Shred to Black – Salvia Blue Moon Apocalypse

© 2007, Jonathan Zap Revised 2008 Edited again 2024, but the audio version has not been updated.


(Most of the techincal information in this section comes from the website.)

Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive medicine of Mexican origin, one that has, over the last decade, boomed in popularity here in the states. It is a recreational herb with which some of you will be all too familiar and others less familiar. This article is here to illustrate the story of my most recent and probably final encounter with Salvia divinorum, to present the powerful, profound, and often frightening repercussions of the medicine. But first, some basic information on Salvia:

Family: Lamiaceae (Former: Labiatae)

Genus: Salvia

Species: divinorum; splendens


Ska Pastora; Shepherdess’s Herb; Ska Maria Pastora; Verba de Maria; Sally-D


Atypical Psychedelic


Salvia divinorum is a sprawling perennial herb found in the Sierra Mazatec region of Mexico. Its leaves contain the extremely potent Salvinorin A. It has a history of being used both for healing and as a divinatory psychedelic. It has been widely available since the mid-1990s, primarily as a smoked herb. There are many species and varieties within the genus’ Salvia,’ and plants commonly found in garden stores are almost certainly not S. divinorum unless specifically labeled as such. Strong effects can be difficult to attain from smoking dried leaf, but extracts and potency-bred leaves can cause dramatic, sometimes frightening, and completely enfolding entheogenic mind-states. Many people consider its effects unpleasant.


The legal status of Salvia in the United States is in flux so go to this Wikipdeia page. for updated info. 


Depending on dosage, the Salvia experience can vary from a subtle, just-off-baseline state to a full-blown psychedelic experience. At higher doses, users report dramatic time distortion, vivid imagery, encounters with beings, travel to other places, planets, or times, living years as the paint on a wall, or experiencing the full life of another individual. Needless to say, these can be extremely powerful experiences and should only be attempted with a sitter. While most people remain unmoving during the experience, some individuals will attempt to get up and walk around while in a completely dissociated state. While sub-threshold effects are somewhat innocuous, leading some people to be cavalier in subsequent experiences, once full effects are achieved, many people find S. divinorum to be unpleasantly overwhelming and more scary than fun.


  • Do not operate heavy machinery. Do Not Drive.
  • Use a Sitter. Some percentage of users will attempt to stand up and move around during the Salvia experience. Having a sitter present can reduce the chances of injury or other problems.
  • Individuals currently in the midst of emotional or psychological upheaval in their everyday lives should be careful about choosing to use psychoactives like Salvia, as they could possibly trigger even more difficulty.
  • Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia or early onset mental illness should be extremely careful because strong psychoactives can trigger latent psychological and mental problems.


While we’re on definitions, there is a lot of controversy about what constitutes a “blue moon.” Most commonly, it means a second full moon in a calendar month. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first reference to a blue moon comes from a proverb recorded in 1528:

If they say the moon is blue,

We must believe that it is true.

This article’s titular blue moon occurred on June 30th, 2007, and my account of the experience was written the following morning:


This is the morning of July 1st, most of the gathering still asleep, the few that are awake look muddy and bedraggled . . .

It’s been raining throughout the night and morning, so the whole gathering looks somewhat muddy and bedraggled. I woke up feeling muddy and bedraggled, but determined to language the apocalyptic, macabre, horrifying, annihilation experience I had with Salvia divinorum last night on the full moon, the second full moon of June, called a blue moon for some reason.

Before I left for the gathering, I did a Zap Oracle (the oracle on my website) reading about approaching the gathering, and the last card I got, the position was #10, the last position of the spread: “Looking toward the event horizon: An influence that may be in a germination phase right now or about to approach.” And the card was “Stranger than you can Think,” a meditation on the J.B.S. Haldane quote (slightly paraphrased), “Reality is not only stranger than you think, it’s stranger than you can think.” 

After the reading, while doing some work on the oracle, I noticed a possible synchronistic confirmation of this message. There is a card called the “Joker” or “Wild Card.” The card numbers are assigned by a randomizing algorithm, and I noticed that this was card #49, the same # as my present age, and the photo in the card is of a gathering taken at the start of the Utah gathering. Nature had thrown a wild card, and the Utah gathering had been hit by a freak snowstorm, everything a sea of white sprinkled with semi-frozen rainbow-colored hippies. This was quite a shock in late June as Boulder was in the high nineties when I left. In the photo, we see a line of bedraggled rainbows crossing a snow field. In the extreme foreground is a young man wearing an army trench coat, the whole back of which is a giant patch of the Joker from the old Batman series.

Anyway, the oracle and the synchronicity were accurate; I did draw the wild card on the night of the blue moon—and after, as we will see later.

