Psychedelics have long been revered in counter-culture for their ability to inspire and boost creativity. Since the 50s, rock and roll icons, renowned inventors, Burning Man artists, and the Silicon Valley executives have credited psychedelics for inspiring mind expansion, out-of-box problem solving, unique artistic expressions, and achieving flow states. Steve Jobs famously credited LSD as "one of the most important things in my life".
It is therefore not surprising that enhancing creative problem solving and artistic expressions are some of the most common reasons individuals explore psychedelics and microdosing. Indeed, when it comes to creativity, altered states of consciousness appear to play a significant role in cultivating, supporting, and expanding our ability to come up with novel and interesting ideas.
During a time of great change on this planet when we are facing extraordinary challenges, there are few things more valuable than radical and speedy innovation. Enhancing creativity is perhaps one of the most impactful endeavors humanity can undertake to meet the challenges it faces. Novel problems require novel solutions and to cultivate novel solutions the leaders, change-makers, innovators, scientists, philosophers, educators, and artists of today are tasked with finding new ways to perceive, process, and solve the most pressing problems of our times.
Are Psychedelics The Solution To Our Modern Day Problems?
Psychedelics first and foremost are perspective-expanding medicines; empowering the explorers to stretch their mind and perception beyond the confinements of ordinary thought and outlook. Wayne Dyer says "Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change." There is no denying that we need new perspectives to fuel radical innovation and thought-expansion. Let's explore what role do psychedelics play in enhancing creativity?
To understand the creative thought process, scientists utilize a model named 'dynamic framework of thought' (DFT) that identifies the spectrum of creative ideation amongst mind states like day-dreaming, spontaneous thought, and rumination. The same scientists who initially proposed this model recently proposed a modification to include psychedelic states amongst the creative spectrum of thought. They argued that psychedelic states exhibit properties that make them a strong candidate for facilitating the generation of creative ideas.
In fact, multiple advanced stage studies have demonstrated that psychedelics facilitate creative thought generation by:
Increasing associative thinking (day-dreaming)
Increasing ratings of spontaneous creative insights
Giving rise to novel thoughts that appear to progressively increase in volume in the 7 days following a psychedelic experience
There is little doubt that psychedelics medicines enhance creativity but how about microdosing? Is there merit to microdosing for boosting creativity?
Can Psychedelic Microdosing Boost Creativity?
Anecdotal evidence and practitioner surveys have consistently reported boosted creativity as an outcome of microdosing in non-clinical settings.
While there is ample scientific evidence supporting the notion that psychedelic journeys in moderate to large doses support creativity, there is very little research conducted that explores the potential effect of microdosing on improving creativity.
Perhaps the most famous study of microdosing for creativity was conducted by the godfather of microdosing himself: James Fadiman. The Fadiman Experiment conducted in the 60s involved 27 participants (including engineers, mathematicians, architects, and engineer-physicists) who were told to bring a problem they had been struggling to solve for months. They were then administered small doses of LSD & mescaline. They then engaged in problem-solving exercises to find a solution to the problem they had brought along. By the end of the experiment, 44% were able to find breakthrough solutions (including patents and tangible technologies).
While more recent research on microdosing and creativity is scarce, findings from existing scientific research and literature support a strong potential for enhanced creativity through microdosing. Credible research has demonstrated that:
Microdosing improves convergent & divergent thinking performance which are associated with enhanced creative problem-solving
Microdosers score higher on creativity, wisdom, and openness than non-microdosers
Microdosing predicts enhanced performance on all 3 creativity facets producing more: clever, uncommon, and remote solutions
Reduced anxiety and improved mental clarity also leads to enhanced creativity
With that said, as a practitioner, I have found microdosing for creativity to be more accessible as an integrative practice following a macro-dose experience in an effort to nurture the new neural pathways opened through large dose experiences. Alternatively, experimenting with mini doses (just above the microdose range) appears to also deliver a noticeable boost in creativity than in everyday microdosing practice.
Can Psychedelics Radically Expand The Creative Potential?
Although scientific explorations into psychedelics are beginning to gain momentum after decades of prohibition, much of the psychedelic and consciousness terrain remains unexplored and untouched by scientific exploration and analysis. It is likely that our current scientific tools and processes might not yet be equipped to grasp the expansive spectrum of human consciousness and the role psychedelics play in supporting its expansion and contortion.
Seasoned psychedelic practitioners, especially those practicing within confinements of an intentional and ceremonial container often report spontaneous, surreal, and extraordinary, bursts of complex creative expressions under the influence of psychedelics. In intentional psychedelic communities these experiences are the norm rather than exceptions.
In my experience as a long time practitioner, I have both experienced and witnessed incredible creative flourishing amongst longterm psychedelic practitioners. Some of these experiences can only be characterized as "magical" until science finds a better explanation.
For me personally, these manifestations have presented themselves as a significant expansion in musical and vocal capabilities. For example, under the influence of certain psychedelic medicines, I am able to access circular breathing (a very complex breathing technique for musicians) without any training, this ability is not accessible to me outside of a particular psychedelic experience. Psychedelics have radically reduced my learning curve for various musical instruments including the ability to master complex strumming patterns that would normally require months of practice, in a matter of hours. Psychedelic states have also radically expanded my vocal range from a non-singer to a professional alto, and an effortless access to the soprano range under the influence of certain plant medicines. Prior to my psychedelic explorations, I had absolutely no musical or vocal training.
There is much we still do not know or understand about psychedelic states but for those willing to explore in a safe and intentional container, there are few things more fascinating in life than witnessing our own creative potential expand and express in novel and mind-bending ways.