Citation: Rlc. "The End of the Universe: An Experience with Salvia divinorum (35x extract) (exp88145)". Erowid.org. Mar 15, 2011. erowid.org/exp/88145
4-13-09 First Experience
A little background in the way of an introduction and reason for my interest in salvia divinorum (SD). I'm in my early 50s and though I have an extensive history with mind altering substances from earlier in my life, I've imbibed minimally for over 20 years. My use earlier was spiraling out of control with attendant problems including failed dysfunctional relationships, inability to function in a straight job, a DUI, and felony charges. After a short sharp shock of a wake up call, the years of moderation have been very good to me. I have a wonderful, comfortable, secure life with a wife I love and rewarding job that I feel blessed with. I have pets, friends, and hobbies I enjoy.
In spite of all this, I also feel a little bored spiritually, but I'm abundantly aware that messing with all the good things in my life isn't the way to alleviate that feeling. Pointless drama and wreckless inebriation aren't what I'm looking for. For some time I've also been acutely aware that I've peaked as a viable organism and I have less of my life in front of me than I have behind me. I'm accelerating toward the end of my life with each decade passing exponentially quicker than the last. I watched my father die several years ago and my mother is old with increasing infirmities which means I'm about to be on deck for my turn. I'm shocked when I see my brother or see myself in a mirror and see a middle age man. I've been struggling with the fact that in the not too distant future I will no longer exist. I'm also a little afraid of how that process will unfold. I think somewhere in all that is where my desire for something profoundly mystical in my life is coming from and why lately I've been missing the mystical experiences that came from psychedelics.
I have advanced degrees in a social science and work in an academic setting (I still can't handle a straight job! Ha ha!), but have serious doubts about organized education. And organized religion. And organized sports. Ha ha! My sense of mysticism is based in an objective, empirically verifiable reality. Sort of like mystical states are real, but it's not a good idea to astral project in front of fast moving traffic or off of precipitous drops.
I've been reading up on SD for a while now and decided to try it for the first time a couple of days ago. After riding my motorcycle out to an isolated patch of woods where I enjoy meditating, I set up a low slung folding canvas camp chair, got comfortable, and centered myself. I took out what I thought to be a small pinch of 35x extract (I clearly didn't grasp the potential of SD) but it ended up being slightly more than I could hold in one hit. The effects came on with a rush as I set down the pipe after the second hit and I quickly lost touch with consensus reality.
I think that some of the experience was lost to my conscious memory, but I clearly remember all of existence collapsing into a bright line immediately in front of me but stretching out to infinity on each side. Everything was lit by an incredibly bright light and surreally vivid. There was a loud rushing roar as the entire universe was collapsing and being pulled into the long thin line. I was acutely aware that all of existence was ending at that moment. I was melting into my surroundings and being pulled toward the thin line of obliteration. I had a vague notion that I might be pulled through the line and reappear on the other side but was afraid that I wouldn't be able to breathe once I crossed over to the other side. With some force of will I could resist melding with my immediate surroundings and hold myself back from the line that was rapidly devouring everything around me.
It struck me as absurd and terrifying that this is how the universe, with all the unique souls it contained, ended. I began to implore a higher consciousness that was diffused within everything and beyond everything at the same time asking 'Is this really how it all ends? For everybody?' In an extra-verbal response that was gentle and matter of fact and slightly bemused I received the answer 'Yes, this is it.' I continued to be pulled toward the abyss as I struggled to maintain my physical integrity apart from my surroundings and pull back from the all consuming line. My destruction was directly in front of me and I knew that I wouldn't be able to maintain the struggle to resist much longer. I just couldn't believe that everything came down to this moment with the universe slipping into an infinitely long thin line, but here it was happening with no recourse open to me. At that point I didn't feel abject terror so much as a melancholy distress and reluctance to have all that I know and am come to an end.
I responded to the higher consciousness 'Your shitting me!? Your shitting me?!' As I began to recognize consensus reality I realized I was now on my knees facing the chair in which I had previously been sitting. I was still saying 'You're shitting me, you're shitting me...' but the meaning gradually shifted from incredulity that the universe was ending right in front of me to amazement at the unexpected and profound mystical experience I just had. As I became more aware of consensus reality I was flooded with relief and gratitude that I wasn't insane and that reality as I knew it was coming back. I was never so overjoyed to see trees and the back tire of my motorcycle which I was kneeling beside. It was like my entire existence was a wonderful gift of something precious that I dimly recalled having in another life.