I borrowed a beautiful glass bowl piece from Issa and sat on Kyle’s hammock. This was take three, because I had gone out to this hammock two other times with the necessary ingredients–the glass, a lighter, the Salvia–my precious camera bag left in my tent, but both takes one and two were unsuccessful because in each case the lighter I had with me disappeared on the way to the hammock, necessitating a return to my tent to get another one. I reported this to Brandt who cheerfully replied, “Third time’s a charm.” I had asked Brandt to keep an eye on me, as I’d been told I should have a minder, that Salvia could make you act without reason or memory, and that the same batch, a 20x—or was it 30x?—concentration, had caused Cole (who was also the Salvia provider) to fall down, and then go running toward the river; a potentially life-threatening action for which he had no memory trace.

Foolishly, I had trouble believing that such a thing could happen to me. I had smoked Salvia before, and it had been vanishingly subtle. Also, I had partaken of many other psychoactive medicines thought to be much stronger than Salvia and had never lost control of myself. I thought of myself as a reasonably well-qualified psychonaut test pilot, so I didn’t appoint an official minder; I just asked Brandt to keep an eye on me and told myself that no matter what happened, I would stay in the hammock until I regained my reason.

Issa’s glass piece was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen, a stunning blue flower ingeniously embedded in a glass sphere, very much a sister’s bowl. It seemed appropriate for a blue moon embrace by the lunar goddess supposed to rule over the diviner’s mint.

The leaves were black and grimy and ominous looking, and I packed a large bowl, since I was told that I’d probably only be able to manage a single hit. I adjusted the flame of the lighter, meditated for a few moments, and put flame to Salvia, sucking in a massive hit as I rocked gently back and forth on the hammock. The smoke was acrid but not anywhere near as toxic-seeming as DMT smoke, which tastes like burning plastic.

I remember feeling proud of how long and effortlessly I could hold in the hit. Piece of cake so far, I thought. When I felt ready, I exhaled a large cloud of acrid, black smoke. And with that exhalation of swirling black smoke, I also exhaled my sanity . . .

There was a moment when I was still aware of hammock world, aware that now I was really fucked up, hammock world swirling with the black smoke and some scintillations of colored light, and then, ineluctably, I fell back into the hammock, fell from the reality I had been in as if it were a fragment of slippery banana peel suspended above a dark and alien matrix.

That was the easy part to describe, but now it is necessary to push the language pedal to the metal because what happened next is outside the performance envelope of English. Language reaches out like a hand with amputated fingers trying to grasp at an electric eel tossed down an elevator shaft.

To narrate what happened, I will construct a storyline that will act as a frame around the experience to make this slippery anomaly an object that the reader may comprehend.

Imagine that an alien civilization, due to some technological fuck up, accidentally aimed a planet-devouring death ray at the earth in 1962. Everything’s been vaporized except a small group of conservative, middle-class people from the Bronx of 1962. These few survivors are kept in stasis until they can decide what to do with them. A lawsuit filed on their behalf results in compensation–they will become the consumers of a vast and intricate “product.”

The product is a meticulous reconstruction of the world they last experienced, the Bronx of 1962, a nearly perfect simulacrum constructed by alien nanotechnology so precisely manufactured that they would scarcely notice anything had changed. As part of the settlement, the survivors, the consumers, would be informed of the replacement (the product) and then allowed to continue with their lives. 

Since these are conservative, middle-class people, they submerge in their minds the grotesque fact of this replacement and continue their lives as if nothing had happened.

I fall from the hammock and swirling black Salvia smoke into this simulacrum matrix of the Bronx, 1962. 

I stand there in an empty catering hall. Then I stand outside a block of red-brick apartment buildings on a late summer afternoon. I arrive in the simulacrum matrix seconds before a virus swept through it, the first malfunction of this otherwise flawless product.

I perceive the virus sweeping through the matrix as a moving swath or wave of deconstruction. As the virus sweeps through, this matrix’s invisible nanobot assemblers and performers deviate from their previous functions and make mechanical shredding movements like the knives of a vast hamburger grinder.

Picture this wave of matrix-shredding nanobots as a tsunami of sewing machine needles, scissoring and incissoring back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, shredding the flimsy space-time fabric of this matrix. 

Or, if that is still too abstract, picture it this way: look at the world around you and imagine everything looking exactly the same, but that the interior of not only every person and animal but also every plant and inanimate object is made of meat, so that everything you experience, even the air between things, is like a moving holographic sculpture made of meat, though the topographical surfaces look the same as always–a meat matrix, or meatrix, if you will. And now a planet-size grid of extremely taut, extremely fine steel wires sweeps through your world, the meatrix. On the anterior side of the approaching event horizon of the wire grid, everything looks just the same as normal, but everything on the posterior side–people, animals, plants, objects–are pinkish shreds of hamburger meat.

As the wave of deconstruction sweeps through the world, the matrix is peeled up and shredded. To those standing on the still intact portion, there is a sickening, sizzling, fizzing, crackling sensation traveling through the remaining fabric, the last healthy tissue of the matrix. 

As this wave of deconstruction comes through, I feel the shock and dismay of the consumers, these conservative, middle-class people of the Bronx, 1962, holding dinner plates, black and white television sets on in the background, as they discover that the product is malfunctioning in a way they didn’t know was possible, having been reassured of the product’s stability.

