Reflections on Combs and Krippner’s Structures of consciousness and creativity: Opening the doors of perception and Krippner’s Altered and transitional states

I propose, as I have in many of my academic writings and conversations that within all of us is a vital need to create, even within the most anti-creative of us. My father may be a perfect example of this when he eschews all creative activity because it distracts from “more important things” in life, like making money, making babies and raising a family, and a myriad of other activities that he does not view as creative, viewed through the lens of his Italian family culture. Yet, my father can take a broken down bicycle and lawnmower and make them sing. And he sculpts, but not in a traditional “artistic” sense. He can take a piece of animal flesh and carve it into shapes that no other meat cutter I have ever met can do. I call my father the anti-creative artist. And then there is me with the need to write, a need for music and making music mixes, and a need to draw that out of others. Perspective is everything for all of us.

Krippner (2011) explore creativity from a waking consciousness and a variety of alternative states, primarily the latter, but it is more of an overview. While important and valuable, overviews of such complex topics don’t include everything and they always compel me to dig deeper into the sources that are referenced. This is no different. However, I did find it intriguing, but not surprising that early researchers equated schizophrenic psychotic states with altered consciousness states stimulated by a variety of natural and manufactured drugs. Interestingly, I have read recent accounts in a few journals where researchers are experimenting with LSD to help minimize psychotic states in schizophrenics.

Krippner (2011) also presents an overview of some well-known experiments with well-known creatives (including Aldous Huxley) discussing their experiences with LSD and their positive effects on their creativity, but fails to mention others who are known to have taken these experiments further and better known, including Dr. Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass who rejected artificial stimulation shortly after his experiments), Timothy Leary, and Terence McKenna. Later, he cites research studies with an LSD high-dose, low-dose, and control group of college students to measure their creativity. Not surprisingly, the high-dose LSD groups exhibited a higher rate of creative activity which supports what I have read in the past, especially with probably the most well-known experiment, the Beatles creation of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Combs & Krippner (2007) explore the subject of creativity at a much deeper level, including the mystical as well as the everyday. What is most intriguing here is the idea, that, “primal aspect of the psyche that resists cultural conditioning because of both its intense embodiment and its deep connection to transcendent inspiration and experience.” There are so many experiences that belong here: anarchism, “teenage” rebellion, artistic iconoclasm. We are all of these. For without nonconformists of all colors, shapes and sizes, how would evolution of the human race transcend time, space, and political stagnancy? The authors explore this through spirituality as well as stages of human growth. However, those stages have to be nurtured by parents or elders to encourage that creative growth. What if they are not? What if they are suppressed in an environment and a culture that does not value creativity at all or evolutionary creativity after a certain age? It is these cases that are both sad and encourage anti-authoritarian actions mentioned above that are necessary for the human race, and indeed, creativity to evolve. While this article is a much more in depth overview, the authors fail to explore this idea throughout the literature.

With their discourse of mythic consciousness, I would have liked to have seen a discussion of some of Joseph Campbell’s contribution to this research, given that the authors transition from creativity to collective and personal mythologies, but there are none. However, they give voice to our individual creative consciousness that each of us depend upon to survive. If it isn’t imaginary friends when we are children, doodling whole worlds of a graphic novel in public school, painting vast landscapes of unknown worlds as an acclaimed fine artist, or describing vast unknown planets underground and the characters that live and breathe and evolve there, it would be something else. This creativity and our vast consciousness that allows us to create such worlds, we would not be human, we would stagnate and die.


Combs, A. & Krippner, S. (2007). Structures of consciousness and creativity: Opening the doors of perception. In R. Richards (Ed.), Everyday creativity and new views of human nature: Psychological, social, and spiritual perspectives (pp. 131-149). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI 10.1037/11595-010. (Saybrook Library > Books > PsycBOOKS (Links to an external site.)).

Krippner, S. (2011). Altered and transitional states. In M. A. Runco & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (2nd ed, pp. 33-39). Burlington, MA: Academic Press. DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-375038-9.00237-5. (Saybrook Library > Reference Collection > Encyclopedia of Creativity (2nd Ed.) (Links to an external site.))

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