me. Work on the piece lasted almost
week when I smoked
which was fleshly at the feet became
a year.
gradually more translucent. At about groin
Part of the function of the vision
DMT for the first time.
level it “popped” into a bright hallucinoand the creative process is the integragenic crystal sphere. The dream revealed a
tion of the inspired moment, via the art
As I inhaled the
unique solution to my simmering aesthetic
object or event, into the world beyond
problem. But this illumination or inspirathe studio, a process that continues as I
immediately active
tion phase, my “Aha!” moment provided by
share this story. We made a poster of
the dream, was extended or underscored
this piece, and it will be reproduced in
and extremely potent
later that week when I smoked DMT for the
my new book, Transfiguration. Allyson
first time. As I inhaled the immediately
and I have decided to retain the actual
psychedelic, I got
active and extremely potent psychedelic, I
piece for the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.
got to experience the transfigured subject of
For myself as well as other artists,
to experience the
my painting first hand. In my vision, my
entheogens have played a crucial role in
feet were the foundation of the material
the creative process. However, I don’t
transfigured subject of
world. As I inhaled, the material density of
advocate that artists live in a constant
my body seemed to dissolve and I “popped”
haze of chemically-altered consciousmy painting first hand.
into the bright world of living geometry
ness, and some sensitive artists should
and infinite spirit. I noticed strange jewelcompletely steer clear of the substances.
like chakra centers within my glowing wire-frame spirit
Vision drugs catalyze our inherently visionary and
body, and spectral colors that were absent from my dream
potentially mystical dimensions of consciousness. May
painting. I was in my future painting and was being given
they be recognized and honored for the powerful and
an 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 imagisame painting, I began to draw what I had seen in my
nation and illumination, and may they open an endless
sketchbook. This started the translation phase, bringing
source of inspiration for new universal sacred art. •
the inner solution of my artistic problem to an outward
Notes
form. I drew the body and worked on the computer to
1) Rollo May examines the phases of creation in his inspiring book, The Courage to Create.
help me plot an accurate texture map of the electric grid
Betty Edwards has written a number of excellent books, including Drawing on the Artist
around the hyper-mindsphere. I then assembled the
Within, which is where some of the creativity research is discussed. During the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries, Herman Helmholtz, a physicist, Henri Poincaré, a mathematician,
various elements and stretched a fairly large canvas,
and Jacob Getzels, a psychologist, all worked on a theory of the stages of the creative
because I wanted the viewer to identify with a “life-sized”
process.
figure. Finally, I started painting. After many months of
12
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Left Hand, Wide Eye
by Connor Freff Cochran
Let me say, going in, that
You will not find any from me.
I have no idea what you
with Lefty are concerned.
are going to make of this.
The best I can probably
hope for is the benefit of
your doubt. Those of you
who consider me a loon
will think me even more so;
those of you who feel
otherwise may elect, at last,
to join them; I just don’t
know. What I do know is
that something is going on,
something too powerful to
ignore and too useful to
explain away. The time has
come to discuss it in public.
This requires a slightlybut-not-really-divergent
anecdote, a bit of historical
background, and then a
simple unfolding of certain
events from the last two
years. It will be more
journalism than essay,
laid out so you may reach
your own conclusions.
Not where my conversations
Consider the pupil of your eye (this is
the anecdote part). More correctly,
consider the iris, since the pupil is just a
hole in the center of that extraordinary
construct. The mechanism that makes the
iris expand and contract in response to
light intensity, nearness of focus, and
things such as love and drugs (both of
which dilate the pupil by causing chemical
changes in a sympathetic nerve way off in
the neck) consists of two separate meshes
of very fine muscle fiber. These two work
in tandem, pretty much like any other
opposed pair of muscles in your body, such
as biceps and triceps. One of the meshes
radiates out from the pupil like a sunburst.
When it contracts, the iris is pulled into
folds, widening the pupil. The other
mesh—the sphincter pupillae—runs in a
circle. When this mesh tightens it closes
the pupil up like tugging on a laundry
bag’s drawstring. To dilate or not to dilate,
that is the question…an apparently simple
process that is, in truth, a complicated
interaction mediated by feedback from lots
of other parts of the body, including the
muscles that aim the eye, the retina, and
that busybody neck nerve mentioned
earlier. Fortunately for us we don’t have to
think about it. The process is automatic. In
point of fact, it is generally considered
autonomic, meaning we can’t consciously
control it at all.
Only there are more things in heaven
and eyesight than are dreamt of in your
philosophy, Horatio, because that’s wrong.
I can control mine. I can deliberately dilate
and un-dilate my pupils. Within certain
limits, yes, and I can’t see worth a damn
when I’m doing it (everything gets
doubled and blurry), but deliberate control
all the same. Last year I discovered that I
can even make them pulse to a gentle beat,
an utterly useless skill save possibly for
weirding out people at parties.
The point? There are three of them.
(1) Life is pretty strange. (2) You can
discover surprising new things about
yourself at any age. (3) Some of your
discoveries may fly in the face of apparent
logic and accepted reason.
Like what is happening
between me and my
left hand, for example.
Now, I am not an aficionado of drugs
(this is the historical background part). In
38 years I have never been drunk, never
smoked a joint, never snorted cocaine,
never even put a cigarette in my mouth.
Your average over-the-counter “guaranteed mild” cold remedy turns me into a
zombie for days, so you won’t find any on
my bathroom shelf. Even aspirin is strictly
reserved for fevers of 102 degrees or
greater. On the other hand, I am no
puritan. I do have a deep interest in things
that enhance the senses instead of dulling
them, and an even deeper interest in the
transformational capacity of ritual. Get
blitzed and go bowling? Not me. Go to
Mexico and join a ring of Huichol Indian
shamans in a peyote ceremony? I’d love to;
just tell me what to wear. It’s my personal
belief that drugs have no place in recreation at all…but that some specific drugs,
approached carefully, have a powerful
potential role to play in exploration.
One of the commoner drugs I’ve used
in order to explore altered consciousness is
oxygen; breathing techniques are the
central spine of all meditation, and you
can change the shape of the world big time
through controlled hyperventilation.
Another drug I have tried is LSD, in the
form of eight blotter acid trips spread out
over the four years from 1976 to 1980. I
may yet try LSD again. I’ve learned a lot
since those days, and might cull something
useful from refreshed experience. But
looking back I would have to say that acid,
after the jewel-like novelty of the first
journey, was mostly disappointing. The
wild leaps of mind, the emotional insights,
the creative flashes that dazzled me during
the arc of an LSD trip all looked pretty silly
and incomprehensible afterwards.
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Not so with Ecstasy. Also known as X. Also known as
MDMA. Also known, to limber-tongued chemists, as 3,4methylene-dioxymethamphetamine: One of the very few
natural or synthetic substances making the rounds that
research had convinced me might offer substantive
experience and minimal risk. As it happens, research was
right. The insights that have come to me in my carefullystructured experiences with Ecstasy have been profound,
humbling, and eminently sensible, even afterward. That’s
the test.
Besides, without it
I might never have met Lefty.
But first, this interruption from The Bureau of Journalistic
Responsibility. Nobody can stop you from putting beans in your
ears if you really want to, but the facts might. Here are the facts
concerning Ecstasy. The U.S. government has declared it illegal.
It can have side effects, among them slight nausea, jawclenching, occasional nystagmus (medicalese for “lateral eyewiggle”), and mild-to-moderate post-flight fatigue. It definitely
depletes body levels of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B and
C, which can be countered with supplements before and after. It
should NOT be taken in combination with stimulants or
antidepressants, or by people suffering from heart ailments,
glaucoma, hypertension, diabetes, hypoglycemia, hepatic or
renal disorders, aneurysms, or a history of strokes. It ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT be taken by anyone who has to drive
a vehicle any time in the next 12 hours. And, finally, it should
not be taken by anyone who is suffering from any kind of
emotional or psychological trauma. The standard rule here—
and this goes for the legal drugs they’ll sell you at the corner
liquor store, too—is simple: If you aren’t sure you are ready for
the experience, you aren’t ready for the experience. End of
interruption.
A little over a year ago I decided it was time to share
an Ecstasy journey with a well-chosen friend (this is the
unfolding of certain events part). Together we thought it
out a little further and decided we’d dedicate the trip to
childhood things, from crayons to sandboxes. In the
afterglow I even took a turn being pushed around a
grocery store in a shopping cart, and damn if I didn’t find
it the easiest thing in the world to be three years old again
and reaching for favorite foods with straining, pudgy
fingers. But the most curious event took place at the high
arc of the flight. We were sitting together on her bed. One
of the things I had dreamed of being as a child was a singer
like the ones I had heard on the radio, and when I confessed this to my friend, she asked me to sing. So I did. But
not something from my childhood. Instead I found myself
singing one of my own old songs, a half-awful thing about
escaping the psychological imprint of one’s parents. “I put
away my father’s hands,” it starts, “And let go of his lies/I
disregard my mother’s plans/And pull out all her knives.”
I sang it through in a silver-clear voice I’d never managed
to coax out of my throat before, and when I got to the final
line—“And I, at last, am here”—then it started.
13
A tingling. In my left hand.
More than a tingling, actually. A bizarre, enigmatic
sensation. On the outside my left hand looked perfectly
normal, but on the inside it felt like it was auditioning for
a job as a special effect in a David Cronenberg film. I
couldn’t square image and sensation. To the eye, four
fingers and a thumb. To the hand itself, melting
candlewax. To match the way it felt it should have been
changing shape; sprouting new fingers and absorbing old
ones; turning into anything at all but a hand.
I stared at it in some astonishment. My friend asked
me what was going on. I told her. A physical therapist by
training, she said “Hmm. Sounds to me like you just
reclaimed something.”
“But what?”
“Well, were you left-handed as a child and trained out
of it?”
Nope. A rightie born and bred, as far as I knew. But
one of the delights of Ecstasy is that it allows you to do
more than think of alternatives; it lets you actually try
them on for a comparative fit. So I thought to myself
“Well, what if that were actually true?”
And the tingling stopped. Just like that.
If the story ended there, though, I’d have no reason to
commit these events to print.
That night I noticed that I was automatically reaching
for things with my left hand instead of my right. The
toothbrush. Doorknobs. Hands to shake. By the middle of
the next day the plain fact was unavoidable—my left
hand had somehow woken up and was demanding
sovereign equality. Within a week I was brushing my
teeth with both hands, shaving with both hands, eating
with both hands. After years of uncomfortable accommodation to a watch, I shifted it from left wrist to right and
suddenly everything felt fine. My right hand was experienced at following orders, and objected not. My left hand,
rebellious, would have none of it.
At this point I decided it might be time to read a
certain self-help book I had bought months before and
then studiously ignored. This tome fell into the generalized category of “discovering the Inner Child” but took the
(suddenly interesting) approach of advocating written
dialogs between dominant and non-dominant hands. Page
after page of this book contained reproductions of such
dialogs, by the author and her clients, and I found them
fascinating. The technique was simple. Ask questions or
make comments while writing with your dominant hand,
then trade off, clear your mind, and let your non-dominant hand write whatever it wants to, even if it comes out
gibberish.
I decided to give it a try…and met Lefty. Here is that
brief initial dialog, unedited:
What’s going on between me and Sharon?
LOVE. YOU LOVE HER BUT AREN’T LETTING
YOURSELF FEEL IT.
Then what are all these emotions?
14
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
ACTING. THE NAME, NOT THE ROCK.
So what do I do?
BE REAL.
I don’t know what that is.
BEING REAL IS SPEAKING THE WORDS THAT
WANT TO BE SPOKEN NOT WHAT YOU THINK WANTS
TO BE HEARD.
It hurts.
SINCE YOU WERE BORN. IT PROTECTED YOU.
From what?
I CAN’T TELL YOU THAT YET. YOU ARE TOO STIFF
IN THE HEAD. OPEN WIDE.
Great. First time out, and my “non-dominant” hand
was dominating me. In the book it hadn’t been that way.
But I was intrigued by the intensity of the emotions that
the experiment raised, as well as by the weird mix of
abstract and specific in my left hand’s comments. So I
continued, and over the next month a strange rough
poetry of insight, demand, directive, and language was
worked out between “us.” There were things coming
through my left hand that startled me, inspiring rich,
unexpected trains of thought. Reflecting on certain
phrases moved things in my heart and life that I had
previously considered unshakable.
ASK WHO YOU WERE BEFORE YOU WERE HERE.
GIVE YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS A BREAK. IT IS ONLY
BUILT TO OBSERVE AND RECORD. LET IT KEEP THAT
JOB. LEAVE DANCING AND CREATION TO YOUR
BODY.