The crackling, sizzling wave of viral deconstruction continues sweeping through, peeling up and shredding the block of apartment buildings, and I feel this peeling up reverberating in my body. Then I have the most horrifying, horrifying realization–I am not one of the consumers– I am part of the product. 

The wave of deconsctruction is sizzling and crackling right toward me, and I have an agonizing moment to experience this horrifying realization before the meatrix-grinding wave passes through me, shredding me into hamburger meat and oblivion and . . .  


Some moments of eternity pass after the shred to black, and I emerge from oblivion as a pile of sentient hamburger shreds lying, wet and coagulated, on the bottom of a hammock.

I have no head, no parts, but there is anxiety, a coagulated, soggy mass of anxiety at the bottom of a hammock . . .

I am anxious, therefore I am.

Some remnant of awareness has apparently survived the shred to black, an emergent property of the hamburger meat, and a wobbly, phantom version of myself begins to coagulate, a spectral zombie with a head full of sloshing airplane glue.

I am anxious, therefore I am.

I feel a lump of glass in my pocket. Issa’s bowl has somehow survived the shred to black. 

I have an anxious thought that before I subside back into disintegration,  I would like to pass off this object to someone so I won’tt have the guilt and embarrassment of having been such a fuck up that not only had I irrecoverably blown my head off, but that I had also lost this sister’s cherished glass bowl as well. 

I could see Arc looking toward the hammock with concern, his face alert and compassionate. 

But I don’t want anyone to witness my disintegrated self, a barely coagulated hamburger meat zombie with a head full of sloshing airplane glue, a pathetic scarecrow of disintegrated protein that would present a smelly and burdensome disposal problem for my companions who were still whole and above-ground creatures, not suited to deal with a member of the shredded scarecrow persuasion.

 I choose to stay in the hammock and begin to feel better. 

In this case, however, feeling better meant feeling like the victim of a transporter accident. 

Wise members of the Star Trek persuasion are always reluctant to be transported because they realize that a transporter essentially murders them while copying all their information, storing it in a computer buffer, and then constructing a new version of themselves, newly born at the second transporter station. And that’s if everything goes right, but sometimes the complex transporter process goes awry, and there are transcription errors. What shows up in the second transporter station is a distorted, counterfeit version of what entered the process, a twisted mass of protein that is stillborn or survives for only a few seconds. 

I am a victim of a slightly less catastrophic transporter accident, the counterfeit version of my former self, a wobbly scarecrow of coagulated shreds and airplane glue and hamburger meat who will probably not live long but is cohering long enough to have a few anxious thoughts . . .

Surprisingly, the scarecrow begins to cohere better and better, and I find I can stand up and support myself by leaning against a tree at the edge of the fire circle. 

When people began to talk to me, mostly Lee, a soothing and gentle presence, I find I can still construct complex and coherent sentences, which surprises me, and creates a glimmer of optimism about my future life as scarecrow, as shred boy.

Later, I was astonished to learn from Brandt that he witnessed me roll over backward and fall out of the hammock. According to him, I sat and crawled on the ground, mumbling something incomprehensible when he approached. I had no memory of any of this; perhaps it was what my body did while I was in the product matrix or after the shred to black.


Obviously, this doesn’t count as a glowing testimonial for Salvia. On the other hand, it’s misleading to over-generalize from the particularities of any individual psychedelic experience. Salvia affects others quite differently, and results may vary considerably with the concentration. Many others also report dark experiences, and I think supervision, having someone to act as your minder, is a very necessary precaution.

I don’t recommend this substance, but the ordeal poison way of initiation has primordial roots in tribal cultures. In case you’re not familiar with the ordeal poison way of initiation, it works like this: The initiate is given a poison that at first makes you feel like you are dying, then becomes so painful that you beg for death, and then, if it doesn’t kill you, you get all better. There can be great benefit to such an ego death, and certainly, my salvia experience was an ego death experience, but it’s hard to gauge what long-term effects this wild card may have had on me.

So if you’re the sort of person who always wanted to know what it would be like to blow your head off with a shotgun blast in extreme slow-motion while conscious on general anesthesia, a flesh-pulverizing cloud of minuscule lead spheres sizzling through you millimeter by nanosecond, if that kind of thing is your cup of tea, then this mint’s for you. Enjoy!


Most of my immediate after-impressions were extremely negative, and while still in scarecrow form, I wanted to throw the little bag of remaining Salvia into the fire before it could devastate another user. Instead, still unsure of all my judgments, I returned the medicine to Cole. 

Later that same evening, I felt I’d moved another step toward alchemical androgyny, another step away from identification with my yang, overly confident, sometimes arrogant, and overbearing personality.

