One characteristic we don’t often associate with astrophysicists and cosmologists is a deep and very sincere appreciation for a variety of artistic mediums.  Carl Sagan, however, wasn’t your ordinary sky-gazer. He was on the forefront of the medical marijuana movement and hosted the PBS series Cosmos, which went on to gain world-wide notoriety and is still popular to this day. In his 1969 essay written under the pseudonym of “Mr X”, Sagan went on to explain how marijuana helped to enhance his sensory experiences, allowing him to experience a profound new appreciation for a number of different artistic mediums.

The following is an excerpt taken from the essay which can be seen in full here:

The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before. The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I’m down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse. There also have been some art-related insights – I don’t know whether they are true or false, but they were fun to formulate. For example, I have spent some time high looking at the work of the Belgian surrealist Yves Tanguey. Some years later, I emerged from a long swim in the Caribbean and sank exhausted onto a beach formed from the erosion of a nearby coral reef. In idly examining the arcuate pastel-colored coral fragments which made up the beach, I saw before me a vast Tanguey painting. Perhaps Tanguey visited such a beach in his childhood.

A very similar improvement in my appreciation of music has occurred with cannabis. For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me. Again, the learning experience when high has at least to some extent carried over when I’m down.

Bear in mind that this account didn’t come from your archetypal stoner stereotype that’s getting grilled in his room playing the same drum and bass track over and over again. It’s a beautifully detailed account from one of the greatest minds of an entire generation.

So does cannabis actually have an effect on your ability to interpret different artistic mediums? Although scientific evidence on the subject is scarce or non-existent, there innumerable anecdotal accounts detailing a deeper appreciation for music, film and other forms of visual art from some of history’s most significant characters.

So next time you decide to light up, take some time to appreciate your favourite musician, film or video game. Try and connect with it on a metaphysical level and really immerse yourself in the sounds and visuals. You too may find a deeper appreciation for something you take for granted on a daily basis.

Article by Jason Dewey