The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
“The Great Uplifting of Humanity”: The Redemptive Power of Psychedelics & Art
Allyson and Alex Grey
What is social sculpture, and how can it uplift humanity? How does an entheogen differ from a psychedelic? What is the “universal mind lattice”? Can psychedelics save your life? In this expansive discussion, Paul Austin and legendary visionary artists Allyson and Alex Grey cover all this and much more, including the symbolic communication of the Divine.
Allyson and Alex Grey, visionary artists and founders of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, have been partners, creators, and psychedelic advocates for almost 50 years. As key participants in the second wave of psychedelics through the early 70s, Allyson and Alex have witnessed the changing psychedelic landscape, from fear-mongering and disinformation throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s to the third wave renaissance of today. Dedicated to creating art that uplifts the global community, Allyson and Alex’s current project is the Entheon, a three-story art exhibit that encourages visitors to discover the creator within.
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- Fate and LSD: how Allyson and Alex met.
- The acid trip that saved Alex’s life.
- The mystic path of art.
- A joint trip to “the universal mind lattice.”
- How MDMA inspired the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.
- Alex’s time at Harvard Medical School, and how it impacted his art.
- Allyson’s and Alex’s views on the changing landscape of psychedelics.
- The fallout from four decades of the war on drugs.
- The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors: Alex and Allyson’s church.
- Creativity as a spiritual practice.
- What is “social sculpture”?
- Entheon, the three-story visionary art temple.
- The difference between “entheogen” and “psychedelic.”
- Allyson’s view of how the Divine communicates.
- How art can evolve through psychedelics.
- Allyson’s and Alex’s creative processes.
- Translating the symbols of the Divine in four steps.
- What Allyson sees as her greatest work of art.
0:00:00.3 Alex: Psychedelic. That’s the word. Not these other words. No.
0:00:06.7 Allyson Grey: Why?
0:00:08.3 Alex: Psychedelic. And he was pointing out. It’s just… Okay, just stop. Yeah. [laughter]
0:00:17.5 AG: I happen to think that psychedelic is a big enough theme that it could actually hold more than one word, and I think Entheo is a nice… ‘Cause it’s the Nth degree, and Entheon is a place where God, the Nth degree, is within.
0:00:34.5 Alex: Well, Theo obviously is the Greek God of…
0:00:36.0 AG: And Theo is God.
0:00:38.0 Alex: A lot of the… So the Entheon has a place to discover the God within. I thought… For visionary artists, oftentimes, their work is kind of the residue of a mystical experience. [music]
0:01:05.5 Paul: So today on Third Wave’s podcast, we have two very special guests, Alex and Allyson Grey, visionary artists, creators of CoSM, and two beautiful souls who have really inspired a resurgence of interest in not only visionary art, but also psychedelic medicine. So Alex and Allyson, thank you so much for joining us for today’s show.
0:01:31.8 AG: Thank you for having us.
0:01:33.1 Alex: Thanks, Paul. Great to see you.
0:01:34.6 Paul: It’s great to see both of you. So where I’d love to open up for our audience is the coming together of your story. So Alex, you’re an individual and grew up where you grew up, and Allyson, you have your own story, but I really feel like the sort of origin of this is where your two souls met, and so I’d love just your, both of your sort of perspectives on that.
0:02:06.1 AG: Well, Alex often lets me start the story because our meeting occurred around the contact with the divine. So back in… Before I knew Alex, I started tripping when I was 17 in college and experimenting a lot for three years in a lot of settings, a lot of different exciting and interesting settings with friends and even gazing out on the quad, whatever. And in 1971, I read Ram Dass’ book, Be Here Now, and where it was suggested to me that I go into a dark room and take this LSD in a way I had never tried before, which was solo in a dark room and go inside and have a very inner experience and really with the right… With that intention, the white light, seeing the white light as Ram Dass articulated it and having the right set and setting is the recipe for 65% of people in our world to have a mystical experience, I realized, and I was one of those.
0:03:22.7 AG: And I saw what I recognized as God. It’s like what you say God realized. It’s like this is what people call God, ’cause I was a traditional reformed Jew, but I… And a spiritual person in a sense, but I really wasn’t agnostic. I liked traditions. I liked my religion. I liked everything. I did well in Sunday school, but I really liked… But I really did see what I called God at that point, and three years later, by then I was meditating. I went to find a teacher, and I started meditating with a group when I was 19 or 20, and then vegetarian and all that, and then I went and I met Alex in an art class.
0:04:11.1 AG: We were in a class about performance art and media art and conceptual art. It was really a combination in a really forward-thinking art school where we met, and we were both interested in each other’s work through the year, but not really dating or getting to know each other outside of class until Alex took his first LSD in my apartment when I was giving a party. I was giving the end of year party, and Alex came with our professor who I was dating. And so he did his first LSD trip on my couch that I built myself, and so it was like, it was almost like made for you, Alex. I had a little doll. It was a self doll that was sitting next to Alex on the couch.
0:05:06.0 Alex: A surrogate of Allyson, yeah.
0:05:08.3 AG: I was with him. And he tripped. It was a crazy party, but he was really into himself and his doll and the thing, and his… But you had a inner experience that was God realizing, not realizing in the sense.
0:05:26.4 Alex: Yeah, it was a kind of a fateful day for me because earlier that morning, it was the last day of school, basically, and I was kind of giving up on life and going to give up on school and things like that, and having suicidal ideation, I think, is what they call it. And I was 21 and… So as I was leaving the house, I remembered saying to a God that I didn’t really think existed, “If you’re out there, show me a sign, basically, ’cause I think I’m ready to get off the wheel already.” And they… The day wasn’t that fateful, and I was saying goodbye to my professor after school, and this girl drives by in a VW and invites us to the party. And so I was on that street corner for like two minutes. I often think of what could have happened had you not driven by, but at any rate, on the way over to the party, I had LSD for the first time, got to the party and bestowed the rest of the container on Allyson.