Slowly the component pieces of my life fell back into place and I made a mental checklist as I reintegrated with my day to day reality. 'I'm me and I'm wearing full protective motorcycle gear except for my helmet and gloves (and my knee braces are uncomfortable from kneeling). There's my motorcycle, I ride it to work, I'm on my way to work. I'm in the woods, in the town where I've lived for the past 16 years. I have a wife, pets, a home, friends, co-workers'.
I didn't look at the time before the experience began but based on when I left the house and how long it takes to get to the stand of trees I'm guesstimating that the whole experience lasted around 10 minutes. I sat in my camp chair for another 20 minutes before packing up and heading to work. My balance was fine and I had no problem riding out of the woods in spite of there being a couple of sketchy climbs and a couple sections of loose baby heads that are a bit of a challenge at the best of times. My sense of time and distance were still altered and I clearly should have waited a bit longer before operating a vehicle. I made it to work safely with only one remotely close call as I turned in front of oncoming traffic and they closed on me sooner than I expected.
Driving while intoxicated, tripping, or extremely sleep deprived is dangerous and irresponsible because it endangers other people. Don't do it!]
As I've processed the experience over the past few days I think much of it was a metaphor for my death. My incredulous question of 'is this how it ends, for everybody?!?!' speaks to death being the one truly universal experience of all life forms on this planet, and my struggle to come to terms with it's absolute relevance to me. I definitely have much, much more respect for SD. All in all I'm pleased with the experience and it's complex blend of terror, relief, confusion, and joy. I wasn't looking for an experience where the bliss meter was simply pegged, but something that challenged me, which it certainly did! I'm excited about this new journey and the insights it will bring.
4-21-09 Second experience
After my previous experience, I am approaching SD much more respectfully, and a little fearfully. I recognize something from my substance use earlier in my life: I had a misplaced pride in being able to 'handle' psychoactive experiences. Pride that I could consume more of whatever anyone else did/suggested. One is a monster? Give me three. Never mind that it was silly, wasteful, and often dangerous. This pride eventually facilitated an ever tightening and accelerating downward spiral in my prior substance use. It was this same pride that had me jumping in at the SD deep end with a sizable pinch of 35X, in spite of suggestions by those much wiser in the ways of the sage. SD pretty much obliterated my sense that I can 'handle' it. The very idea of me handling it doesn't even make sense when the experience tears me out of my reality with such force that I barely retain tattered shreds of the concepts 'me', 'it' or 'handle'! I feel silly now with what probably amounts to a lifetime supply of 35x and 40x when it's obvious that easing into things with plain leaf or a much lower concentration extract is sage advice (pun intended).
This morning I rode the motorcycle out into my favorite patch of woods, set up the camp chair, and settled in. I was listening to Ashtray Hearts on my media player during the ride out, a melancholy atmospheric sort of alt-countryish sound, self identified by the band as 'apartment music', but decided not to have the added stimulation of music during the experience. I took a few deep breaths, centered myself, felt myself relax into the chair, and looked around at the peaceful, pleasantly green, spring woods surrounding me. In a sort of mentally half articulated way I asked to stay relaxed and embrace the experience. Mindful of the over exuberance and lack of respect with which I approached the first experience, I pinched out several flakes of the plant in an attempt to err on the side of caution. I concentrated on thorough ignition, a deep breath, and settled back into my chair. There was no problem holding the inhalation like last time, and I slowly and smoothly exhaled after 20 or 30 seconds.
My first response was 'I'm not sure anything is happening...' then the effects came on quickly. Unlike last time there was no apparent loss of conscious memory or complete loss of contact with consensus reality. As the effects intensified I suddenly realized that I was hurtling toward the same obliteration of consensus reality that I experienced before. I had the sense that I was going back to the exact same surreal, vibrant, dense, inorganic, cartoonish, fast-food-plastic-decor 'place' or alternate reality. I felt a sort of dissociated panic and did NOT want to go there again. I had the fleeting thought that this alternate reality had been merely hiding behind consensus reality and was indeed the true reality. I struggled mightily to maintain my increasingly tenuous hold on consensus reality.