FEAR MAKES ANYONE POOR.
IF CANDLES COULD LIGHT THEMSELVES THERE
WOULD BE NO DARKNESS.
YOU CAN’T SHED A SKIN BEFORE IT STIFFENS.
NOT BEING FROM HERE MEANS THAT YOU CAN
BE ANY OF THEM.
BE EVEN STILLER.
BE THE WATER IN YOU, AND
NOT THE CARBON STEEL.
THERE IS NO WAY TO HEAL A CUT BY ASKING TO
KISS THE KNIFE.
THE NATURE OF PEOPLE, LIKE PHOTONS, IS
THAT ALL CAUSES ARE CORRECT AND ALL OUTCOMES POSSIBLE. PHOTONS HAVE CHOICE. PEOPLE,
BEING MADE OF LOTS OF PHOTONS, HAVE LOTS OF
CHOICE.
especially when I explored, for a time, letting Lefty gab
with other people through me (talk about new heights in
disassociation!).
And then there is the matter of the songs. Oh yes.
Between 1979 and 1991 I wrote something like 75
songs, most of them quite laboriously. The Emperor Franz
Josef thought Mozart used “too many notes.” My new
collaborator (and fellow Keyboard columnist) Brent Hurtig
thought I used “too many words.” After looking through
my stack of tunes he found only five he thought worth
developing.
Then one day I told him about Lefty, and showed him
ten lines of seemingly abstract poetry that had come
through a few days before. To my great surprise he loved
them. In minutes he had composed music to fit, then
turned to me and demanded more. One verse does not
make a song, he said. Two more. Now.
I took up pencil in my left hand, nervously…and
watched as it slowly and carefully wrote out exactly what
Brent wanted. Two more verses, perfectly matched in
meter, structure, and tone to the one he was on fire for.
Wilder yet, the new verses completed the first one
conceptually. What had been a meaningless fragment was
now a meaningful song. Done. And we’d both been
witness to it.
Wow.
14 months and 60 new songs later I have come to
trust the process, but am still surprised by it. These songs
are not so much written as found, gifts from the other side
of an inexplicable doorway. The pencil in my left hand
moves across the page. I watch the words, wondering
exactly what’s coming next. In the end they always make
their own kind of coherent, compelling sense; and they
sing like a dream.
So what’s going on, eh? Shall we get Freudian and
explain this in terms of Ego and Id? Shall we cast it in
terms of right brain/left brain theory? Shall we speak of
angels? You tell me. Better still, try it for yourself and then
tell me. Perhaps you have unknown treasures to find, too.
All I know is that I feel like a red-mud Oklahoma farmer
who has struck oil on land he was about to sell for ten
cents an acre. One day I went to sleep with a good right
hand and something useful for holding forks steady. The
next day I woke up with two strong wings.
Like I said earlier. Life is pretty strange. And some of
the discoveries in it challenge the boundaries of reason.
But on the other side of that rationalized left-hand door,
by whatever name you’d call him or definition you’d
ascribe, I think I’ve found a friend. •
PAIN IS A STRETCH YOU ARE NOT GIVING IN TO.
DOORS ARE JUST A WAY WE RATIONALIZE
FINDING OURSELVES ON THE OTHER SIDE.
To date the transcripts of my left-hand conversations
fill more than 200 pages. I’ve learned a lot in the process,
and my foundations have been rattled more than once—
Originally appearing in the March 1993 issue of Keyboard magazine, this essay is part of
Connor Freff Cochran's long-running “Creative Options” series. More pieces from the
series can be found at www.Freff.com. You can also order the first Creative Options book
collection, Brave Confessions, by contacting Conlan Press in any of the following ways.
Mail: Conlan Press, 712 Bancroft Road #109, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.
Phone: 925-932-9500. Fax: 925-932-9551. E-mail: info@conlanpress.com.
On the web: www.conlanpress.com.
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
STEVEN ROOKE, HYPERSEA, (above) 1997, digital image
ENTRANCED, (lower) 1997, digital image
15
16
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
ALLYSON GREY
JEWEL NET OF INDRA, 1988, oil on wood, 40" x 40"
“In 1976 during an LSD trip with my husband, Alex, I experienced my
body turning into infinite strands of light that were both a fountain and a
drain. As I lay meditating next to Alex, I could see that he too had been
revealed as a fountain and drain, individual and distinct but connected to
my ‘energy unit.’ I realized that all beings and things were ‘blowing off’
and ‘sucking in’ pure energy in an infinite field of confluent effluences.
The energy was love, the unifying force. This changed both of our artwork
as we felt that we had witnessed the most important thing: a revelation of
the grid upon which the fabric of our material reality is draped. Sometime
thereafter, I read a quote describing the Jewel Net of Indra. In the abode
of Indra, the Hindu God of Space, there is a net that stretches infinitely in
all directions. At every intersection of the net there is a jewel so highly
polished and perfect that it reflects every other jewel in the net. This
description related powerfully to the revelation that we had received while
in our altered state. It has been my continuing intention to point to this
experience in my artwork.” — Allyson Grey
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
17
Huxley 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
creative process and the use of such drugs as lysergic acid
[diethylamide]?
Huxley: I don’t think there is any generalization one
can make on this. Experience has shown that there’s an
enormous variation in the way people respond to lysergic
acid. Some people probably could get direct aesthetic
inspiration for painting or poetry out of it. Others I don’t
think could. For most people it’s an extremely significant
experience, and I suppose in an indirect way it could help
the creative process. But I don’t think one can sit down
and say, “I want to write a magnificent poem, and so I’m
going to take lysergic acid [diethylamide].” I don’t think
it’s by any means certain that you would get the result you
wanted—you might get almost any result.
Interviewers: Would the drug give more help to the
lyric poet than the novelist?
Huxley: Well, the poet would certainly get an extraordinary view of life which he wouldn’t have had in any
other way, and this might help him a great deal. But you
see (and this is the most significant thing about the
experience), during the experience you’re really not
interested in doing anything practical—even writing lyric
poetry. If you were having a love affair with a woman,
would you be interested in writing about it? Of course
not. And during the experience you’re not particularly in
words, because the experience transcends words and is
quite inexpressible in terms of words. So the whole notion
of conceptualizing what is happening seems very silly.
After the event, it seems to me quite possible that it might
be of great assistance: people would see the universe
around them in a very different way and would be
inspired, possibly, to write about it.
Interviewers: But is there much carry-over from the
experience?
Huxley: Well, there’s always a complete memory of
the experience. You remember something extraordinary
having happened. And to some extent you can relive the
experience, particularly the transformation of the outside
world. You get hints of this, you see the world in this
transfigured way now and then—not to the same pitch of
intensity, but something of the kind. It does help you to
look at the world in a new way. And you come to under-
stand very clearly the way that certain specially gifted
people have seen the world. You are actually introduced
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
experience of this kind of world while you’re under the
drug, and afterwards you can remember and to some slight
extent recapture this kind of world, which certain privileged people have moved in and out of, as Blake obviously
did all the time.
Interviewers: But the artist’s talents won’t be any
different from what they were before he took the drug?
Huxley: I don’t see why they should be different.
Some experiments have been made to see what painters
can do under the influence of the drug, but most of the
examples I have seen are very uninteresting. You could
never hope to reproduce to the full extent the quite
incredible intensity of color that you get under the
influence of the drug. Most of the things I have seen are
just rather tiresome bits of expressionism, which correspond hardly at all, I would think, to the actual experience. Maybe an immensely gifted artist—someone like
Odilon Redon (who probably saw the world like this all
the time anyhow)—maybe such a man could profit by the
lysergic acid [diethylamide] experience, could use his
visions as models, could reproduce on canvas the external
world as it is transfigured by the drug.
Interviewers: Here this afternoon, as in your book,
The Doors of Perception, you’ve been talking chiefly about
the visual experience under the drug, and about painting.
Is there any similar gain in psychological insight?
Huxley: Yes, I think there is. While one is under the
drug one has penetrating insights into the people around
one, and also into one’s own life. Many people get tremendous recalls of buried material. A process which may take
six years of psychoanalysis happens in an hour—and
considerably cheaper! And the experience can be very
liberating and widening in other ways. It shows that the
world one habitually lives in is merely a creation of this
conventional, closely conditioned being which one is, and
that there are quite other kinds of worlds outside. It’s a
very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe
in which most of us spend most of our time is not the only
universe there is. I think it’s healthy that people should
have this experience. •
18
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Ayahuasca and Creativity
Benny Shanon, PH.D., Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University
as
INDICATED in previous publications (Shanon,
1997, 1998a, 1999) I am a cognitive psychologist who is studying the phenomenology of the ayahuasca
experience. My study is based on extended firsthand
experience as well as on the interviewing of a great
number of persons in different places and contexts. In the
publications cited the reader can find background information about both ayahuasca and the program of my
research; for further theoretical discussion, see my forthcoming book The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the
Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience.
Phenomenologically, the effects of ayahuasca are
multifarious—they include hallucinatory effects in all
perceptual modalities, psychological insights, intellectual
ideations, spiritual uplifting and mystical experiences. As
discussed at length in the book mentioned above, many
facets of these may be attributed to enhanced creativity.
This characterization is also in line with that made by Dan
Merkur (1998) with respect to psychotropic substances in
general. According to Merkur, the sole effect of these
substances is the induction of enhanced imagination. I do
not think that this is the sole effect of these substances,
but I do agree that it is a central one.
Let me begin with the visual effects that ayahuasca
induces. When powerful, these consist of majestic visions
that are comparable to cinematographic films of a phantasmagoric nature. The indigenous Amazonian users of
ayahuasca believed that these visions reveal other,
independently existing realities; many modern drinkers
share these beliefs. While not denying the marvelous,
otherworldly character of the visions, as a scientificminded investigator I would rather account for them in
psychological, not ontological, terms. Apparently,
ayahuasca can push the human mind to heights of creativity that by far exceed those encountered ordinarily. I
myself have realized this in conjunction with a vision in
which I was guided through an exhibition displaying the
works of an entire culture. The exhibits included beautiful
artistic objects and artifacts that resembled nothing that I
had ever seen before in my entire life. What was striking
was that they all adhered to one coherent style. Seeing
them I reflected: “If all this is created by my mind, then the
mind is indeed by far more mysterious than any cognitive
psychologist has envisioned.” Since then this reflection
remains very much with me: If it is the mind itself that
produces the visions seen with ayahuasca, then the
creative powers of the mind transcend anything that
psychologists normally speak of.
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 them
think faster and better—indeed, makes them more
intelligent. Several of my informants reported the feeling
of potentially being able to know everything; I too had
this experience. While, this overall feeling is not objectively provable, my data do reveal some ideations which
are truly impressive. Especially let me mention philosophical insights attained by drinkers without prior
formal education. Some of these resemble ideas encountered in classical works as those of Plato, Plotinus, Spinoza
and Hegel.
Significant insights are more likely to be encountered
in domains in which drinkers have special competence.
Personally, with ayahuasca, I had many insights regarding
my professional field of expertise and to which, following
further critical scrutiny, I still hold. I have heard the same
from other persons. It is in this vein that I would interpret
the common reports of indigenous medicine-men that
ayahuasca reveals to them the diagnosis of their patients’
afflictions and instructs them on how to cure them. The
traditional interpretation is that the information comes by
way of supra-natural revelation. On the basis of both my
general theoretical approach and checks I have conducted
empirically, I would rather say that what happens is the
result of heightened sensitivity and insight in a domain in
which the shaman already has substantial knowledge and
expertise.
As emphasized in my book, some salient effects of
ayahuasca pertain to overt performances. Impressive
performances that I have witnessed myself included
instrument playing, singing, dancing, tai-chi-like movements, and acting. In these, drinkers exhibited technical
agility, aesthetic delicacy, accuracy and coordinated motor
control which by far exceeded their normal abilities. Here
is one experience of my own. Once during a private
ayahuasca session, on the spur of the moment, I decided to
play the piano. In an amateur fashion, I have been playing
the piano since childhood. I have played only classical
music, always from the score, never improvising and very
seldom with an audience. Here, for the first time in my
life, I began to improvise. I played for more than an hour,
and the manner of my playing was different from anything I have ever experienced. It was executed in one
unfaltering flow, constituting an ongoing narration that
was being composed as it was being executed. It appeared
that my fingers just knew where to go. Throughout this
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
act, my technical performance astounded me. Another
person was present and he was very moved by it. When
the session ended, it occurred to me that I had had the
most wonderful piano lesson of my life. Since then I have
been free-playing without ayahuasca. The quality of this
playing is not like that under the intoxication, but it does
exhibit some features that my piano playing never did
before that ayahuasca session.