0:07:00.5 AG: It was a container of Kahlua laced with a heavy dose, and we shared that.
0:07:06.5 Alex: Yeah. And so that might explain the nature of the visionary experience that I had, because it was, I have to say, really completely unlike any other journey I’ve ever had. And sitting on the couch for hours, I had the same basic image come to me. I’ve never had that in any trip since then, so I don’t… I can’t explain it really.
0:07:45.1 AG: Well, say what it was.
0:07:46.3 Alex: But it was a tunnel, I was in a tunnel, and it was as soon as I would close my eyes, I could see that I was inside of this tunnel, and it was kind of like there was a candle or a light just around the corner of a conch shell, kind of like the mother of pearl kind of space, but it was alive ’cause it was inside of my head and it kept going around this corner, it was curling around this tunnel. And so yeah, I could see that the light was God, there was a God, that question got answered immediately because it was like all the love, all the infinite wisdom, every answer to every question, that was the light, and it was right there inside, and I was in the dark still, but I was going toward the light.
0:08:46.1 Alex: And it gave me my path and it also gave me the possibility of a new name because I could see that in these polarities, that it was all the different shades of gray that brought the opposites together, and so for me, that was going to be what I would do with my art. I would somehow unite the opposites, and that that was the part of the mystic path of art, was to unite the opposites, spirit and matter. That’s a work of art. It’s in the nature of the thing. And so I got, basically, a divine chiropractic, and perhaps part of me, the part that was not convinced that there was a meaningful universe died and was reborn as this new thing, and so the idea of death and rebirth in the end initiation, that whole process is I think wired in to the really transformative psychedelic experience and…
0:10:24.8 AG: How did it affect your suicidal ideation?
0:10:29.2 Alex: Pfft, ended it completely. It was kind of like, “Yeah, no. No more thinking like that.” It was kind of like, okay, well, the whole thing was about, I wondered if God was there. I think I was really testing God. It’s like if you’re out there, show me a sign. Oh, you want a sign? How is acid?
0:10:50.3 Paul: It’s a good sign.
0:10:51.3 Alex: Is that a good sign? That’s a good sign. You got the best sign right here, okay? Okay? And so, and oh, you want more? More than the infinite. Okay, how about love? How about the potential for love, that is actually not just the love that heals you inside, but it is the love that connects you to another person, and so in the healing inside then I realized after I’d gotten home that, “Wow, there was one other person I knew was tripping last night ’cause my world is different, and I’m gonna call her up and see what’s up.” And… [laughter]
0:11:40.6 AG: We barely spoke the entire night, okay? I don’t know if I said anything more than hello, and you gave me this bottle and then you called me and we went out that night, the next night, and we never left. That’s just the truth. We just never really left, and we both had our own apartments, so it took us… But it was the end of school, so we were both moving and so we moved in together, that was that. We were both moving out of our apartments, so it was just, it was almost set up too perfectly. But anyway, that’s 40… Well, 46 years ago, May 30th, 31st, those were the days that we call the anniversary of knowing. We have the anniversary of knowing, and we have the anniversary of wedding that happened two and a half years later after we were living together, we got married, none of our friends were getting married, that was 1977.
0:12:35.2 Alex: 70s.
0:12:35.5 Paul: Yeah.
0:12:35.8 AG: Nobody was getting married, but we just knew that there was no reason to resist because we weren’t going anywhere, and this was it. And sometimes you feel that way and you should feel that way. I was ready to give up on men altogether, really. And when that happened, I was like, “Yeah, I’ll probably just be single, just an artist in my apartment, maybe my mother will move in with me one day.” [laughter]
0:13:03.5 AG: And then I did not like suits. I was only 23.
0:13:07.0 Paul: So young.
0:13:08.5 AG: Yeah, we were young, we were really lucky that way. And so…
0:13:12.9 Paul: Oh, yeah.
0:13:12.9 AG: A lot of time to grow up together.
0:13:15.0 Alex: Right. And like one year later, practically to the day ’cause… Like June 3rd, 1976, we had a really life-changing LSD experience, where we were together and we were laying in our bed and we were wearing blindfolds and entered into this universal mind lattice, that’s the name I called it, but because it was outside of the physical body but it was in a world of light, transcendental light that seemed to hold multiple lifetimes, a toroidal ball of light. I’ve described it multiple times, but it was like this was the thing that was a fountain and a drain at the same time, and it seemed to contain all lifetimes in all dimensions, and it was ultimately awake. This is the dream experience of being in the flesh body and more of us that it’s inhabiting me like a probe, somehow that conscious soul there but so it was profoundly weird but it seemed like this was timeless, this was the timeless space, and what spirit really was, that it was like this light ’cause it was just a fountain of light, but it was connected with every other being, it seemed, like in the entire cosmos, and they were all balls of light.
0:14:57.6 Alex: So it was like each one was a cell in the body of God, and it extended infinitely and the light was love so…
0:15:06.4 AG: And we always kept a tripping journal, when we’d trip together. So we did drawings of this place that we had been, and I think we both kinda sensed that each other was there but to prove it, we drew the same universal mind lattice. It was Alex’s name for it, and we embraced that. And because it was this fountains and drains, suck holes and blow holes that were just all interconnected and made of light and the light was love, and we both agreed that and we signed a contract about it. It was like we signed a contract with death because…
0:15:44.5 Alex: With life.
0:15:45.4 AG: With life and death because you know that life, it includes death.
0:15:49.0 Paul: You can’t have one without the other.
0:15:50.0 AG: So we made a pact, we confirmed this is so, we know this is so. It’s one of the affects really besides taking away suicidal ideation, but another thing is its ability to resolve your profound terror of death. I mean, it’s not that we’re not still survival-oriented as humans, ’cause we want to save our lives, and do… It makes you wanna do better with your body and your health, really. You wanna make your life as long as you can and live a well life. But it does take away that terror of… MDMA does that too, by the way, we had a… Later, we had a very… Our first MDMA experience was in 1985, when it was still legal, but just barely.
0:16:44.3 Alex: Just before, yeah.
0:16:45.0 AG: Because it was that year also that it became illegal but somebody had given us legally prescribed MDMA, and we did it by ourselves in our… On our bed, the same bed, we always do that, and just without talking and touching or anything, just lying there with our blindfolds on, just being together. We envisioned the chapel of sacred mirrors. So we had had a performance piece that we did, collaboratively called Life Energy, which resulted in these life-sized drawings of the anatomy and the metaphysical anatomy that Alex had done. Thank you. Alex, you tell this. I need to drink.
0:17:30.0 Alex: Yeah. Well, the Life Energy performance included these charts, and one was more or less based on the materialistic Western medicine nervous system, that this is how consciousness manifests, it’s a by-product of the brain. And then there’s the subtle energetic kind of models that integrate the Chi and the meridians and the chakras and auras and the various kinds of ideas of the vital energy, some more or less Eastern subtle energetic matrix. So those two charts were kind of the setups that I had for people to stand in front of because they were life-sized, and you stand in the anatomical position and try to imagine this system inside of yourself. It was kind of a crude drawing and stuff but…
0:18:26.0 AG: It was part of the greater performance, which was basically to engage people to experience different kinds of life energy. So that was like a… It was almost like an interval, kind of intermission thing, have those there. It was just like sort of a side thing to have those there so that people could do something during intermission, people could get up and stretch and whatever ’cause we had all these other… Alex did a lecture, his first lecture ever on Life energy, on the history of the sort of theories, the various theories of life energy like Wilhelm Reich’s cosmic superimposition or different people who experimented with life energy. It was a really great talk. We’ve embedded it in our talks…
0:19:11.0 AG: But anyway, but from there we were walking home…
0:19:15.5 Alex: And we could see that the paintings or these charts were the most successful part of the performance really.
0:19:25.1 AG: It wasn’t, you know like, that successful…
0:19:29.3 Alex: So Allyson said, “Why don’t you do a whole series based on that idea, the body, mind, spirit of an individual?
0:19:37.9 AG: Fully rendered, like disease were ink drawings and they were beautiful, but I thought, just to do life-size anatomy. And Alex happened to be working at Harvard Medical School at the time too. He was working in the Anatomy Department so he had the opportunity to do a lot of drawing and a lot of painting, though he was a préparateur basically.
0:19:58.4 Paul: What brought you to that, Alex? Because that’s such a… When I think of you as an artist and studying the physiology, it’s intertwined, but it’s also very, very different. What brought you to Harvard to do that?
0:20:13.2 Alex: Well, I wanted to study basically the box that consciousness comes in, and I felt like if I was going to make a convincing picture that reveal elements that were hidden, that one of the best ways to do that because where we identify with our body and we know that as conscious entities we’re living as beings in our body, and so to at least engage the viewer that you’re talking about consciousness and awareness of the body, that was a good place to start, ’cause we know a lot of things about the anatomy and we know how to portray it for centuries, artists have been studying the anatomy. And so the other reason that I went anatomical was the idea that how do you transcend the skin and how do you erase race as an issue and try to make a universal statement about humanity? Now this may be incredibly flawed as an idea and idealistic in numerous ways, but the idea of the ideal and the universal is what I was trying to go for by taking science, a medical scientific view of what a person is made up of. That way we trust science.
0:21:53.7 Alex: There are elements of, who can you trust these days and what is a trustworthy kind of a thing? And so part of me, I think, was motivated at what… At finding trustworthy foundational elements to tie a study of consciousness to. This is why the brain research is so important and why studying what’s DMP doing in the brain, and everything like this. It’s like really super important to understanding what consciousness is, even though that’s not going to tell you exactly, but it’s a component part. If there’s a material world that is in relationship with an energetic, a bio-energetic, a subtle energetic, maybe a psycho-spiritual energetic world that has its own kind of vital bodies. All of the great traditions used to have these ideas and the Egyptian mysteries and things like that also portray multiple bodies.
0:23:01.0 AG: That’s brilliant. And I just wanted to add another answer to that question that you asked Alex, which is, while he was working as a préparateur at Harvard Medical School, he was studying… He was a documentarian as a performance artist. His documents were what made the performances. So he had this idea that he wanted to see an image of himself with one hand holding a brain and the other hand holding guts. Brains and guts, it was like a polarity. You were studying polarities, and so it was a document that you just wanted to see, and you went over to Harvard, knocked on the door with your hair half-shaved and you have bald. I think you might have worn a hat or something, but you went over there, you knocked on the door and you met a man who became the best man at our wedding. But he was basically the curatorial associate at the Harvard anatomical museum, and you asked him for what you wanted to do and he played. He played with you and he always played with those. He took some of the pictures, some of the best pictures of us performing together and interesting, he was our best friend for many years.
0:24:16.1 Alex: Yeah, learned a lot from David.
0:24:18.6 AG: Yeah, David Gunner.
0:24:20.9 Paul: What you’re speaking to is, again, the plane with polarities, I think is fascinating, and it’s almost like for us to fully explore consciousness, we need a structure for that consciousness to exist within, or else it’s just too ephemeral, it’s too chaotic. There’s not a way to get a sense of it and get a feel for it, and what I found, I just got out of a couple of days of intense bodywork in North Cal with a world-class healer, and he calls himself an 11,730 year-old Chinaman, which has happened to be manifested as an American Jew in this lifetime, and what he…
0:25:02.0 AG: Oh, is that right?
