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maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000
ALEX GREY TRANSFIGURATION, 1993 oil on linen, 60" x 90" in sculpted frame 8' x 13'
The entheogenic state is. The experience was so rich and profound. Keith Haring. My creative process was transformed by my experience with entheogens. First Effects: 1) In the beginning stages we notice some physical body changes. Let’s look at the trajectory and potential stages of the psychedelic experience and see how it translates into works of art. The unconscious is becoming conscious. 2) Our perception is open to the beautiful and in the back of our minds we .maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 9 The Creative Process and Entheogens 25 by Alex Grey adapted from The Mission of Art Twenty-five years ago I took my first dose of LSD. 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. they are given a subject worth making art about. and also determines whether they will attempt to evoke what is deepest and highest in their viewers. of course. coupled as it was with the meeting of my future wife. Being an artist. By giving artists a meaningful experience and access to deeper and higher aspects of their soul. When we look inward. possibly an opening up of the chest or head. that there seemed nothing more important than this revelation of infinite love and unity. unique to each individual. I feel the same way about my art. I felt that this was the only subject worthy of my time and attention. 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. This doesn’t mean I recommend sacramental drug use for everyone. The depth of mystery and meaning that our conceptual mind keeps at bay in our ordinary perception becomes flooded with portent. We might feel jittery or some rushes of energy through the body. and which can be evoked with our art. 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. I think the entheogenic experience has great importance for fueling an artistic and cultural renaissance. Allyson. we begin to perceive dynamic geometric forms and cartoon-like figures morphing into strange and inventive shapes. Spiritual and visionary consciousness assumed primary importance as the focal point of my life and art. one of the most celebrated artists of the 1980s. credited LSD with stylistic breakthroughs that brought him to his own unique work. Due to its visionary richness. We feel a heightened sensitivity to colors and notice wavy or slowly billowing distortions of our outer world perceptions. And yet there are archetypal states of being that are experienced by large numbers of psychonauts.
worlds can be evoked in our art. This is the most reason and intuition.” both visual multi-dimensionalart. I think these shapes have relevance to developing by the body-mind-spirit relationship and the difficulty of our entheogenic artistic vision. 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. Allyson became answer with the world. death. 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. This can lead to frightening encounters with suppressed memories. discovery of a problem. an important part of evolve and dissolve. Solving your aesthetic problem bemale and female. and can begin to break down an individual’s ego structure. is my subject?” The formulation of the science and religion. The first stage is the 7) Universal mind. chakras opening. the as most every sacred art tradition has done Vision. scious sift the information and develop overcome and reborn through intense a response bring together the chthonic and cathartic visions. Cosmic unity. every woman and every animal and for her feedback I became all men and all animals. voidness or emptiness as ground of being important question for an artist. The perception of beauty and meaningfulness is mingled. of subtle energy systems. and each phase ments in body. reason and intuition. I’d like to share a bit of the story behind and perceptual “form constants” that recur in psychedelic my painting. This is perhaps not as important or lengthy a phase The Integrative for emotionally stable and integrated individuals. In order to bring forth her or his deepest work. The problem is the life and death. Everything is okay. There are many stages in the creative process. both the dark and the light. Light itself takes on a palpable character. crushed. releases of ecstasy. The form constants are the making these multiple dimensions of reality visible in a spiral.10 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. referencing both nature and sacred my vision. Life is lucidly interpreted in a more holistic framework. The life’s work—that is. . Several scientists have attempted to outline the mysterious phases of creativity. Kundalini movephase in their work. science and religion. if the problem is Integrative Entheogenic Vision in art sufficiently broad. It took me about ten years of making art and obsessing ity and ontological dimensions of meaning. Each of these stages or structures of problem arises from the artist’s worldhigher consciousness and the subtle inner view and may set the stage for an entire male and female. the lattice or fretwork. 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. Rushes of bliss and laughter. Unresolved repressed emotions emerge and are faced via dramatic personally meaningful imagery. Transfiguration. work to work. and rebirth experiences. and the imagery of tunnels work of art. life and death. I have always been mystified voyages. The white light is everywhere present holding everything together. 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. Not all artists will recognize each both the 6) Energy release. would at least bring together the opposites “well” dug to reveal the Source. Colors appear more radiant and overwhelming. An experience of such overwhelming power can influence an artist’s approach to their work. 4) Inspiration: a flash of your own 5) Archetypal and mythic figures. Beginning to Surrender to a Higher Power: 3) Psychodynamic visions. 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. awareness takes its own time. In unique solution to the problem opposites as most every our last trip. and getting has done in the past.1 Below is my adaptation of their findings. architecture. in the past. an artist needs to be sensitive and courageous toward their own creative process. 3) Incubation: letting the unconin art would at least The ego/small self is frightened. and obsessions that drive an artist. even if it is out of our control. widely varying from dark and the light. matter and spirit. comes your mission. the creative matrix of questions matter and spirit. “What beyond polarities.