Let me conclude with a word of caution. I have met
many who believed that ayahuasca enabled them to do
things they knew nothing of. For instance, many of my
informants vouched that they heard people speak in
languages completely foreign to them. I have checked into
the matter and found no empirical support for that. In
general, I would strongly advise against simplistic,
reductionist views of the effects of ayahuasca (and
psychoactive substances in general). I do not think that
these effects are direct, biologically-determined products
of chemical substances that act upon the brain. Rather, as
argued at length in my book, what happens in the course
of the ayahuasca inebriation is a joint product of both the
substance and the person consuming it. An analogy that
comes to mind is that of a race car. Obviously, without the
vehicle, the driver would not be able to attain the fast
speeds he/she does; at the same time, in order to drive the
car and obtain good performances from it, one should be
an experienced driver. Likewise with ayahuasca: This
brew can endow human beings with special creative
energy but what will be done with this energy depends on
the individual in question. •
References
Merkur, D. 1998. The Ecstatic Imagination: Psychedelic Experiences and the Psychoanalysis of
Self-Actualization. State University of New York Press.
Shanon, 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
Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness 7 (in press). Edited by C. Rätsch & J. Baker.
Berlin: VWB Verlag.
Shanon, B. 1998b. “Ideas and reflections associated with Ayahuasca visions,” MAPS Bulletin
8: 18–21.
Shanon, B. 1999. “Ayahuasca visions: A comparative cognitive investigation,” Yearbook for
Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness 8 (in press). Edited by C. Rätsch & J. Baker.
Berlin: VWB Verlag.
Benny Shanon (Israel)
msshanon@mscc.huji.ac.il
“I did acid on three occasions—small tabs of it.
I liked it because it lasted a long time, and it was
really a brain freedom. It didn’t get ugly for me.
It released part of my brain into some abstract
thinking. I dare-say I would have gotten there
eventually anyway, but I was happy for that
freedom it gave me in my mind.”
Tony Curtis, actor, from the 1993 book
Tony Curtis: The Autobiography
by Tony Curtis with Barry Paris
“…I also wrote songs on LSD. That was
ideal, because you could do [it] by yourself
in your study. What happens is that acid
makes it real easy to go from any one
transition point to another, which is what
twentieth-century music does, after all.
That’s one of the rules: don’t go to the
predictable place. But it just makes
it easier to go from C to F#.
“…We had all spent a lot of time
acquiring the vocabulary of jazz and now
psychedelics showed us that it was time to
begin again from the first feeling of music
and to jettison for a while all of that dearly
won knowledge of harmonic tradition.
All of a sudden there were no
rule books and no grammars of the
new music to be created. We had
to learn the way by feeling and
psychedelics taught us to do this.”
Sam Andrew, musician/Big Brother
and the Holding Company, from
“He IS Heavy: He’s Big Brother:
Sam Andrew and Psychedelic Origins,”
an interview by Russ Reising (1999)
19
20
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
MAPS Members Share Their Experiences
We appreciate the overwhelming response from MAPS members. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, we are able to only publish these few.
Treating Mental Illness with Psychedelics
w
HEN WE STARTED studying LSD and mescaline
our long-term goal was to increase our under
standing of schizophrenia and what it does. We first
examined the psychotomimetic properties of LSD on
normal subjects. We never knowingly gave it to schizophrenic patients or to their first-order relatives. Our
personal experience and seeing its effect on many normal
subjects gave us a good deal of information of what it is
like to be psychotic, but in a controlled setting and
knowing that it would pass. We also adopted the effect of
LSD on the biochemistry of normal subjects as a model for
schizophrenia and discovered that some subjects and
most schizophrenics excreted a substance in their urine,
later identified as cryptopyrrole. This compound
produces a double deficiency of vitamin B-6 and zinc.
Our psychotomimetic experiments soon evolved into
psychedelic experiments. Dr. Humphry Osmond first
reported the use of this word at a meeting of the New
York Academy of Sciences in 1957. This became our
model for treating alcoholics and by 1960 we had
treated around 2000 patients.
This research made me more sensitive and aware of
the inner experiential world of schizophrenics and made
me a better psychiatrist. In addition we observed that
nurses and psychiatrists who also experienced the psychedelic reaction also became warmer, more sympathetic and
better therapists. If these reactions can be covered by the
term creativity, then I conclude that the use of these
hallucinogens made us more creative.
With this enriched comprehension of the disease we
were able to develop more effective treatments leading to
the modern branch of medicine called orthomolecular
medicine.
Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., FRCP(C) (Canada), author of
Common Questions about Schizophrenia and their Answers
Painting With Light
“[Photography] had enough magical qualities that it
[captured] my attention and my spirit, and so I entered
into a love affair with photography…I guess I became
acutely visually sensitive because of the psychedelic
business. I mean when you go in and have that happen to
your optic nerves… I had to follow it. There was no place
to go except to follow that spirit of the incredible nature of
the hallucinatory world. Just the fact that it was all
internal made it all the more compelling. Photography,
then, keeps drawing me deeper and deeper into an
understanding of the beautiful and strange nature of what
we see with our eyes and what reality declares in the
outside world and then what we see, you know, within
our minds in hallucinatory states. I guess that’s what drew
me to ferret out in my medium a way that I could really
tune in. It wasn’t enough that I was a photographer, you
know. When you get turned on that way visually, you
need to seek out that mystery.
“…The metaphor I have come up with to explain why
I’m working with [light painting photography] is that,
perhaps, psychologically speaking, my world was veiled in
darkness prior to my first psychedelic experience and my
initiation into the world of photography, and I had to plot
a way to reach out of the darkness, which is the
overarching dilemma of my life, and in many ways, of our
era. I reached through the darkness and found light. That’s
what we’re all doing alone anyway, seeking light within
our spirits and minds. It became a way for me to make
contact with the world as an artist and paint light myself.”
Dean Chamberlain (USA), photographer, from “Portraits of the Masters: Dean
Chamberlain and Psychedelic Photography,” a 1999 interview by Russ Reising.
Chamberlain’s portrait of psychedelic pioneer Oscar Janiger was featured on the
cover of the Spring 1999 MAPS Bulletin. To view Chamberlain’s portraits of
psychedelic pioneers, see www.deanchamberlain.com.
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Characters on Acid Write Story
o
NE DAY in the fall of 1971, I was tripping on
acid, at a point in the trip past the intense peak—
when I was still very high, but definitely starting to come
down. I wandered into the kitchen and, for want of
anything else to do, sat down at the table. On the table
was the manuscript of a book of short stories that I was
writing. The manuscript was ready for a final readthrough before being sent to the publisher. Somewhat
aimlessly, I began to read the book. Although the first
stories that I had written had been done while sober, I had
made a point of writing roughly the last half of the book
while high on grass. I don’t think I initially intended to
edit the book while on acid, but I rapidly realized that I
wasn’t too high to do a proper job, and I got into the work.
As I was reading the stories, I began to experience mental
images of the characters acting out the dialogue scenes.
The figures were small, perhaps six inches tall, superimposed on my field of vision perception. At first they spoke
the words I had already written for them, but instead of
the one voice of my own thoughts, they each began to
have a distinct voice, with its own clearly modulated and
accented tones, rhythm and cadence, and so forth. Next
they started to say things that were not in the manuscript.
Just as actors working with a script might do, the mental
images of the characters corrected their lines, saying
things that were more natural for them to say, that flowed
better from their lips, and so forth. I copied down the new
dialogue on my manuscript, as it was spoken by the
characters in my imagination. This experience of the
characters “coming alive” went on for a couple of hours, as
I read through and edited perhaps 70 or 80 percent of the
book. In a couple of instances, the vividness of the characters led me to re-write the plots, as I became aware that it
was out of character for a given character to do what I had
written for him or her. The next day, after the trip had
ended, the changes that I made in the manuscript while
on acid all seemed to me to be improvements; and so
Around and About Sally’s Shack went to press with the final
editing having been done on LSD.
I have since run across four or five instances of other
writers having the experience of characters “coming alive”
in a similar way, due to the vividness and intensity of the
creative inspirations. The only time that I have experienced it I was on acid.
21
For over a quarter century, I have used psychedelics
only sparingly, and almost always for one of two reasons:
either to seek a religious experience that will provide me
with divine guidance in my life, or to seek a solution to a
problem of literary creativity. While high, I will often
spend some time having an intense experience of aesthetic
appreciation, enjoying the creative work of others, but the
major goals of my use of the sacraments are never merely
recreational.
Dan Merkur (Canada) is the author of The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic
Sacrament of the Bible [Inner Traditions, 2000] and The Ecstatic Imagination:
Psychedelic Experiences and the Psychoanalysis of Self-Actualization [SUNY
Press, 1998]
Cannabis-Inspired Inventing
i
LIKE TO TAKE my briefcase with sketchpad, cell
phone (off), Pentel 0.9 mm mechanical pencil,
flannel sheet, beach blanket, sun screen, and
my “Zeppelin Smokeless Pipe” filled with the strongest
marijuana I can find to a deserted beach.
I get set up at the beach, go for a swim and then take a
good toke. As I dry off in the sun I lay back and close my
eyes. I soon get a feeling of some extra energy flowing
through my body. Sometimes a thought comes up and I
need to make a phone call or two to handle something.
Sometimes I feel like stretching or doing some Hatha
Yoga. When I am calm and relaxed I start sketching. I
don’t know what I’m sketching. I just make shapes. It
doesn’t matter. The mechanical devices I invent always
have a definable input and output. There is also some
design envelope that can be defined. I just sketch schematic notions of mechanical elements that solve some
aspect of the problem. I don’t try to solve it all at once. I
just wander and watch and react as the sketches progress.
Then sometimes I get a kinesthetic notion that
something is coming. Sort of like a speeding train that you
can feel and hear but can’t see yet because its around the
bend. This is where I hang on and stay focused. In a brief
flash a complete solution goes off. So fast that I don’t quite
register it all consciously, but I feel like it’s somewhere in
the subconscious buffer—however faint and fragile.
That’s when I start sketching like mad. If I’m lucky I can
draw it out in the sketch. I don’t fully comprehend it until
I’m finished.
Sam Patterson (SRAM USA), inventor of the Grip Shift ®, DB Road Bike twist
shifter, recipient of 1996 Inventor of the Year Award from the US Patent Office
22
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Painting from the Heart
“There is no doubt that a psychedelic
experience can be powerful enough to completely
transform an artist’s work; to even stimulate a
latent creativity into objective materialization
which had been previously dormant. Isaac
Abrams, who had created nothing before his LSD
experience in 1965, attributed his motivation to
paint to ‘a radical change in his overall world
views.’ … Arlene Sklar-Weinstein, who was a
professional artist before she took LSD, made
drastic changes in the style and content of her
work after a single psychedelic experience. She
told the authors in an interview, ‘…the LSD made
available again the ‘lost and forgotten’ visual
modalities one has as a child.’ … Psychedelics
have also been applied to enhance creative
thinking for purposes not directly concerned with
artistic expression, e.g., problem solving. Kyoshi
Izumi, an architect, reported his use of LSD to gain
insights into how to design a mental hospital in a
way which would not antagonize existing mental
aberrations of the patients. His suggestions for a
more therapeutic design of the patients’ surroundings were soon applied and worked so well that
they have since been used in a number of other
hospitals. The design was later commended by
the American Psychiatric Association.”
From “Psychedelics and Creativity” by Elvin D. Smith
in the Summer 1983 Issue No. 4 of The Psychozoic Press.
P
SYCHEDELICS HAVE influenced my creativity
in many areas. I can attribute most of my greatest
creative breakthroughs to the use of such substances. I am a writer of poetry, prose, a fine arts painter
and digital artist. Psychedelics influenced my prose and
poetry. I found a well of being that was previously unknown that I could draw from to explain my understanding of self and being. My beliefs about self aligned to these
new modes of thought enabling me to express this
knowledge in an eloquent and entertaining manner. I
noticed a great change in my ability to paint the spaces
that I had visited whilst inside the psychedelic experience.