The annihilation experience also increased my compassion for other beings undergoing annihilation. I found that the nightly dilemma of whether or not to annihilate insects inside my tent, which seemed either a threat to human health or way too creepy to spend the night with, was a significantly queasier choice than before. I tried the capture-and-release method on some and annihilated others that seemed too difficult to capture. Supposedly, Gandhi said that everyone swats mosquitoes, but I can’t confirm this. I do swat and will continue to swat mosquitoes and other blood-sucking parasites, insect or otherwise, that enter my personal space. But I was much more queasy about annihilating the more ambiguous insects in the tent like the daddy longlegs, those creepy giant nanobot-like creatures. Thus, I tried catch-and-release, probably injuring them in the process, so I was some version of an annihilator no matter what I did. And then there were my continual lapses in the gathering from veganism into sloppy and opportunistic vegetarianism, helping to perpetuate the lives of sentient animals in the meatrix (see http//

It also seems quite possible that the Salvia experience has further thinned the veil for me and brought other realms and entities closer, for better or worse. I cannot definitively attribute the following experiences as Salvia consequences, but they felt that way at the time. I present them to the reader as additional points on a fuzzy map. The reader may choose to connect these dots to the earlier Salvia apocalypse or not. I don’t pretend to know for certain what links this constellation of events except for their temporal proximity.

The drive back from Rainbow was mostly uneventful. Jeff’s 2002 Subaru had far more structural integrity than any other vessel to transport me to the gathering or back, not even a hint of mechanical trouble, and we averaged 85 mph with four people and an excess amount of soggy rainbow gear. 

Sometime around midnight, we stopped at a motel that appeared somewhere in the infinite blandness of the Kansas highway landscape. Like The Patriot Act, the motel was named with lying right to your face chutzpah: “The Best Value Inn in America.” The rooms were sub-mediocre, with high-gloss paint on cinderblock walls and a ventilator system as noisy as a boiler factory. I shared a room with Rob but had my own king-sized bed, wonderfully dry and clean and welcoming to my sleep-deprived body. For a few moments, I lay there alone with poison ivy sensations, a thousand points of itchy acid. These were sensations that I could submerge for hours at a stretch at the gathering, being so preoccupied with meaningful and fulfilling moments, especially while doing free dream interpretation and I Ching readings for people. However, the period before dreamtime was always the toughest when dealing with poison ivy. Now, in that king-sized motel bed, the neglected petty demon crowded around me like a thousand pale scorpions with blunted pincers and gnawed patiently at my envelope of mortal skin. Earlier in the gathering, I sat down next to some poison ivy, which was almost everywhere. I attempted a Vulcan mind meld with it because I wanted to find out what its fucking problem was. I came up with a two-word psychoanalytic diagnosis: passive-aggressive.

After a few minutes, though, I was free from poison ivy sensations and had an out-of-body experience. I have a lifelong history of these; they happen a few times a year and are always very welcome, as they tend to be orgasmic, kundalini rush releases from the bondage of corporeality. This OBE seemed particularly pleasant despite the intrusion of what appeared to be many telepathically perceived voices that seemed to come from the sleeping psyches of other people in the motel. Though I can’t recall it, Rob seemed to express a whole telepathic paragraph, almost like a speech. Otherwise, the loudest voice was that of a little girl.

Then, I seemed to be in a state that was a cross between lucid dreaming and astral travel. The state continued far longer than I had ever experienced before, and it was more stable, unlike the walking-across-a -soap-bubble feeling of lucid dreaming where self-awareness threatens to destabilize the dreamscape. At will, I could astral travel or return to hovering in the motel room to experience the telepathic voices and then venture out again into astral realms. 

In one realm, it was nighttime, and I was on a flagstone street. It was dark and misty, and I could barely see the trees and stone structures beyond the sides of the street. There was a cloaked figure ahead of me, and I felt it was crucial that I catch up with him, but even as I glided down the path, my feet suspended a few feet from the ground, he eluded me, and eventually, I allowed myself to lapse into forgetful sleep.

 I remember thinking while it was happening, and I felt this very strongly the next day as well, that it was the closest I had to being comfortable and able to expansively enjoy the reality of being an inter-dimensional traveler.

The next day was a blur of Subaru and highway. Sooner than I expected, we were hurtling into reentry with planet Boulder; the Flatiron mountains were shrouded in mist as a thunderstorm pounded the Subaru with mud-cleansing rain, the only rain of the return voyage happening in the last four miles of the trip.

Back in my 18′ RV, tossing down my soggy Rainbow gear, I had to deal with what I thought was a mild version of the rude shock that always awaits me when I return to Babylon from dimension rainbow. Sometime in the last few hours of the return trip, I lost my cell phone, my only phone. I was able to brush off the inconvenience of this gadget loss just before my return to town because my laptop was still getting Wi-Fi internet access, and there was insurance on the phone. If this was the shock, it was manageable.

