Therapeutic studies involving psychedelic drugs in the 1960s opened up new areas of
investigation for a growing number of young psychiatrists. A particularly promising
avenue of inquiry entailed using LSD as a tool to explore the creative attributes of the
mind. Dr. Oscar Janiger (the first person in the
US to conduct a clinical investigation of DMT, or dimethyl-tryptamine, an extremely
powerful short-acting psychedelic) noted that many of his patients reported vivid
aesthetic perceptions frequently leading to a greater appreciation of the arts. One of his
subjects claimed that a single acid trip was equal to "four years in art school" and urged
Janiger to give the drug to other artists. This led to an experiment in which one
hundred painters drew pictures before, during, and after an LSD experience. Everyone
who participated considered their post-LSD creations personally more meaningful.
Impressed by these results, Janiger proceeded to administer the psychedelic to various
writers, actors, musicians, and film-makers, including such notables as Anais Nin,
Andre Previn, Jack Nicholson, James Coburn, Ivan Tors, and the great stand-up
comedian Lord Buckley.
While some interesting and highly original works of art have been produced during the acid high, the creative effects of LSD cannot be measured solely in terms of immediate artistic output. Even more important is the enlargement of vision, the acute awareness of vaster potentials that persists long after the drug has worn off. Janiger's subjects frequently commented on the affinity between the drug-induced state and "what they felt might be an essential matrix from which the imaginative process derives." Author William Burroughs, who experimented with hallucinogens on his own, agreed with this assessment: "Under the influence of mescaline I have had the experience of seeing a painting for the first time, and I found later that I could see the painting without using the drug. The same insights into music or the exposure to a powerful consciousness-expanding drug often conveys a permanent increase in the range of experience. Mescaline transports the user to unexplored psychic areas, and he can often find the way back without a chemical guide."
An excerpt from Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of
LSD: The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond, by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
Copyright 1985 by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
The Acid Dreams web site: http://www.levity.com/aciddreams/