Altered States & Creativity
By Brendan Heard and Iásonas Lupus.
“The stakes are high – and so am I”
– Ted Nugent
The exploration of altered states of consciousness is the creative origin of civilization. Harking back through history to the days of Sumer, Egypt, and beyond; religious rituals have formed about these soma experiences and the altered psychological states they create. In our superficial mass-spectacle of contemporary religion, what begins in arcane ages as an intense initiation concoction (such as amanita muscaria in red wine) exists still only as a shade, a ghostly evoked procedure repeated in formula, a tasteless wafer and a sip of white wine.
But we are not here to discuss the loss of the heroic psychological challenge, but the creative virility which is its consequence. The esoteric, explorational, experiential, and monumental cultural discoveries (and from there institutions) which bloomed from this raw psyche-adventuring were incredibly energetic, so much so that many continue to this day, if somewhat watered down and well into their twilight. These powerful mind-voyages, performed under shamanistic rites, increased in every way our creative capacity to question, test, and theorize — thereby to develop arts, technologies and monuments in reverence to these rites, which were dedicated to the divine forces which whispered to the voyager: “Go, innovate, explore.”
When a civilization grows weary and sedentary, it neglects the wisdom of altered-states-exploration, of consciousness-testing through rites, of dances, ceremonies, meditation, dream incubation, and psychedelics. It then hinders the very creative energies which propel it — the consequence being intellectual and spiritual stagnation. To be rigidly sealed in a safety-resin of materialism stultifies the intellectual and artistic vitality of culture, and where only utilitarian practicality remains, exploration itself can be dismissed, and with it innovation. It is as though, in the quest to become as strong and eternal as stone, we have ossified ourselves, losing the very precious thing we sought to protect to begin with.
Exploring these visionary states of consciousness is necessary for the psychological and spiritual health of a civilization, as people need to be enriched by the expanded mystery and wonder of the cosmos. Having their perceptions truly widened, and not having the meaning of their existence reduced down to delivery-route logistics.
During the age of classical antiquity the intelligentsia explored altered states as a rite of passage, having to swear a vow of secrecy for what was the most famous of the secret religious ceremonies of ancient Greece and Rome. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Plutarch, Hadrian, Julian and Cicero, were some of the known participants and initiates at the Eleusinian mysteries. Just how much did this altered state of consciousness (disciplined in an organized, Apollonian fashion) give rise to their creative feats? Extreme creativity was a hallmark of their thinking.
Without such rites human culture can not so easily re-examine itself, question its own patterns, perform basic psychological maintenance upon itself. We succumb to baser desires for production and consumption, by routine-drones and non-self-actualized materialists, those who were never brought to their knees in awe. To be a participant in a difficult ritual inducing an altered state of awareness is to be enriched by the enigma of a mystical experience, as a seeker, not as a thoughtless slave to manifesting moments.
“Any kind of consciousness that is not related to the production or consumption of material goods is stigmatized in our society today.” ~Graham Hancock