My next thoughts and actions were directed to the long-anticipated moment of hooking up my digital camera to the laptop and downloading the precious photos I had taken at the gathering. My secondary compact flash card, which had all photos from the evening of July 3rd on, loaded just fine. When I removed my main 4GB card from its protective plastic case inside my camera bag, it felt a bit funny. It slid smoothly into the camera, immediately warning me that the card was unreadable. Vexed, I popped the card out and noticed that its shape was deformed, warped with a hollowed-out concavity beneath the label of the front side. But this was impossible, I thought; I had taken the most meticulous care of these two precious cards. They had either been inside the magnesium alloy, weather-sealed body of the camera or inside their protective plastic case inside my weather-resistant Kata camera bag, a company that makes ballistic vests for the Israeli military and camera bags designed to protect gear in the most brutal conditions. Furthermore, the card was a SanDisk (the leading manufacturer) Extreme III compact flash card (the larger size cards, not the postage stamp sized SD cards), the professional grade, made to withstand brutal conditions. According to a company press release,

“With many professional and advanced photographers shooting pictures in extreme weather conditions ranging from African deserts to the Arctic, the SanDisk Extreme III cards also boast the industry’s widest guaranteed operating temperature range from a freezing minus 13F (minus 25C) to a scorching 185F (plus 85C). The cards also include RescuePRO ™ software that allows photographers to easily recover accidentally deleted images, lost digital images or data.”

Furthermore, the plastic these cards are made of is supposed to be so robust that you can run over them with a semi-truck, so it’s not like a bit of Ozark humidity could have had this effect. How could this possibly have happened? The camera bag was almost never out of my sight, and if anyone had a dark agenda, they could have yanked the whole bag or the camera, plus the two cards. The labels on both sides of the card looked brand new, with no sign of heat damage or mechanical abrasion. As far as I can tell, the damage to this card, the strangely deformed shape with concave space beneath the label, is an anomaly. The plastic case should have shown heat damage long before the card did, and the case had reinforced edges to absorb any mechanical shock.

My first and continuing impression–not that I expect anyone else to swallow this whole–is that I was the victim of a paranormal attack. I know this sounds over the top, and quite likely it is, but I am no stranger to paranormal attacks, some of which were far more corroborated and anomalous, such as the dog mauling that happened when I was eleven (a long story, recounted in A Mutant Convergence–How John Major Jenkins, Jonathan Zap and Terrence McKenna met during a weekend of high strangness in 1996). A less extraordinary but fairly devastating anomaly was the disappearance from my closet (in my early twenties) of a carousel slide tray of the very best slides of the last few years of photography. That inexplicable disappearance was enough to keep me from taking photography seriously for many years. It was a trend that didn’t fully reverse until a specific beneficent paranormal occurrence I had with photography, recounted in The Path of the Numinous…

Immediately after that first impression of paranormal attack, I flashed back to a conversation I had with Tyler around the campfire just a few nights before. I told him about a relationship that had become somewhat mysteriously estranged, a person of good character and great commitment to consciousness but who was highly influenced by channeled entities, whose whole family was. And since I had written critically of such entities (see: The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts ), I wondered if they might not have sought revenge and, perhaps in some subtle way, sabotaged that relationship. “After all,” I told Tyler, “I’m like the mind parasite guy now. I’ve been on the radio show Coast-to-Coast AM talking about the subject to millions of people. My website comes right up if you Google the topic. If these entities are aware, and I think some are very aware, I must be on their map. Maybe they choose not to attack, except in very subtle ways, because they know I’ll write about it and go public with whatever I experience.”

(see the mind parasite section of my site)

During the first couple of minutes of acute shock, when I discovered the anomalous damage to the flash card, I was instant-messaged by the very person I had mentioned to Tyler, who had not contacted me in months. The flashback to the paranoid-seeming statement I had made to Tyler at the campfire now seemed to imprint itself like a fiery brand on this moment of flashcard agony.

Through some inexplicable means, the most treasured artifact I had brought from the gathering, my precious 449 high-resolution images, had fallen into the cracks of doom. The anomalous card also damaged my Nikon D 200, one of my lesser rings of power, which had to be sent back to the factory for repairs. SanDisc advised me to send the card to a data-recovery company they recommended that specialized in compact flash cards. I did, and they could not retrieve a single image from the card. They told me it looked like it was run over or suffered a heavy impact, resulting in the dent I noticed. My 449 precious images disappeared into the velvet darkness of irrecoverable data loss. And then, months later, as if there weren’t already enough of a sulfurous aura of the diabolical surrounding the ill-fated compact flash card, there was another development. SanDisc had promised to replace the card after I had sent them documentation, including photographs, of the card, but the replacement never arrived. (Memory cards were far more valuable in 2007) This necessitated a morning of taxing follow-up phone calls battling bureaucratic banalities of evil, languishing in voice jails, summoning my Bronx bulldog tenacity not to take catch-22s for answers, and then, finally, reaching a supervisor with enough power to re-authorize the replacement. He had me write down the replacement authorization number for the new card, which began with the number “666.”