I now paint the way I have always wanted to, creating on
canvas the depth and emotion that I had gained through
journeys into other realms. My work was also influenced. I
used to work as a software engineer in artificial intelligence. Psychedelics were used in my team to solve problems and visualize better ways of software construction. I
currently work in web design and marketing. My abilities
gained via the use of psychedelics enable me to design
efficiently and quickly, interpreting the clients desires
intuitively. My personal creativity has extended into the
digital realm and I now produce fine digital artworks of
the spaces that I have visited. Psychedelics have allowed
me the vision of transpersonal realms that I recreate in my
digital work. Overall, I can easily say that psychedelics
have been the single most influential item toward a
greater expression of my creativity in all ways. The
positive changes within myself inform me of the importance of this personal self-experimentation. I sincerely
hope that one day these sacraments can be used and
enjoyed by a greater population.
Christopher Barnaby (Australia)
www.realitybelief.com
Visionary Psychedelic Art by Christopher Barnaby
“I find that most of the insights I achieve when high are into social issues, an area of creative scholarship
very different from the one I am generally known for. …I am convinced that there are genuine and valid
levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects
of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs. …The illegality of cannabis
is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight,
sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
Carl Sagan (as “Mr. X”) in Marihuana Reconsidered 1994 by Lester Grinspoon, M.D.
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
23
Psychedelics and Cartooning
i
AM AN ARTIST, and I write and draw satirical
comic strips. The most important thing I owe to
psychedelics is the inspiration to start drawing
again. I’d given up in my teens, convinced that my talent
was worthless and that art was a bad career choice. Now
there is no doubt that art has a magical purpose in my life
that is beyond these mundane considerations. Secondly,
psychedelic work facilitates a free flow of creative ideas.
These are not merely random combinations of conscious
material; I’m able to see connections that are normally
hidden, and then harness meaningful coincidences. The
ideas that still seem funny in the cold light of morning are
the ones that get used. The psychedelic experience can
allow me to see the culture I live in from the outside, to
appreciate the strangeness and folly of our ordinary lives,
and have some idea of where society is heading. This
detachment also enables me to see my own work without
familiarity, a good antidote for excessive self-criticism.
Finally, I am grateful for those moments of boundless
hilarity, when the world seems like a wonderful joke
between me, you and God.
Susan Butcher (Australia)
Susan gave a talk on psychedelics and creativity at the
1999 National Young Writers Festival in Queensland, Australia.
“One’s perception of time is profoundly altered
by LSD. Whether that’s necessarily an aid to the
imagination, I don’t know. I think if the experience
had any value for me, I think it’s that it simply gave
my imagination another piece of material to work
upon. But I think the imagination, unfettered,
coupled with a powerful sense of the world as it is,
is a far more powerful tool for the writer or artist,
than a chemical crutch.” — J. G. Ballard, author
“I mean, in some sense, what these substances do is they give you the visionary hit. And
that is sort of what leads you on through the
drudgery. Through the pain, through the, uh, not
making any money, living on a margin of a society
that in many ways scorns you as an artist. It’s the
visionary hit, that leads you on. And I think drugs
have often times given them—brought [these
people] into why they want to be artists in the first
place. But it also mitigates, if they lean on them too
hard, in to actually doing the work. Because
unfortunately, art is about doing the work. It’s not
just having the vision. It’s then being able to
translate it into this consciousness.”
— Jay Stevens, author
“Given that LSD frequently made the real world
seem transparent, or meaningless, an artist’s postacid insights might genuinely be hard to express. All
the normal points of reference would have suddenly
become obsolete. As [Ken] Kesey intonated, “It
might encourage one to make life an art, rather
than art from life.” — Bernard Hill, program
presenter
From The Art of Tripping, a 1993 documentary on the
influence of drugs on writers and artists, produced by the
Jon Blair Film Company for the British Channel Four.
24
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Drug Education
“It has been said of the ancient Persians
that when they had some matter of real importance
to consider they went over it once while sober and
a second time while in an intoxicated state. Then
they made their decision based on the best thinking
and understandings gleaned from the two
approaches. If a matter was important, they felt,
it should not be examined solely by means
of ordinary states of consciousness…
“…Psychedelics offer a means of gaining new
creative insights into almost any kind of problem
and there is considerable evidence that psychedelic
experience also stimulates the creative process in
many people. The problem-solving and/or new
insight possibilities of psychedelics are such that
they could probably increase the creativity and
productivity of any culture or smaller unit in which
their skilled use was encouraged.”
Robert Masters, Ph.D., from the new preface to the 2000
edition of The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience by
Robert Masters, Ph.D. and Jean Houston, Ph.D.
“I would take measured doses of 80
and later 120 mg in a plastic minibag with me to
parties and a straw which I inserted into the bottom
of the bag to dose myself…I would pace doses at
least an hour apart by affixing an hour-burning
incense stick to the back of my wheelchair and
checking it so as not to accidentally overlap doses.
And it certainly helped to be sitting down,
surrounded by mad dancers and throbbing music.
I would also have many great revelations on the
dance floor that would often relate to either a
graphic design project, or a book I was writing, and
I took to carrying a micro-cassette recorder to record
these ideas for later development—
with great success…”
Anonymous ketamine user, from
Ketamine: Dreams and Realities
by Karl L.R. Jansen, M.D., Ph.D.
[soon to be published by MAPS]
it
WAS EARLY FALL in 1965, my fifth year as a
high school English teacher in California’s central
valley, a year before LSD would become scheduled. At almost nine on a Thursday evening I heard an
insistent knock on my cottage door. When I opened it,
there was Dave, who had graduated last June, and Sulyn,
his southern California girlfriend, both of them now
students at UC Davis, about an hour away. He had been
an enthusiastic, probing student in my Contemporary
Literature course, and I’d met her when they’d come by
a month or so earlier.
After exchanging some pleasantries, they launched
right into the matter at hand: “Well, here it is! We talked
all about it in class last year. And we finally did it last
weekend!” They glowed. I soon realized what “it” was. I’d
been fascinated even before two summers ago when I’d
bought and devoured the first issue of the Psychedelic
Review. Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and Heaven and
Hell, Watts’ The Joyous Cosmology, and earlier, excerpted in
the Evergreen Review in the late 1950s, Henri Michaux’s
Miserable Miracle, had riveted me with their visions of the
human potential.
“It’s now or never, Willy baby,” Dave, barely eight
years my junior, nudged. All of a sudden it didn’t matter
that the hour was almost ten, that I had teaching tasks the
next morning. I knew it was time.
And what a time it was! Within minutes the micrograms were turning the notes of a Brandenburg Concerto
into sinuous luminous rainbow ribbons. Every corner of
my house was transfigured, transformed, numinous.
When I tried to communicate this to Dave and Sulyn they
only laughed: “Complete sentences, Will, complete
sentences!” I’d look at my watch’s frozen time; I wondered
briefly if everything would remain relentlessly ineffable.
The next morning students were in groups, putting
together the week’s work in portfolios. Standing in the
middle of my classroom I found I could tune in one group
as I tuned out another, just like dialing radio stations. I
realized my classroom was my home and my home was my
classroom; sharing art and music, our lives and our stories
became ever-increasing aspects of my curriculum. Subsequent psychedelic lessons in the next months profoundly
influenced my next 30 years of teaching here and abroad,
chairing departments, mentoring beginning teachers,
knocking down my own and others’ illusory walls, cocreating exquisite ways for my students and me to love
reading and writing, empowering creativity and higher
consciousness through the language arts in our lives.
Will Penna (USA)
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
25
Bringing the Goddess Home
in
A SACRED RITUAL, Mother’s Day, Machu
Picchu, Peru, I ingested a capsule created by an
urban shaman. In silence, meditating for four
hours, I was inducted into the regenerative encounter
with eternal life.
Hiking to the summit of Huayna Picchu, I spied a
small, 12th Century goddess buried head down. Ethereal
instructions encouraged me to go beyond old habits: “You
are not going back the way you came!” Acquiescing to
guidance, and descending 2600 feet into the jungle, doors
of inner equanimity opened. I walked through delight and
darkness. Facing death in a state of grace, with no halluci-
“…[T]he Witkin Embedded Figures
Test…measures the degree of field-independence
of perception, a characteristic supposedly related to
fluency in the formation of new concepts and
resourcefulness in ambiguous situations…
Willis W. Harman and his colleagues conducted
the most interesting experiment on the use of
psychedelic drugs in creative problem-solving.
They chose 27 talented people—engineers,
physicists, mathematicians, a designer, and an
artist—and tried to measure their creativity by tests
before and after giving them a moderate dose
(200 mg) of mescaline. Scores improved on the
Witkin Embedded Figures Test, on a test of
visualization, and on the Purdue Creativity Test,
in which the subject is asked to find as many uses
possible for pictured objects. Then the subjects
were allowed to work on problems that they had
brought with them. Several found solutions or new
avenues of exploration with what they regarded as
remarkable ease… The solutions included
nations, I crossed the Urabamba River on a pulley, helped
by natives... crossing the River Styx and winding up the
Hiram Bingham Road, to see Home with new eyes for the
first time.
My former palette of many colors transformed. Oil
paintings of “101 Views of Mt. Tamalpais,” seen through
the lens of extrasensory perception, one day shifted into
these black lines on white paper. Regenerative, meditative
visions emerged as a current of intuitively knowing our
natural state of “interbeing.”
I encircled the holy mountain with a loving spirit,
intensified by 100 mg of what the Secret Chief named
“Adam.” If ever there was an Eve in the Garden of positive
delight, I am her disciple, roaming through obstacles and
opportunities—a pathfinder on the trail of global compassion. Sacred rituals, amplified by visionary tools, inspire
artistic awareness of the whole in everyday life.
Martye Kent (USA)
improvements in a magnetic tape recorder, a chair
design accepted by the manufacturer, design of a
linear electron accelerator steering-beam device,
and a new conceptual model of the photon. Some
subjects reported heightened creativity in their work
weeks later. Since the experiment was not
controlled, there is no way to be sure that the
results were produced by the drug and not by
preparation, concentration, and expectation.
The FDA cut off this research in 1966…”
From Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered 1997
by Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar
26
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Learning How to Learn
Myron Stolaroff
In a lot of the responses sent
in by MAPS members, a
central theme was that the
creative influence of the
psychedelic experience has a
spiritual aspect to it. The
“connection to God” allowed
access to creativity. It isn’t
surprising. Before one builds
a house, one must have the
idea to build a house. The
non-material world of
thought transforms into the
material world of objects
through creative action taken
based on that thought. If one
considers that a primary
purpose attributed to God is
the creation of everything—
a seeming unfolding of
nothingness into
somethingness—then it is
perfectly reasonable to
believe that psychedelics, by
acting as a conduit to the
transpersonal realm, can
allow people to harness the
same type of creative force
that brought about existence
itself. In the following paper,
Myron Stolaroff elegantly
presents ideas that are
clearly shared by many.
t
HE MOST IMPORTANT aspect
of learning how to learn is to
immerse oneself completely and
without reservation into the Knower.
For within each of is that unimaginable place, our Real Self, known by a
variety of names in various times and
cultures, listed by Stan Grof: “Brahman,
Buddha, the Cosmic Christ, Keter, Allah,
the Tao, the Great Spirit, and many
others.”1 This Self, which dedicated
explorers find to be intimately connected
to every aspect of the Universe, seems to
hold infinite knowledge. From this
perspective, if we have become totally free,
vast knowledge is available.
To become one with this Self, one
must become free of all attachments,
conceptualizations, judgments, investments, reifications,2 and unconscious
barriers, until the mind can be held
perfectly still without distractions. Mind
training and disciplining as taught by the
Buddha, Hindus, and other wisdom
traditions are valuable procedures to
accomplish the required state of quiescence. A powerful tool for accelerating this
process is the informed use of psychedelics. Informed use includes preparation in
understanding the nature of psychedelic
experiences and possible outcomes, deep
intention, and integrity in the form of
honoring the experience and the commitment to put what one learns into effect in
one’s life. It may take a number of experiences at varying dose levels and settings to
achieve a glimpse of the Ultimate Self.
A common experience for those who
penetrate deeply into the levels made
available by psychedelic experience is the
realization that we are all One, that we are
all intimately connected through the life
force that manifests in every living thing
and every aspect of the universe. This
being so, we can understand the Buddhist
precept that our own ultimate realization
depends on committing ourselves to the
happiness and welfare of all sentient
beings. I have personally found that my
own adverse judgment of certain individu-
als puts a definite lid on my own development.
Sri Ramana Maharshi, according to
Ken Wilber,3 “is arguably the greatest
Guru who ever lived.” He has stated that
the only reason we are not enlightened is
that we do not know that we are already
enlightened. While this is no doubt true, I
have in my own some forty years of
psychedelic exploration, enhanced by
Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice,
uncovered a vast variety of conditions that
seemed to form barriers to this realization.
