The Creative Process and the Psychedelic Experience an essay by Dr. Frank Barron featured in the Psychedelic Library. I’ve spoken about him a few times previously in this web log. I met Frank Barron in 1978 while I was attending the University of California, Santa Cruz. I was an undergraduate and Frank a full professor of psychology. He became my mentor and I was friends with him until he died. Perhaps it is no coincidence that he passed in October 2002, the same month I left Santa Cruz for Las Vegas . I had lived there for 26 years. In a way, some part of me died with Frank and I almost feel like I’ve been in an after-death state since I moved to Vegas.
Frank was the guy who turned Timothy Leary on to psilocybin and invited him to Harvard University. I had met Tim two years before and perhaps one of my greatest memories was getting Leary and Barron together for Lunch at the Crows Nest Restaurant, a Santa Cruz restaurant overlooking the Monterey Bay. Frank also taught at Esalen Institute, Big Sur.
In the essay, Frank talks about his study of exceptionally creative people. He found that the more creative the individual, the more likely that person was to have high scores on tests measuring psychopathology. He developed a special scale of MMPI — the test he used to study people’s personalities. He called the scale "ego-strength" which meant an individuals ability to turn their visions into real world creations and a bit more as well. In "Why We Get High" an essay I published about ten years ago, I talk about the meaning of ego:
Transcendental experience is experiences that go beyond the ego but also continue of maintain and encompass the ego. Transcendental experiences are based upon the solid foundation of life in the world or "chopping wood and carrying water" as the Zen Buddhists put it. For those with no strong foundations, altered states might lead downward into more primitive and barbaric states of mind — "the pre" portion of the "pre-trans" split.. Thus the warning should be given, make sure that when you reach for the sky, your feet be planted firmly on the ground.
The key point that is made, and affirmed by both Freud and Jung also, is that the development of the ego is an absolutely necessary requirement for healthy human functioning. In the transcendence of the ego it is important that the experience be given time and space to be reinvigorated in ordinary life, or the person becomes "spaced-out" not capable of functioning in the world. And if we weren’t supposed to function in the world, what are we doing here anyway.?
If you still find all of this hard to understand, then the key to the confusion is in the term ego, which has as many meanings as love or God or any of those other confusing words people are always trying to define. In the ’60′s, we talked about "ego-death" as the ultimate act of mind. John Lenin once commented that after reading the Psychedelic Experience and taking acid a few hundred times, he didn’t even realize who he was or that he had written all of those great songs for awhile.
But "ego-death" no matter how intensively experienced, always leads to "ego rebirth." And why shouldn’t it because the ego is not some negative thing that has to be disposed off. It is the vehicle which allows us to travel through life.
We also link ego with egotistical, as the person who is always patting themselves on the back verbally in front of others or putting on airs. But having a strong ego in the psychological sense doesn’t have anything to do with that either.
Father of self-actualization theory Carl Jung believed that in as a person becomes self-actualized, that first there needs to be a healthy ego developed. But then, after it’s development takes place, then there is a turning away from "ego-centeredness" toward the development of the self, of which the ego is only a part. He called this process "self-actualization."
Read the complete essay here.