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Oscar Janiger

said, “What are you talking about?!” The guy was ready to explode, he just couldn’t handle it. He said, “I don’t under- stand this, Mr Janiger, but I’m sure that we can work it out. Now please understand we’re here to keep discipline in our classrooms.” I said, “Okay.” So I continued teaching and one day we had to study fermentation. That was my undoing. I brought into class that day, a loaf of bread which was covered with penicillin mold, a flask of vinegar, a few pieces of blue cheese and a little flask of wine. I put them out on the laboratory table and I said, “These are the useful and harmful results of fermentation. Then after class I said, “If any of you want to come up, you can sample a little bit, you can see how the cheese tastes, and so on. So one kid came up and nothing would please him, but he had to have a slug of the wine. Then I get the note, “See me immediately!”

DJB & JEANNE:: (simultaneously) Uh oh!

OSCAR: I went to see McNeal. He shook his head and said, “I’ve been a principal for twenty years and I’ve never run into this in my life. You will have to go back and see your professor because you’re under suspension right now.” I said, “What’s wrong?” “Wine, wine! You brought spirits into the classroom!” I said, “Now let me tell you about fermentation.” “Please!” he said, “don’t tell me about it, I don’t wan’t to hear about it!” He was apoplectic. So I go back and see my professor, the holy of holies, the teacher of teachers. He was perplexed and then said to me, “There’s something you should know. We’re here to teach children, not to entertain them.” Well, that phrase broke loose in me and I got very upset. I got up and said, “You know what professor? You can take your goddamn class in general science and stuff it.” For weeks after, he’d call me and write me letters saying, we can work this out, but I refused. That was my stint at teaching in high school. It was the best thing that ever happened, I’d still be teaching high school today if it hadn’t.

DJB: You’ve used the term “dry schizophrenia” in desribing a creative artist. Could you explain what you mean by this and what similarities and differences you see between certain aspects of madness and the process of creativity?

OSCAR: Well, of course that’s always been on my mind. I remember that I could make the wallpaper do all kinds of tricks when I had a fever, and I could sit – if you’ll excuse me – on the john, and watch the tiles recompose themselves and make patterns. Therefore I suspected that there was a part of my mind which had a certain influence over the world around me, and that, under certain conditions, it can take on novel and interesting forms. The dreams I had were very vivid, very real, and there were times when I found it hard to distinguish between the dream life and what we might call the waking life. So there was a very rich repository of information that was somewhat at my disposal at times, sometimes breaking through at odd moments. I later on thought that could be a place that one could draw a great deal of inspiration from. So I studied the conditions under which people have these releases, breakthroughs, or have access to other ways and forms of perceiving the world around them and changing their reality. When I studied the works of people who profess to go to creative artists and ask them how they did it and what it was about, I realized that what we had by way of understanding creativity was a tremend- ous collection of highly idiosyncratic and subjective responses. There was no real way of dealing with the creative process as a state you could refer to across the board, or how one could encourage it. That’s how I got the idea for a study in which we could deliberately change consciousness in an artist using LSD, given the same reference object to paint before and during the experience. Then I would try to make an inference from the difference between the artwork outside of the drug experience and while they were having it. In doing so I was struck by the fact that the paintings, under the influence of LSD, had some of the attributes of what looked like the work done by schizophrenics. If you would talk to the artists in terms of the everyday world, the answers would be very strange and tangential. Then I began to look into the whole sticky issue of psycho- pathology and creativity. I found that there are links between the creative state and certain qualities that people say they have when they’re creating, that were very much like some of the perceptions of people who were schizophrenic or insane. I began to notice what made the difference. It seemed that the artists were able to maintain a certain balance, riding the edge, as it were. I thought of creativity as a kind of dressage, riding a horse delicately with your knees. The artist was able to ride his creative Pegasus, putting little pressure on his ability to control

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