Drug Use in the Artistic Creative Process

written on March 31, 2009

I have been asked to clarify my viewpoints on this issue on various occasions while organizing the Energy Art Movement. In this essay, I would like to summarize and extend my opinions further. I hope that the reader will ponder its points, and find both the truths and flaws either in my ideas or their own.

I am certainly not the movement, and my opinions are not necessarily its principles. The principles of the movement include a neutrality clause which clarifies our collective standpoint over psychedelic substances, such as LSD. This means that their use cannot be promoted on behalf of the movement, nor can it be discouraged. Even outside the movement, I think it should be a private matter for everyone. I personally don't consider the promotion of drug use a good idea, as it can harm the artist's reputation and that of any group they are associated with. These drugs are currently illegal in most countries. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that in visionary art - on behalf of which drug use is often promoted - only a small percentage of artists use drugs for creation, but the overall impression of the outside world is that visionary art is a subset of psychedelic art, when in fact it is the other way around.

The neutrality clause is also meant to leave the movement open to rigorous scientific results of the future. These results might have an effect on some of these drugs' legality. Research may also shed light on the science behind the psychedelic spiritual experience. It is quite possible that in the future, psychedelic substances will become a part of main religions' spiritual practices, once science enlightens us on the precise nature of their effects, and provide us with proper safety precautions. While they can induce wonderful spiritual experiences, and assist us in our inner psychological enlightment, they can also take us to the depths of hell, without us signing up for the "bad trip".

Besides the legal, scientific, and spiritual viewpoints, we must also look at the issue from an ethical viewpoint. There is a fine line of distinction between two ways artists currently use psychedelic substances related to their creative processes. I personally don't consider either to be fully ethical, but I find the first somewhat acceptable. The first method is when an artist takes some psychedelic substance, trips for a while in either their inner or higher realms, and once fully back in reality, intends to share their visions with others in the artworks they create (visual, music, or else). Since interdimensional cameras have not yet been invented, these artists choose to act as photographers of their visions, which I think is ethically acceptable. The second way artists use psychedelic substances, is when they create their works while on smaller doses of drugs, less interested in visiting higher planes, and more in boosting the muscles of their imagination. This is no different than using steroids to boost one's performance in sports, the artists' muscles being their imagination. This second method is clearly unethical, and should be distinguished from the first.

In relation to the above, another point is worth making. Just as in sports, if one has a less-developed musculature, the steroids will only help them boost their performance to a certain extent. They may still be easily surpassed by other sportsmen with much more developed musculature, and not making use of steroids. So a lightweight boxer on steroids might be a match for a middleweight one, but not for one in the heavyweight class. So essentially, if one doesn't strive to develop their muscles through natural means, they will eventually be surpassed. Drugs are an imagined crutch, which may prevent the artist from self-development through natural means, and entering the arena in full vigour. Note that while many like to think that the Fine Arts is not a sports event, you are not likely to succeed if you don't strive to excel in your craft, often with the intention of furthering and surpassing what you have seen before.

I consider the best way to develop one's imaginative muscles to be through meditation and subsequent picturing of realistic/surreal/abstract scenes in one's mind. Meditation results in a crystal clear empty mind, a white canvas for painting one's evolving ideas over it. While in this ideal state, one can try various color schemes and compositions in their mind, and attempt to find the best one for the concept. If one prefers improvising instead, starting with a meditational session will also help them in the flow of ideas as their improvisation evolves on the paper/canvas/screen.

To get back to the issue of drug use promotion among artists, we must not forget the responsibility we have towards budding artists. I find it unfortunate if a well-known visionary artist openly promotes drugs, not only psychedelic ones but others as well, such as ecstasy or marijuana. This is sad because young artists may get the impression that in order to create as accomplished works as their respected idol, they must also reach to drugs. This is certainly false. They may even surpass their idols eventually, using only their natural abilities - as discussed in the fourth paragraph - so young artists must realize and keep this mindset instead. This is the right path towards their personal development, and thus the collective evolution of the Fine Arts to a higher level.

As for why psychedelic art is often energetic, I think the reason is that imagination in its freest form is necessarily dynamic / energetic. In any case, drugs can surely free you up, but I suggest, try to be your own drug instead. As Salvador DalĂ­ said: "I don't do drugs. I am drugs."