Administration Of Lsd To Creative Individuals

One of the most interesting aspects of LSD research is the relationship between the psychedelic state and the creative process. Professional literature on the subject reflects considerable controversy. Robert Mogar (71), who reviewed the existing experimental data on the performance of various functions related to creative, work, found the results inconclusive and contradictory. Thus some studies focusing on instrumental learning demonstrated impairment during the drug experience, while others indicated a definite enhancement of the learning capacity. Conflicting results have also been reported for color perception, recall and recognition, discrimination learning, concentration, symbolic thinking, and perceptual accuracy. Studies using various psychological tests specifically designed to measure creativity usually fail to demonstrate significant improvement as a result of LSD administration. However, how relevant these tests are in relation to the creative process and how sensitive and specific they are in detecting the changes induced by LSD remains an open question. Another important factor to consider is the general lack of motivation in LSD subjects to participate and cooperate in formal psychological testing procedures while they are deeply involved in their inner experiences. In view of the importance of set and setting for the psychedelic experience, it should also be mentioned that many of the above studies were conducted in the context of the "model schizophrenia" approach, and thus with the intention of demonstrating the psychotic impairment of performance.

The generally negative outcome of creativity studies is in sharp contrast to the everyday experience of LSD therapists. The work of many artists—painters, musicians, writers, and poets—who participated in LSD experimentation in various countries of the world has been deeply influenced by their psychedelic experiences.1 Most of them found access to deep sources of inspiration in their unconscious mind, experienced a striking enhancement and unleashing of fantasy, and reached extraordinary vitality, originality and freedom of artistic expression. In many instances, the quality of their creations improved considerably, not only according to their own judgment or the opinion of the LSD researchers, but by the standards of their professional colleagues. At exhibitions which chronologically show the artist's development, it is usually easy to recognize when he or she had a psychedelic experience. One can typically see a dramatic quantum jump in the contcnt and style of the paintings. This is particularly true of painters who, prior to their LSD experience, were conventional and conservative in their artistic expression.

However, most of the art in the collections of psychcdelic therapists comes from subjects who were not professional artists, but had LSD sessions for therapeutic, didactic, or other purposes. Frequently, individuals who did not show any artistic inclinations at all prior to the LSD experience can create extraordinary pictures. In most instances, the intensity of the effect is due to the unusual nature and power of the material that emerges from the depths of the unconscious, rather than the artistic abilities. It is not uncommon, however, for even the technical aspects of such drawings or paintings to be far superior to previous creations by the same subjects. Some individuals actually pursue in their everyday life the new skills they discover in their psychedelic sessions. In exceptional cases, a genuine artistic talent of extraordinary power and scope may emerge during the LSD procedure. One of my patients in Prague, who had loathed drawing and painting all her life and had to be forced to participate in art classes at school, developed a remarkable artistic talent within a period of several months. Her art eventually found enthusiastic acceptance among professional painters and she had successful public exhibitions. In instances like this, one has to assume that the talent already existed in these individuals in a latent form, and that its expression was blocked by strong pathological emotions. The affective liberation through psychedelic therapy had allowed its free and full manifestation.

It is interesting that the LSD experience tends to enhance appreciation and understanding of art in individuals who were previously unresponsive and indifferent. A characteristic observation from psychedelic research is the sudden development of interest in various movements in modern art. Subjects who were indifferent or even hostile toward non-conventional art forms can develop deep insight into suprematism, pointilism, cubism, impressionism, dadaism, surrealism, or superrealism after a single exposure to LSD. There are certain painters whose art seems to be particularly closely related to the visionary experiences induced by LSD. Thus many LSD subjects develop deep empathie understanding of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, Maurits Escher, or H. R. Giger. Another typical consequence of the psychedelic experience is a dramatic change of attitude toward music; many LSD subjects discover in their sessions new dimensions in music and new ways of listening to it. A number of our patients, who were alcoholics and heroin addicts with poor educational background, developed such deep interest in classical music as a result of their one LSD session that they decided to use their meager financial resources for buying a stereo set and starting a record collection of their own. The role of psychedelics in the development of contemporary music and their impact on composers, interpreters, and audiences is so obvious and well-known that it does not require special emphasis here.

Although the influence of LSD on artistic expression is most evident in the fields of painting and music, the psychedelic experience can have a similar fertilizing effect on some other branches of art. Visionary states induced by mescaline and LSD had a profound significance in the life, art and philosophy of Aldous Huxley. Many of his writings, including Brave New World, Island, Heaven and Hell, and The Doors of Perception have been directly influenced by his psychedelic experiences. Some of the most powerful poems by Allen Ginsberg were inspired by his self-experimentation with psychedelic substances. The role of hashish in the French art of the Jin de siècle could also be mentioned in this context. The Canadian-Japanese architect Kiyo Izumi was able to make unique use of his LSD experiences in designing modern psychiatric facilities. (40)

Since LSD mediates the access to the contents and dynamics of the deep unconscious—in psychoanalytic terms, to the primary process — it is not particularly surprising that psychedelic experiences can play an important role in the creative development of artists. However, many observations from psychedelic research indicate that LSD can also be of extraordinary value to various scientific disciplines that are traditionally considered domains of reason and logic. Two important aspects of the LSD effect seem to be of particular relevance in this context. First, the drug can mediate access to vast repositories of concrete and valid information in the collective unconscious and make them available to the experient. According to my observations, the revealed knowledge can be very specific, accurate, and detailed; the data obtained in this way can be related to many different fields. In our relatively limited LSD training program for scientists, relevant insights occurred in such diverse areas as cosmogenesis, the nature of space and time, sub-atomic physics, ethology, animal psychology, history, anthropology, sociology, politics, comparative religion, philosophy, genetics, obstetrics,, psychosomatic medicine, psychology, psychopathology, and thanatology.2

The second aspect of the LSD effect that is of great relevance for the creative process is the facilitation of new and unexpected syntheses of data, resulting in unconventional problem-solving. It is a well-known fact that many important ideas and solutions to problems did not originate in the context of logical reasoning, but in various unusual states of mind — in dreams, while falling asleep or awakening, at times of extreme physical and mental fatigue, or during an illness with high fever. There are many famous examples of this. Thus, the chemist Friedrich August von Kekulé arrived at the final solution of the chemical formula of benzene in a dream in which he saw the benzene ring in the form of a snake biting its tail. Nikola Tesla constructed the electric generator, an invention that revolutionized industry, after the complete design of it appeared to him in great detail in a vision. The design for the experiment leading to the Nobel prize-winning discovery of the chemical transmission of nerve impulses occurred to the physiologist Otto Loewi while he was asleep. Albert Einstein discovered the basic principles of his special theory of relativity in an unusual state of mind; according to his description, most of the insights came to him in the form of kinaesthetic sensations.

We could mention many instances of a similar kind where a creative individual struggled unsuccessfully for a long time with a difficult problem using logic and reason, with the actual solution emerging unexpectedly from the unconscious in moments when his or her rationality was suspended.3 In everyday life events of this kind happen very rarely, and in an elemental and unpredictable fashion. Psychedelic drugs seem to facilitate the incidence of such creative solutions to the point that they can be deliberately programmed. In an LSD state, the old conceptual frameworks break down, cultural cognitive barriers dissolve, and the materia) can be seen and synthesized in a totally new way that was not possible within the old systems of thinking. This mechanism can produce riot only striking new solutions to various specific problems, but new paradigms that revolutionize whole scientific disciplines.

Although psychedelic experimentation had been drastically curbed before this avenue could be systematically explored, the study of creative problem-solving conducted by Willis Hartnan and James Fadiman (36) at the Stanford Research Institute brought enough interesting evidence to encourage future research. The drug used in this experiment was not LSD but mescaline, the active ingredient of the Mexican cactus Anhalonium Lewinii, or peyote. Because of the general similarity of the effects of these two drugs, comparable results should be expected with the use of LSD; various accidental observations from our LSD training program for scientists and from the therapeutic use of this drug seem to confirm this. The subjects in the Harman-Fadiman study were twenty-seven males engaged in a variety of professions. The group consisted of sixteen engineers, one engineer-physicist, two mathematicians, two architects, one psychologist, one furniture designer, one commercial artist, one sales manager, and one personnel manager. The objective of the study was to ascertain whether under the influence of 200 milligrams of mescaline these individuals would show increased creativity and produce concrete, valid, and feasible solutions to problems, as judged by the criteria of modern industry and positivistic science. The results of this research were very encouraging; many solutions were accepted for construction or production, others could be developed further or opened new avenues for investigation. The mescaline subjects consistently reported that the drug induced in them a variety of changes which facilitated the creative process. It lowered inhibitions and anxieties, enhanced the fluency and flexibility of ideation, heightened the capacity for visual imagery and fantasy, and increased the ability to concentrate on the project. The administration of mescaline also facilitated empathy with people and objects, made subconscious data more accessible, strengthened the motivation to obtain closure and, in some instances, allowed immediate visualization of the completed solution.

It is obvious that the potential of LSD for enhancing creativity will be directly proportional to the intellectual capacity and sophistication of the experient. For most of the creative insights, it is necessary to know the present status of the discipline involved, be able to formulate relevant new problems, and find the technical means of describing the results. If this type of research is ever repeated, the logical candidates would be prominent scientists from various disciplines: nuclear physicists, astrophysicists, geneticists, brain physiologists, anthropologists, psychologists and psychiatrists.4

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