The salvia experience does not seem to be over. I go through phases where it continues to resonate. For example, while biking back from a friend’s house, I felt the influence of the shred-to-black experience as a new cognitive overlay, a question in my mind if my conscious identity was not a manipulated product of some sort. There was this queasy sense of myself in my sensorium, in my experience of being embodied, as if I were a consumer, like a channel surfer, but one who had, with infinite vulnerability and commitment, become wedded to a single channel: this particular body in this particular position in space and time. I also sensed that I did not even have privacy within the claustrophobic confinement to this particular mortal body. My individual prison cell was part of a dense hive of such cells. I sensed that there were entities that could address that space, my cell, or all the cells, as if the prison had a telepathic PA system that could penetrate us from within, breaking through internal communication and violating the delusion of individual identity. But even without such paranormal invasions, all sorts of ordinary forces could pierce my individual cell. For example, my cell could be hooked up to machines, anesthetized, and pierced by surgeons’ knives. At any moment, all sorts of ordinary things–cars, bullets, germs–could drastically alter my experience in here, the dank, moist, constricting feeling of being in a body.

Gray aliens, according to UFO lore, apparently refer to human beings as “containers.” In some versions, this is because they think of us as breeding vessels; in others, we are containers for souls or spirits. This seems an apt metaphor for the human condition, especially if it is a projection of human psychology rather than an alien conception. We are souls that are contained or embodied. We tend to think of these containers as our sovereign domain. The salvia experience intensified my queasy sense of how easily and profoundly my sovereign realm could be violated by all sorts of things–projectile weapons, metal hulks propelled by internal combustion engines, a moment’s inadvertence relating to gravity, and the hard porcelain surfaces of a bathroom.

I know that some will see such feelings as deriving from body shame, neurosis, or what they consider the error of dualism. The oversimplification of some versions of dualism leads to equal and opposite forms of ignorance, such as neurological materialism and other versions of body-centric materialism. For a time, I was influenced by the point of view of bio-energeticist Stanley Keleman, a point of view eloquently capsulated in the title of one of his books, The Body Speaks its Mind. My personal OBEs and NDE research are among the factors that incline me toward my own personal solution to the mind/body problem: I see a temporary but deeply interdependent state of parallelism.

The salvia experience ruptured any comfortable philosophical distance from the mind/body problem and at first intensified my sense of embodiment as an imposition, as a strange and somewhat contrived confinement, each of us in this cubicle of our bodily experience, our meat container. We are, in our corporeal reality, nothing more than a fragile and temporary ecosystem within an envelope of skin, a tempest in a bone china teapot. 

These feelings of violable mortality lurk in the background and come forward at various times. The queasy sense of reality as simulacrum, the sense that I, we, could suddenly find ourselves disembodied and in the backstage area, apart from the product, telepathically aware of each other but also profoundly shocked by the rug pulled out and the reality we call home suddenly revealed as an insubstantial contrivance. I imagine 

the ancient Gnostics were haunted by similar feelings.

As I get further from the apocalyptic experience, however, the dark reverberations have given way toward a more positive sense of the experience. What I experienced was the shredding of a container, but my awareness somehow reconstituted itself. It was a body/ego death but also a rebirth, and something essential survived the shredding of a particular matrix.

The answer to the haunted feelings, even the darkest of them, is humility and love, those moments of compassion with other vulnerable beings similarly afflicted by mortal fragility. And those moments, however quickly passing, feel like they have an eternal significance, a significance that would transcend even a more ultimate shred to black.

There are two other relevant trip reports on Zap Oracle: The Agonizing Enlightenment of Ayahuasca about my most powerful ayahuasca experience, and Andrew’s Ayahuasca Experience–an Encounter with the Singularity Archetype

Australian hermetic philosopher Harald Kleeman wrote a profound response to this:


