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Alex Grey

searching for God. I didn’t know what that was. I was an existentialist. Within twenty four hours of returning from the Pole, I was invited to a party by an acquaintance who would become my wife. She invited me along with our professor, so the professor took me there. On the way, he offered me a bottle of Kalua laced with a high dose of LSD. It was the end of school, and I decided to celebrate. I drank a good deal of it. Allyson drank the rest. That was my first LSD experience.

Tripping that night I experienced going through a spiritual rebirth canal inside of my head. I was in the dark, going towards the light, spinning in this tunnel, a kind of an opalescent living mother-of-pearl tube. All paradoxes were resolved in this tunnel — dark and light, male and female, life and death. It was a very strong archetypal experience. The next day, because it had been my first trip, I called Allyson up, to talk to her about it. I asked her out that night, and we never left each other. It’s been over twenty years.

Within twenty-four hours of announcing that I’m looking for God, an LSD experience opened me up on a spiritual, evolutionary path, and I had met my wife. It was miraculous. My prayers were answered. Allyson and I have maintained an ongoing psychedelic sacramental relationship. We have often tripped laying in bed, blindfolded or in a beautiful environment. Then, coming out of blindfolds, we write and draw.

David: Oh wait, you were the person who put together those isolation masks.

Alex: The Mindfold.

David: Yeah, right. I’ve see them advertised in High Times.

Alex: (Laughter) Yeah.

David: That’s a brilliant idea, putting ear plugs and eye shades together. Sort of a portable isolation tank. I made my own pair actually. So you’d wear those when you were tripping?

Alex: We used it as a blank screen to project our imagination on to. I saw it as an art object, as well. We made a limited edition of twenty-five hundred, and sold them all over the world. Then we sold the business.

David: You’ve tried one of John Lilly’s isolation tanks haven’t you?

Alex: Oh yeah, isolation tanks are great. You do get a different sense with immersion.

David: Have you ever actually tried to do any work while you were tripping?

Alex: A little — The results are interesting and remind me of the trip, but it’s not my most successful work. My work takes a steady mind, eye and hand to accomplish. The psychedelic helps me to access the infinitude of the imagination, allowing me to see countless interpenetrating dimensions. William James says that no model of reality can be complete without taking these alternative dimensions of consciousness into account. Since I want to make art dealing with the nature of consciousness and spirit, I have to experience higher dimensions of consciousness.

During a trip I will have visions that are crystallizations of my life experience, or something completely surprising. You may enter a dimension that you’ve never known before, and it seems very real, more real than this phenomenal world. That “other” reality seems to be tinkering with this one, or acting like a puppet-master to this one. I want to reveal the inter-relationships between the different dimensions in my work.

David: To act as a bridge between dimensions?

Alex: Consciousness is that bridge. Making interdimensionality visible validates it for people who have had that experience. They can see a picture outside of their own heads, and say, “It was something like this. I’m not crazy.” There’s plenty of people who’ve had those experiences. Perhaps the work can be useful in that way. I’ve talked to people who use my paintings as a tool to access the dimensions that are represented. Some people trip and look at the book, or look at the art, and key into the states that are symbolized there. That is a psychedelic or entheogenic full circle. I glimpsed the visions while tripping, come back and made the work. Then people trip and access the higher state that produced the vision. The painting acts a portal to the mystical dimension. That is the real usefulness of the work, and it is the great thing about any sacred art.

David: To act as something like an access code, or a doorway to a particular dimension, reality, or vibration.

Alex: Exactly.

David: How has your wife influenced your work? You say that you met her on that night you did psychedelics together. Has she remained as powerful of an influence?

Alex: Totally. Together we are a third mind that neither one of us alone could ever be. We guide each other’s art. We did a performance together called “Life Energy” in 1978, and I made these life-sized charts of the body — one of the Eastern model of Life Energy, and the other was the Western anatomical model of the nervous system. I demarcated an area in front of the image, so that a person could stand in that zone and try to mirror the system on the chart within their own body. We led several exercises during the Life Energy performance. As we were walking away afterwards, Allyson said, “It would really be great if you did fully detailed oil paintings of these different systems that people could stand in front of.” The charts had been the most successful thing about that performance. At that moment I was doomed to doing the “Sacred Mirrors”. Allyson was really the inspiration behind it. She’s inspired me to do numerous paintings — some of my best work. She’s a great designer in her own work and I collaborate with her on her paintings, too.

David: And you’ve worked on paintings together as well.

Alex: Yes. Allyson did the “secret writing” in the halo of the “Sophia” painting. My most recent works, “Transfiguration” and “Prostration”, use Allyson’s geometric grid systems. They relate to the kaleidoscopic DMT complexities and to sacred geometries. Her own work is very strong, and I’m influenced by being around it.

David: In the preface to the book Sacred Mirrors , you say that you and your wife actually shared the same vision of the energy fountains and drains.

Alex: Right. The Universal Mind Lattice. That was an extraordinary trip that really convinced me of the reality of the transpersonal dimensions. We experienced the same transpersonal space at the same time. That space of connectedness with all beings and things through love energy seemed more real to both of us, than the phenomenal world. It changed our work. From that point on we had to make art about that vision. There was nothing more important than that.

David: Have your dreams inspired you? If so, how have they influenced your work?

Alex: Sure. I had a dream that I was painting the “Transfiguration” painting before I actually did it. I did DMT a few weeks later, and I was immediately thrust into the space of that painting I had dreamed of. I was experiencing what it would be like inside of the painting, and what state of being I would try to project. Having seen it in a dream, I could clarify certain elements. It became clearer, although not all questions were solved. Shaving half of my hair off was an image that came in a dream, as well. In the dream, I opened up a garbage can and saw myself with this haircut.

David: Are there any other avenues that you use to access the unconscious, and what else has inspired you?

Alex: Oh sure. Creative visualization is surprisingly effective. Also shamanic drumming can be a pathway to expanded, imaginative territories. Sometimes doing nothing at all you can receive powerful visions. Once I was waiting for the subway, tired after a day of teaching, and I saw the “World Soul” piece which I then worked on for two years. I was in no altered state and was not anticipating anything in particular. I like to keep the “door open” and be permeable to these transdimensional blow-darts of vision. I believe that I am being used by the Logos. The images are sent to me.

David: So you feel like sometimes you’re not really doing it, like it’s just happening though you? Alex: No, I know that I’m physically creating the work. But the vision is being given as a gift. Other creative and receptive people are receiving other visions, but these are my gifts, and I’m supposed to manifest them.

David: Was there anything else in particular that inspired you beside psychedelics, your relationship, and dreams?

Alex: Art of different cultures… There’s shamanic art from various world cultures. Tchelitchev was not the only artist painting translucent bodies. Shamanic artists from all over the world have made X-ray art, where they see into the body and the interpenetrating energies. Some artists have a clairvoyant perception of the body. The Huichol Indians of Mexico base their culture and spiritual life on their ritual and ceremonial peyote use. Huichol artists see through the body and see energies surrounding it and show great jets

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