Some of these are listed in the second
paragraph above. While I have found
meditation practices extremely valuable,
and an important factor in deepening and
increasing the profundity of psychedelic
experiences, I have found properly
conducted psychedelic experiences to be
the most powerful aid in rapidly resolving
the obstacles that separate us from full
realization. But it is well to remember that
experiences alone, as influential and
valuable as they may be, may not accomplish completely freeing the mind without
dedicated application of newfound
wisdom. An excellent way of focusing,
clarifying, and applying learned wisdom is
through a good meditation practice.4
All the following factors promote
effective psychedelic application: preparation, intent, honesty, set and setting, a
qualified guide, experienced and dedicated
companions. As interior obstacles are
resolved and transcended, one sinks
deeper into the intimate, priceless connection with our inner Being. As one develops
proficiency and the ability to hold the
mind steadily focused, one can discover
that the most promising activity is to
search out, encounter, and then maintain
the connectedness with the Heart of our
own being. For me, this has led to the most
satisfactory outcomes.
I do not want to create the impression
that this is a simple thing to accomplish. I
have found this kind of straightforward
surrender very difficult to achieve and
maintain, often because we resist the
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
27
Robbins Rants
Tom Robbins is the author of numerous books, including
Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, Still Life with Woodpecker,
Skinny Legs and All, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction.
feelings or experiences that spontaneously wish to arise. It may take
exploring with different attitudes
and occasionally focusing our
attention on various considerations,
especially if we are prone to getting
tense by trying too hard. Things that
may work in one situation may not
work the next time, and a fresh
approach is required. And since we
are all different, results may well
vary considerably from person to
person. For it is fresh, unmediated
experience that we are seeking. Just
reading this information or hearing
similar ideas and concepts from
others will not accomplish the
objective. We each in our own way
must seek out how to best discover
and maintain this priceless connection. For myself, I have found that
simply being still and “just being” is
extraordinarily difficult.
Yet I firmly believe this to be
the highest prize. Having achieved
an on-going connection or realization of our True Self, we are free to
direct our attention wherever we
wish. It is from this perspective that
any object of attention is seen in its
clearest light, in its truest aspects, in
the most meaningful connections
with other aspects of reality. It is
from this perspective that the
greatest creativity flows forth. By
learning how to maintain this
connection, we have truly learned
how to learn. •
Notes
1. Grof, S. 1998. “Human Nature and the Nature of Reality:
Conceptual Challenges from Consciousness Research,”
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 30(4): 351.
2. To reify, as used here, is to invest some concept or idea
with the power of the mind so that for us it becomes true
or real. Such reifications then become barriers which
interfere with our direct perception of Reality.
3. Wilber, K. 1999. One Taste, p. 223.
4. An excellent book covering the essentials of a good
meditation practice is Wallace, Alan B. 1999. Boundless
Heart: Cultivation of the Four Immeasurables. Snow Line
Publications.
THE TIN CAN was invented in 1811. The can opener was not invented
until 1855. In the intervening 44 years, people were obliged to access
their pork ’n’ beans with a hammer and chisel.
Now, the psychedelic can opener, the device that most efficiently
opens the tin of higher consciousness, was discovered thousands of years
ago and put to beneficial use by shamans and their satellites well before
the advent of what we like to call “civilization.” Yet, inconceivably,
modern society has flung that proven instrument into the sin bin, forcing
its citizens to seek access to the most nourishing of all canned goods with
the psychological equivalent of a hammer and chisel. (I’m referring to
Freudian analysis and the various, numberless self-realization techniques.)
Our subject here, however, is creativity, and I don’t mean to suggest
that just because one employs the psychedelic can opener to momentous
effect, just because one manages to dip into the peas of the absolute with a
lightning spoon, that one is going to metamorphose into some creative
titan if one is not already artistically gifted. The little gurus who inhabit
certain psychoactive compounds are not in the business of manufacturing
human talent. They don’t sell imagination by the pound, or even by the
microgram. What they ARE capable of doing, however, is reinforcing and
supporting that innate imagination that manages to still exist in a nation
whose institutions—academic, governmental, religious and otherwise—
seem determined to suffocate it with a polyester pillow from WalMart.
The plant genies don’t manufacture imagination, nor do they market
wonder and beauty—but they force us out of context so dramatically and
so meditatively that we gawk in amazement at the ubiquitous everyday
wonders that we are culturally disposed to overlook, and they teach us
invaluable lessons about fluidity, relativity, flexibility and paradox. Such
an increase in awareness, if skillfully applied, can lift a disciplined,
adventurous artist permanently out of reach of the faded jaws of mediocrity.
The impact of psychedelics upon my own sensibility was to dissolve a
lot of my culturally-conditioned rigidity. Old barriers, often rooted in
ignorance and superstition, just melted away. I learned that one might
move about freely from one level of existence to another. The borderlines
between reality and fantasy, dream and wakefulness, animate and inanimate, even life and death, were no longer quite as fixed. The Asian
concept of interpenetration of realities was made physically manifest—
and this served to massage the stiffness out of my literary aesthetic.
Unbeknownst to most western intellectuals, there happens to be a
fairly thin line between the silly and the profound, between the clear light
and the joke; and it seems to me that on that frontier is the single most
risky and significant place artists or philosophers can station themselves.
I’m led to suspect that my psychedelic background may have prepared me
to straddle that boundary more comfortably than those writers who insist
on broaching the luminous can of consciousness with a hammer and
chisel, and, especially, those who, spurning the in-CAN-descent altogether, elect to lap their watered-down gruel from the leaky trough of
orthodoxy. •
28
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Illuminated Manuscript
Robert Venosa’s Illuminatus
Reviewed by
Richard T. Carey
To make art is to draw even with the aspirations of divinity.
To make art well is to call spirit into being.
Magicians, like Venosa, know this.
— Terence McKenna
H
AVE YOU EVER taken a journey to a “separate
reality” via ayahuasca or magic mushrooms or
some such sacrament and wish you could bring
back a snapshot or reconstruct an image from your
visionary experience? I have, but cameras are not allowed
on these trips, only the mind’s eye, and I am left fantasizing about having the talent of a great painter, such as
Robert Venosa. Venosa is an artist of high accomplishment and much of his work reflects images of his inner
mindscapes. His new book, Illuminatus, further defines
the genre of Fantastic Realism (Surrealism, Visionary,
Hypo-realism, Psychedelic). With comments and essays
by a host of illuminated mentors and/or contemporaries,
Illuminatus is simply a mind-expanding book. “Those
artists, such as Venosa, who gain access to visionary
states, captivate us through their eternal imagery to fall
under a spell of that reality.” — Ernst Fuchs.
But Venosa’s visionary reflections are but one aspect
of his broad talent
and subject matter.
His portraits have a
photo-realism mixed
with spirit that
instills life on his
canvases. He uses
his photo-realisms
“…to lure us
through its ‘reality’
into his own inner
world of swirling
and seraphic
energies…Venosa…
learned the tempera
and oil glazing
technique…from
yours truly in New
York and…Ernst
Fuchs in Vienna,
and opted to perfect
it in a state of mind
of jewel-like clarity.”
— Mati Klarwein
Venosa’s realism, like a hallucination, is astonishing.
I confess there have been times I touched his artwork,
expecting to feel something that wasn’t there. On one
occasion I thought somehow water had spilled onto a
painting and I dabbed the drops with a tissue. Another
time I was compelled to feel the raised texture of DNA
molecules. Both times I was fooled! Speaking of touching,
H. R. Giger writes, “I would be delighted to experience one
of these images in three-dimensional form and to touch
these ethereal figures and faces with my hands…,” and
again, “The biggest thrill would be to touch this imaginary
cool, smooth surface.”
Tantamount to Venosa’s extraordinary art is the
accompanying text by none other than Terence McKenna,
art historian, writer, and leading spokesperson for the
myriad explorers of mind-altering substances. Terence has
reached the stature of one the most articulate psychonauts
the world will ever know. Needless to say, his talent for
word crafting is par
excellence and his text in
Illuminatus is as illustrious
as Venosa’s artwork.
Venosa and McKenna
each explore our ultimate
frontier, the wilderness of
mind. Artists/explorers
extraordinaires, they
return from their travels
in the noosphere and
now meet to commingle
their elaborate work with
brush and pen to bring us
a volume the nature and
calibre of which has
never before been
published. Illuminatus is
destined to be a classic. •
ROBERT VENOSA
ILLUMINATUS
book cover featuring
SCHEHERAZADE , 1997
oil on canvas,
44 x 55 cm
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
ROBERT VENOSA
PRANA EXHALATION, 1985
oil on canvas, 70 x 55 cm
29
30
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
DONNA TORRES
PSYCHOACTIVE PLANT SERIES I — BRUGMANSIA, 1982
oil on canvas
“One of my main interests as a painter is the study of shamanic practices,
both historically and in contemporary times. Using the history of
shamanism as source material allows me to examine the roles of plants
in cultures of the past, and I use these ideas to explore and clarify the
relationship of inebriating plants to our own culture.” — Donna Torres
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
31
Talking with Donna and Manuel Torres:
AllChemical Arts Conference Interview
Interviewed by Jon Hanna and Sylvia Thyssen
Jon: In Palenque you mentioned to me that you teach a course that specifically addresses
psychedelics?
Manolo: Yes, I teach a course that I titled “Art and Shamanism.” What I do is I divide that
course into plants. I first introduce classical Siberian shamanism. Then I start with peyote
and its use by the Huichol, and then take peyote and its use by the Native American
Church, and contrast them, that shift that happened from a more native shamanism to a
sort of organized religion. Then I do art related to mushrooms. By “art” I mean whatever
phenomenon manifests; like María Sabina’s story. From there I do snuffs—I cover native
snuffs in different areas, and in pre-Colombian times; in archaeological and in modern,
contemporary times. Then I do San Pedro cactus, and the art that related to that. It’s a
whole overview of shamanism related to psychoactive plants in the Americas, and the art
it generates. I get a lot of people taking that class.
Jon: I’m sure there would be a strong interest in it. How did your work with shamanic art
lead you to produce the AllChemical Arts conference?
Manolo: It has been an interest of both of us to do a conference like this, for years. Then
last year, in Palenque, I gave a talk on contemporary art and psychedelics, and after the
talk, Terence said to me, “Well, let’s do it.” And I figured well, with the help of Terence, I
can do it—we can do it.
Jon: Donna, your own background is specifically as an artist, and someone who is influenced by these plants, but your artwork is not really influenced in the same manner as
someone like Alex Grey, as far as depicting the visionary experiences. Can you tell us a
little bit about it?
Donna: Sure. What I am doing is using my artwork as sort of a learning experience, a kind
of exploration. Right now I’m working on this series; each one will be about a specific
plant. In a way it allows me to go and find out about the plant: to find out its history, the
history of its use. I can incorporate the artifacts and so forth that were used for that
plant—I can delve into contemporary use. So while there’s a final end-product, the process
that is involved in getting to the final end-product is equally meaningful to me.
Jon: So there’s a learning experience about each plant. Your work to me seems based in
kind of a documenting archeological or botanical…
Donna: Yes, but I always bring in the contemporary. It’s never strictly an archeological
thing. Except, I guess it’s sort of an archaeological process, where I have to research the
plant, to find out about it.
Jon: Some of your paintings appear as though they have several windows or scenes, that
all relate to the central subject…
Donna: I definitely work a lot in narrative. There’s a lot of story-telling that’s going on,
and it’s all brought into the final product. Right now I’m working on the project that deals
with plants. But other times the picture is the complete narrative going on, all within
itself…
C. Manuel (Manolo) Torres
teaches History of Art at Florida
International University in Miami.
His wife, Donna, is an artist
inspired by visionary plants. In
1999 Manolo, along with Terence
McKenna and Ken Symington,
organized the AllChemical Arts
conference in Kona, Hawaii. Over
lunch by the ocean, we discussed
the creative influence that
psychedelics can have on a variety
of artistic pursuits.
32
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Jon: Are some of the pictures inspired by your own
experiences with the plants, as far as the narratives that
they are telling?
Donna: Sometimes they relate to things that I have gone
through myself, or just things that I want to find out
about.
Jon: So in producing this conference you’ve pulled together an amazingly diverse group of people. And what
interests Sylvia and me is how psychedelics can be so
effective in the creative process in so many different areas.
What inspired you to invite the people that you have
here? Some of them seem fairly obvious, like Terence
McKenna, Alex Grey, and Robert Venosa, but certainly—
at least to me—others were much less obvious, like Bruce
Damer and Mark Pesce, and the musicians Constance
Demby and Ben Neill. People I haven’t even heard of, or
wasn’t aware that their work had been affected by
psychedelics.