– Reflections On A Visionary Apocalypse –

Reading Shred to Black – Salvia Blue Moon Apocalypse by my friend, Jonathan Zap, I am moved to reflect: How specific, how nuanced are the hells! And how ubiquitous their adumbrations in the popular imagination. In the Apocalypse Of St John the seer writes: ‘I saw a star fall from heaven … and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.’ Historically this occurs at the sounding of the ‘fifth angel’, during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, a period which also saw the birth of the Jesuit Order and the angelic revelation to the Mage of Mortlake, Doctor John Dee. What happened in this age is that the lid came off of hell, the aperture having since expanded exponentially. The bottomless pit, or ‘hell’ (Norse helehelan; as well as the Teutonic hellHöhle: the shining realm, the concealed place) is the human mind or soul. Shut up under Medieval ecclesiasticism, it again became introspective during the emerging Romantic age, leading ultimately to Modernism, the probing of all things dark and rarefied.
Psyche delia or mind enhancing describes the interaction with the human nervous system of certain potions, fungi and plants, which have a history of shamanic and psychotherapeutic use for this particular reason. Before discussing the specific experience, as recounted by Jonathan, I want to address his suggestion that other explorers might fare very differently with this particular plant (salvia divinorum). In terms of affective content this is true, of course. However a perusal of the relevant literature leads me to conclude that a definite signature characterises the salvia experience, as indeed that of other botanic entheogens. This, in turn, led me to propose a kind of periodic table of psychedelic efficacy. The idea is as yet embryonic, and I’m offering it here for critique and possible development by other theorists. Four specific substances are cited by way of illustration.
LSD (a synthetic, included here for its cultural status) is described as essentially psychoanalytic, by some commentators, as somewhat coldly and abrasively so.
Psilocybin appears as initiator, as a wise counsellor and guide. The mushroom, as Terence McKenna observed, teaches the right way to live, by illuminating the moral and aesthetic landscape.
DMT reveals something of the machinery of consciousness, focussing on the ‘compiler’ stage (in terms of a systems metaphor) between the ‘machine language’ of neurochemistry and the higher-level interface of concept formation.
Salvia Divinorum (specifically its active ingredient, salvinorin A) dissolves the anchor of identity (or point of view), allowing psychic currents and attractors to determine the focus of attention. This focus may be any conceivable world – or no world at all.
 A Mystic Model
My model for discussing Jonathan’s account is that presented by Leary, Metzner and Alpert (1964). Their classic, The Psychedelic Experience, draws on the perspectives of Tantric Buddhism, specifically such as may be gleaned from The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo, otherwise known as The Tibetan Book Of The Dead. As the authors correctly observe, the eclectic esotericism of Tibet provides an analytic framework for the categorising of astral or disembodied experience, irrespective of cultural, personal and circumstantial determinants. The visionary expanse, said to arise at the moment of death, is treated therein as contiguous with the visionary flights of the shaman or siddha, as with ordinary dreams. On a finer scale, each moment in time may be said to constitute a bardo – an intermediary between two states – in that we die every moment and are reborn every moment. It is regarded as axiomatic that the emergent state is determined qualitatively by its antecedent and one’s orientation in the bardo.
It is because of the latter part of this axiom that the bardo experience is deemed to be magical – a condition wherein the universe is temporarily in a state of indeterminate suspension, soon to congeal once more into a specific set of givens. Bardo excursions are thus undertaken, by magi of all initiated traditions, with the objective of a more auspicious rebirth.
Most readers will probably agree that auspicious is not the word which comes to mind when contemplating Jonathan’s harrowing account. I wish to discus the related experience under four headings: preparationthe visionclimax, and aftermath.
Due preparation is usually deemed de rigeur in magical or psychedelic work, and one must question in this connection the efficacy of set and setting in the described experiment. I am frankly amazed by the evidently less-than-private setting and the casual nature of approach. If specific intent was involved, it is not stated. Salvia’s formidable reputation was lightly glossed over, as was the highly sensitive question of dose regarding this exotic plant. Telling, finally, are the gnomic pranks apropos the disappearing lighters. There is magical resistance, however slight, suggesting some conflict of will. But all that is now water under the bridge, and we are enriched by Jonathan’s account of the experience. Let us commend exploration of this kind, as shedding light on the one significant frontier – that of the human mind.
 The Vision
A source of wonder for many is that a seemingly endless number of complete ‘ready-made’ minutely nuanced worlds are there for the entering – whether through psychedelic compounds or other means. Various exotic theories have been proposed to account for this phenomenon, the which, however, shall not detain us. Instead I will propose, as a magical dictum, that all worlds exist in hyperspatial superposition; their experiential reality being predicated on an attractor vortex – a point of view. It is a psychological commonplace that one’s experience is ‘coloured’ by one’s way of seeing. In Tantra this idea is taken much further. The stance (mudra) conjures the world out of the primordial void in an act of concentration. That is to say, ‘out there’ is chaos and outer darkness. Cosmos comes into being through a focused beam of inner light.
Visionary experience, according to Tantric doctrine, is occasioned by a dissolution of alchemical elements. Earth dissolves into waterWater into fireFire into air. And air into space (akasha). As in the process of dying, a dissolution of the grosser elements causes attention a shift to more subtle realms. Attention is then drawn to the dream or astral body. This, having its own laws of manifestation, ordinarily accompanies the waking consciousness like a muted shadow. Now it is the only reality. The mind, trying to awaken, finds that it is awake. There is no respite from the relentless onrush of visionary ideation.
According to psychoanalytic theory the mythopoeic imagination harbours and processes such ideation as is repressed by the rational mind. Considering, from this point of view, the ubiquity of apocalyptic imagery, there is no question what the modern psyche is repressing. I am impressed that all narrative elements in the presented account are explicable in rational terms. I cite:

– the perception that the earth is subject to a monstrous fuck-up

– the shuttered milieu of middle class conservatives, frozen in an era of nostalgic ideal

– the artificial nature of the machinery which supports them

– the realisation that this machinery is not immune to catastrophic accident

– the perception of the matrix as self-destroying

– the perception that everything is ‘meat’ and subject to the shredding process

– the ‘most horrifying’ realisation that ‘I’ am part of the product (who wants to admit it?)

– annihilation and merciful oblivion, ‘shred to black’

Where there are no means of rational engagement with the apocalyptic spectre, it finds expression in dreams and strange augury – in psychedelic nightmares and experiences of alien abduction. Perhaps as the most bizarre, it finds expression in entertainment. When I consider the matter, I feel quite certain that a culture which knows itself safe (in the cradle of cosmic providence) would not be obsessed with scenarios of destruction. Thus, although the vision is Jonathan’s, it speaks for all of us, who have vulnerable bodies and see the apocalyptic writing on the wall.     