0:25:03.1 Paul: Yeah, what he continued to come back to is, the body is that structure in so many ways because there is this fascination particularly in the psychedelic space with transcendence going beyond, and yet we’re physical organisms. And so there’s room in there then for transformation rather than just transcend, transcend, transcend, how do we come back and transform ourselves? And this is what you are speaking to with suicidal ideation and the LSD that opened up a space of death and then rebirth for your transformation. And what has come out of that, the art and the community, and the chapel and the connection between you two is literally legendary, and I think that is something also to honor and just to speak, because without that shift and that change.
0:26:00.4 Paul: The place where we’re currently at, fast-forwarding 45 years later, would not be what it is, because of your role in popular culture, because of your role with MAPS. And that’s the next box that I wanted to open, is, speaking of polarities, we started at your beginning, and now we’re here much later, and 2021, phase three clinical trials, decriminalization, that’s coming to many, many cities, Oregon legalized psilocybin , what have been your impressions of the shifts and changes in the last 40 years, and what are your perspectives on where we are today as a movement, or as a renaissance? And I’m just gonna keep that very broad and open because I love you when you riff, so the more the better. [chuckle]
0:27:00.9 AG: Do you wanna start?
0:27:07.2 Alex: Well, it’s… Somebody said, “Oh, thank goodness they’ve ended America’s longest war,” recently, and I was just thinking, “No, not really. The longest war is the war on drugs, which is still going on.” And so that has characterized our lifetime in terms of the… Seeing our friends get busted and sent away for 20 years, for what? For not harming anyone, but for peddling LSD or something has… Things that we will discover, and they knew in the ’50s were miracle cures, miracle cures. Bill Wilson wanted to adopt LSD for Alcoholics Anonymous. These ideas, and the massive information about LSD from well-known figures like Cary Grant, and numerous cultural figures, that it had established psychedelics as a positive potential cultural force, which was hijacked by the disinformation campaigns that you now see available, and are so rampant and obvious, but in those days, maybe they weren’t, and maybe all news wasn’t corrupted, and maybe people did go blind staring at the sun, and gee-whiz, maybe it will damage your chromosomes.
0:29:04.0 Alex: There were so many lies, and thrown up by, and continue to be in the war on drugs. Any war amounts to a war on truth is really a bad thing. And so, as we can see, it’s done its damage where it was meant to do. It’s disrupted all of the hippies, and it disrupted our race problem, and put people in jail who shouldn’t be there for trying to medicate themselves. So we have to look at the uphill battle, and the gale-force winds that any progress against that, we say psychedelic renaissance. We’re almost to the point where these things can be celebrated, but we can see also how rights can be slapped away from you so fast. Now that MAPS…
0:30:21.7 AG: Look at [Overlapping speech] save today.
0:30:22.6 Alex: MAPS has made steady progress making important, and helping scientific research all over the world, and hoping to seed the renaissance that is underway. And I believe that it’s one of the most positive things that could be happening for humanity, that could have happened for humanity 70 years ago, but we’ve seen what iterations have come through, we, try to learn some lessons, both in the hubris from the previous generations of first-time users. I think that’s a natural thing, anybody who discovers psychedelics and discovers the divine somehow feels like they’ve been revealed the secrets of the universe and therefore they’ve gotten woke or something, but we can also see how those experiences don’t lead you to a permanent enlightenment. And so I think that some of the most positive elements, of course, the PTSD studies and the depression works, and all of these studies, even with addiction, and breaking addiction, and alcoholism, and smoking, and all these studies were done in the ’50s and the ’60s. And so…
0:32:05.0 AG: And the ’60s. I’d like to say how gratified I feel that the arc that we have seen since.
0:32:11.7 Alex: Yes.
0:32:12.3 AG: For me, from 1969 to today, where there was an incredible amount of secrecy… And taboo around it, and can really… But Alex continued to come out, and that was the thing that I think was very impressive, that even though people early on when he was asked to lecture would say, “Please don’t mention LSD” he would anyway. And so coming out [laughter] was really important and in both of us coming out I think was also important. I was extremely afraid to talk about it to my advisors at Tufts University. You know what I mean is that my work was inspired by LSD was a secret, really in my art, as far back… And then to see how it’s pushed through, but it’s really because of heroes. It is because of Alex coming out and other people coming out, and Rick Doblin has always been an incredible hero to us. And he’s just… Even though we were psychedelic files, he’s enlightened us all to the absolute potential good of all drugs. Drugs aren’t bad, it’s the way they’re used, and let’s not vilify the drugs and say, This is a bad drug and this is a good drug.
0:33:31.4 AG: There is good, but there is bad use that people have of it, and I think that was a correction that I really could understand for drug education to our daughter because that was the first time I heard it was when we were at Burning Man, was it like, No, there are no bad drugs. I had always thought there was, and it’s absolutely not the case. So anyway, I think that’s important drug education, and it’s been a great arc. I’m really glad to see that there’s… We’d like to see it legal in our state where we can have use CoSM as a place for healing in that regard, and we’ll see. But we are a legitimate sanctioned church, so we have to abide by whatever the state laws are and be a container for the energy and for the discussion of and for the continual coming out of, and people find the others here. They wanna know. They live amongst non-users or non-experimenters and they find the others here. So that’s one of the things that we really… That always felt we wanted to be.
0:34:50.0 Alex: Yeah. I think that we talked with some of our psychedelic elders some time ago about whether we should pursue the psychedelic church element so much, and they were saying, “You’ve got the collection of works and things like that, you should really try to build your temple and focus your attention on doing that, it’ll be more of a place for the validation of the mystical experience and psychedelic experience for people, and it’ll be a context that people can go and integrate more their experience or introduce the ideas that they may have had.”