Manolo: Well, I’ll speak about personal interest. It’s not a
value judgement. But I think that there is an approach of
art, let’s say, of the so-called visionary art, in which you
try to represent what you have seen in your experiences.
And put it out for others to see. But, there is, I think,
another way of using psychedelics, which is as a way of
working. I mean, how has this influenced not only the
appearance of things, but also your choice of subject, how
you structure the work, ideas about what you are learning.
The actual making of the art piece is not to show what you
know, but more as a way of living what you know. And
hoping that the process of viewing the piece will motivate
the audience into making an inquiry for themselves. So
that instead of being a passive viewer, where you stand
there and say, “Oh, what a beautiful aesthetic impression
I’m receiving,” it can propel you into or provoke you into
thought in different areas, where you say, “Oh, I want to
know about that,” and then you go and do it yourself,
rather than just lay there like a cow in the pasture.
Donna: Also I think that the beautiful aesthetic is what
draws you in, and then it’s time to explore.
Sylvia: Do you think that psychedelically-inspired art
inherently has a tendency to be more engaging?
Donna: No, but I think that all good art would have a
tendency to be engaging.
Manolo: All good art would have a tendency to be engaging, yes. I think that you put it right. To be engaging, and
to make you want to know more about it.
Donna: And to also spend time with it. Because if you are
looking at a really incredible painting, you don’t just look
at it and walk away. You have to be engaged into the
different parts of it…
Jon: Somebody had said in one of the talks, I think that it
was Mark Pesce or Bruce Damer, I can’t remember
which… when you are on the computer and in these
virtual worlds [see www.activeworlds.com], all of a
sudden you’re no longer in your room. You’re no longer in
the place that you actually physically are, you’re somewhere else. Your mind goes somewhere else, and it is
interacting in those situations. And I think that’s something that good art does, certainly, when you’re viewing
it—even if you’re not the person who created it. I know
that when I do art myself, I get into that state where I lose
awareness of my surroundings and I’m only interacting
with the painting. And I think that good art does that for
the viewer also. You get lost in a state of unawareness of
your surroundings, and only retain an awareness of your
interaction between you and the image.
Manolo: Yes, but, to take it one step further; what happens
when you disengage from that interaction, and then you
proceed to go home?
Donna: Yeah, there should be almost like some kind of
nutrition there, some kind of food.
Manolo: How does the art work inform the way you live?
Generally in the West we tend to think of art as something like the people who go to church on Sunday. You
know, you go to the museum, you go to the gallery, and
then you go home. And so what? What else? What else is
going on? Has it changed the way that you deal with your
partner, with your children, with the people that you
work with? I mean, how is this affecting the fabric of your
life? Which I think is what psychedelics do, unto themselves. I mean as a drug, without necessity of the image.
But if you are making images in this respect, how can the
image, or whatever it is that you do, the music, provide an
analogous effect?
Jon: I agree that an inspiration to action is of primary
importance. There has been some talk of Burning Man at
this conference, and I think that this is something, from
being at Burning Man myself... that the whole event itself
is very psychedelic. And I know that it’s fueled by
psychedelics in a lot cases. After that event—coming
home—I feel very inspired to do more creative works. For
a lot of people it is a life-changing event. I see it as a
spiritual pilgrimage, where you get recharged with all of
these creative energies—from taking psychedelics, but
also really just from being in an environment where there
are so many people doing so many different creative
things, and not for the love of money. They burn most of
their sculptures after they have made them. And that’s a
cathartic experience also.
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
33
Manolo: And it is not only what you get out of it, but how
people are encouraged to write trip reports. So, doing in
is that going to provoke you into you yourself beginning
the visual arts what people have been doing in words.
to modify your life along those lines? Because I think that
this is when the effect comes in… How, when you say—
Manolo: Yeah. I think that a way where artists could be
like after a big psychedelic trip—say, “How am I going to
valuable in our area is as map makers. Imagine 16th
modify my life to fit into those parameters that have
Century cartographers who were setting out for the first
affected me so much?” Or am I going to just go home and
time, venturing away from the coast, and beginning to
go to sleep for a few days, when the effect passes away?
triangulate their positions. I think that a big conceptual
What is the permanent thing here? You know, I ask
change that happened, is that before, you were just in
myself, not what is the function of art in life in general;
your boat along the coast. But at one point you became an
let’s restrict it to our own community. What function
individual in relation to points—you have stars here, the
could art serve in this community, beyond illustrating
moon there. And then you created in a certain way, your
altered states? How can we make it be as
identity in space. Here you are in
important as the work that Sasha does, let’s
relation to the environment, and if you
What function could art
say? That’s what concerns me. I’d like to
know this relationship to the environsee how art can have, really, these practical
ment then you don’t need the coast. You
serve in this community,
applications the same way that a new
can venture out. And you became an
substance that Sasha invents. Because, you
individual. You became a person existing
beyond illustrating
know along these lines you could see Sasha
in that space, without then the need of
as a sculptor. As a sculptor who is modelmaps, even. But in the beginning you
altered states?
ing that which is going to have a particular
need some cartographers, or adventureffect, and then it is going to go out and
ers, to go out there and effectuate this. I
How can we make it be
modify lives, and change things around. So
see that art in our area could have this
how can art be that kind of vehicle? And
function. People would venture out and
as important as the work
have that impact—that’s going to make
try and establish physical relationships
you change jobs. Change what you do.
in the landscape, the psychedelic
that Sasha does, let’s
You know, however good the aesthetic
landscape in our case, and then provide a
experience is—it’s like I’d invite you here
map—not a guide—because a map is an
say? That’s what
to a banquet, and all of the food is plastic. It
active thing that you use. A map is not a
looks good when you come over, maybe
passive activity. When I give you a map,
concerns me. I’d like to
the arrangement is like sushi, or whatever,
you have to locate yourself within that
but then when it’s time to eat, there is
map, and work. It is not a matter of
see how art can have,
nothing more beyond the surface appearpassive viewers, but of active viewers
ance. You get a lot of that in the art world
using the maps provided by these
really, these practical
in general. I don’t mean in psychedelic art
artists/cartographers, if you want to call
at all, but in the art world in general.
it that.
applications the same
There’s a beautifully done technical
What’s much more interesting for me
picture, let’s say, a painting or a photothan the activity of exploration is the
way that a new substance
graph, or whatever. But what else? What
actual creation of a world. Because of
are you using those skills for? Suppose you
what I see when we look at archeological
that Sasha invents.
could teach a child that doesn’t know how
material. These people are not only
to speak to enunciate beautifully. No
observing what’s there, and then putting
language, just to beautifully enunciate and pronounce. But
it in their art. The process of art making is the process of
there is no language behind it. It is just beautiful syllables
also creating the territory. I mean, not that the whole
following one another, beautiful intonations that might
territory is created, but part of the territory is created by
be very pleasing to the ear, but you have wasted the
the process of art making. It is not only a process of
biggest opportunity of all that that implies; that is commuobserving and then recording, but it is also a processes of
nication, exploring ideas with that language. That’s where I
creating cultural values.
think art fails many times. It just stays at the level of
beautiful intonations, and it doesn’t use those beautiful
If you look at American art—you know, just like regular
intonations as language.
American art. Let’s take a really traditional artist like
Edward Hopper. You know—it’s America. I mean, it’s not
Sylvia: Well, one of the presenters mentioned the idea of
that he recorded America—he made America. That’s how
artists mapping places that they go to. Maybe if more
we remember it. If you say, well… the US in the ‘30s, let’s
people were doing that, it could be like what has been
say, or whenever. You know you don’t know any politihappening for years with the Lycaeum or Erowid, where
cians. At least I don’t remember anybody that was there.
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maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
But you remember that Hopper was there, and Steinberg
was describing things, and Faulkner was creating—
creating the US, in their own literature. And that’s what
counts. The rest is… Well, you know. That’s what I think
we can do also, for our interest.
amount of women participating, both as presenters and as
audience.
Jon: The creative process not so much as a mere historical
documentation, but as actually creating the history itself.
It’s not just documenting it—it’s an active part of creating
what the history actually is.
Manolo: And the presenters also—we tried to have as
many women as possible.
Manolo: And integrating identity. I mean not only the
collective, but individual identity.
Sylvia: In light of that, one of the exciting things that I’ve
been seeing happening at this event is that presenters are
getting turned on to what other presenters have been
doing. And then they want to go home and disseminate
that information in their communities. That’s been really
exciting, because it’s a cross-pollination of all of these
different media.
Jon: As well, this event has impressed me a great deal
because the people that I’ve been meeting here are
extremely creative; and this is not just the presenters, but
the audience also. This is an incredible group of people
that has gathered here. I hope that you can continue to do
this event, and pull new faces in. There are many more
people than I was aware of using the creative influence of
psychedelics in a lot of different fields.
Manolo: I know. This is only scratching the surface. And
as far as the diversity that you had asked about first—that
was an idea that we had from the start. We didn’t want to
bring just painters, or just sculptors. We wanted to have as
much of a scope of the arts as we could.
Jon: In the past with psychedelic seminars there’s primarily been a focus on the science: anthropology, chemistry,
and botany. And for me, one of the things that has gotten
a little tiring with that is seeing the same faces, giving the
same presentations. If you go to a few of these events you
start feeling like you’ve already seen it. And then it just
becomes a social thing, where you’re going there because
you can hang out with people that you enjoy having
discourse with. But you’re not getting very much new. The
scientific world in this area seems to progress at a certain
speed, and so—if you have a conference every year, maybe
there isn’t that much new to report on that has happened
in all of those scientific areas. But under the rubric of
creativity, there are so many more people who have been
affected by these things. It’s a huge pool of people to tap
from, in all different areas. And I think that you have a
much better chance of not getting stale with the event.
Donna: I’m also really happy that we have had such a good
Sylvia: Yeah. This is the most women that I have seen at
one of these sorts of events. It looks to be about 50/50.
Donna: And it’s pretty interesting, this whole thing of
“couples” that has kind of arisen out of this. Because so
many people are working together, collaborative…
Manolo: There is Leslie and Tom Thornton, and then
there’s also Steina and Rudy Vasulka, and Martina
Hoffmann and Robert Venosa.
Jon: And you guys. And that’s inspiring to me, also.
Because it seems like I’ve seen so many couples that are
involved in this area—and maybe it’s just a reflection of
the world of divorce in general—but it seems like I’ve
seen so many couples that are involved in this area that
have gotten divorced, and don’t stay together. Then to see
something like this event where there are a lot of couples
that really are committed to each other, and committed to
this work... That’s a nice shot in the arm, as far as getting
the feeling like, “Lives do work out, and can work out.”
Manolo: They do! Well, this is our 26th—the 12th was
our 26th wedding anniversary. And Tom and Leslie have
been together for 23 years. And Alex and Allyson Grey
have been together for like 25–26 years. It’s kind of odd in
this day and age.
Jon: And part of what ties these couples together is the
shared interest in the creative effect that psychedelics can
have on their art. And of course that’s what brought us all
here—this interest.
Manolo: There definitely is an interest in the creative
effect of psychedelics on art, perhaps in part because it has
been a neglected aspect of psychedelic studies. Except for
in the very beginning there was that Masters and Houston
book. And it was basically poster art, I think, with a little
bit of other things. But the emphasis was on psychedelic
art at that time, which was graphic arts. Nobody has done
anything since. But if you look out into the art world—
like when you were hearing Ben Neill, let’s say, talk about
music—lots of musicians are on junk, and there are others
who were doing psychedelics. We’ve talked to Leslie and
Tom, and the same is true in the New York art world.
Everywhere that you turn it’s the same thing. One of the
motivations that I thought is sort of like a side-effect of
this conference; in a certain way it is sort of a political
statement. Here we have successful people who have
made important contributions to their fields, and psyche-
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
delic drugs have
been an integral
part of that contribution. They have
taken drugs that are
so maligned in the
“War on Drugs,”
and have made a
positive contribution to culture. I
think in that way,
just as an example
by demonstration,
all of these artists
here demonstrate
the validity of drug
use in relation to
the creative act.
35
margin, and
attack the
center, and
come back to
the margin
with these
contributions
that would
affect everyone.
Jon: And that
it’s moral.
There’s so
much of a
feeling, I think,
by the general
public, that
“drug use is
immoral.”
None of these
people who I’m
seeing here are
immoral.
Nothing that
they are
doing… In fact,
they are moral.