The climax of the experience, as I perceive it, is virtually glossed over in Jonathan’s account. He writes:
… grinding wave passes through me, shredding me into … oblivion, shred to black … . Some moments of eternity passed … and apparently I emerged …
I am fascinated by recurrent accounts, involving salvia divinorum, in which a black void is the only perceived reality. Not the only reality that is now, but the only reality that ever was – and the only reality conceivable. If the sensate world is remembered in this state, it may be as a sham, an imposture, some trick of the mind. While the present narrative is largely silent in this respect, we are told that ‘moments of eternity passed’, suggesting that there was awareness.
In visionary literature the black void is of archetypal or iconic significance. In The Neverending Story, for instance, the hero experiences such a void as the pivot between two worlds. In Tantric literature (see for instance Geshe Kelsang Gyatso) we find meanwhile the curious phrase, black near-attainment. Considered as the final veil before the liberating clear light, the black near-attainment is said to obtain upon dissolution, as described above, of the four alchemical elements.
Insofar as the experience, here related, may be viewed in its entirety as a relentless rush toward the said oblivion – and beyond  its unpleasantness may be understood as deriving from reluctance to relinquish – right now and irrevocably – all that one has hitherto known.

It is a common conception that, when the magic potion wears off, the explorer returns to the familiar world – always there, persistent in time, reliably reliable. But the world is not the same from moment to moment. How much less then after a full-blown psychedelic experience!
This is illustrated in the narrative by reference to certain non-ordinary events. Prior to these, however, during the re-entry phase, there is the ominous perception of a transporter accident (of the Startreck variety). Whatever the perceived transcription error, it is mirrored in the material aura by loss of a cell phone and a valuable data card. Certain initiatory protocols come to mind, wherein a price is exacted – often in a manner suggesting calculated cruelty. Of course this may simply be the obverse of the widespread idea that initiation must be bought at a price.
Then follows the OBE or lucid dream, suggestive of a residual  psychism, possibly a permanent thinning of the veil, effected by the experiment. My intuitions in this regard accord entirely with the author’s.
Finally there is the loss of the data card. Regarding this described anomaly, one might easily agree with Jonathan, that, as he stated elsewhere, there really are compact flash card killing psychokinetic demons crossing the veil and penetrating our realm. My own experience, as also the relevant literature, suggests a significant degree of correspondence between inner-plane experience and what we call the exterior world. This, after all, is the rationale of thaumaturgical rites of the astral kind. From the magical perspective, therefore, we are contemplating a tale of nigh unmitigated horror.

What, if any, redeeming elements can we adduce concerning our friend’s experience? To answer this question we shall return to the mystical perspectives of Vajrayana Buddhism. The Tantras assert the relativity, the impermanence, and ultimately illusory nature of all worlds – from the lowest hells to the realms of the gods – in austere opposition to the idea of the consensual world as touchstone of the real. In an essential sense the psychedelic experience supports this view. For, although the visionary realms are made accessible by certain neurochemical states, the same applies to the experience of the so-called mundane. Given a slight variation in neurochemistry from certain homeostatic norms, and the material world at once disappears, as invariably happens as one goes to sleep. From the Tantric perspective it is all projection.
The ontology admits of only one thing imperishable and ostensibly real – the unborn and undying mind, or consciousness in its natural enlightened state. Also referred to as intrinsic Buddha nature, it is characterised as the conjunction (as per the Tantric yab-yum depictions) of emptiness and bliss. As the ground of all female and male Buddhas respectively, it is beyond duality and ordinary distinctions of being and non-being. As the object of attainment, it is the clear light of liberation. As the most subtle of trances, it is also the most difficult to recognise. In its realisation there is neither self nor other, neither heaven nor hell, neither Buddha nor dharma, neither body nor mind, neither bondage nor liberation – such that, even to the subtle mind, it would seem as nothing.

Yet this nothing is the ground of being, attested by the great mystic traditions. In Buddhism it is mind or consciousness; in the Judaeo-Christian revelation it is spirit. In both traditions it is further spoken of a radical grace, attendant in the bardo, from moment to moment, whereby liberation may be attained simply by seeing into the true nature of things. The former sets forth the clear light of consciousness, the latter, the atonement, disclosing the same. In both conceptions a single cognitive step sets one free, at a stroke, from all karmic entanglement and consequence. A shift occurs in one’s sense of identity. No longer identifying with the physical or even the dream body, one recognises as self the indestructible dharmakaya, the timeless theophany  that which is not subject to the corruption and the accidents attending embodied existence as we know it.
In conclusion it would appear that the psychedelic experience, the Tantric path, and the dissolution-attendant-upon-death have this in common: that they impel the subject toward the said clear light. Each of these, in their respective way, may thus be viewed as imparting elements of initiation unto this universal destiny. It is from this exalted perspective, also, that we can consider the presented account and conclude that  all is well. For, although the experience, in relative terms, is characterised by loss and pain – as the invocation of ‘strange gods’ by a desperate magician – its ultimate consequence will be a widening of perspective. And this, we may assume, is what was sought.



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