0:35:38.6 AG: Plus the fact that there are… I have to say, there are a large percentage of fans of Alex’s work and of CoSM and of my work, that are not psychedelic. They actually… We have people who come regularly who just feel that they are in touch with the divine, that they’ve had those experiences on holy trip, big breath work, meditation, on the natch, whatever, there’s older people, even older people who feel that they are in synchronous union with or inclusiveness of all people. So we don’t want to segment off, although it is true that because we talk about psychedelics, we do attract a lot of people that are looking for the others. But at the same time, we don’t do psychedelics all the time, not in the least not in the least. It’s an experience though, that never leaves you. It stays with you for your whole life, and the learning and the lessons just grow and evolve, the world seems to be tripping all the time so…
0:36:49.9 Paul: Especially now.
0:36:50.6 AG: You look forward to that.
0:36:53.9 Paul: And finding the others. This was, I think, a Timothy Leary phrase. Is it a word? I think it was a very famous…
0:36:54.9 Alex: Yeah.
0:36:55.9 AG: I don’t know.
0:37:01.0 Alex: Right. And he recommended to start your own religion. He wrote a book called “Start your own religion.”
0:37:07.9 Alex: Did he really? [overlapping conversation]
0:37:12.4 AG: Psychedelics is though a religion for some people, it’s their contact with spirituality.
0:37:19.4 Paul: Well, we see this with the santotime, UDV and Ayahuasca , and this is also becoming a more prominent way to create legal protection. There’s many groups now who are setting up churches as a way to ideally protect themselves, and it’s still sort of up in the air as to how efficacious that will be, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.
0:37:45.9 Alex: Yes, and it provides a… We’ve seen the medicalization of the psychedelic experience. And so many in the movement have also said, “Well, psychedelics are not simply for people who have been traumatized or who are depressed or anxious about end-of-life. It’s for the betterment of well people as well and for the further study of… Toward your own self-realization and hopefully self-transcendent, and so in this self-actualizing and self-transcending arc, which is I think a natural thing. And the creative process is engaged. And so as artists, the idea of creativity as a spiritual practice, as something that comes naturally, I think that anybody who’s doing something creative no matter what it is, is feeling a flow, is feeling connected with something, they’re trying to make it better, they’re trying to make it more beautiful or whatever that means for them.
0:39:13.9 Alex: And so that idea of wanting to craft a better thing is the evolutionary force. That is, I think whatever the divine intelligence that’s really running through mycelium root system throughout the woods. It’s that active intelligence that’s trying to make it better and trying to make it work. And so I think engaging your creativity as your spirituality tying it to… Is serving love, that’s what changes creativity from a more self-serving or self-actualizing kind of a thing to a spiritual thing, that includes that you’re doing it not just for yourself but for the sake of everybody, and you’d like it to be of benefit and…
0:40:21.0 Paul: You want it to inspire and to move people emotionally, you want it for people to shift perspectives. And that’s what your artwork, your experience at CoSM, everything that you’ve created is… It’s a portal into that evolution, that altered state.
0:40:37.8 AG: Well, I just… I’d like to say that we call it social sculpture because it… ‘Social sculpture’ was coined by Joseph Beuys in the ’50s, the ’40s, and he was an Eco artist, but anyway, social sculpture is art that intends social change. It’s made to just kind of be a container or a sense of social change. Joseph Beuys did a piece called 7000 Oaks where he planted 7000 Oaks to bring attention to the acid rain of the Black Forest, the destruction of the Black Forest in Germany. So, anyway, but Social sculpture is bringing people together to practice harmony, unity, and art as a spiritual path, that’s what we practice at CoSM in our ceremonies, we call them ceremonies, but they’re… In our church there’s a time when we make art together, silently like a meditation with a musical thematic sort of soundtrack for a good period of time, people…
0:41:47.7 AG: You just, you can really activate and get very deep, and you’re in this bubble with all this group of people, but we’ve been doing it through COVID, we’ve been doing it by Zoom, and it works very well. And we’re getting people from all over the world, like people from Australia and Guatemala, and people from various continents that come regularly to our church to just draw, and then they will share afterward, so it’s kind of show and tell, and everybody has a chance to show their work and talk about what’s been going on with them, dreams, whatever it’s a group activity. And so, but anyway, that’s art as a spiritual path, that’s what with social sculpture, we do many different things, workshops and art projects and artists and residents, and then sharing the property, and then we’re building Entheon, which is the 12,000 3-story Visionary Art Temple that we came here to build after almost 14 years, we will open Entheon, we’ve been doing members and donor towards we’re just, We haven’t gotten our Certificate of Occupancy yet but very soon when we do we’ll be able to open and it’s a physical location, but we also have our broadcasts, so we’re touching people in a wider audience as well to uplift and have a community sense of inclusiveness. All Faiths, all disciplines, all backgrounds, all genders, all… All that, with acceptance.
0:43:33.1 Alex: All welcome.
0:43:33.8 AG: All welcome. That kind of thing.
0:43:35.4 Paul: What inspired Entheon?
0:43:37.2 AG: Well, Entheon was a name, inspired later after the mission of… In 1996, we became a non-profit, CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, became a non-profit organization. So that people who wanted to donate to CoSM see a chapel actually happen, could make donations to an organization, so somebody helped us do that and we… What was I gonna say, we became a non-profit then by 2008 somebody else thought that we should be a church because we were doing everything that churches do, we were doing wedding’s blessings, baby blessings, memorials, regular spiritual full moons. We’ve just, We’re about to celebrate our 234th in a consecutive, an unbroken chain of full moon ceremonies that we started in 2003, January 2003 in our Brooklyn Loft. And where our daughter was growing up, and hundreds of people were coming there, before we were offered a space, a complete 12,000 square foot floor in Manhattan in Chelsea where the artists gathered and the clubs grew up, and we were there for five years, so we had CoSM in the city, CoSM NYC, we built it out and made it beautiful and showed a lot of people’s art, showed the art of Wavy Gravy and Jerry Garcia, [chuckle] and lots of the visionary artists that you know and love.