Jon: And really
demonstrate it, in
that—certainly
DONNA TORRES
with some of
DRAWING I — ANADENANTHERA
them—nothing
FROM PLANTS I HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED, 1998
that they are doing
charcoal on paper
would have been
done if it wasn’t for
this drug use. It’s affected them that strongly. I mean you
can’t imagine that Alex would be painting the paintings
Manolo: We are the most moral people! (laughs)
that he is doing now, if it wasn’t for his drug use. And the
same thing with Mark Pesce. His use of psychedelics really
Sylvia: So what kind of surprises came up for you as this
solidified the manner in which he thought about creating
was coming together, maybe the first couple of days of the
the code for virtual reality construction. When we asked
event. Because this is such a new kind of conference. Was
him about that, he said that it just wouldn’t have hapthere anything that you can think of?
pened if he hadn’t done psychedelics. His drug trips were
inexorably linked to what he was doing.
Manolo: Not surprises, but more like wishes that were
fulfilled. In that sense of bringing together—like what
Manolo: And I think that those are the long-lasting effects;
you said about the variety of people that have come—new
I mean the long-lasting effects that have filtered out into
people who are not known. Many people who are inlife. Another thought that we had in doing this confervolved in artistic activities are in the audience, and how
ence, was the idea that we keep marginalizing ourselves.
much audience participation there has been.
In a certain way we enjoy the margins, which is fine. I do
myself enjoy the margins. But it is an easy position for us
Donna: And also how much they are willing to share with
to take, and it makes it easier for the powers that control
you afterwards. People come up to you and talk to you and
regular daily life. Because we are in the corner, and we are
share what they are doing.
the freaks or the weirdos, and not the people who teach in
the universities, who exhibit in the galleries, who invent
Manolo: Yeah, that has been the best surprise. How the
important computer languages, and stuff like that. So they
“audience” interacts. That was the initial idea of having
say, “Oh no, the only people who do drugs are those freaks
panels, was the basic idea that the audience could talk to
over there, they are just the derelicts of society.” It’s easy;
the artists. Because at first we said, “Let’s have workwe make it easy for them by allowing for that view to
shops.” But workshops are very complicated in the sense
persist. But it’s a lie. And I think that is an important
of materials, and all that stuff.
thing. I think that one good element that we can have
against the War on Drugs is to demonstrate that all of
Donna: We would have had to have different rooms. We
these contributions have been made. And that we are not
would have had to then figure out whether to have
just marginalized people. That we sort-of can live in the
simultaneous sessions, and that’s always a drag if you
36
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
don’t want to miss anything. So we just
opted for this panel idea. What we had
really hoped was that the speakers would
enter into some kind of conversation first,
and then the groups would come in. But it
hasn’t quite worked out that way, and it’s
probably also due to the fact that most of
these speakers have met each other here,
and so they haven’t really had time to
develop some kind of rapport that would
lead to some kind of interesting conversation. But that had been our original idea—
to have the presenters enter into some
kind of conversation, and then open it up
to the audience.
Jon: One thing that I think is nice too is
the number of “audience” members who
actually brought something with them to
show, some of their own work—whether
it’s a portfolio, or slides…
Manolo: That’s something that we decided
to do with the free time—have a room
available where conference participants
could share their art with each other.
Sylvia: Well, it’s been fabulous to speak
with you both about the issues of art and
creativity, and thanks, too, for putting on
such a great event. We hope that you do
decide to have another one in the future. •
The AllChemical Arts Conference speakers were
Galen Brandt, Lewis Carlino, Bruce Damer,
Constance Demby, Alex Grey, Martina Hoffmann,
Terence McKenna, Ben Neill, Mark Pesce,
Tom Robbins, Annie Sprinkle, Leslie Thonton,
Manolo Torres, Woody Vasulka, Steina Vasulka,
and Robert Venosa. For a pictorial taste of the event
visit www.digitalspace.com/worlds/fan-terencem/
allchem.html.
The interest in gatherings around the topic of
psychedelics and creativity is not limited to North
America. In April 2000, the theme of the
IV International Congress on Entheogens convened
by Dr. Josep M. Fericgla in Barcelona, Spain was
“Modified States of Consciousness, Creativity,
and Art.” For more on this event, see
www.pangea.org/fericgla/jornadas.
A Fungal Foray
by Alex Bryan
AFTER TWO DAYS of traveling
from the Florida Keys, I found
myself in their geographic and
social opposite: Colorado, at
the Twentieth Annual Telluride
Mushroom Festival. I had
volunteered to help Carla Higdon, MAPS' Director of Community
Relations, distribute information and generate support for the
Psilocybin/OCD study being conducted at the University of Arizona.
And after the flat, hot, conservative climate of Florida, the cool
verticality of the Rockies was a contrast that took some getting used to.
On Thursday night the conference opened with an invocation,
music and poetry, dedications, and an orientation. The first thing on
the schedule for Friday was the six a.m. foray. After almost missing my
ride up into the mountains in the dark, I found myself picking my way
through a dew-soaked fairyland at sunrise, surrounded by majestic
beauty. The conditions this year were less than perfect for our fungal
friends, so the fruits of my own search were minimal, but the seeking
was as fun as the finding. Nevertheless, by the end of the weekend the
specimen tables were overflowing with identified species of gourmet
mushrooms. To our delight the talented chef incorporated them
creatively into our evening meals.
The weekend progressed with presentations by renowned experts
such as Andrew Weil, Paul Stamets, Sasha Shulgin and Ann Shulgin.
Friday night there were spectacular performances of rap, didjeridu,
tabla and sing-alongs, followed by the Mushroom Rave dance party.
Certainly the highlight was the annual parade on Saturday afternoon
when we took to the streets in full mushroom regalia—dancing,
drumming and chanting our way down Main Street to the town park,
where the festivities continued until dinner was served in the outdoor
pavilion. The creative influence of psychedelic mushrooms was quite
clear, to both participants and viewers of this celebration. The positive
momentum of the festival peaked, and for one golden afternoon we
were a happy mushroom family, gathered together in the summer sun
to celebrate our mycological heritage.
We were quite successful in our own efforts to raise awareness
and support for the University of Arizona study, collecting $2,125.00
and many new MAPS members in the process. This money will go
towards the purchase of the psilocybin needed for this project, and we
are grateful for the generosity of those who are making it happen. •
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
L.J. ALTVATER
THE FORGOTTEN PRISONER, (above) 1998, digital image
THE ORIGIN OF STORMS 2, (below) 1990, oil on canvas, 48" x 36"
37
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maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
39
Prophetic Tribal Visions
By Carla Higdon
in
Stevee Postman’s Cosmic Tribe Tarot, The Fool’s
journey becomes a fantastic and unruly romp
through imaginary vistas where naked nymphs
and mermaids become Queens and Princesses, nubile
young men are Knights and Princes, and a youthful but
wily satyr cavorts as The Devil himself. Indeed, in this tarot
deck almost none of the figures emerge clothed or over the
age of thirty. There is even a cross-dresser in the mix.
Nipple rings, body paint, tattoos, and wings adorn his
images, disembodied eyes peek out from unexpected
places, and sinewy serpents wind their ways around
muscular torsos. The Cosmic Tribe Tarot has a decidedly
lusty lean to it and all “leanings” can be found there.
Postman includes three variations on The Lovers, so that
the querant may select the depiction of his/her own
personal preference: girl with girl, boy with boy, or just
plain old (yawn) boy with girl. This deck is a fairyland
frolic through the landscape of the soul, at once frightening and portentous, enchanting and alluring.
As a tool for divination these cards provide endless
possibilities for the intuitive reader to draw upon but for
those who would like help, there is an illustrated guidebook complete with each divinatory meaning. With little
variation from the traditional names, all the Major Arcana,
Court Cards, and Minor Arcana are represented in rich
technicolor. Limitations of time and space make it impossible to visit each of them with the attention they deserve,
so for purposes of these pages we will focus on but a few.
The interpretations that follow are my own impressions
and in no way reflect the meanings from the text of Eric
Ganther, provided in Postman’s guidebook. In any case,
the deck is shuffled so let us choose some cards...
The Ace of Disks: Rising in a serpent-trail of energy
from the forest floor, like an ayahuasca vision, two hands
form the center of a giant cosmic flower that has been
endowed with the gift of sight. They reach with longing
toward a benevolent earth that gazes forward with an air
of wise detachment. With The Ace of Disks, we are reminded of the vast universe of plant wisdom that is
available to us if we choose to seek it out. The beginning
of prosperity (also heralded by The Ace of Disks) comes
with our ability to appreciate the richness already present
in our lives. The proportions of our gratitude will determine the dimensions of our wealth.
#18 The Moon: She reaches to enfold us in her arms
like a lover beckoning us to join her in a dance. Though
her head is surrounded by prisms of light, there is something eerily macabre and ghostly in her allure. Wearing
an old fashioned ball gown she hovers just above the
waters of the unconscious, inviting us to swim the depths
beneath her radiance if we dare. The Moon invites us to
explore our feelings, record our dreams for hidden messages, and unearth buried emotions. She represents the
cyclical nature of life, wants to hear our tears and laughter,
and has within her the power to drive men to madness.
When she appears in the spread, take note: special
attention is required. Go inside, spend meditative time
and journey to other realms. It can be important to keep a
dream journal at this time for this card can indicate the
beginning of psychic unfoldment, especially within the
realm of sleep.
#17 The Star: A young maiden stretches toward the
sky as if awakening from a slumber. She is surrounded by
a multitude of stars and her feet walk through a grassy
field. Though she does not appear to notice, a large and
magical flower, captured in a ray of light from the heavens, drifts along behind her. This card can indicate that it
is time to count one’s blessings. It signifies the protection
of strong spiritual forces, that times of darkness and duress
have fallen away to pave the way for a period of vitality,
activity, and accomplishment. With The Star in the spread,
the time is ripe to make the needed changes and reach for
our goals. Get busy!
#9 The Hermit: A figure stands in a portal partially
crossing the barrier between the inner world of the spirit
and outer world of the physical realm. This man stands
mostly inside the doorway. Beyond him is a dark and
featureless void, yet he contains a glimpse of the beauty he
has found within himself, his silhouette containing a
sunny landscape. Though he depends not on things of this
world, his hand stretches forth holding a lantern to
illuminate our way, should we decide to follow him. The
Hermit comes with a message that it is time to take some
space from the daily routines in order to nurture and
replenish one’s soul—to visit a quiet and peaceful place
removed from the crowds. He cautions us to keep a heart
of gratefulness and not to rely too much on the pleasures
of the material world for happiness. A time of personal
growth and maturation is indicated by The Hermit.
#21 The Universe (traditionally called The World): A
seated youth looks toward the heavens in an attitude of
peace, fulfillment and joy. Below him a serpent curves
toward the seat of his spine symbolizing the pure
kundalini energy of life. Around him the four elements of
earth, air, fire, and water are represented, and above him
floats the lemniscate which in mathematics symbolizes
infinity and in the tarot is used to depict cosmic consciousness. This card acknowledges an advanced soul, one
who is free to go in any direction. Having learned karmic
lessons they are now in a position to help others. The
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maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Universe is a portent of completion
and success in all undertakings.
#2 The Priestess: A strong and beautiful woman stands
atop a crescent moon being lifted toward the heavens by a
whirling pool of energy. She appears to be receiving a
message of inspiration from above as she dances in
celebration. Around her are prisms of light representing
the proximity of another dimension. The Priestess invites
us to own our power and magnificence for she rests
complete in herself, needing nothing and no one. When
she appears, the possession and guardianship of esoteric
knowledge is indicated. A position of leadership may be
required and the querant may be called upon to mentor
others. Hers can be a solitary life for the breadth of her
beauty and charge of her wisdom can create a boundary
that sets her apart from the milieu. She may indicate a
woman who remains happily single in life for it is a rare
(though not unheard of) man who can hold and reflect
the brilliance and authority of a Priestess.
#15 The Devil: A green satyr, sporting a red mohawk,
nipple rings and purple horns dances through the forest.
On his face is an expression of gleeful abandon. He leaps
over strangely phallic shaped rocks and seems unaware of
the serpent that is entwined
about his waist. With the arrival of The Devil, a time of
celebratory revelry and indulgence is heralded. While
these cycles of earthly pleasure are not in themselves
negative influences, there is still caution inherent in
The Devil’s appearance for he can also signify alcoholism
or other types of dependency. He invites us to examine
our lives for areas of excess and unhealthy habits, to make
the necessary adjustments lest our behavior lead us down
a pathway of destruction.
