Salvia Divinorum: Intensification
The following is excerpted from Salvia Divinorum: Doorway to Thought-Free Awareness, available from Inner Traditions.
It was in my first year of experimentation that my experiences with Salvia Divinorum began to take on an increasing sense of realness that was both alarming and exhilarating. I was beginning to feel that I was becoming connected to a genuine "place" that entailed both psychological and physical dimensions.
During this period, I was also becoming increasingly familiar with this state and the inhabitants that were becoming the focus of these events. The fact that I would encounter these personages on a consistent basis was beginning to define the nature of the experience itself. I was feeling more of an emotional connection that was slowly, but decidedly, coming into focus. The vignettes that presented themselves were of a more personal nature than before, with more interaction from my companions. What had once manifested as a meaningless cacophony was gradually becoming transformed into a coherent, approachable phenomenon. Although the entire course of the event was alien and uncontrollable, there still remained an increasing interest in the connectedness that was gradually unfolding.
In order to remember as much as possible about the experiences I was undergoing, I began to keep an occasional journal detailing some of the more salient events. At the time, I had mixed feelings about committing my experiences to paper. I thought that it might, on some level, be antithetical to the genuine alien nature of these experiences, which, by their very nature, could barely be recalled, much less described accurately in words. It was as if I was afraid I might jeopardize the flow of interaction I was experiencing by focusing my ordinary awareness on the state. I thought that, perhaps, I should simply experience these events and not look back.
I also had no reason to believe that the successive trials would entail any dramatic progression beyond what I was already witnessing. To have a journal of consecutive incidents seemed an amusing, but arbitrary, waste of time. The radical nature of the experiences I was having, coupled with my wish to recount, as completely as possible, the nature of these experiences with a few close friends, however, overcame my reticence. Generally I would record my passages on the day following the event, but after a period of time, I began my recounting within an hour of returning to my normal state. This tended to facilitate a more complete retelling of the events, as well as to augment my memory with the still lingering flavor of the excursion.
One particular event during this initial period was especially vivid and can serve to illustrate the general tenor of my experiences at the time. From my notes:
One bowl 5X Mazatecan:
After smoking one bowl, the effects were instantaneous. Immediately, I saw a symmetrical flower, perhaps eight pointed, which opened into the other world, as I sensed the presence of beings, simultaneously. The immediacy of the change was startling. There was quite a bit of disorientation. I sensed that there was someone there. Suddenly, I encountered a male about forty or fifty years old with a black mustache. He appeared to be Mexican. It occurred to me that he might somehow be connected with the salvia I had just smoked -- possibly a farmer or some sort of guardian of the plants. He was laughing good naturedly at my growing predicament -- I could not remember who I was or from where I'd come.* I knew that I had another life somewhere but couldn't remember anything about it. I couldn't remember whether I was an adult or a child and was quite disoriented.
Suddenly, a very raucous parade, complete with marching band, flags, and a bass drum engulfed me. This was also so bizarrely out of context that I felt even more bewildered. The parade came from my right. After a moment of horrifying confusion, I realized that the parade was a prank performed by an old man who also appeared off to my right. He was older than the first and very thin. He had evidently concocted the parade as a way of teasing me about my amnesic predicament.
Just then, two young girls entered the scene. They were about eleven years old, possibly twins, and were evidently daughters of the Mexican. They had black hair pulled back into buns and were wearing skirts and black shoes. They were also laughing, aware of my situation, and teasing me. One of them, as a way of describing my inability to remember where I was from, began joking. She said something, which on some level I found precise and hilarious, and I attempted to repeat what she had said. When I began to speak, I was unable to form the words. At the same time, I realized that it was a language that I couldn't speak. Evidently, to demonstrate my anxiety about my loss of memory, she leaped down and put her foot into a crevice in the floor -- which was not flat, but looked organic, like a living being. I noticed that I was standing, perhaps ankle deep in this crevice, which was not unlike a huge vagina. This somehow was meant to demonstrate my predicament. They were all laughing good-naturedly at me, including the old man, who apparently was the uncle of the girls.
Shortly after this, the scene began to lose its intensity and slowly began to slip away. There was an image of a cloth slowly descending -- as when someone is making a bed and the airborne sheet slowly comes to rest on the mattress. It was at this point that I began to remember who I was, along with some of the details of my other life.
During this time, similar vignettes would present themselves. I would find myself in circumstances that were at once foreign yet familiar. In all of these instances, I would be at a total loss as to who I was, how old I was, or from where I'd come. On some level, I was aware that I'd initiated some sort of action that had led me to that circumstance, but could not remember that it had been to smoke a hallucinogenic substance, or that I began the journey sitting in a chair in a small workshop. Although to focus on this amnesic state could lead to increasing panic, one could just as easily let go and simply perceive what was unfolding.
Indeed, it seems that this is one of the salient features of salvia -- it allows one, in some sense even instructs one -- to gradually, and without fear, abandon the framework of reason that's based on a cumbersome conceptual reference, and that is never called into question throughout the course of one's life. It's been my experience that salvia can lead to a unique state that one might characterize as "thoughtless awareness." This state, although on the surface seemingly paradoxical, is actually strangely and reassuringly familiar. It's as if, with repeated trances, one develops this skill gradually and effortlessly, leading to a genuine, what might be termed "functional awareness" that seems inherently essential for this type of exploration.
It was during this time that a particular episode occurred that, in retrospect, I hold significant, although at the time, I regarded as inconsequential. After smoking, I experienced the usual onset of images. Within a few moments, the state focused somewhat, and I found myself in the presence of an older woman. She was of slight build and seemed to be either Haitian or perhaps East Indian. She was wearing a long skirt and headscarf and seemed to be performing an odd action with her hands, as if she were drawing something apart or perhaps kneading and pulling an imaginary doughlike substance -- it seemed reminiscent of playing the "cat's cradle" string game, only without the string. She had a bored demeanor and said, almost off handedly, "You're accepted." On some level, it was implied that this was connected with a type of proficiency at "letting go,"although these feelings were very vague. It was as if she, personally, couldn't care less about the information she was relaying -- it seemed as though she was merely fulfilling a task. Within moments, the scene faded and I found myself returning to a normal state.
The next morning, I was initially hesitant to relate the story to E., since it would sound so pompous, while at the same time the experience itself had little or no emotional impact. I thought it was just another scene that was part of the flood of random images that I was encountering and thought no more about it. I didn't bother writing the experience down.
About a week later, I decided to smoke again. I followed my usual routine. This time, however, something was different. Even now, years later, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what this difference entailed. Somehow, on some level, the state had stabilized. I was now returning to the same place, although this place did not necessarily entail location, in the normal sense. It was rather a state or feeling that had gained some sort of perceptual and emotional solidity. Although all the various external features of the visions were different, there was something that I was returning to -- something was becoming familiar. In subsequent experiences, there would open up an entire range of feelings that was always somehow rooted in this abstract stable place.