0:45:10.1 Alex: Yeah, numerous, like Issac Abrams, who was making it in the mid ’60s. And had one of the first psychedelic art galleries, a psychedelicatessen, and in the village…
0:45:29.8 Paul: But we had Microcosm gallery, we had CoSM, Chapel Sacred Mirrors. We had COSMOSIS which was our entheocentric dance space, and yeah the whole thing was tricked out our offices we started CoSM Journal in our home actually, we were about to finish our Entheon volume of the 11th volume of CoSM Journal. Over the years, they’re books, they’re books of Visionary Art and articles about various themes like community and human nature. Love.
0:46:02.9 Alex: Well, Entheon was first given to our Burning Man camp…
0:46:12.9 AG: That’s right.
0:46:13.6 Alex: As a name in 2006. I’d been rolling around this name Entheon because we had visited the Pantheon, and that of course is in Rome and it’s a temple to all the gods. And so, I guess at a certain point, there was a fever amongst a few of us in the psychedelic movement that Entheogen was a great idea, that that’s a great term. And I think that it’s still a great term, but I think that it so points the psychedelic experience toward the sacred that the term psychedelic retains an open… Could go there. And it can go in a lot of different places.
0:47:17.1 AG: It has an umbrella status.
0:47:17.6 Alex: It’s got a…
0:47:19.7 AG: It covers a lot of ground. [chuckle]
0:47:20.2 Alex: And so…
0:47:22.9 Paul: Psychedelic still works coined by Humphrey Osmond.
0:47:25.7 Paul: I loved, the word psychedelic is… It’s phenomenal.
0:47:30.8 Alex: It’s a great word.
0:47:30.9 AG: Brilliant.
0:47:31.0 Paul: It’s a great word. People are like, “We should come up with a new word for it”, I’m like, “No. No, keep that.” It’s phenomenal. It’s phenomenal.
0:47:38.9 Alex: Rick, I remember see we had a Bicycle Day event years ago, where Rick Strossman and there was Ralph Metzner and a bunch of our heroes and stuff were out there, but Rick’s point of the whole evening was, “Psychedelic”. That’s the word. [chuckle] Not these other words. No.
0:48:05.5 AG: Why?
0:48:06.0 Alex: Psychedelic. And he was pointing out, it’s just, “Okay? Just stop, yeah.” [laughter]
0:48:15.1 AG: I happen to think that psychedelic is a big enough theme that it could hold more than one word, and I think Entheo is a nice… ‘Cause it’s the nth degree, and Entheon is a place where God, the nth degree is within.
0:48:32.2 Alex: Well, theo, obviously, is the Greek god.
0:48:35.6 AG: Theo is god.
0:48:36.5 Alex: A lot of the… So, the Entheon as a place to discover the God within. I thought it… For visionary artists, oftentimes their work is kind of the residue of a mystical experience, it’s like the smoldering remains. You had a house of fire and now you’ve got the ember, but there, look. And many people can see into that ember and say, “Oh, yeah, that I know, man, I was there.” And so the portal that that represents, it’s such an odd thing. There was a… Who was that the guy who wrote the book on hallucinations, Oliver Sacks.
0:49:35.3 Paul: Oliver Sacks. Yeah.
0:49:36.2 Alex: At the end of life…
0:49:36.7 Paul: I have it in my closet. It’s great.
0:49:37.6 Alex: And so, yeah. An amazing thinker and author and physician, but one of the things he said kind of bugged me about hallucinogens and so, he said basically that the internal experience was so idiosyncratic that it was practically unnecessary to describe because it was… Everyone’s was so undescribable and so unalike. And I felt like while that does honor a certain quality of the…
0:50:19.3 Paul: Uniqueness.
0:50:19.6 Alex: Psychedelic experience and the uniqueness that it, for sure, it does have. But then, visionary art also points to, because other people, by their hundreds, if not thousands, have pointed to it and said, “Look, man, it was something like that” or “Man, that’s dead on to what… The kind of thing, or the place I was”, and so there are so many cross-referencing, either all these people are lying, or else they’re saying, “Hey, these interiors, idiosyncratic interiors of the soul actually have a resemblance to each other.”
0:51:08.3 AG: Okay, and I wanna say that this is… It’s not a difficult at all for people to look at art and discern that looks psychedelic, you hear that all the time. People know what psychedelic looks like if they’ve been to psychedelic and they know that the artists are portraying that. But it’s an ineffable, almost un-describable, almost un-translatable symbol system, which is what I saw when I was having my first experience of God, was these symbols that were wafting through the air, just like infinite numbers of symbols, and they was washing over my body and washing over the surfaces that were in my room, and that to me and that was a light, the light, the letters were light or the symbols were light coming through the darkness.
0:52:01.2 AG: I just knew that that was the language, the ineffable, untranslatable language of the Divine. That was what it was saying to me, that this is the way we communicate with each other. This is our creative expression, is through symbols, that we have thoughts, they’re in here, they’re ineffable, they’re you can’t… I can’t project them. There’s no technology yet to go in there and see those images, but I do my best through my own filters, and my own ability, and my own skill and my own materials that I choose to use, I try to translate those visions through my symbols, and they’re all symbols, everything then in the entire immaterial world is symbols to humans or even to animals probably. But to humans, like you see gray hair and it reminds you of old, witch, grandma, whatever filters come up for you or whatever filters filter your experience, you will project onto things. And so, every physical thing and even feelings notes are symbols. And that was really a heavy sort of essentialized world view that came to me through psychedelics. My first God experience, really.
0:53:27.5 Paul: You became a symbolist.
0:53:30.0 AG: I became a symbolist. [chuckle] I became like a… But I think that also with our major psychedelic experiences in all of them, our commitment to revealing those experiences, those profound experiences through our art became more firm. Our art which, earlier, was more about the self, Alex’s art was about the self, my art was about the self but then it became about the Divine, the infinite, the interconnectedness of all beings and things, this, the particles and waves and cells and systems that create our world. So in order to put it out in the material world, we had to do it through symbol making and we recognized our job as artists. That was what we were here to do.