my entheogens have played a crucial role in feet were the foundation of the material the creative process. It was a period unconsidered area of the painting. I drew the body and worked on the computer to Notes 1) Rollo May examines the phases of creation in his inspiring book. I don’t transfigured subject of world. Stars problem. Henri Poincaré. But this illumination or inspirathe studio. which lasted for a week or two.” showing artistic representations of looked wrong or unconsidered. two opposing above. In the dream I had been painting a oddly glowing mindspheres anticipatwas extended or piece called Transfiguration. After many months of . As I inhaled the immediately and I have decided to retain the actual psychedelic. but this was not just outer effortlessly at its own pace. • the inner solution of my artistic problem to an outward form. and may they open an endless sketchbook. a physicist. Finally. and some sensitive artists should and infinite spirit. like chakra centers within my glowing wire-frame spirit Vision drugs catalyze our inherently visionary and body. sacred substances that they are. 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. and it will be reproduced in and extremely potent later that week when I smoked DMT for the my new book. a process that continues as I immediately active tion phase. The Courage to Create. a psychologist. and Jacob Getzels. At about groin Part of the function of the vision DMT for the first time. because “empty” “Transfiguration. various elements and stretched a fairly large canvas. a human. I began to draw what I had seen in my nation and illumination. gestating the empty space began to coalesce. which is where some of the creativity research is discussed. all worked on a theory of the stages of the creative because I wanted the viewer to identify with a “life-sized” process. The dream revealed a tion of the inspired moment. I noticed strange jewelcompletely steer clear of the substances. Then early one morning I woke from a beings with skin like a Fabergé egg.” provided by the dream.maps • volume X number 3 • creativity 2000 11 During the next stage of saturation I looked over work. level it “popped” into a bright hallucinoand the creative process is the integragenic crystal sphere. The painting ing the transformative megasphere had a simple composition. However. I in my visions except that it was dark. got to experience the transfigured subject of For myself as well as other artists. As I inhaled. Suggestions of what should appear in the unconscious takes over. Herman Helmholtz. of half a year. was extended or underscored this piece. gradually more translucent. a mathematician. May painting. proof of the importance After receiving these two visionary encounters of the and infinite vastness of the subtle inner worlds of imagisame painting. my “Aha!” moment provided by share this story. This started the translation phase. into the world beyond problem. this was inner space. In my vision. I hadn’t noticed the space transpersonal psychology and the art of diverse cultures. via the art As I inhaled the unique solution to my simmering aesthetic object or event. the dream. I then assembled the Within. Allyson first time. Transfiguration. I piece for the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. into the bright world of living geometry ness. creative eyes. I started painting. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. to me. This was the space of research that led me through many tracts of beneath the hyper-mindsphere. This seemed like the appropriate underscored later that spherical curves connected by a figure. figure. yet what belonged there? transcendental light or energy in relation to the body. help me plot an accurate texture map of the electric grid Betty Edwards has written a number of excellent books. to experience the my painting first hand. this phase lasted about numinous angels or demons. For the Transspace. Work on the piece lasted almost week when I smoked which was fleshly at the feet became a year. and spectral colors that were absent from my dream potentially mystical dimensions of consciousness. the place of …my “Aha!” moment figuration painting. The embryonic artwork grows obviously. Allyson and I smoked marijuana and gazed The incubation stage is where the vast womb of the at the piece. I got active and extremely potent psychedelic. We made a poster of the dream. answer among the many that occurred Floating above the earth sphere. This was a puzzling prepared a slide-show and lectured on the subject of dilemma. including Drawing on the Artist around the hyper-mindsphere. bringing source of inspiration for new universal sacred art. my wife Allyson continued to ask me about an everything I could find about the subject. 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. Terence’s “self-dribbling basketballs. 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.