I began wondering the other day why various artists (e.g. painters, writers, and especially musicians) so often resort to taking drugs and why this would and should be unacceptable for the Christian artist. The simple answer that I came to is that they are starving for inspiration. The longer answer, I think, explains how successful they will ultimately be.
First of all, society values uniqueness. Any artist that is full of cliché after cliché will generally not last long. That is, unless their cliché is not yet cliché enough for a specific strata of the populace to notice. (e.g. much pop music and literature). Because the artist needs unique inspiration and needs to avoid cliché’s, many artists end up needing to have one of three things in order to survive. The first is extensive experience in life in order to be familiar with many or all such cliché’s; the second, they ought to be well or better educated that the general populace, or possibly three, they ought to have some other means of generating new experience or mining it from within themselves. The third, I believe, is what accounts for the popularity of drugs for the artist. In a Christian world, Christ is king and we have all of creation and revelation to act as our inspiration for art. In a pagan world, the artist or the individual is king, and the deeper that the artist can delve into himself, the more he can plumb the depths of his uniqueness. Enter drugs. Drugs to not give the artist new experiences in the material world, but instead give the artist new experiences within his own psyche. They allow him to plumb those depths. In short, drugs are a poor substitute for inspiration compared to God, who is the ultimate source of inspiration.
What sort of application does this hold for a Christian artist? It tells us, primarily, that the Christian artist should have no reason at all to turn to drugs. He has access to a far superior form of inspiration that is much larger than himself. Searching within yourself, exploring the limits of your own finitude produces results much more inferior than searching outside yourself and exploring the infinite Creator and His creation.