While this concludes our current cast of unwitting
characters, Postman’s deck holds seventy-one more in
store for those of you who wish to dabble in the mysteries
therein. With these cards he has taken a solemn and
timeless tradition and imbued it with an irreverent dash
of counter-culture spice. Yet this is no frivolous accomplishment: among the other decks I have encountered,
Postman’s images stand unparalleled in their ability to
tease the imagination and cast a glamour of enchantment
for the reader. •
Carla Higdon, MAPS Director of Community Relations
carla@maps.org
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
About the Artists
L.J. Altvater
“The psychedelic experience is not a prerequisite for
creativity, or a guarantee of its improvement. But like any
memorable, emotionally-charged event in one’s life it is
likely to influence creative work. The experience is
important in regard to creativity and problem solving
because it reveals new possibilities as well as old habits.
For me this has inspired a progression from a rather gray,
gloomy surrealism to a more vibrant, optically-stimulating
type of imagery.” See www.sunecho.com.
Alex Grey
Alex Grey is best known for his depictions of the
human body that “x-ray” the multiple layers of reality,
revealing the complex integration of body, mind, and
spirit. Grey's unique series of 21 life-sized paintings, the
Sacred Mirrors, present the physical and subtle anatomy of
humanity in the context of cosmic, biological and technological evolution. A mid-career retrospective of Grey's
works was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art,
San Diego in 1999. His paintings have been featured on a
Beastie Boys album cover, in Newsweek magazine, on the
Discovery Channel, rave flyers and sheets of blotter acid,
and have been exhibited throughout the world. His books
include Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey, his
philosophical text, The Mission of Art, and his forthcoming
Transfigurations. Sounds True released The Visionary Artist,
an audiotape of Grey's art, philosophy, and vision practices. See www.alexgrey.com.
Allyson Grey
“Intending to create spiritual art, I feel naturally
attracted to abstraction and to a written sacred language.
In 1975, I began writing automatically in an invented or
transmitted language. I combine the elements of perfection, like the Jewel Net, with the secret language, and
images of chaos. Chaos in my art is the entropy of the
units of spectrally arranged squares using a system of
“planned randomness,” allowing every spectral unit to fall
apart in a variety of ways. The three elements used in my
work, Chaos, Order and Secret Writing, are non-literal
representations of the sacred.
“Born in 1952, I’ve been married to Alex Grey for 25
years. With BA and MA degrees in Fine Arts, I’ve had solo
shows at Stux Gallery and O.K. Harris Gallery in NYC,
among others. Commissions of permanent public works
include a 24-foot mural at the First Bank of Lowell,
Massachusetts and my paintings have been collected by
corporations and individuals. I paint and collaborate with
Alex and our adorable actress daughter, Zena Lotus, in
Brooklyn, NY.” See www.motley-focus.com/~timber/
allysonpaint.html.
41
Stevee Postman
Stevee Postman is a digital artist living in San Francisco. Working with the union of technology and the
organic he creates neo-pagan, faerie inspired, visual
transmissions. He is the creator of the Cosmic Tribe Tarot.
His visionary work has appeared in numerous publications and galleries. See www.stevee.com.
Steven Rooke
Steven Rooke’s work is the result of repeated cycles of
selective breeding, wherein he assigns aesthetic fitness
scores to individual computer-generated images within a
population, followed by fitness-proportionate reproduction by “sexual crossover” and mutation of the underlying
software genes. Entheogenic states provided him with
much of the inspiration for designing the system, and
inevitably informed his process of aesthetic selection.
“Each image comes into being fully formed, and its
genome is one of an infinite number of mathematically
related structures. I fantasize that this process is a means
for realizing visions from Plato’s eternal mathematical
realm, an aspect of the inner world.” See
www.azstarnet.com/~srooke.
Donna Torres
“Research trips to South America have influenced my
work and have been important sources of information.
These extended visits have given me the opportunity to
live with native peoples and gain insights into their
traditions. Studying the remains of ancient shamanic
cultures, and specifically those of the Atacama Desert in
northern Chile, has been particularly important. The
region’s dry conditions have preserved the cultural
remains of one of the largest shamanic societies in history.
The paraphernalia used to ingest psychoactive plants
forms a substantial part of the archaeological record.
“My studies have also led me to investigate living
cultures that practice shamanic traditions. I am currently
completing work for the Master in Fine Arts degree in
painting and drawing at Florida International University
in Miami.” See www.stlawu.edu/gallery:http/dtorres.htm.
Robert Venosa
The Fantastic Realism art of Robert Venosa has been
exhibited worldwide and is represented in the collections
of major museums, rock stars and European aristocracy.
He’s done conceptual design for the movies Dune, Fire in
the Sky, and Race for Atlantis. His work is the subject of
three books, Manas Manna, Noospheres, and Illuminatus,
featuring text by Terence McKenna. His art is also featured on album covers, including those of Santana and
Kitaro. With studios in both Boulder and Cadaqués, Spain
(where he spent time with neighbor Salvador Dali),
Venosa gives workshops at such institutes as Esalen in
Big Sur, Naropa in Boulder, Skyros Institute in Greece,
and Tobago in the Caribbean. See www.venosa.com.
42
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
W
HILE researching what has been published in the area of psychedelic creativity and visionary art,
we quickly realized that we had opened a can of worms. There was much more to read and view than we
could possibly hope to absorb in a short time, or cover even in a cursory manner. The topic is vast, and the
more one looks, the deeper it becomes. As a starting point for those who desire to investigate further, we
have provided below just a few of the many resources that we came across while working on this issue.
PRINT
Baggott, M.J. 1996–97. “Psilocybin’s effects on cognition:
Recent research and its implications for enhancing
creativity,” MAPS Bulletin 7(1):10-11. (Commenting
on: Spitzer, M. et al. 1996. “Increased activation of
indirect semantic associations under psilocybin,” Biol
Psychiatry 39: 1055–1057.)
Hughes, J. & J. Hughes 1999. Altered States: Creativity
Under the Influence, Watson-Guptill Publications, Inc.
Izumi, K. 1970. “LSD and Architectural Design,” in
Psychedelics: The Uses and Implications of Hallucinogenic
Drugs, pp. 381–397 (Edited by B. Aaronson & H.
Osmond), Anchor Books.
Baker, J.R. 1994. “Consciousness Alteration as a ProblemSolving Device: The Psychedelic Pathway,” Yearbook for
Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness 3: 51–89.
Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung, 1995
(Edited by C. Rätsch & J.R. Baker).
Janiger, O. & de Rios, M. 1989. “LSD and creativity,”
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 21: 129–134.
Barron, F. 1965. “The Creative Process and the Psychedelic
Experience,” Explorations magazine, June—July.
Krippner, S. 1970. “The Influence of 'Psychedelic' Experience on Contemporary Art and Music,” in Hallucinogenic Drug Research: Impact of Science and Society,
pp. 84–114 (Edited by J.R. Gamage & E.L. Zerkin),
STASH Press.
DeRogatis, J. 1996. Kaleidoscope Eyes: Psychedelic Rock
From the '60s to the '90s, Citadel Press/Carol Publishing
Group.
Grinspoon, L, & J.B. Bakalar 1997. Psychedelic Drugs
Reconsidered, The Lindesmith Center. (Specifically
“Learning and Creativity,” pp. 261–267 in Chapter 7
“Psychedelic Drugs and the Human Mind.”) Originally
published in 1979 by Basic Books, Inc., a division of
Harper Colophon Books.
Harman, W.W. & J. Fadiman 1970. “Selective Enhancement of Specific Capacities Through Psychedelic
Training,” in Psychedelics: The Uses and Implications
of Hallucinogenic Drugs, pp. 239–257 (Edited by B.
Aaronson & H. Osmond), Anchor Books.
Harman, W.W., R.H. McKim, R.E. Mogar, J. Fadiman &
M.J. Stolaroff. 1990. “Psychedelic Agents in Creative
Problem Solving: A Pilot Study,” in Altered States of
Consciousness third edition, pp. 532–550 (Edited by
C.T. Tart).
Hartmann, R.P., 1974. Malerei aus Bereichen des
Unbewussten: Künstler experimentieren unter LSD, Köln:
M. DuMont Schauberg.
Hayter, A. 1968. Opium and the Romantic Imagination,
University of California Press.
Hickey, D. 1994 (January/February). “Freaks Again:
On Psychedelic Art and Culture,” Art issues 31: 25–29.
Joynson, V. 1984. The Acid Trip: A Complete Guide
to Psychedelic Music, Babylon Books.
Krippner, S. 1985. “Psychedelic Drugs and Creativity,”
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 17(4): 235–245.
Krippner, S. 1990. “Psychedelics, Hypnosis, and Creativity,” in Altered States of Consciousness third edition,
pp. 324–349 (Edited by C.T. Tart).
Luna, L.E. 1991. “Plant spirits in ayahuasca visions by
Peruvian painter, Pablo Amaringo. An iconographic
analysis,” Integration: Zeitschrift für Geistbewegende
Pflanzen und Kultur 1: 18–29.
Luna, L.E. & P. Amaringo 1991. Ayahuasca Visions:
The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman,
North Atlantic Books.
Masters, R.E.L. & J. Houston 1968. Psychedelic Art,
Grove Press, Inc.
Poliester: Drugs/Drogas, Fall 1997, Vol. 6, No. 20,
(Edited by Kurt Hollander)
poliester@intranet.com.mx.
Smith, E. 1982. “Psychedelics and Creativity,”
The Psychozoic Press, No. 4, 1983: 10–26.
Smith, E. 1983. “A Short Interview with Dr. Stanley
Krippner,” The Psychozoic Press, No. 6: 46–54,
(Edited by E. Smith).
maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
Stafford, P.G. & B.H. Golighty 1967. LSD—The ProblemSolving Psychedelic, Award Books.
Vogt, D.D. & M. Montagne 1982. “Drug Taking and the
Fine Arts,” The Psychozoic Press, No. 4, 1983: 6–9,
(Edited by E. Smith).
Volk, G. 1999. “Transportive Visions,” Art in America,
July, pp. 78–81, (Review of the art of Fred Tomaselli).
VIDEO
The Art of Tripping, a 1993 documentary on the influence
of drugs on writers and artists, produced by the Jon
Blair Film Company for the British Channel Four.
WEB
Albert Hofmann Foundation
http://www.hofmann.org
Their online museum has examples of the influence
of psychedelics on art. Their “Science” section has
the full text of several papers related to creativity
and psychedelics.
Art Visionary Magazine
http://members.tripod.com/artvisionary
A relatively new Australian print magazine that
features work by visionary, fantastic, and surreal
artists.
The Electric Art Gallery
http://www.egallery.com/homepage.html
Their “Amazon Project” features work from the
ayahuasca-inspired artist Pablo Cesar Amaringo,
as well as other artists from his Usko-Ayar School.
Electrum Magicum
http://www.levity.com/dimitri/index.htm
The psychedelic art of Dimitri Novus.
Ernst Fuchs
http://www.arsfantastica.at
Fuchs is considered by many artists to be the “father”
of visionary/psychedelic art.
Fantastic Art
http://members.tripod.com/~fantasticart/index.html
An amazing collection of visionary art. While clearly
not all, nor perhaps even most, of these artists used
psychedelics, there are numerous contributions by
artists who have either publicly or privately acknowledged the positive effect that drugs have had on their
work.
Huichol artifacts on pages 20 and 43 from the collection of Tom Mayers.
Galleria Sublimatio
http://www.sublimatrix.com
The visionary art of A. Andrew Gonzalez. Aside from
an impressive collection of his own images, Gonzalez
has a very useful links page.
H. R. Giger
http://www.giger.com
The dark, compelling visions of H.R. Giger, perhaps
most well-known for his work on the movie Alien.
The HAVE YOU SEEN GOD Mandala Collection
http://www.haveyouseengod.com/GALLERY.htm
Contains paintings by fantastic visionary artists
including Bill Martin, Mati Klarwein, Alex Grey,
Cliff McReynolds, Tim Slowinski, Nick Hyde,
Phil Jacobson, and many more.
Martina Hoffmann
http://www.martinahoffman.com
The beautiful visionary art of Martina Hoffmann.
MKZDK 2000
http://www.mkzdk.org
Various subtle, psychedelic visions. Think
M.C. Escher dabbling with fractals and drugs.
Sacred Light Studio
http://sacredlight.to
The visionary art of Mark Henson.
The Stairwell Gallery Studio
http://www.art.freewire.co.uk/stairwell
Resident artist Cindy Mills.
Starroot Homepage
http://arts.bev.net/NRAC/visart/starroot/
thumbnails.html
Images of Starroot’s original artwork.
43

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