0:54:18.7 Alex: Art can be a way to unite disparate fields, like polarities, like science and religion. You can somehow unite symbols that are speaking both languages.
0:54:39.7 Paul: One thing that I wanted to reflect back is, symbol is what lives beneath language, and what psychedelics do is they allow us to neurobiologically spiritually they allow us to go beyond that to see these archetypes that sort of permeate existence. And it gets even back to what we were talking about at the beginning of the podcast where, we have this experience and we realize we’re the infinite. We sort of we drop back into connection with the ancestors, connections with people who lived long before us, and… I think to quote one of the teachings that I’ve learned from psychedelics, one of the many teachings but one of the core teachings is this concept that time is not linear, but that life is circular and that we find ourselves in sort of this… I think Nietzsche called it the…
0:55:41.6 Alex: Eternal return.
0:55:43.1 Paul: The eternal return, yeah, that was it. Yeah. And to speak to your art and that’s the sort of final question that I want us to dive into. Your art represents that and as a creator myself, I’m just so curious… What is your creative process? So, yeah, Allyson?
0:56:08.9 AG: I just wanted to say that meaning occurs in our mind. Language occurs in symbols. All language is symbols. My language that I’m speaking right now, the mouth noises, as Terrence would say, are just exactly that. They’re symbols that you recognize because of your filters. You didn’t grow up in Chinese country or something. And my… So, the language is all coming out as symbols, and if you write it, again, it’s symbols. So everything physical or outside in the outside material world is a symbol, and then our mind makes meaning. So we’re meaning making machines. We just put that filters, we make those meanings. But our art, you were saying something about our art…
0:57:00.2 Paul: One your creative process.
0:57:01.0 AG: The process of making art.
0:57:04.1 Paul: Yeah, what’s your creative process?
0:57:08.1 Alex: Once you tap into that world of symbols, which is, I think a primary language, I think that… I’ve been toying around with this term, art theology, because it’s like the wedding of a creative practice and a theological notion or some kind of wisdom. And so, oftentimes in a dream, you’re… Pictures are being revealed, maybe discussions are being had, but basically, the unconscious is speaking in dream symbols. And this is the language of the unconscious. No matter what language you’re speaking, there is an underlying, an archetypal dream unconscious that every human and probably many of the higher animals have as well. So once you contact that world of symbols, then the translation of that is… I think of it as a process. I think it’s got like four steps. Let me go through it. First, you experience transcendental beauty…
0:58:42.7 Paul: Four-step process, alright [Unclear speech].
0:58:44.2 Alex: Yeah, transcendental beauty. That’s the mystical experience, okay, the ultimate experience of God consciousness, possibly. Okay. Then, in archetypal beauty has to… A form has to occur in the mind of the artist, the creator, to then bring out technical beauty into the world. That’s when the craft comes and touches a page, and it could start just as a little…
0:59:18.4 AG: Practice.
0:59:18.9 Alex: Sketchbook that you carry around with you, and you keep track of your ideas and little things that come in, but especially during these journeys. And so, what was the quality of light there? Can you give me a color description? Read from one border to the next border to the next border… So you get details of that kind of stuff, and you bring it into the, craft it into the object, and then the fourth step would be the receiver of that beauty and… That’s aesthetic beauty that takes them back to the source. So it’s like a loop. God’s really trying to do an elaborate “Marco… Polo… ”
1:00:15.5 AG: I’d like to say something about process. And I have a four-step process too. [chuckle] In order to create something in the material world, and art is… Exists in the material world, by the way. Art is intention plus evidence. If you have no evidence, it’s only up here in your mind still, it isn’t art yet. Art is evidence and the artist’s intention that it be art. So there’s four things that you have to have: Time, because it takes time to make something, so you have to put that into your life. If you wanna be an artist, you have to create time for it. Space, you have to have a place to make it, and your place is dependent on what it is that you’re making, and so you… But in order to have art, you need a place to make it, and you need a place to put it. Materials are the things that you choose to make it with. Do you like water colors? Do you like clay sculpture?
1:01:19.0 AG: What are you gonna make your art out of? Are you a collage artist? What are you gonna make it out of? Those are decisions that you gain by looking at other people’s art and seeing what it calls you and what attracts you, and you choose those special materials. And I always say, “Make sure you have the best materials you can afford,” ’cause they’re the more fun things to use and more attractive. And then there’s the content. What are you gonna make art about? What is the most… And we always recommend, what gives you passion? What gives you juice? What is the content that calls you? What do you wanna say to the world? Communicate with the world. So, that is process. You can line those up and fill in the blanks, and you will have an art process, you will have an art… Sort of evolution.
1:02:15.3 Paul: Yeah.
1:02:16.1 AG: You can be an artist.
1:02:17.8 Alex: And for us, I think that the process happens in a variety of ways. It’s like you may have a journey and a vision comes very strong from that journey. And it might not have been your intention on the journey, you might just wanted to hang out with creator, but creator gave you a couple of ideas there that you might develop. And so then you develop that for me, I develop it first in the sketchbook. I try to remember things like the feeling I was having at the time I was seeing that thing. And oftentimes, the images resolve into something that are a philosophical statement, a world view is being summarized in an image, iconically, archetypally, somehow it fuses into a meaningful and, hopefully, in some way, new perception. And that summarizes this experience you have. And so I think that when you’ve got a subject like that that you can embed in the work, then it becomes like a battery of consciousness, the art object itself. And that’s why I think the… It winds up, in my case, some of the art work has been tattooed on to people.
1:03:51.6 Paul: I’m sure a lot of…
1:03:51.9 AG: It’s not your process though, because you don’t do that…
1:03:54.4 Alex: No, but it…
1:03:55.7 AG: Other people do.