Looking around wildly, frantically repeating 'This is real This is real', I visually grounded myself by focusing in rapid succession on a tree, my feet, the sky, my motorcycle, a tree, my hands, the earth. If I focused on anything for more than an instant I could feel myself being drawn into the other reality, which I resisted with a panicked urgency. There was a rising fear that the visual grounding keeping me in contact with consensus reality was being overwhelmed by the pull of the other salvia reality. I felt the urge to get up from my chair and move through my immediate environment touching things to make it more real but, oddly, thought of descriptions of the experience I read recently that said people hurt themselves that way in the absence of a sitter.
It was as though I was physically being pulled out of consensus reality, where I wanted to stay, and squeezed by a great all-encompassing pressure into another reality, which I wanted to avoid. To bolster the visual grounding, I started grounding myself with conceptual elements of my personal consensus reality. 'This will be over soon. On the internet there is a forum of people who have also experienced this. I participate in that forum. I exist in a reality distinct from this altered experience. That reality contains a myriad of objects, devices, creatures, and people with which I regularly interact in a vast variety of settings. I have a media player that I download music to, I ride my motorcycle exploring the area, alone and with friends.. I just installed a manual switch to control my motorcycle's radiator cooling fan. I just put a gate in our back fence so I can walk my dog in the field behind our house after dinner.'
I found the switch for manual control of the cooling fan on my motorcycle particularly grounding because of my participation in the causal chain of riding the motorcycle, internal combustion causing heat, which needed to be dissipated, by running coolant through a radiator, with air flowing over it, when I threw the switch. It was as though the alternate reality pulling me in was overwhelming in it's threatening, alien intensity and frightening unidimensionality. I felt that if I could ground myself in the rich complexity of my intricate interconnections within my personal consensus reality it would keep the vibrantly colored but ultimately oppressively sterile alternate reality from overwhelming and consuming me.
As the effect waned I felt relief that the threat of being consumed and the struggle against it were over, and immediately thought 'That certainly isn't recreational!' I wondered if SD is something I wanted to continue to explore, since my reaction to it's effects appeared to be immediate avoidance and struggle. I was disappointed with myself that I couldn't surrender to the experience, let alone embrace it. Instead, the instant I felt the alternate reality pulling me in I fought against it from the depths of my being. I thought 'Why am I so resistant to the ego death that comes with this experience?' and it immediately struck me that I have the same visceral resistance to my physical death as a biological organism. In a clear display of pride, I was embarassed that Mr. I-Can-Handle-My-Substances not only can't handle it, he craps his metaphorical, and metaphysical, pants and runs screaming for the exit.
Recalling my issues with space/time on the ride to work last time, I sit in the camp chair a bit longer enjoying being in the cool greening woods and the lingering mild psychedelia. I eventually pack up and explore a new route out of the woods since the creek bed I typically ride through has been closed off by a large tree that got washed away and lodged between the banks. Controlling the heavy dual sport motorcycle over the varied terrain seems effortless and oddly disconnected. I bounce over a railroad track perpendicular to the rails, bust through the brush choking the right-of-way, ride through the roller-coaster dip of the creek bed beyond the tree barricade where it's stabilized into a moderate U shape with fist-sized limestone chunks held in place with chain link fencing, and ride along the sketchy side hill of a large drainage channel on my way to the road. Someone has their chestnut horse, shining in the sun, on a picket in the lush grass on the far side and a brilliant white egret lifts up into the air from the narrow stream that meanders in the broad bottom of the channel.
In my office at work it occurs to me that the things I desperately recalled in order to ground myself in consensus reality are precisely the mundane day to day things I don't want to lose through death. I feel ashamed that I find myself being annoyed at some of those same mundane repetitious aspects of my life. I'm suddenly crying as I write this. I'm ashamed that I don't fully appreciate this wonderful multifaceted gift that will end all too soon. I'm sobbing and have to close my office door lest people passing think I'm losing it. I know it's inevitable and right that I die, but it's obscene that I don't even begin to fully appreciate this incredible and ephemeral gift I've been freely given. More sobbing.
I feel better and have my office door open. For being disappointed that I didn't go deeper, this SD episode sure seems to have jarred loose some things and circumvented my relentless [pseudo]intellectualization in favor of some genuine emotion.
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