© 2007, Jonathan Zap Revised 2008 Edited by Austin Iredale
(Most of the information in this section comes from the erowid.org 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)
Species: divinorum; splendens
Ska Pastora; Shepherdess’s Herb; Ska Maria Pastora; Verba de Maria; Sally-D
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, and 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.
Salvia is unscheduled in the United States, meaning it is legal to possess and sell. The federal Analog Act generally requires chemicals be chemically similar to another scheduled substance to qualify. As Salvia is chemically very different from any scheduled substance, it is unlikely to be targeted under that act. However, Salvia divinorum has been added to a list of controlled plants in Australia as of June, 2002. The legal status of Salvia will likely change, so do your own research if you want to be sure of the legality of Salvia in your area.
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 have been known to 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 the computer, 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 snow storm, everything a sea of white sprinkled with semi-frozen rainbow-colored hippies; a completely unexpected shock in late June, Boulder was in the high nineties when I left. In the photo we see a line of bedraggled rainbows crossing a field of snow, and in the extreme foreground there 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 replied cheerfully, “Third time’s a charm.” I had asked Brandt to keep an eye on me, as I had 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 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, and so I didn’t appoint an official minder, 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, and 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, having been told that I would 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 huge 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 was able to hold in the hit. Piece of cake so far, I thought, and 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, and 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’m going to construct a storyline that will act as a frame around the experience, to make this slippery anomaly an object that can possibly be grasped by reason.
Imagine that an alien civilization, due to some technological fuck up, has accidentally aimed a planet-devouring death ray at the earth in 1962. Everything is vaporized except a small group of conservative, middle-class people from the Bronx of 1962. These few survivors are kept in some kind of stasis until it can be decided what to do with them. A lawsuit is filed on their behalf, and the outcome of the lawsuit is that as compensation they will become the consumers of a vast and intricate “product.”
The product is a meticulous reconstruction of the world that they last experienced, the Bronx of 1962, a nearly perfect simulacrum constructed by alien nanotechnology that would be so well done that they would scarcely notice that anything had changed. As part of the lawsuit 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 submerged in their minds the grotesque fact of this replacement and continued their lives as if nothing had happened.
When I fell from the hammock and swirling black Salvia smoke, it was into this simulacrum matrix of Bronx, 1962. I am standing there, in what might be an empty catering hall, and then I am standing outside a block of red brick apartment buildings on a late summer afternoon. I have arrived in the simulacrum matrix just seconds before a virus sweeps through the matrix, 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, the invisible nanobot assemblers and performers of this matrix deviate from their previous functions and now 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 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 comes sweeping 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 being peeled up and shredded, and to those standing on the unpeeled 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 that they had been told was impossible, 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 and now 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, shred to black . . .
Some moments of eternity passed after the shred to black and apparently I emerged from the oblivion as a pile of sentient hamburger shreds lying, wet and coagulated, on the bottom of a hammock.
I had no head, no parts, but there was anxiety, a coagulated, soggy mass of anxiety at the bottom of a hammock . . .
I am anxious, therefore I am.
Some remnant of awareness had apparently survived the shred to black, an emergent property of the hamburger meat, and a wobbly, phantom version of myself began to coagulate, a spectral zombie with a head full of sloshing airplane glue.
I am anxious, therefore I am.
I could feel a lump of glass in my pocket; Issa’s bowl had somehow survived the shred to black. I had an anxious thought that if I could still speak, that before I subsided back into disintegration, that if I could still speak, I would like to pass off this object to someone so I wouldn’t 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 in the direction of the hammock with concern, his face seemed alert and compassionate. But I didn’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.
Wisely, I chose to stay in the hammock and I began to feel better. In this case, 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 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, and 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 still-born or survives for only a few seconds. So I felt like 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 who would probably not live long, but cohered long enough to have a few anxious thoughts . . .
Surprisingly, the scarecrow began to cohere better and better, and I found that I could 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 found I could still construct complex and coherent sentences, which surprised me; it was 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 backwards 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 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 I suppose 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 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 shot gun blast in extreme slow-motion while conscious on general anesthesia, a flesh-pulverizing cloud of miniscule 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!
AFTERMATH OF THE BLUE MOON APOCALYPSE
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 that I had moved another step toward alchemical androgyny, another step away from identification with my yang, overly confident, sometimes arrogant and over bearing, narcissistic 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, had come to make me significantly queasier than before. Usually 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. Though certainly I swat, and will continue to swat, mosquitoes and other blood-sucking parasites, insect or otherwise, which 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//www.themeatrix.com/).
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 for worse. The following experiences cannot be definitively attributed as consequences of the Salvia experience, but they felt that way to me 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 4 people and an excess amount of soggy rainbow gear. Sometime around midnight we stopped at a motel which appeared somewhere in the infinite blandness of the Kansas highway landscape. The motel was named, like The Patriot Act, 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, the 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 doing free dream interpretation and I Ching readings for people. However, the period before dreamtime was always the toughest when dealing with poison ivy, and 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, and 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 was having 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, though there was 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. Rob seemed to express a whole telepathic paragraph, almost like a speech, though I can’t recall it. 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 on 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 the astral realms. In one realm it was nighttime and I was on a flagstone street. It was very 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 very important 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.
The experience may not sound all that remarkable, however, 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, and sooner than I expected we were hurtling into reentry with planet Boulder, the Flatiron mountains 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 seems to await me when I return to Babylon from dimension rainbow. Sometime in the last few hours of the return trip I had 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, which then immediately warned me that the card was unreadable. Vexed, I popped the card out and noticed that its shape was deformed, a bit 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, 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 showed 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 not a stranger to paranormal attacks, some of which were far more corroborated and anomalous, such as the dog mauling that happened when I was ten (a long story, recounted elsewhere). One 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, a trend that didn’t fully reverse itself 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 couple of 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 very 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 recounted to Tyler, “I’m like the mind parasite guy now. I was on the radio show Coast-to-Coast talking about the subject to ten million people. My website comes right up if you Google the topic. If these entities are aware, and I think they are very aware, I must be on their map. Maybe they are choosing not to attack, except in very subtle ways, because they know that 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 and who had not contacted me in months. The flash back 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 flash card 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 were unable to retrieve a single image from the card. They told me that it looked like it was run over or suffered a heavy impact resulting in the dent that I noticed. My 449 precious images seemed to have 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. 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 numbers “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 were 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 within the claustrophobic confinement to this particular mortal body, I did not even have privacy. My individual prison cell was part of a dense hive of such cells, and 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, there are all sorts of ordinary forces that 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 that we are containers for souls or spirits. This seems an apt metaphor for the human condition, and 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 some sort of 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 factors that incline me toward my own personal solution of 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 imposition, as a strange and somewhat contrived confinement, each of us in this cubicle of our bodily experience, our container. We are in 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 seemed to 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 having been pulled out and the reality we call home suddenly revealed as an insubstantial contrivance. I imagine that the ancient Gnostics were haunted by their own version of these feelings.
As I get further from the apocalyptic experience, however, the dark reverberations seem to give 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 very darkest of them, seems to be 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.
Australian hermetic philosopher Harald Kleeman wrote a very interesting response to this, follow this link: