Thursday, September 6, 2007

S. Divinorum

They didn't have this when we were in high school, and I'm glad: salvia divinorum. Believe it or not, despite voluminous testimony like this--"I have tried virtually every illegal drug known to man, and have never felt more out of control or uncomfortable as I felt on Salvia" (source)--salvia is legal in more than 40 American states. Read about its legal status here, or click here to see dozens of teenagers "tripping" on the substance and, with no fear of the law, posting their experience on You Tube.

I've always leaned libertarian, I suppose, so I won't make a Nancy Reagan argument; but two things about this strike me as really wrong.

1) The fact that this drug is legal means that You Tube allows videos of people doing it, which wouldn't be so horrifying if...

2) ...Salvia didn't cause "ego death" and "union with the divine godhead" and "breaking through to the other side." This stuff is not on the casual/light side of drugs, according to the extensive testimony available at Here, for example, is a description of something that I don't want my 16-year old son or daughter to have to think about "trying" with some of their buddies:

This is the difficult part of the account where I attempt, as many others have before me, to describe the end of life and identity, the ego-death. There nothing but a sensation at first, not of being ripped apart but of having been ripped apart. I couldn't say that I had been ripped apart, as in a million pieces—there were no pieces because there was nothing the pieces would consist of... I had no physical body. The sensation now gave way to awareness, and I had a sense that I HAD BEEN something with a physical body which was suddenly extinguished by a strong force pulling to the right. There was a sort of two-dimensional plane which I was pushed through rightward, and as I went through I lost all perceptions, memories, and sensations of my life in human form on this earth. There was no pain, it was instantaneous. But still, I was only conscious in the most basic sense... aware, not consciously thinking these thoughts, but perceiving them. It is not unlike the state of waking up from a dream with the memory of it still very present as the body adjusts to the state of waking life... except my life was the dream, and as I was suddenly 'awakened' all sense of that life was gone.

Read the rest of that experience--click here. The paranoia that follows is unsettling:

" It was as if by taking this drug I had become aware of some huge cosmic dark secret, one that was truly horrible and yet totally ironic... The joke was in being forced back into this reality after having it stripped completely from you... Forced back into nothing but limited human perception, and the delusion which it is. I was completely in shock at this point, and I looked at my friends expressing something like, “Why did you show me that?... I didn't want to see that.”

And of course, this leads me to my final, philosophical, objection: either salvia induces enlightenment or enlightenment is just some similar firing of chemicals in the brain, because the rhetoric of both, adjusting for the salvia-user's typically 10th-grade education, is identical. I don't like to think that serious meditators and spiritual seekers spend whole lifetimes longing for union with the divinity only to discover that any idiot highschooler who inhales this smoke can have it whenever he wants.

Convince me I'm wrong about this, that the "ego-death" of salvia is different from the ego-death of many spiritual paths.


Spyder said...

You can only convince yourself. Read the literature...get a sitter,etc. May you find/not yourself.

Wishydig said...

I watched that Alex kid's video. It really looked like pot to me. Just a much faster onset and a more "pleased" demeanor. But his gibberish sounded very familiar.

So do I understand? Even if it turns out that there is no physical danger (or no evidence of increased physical harm/injury associated with use) you don't like the possibility of spiritual/ psychological effects?

That's a tough one for me. I think you clearly already have a stronger sense of the protectiveness that will guide your sensibilities as a parent. I'm not yet to the point that I can 'feel' the anxiety that I very likely will feel once I'm responsible for a child.

I really think I'll probably be much more strict than I currently say it is in my philosophy to be.

Casey said...

Michael -- the interesting part of all of this is that external behavior may or may not correlate with inward (psychological/spiritual) experience. Your observation of "Alex" is right, of course, but that he appears to be similarly intoxicated to a pot-smoker means little, I think.

Reading more from that link, I discovered that most people who take this salvia say things like, "I've been smoking pot religiously since I was 12, and Salvia is to pot as an iron hot poker is to a sun tan."

And since I'm not personally willing to "give it a try," this conversation becomes interesting:

What psychological/spiritual experiences (if any) should I think about protecting my child from... and why am I protecting myself from salvia? Why not try it? Hmm -- fear, I think.

So should I let my (perhaps unjustified) fear determine my future child's psychological/spiritual experiences?....... I think this is a hugely interesting question, because an answer suggests itself to me: there is no way my personal fear can not influence my child, even if I try to hide/mask my anxiety.

None of this has made much sense to you, very likely -- to me it makes perfect sense, though; thanks for the response.