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The Trip 

Wednesday, Jul 1 1998
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Page 4 of 7

—Anaïs Nin

"I never saw my work as being therapeutic," Janiger says, "but in the course of the study we made some ancillary discoveries." One such discovery involved a painfully shy firefighter. "Although he was a very pleasant, intelligent man," says Janiger, "he was extremely shy and sort of a shut-in personality. He could never mix with people because there was a terrible barrier, an inhibition about being in spontaneous social gatherings." Janiger gave the man "minimal doses" of LSD for a period of several months. By the end of that period, "his personality had changed markedly." Says Janiger, "He became very affable and quite a man of public affairs, going out and talking to people." Even after he stopped taking LSD, he remained extroverted.

Intrigued by the firefighter’s transformation, Janiger sought out a pair of identical twins to see if LSD might affect their personalities in different ways. "After three years of looking," he says, "we found two 19-year-old girls who dressed alike, went everywhere together, very closely identified. One was engaged but didn’t want to get married until the other one was engaged." The young women agreed to participate, and they were taken to separate rooms and given identical doses of LSD. Separated, "they had totally different reactions," says Janiger, which seemed to confirm the importance of set and setting on an individual’s experience. "From that point," says Janiger, "their lives parted dramatically. One got married and moved away. I kept a correspondence with them, so I have a history of this very interesting phenomenon."

Janiger also experimented with LSD’s effects on pain dissociation, a common symptom of mental illness. Would LSD produce in users a similar state? "We did an experiment where a fellow had his tooth pulled while under LSD, but without any other anesthetic," Janiger recalls. A dentist at UCLA pulled the tooth and the subject didn’t flinch, didn’t protest, didn’t so much as blink. Then the dentist touched the exposed nerve ending, and still the subject remained calm and conversant. According to Janiger, the flabbergasted dentist exclaimed, "In all my years of dentistry, I’ve never been able to touch a naked nerve without a person going to pieces."

"I had the choice of doing a lot of little experiments like that," says Janiger. "I knew that the days of LSD research would eventually come to an end. The burden of riches was so great, I wanted to open up as many new possibilities as I could."

Perhaps the most interesting side experiment evolved from the fact that Janiger’s volunteers tended to reflect the cultural foment of Los Angeles. After artists began to ask for drawing materials during their sessions, he decided to launch a special study of LSD’s influence on creativity. He gave 70 professional artists LSD and asked each of them to create two renderings of a common reference object, a Hopi Indian kachina doll that he had in his office. The first rendering would be done before taking LSD, the second while under acid’s influence. The results were dramatic.

"To the artist," says Janiger, "the drawings done under the influence of LSD were very important. Who knows if they were better or worse? But I couldn’t deny the artists their own experience. They’d say, ‘This is something I’ve been trying to do for years, a way of looking at this thing.’ I said, ‘I’m not gonna argue.’ And there wasn’t a single artist who didn’t think they had had some kind of revelation."

The very same kachina doll sits today on the mantle in Janiger’s living room, under a particularly stunning framed pair of before-and-after renderings of it. Painted by Fortune illustrator Frank Murdoch, the picture on the left is of draftsmanlike quality, a perfect "representational" image. Its acid-inspired twin couldn’t be more different — awhirl with color and asplash with motion, its planes and curves lurching in multiple directions. But it is recognizably the same kachina doll. And if anything, its colors more accurately capture the doll’s brilliant hues. (Janiger has saved all the pieces from the study, consistently declining offers from the artists to buy back their work. Several years ago, he mounted a successful gallery exhibition of the acid art.)

The data from the art study are particularly rich, says Janiger. "It remains for someone highly gifted as an artistic critic and interpreter to take that material and develop a theory in terms of perception and the creative and artistic processes. And that opens up the whole issue of whether or not drugs fire up your imagination in terms of writing and poetry."

After taking LSD at Janiger’s office, the writer Anaïs Nin developed her own theory about the drug’s effect on the creative impulse. She later incorporated her rough notes, which Janiger has saved in his plenary files, into an essay included in The Diary of Anaïs Nin. "I could find correlations [to the LSD imagery] all through my writing," she wrote, "find the sources of the images in past dreams, in reading, in memories of travel, in actual experience, such as the one I had once in Paris when I was so exalted by life that I felt I was not touching the ground, I felt I was sliding a few inches away from the sidewalk. Therefore, I felt, the chemical did not reveal an unknown world. What it did was to shut out the quotidian world as an interference and leave you alone with your dreams and fantasies and memories. In this way it made it easier to gain access to the subconscious life."

Though she never admitted it publicly, Nin’s access to her inner life was dramatically augmented by LSD. According to author and screenwriter Gavin Lambert — who was referred to Janiger by Nin — she privately confessed that her acid trip was traumatic. "For Anaïs," says Lambert, "it was a disaster. On LSD the world seemed to her terrifying. This, to me, was extremely interesting, because Anaïs Nin’s life was a high-wire act of lies. She had two husbands — was bigamously married — and neither of them knew about the other. And I think that her whole high-wire act became very naked to her under LSD, and she couldn’t take it. She was a creature of such artifice, and then suddenly the artifice was stripped away."

Many of Janiger’s subjects were interested in using LSD to catalyze the kind of mystical experience that Aldous Huxley, Hollywood’s most famous British literary expatriate, had written about in The Doors of Perception. But as Janiger and so many others would discover, LSD was difficult to control. At one point, Janiger invited a group of Unitarian ministers to drop acid. Several were disappointed when the drug produced peculiar aural and visual effects, but nothing of deeper spiritual significance.

In the wake of his first session with LSD in Janiger’s office, philosopher Alan Watts compared his trip somewhat unfavorably to the rare mystical experiences he had undergone earlier in his life. Those events, which weren’t catalyzed by drugs, "just didn’t feel like the LSD experience," he wrote. "They were very much more convincing. They seemed to be more a matter of insight than perception. They changed the meaning of experience rather than experience, and although modification of pure meaning was so much a part of LSD, it didn’t happen in the same way. LSD seemed to complicate meaning rather than simplify it. It gave the sense of indescribable complexity rather than indescribable simplicity. For this reason it did not seem to be a particularly liberating experience. It was fascinating rather than illuminating, and felt more like the statement of a complex problem than its solution."

I began to experience very strong feelings of sensuality in and around my belly and the inside of my thighs. Needless to say, the feelings were extremely pleasurable, but unlike the usual sexual excitement, I didn’t feel the need for gratification . . .

During this period, I decided that, since I was feeling so sensual, I should fabricate sexual fantasies to synchronize with my feelings but was not very successful. I tried to imagine "M" making love to me but that seemed to put a damper on things, so, as a last resort, I tried to imagine Doctor K. kissing my vagina and making love to it. He looked about one foot tall and his body appeared to be in the form of a square with round corners! . . . As he went to kiss me, his tongue started to grow until it seemed to be eight feet long. I tried to stop this unpleasant image but couldn’t do so.

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