1:03:56.0 Alex: It’s like, what happens to it then? Yeah, that’s true. It’s not my process.
1:04:01.5 Paul: Do you have a favorite piece of art? Both of you? Either of you? Each one of you? That you’ve created? [chuckle] Or which piece of art is most meaningful to you that you’ve created?
1:04:13.8 AG: No, they’re all your children. Some of them are more labor-intensive and they take longer to execute, and therefore they have more detail and they have more… They have a great deal of power, being labor-intensive, but I don’t think they’re all equally important, but I don’t know that I could really… You’ve had some that you feel are more impactful to the community.
1:04:42.3 Alex: I don’t know. Well, I… For me, I think that the Sacred Mirrors, there’s 21 of them, I don’t know whether that could count as a work of art, but if it could, then I think I’d go for Sacred Mirrors because that kind of summarizes a lot of what we’ve tried to… Or what I’ve tried to bring into art. A context of cosmic consciousness evolution and this journey to the universal mind lattice that was a psychedelic. For me, it was an important experience that I think the rest of my life has been all about working with and trying to get back to sharing. ‘Cause to me, this is the light of immortality. It exists. It exists. It always exists. It’s not something that stops. That’s always going, this ends, this body, but that doesn’t. And so that’s what we’d like to introduce people to, in the chapel, and that’s why I think we’ve been at it for all these years.
1:06:06.1 AG: CoSM, CoSM is our greatest, is… I mean, I feel that it is our greatest contribution, because it embodies so much. But CoSM certainly is my greatest work of art.
1:06:14.9 Alex: Yeah.
1:06:16.7 AG: Creating this place, this social sculpture, and all the people, and all the productions that we’ve done and… I love it. I love it, it’s very integral. It covers a lot of ground.
1:06:28.4 Alex: That’s true. There’s a new thing at Meow Wolf…
1:06:33.0 AG: That’s right.
1:06:33.2 Paul: Ooh.
1:06:33.6 Alex: That’s pretty cool.
1:06:34.8 AG: Oh, yeah.
1:06:35.3 Paul: The one in New Mexico, or…
1:06:36.5 Alex: I don’t know whether…
1:06:37.9 AG: Open… No, in… The new one in Las Vegas that opened in February, we have two installations; one is just the two of us, called The Infinitizer, which is an amazing room that they let us go crazy in, and the Painted Desert, for which we recommended, I guess, six other artists and their… A lot of the great artists are collaborating with us in the Painted Desert, so…
1:07:10.0 Alex: Projected Desert. Yeah.
1:07:10.4 AG: Project… I’m sorry, not Painted, Projected Desert. You’re in the city and somebody’s backing up to your building.
1:07:18.7 Paul: Is that me?
1:07:21.6 Alex: It was here.
1:07:22.1 AG: That’s here. Did you hear that?
1:07:23.8 Paul: I heard it, yeah.
1:07:24.3 AG: I’m sorry.
1:07:24.5 Paul: No, that’s fine.
1:07:25.7 AG: I didn’t know what that was.
1:07:25.9 Paul: It’s fine. Final question, and then we’ll wrap up. Any sort of mantra or wisdom or insights that you’d just like to share as a final thought. It could relate to your work, it could relate to art, it could relate to psychedelics, but just sort of something you’d like to leave our listeners with, as they go back out into the world after this experience.
1:07:58.0 AG: Well, something God told us, I’m sure.
1:08:02.2 Alex: Mm-hmm.
1:08:04.8 AG: We were just coming up with major quotes today for our show at Mesa in Arizona, we have the biggest collaborative show that we have ever, ever been offered. 55 pieces, some of them never seen before, in a show that’s opening on September 10th, and we were trying to come up with our best quotes to put at the top of our bio, and all that thing, when they put something on the wall, and yours I loved, I loved yours. I loved them both. You say yours. Do you remember what it was?
1:08:41.1 Alex: “The great uplifting of humanity beyond its self-destruction is the redemptive mission of art.”
1:08:54.6 AG: Yeah.
1:08:55.7 Paul: Can you say that once more?
1:08:56.3 AG: And mine was… Yeah, say it again.
1:09:01.0 Alex: “The great uplifting of humanity beyond its self-destruction is the redemptive mission of art.”
1:09:11.5 AG: Yeah.
1:09:12.9 Alex: And so it’s like combined, whatever whenever media we can put on this, in order to raise our consciousness so that we want to survive and we do the things that make that possible.
1:09:32.2 AG: And my quote was, “Every moment is an opportunity for love and transformation.” It’s kind of a voice that I heard on LSD that guides me, and guides… I don’t know, that every moment, it’s possible to transform like that, whatever you’re feeling, whatever is happening inside of you, it’s an opportunity for love and transformation that you can transform at any moment.
1:10:02.6 Paul: I believe that.
1:10:03.4 AG: Yeah.
1:10:04.1 Alex: I believe that too. Well…
1:10:05.8 AG: Thank you.
1:10:08.0 Paul: Thank you. Thank you for your presence, thank you for your creativity and your creations, thank you for CoSM, for the Full Moon ceremonies, 250-plus and going, and just thank you for who you are and what you’ve brought out in the world. I think it’s such a light, it’s so inspiring, and it has proved to be so influential in the evolution of consciousness that it’s just been an honor to sit here with you and share this time.
1:10:40.7 AG: Thanks, Paul. Thank you so much for inviting us.
1:10:43.5 Alex: Great to talk today.
1:10:45.2 Paul: Thank you.
1:10:45.9 Alex: Thank you.
1:10:46.4 Paul: Thanks so much for watching. If you wanna stay up-to-date on the third wave of psychedelics, subscribe to this channel and visit thethirdwave.co, where you’ll find plenty of free resources on intentional and responsible psychedelic use. [music]