This article was written with Lydia Fothergill.
LYDIA FOTHERGILL: In my salvia vision, I could see something heading towards me from the distant infinite. I became afraid because it seemed that I was going to be sewn up into it, this new world/life/experience approaching me. I was only briefly frightened though because I realized that I was being shown new things for a reason, and leaving my existence behind might not be such a bad thing.
I looked over at my friend "Bob," who was there to make sure I didn't hurt myself. It seemed that he was complicit in what was about to happen, good or bad I still wasn't sure. With salvia it's pretty standard to have a feeling of mistrust towards anyone around you. You believe others are working for "them," and so I had a few moments of belief that Bob could be part of something that would bring me harm.
AMY GEORGE: Perhaps you felt mistrust because paranoia is always there subconsciously and the drug allowed it to get out. Or perhaps with your heightened sensitivity, you were picking up on something subconscious in Bob. Maybe you were in touch with the part of him that lives perpetually in the spirit world, since, as you say, you suspected he might be "complicit" with "them," "they" being of the spirit world.
Part of us is perpetually in the spirit world. I feel this in myself often, sensing the part of me who never goes anywhere or does anything except wait for me to find it. It sits eternally meditating, observing, watching. Getting closer to that eternally observing part of another person -- like you may have done with Bob as the layers of your persona were peeling away -- would definitely be a fluid experience, one to be danced with, regardless of the level of trust.
LF: The approaching world got closer, sewing up everything in its path behind what I can only describe as something like a picket fence, but each picket was a window into a different existence. I became overwhelmed with the sensation that I was going to be sewn up into this sequence, doomed to be pressed up against this window observing the world behind the fence from afar.
AG: The metaphor of sewing refers to a process, to how one thing leads to another, as in a thought process. In a thought process a thought generates a realization which leads to another thought, which generates another realization, and so on, till eventually thought has sewn us into another world, one with values and realities altogether different from those previously known. In your experience, the spirit world was sewing itself into the material world.
In ordinary life, we stitch one thought to the next, but in your entheogenic experience, by comparison, it was as if an electric sewing machine co-opted ordinary thought-processes, not giving your mind a moment to stop and think. The thought process itself -- that normally admits us gradually and incrementally into the world of spirit -- was replaced by a metaphor of a thought process.
Metaphor is a key. It is key to sewing spirit to matter. Metaphor is the thread in a coat God wears.
The sense I get from your description of the periphery of the spirit world -- being like a picket fence of windows, with "each picket...a window into a different existence" -- is that each window is for a separate individual. Each window corresponds to an individual mind. All the windows together are the collective mind.
LF: I then felt roots growing from my head, through my throat and vocal cords, out of my mouth into the ground. I became afraid again at the prospect of being stuck in that spot and position for the rest of my "life." My life flashed before my eyes, and I was happy with it.
AG: You are initially sewn onto the periphery of the spirit world, peering into it through the mind alone. The next step merges the spiritual with the material through your fusion with the tree. Perhaps the tree is the World Tree, the Tree of Life, an axis through which the spiritual and material worlds intersect. They intersect at a fundamental level in plants.
Your head being down toward the ground may reference the Tarot's Hanged-Man. Here is a bit about him, from Wikipedia, which resonates with the feeling of your experience: "Serenely dangling upside-down, the Hanged Man has let go of worldly attachments. He has sacrificed a desire for control over his circumstances in order to gain an understanding of, and communion with, creative energies far greater than his individual self. In letting go, the hero gains a profound perspective accessible only to someone free from everyday conceptual, dualistic reality."
LF: That is exactly how I felt.
When I realized that I was happy with my life, and that "leaving my existence behind might not be such a bad thing," it was because in exchange I would be audience to the unfolding of the next world, the next phase of existence. My initial fright died quickly as I realized the opportunity for further enlightenment.
AG: This recalls Matthew 10:39: "Whoever . . . loses his life for my sake will find it."
LF: I couldn't breathe because of the roots; thankfully Bob was there with some water. After taking a drink and lying down, the feeling of infinity receded and I was aware that I was sitting in a room, but also aware of two worlds coexisting. The room looked like a double-exposed photo.
I realized that I could scratch my existence away with a fingernail, like a lottery ticket. I looked around and saw the true artificiality of everything.
AG: Yes, the world is nothing in so much as it is "artificial," created. Recognizing the createdness of things -- of art, people, the world -- is transformative. To see the world's createdness is to see it from the perspective of the spirit world, from God's perspective, from the third person. All marriages work best when we appreciate the other's point of view. So it is with the marriage of spirit & matter, Heaven & Earth, beings & their existence.
LF: I felt the presence of spirit beings everywhere, although they were formless and faceless. I felt the plants in the room watching me, like they were waiting to see my next move. They were talking about me, and to me. I felt the watchful eyes of gods, or whoever is in charge, bigger than my personal universe, almost bigger than I could fathom. I could see them rearranging galaxies and circumstances and lives as they saw fit. Though I could feel their eyes upon me, I knew that nothing I did had any impact on them nor interfered with their plans in any way.
AG: The spirit world indeed cares none at all for us except for our capacity to serve its ends. All God cares about is what we can become -- and whether we are willing to become it. At the highest and deepest levels of existence, we are nothing but means to the achievement of Everlasting Life in the body. To this end, God needs us to be conduits for his reality. This characteristic of the spirit world's uncaring preeminence informs story and myth like the Body Snatchers, Village of the Damned and the Greys, and many others.
LF: It's common to experience reprimand in these visions, an almost scolding, "Why are you here?? You shouldn't be here!" reaction from spirits, but I did not experience this.
I did become hyper aware of how truly small I am and how small my understanding of life truly is.
AG: Our proportion in society and in our relationships does not prepare us for facing who we are in the cosmos, in the context of the infinite, of eternity. The ultimate way to face these is as nakedly as children.
In ordinary adult life, the ego obscures the smallness of its material self for the sake of survival. It does so at the expense of its awareness of existence. Your entheogenic experience overturned this alignment, making existence central and survival peripheral.
LF: The spirits knew I was there, but I was just an observer. I was fine as long as I stayed out of the way. I felt neither welcome nor unwelcome. I felt much like a small child, staring slack-jawed at everything taking place around me.
AG: Your experience recalls the Biblical Child: Matthew 18:3,4: And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
LF: I kept reaching out my hand, debating whether or not I should peel my own existence away to see the truth underneath. I closed my eyes as I thought about what this would mean, which caused my mind to retreat from the spirit world.
AG: It is important to know that we are ultimately nothing underneath our outer lives, that we are nothing more than story. It is necessary to acknowledge this in order to know where we stand existentially.
Slipping into our nothingness -- as happened when you closed your eyes -- empties us of life, of spirit. Yet this emptying of ourselves into the darkness behind our closed eyes is a prerequisite to opening them more widely. Life always returns from nothingness, back into the midst of the never-ending story.
LF: I felt an overwhelming feminine presence, especially when I became aware of the godlike beings around me. It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "Mother Earth."
My salvia vision definitely changed the way I think and go about my everyday life. But it was also comforting to know that my gut feelings were validated as real and true. It allowed me to look honestly at them and to speak of them with more confidence, even to people who might think I'm crazy for it. I understand a lot of more of dreams since having this experience, and it encouraged me to continue on my spiritual journey.
AG: From my research into other salvia experiences, yours seems unique. It appears to be designed as a sort of blueprint for what salvia does to the relation between this world & the spirit world. I see it as a lesson edifying the value of this entheogen.
Image by Lydia Fothergill: Lydia at the roots of the World Tree, her single eye large with seeing.Tweet