• Communication between brain networks in people given psilocybin (right) vs non-psychedelic compound (left) PETRI ET AL , Proceedings of the Royal Society

The world today faces numerous challenges-some real, some imagined in the propaganda rooms, and some just in our simple day to day lives. People are increasingly becoming more open to the use of substances which might help them break patterns that no longer serve them. Psilocybin and LSD are the most commonly studied substances in this regard, but mescaline occasionally shows up the literature as well.

Multiple studies of psychedelics have shown decreased anxiety in people after their experiences. The evidence for creativity boosts though are elusive, but many substances show promise. (1)

(Caveat -It’s important to note that since we are all quite unique, it’s impossible to generalize and say that everyone will get benefits or experience creative breakthroughs. Safety is always paramount. )

Feelings of increased insight and altered significance are recognized as a common acute effect of psychedelics. In addition to creating this sense of altered significance, psychedelics are often said to change the dynamics of thought. Being able to see outside of the box, we become aware of layers of reality that had previously eluded us. For artists (and many others), this is fuel to the fire of creativity. It’s also been noted that many scientific advances were associated with psychedelics breaking through the problem that had stumped the researcher for weeks. (ie Kary Mullis’ discovery of the polymerase chain reaction )

“…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

“…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)

“For myself as well as other artists, entheogens have played a crucial role in the creative process. However, I don’t advocate that artists live in a constant haze of chemically-altered consciousness, and some sensitive artists should completely steer clear of the substances. Vision drugs catalyze our inherently visionary and potentially mystical dimensions of consciousness. May they be recognized and honored for the powerful and sacred substances that they are, proof of the importance and infinite vastness of the subtle inner worlds of imagination and illumination, and may they open an endless source of inspiration for new universal sacred art.”

Alex Grey

Psychedelics could aid in the therapeutic process by opening up a window of opportunity where therapeutic interventions could prove more effective. While under the influence of a psychedelic, rigid thought content could be decreased, while unguided, spontaneous thoughts may give rise to new insights and perspectives of previous events and current concerns. Patients may then be able to integrate these insights with a therapist, and come up with new, more effective strategies that facilitate adaptive interpretation and coping abilities. Transcending trauma becomes easier. Huxley explained in a 1960 interview, ‘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!’

It is commonly reported that a single psilocybin session helps many people let go of rigid, negative thought patterns—in other words, it gave them a break from the relentless barrage of self-criticism and judgment, and it increased openness to their emotions. These experiences carried over into their daily lives, helping them to be present and break free of their habitual tendencies to become entangled with stressful patterns and negativity. Clearing out the cobwebs! Surely this noted quality of psychedelics can help clear the path to enable increased creativity.

In the paper Psychedelics and Creativity: a Review of the Quantitative Literature (1)

Matthew J. Baggott, notes that “controlled research on psychedelics and creativity is lacking and available results are unimpressive. Rather than looking to this limited literature for answers, it may be more informative to conduct qualitative research to document how individuals use psychedelics to enhance their creativity or gain other perceived benefits. Ultimately, creativity may not be the most appropriate construct for characterizing either the acute or long-term changes that people often report after psychedelic exposure. Hallucinogen-induced feelings of creativity may be an inconsistent by-product of more fundamental cognitive changes,.” He notes that “Creative achievement, as opposed to creative thinking, accordingly requires motivation and appropriate social and nonsocial resources. Thus, if they do occur, psychedelic-induced changes in divergent thinking or some other aspect of creative ability might not be reflected in creative achievement.”

CONCLUSION

Essentially all of this is to say that creativity is hard to measure and quantify and that the expansive nature of psychedelics can be much more profound and life-changing than fleeting creative insights. Psychedelics are important allies for enabling us to achieve more of our potential by clearing out old patterns of thought and ways of living. It’s not hard to argue, given the state of the world, that more of us to could use an awakening to break out of limiting beliefs and patterns of existence.

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01335-5
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308783845_Psychedelics_and_creativity_a_review_of_the_quantitative_literature
  3. MAPS JOURNAL V O L U M E X , N U M B E R 3 , P S Y C H E D E L I C S & C R E A T I V I T Y