Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia

In this essay of 1929, Walter Benjamin addressed the intersection between the creative act, altered states, and mind-altering drugs:

“In the world’s structure, dream loosens individuality like a bad tooth. This loosening of the self by intoxication is, at the same time, precisely the fruitful, living experience that allowed these people to step outside the charmed state of intoxication…It is a cardinal error to believe that, of “Surrealist experiences,” we know only the religious ecstasies or the ecstasies of drugs…But the true, creative overcoming of religious illumination certainly does not lie in narcotics. It resides inĀ a profane illumination, a materialistic, anthropological inspiration, to which hashish, opium, or whatever else can give an introductory lesson.”

Benjamin, W (1929) Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia. In Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, vol 2, 1927-1934. Cambridge. Harvard University Press.


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